Linda Jourdeans and Denice Juneski always felt that they didn’t quite ‘fit’ in their families.
Denice was a blonde in a sea of brunettes and redheads among her relatives. Linda was the sole ginger in a pack of blondes in the family pictures.
And while Linda played softball into her fifties, Denice was the only one among her siblings who didn’t excel at sports.
Small, harmless differences, but the reason behind them would turn out to be huge: The women had been switched at birth, only to find out when they were 72.
Linda Jourdeans and Denice Juneski have found out they were switched at birth 72 years ago
And their true identities would only be discovered with the help of genealogy website 23andMe.
Linda and Denice were born 31 minutes apart at the Bethesda Hospital in St Paul, Minnesota in the early hours of December 19, 1945.
And for seven decades they went through their lives with little doubt that they were meant to be somewhere else.
‘People just automatically assume they got the right family,’ Denice told KING-TV. ‘It’s a crazy thing.’
It was Denice who first submitted her DNA to 23andMe, hoping to simply find out more about her family’s health history.
The grandmother was shocked when, a few weeks later, the results arrived – and revealed she didn’t match any of the people she thought had been family all her life.
Denice, who lives in Eagan, Minnesota, decided to take the test a second time, but the results were the same.
Linda and Denice were born 31 minutes apart at the Bethesda Hospital in St Paul, Minnesota (pictured) in the early hours of December 19, 1945
‘Either 23andMe made a mistake, or I was switched at birth,’ she realized. ‘I was really supposed to be another person.’
But the mystery began to unfurl when Denice’s name popped up on a 23andMe report submitted by Linda’s niece, who was 40 miles away in Hammond, Wisconsin.
When Denice’s name appeared, it seemed to confirm suspicions long held by Linda’s own daughter Michelle.
Michelle had always told her mother she didn’t ‘look like the rest’ of her family and had once even checked public birth records.
After seeing Denice’s name on her daughter’s 23andMe report, Michelle told her mother she believed she had been switched at birth.
‘I did my DNA right away, because I’ve got to see this on paper,’ Linda said.
Next to ‘mother’ was a name she had never seen before: Marianne Mayer.
How the women managed to get switched at birth is a question that will likely never get answered.
‘I’m sure the nurses are dead that probably took care of us,’ Linda said. ‘We’ll never know.’
Their true identities would only be discovered with the help of genealogy website 23andMe, which showed Denice that none of her so-called relatives matched her DNA
But while they’ll never discover the ‘how’, Linda and Denice are just glad that they found out about each other at all.
‘I consider it a gift,’ Denice said.
The pair have met several times since learning about each other in April and are slowly meeting the family they never knew they had.
That includes Mayer, who is 99 years old and now lives in a memory care home.
It has been especially touching for Linda who lost Rochelle Nielsen, the woman who raised her, at the age of 17 when she died from from cancer.
Linda and Denice have to tell Mayer the story about how they were switched at birth every time they visit, but neither minds. Nor does Mayer.
She happily laughs when the women tell her that now she has even more grandchildren.
Both women’s families are now planning a massive reunion to meet each other and bond over their unlikely – and incredible – connection.