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She developed a passion for genealogy while finding her roots. Now she helps others find their own

Lauren Robilliard takes a photo with her mother while visiting her in Australia. (Provided by Lauren Robilliard) Lauren Robilliard takes a photo with her mother while visiting her in Australia. (Provided by Lauren Robilliard)
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Lauren Robilliard was interested in genealogy at a very young age. As far back as she can remember, the B.C. native knew she was adopted.

Lauren, 25, has a story that's unique to the other DNA Diaries CTVNews.ca has shared in the last few months. When her birth mother found out she was pregnant, she went to an adoption agency in search of a family she would feel comfortable raising her unborn child. She found a couple and met them in person: a job interview for life.

They clicked, and with that meeting, Lauren would enter the world to a loving family waiting for her, while a pair of adults who shared her DNA loved her from a distance.

As she got older, her adoptive parents – "I hate that term," she said in an interview with CTVNews.ca – shared more about her origins: seeds of information that grew into curiosity. As she began the post-secondary phase of her education, she dipped her toe in the pool of DNA.

"When I just turned 20, I really got curious," Lauren said. "After doing some genealogy for my adoptive family, I started to wonder more about myself."

Lauren Robillard as a child. (Photo provided by Lauren Robilliard)

Lauren bought a DNA kit in 2018 and discovered … no close matches. The only person in the system who had any relation to her was so far removed that six years later, she still doesn't know how they're connected.

Meeting mom

With a lack of results, Lauren's adoptive parents gave their daughter something her biological mother gave them before she was born.

"My parents gave me a book full of information that my mother had prepared," she said. "In the front of the book, mom drew a family tree. I used it to find and trace her side of the family through Facebook."

Lauren Robilliard and her adopted parents enjoy a day at Niagara Falls. (Provided by Lauren Robilliard)

Now armed with new information, Lauren was able to use her DIY detective skills and expand on the tree her biological mother drew 20 years prior. She says she remembers the "wow" feeling of discovering new cousins, aunts and uncles, and even four new siblings.

Having grown up on Vancouver Island, but with her biological family living on the province's mainland, she remembers the weekend trips during her third year of university – back and forth, hugs and kisses, and anecdotes with her biological father and the rest of the extended family.

There was also the feeling of knowing she had missed out on so much.

"One of my siblings already had two kids, my cousins were already having kids. I felt like I had been trapped in a time freeze."

Lauren says the biggest visit she made was getting on a plane and flying 14 hours to see her biological mother in December 2018. The two had spent months texting, calling, talking on FaceTime, but nothing would prepare them for that first in-person meeting.

Lauren says years after meeting her biological family members, she still keeps in regular contact with everyone and takes pride in the memories she's made up for.

Making a living

After drawing her own family tree, Lauren spent time helping members of her two families through the process of submitting their own DNA kits, including an uncle whom she helped find his own biological parents. When the COVID-19 pandemic paused the world, she took a break from hobby genealogy and moved to Toronto, hoping to work in film and television.

Lauren Robilliard (second from right) with her mom, dad and brother. (Provided by Lauren Robilliard)

A lack of results would rekindle her interest in DNA, and Lauren started volunteering with the Toronto Police Service to find the origins of John and Jane Does. It wasn't long until the department recognized her talents in solving cold cases and passion for helping others, and they offered her a job.

Asked whether she gets more fulfilment in helping adoptees find their birth parents or providing a family with comfort in confirming their kin's passing, she says they're both unique and equally satisfying.

"With the adoptees, they're alive, and the potential of connecting them with family members they didn't know about, where they have the rest of their life to have that connection," she said. "But with John and Jane Does, they get their names back. The family finally gets answers."

After more than a year on the job, Lauren says Toronto is paving the way for the rest of the country when it comes to DNA research and solving cold cases. She also says she's lucky to be in a field that she's passionate about.

"I finally found what I'm meant to do." 

CTV News asked readers to share their discoveries after using 23andMe, Ancestry, MyHeritage and other genealogy websites. These websites surfaced stories of uncovering family secrets, locating long-lost relatives and exploring family trees. More than 100 people responded to our callout.

Visit CTVNews.ca Monday mornings to read the latest in our DNA Diaries series.

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