PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Throughout her childhood, Deborah Clark’s dark, straight hair stood out against the red, curly hair of her adopted family. Her mother died when she was 6 and she didn’t know who her father was. Her family history was a mystery. 

When she was in her 50s, she submitted a DNA sample to MyHeritage, an at-home DNA testing company, hoping to find out more about her nationality and where she inherited her features. She ended up learning a lot more than that. 

“I wasn’t expecting any of this and then within I think it was six or seven weeks when the results came in that Ooallna was my sister,” she said. 

Clark, who’s 54 and lives in Portland, had discovered a half-sister. IvahOlen Ooallna Sillars, who goes by Ooallna, is 47 and lives in Kettle Falls, Washington. 

Both women grew up in the Pacific Northwest, but never knew each other existed. 

When Clark sent in her DNA swab, she matched with Sillars’ second cousin. The cousin notified the family in their Facebook group and soon determined Clark and Sillars shared a father. Sillars later sent in her own DNA sample to confirm this. 

“It’s surreal because like, this person I’ve never met. She’s my family. She’s close family. She’s my sister,” Sillars said. 

Her mother and father had divorced when Sillars was young, but she said her father had always stayed in the picture. She said he was a strict but loving man who tried to be “more countrified than he was.”  

Had he known he had another daughter, Sillars and her mother believe he would have wanted to be a part of her life. 

Unfortunately, their father died of COVID-19 complications in October 2021, months before the two women found each other. 

Clark and Sillars said they officially confirmed they were sisters on Father’s Day in 2022. 

When MyHeritage learned the two had discovered each other, the company paid for Clark to take a bus to Northeast Washington on Aug. 6 to meet Sillars. 

On the 455-mile journey, Clark said she was nervous, but the nerves melted away once she met Sillars at the bus stop. When the two saw each other, they immediately noticed similarities. They’re about the same height, similar build and both have very dark hair. 

Sillars and her mother told Clark stories about her father and said he had straight, dark hair like she does. 

“I can now see where I get my features because I didn’t look very much like my mother. But evidently, I look very much like my father,” Clark said. 

Their time together passed quickly and Clark had to return to Portland. She recently moved into a new apartment and started a new job, but said once she’s able to, she’d love to visit her sister in Kettle Falls again. 

Until then, the two plan to stay in touch with video chatting and phone calls. 

“We have a lot of time to make up for,” Sillars said. 

She’s glad to have someone in her life to share her dad with, even though he isn’t around anymore. Sillars said she plans to give Clark one of their father’s beloved cowboy hats. 

The two women still don’t know how Clark’s mother and their father met. That information might always remain a mystery. But for Clark, this discovery has brought her more answers than she could have imagined. 

“I feel like now I know who I am,” she said. “I know where I started, so now I have a better idea of where I’m going.”