Rod Talbot always knew he was adopted — he was told long before he noticed that he was the only one in the family with red hair and freckles. His sister is adopted, too.
Last summer, Talbot took a leap into the DNA world of ancestry.com and ordered a kit that allows you to mail a tube of your saliva back to the company and find out where you came from.
Is he Irish? Possibly German? The test revealed he is both.
But it led to something even more exciting: Talbot has three younger half-brothers he never knew existed.
BABY BOY GAUMER
Talbot’s adoption story starts immediately after he was born to a woman living in one of the four homes for unwed mothers in Kansas City, Missouri, where the country’s railroads converged in the 1950s.
“My adoptive dad's aunt worked for a judge in Kansas City, and she actually went to one of these unwed-mothers homes and picked me out. She brought me into the judge’s chambers and said, ‘Here's your new son,” the judge signed the papers, and they took me home.”
“I knew I was adopted from the get-go. I'd go to family reunions and be the only one with red hair and freckles.” — ROD TALBOT
Talbot said he has always thought of Kenneth and Phyllis Talbot as his parents, but he’s long been curious about his history. He waited until they had both passed away before doing any research into his birth.
“I always had (in my mind) a song by Barry Manilow, ‘Ships,’” Talbot said. “It's something I've played forever and ever and ever, wondering where my father was. ‘We walked the sea, just my father and me.’ … That’s the first line.”
Talbot said he wanted to complete the ancestry.com test in case someone in his birth family was looking for him. He wanted to know if his red hair meant he was an Irishman, too.
It turns out he’s 16% Irish and 73% Western European.
He received a notification that his DNA had matched with a man in Kansas, and he could be either a first cousin or other close relative. The man, Doug Gaumer, had been working on his own family tree when Talbot’s name popped up as a potential match. After a series of emails, the two determined there was no way they could be cousins.
Talbot, 61, and Gaumer, 51, had to be half-brothers. And there were two other brothers in between: Daniel, 53, and David, 55.
Talbot and his fiancée, Jennifer Campbell, were invited to Kansas earlier this month, and they all began exchanging stories and trying to answer questions.
Their father, David Gaumer, died of pancreatic cancer nine years ago, so the men had to do a little sleuthing.
“We determined that my father wouldn't have known (about me),” Talbot said. “The time frame evolves where he was going to the University of Kansas, I was conceived around May 3, 1956. At the end of June he went for a foreign exchange student thing in Nepal. ... We don't know if was a girlfriend or a fling or what.
“So he comes back from Nepal,” Talbot said. “He was 20 when I was conceived. He comes back, finishes his law degree at UK, gets married and has these three boys.”
BROTHERS WILL BE BROTHERS
One of the first things the three Gaumer men noticed when they met their older brother was that he sits just like their father.
One by one, similarities were discovered. Talbot is an investment advisor; two of the three are investment advisors, and the youngest is president of a local bank.
Dad was an active Rotarian, as is Talbot.
All four brothers were in college fraternities, and Talbot and the youngest actually worked for their fraternity headquarters as consultants.
They all enjoy golf — and now have their foursome.
“Then we're at dinner the first night, and I ask them if they'd ever had heart palpitations,” Talbot said. “I had a cardiac ablation a few years, and two of the three had cardiac ablation surgeries. They had a golden doodle. I have a golden doodle. We drive similar cars. It was a weekend of crazy similarities.”
After seeing photographs of his father, Talbot realized the origin of his red hair.
SEARCHING FOR MOM
The four brothers have been trying to piece information together in hopes of learning the identity of Talbot’s mother. They have read old letters and looked for clues on the backs of old college photos, but nothing concrete has materialized yet.
It might be that Talbot’s only hope is his birth certificate.
Missouri once had one of the strictest adoption laws, he said, but a new law that went into effect earlier this month meant he could apply for his birth certificate. He’s still waiting to see if there is one, because when the unwed-mothers homes closed, several burned all their records. He’s hoping the document exists.
“It could have both names on it, or it could have just my dad’s or just my mom’s,” he said.
In the meantime, Talbot is enjoying learning about his growing family, which also includes seven nieces and nephews and multiple cousins.
One of the sons of the youngest asked if Uncle Rod was cool. When he was told yes, he told his dad, “Well tell him he owes me 27 years of Christmas and birthday presents.”
Talbot and Campbell are getting married in Las Vegas in March, and all of the brothers have already booked their plane tickets.
“I always had that (desire) of wanting to know where I came from and where my parents are or if I had other brothers and sisters,” Talbot said. “I happened to stumble onto three pretty cool half-brothers.”