HOUSTON – A woman has reunited with her family in Houston after 62 years apart. The family says she was abducted and raised by the person who took her.
“I’m very grateful that this did happen,” said Viva Hernandez.
It’s a reunion more than 60 years in the making.
Hernandez flew with her family from Sacramento, California to be greeted at Intercontinental Airport Tuesday by other family members she never knew she had until three weeks ago.
“I think it was overwhelming at first,” Hernandez said.
She was born to Alfred and Marion Smiley in Houston in 1959. Hernandez was largely unaware of her parents because she was raised in California by another couple, knowing Marion was alive, she knew nothing of Alfred.
“I always wanted to know what was her story. Why did she give up her child or what happened as to where I wasn’t with her,” Hernandez said.
She traveled to Texas several times over the years, trying to put the pieces together but had no luck because her given name didn’t match the name on her birth certificate. Hernandez finally got answers earlier this month when her son John received a message on the genealogy site, Ancestry.com.
“She went through life not thinking she had any relatives, or family, brothers or sisters. So, it’s real big,” John Hernandez said.
Hernadez learned that her birth name was Deborah and she had 15 siblings in Houston.
So how’d she got to California?
Her siblings claim when she was 8-months-old, she was kidnapped by the woman who raised her in California -- the woman who happened to be her babysitter in Houston. Viva Hernandez now has a host of siblings, nieces and other family members to add to her six kids, 27 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
When asked how’s it felt to know she have 15 siblings when she thought she was an only child, Viva Hernandez said, “I like it. I like it. So far.”
“It’s something we always wanted to see. Now she gets some closure. Not the closure that she wanted but she gets some sort of closure,” said Viva Hernandez’s daughter, Aishah Oliver.