HARRAH Judy Ott searched for more than 40 years to find her sister who didn't even know she had a family.
On Friday, Ott, of Harrah, was reunited at Will Rogers World Airport with Elizabeth Gene Larson, who Ott could only remember as 1-year-old Connie Justene.
"I'm used to Connie Justene, Ott said. "I'll just have to get used to a new name.
Ott, now 53, was 8 years old when she, her sister and 5 year-old brother were taken from their mother's custody under a judge's order.
The girls were given to adoptive families; Ott's brother was placed with his biological father but later returned to live with his mother.
"My brother, sister and I were taken away from my biological mother for no reason, she said. "I was almost 9 (years old), so I remember that there was no way that we were abused or neglected or any of that.
The family who adopted her baby sister also changed her name.
Ott said Larson is now living in Washington state with her husband and two children.
"It is really uncanny how much our lives have been along the same lines, Ott said.
Both sisters named one of their daughters Jennifer Lynn, Ott said.
Larson also was told that her biological mother was dead and she had no siblings.
Ott reunited with most of her biological family, including her mother and brother, when she was 16 years old, but she was still unable to locate her only sister.
Ott started working for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services in 1998.
"One of my bosses said, We're going to see if we can find your sister,' she said.
Confidential intermediary Mary Payne was hired by DHS to find Ott's sister, but the case was closed in 2002 after she decided she had exhausted every tool to find Connie Justene.
"We pay them (the searchers) a flat rate, and so we have to be reasonable about the amount of time we want them to search, DHS program field representative Jacquelyn Hill-Anderson said.
"I've never had any searcher close unless they've searched a year. Mary had searched already two years and because of her dedication and her commitment, she continued.
Less than a month ago, Payne was given access to a new database.
"You have to have a name, she said. "Once we have a name, we just go through the process of elimination. There were three Elizabeths with the same birth date and the second one I called was the right one.
Payne said she worked to help get a law passed in 1997 that allows people who have been displaced from their biological family to search for family members.
"When we actually are able to find the person ... that person has the choice of whether or not they want a reunion or if they want to share information, Payne said.
"Sometimes these older birth mothers just have a really difficult time facing it because society was just different in the '40s and '50s and '60s, and some of them do not want reunions.
Payne said the legislation does allow those searching for relatives to have access to important medical history of relatives even if the person being searched for does not want a reunion.
"They have the right to say I don't want a reunion' and we will not violate their desires and wishes, Hill-Anderson said.
Hill-Anderson said there are more than 2,000 Oklahomans registered with DHS to find lost relatives.Archive ID: 2026930