JASONVILLE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Tammy Owen said she has known basically all her life that she was adopted.
“That was not something that was ever hidden from me,” Tammy said. “But records were closed and sealed and all that.”
Then Indiana’s adoption records law changed in July 2018, and Tammy could finally apply for her identifying information and begin a more focused search for her birth family.
“I was able to get a copy of my birth certificate, and I was born at Marion General in Indianapolis, but that’s no longer in existence,” Tammy said. “I tried to research and research through the names that were given to me on the birth certificate, couldn’t find nothing; had an investigator looking, couldn’t find anything.”
And Tammy really wanted to find something, or rather, someone.
“All the time growing up you’ve always got this pit that you’re missing something, something is missing,” Tammy explained. “And I think it was a huge thing always for me to have kids of my own because I wanted that, you know, that bond.”
Tammy was determined not to give up on finding a different bond with her birth family, despite continuing to hit a dead end. She finally had a small breakthrough in 2021 when her daughter suggested they both complete an Ancestry.com profile.
“I came up with someone who showed up that they could be my possible cousin,” Tammy said. “I messed with it and messed with it and researched and whatnot for the longest time with that, and never found anything; and I was researching the wrong side. I was researching the married name, but did not know that at the time. And I wasn’t finding anything, and I kind of just let it go.”
Fast forward to 2022, when Tammy was coming home from a family trip to Disney.
“I was just going through some stuff on Facebook and was seeing where some people had passed away, and I was like, you know, ‘no enough of this, I am going to sit down until I figure this out'”, Tammy said. “And I spent probably 20 hours a day just researching and researching, figured out I was looking at the wrong side of the family and flipped over to the other name that I was given…”
And finally, after years of searching, and a lifetime of hoping, a photo popped up.
“I came across the picture of who would be our Aunt Cindy that looked just like me in high school,” Tammy said, smiling. “I make jokes that, with my short hair, she had long blonde hair and it was me in a Hannah Montana wig. But I went and woke everybody up at the house and said, ‘I found ’em! I found ’em finally!”
The discovery of the photo with the uncanny resemblance led Tammy to Martinsville, Indiana, where she knocked on a door and was met with, well, more waiting.
“Her (Cindy’s) son answers the door and I said, ‘I think your mom might be my aunt’. And he said, ‘well, she just laid down for a nap; can you come back in an hour?’, Tammy shared, laughing. “And I’m, you know, I’m already a nervous wreck coming up to the door anyway, so I’m like, ‘uh, okay, I’ll just run over to Starbucks’.”
Tammy ran her errand, returned to the home, and was met with an open garage door and her first glimpse of her Aunt Cindy in the flesh.
“She’s walking out and she says to me, ‘Theressa, why did you tell him you think I’m your aunt?’ And as she gets closer to me, she realizes I’m not Theresa and just like stops,” Tammy recalled.
The moment marked an end to Tammy’s painstaking search, and a beginning of a reunion that would blossom in many ways.
“You know, when I came up to that front door, I was just scared to death, but I was like, ‘I just gotta do this’,” Tammy said. “And I ended up sitting there until probably eight o’clock that night and it was like I found my home; that was the neatest part of it.”
Enter Pete Moore, Tammy’s half-brother, who had spent his life knowing he had a sibling out there, but said there was not a lot of hope on his end to ever find her.
“We were just told that it was very hard to get that information and that unless she’s actually sought us out, you know, it might not even happen,” Pete said.
Then, his phone rang.
“When I got the call, I was happy, but I was also like, conflicted, just because it’s like, is this real?” Pete said, recalling the emotions of the moment. “Something that we’d tried for so long to find out and then just suddenly it’s just like in our lap.”
Unfortunately, Pete and Tammy’s mother died in a car wreck when Pete was still a child; Tammy, had she been with her birth family at the time, wouldn’t have even been three years old yet.
Despite not being able to ever reconnect with her birth mother, Tammy has been making up for lost time with her half-siblings, particularly Pete.
“Probably the thing I find the funniest now is how many little quirks that he has that I have, and mannerisms and all those things,” Tammy said. “I think that’s the thing I find fascinating on a daily basis, that you see it, or we’ll walk and people will be like, ‘my gosh, you guys even walk the same’, you know, to not to have been around each other in decades.”
And Pete and Tammy do see each other on a regular basis, because besides being siblings, they’re also business partners, manning the Smokin’ Pete’s Twist and Shake in Jasonville. The business side of the relationship blossomed just months after the two met for the first time.
“We were talking and he had a food truck sitting there and I said, ‘well, what are you doing with that?’ And he’s like, ‘well, I used to have it and I’d just kind of go out around on the roads around here and then Dugger and whatnot’. And he’s said ‘I’d really like to get it going’. And I said, ‘then let’s do it’ and we spent all last summer getting that ready to go and getting all the legalities.”
The interest in Smokin’ Pete’s grew, and so did the business, with Pete and Tammy opening up the brick and mortar location in Jasonville to add the Twist and Shake portion of the business.
The pair said they do butt heads sometimes, as any two close people will, but that they both are able to cool down and find a solution to any problem.
“I believe in her and, uh, I think she believes in me,” Pete said, as both laughed at the statement.
Both Pete and Tammy encourage anyone who was adopted, or is aware of an adopted family member, to never give up on searching for their family if they have a desire to meet them, and Tammy also added that today’s DNA technology allows for more resources than she had when she was younger and first realized she could possibly be reunited with her birth family.
And while some may say time is a thief, and has been in some ways for these two siblings, they are choosing to think of their remaining time as a gift.
“Tomorrow’s not a promise,” Pete said. “So even if we just have five years, it’s better than never having that opportunity to know each other at all.”