"For me, I felt all my life I was missing something. But now? I found it," Karen gushed. Sure enough, after stumbling across sealed adoption records, her life would never be the same. Here's her story.
On November 18, 1969, at 5:47 a.m., two healthy twin babies were born. And then separated... Or so they thought. It'd take them over 50 years to finally discover the truth: That they were never really that far apart.
"It's been overwhelming… [we're] still trying to let it sink in," Mike revealed after finally finding his way back to Karen. But how exactly did that happen? Hang on while we go back to the very beginning; From the moment the two first split all the way up to their remarkable reunion.
Meet Karen: One-half of our inspiring story. Back in 1969, as the newborn was welcomed into this world, she was soon brought into another; One without her twin brother. Little did she know, they'd go on to lead separate lives for nearly half of her life.
But back in the day, the adopted baby didn't know any better. In fact, Linda and Larry Warner were all she knew. They were her proud new parents. And they welcomed her into their family with open arms. "In [Linda's] eyes? I was her baby, even though she didn't give birth to me," Karen explained. "I would always be her baby."
Growing up in Elwood, Indiana, the little girl's reality was nothing short of fulfilling. Karen was surrounded by so much love. And from the naked eye? Everything seemed to be lining up perfectly. She had lots of friends, growing hobbies, and a seemingly bright future laid out ahead of her.
But that didn't mean it was always easy. As a matter of fact, it wasn't. Unfortunately for the young girl, she was soon met with a bitter pill to swallow; Something her mother felt she needed to know. Only for Karen, Linda's words cut sharper than she could've ever imagined.
She Found Out She was Adopted
At just five-years-old, Karen Warner was told the truth. She had been adopted; A thought that left the curious young girl overwhelmed with questions. And in only a matter of time, she'd get answers. But we're not there just yet. This meant that as hard as she tried, Karen simply couldn't keep her mother's words out of her mind.
“I always felt like there was something missing in my life,” Karen confessed of the loneliness that soon followed. “I didn’t know what. [And] I [certainly] had no idea it was a twin.” Little did she know that the key to all of her questions was actually hidden in plain sight.
Which brings us to her twin brother, Mike. As for where his reality had placed him? About a month after being put into foster care, the infant was also adopted. Only he wouldn't be traveling too far. Thanks to the Jackman family, he, too, would go on to spend his childhood days in Elwood, Indiana.
It was unbelievable. Two separated siblings had somehow wound up in the very same area code. But for Mike Jackman? His reality was different from Karen's. Sure, he was also curious about his adoptive past. But the truth was that he didn't give it much thought. He was happy, so he simply carried on living his life.
They Were Classmates
As for what that called for exactly? The young boy spent his days at Elwood Community School, a public school spanning from Pre-K to 12th grade. As for after hours? Mike attended band class, where he practiced playing both the trumpet and the drums. But he wasn't the only one.
Any guess who we're referring to? "I saw him every day, passed him," his classmate Karen explained. She, too, had attended Elwood Community. But that's not all. Warner had also shared a love for music.Which soon led her to attend band class as well.
They Led Separate Lives
If only they'd known what we know now. But as the years continued to pass, the separated siblings continued to drift. They simply headed down different paths. Sure, they both still lived in Indiana, but Karen Warner and Mike Jackman were practically strangers.
After all, the extent of their relationship had existed in those school hallways. They were simply classmates with a common interest in music. Or at least that's what they thought, as they carried on with their parallel lives. Karen, now a mother to three children, and Mike, proud father to daughter, Jerica.
They Moved Down the Block from Each Other
As the story goes, though, fate had other plans. And by 2019? The former classmates found themselves back in each other's lives. Well, sort of. They were now living mere blocks from one another; Practically neighbors. But their journey together was still far from over.
In fact, it almost didn't matter that the two had settled down near each other. The truth was that it didn't change anything. Sure, Mike would wave 'hi' from his front porch every so often. But that was about the extent of their interactions. For now, that is.
Karen Friended Mike on Facebook
"My old classmate friended me, I better talk to her," Mike recalled thinking, as he scrolled through his latest notifications. Somewhere along the way, Karen Warner had decided to reach out to him. But not for the reasons you might've expected. The two were still far from uncovering the truth. The reality?
"We were just friends from school. That was it," as Karen put it. Her online endeavors didn't mean much. Little did she know that her simple deed would soon lead her to a shocking discovery. One that would change her life as she once knew it, forever.
She Still Wondered About Her Past
Reconnecting with her childhood friend had brought back a wave of memories; A sweet nostalgia that left her craving more. And while her time at Elwood Community was certainly long gone, Karen's questions about her past still remained. Perhaps, that's why her latest trip down memory lane left her mind running wild.
