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DNA helps New Jersey man find brother he didn’t know he had

By BARRY CARTERMay 24, 2019

PAULSBORO, N.J. (AP) — The search for his dad had gone cold.

Vidal Rivera, of Deptford, was frustrated.

“I was getting tired of it,” Rivera said. “Nothing was popping up.”

Not until he received a message on his Ancestry.com profile on April 9 from James Inge, who lives ten miles away in Paulsboro. Inge was on the site trying to figure out his heritage.

Inge, 31, kept his note simple, pointing out odd similarities between him and Rivera, who is 27. Both men grew men up in Camden and the site linked them together with tens of thousands of chromosomes.

“I read his message and was like, ’Oh Shhh.”

At first, Rivera was thinking Inge might be a cousin who could help him find his dad. Not quite.

The two were brothers and didn’t know it. Their dad, whose name is also James Inge, didn’t know he had another son, either.

“I thought it was a lie at first, but the DNA was saying ‘yes,’” the father said. “I’m happy, but this is a lot to deal with.”

His son and namesake, James Inge, kept probing when the site strongly suggested they were cousins. The number of DNA matches between them was so large, Inge said a star was next to Rivera’s name.

“It was in a category all by itself,” he said. “That’s what drew me to it.”

Inge, however, was still curious and he had good reason. In a photograph on the site, Rivera looked exactly like Inge’s fraternal twin brother, Semaj, also of Paulsboro.

Inge wasn’t done, though. He sent the picture to another brother, Hubert Simmons of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, thinking he might know Rivera because they were around the same age. Not only did Simmons, 26, know Rivera, the two were in the same class as freshmen at Camden High School.

“Yeah, that’s my man,” Simmons said. “We were always cool.”

So cool, that they stayed in touch on Facebook after high school. “I knew it had to be something.”

Inge then called the site’s support line to see what was going on. A representative reviewed Inge’s profile and congratulated him. Rivera, based on Ancestry’s information, was indeed his brother.

Inge said he was nervous about sending Rivera a message that day. He didn’t want his sibling to think he was some creepy guy surfacing out of nowhere. But Rivera, who was longing to find out about his dad, answered and sent Inge his phone number.

A few hours later, the two men were talking like old friends who hadn’t seen each other in a while.

“There were no awkward moments,” Inge said.

“It was like talking to myself,” said Rivera. “We just bonded instantly.”

They hit it off, but the familial connection revealed more than the blood in their veins.

While Rivera was at Camden High School, Inge was at Woodrow Wilson, the crosstown high school rival. Inge was a standout basketball player, who set a record scoring 74 points in 2006. Rivera was athletic, too, and learned how to box. The Camden police officer is now a professional boxer with an 8-1 record. Both men are fathers - Rivera’s daughter is nine months; Inge’s son is 3.

Rivera also spent time around people who knew his father. The father said his best friend has a son who was good friends with Rivera. And, the father’s niece is friends with Rivera’s sister.

“He was right there all the time,” the father said. “Nobody knew.”

The two schools they attended are 10 minutes apart, and Vidal is still blown away that he sat in the same class with Simmons, not knowing they were related.

“That’s like a smack in the face,” Vidal said. “That explains why we were so cool.”

The three brothers are stunned by that, and how everything has come together in two weeks.

After talking on April 9, Inge and Rivera met three days later at a restaurant. No handshakes for this union. Only hugs.

Their dad came, too. Vidal and their father have been talking every day since. It gnaws at dad that he missed his son’s life, but he is proud at how he turned out as a man.

“Who wouldn’t be proud?” he said.

Rivera and their dad took a DNA test that confirmed they were father and son.

“I can’t believe I found my dad,” Rivera said.

The search was over, courtesy of fate and destiny and a new brother following his instincts.

“Don’t give up,” Inge said. “You never know. There might be somebody out there who is just as interested in you.”

Online: https://bit.ly/2E1OfDW

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Information from: NJ Advance Media.

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