JACKSONVILLE, Fla — It took nearly 30 years, but a woman who was left on a Jacksonville doorstep hours after she was born says she finally knows who her birth parents are.
“They were shocked, really shocked as you can imagine. No one knew about me. No one even knew my mom was pregnant,” Aniya Smith said.
After Smith shared her story with First Coast News in 2021, a genealogy sleuth reached out and offered to help her find her biological family.
“A search angel is someone who does all the back-end work for you. So, they put the families together, they connect the dots,” Smith said.
An Ancestry DNA test revealed Smith had a half-sister, and that she said led her to her father in Jacksonville. Their first phone call included an apology she had waited so long to hear.
“That's something I haven't really gotten from my mother, but I can definitely feel that it was something that he had been carrying with him for very long,” Smith said. “I appreciated that moment of just him telling me he was truly and deeply sorry, just explaining his mindset, his thought process at the time. But as far as my extended family, they've just been just there with me every step of the way. I couldn't ask for a better family, to be honest.”
She says her father admitted that he and her birth mother left her on the doorstep of an apartment in Jacksonville's Riverside neighborhood in 1992.
“My mother was 18 at the time. My father was 19. So, they were really young, you know, didn't really know what to,” Smith said. “My mom hid the pregnancy the whole nine months, so no one knew my mother was pregnant other than my father.”
That call with her father helped her connect with her mother's side of the family.
Charles Thompson, couldn't believe it when he first heard Aniya might be his relative. Uncle Butch, as she now calls him, offered to take a DNA test.
“Piece by piece. I put the puzzle together,” Charles Thomson said. “I put the puzzle together to find out Aniya is my great-niece.”
He and his brother have no doubt Aniya is their blood relative.
“Her DNA did match up with my nephew. And I don't think our DNA lies,” Tony Thompson said.
“It was like, wow, but more importantly, how could this have happened when really it didn't have to happen?” Charles Thomson said.
It's one of many questions Aniya was able to finally ask her birth mother.
“I remember just sitting on the phone with her and just asking her a million questions about herself,” Smith said. “I wanted to know the ins and outs about her because I had, you know, just thought about who this person could have been for so long. I just wanted to know everything.”
We called Smith’s biological mother and father, but neither would talk with us.
“My mom did advise me she didn't leave me, but I don't believe that,” Smith said.
While she didn't get all the answers she was looking for, she says she's not angry anymore about being abandoned. She was adopted and raised by a loving family who has supported her finding her birth parents and the four siblings she never knew she had.
“Now I just want to move forward. I'd be lying if I said I didn't want a relationship,” Smith said. “I want that relationship. I want to be able to visit both sides of my family on holidays. And I just also want a deep relationship with my siblings.”
A relationship she's building with her newly found relatives. Her great-uncle, Tony Thompson, organized a Zoom family call to welcome her.
“I wanted her to meet her family. I thought it was important that she had missed thirty years of being around her family,” he said. “It was important that she knew that she had a family that loved her and want her to feel loved.”
She's looking forward to the day when she and her son, Zion, can meet them all in person. They’re planning on an in-person gathering in the Spring.
“I plan on giving her a 30-year hug. I'm just gonna hold her and tell her that she is loved by all of us here and she is a part of this family,” Tony Thomson said.
“She is a part of my family. She is welcomed into this family with open arms, her and her son Zion both, and we love them to death,” Charles Thompson said.