Skip to content

BEHIND THE SCENES: Barrie woman finds unknown family through online site

BarrieToday reporter Nikki Cole takes us behind the scenes

Tanya Verkerk is filled with overwhelming joy as she reflects on the life-changing discovery made through an online DNA test—an unexpected family she never knew existed. Growing up in Barrie, Tanya had always been in the dark about her biological father. However, her mother eventually shared the name of a man whom Tanya believed to be her father for many years.

"I never delved too deeply into it. I had already lived all those years without a father figure," explained Tanya, now 37. In 2019, she and the man she believed to be her father decided to undergo a paternity test, which revealed that he was not her biological father.

Driven by curiosity, Tanya decided to take a DNA test through in March. The test revealed a close paternal match—her first cousin once removed. She sought the assistance of a group known as "Search Angels," who narrowed down the possibilities to five brothers. Tanya reached out to one of them.

Initially, the person she contacted seemed a bit hesitant. However, a few days before Father's Day, Tanya received a message informing her that his brother wanted her to call him. "I called Bill on Father's Day, and I couldn't have asked for a better outcome. Bill Caravan is my father, living in Newfoundland with his wife, and I have a brother named Mathew. The entire family has been incredibly welcoming," Tanya shared with BarrieToday, her voice brimming with excitement.

Her newfound "Newfie" family eagerly anticipated the opportunity to get to know Tanya and her two sons. They understood that Tanya might need some time to process the newfound information. Respectfully, they provided her with the space and time she required to adjust to the idea of having a large extended family.

"They were waiting for me to reach out, and I was completely blown away because things could have turned out so differently. He knew details about my mom... They had a brief relationship when she was 17 and he was 19, lasting about a month. He never saw her again and had no idea about me," Tanya tearfully recounted, her emotions held in check.

When she initially discovered the existence of the five brothers, Tanya wasn't sure how to approach the situation. "I didn't want to scare them off. How do you say, 'Hey, I might be your daughter'? I genuinely didn't know what to expect. To be honest, I feel like I'm in a dream. It's been absolutely amazing," Tanya admitted. "I can't express the pain I've felt every Father's Day, seeing others posting about their dads, having barbecues. It has always been a sensitive spot for me. My kids didn't have any family on my side," she added.

Tanya also learned that her biological aunt resides in Barrie. "It's possible I may have stood in line in front of her at the grocery store without knowing. She has been in Barrie for as long as I have. We finally met on June 26 at Williams Coffee Pub, and it went wonderfully well. She's only eight years older than me," Tanya revealed, noting that her new family often comments on the striking resemblance she shares with her aunt.

During a recent visit to see her 91-year-old grandmother, Tanya's father captured precious photos of her and her two sons. "She was so shocked that she dropped the pictures!" Tanya chuckled.

This summer, Tanya aspires to save enough money for her and her sons to travel to Newfoundland and meet their newfound extended family.

Video Summary:

In a heartwarming story, a woman named Tanya Verkerk from Barrie discovered the existence of a previously unknown family through DNA testing. Tanya, who grew up without knowing her father, decided to take a DNA test through The test revealed a close paternal match, leading her to reach out to a first cousin once removed. With the help of "Search Angels," the possibilities were narrowed down to a group of brothers, and Tanya eventually connected with Bill Caravan, who turned out to be her father.

The initial contact with Bill was a bit hesitant, but a few days before Father's Day, Tanya received a message informing her that Bill wanted her to call him. The conversation went exceptionally well, and Tanya was overjoyed to learn that her newfound family was excited to have a relationship with her. Bill, his wife, and her newfound brother Mathew welcomed her with open arms. The entire community in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, where they reside, is planning a big potluck to celebrate their reunion.

Tanya hopes to visit her newfound family in Newfoundland with her two sons, although she faces financial constraints. She is determined to make the trip happen and is raising money through raffles and other means. The experience has been overwhelming for Tanya, who never expected to find such love and acceptance. She is grateful for the opportunity to meet her father and feels a deep sense of connection with her new extended family. The reunion in Newfoundland will be a memorable event for Tanya and her sons as they embark on a journey filled with love and discovery.