Who were her birth parents? Did she have any biological siblings? Would she ever get to meet them? After endless years spent feeling a void, she desperately wanted answers. And thanks to a life-changing event a few years prior, Karen was about to get them.
She Gained Access to Adoption Records
Back in July of 2018, Indiana announced an update to one of its state laws. And for Karen Warner, it was about to change her life forever. So, what was this change? She was finally allowed access to adoption records. Under the Senate Enrolled Act 91, anyone adopted before '93 was now granted access to the formerly sealed paperwork.
And it wasn't long before Karen decided to take action. From questions about her medical history to her biological family, Warner was suddenly one step closer to getting answers. And as she applied for access to those adoption records, she was soon met with the shock of her life.
She Found the Identity of Her Birth Mom
As she frantically scrolled through the records, Karen was filled with an onslaught of emotions. She was about to learn the identity of her birth mom; Something she had craved since she was just five-years-old. But what if the truth was not what she wanted to hear?
She took a deep breath as she examined the contents of that document. Norma Joanne Cunningham Reed had given birth to her back in 1969, at 31-years-old. But there was another detail on that piece of paper that suddenly caught Karen's attention. And she couldn't believe her eyes.
Karen Found Out She was A Twin
"I seriously started crying," Karen revealed of the moment her world was turned upside down. She had a brother. A fraternal twin brother; Something she'd never expected in her wildest dreams. It was overwhelming, and then some. What was she supposed to make of that information?
After countless years spent searching for the missing pieces, Karen Warner had finally found them. "It is what I was missing in my whole entire life… I just didn't know it," the emotional woman confessed. And as she wiped those tears from her eyes, she suddenly knew exactly what she had to do.
She Confronted Her Parents
She was going to track down her missing brother. "I'm going to find him. It may not be tomorrow or next week, but I feel it's going to be soon," Karen promised. But where would she even start? Her parents, of course. While it wasn't going to be easy, she sat down with mom and dad as she asked them the truth about her past.
Unfortunately for Karen, her first stop on the list accomplished nothing. In fact, it actually left the Warner family with even more questions. "My mom... said that had they known I had a twin that they would have adopted both of us," she revealed of the painful shock Linda and Larry were met with.
She Struggled To Find Answers
What now? If her own parents couldn't tell her about her past, who could? Karen's search for her missing brother was seemingly going nowhere, and it stung, badly. What if she would never get to meet her other half? It was a thought too devastating to bear. But the truth was that she was at a standstill.
“Everybody kept coming up with nothing because we didn’t have a name to go by or anything,” Karen explained. Her search for a complete stranger was based on just a single number: Her birthday. How was she possibly going to find him with such little to go off of?
Karen's journey was remarkable. There was no doubt about it. And it wasn't long before people took notice. Spectators were simply captivated by her journey. And by the summer of 2019, Karen Warner was officially on her way to becoming a household name.
So, what came next? Her story had finally made front-page news. Stations such as WTHR-TV had stumbled across Karen's search and wanted to help. "There was an emptiness, and there still is," Karen admitted as she sat down with local reporters in a plea for help.
She Asked for Help
With her story finally out in the open, Karen was that much closer to uncovering the truth. Surely, her brother would see the report and come forward. He had to, right? Or at least that's what Karen told herself. But as her search continued to take her in circles, she realized she needed more help.
After deciding to ask the township trustee's office their opinion, Warner was met with new advice: To search Madison County's voting records using her November birthdate. And as she did exactly that, Karen's investigation suddenly took a sharp turn.
She Narrowed It Down To 3 People
After endless hours spent searching, she'd finally stumbled across a new breakthrough. The township trustee's advice had led Karen even closer to the truth. After using her November 18th birthday, she was now able to narrow down her search - to just three local strangers.
She couldn't believe it. All of those feelings of helplessness were slowly starting to fade; Something she'd never expected. Karen Warner was so close to discovering the truth, she could practically feel it. But as she began to study the three names on her list, she couldn't believe her eyes.
All Signs Pointed To Mike
After eventually ruling out the first two names, there was only one viable prospect left. Only it couldn't be... could it? Sure enough, staring back at her on that piece of paper were two words Karen had never expected to ever see again: Michael Jackman.
“I saw him every day, I passed him. I never thought, ‘He could be my twin,’” Karen - more confused than ever - explained. Had her brother been in plain sight all along? It was a thought that sent chills down her spine, which is why she had to put an end to it, once and for all.
She Confronted Mike
And that's exactly what she did. As Karen raced to the keyboard to confront her former classmate, her mind began buzzing with questions. After all, what if she had gotten it all wrong? But on the flip side, a more intimidating thought suddenly crossed her mind: What if she was right?
It wasn't going to be easy, but she needed answers - desperately. And so, she took a deep breath as she began to type out the thoughts on her mind. Was he adopted? Where exactly was he born? Did he know his biological family? Karen waited anxiously as her Facebook friend processed the information.
