January 25th, 2011

Oprah Winfrey Has a Sister! Here’s How Family Tree Research Helped Them Find Each Other

A woman conducting a family ancestry search has discovered that she is the half-sister to television talk show host Oprah Winfrey. The woman, whose surname has been kept secret to protect her privacy, had been searching for her birth mother who had given her up for adoption in 1963. The trail began in Mississippi and ended up in Chicago, where she finally met with her long lost sibling on Thanksgiving Day last year. Recently she appeared on Oprah’s show, where the two held hands throughout and demonstrated the true rewards of conducting a family ancestry search.

Find Your Relatives with a Family Ancestry Search

A family ancestry search for Oprah Winfrey reveals that she was born in the town of Kosciusko in Attalla County, Mississippi on January 29, 1954. She was born to a single mom – Vernita Lee – who gave Patricia (Oprah’s Sister) up for adoption. Patricia later conducted a family ancestry search with a view to finding her birth mother. To her complete surprise she discovered that her mom was the same Vernita Lee who had given birth to Oprah Winfrey. Oprah Winfrey’s sister, and Oprah herself, were both elated with Patricia’s discovery, and look forward to developing their relationship over the coming years.

Stories like Patricia and Oprah’s happen much more frequently than you may think. Because of her celebrity profile, the results of their family ancestry search are in the public eye. Many families however reunite with long lost siblings, cousins, parents and other kin on a daily basis, simply by diligently conducting a family ancestry search. Performing a family ancestry search can have rewarding results as you have seen, though it may take time to reap those rewards. Family ancestry research records must be found and their trail followed, but there are certain steps you can take to ensure you maximise the potential of your genealogical quest. The following list is designed to guide you through the beginning phases of your family ancestry search.


Family Ancestry Search Step 1 – Begin with Yourself – It is always recommended to begin your family ancestry search with yourself and the information you have on your immediate family. Don’t for instance begin with Oprah or any other celebrity and try to trace them back to you. You may end up with a colourful family history, but it will most likely not be your own!


Family Ancestry Search Step 2 – Verify Any Data You Find – When consulting genealogical databases during your family ancestry search, it is important that you verify any information you may uncover about your relatives. Many indexes contain transcriptions of original documentation, and therefore are susceptible to human error. Any records you may find should be authenticated by comparing it with original documentation.


Family Ancestry Search Step 3 – Get Organized Before You Begin – Organisation is vital to the success of any family ancestry search, as there is no point in accumulating a mass of data without knowing what you’ve got or how to find it. You don’t initially need much in the way of equipment; a filing system that works for you, some A4 binders, paper, clear plastic pockets, index cards, and a storage box will get you on your way.


Family Ancestry Search Step 4 – Be Patient and Ask for Help – A family ancestry search can be a long and arduous undertaking, but following the basic guidelines summarized above and practicing patience will ensure that the results of your family ancestry search will be accurate, thorough, and hopefully rewarding. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from other genealogists. There are many genealogical forums available online where anyone conducting a family ancestry search can avail themselves of the experience of seasoned researchers.


As Oprah Winfrey and her new-found sister have recently learned, the end result of a well conducted family ancestry search can reap huge returns. Being united with family that you may have lost touch with or didn’t even know existed is the core benefit of genealogy, and who knows, your family ancestry search may lead you to a celebrity relative. Watch out Hollywood, here we come!