CASPER, Wyo. — Natrona County Undersheriff Mark Sellers was born in Denver in 1967.
His biological mother put him up for adoption and a family in Colorado Springs brought Sellers into their home. They later moved to Casper where Sellers said he grew up.
“I’ve always known I was adopted, it was never hidden from me,” he said in his office on Friday, July 19. “I kind of figured there had to be family out there somewhere, but I didn’t figure my mom and dad stayed together, I mean they were young, I was put up for adoption”
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Sellers’ adoptive family was fully supportive of him if he wanted to go search for his biological relatives. Which he did.
But it wasn’t an easy task.
“I always hit dead ends,” Sellers said. “My original birth certificate did not have my mom’s correct name on it.”
Not having a birth certificate with that name made it difficult for Sellers to go about looking for his relatives.
Elizabeth Taylor grew up with a strange feeling that she was missing an older brother.
“So when I was growing up I always just sort of felt like I needed an older brother,” she said. “And so often when I played with one of my little sisters I’d be like, ‘Oh, well our brother built us that fort,'” Taylor said. “It was sort of a thing I always had in the back of my mind.”
But her father had never told her that she in fact did have an older brother— until they went on a boat ride in 1990.
“When I was engaged to my husband, we went to hang out with my father and I was doing very well in my career and he goes, ‘Well your whole life’s together, you’ve got everything you need and want. You’ve got the great career, you’ve got your husband now, you’re set.'”
Taylor says she told her father, half-joking: “Yeah, I’m just missing that older brother I always wished I had.”
That’s when her father said, “You actually do have one of those.”
Taylor said that hearing this “was just like a brick had hit me.”
“What do you mean I really have one?” Taylor asked.
That set off a search that would last for almost 30 years, full of discouraging leads and setbacks.
“I petitioned the court where he was adopted and I was denied because I didn’t have a valid reason,” Taylor said. “In ’94 I was pregnant and we on our side of the family had some issues where they were asking if I had any brothers and sons in the family.”
“So I thought it was a great opportunity to re-petition the court with a medical reason to find him. The judge opened the records in ’94.”
But having access to those records was not the grand slam she’d been hoping for. She hired someone to help with the search.
“We searched every baby born in ’67,” Taylor said. “But we hit a dead end because of the name on the birth certificate.”
“After that every few years I would reach out online and to services, adoption places and people that help you find. But we’ve always been looking for a different last name, a baby-something-else. Se we have hit dead ends off and on for many years.”
The search was at times emotionally exhausting.
“Over 30 years, I’ve hit that wall many times where I feel like, ‘Maybe he doesn’t want to be found. Do I have the right to do this? Am I going to interrupt a life he didn’t really want us to know about?'” Taylor said.
“You know, so I had emotions off and on so I would sometimes just have to take a year or two off because it was very discouraging sometimes.”
Then she had what she thought was the breakthrough she’d been searching for.
“Well I knew who his mother was,” Taylor said. “I was able to get in contact with her 3 or 4 years ago. She shared a little bit more information and I thought, now’s it. So I’m telling all my kids, ‘I know you all have known I’ve been doing this for 30 years, but now I really found him’, like now I have even more information.”
But this turned out to be another setback.
“She did not remember that there was a different last name either,” Taylor said. “So researching databases didn’t work, I was still continuing to look for the wrong name.”
In the meantime Sellers had also continued searching for family, though he didn’t know that it was a sister that he was searching for.
“In 2016, Colorado’s law changed where I could get my original birth certificate without petitioning a court or going through what she had to,” Sellers said. “Of course, I knew my name so it was easy to find it and I got the original birth certificate but with a false name in it it didn’t help me out either.”
He’s also had doubts from time to time about whether to carry on in his search.
“They might not know about me, care about me, have their own life, you just never know,” Sellers said.
But neither would give up their search entirely.
“So in early May I did 23 and Me Ancestry,” Sellers said. “When I got results it showed I had a first cousin, which is the closest I’d ever come.”
He sent an email to the person matched as his first cousin. And then he got a response.
“I got this email that said, ‘I know exactly who you are. You need to call me immediately, I know everything about your family, we’ve been looking for you.'”
Sellers then called the number he’d been given.
“When I called he said, ‘I’m actually not your cousin, I’m actually your nephew. My mom is your half-sister. we’ve been looking all this time for you,'” Sellers said.
“So to find out in May that she’d been looking for me was a big deal to me, because it’s like, ok, they do want to meet me and find me as much as I want to find them. That was a huge deal to me.”
