"Who am I?"
That's a question Norma Gould says she's asked herself for years.
Gould, 54, was born and raised in California, but not by her biological parents. In fact, she never knew who her biological father was.
"I didn't know until I was nine that I wasn't the child of the people who raised me," Gould, who now lives in North Carolina, told CBC Radio's Newfoundland Morning. "It was a very dark, very scary time in my life."
On Mother's Day in 2016, Gould's eldest daughter gave her an unusual gift: DNA tests for the whole family. Her daughter told her they were going to find her biological father.
"It was a very emotional day," said Gould. "When you look in the mirror for so long and you don't know who you are, your smile, facial features, even frown lines, you can't help but have this sense of identity crisis."
Finding answers in Newfoundland
Gould and her family sent in their DNA tests and waited.
Eight weeks later, Gould received her results and eventually discovered that she has a half-sibling and cousins from Newfoundland.
Gould began reaching out to her new family members on DNA testing sites, including Ancestry, MyHeritage and 23andMe.
"Some were inviting, but many were extremely put off and rejection set in," said Gould. "But I just kept going on a journey to try to find family that could connect me with who my father was."
Someone who could help answer many of Gould's questions was Judy Chafe.
Chafe is from Portugal Cove-St. Philip's. She and her husband completed DNA tests through Ancestry during the summer of 2016 to find out where their ancestors came from.
When Gould reached out to Chafe online in 2018 saying they were cousins, Chafe says it came at a bit of a surprise.
"I was excited," Chafe told CBC Radio's Newfoundland Morning. "I didn't know I had a cousin in the U.S. I thought I knew all of my cousins."
According to the DNA test results, Chafe is first cousins with Gould's biological father, William David Moores. Through her interactions with cousins, Gould discovered he died in Newfoundland in 1986.
In 2020, Gould finally planned to travel to Newfoundland to meet her new family members.
The pandemic put a halt to these plans, but Gould says she hopes she can travel to the province next summer.
"I want to hug family," she said. "I'd like to know what it's like to get a hug from a family member. And I want to go sit at my dad's grave and let him know that I never gave up looking."
Chafe is also eager to meet her new cousin.
"I think there will be a lot of tears," Chafe said. "Tears of happiness. We've been corresponding ever since we found one another, and I think it's going to be a real celebration for both of us."
Gould plans to blog about her travels next summer, and she also plans to eventually write a novel inspired by her life story. She wants to tell people that those who search for family through DNA tests aren't doing so for the wrong reasons.
"We're not out for money, land or inheritance. We just want to know who we are. Just give us a chance, because we deserve answers too."