Mike Was Shocked
Well, how did he take the news? Mike was confused. Sure, he was adopted, but that's about all he knew about his biological family. And the messages that now hijacked his Facebook inbox? They were unbelievable, to say the least. There was simply no way she was right, he thought.
Nonetheless, Mike continued to entertain the unpredictable idea, for the sake of his former classmate. But as he typed out his responses, one of his answers suddenly stuck out from the rest. And it left Karen's jaw on the floor. "All I know is Cunningham," he revealed of his birth mother's last name.
They Took a DNA Test
Karen couldn't believe what she was reading. That simply couldn't be a coincidence, right? All of the signs were finally pointing her in Mike's direction. From sharing the same birthday to both being adopted, to now, their birth mothers sharing the same last name. It was truly incredible.
So, Karen and Mike finally decided to take a DNA test on Ancestry.com. And after six seemingly endless weeks? They were about to get their answers. It all started one fateful night at 9 p.m., when Mike's phone began to blare. It was Karen, and the results were in.
They Were Separated at Birth
"I started shaking," Mike revealed of the results they were finally met with. It was almost surreal; A dream they couldn't wake up from. Mike Jackman and Karen Warner were officially family; Fraternal twins separated at birth. "We were both overwhelmed. Still are," the twins shared.
“I’m still trying to let it sink in,” Mike continued. And just like that, Mike and Karen had gone from classmates to neighbors to family. A journey practically 51 years in the making, and it was extraordinary. Only their time together was just getting started.
Two Peas in a Pod
As for what came next? Karen Warner and Mike Jackman had become inseparable. Sure, on paper, they were still strangers with a whole lot of catching up to do. But to the naked eye? The siblings were family, "two peas in a pod," as Mike proudly put it.
"We're just like each other," Jackman gushed. "Before she says something, I know what she is going to say. It's like being one person with two brains." From finishing each other's sentences to sharing the same hobbies, the twins might have been separated for decades - but you sure wouldn't know it.
Making up for Lost Time
Of course, though, there's no denying the elephant in the room. Karen and Mike missed out on a lot of quality time together. About 51 years' worth of endless memories and milestones they'll never get back. But you can bet they're making every second count.
"We're trying to get 51 years back, basically," Jackman explained. And they've certainly wasted no time. "Sometimes, it's just a trip to Walmart [together]," as Mike revealed. Other times? It's the little things; Laughing, eating, talking - simply enjoying each other's presence.
Another Discovery in the Cunningham Family
Believe it or not, that's not where this story ends. After finding their way back to one another, Karen and Mike embraced their latest chapter with open arms. But with that soon came another shocking discovery; They weren't the only siblings in the Cunningham family.
That's right, Karen's search had since led her to uncover a whole lot more than she bargained for: Three half-siblings. A thought she and her brother were overwhelmed about. Unfortunately, they were soon met with another update, and this one hit them even harder.
Their Birth Parents Had Passed Away
So, where exactly were Karen and Mike's birth parents all of these years? well, the twins certainly wanted to find out. But as they continued to dig into their past, they soon received devastating news; Something that left them with more questions than answers. Their biological parents had passed away.
According to records, Norma Joanne Cunningham Reed had passed in Arizona back in 1991. As for their father? While details are a bit hazier, he, too, passed in 2011. It was a bitter pill to swallow. Nonetheless, Karen and Mike stuck by each other's side throughout it all.
Where Are They Now?
But where exactly do they stand today? Are Karen and Mike still making up for lost time? Or perhaps, has all of that lost time driven a wedge between them? Sure enough, fast toward to today, and the two seem stronger than ever. Not only have they met each other's families, but they also have big plans.
Remember those three half-siblings Karen once stumbled across? She's actually been in contact with them. But that's not all. She also has plans to meet them sometime in March of 2021. And you can bet we'll be right here, following along every step of the way!
They say home is where the heart is, and Karen and Mike might just be living proof. In the span of 51 years, we followed the separated siblings on their journey back to one another. But now that they've arrived at their destination, what's next? Where do they go from here?
Sure, Karen and Mike's past might be relatively murky. But their future is officially as clear as ever. "It's like my life is complete, now," Karen gushed. While she might be flipping the page on her latest chapter, their adventure together is just getting started. "The only way we can go is forward," she said.
As Karen once put it, "For me, I felt all my life I was missing something. But now? I found it, and it's Mike." Despite all the obstacles, we watched Warner follow her instincts as it led her all the way to her other half. And there's something beautiful to be learned from that.
"Do not give up," Karen pleaded. Because after all, no matter the road bumps, that final destination will almost always be worth the trek. "I hope others get encouragement from us doing this and find their [dreams] as well," the smiling sister added.