The siblings then spoke for the first time in their lives.
“I called Elizabeth and we started talking and it kind of went from there,” Sellers said. “We talked for a couple hours that night, several hours the next day and that was on a Tuesday night and Thursday, I flew to Waco to meet them.”
Over Memorial Day weekend, Sellers and his wife flew to Waco to meet the sister who’d felt she’d needed him since she was a child.
“My son as a Christmas present got the 23 and Me and it was sort of a fluke,” Taylor said. “I’d been searching the old fashioned way for 29 years and then we both on a whim do this DNA thing and boom, there it goes. So there we were!”
Taylor went with her husband and her two daughters, cancelling vacation plans they had, in order to go meet Sellers and his his wife at the airport.
“They had a sign that said ‘Uncle Mark and Aunt Patty,'” Sellers said of his newly discovered nieces. “They had flowers for my wife.”
Taylor was overwhelmed.
“I was over the top excited,” she said. “My kids were excited for me. Since they were all born they’ve known that I’ve been looking for him so they were excited. We were all pretty weepy for a few days.”
For Sellers, the reunion was also stunning.
“It was pretty surreal, it was an emotional roller coaster obviously after all these years to find a sister,” he said. “I mean it was, yeah, I can’t even describe it, it was pretty crazy.”
On that trip, Taylor and her Texas family took Sellers and his wife around, filling them in on family history. Sellers was also able to meet another sister and his biological father.
“We took him to a town where our great-grandparents sort of started that side of our family,” Taylor said. “And we took him to the family cemetery, just kind of showed him all the generations and ancestry that we have on that side and we sat on the couch and just stared at each other and talked for five days.”
When they were sitting and staring at one another on that couch, there were some sort of mirror effects taking place.
“If you look, I think it’s pretty obvious that we’re related,” Sellers said. “The chin, there’s some definite features there.”
“Yeah, our Smith chin,” Taylor chimed in.
But Sellers was a lot taller than his sister had imagined growing up.
“I never imagined my brother would be tall, ever,” Taylor said. “Because our side of the family is like all short. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re tall!”
While Sellers and Taylor have fallen into the natural sibling relationship they’d been searching for, other members of the family have been excited meeting each other as well.
“His son who lives in Hawaii and my son already met,” Taylor said. “My son’s in the Marine Corps, his son’s in the Navy and stationed in Hawaii and my son just was sent for two weeks to Hawaii for a training. So they got to meet and hang out for two days.”
“They’re both born in 1994. They’re so similar they just got along fantastically.”
Taylor and Patty Sellers have also been getting along just dandy, and they’re planning to go to a concert together in Dallas in November.
“My family is totally supportive,” Taylor said. “His wife obviously, she jumped on a plane with him in a day and a half and went with him to some strange lady’s house in Texas.”
“And she and I have hit it off and she and I text and talk pretty regularly. They talk to my kids constantly. Everybody’s pretty connected and we just enveloped him in, we haven’t missed a day.”
Sellers says that it has been surprisingly easy to relate to everyone.
“There’s just a weird connection we had right off the bat,” he said.
After his initial trip to Waco, Sellers went back there two weeks ago in order to meet with his first cousin, or rather, his nephew.
“My son couldn’t be there sadly on such short notice,” Taylor said of the Memorial Day weekend reunion. “So Mark came back two weeks ago because my son had three days leave and so he was finally able to meet my son as well.”
Taylor still has some family to meet and that’s something she’ll do while she’s in Casper. She’ll be here until Tuesday.
“I got to meet my niece already and I’m going to meet another nephew tonight,” she said.
While they have a few other things planned over the next few months, the big gathering is planned for the wintertime.
“We’re going to all get together again in December and have everybody all together,” Taylor said.
“It’s still exciting,” Sellers added.
A 23 and Me representative said that people have the option to sign up for a “DNA Relatives” option when they purchase a DNA testing kit.
The testing involves taking a swab of saliva and sending that back to 23 and Me for analysis. They are only able to match people who they’ve tested and are in their system.
Everyone on the 23 and Me site can send messages to people that they show a match with. But it is entirely up to each individual whether they want to respond to these messages and share their personal information with one another.
The 23 and Me representative did not know exactly how many relatives had linked up using their services because they only know if customers let them know. But he said that reunion videos are posted to their Youtube.
Sellers and Taylor have a video of their meeting at the airport:
“This still tears me up every time I watch it,” Sellers said. “They were just so welcoming.”