Student helps New Jersey teacher connect with family she never knew

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Student helps N.J. teacher connect with family she never knew. Trish Hartman reports during Action News at 10 p.m. on December 25, 2018.

A South Jersey woman was able to have a merry Christmas with family members she did not know her whole life thanks to a determined teenager.

It all started when Kate DeSantis, a teacher at Lenape High School, heard about a student with a passion for genealogy, 17-year-old Eric Schubert.

"I said to him, 'Oh by the way, I was adopted. I have my birth mother's name. If you get a chance, see what you can find out,'" DeSantis said.

Immediately, Schubert was on the case.

"I'm sending her five to six emails at a time, texting her, throwing all this stuff at her," Schubert said.

In investigating DeSantis' adoption case, Schubert used, among other things, public records, pulling the 1940 census to find her mother, and the 1900 census to find her grandfather.

They discovered that while DeSantis' parents were deceased, she had siblings.

She met some of them for the first time earlier this year.

"I saw them and it just stopped me, because I look like them," DeSantis said.

DeSantis now FaceTimes with her sister Cindy Engle, who lives in North Carolina.

"It was just sad because it's someone who shares the same birth mother as me and we never grew up together," Engle said.

And DeSantis says this Christmas she received something very special - a gift from her sister.

"It was a Waterford crystal little serving bowl that their mom always put on every holiday table. And she said, 'We want you part of our holidays,'" DeSantis said.

Meanwhile, Schubert says this happy ending has only fueled his love for tracking lineages.

"Sometimes I just stop and I'm like, 'Wow, I can't believe this is happening.' It's hard to put it into words," Schubert said.
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