In the 1940s, sisters Ann Magliane and Nancy Frisbie wound up in different orphanages. Where is she? Is she happy? they each wondered about each over the decades. But this year, fate — and science — brought them together again. Here, the sisters share the heartwarming story of how they were finally reunited after 80 years.
A surprising discovery
Ann Magliane had only been 3-years-old when she was placed in a Pennsylvania orphanage along with her older brother, James. At age 8, Ann had been adopted by a local couple and soon after, her adoptive mom’s sister took in James so they could grow up knowing each other… but it wasn’t until many years later that Ann learned someone was missing.
As the years flew by, Ann married and had three children and moved to Allentown, PA. James never settled down. “He was a wanderer, traveling the country seeking adventure,” Ann recalls to FIRST for Women. But then, one day, shortly before his 40th birthday, James had confided to Ann, “I’m trying to find our sister.”
“I was shocked. I had no recollection of a sister,” Ann admits. James explained that she was older than them both. “I’ve always wondered what happened to her,” he said wistfully. Unfortunately, James never fulfilled his dream of finding their lost sister — a few months later, hitchhiking, he was struck by a car and killed.
For the next 40 years, Ann mourned her beloved brother, and never stopped wondering about the big sister she never knew. Where is she? Is she happy? Would she want to know me?
Then early 2023, Ann, age 83, drew a quick breath when her daughter, Christine, told her, “I got a call from a woman who says she works on family trees … she says she’s helping a woman named Nancy track down relatives, and she thinks you two are sisters.”
“My initial reaction was that it really seemed unbelievable,” Ann says. “Could it really be — it had been 80 years! My head swam.”
The heart never forgets
Meanwhile, a thousand miles away in Punta Gorda, Florida, 85-year-old Nancy Frisbie had been asking the same questions her entire life.
“When our mother left, I was sent to live with our grandmother… why just me, I don’t know,” Nancy shares. Nor does Nancy know why, after a year, she was also placed in an orphanage, but a different one than Ann and James.
When she was 10 years old, Nancy was adopted by two college professors. She loved her life, but she never forgot her siblings.
“I’ll never stop worrying about my little brother and sister,” Nancy confided in friends last year. One day at a gathering, Nancy’s friend, Kate, told her, “You need to meet Elsie. She does genealogy.”
It’s now or never, Nancy thought, and when Elsie agreed to help, Nancy provided her adoption paperwork, birth certificate and took a DNA test with the hope of finding her long lost loved ones.
Their meant-to-be connection
Seven years ago, after Ann’s father died, her daughter Christine, curious about her ancestry, had also happened to register Ann’s DNA. There were no results at the time, and Christine had all but forgotten the test — until she received that fateful phone earlier this year, stating that Nancy Frisbie was a direct DNA match to Ann and they had tracked down her information.
“At first, Mom and I thought this might be a scam,” Christine admits. But a message followed with a childhood photo of Nancy, along with a phone number. “She looks just like you as a child, Mom,” Christine marveled to Ann.
Overjoyed, Ann couldn’t wait another minute, and dialed Nancy’s number. Ann fought back tears when her big sister answered the phone. “I never expected to find you… not in this lifetime,” Ann said.
Sisters reunited after 80 years
Nancy and Ann talked for hours. “I’m coming to visit you,” Nancy announced and in May of 2023, the sisters spent a wonderful week filling one another in on the past eight decades of their lives.
Today, they talk on the phone nearly every day. And, while they both wish James could be here with them and they are both deeply grateful they have each other.
“We found each other just in time,” says Nancy. Ann agrees. “We have each other now, we’re a big happy family, and we’re going to make the best of every precious day.”
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