×

‘After all this time … it’s unbelievable’

Reunion was 67 years in the making

-Submitted photo
Twins Jill Sande and Jack Haugen reunited with their birth family recently. They were adopted at the age of 3 after their mother died and their father wasn’t able to care for them.

EMMETSBURG — Two Emmetsburg Care Center residents shared a heartwarming reunion with family after a 67-year absence.

Pearl Hood, 101, and Genevieve Reinders, 97, met their twin nephew and niece for the first time since 1952 during a special gathering July 20 at the Emmetsburg Care Center. Along with their children and other relatives, Hood and Reinders welcomed nephew Jack Haugen, of West Palm Beach, Florida, and niece Jill Sande, of Bemidji, Minnesota, back into the family.

Born around the 1920s to Robert and Anna Kendall, of Mallard, Hood and Reinders grew up in a family of nine girls and three boys. Among their many siblings was sister Bertilla Kendall, who graduated from Mallard High School in 1938, moved out of state, and eventually settled in Minnesota. Sometime in the mid- to late 1940s, she met and married Gordon Anderson of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

On Dec. 28, 1950, Bertilla Anderson gave birth to twins Jack and Jill Anderson.

On Feb. 7, 1952, when the twins were just 13 months old, she died.

-Submitted photo
Kendall descendants gather at the Emmetsburg Care Center to welcome long-lost family on July 20.

Gordon Anderson was unable to care for the twins after his wife’s death. However, he would not allow any of her brothers and sisters, including Hood and Reinders, to adopt them. Every effort was made by her family to gain custody of the twins, but to no avail. With conditions worsening in the home, the state of Minnesota was forced to intervene, removing the twins from Anderson later that year and placing them in a Minneapolis orphanage until 1953, when the 3-year-old twins were adopted by a family from Bemidji, Minnesota.

The twins grew up, graduating from Bemidji High School in 1969. Shortly after, he joined the Army and later located to West Palm Beach, Florida, while she married and settled in Bemidji.

Meanwhile, Hood and Reinders, along with other close family of the late Bertilla Kendall Anderson, searched for years regarding the whereabouts of the twins. However, due to sealed adoption records, they were unsuccessful. Eventually, after more than half a century of searching, they gave up.

A startling discovery was made in the fall of 2018 when a relative of Hood and Reinders submitted DNA to the website, Ancestry.com, around the same time a member of Sande’s family also provided a sample to the site. Ancestry.com collects DNA samples via saliva or mouth swab and then, using a proprietary algorithm along with data collected by a vast number of users, breaks down information like ethnicity, familial relationships, and genealogy.

The more information these websites can gather, the more specific detail they can provide. Remarkably, thanks to the DNA samples and information submitted by both Sande’s immediate family and the family of Hood and Reinders, the results received listed the specific identification of a Jack Haugen and Jill Sande as direct relatives. From there, it didn’t take long to link those names to the storied and long absent twins.

-Submitted photo
Pearl Hood, left, and Genevieve Reinders discuss the joys of having their nephew and niece back in their lives.

News of the amazing revelation spread like wildfire among the Hood and Reinders families.

Doug Reinders, Emmetsburg resident and Genevieve’s son, recalls the moment in November when he told his mother the twins had been found.

“It was very emotional,” he says. “After all this time … it’s unbelievable.”

The families began communicating, eventually leading to a July 20 reunion between the long-lost twins and their last surviving aunts, Hood and Reinders.

Amazingly, on July 19, the day before the planned reunion, Sande’s family made one more astonishing discovery on Ancestry.com. Along with the twins, Bertilla Anderson had also given birth to a son, Michael, in 1939, who had been living in Omaha, Nebraska. He passed away in 2012 after spending many years searching for his birth family without success. In his honor, six members of his family, including his widow, also made the trip to the Emmetsburg reunion.

-Submitted photo
Twins Jack and Jill Anderson are pictured in 1951, shortly before their mother’s death and their subsequent adoption.

Newsletter

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today