Successful family reunion stories like this one are becoming more and more common, thanks to the proliferation of online public records, social networks and people search sites.
A long-lost brother and sister have finally been reunited, 54 years after family problems split them apart. Leighton Leggett was only 3 years old and his older sister, Debra Kowalyk, was only 4 years old when their parents separated in 1962. Leighton moved away with his father to live in Crystal Beach, Ontario Canada, and Debra stayed in Buffalo, New York with their mother. Although the brother and sister had the same biological mother, they had different biological fathers.
Leighton and Debra grew up and spent most of their adult lives not knowing one another. All Leighton had to remember his sister by were a few family photos of her when she was very young. Debra didn’t even have any photos of her brother and she remembered very little about him or that time in her life. Unfortunately, Leighton and Debra wouldn’t find each other again for over 5 decades.
Leighton was raised by an aunt after his father suffered a massive stroke. He said that he felt something missing in his life, growing up without his mother and sister. He said that he wondered what it would be like to be with his biological family.
Debra had no family photos of Leighton to remember him by. She said that she only has vague memories of her time with him when they were toddlers. However, Debra knew that she was missing some family connection while growing up in New York with just her mother.
Debra started to search for Leighton back in 2014, but she had very little personal information to go on and her search for him didn’t get very far before it ended unsuccessfully.
In May of 2016, one of Leighton’s friends, who is a professional government researcher, agreed to help Leighton find his sister. Leighton gave his friend as much information about his sister and his family as he could remember to help with the search.
Leighton’s researcher friend started with a family name search using census records from a genealogy site. From the census records, she was able to find one of Leighton’s aunts who lived in Florida. The aunt was able to give the researcher Debra’s maiden name.
After talking to Leighton’s aunt and getting Debra’s maiden name, the researcher was able to find Debra Kowalyk and her location in Tonawanda, New York through a simple people search on Facebook.
Leighton and Debra exchanged phone numbers through Facebook and eventually reunited with a phone call. Leighton and Debra have spent the past month talking on the phone and meeting in person to reunite and fill in the family blanks from their past. Old family photos have helped the two remember their life together when they were young.
Leighton and Debra have met each other’s families and plan on spending holidays together now that their family search is complete.