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Bickel reunites with birth mother, then assists mother’s genealogical quest

MADISON – A Madison woman successfully solved one of life’s most compelling questions … and then helped her mother with the same mission.

Catherine Jean Daniel Bickel searched, identified and reunited with her birth mother, Kellie Kilpatrick. Catherine then helped Kellie, who also was adopted, with her genealogical search to find relatives in her birth family.

“My adoptive parents always told me I was adopted. My whole life I wondered about finding my biological family,” Catherine said.

Her search started randomly while housecleaning at her parent’s house. During a phone call with her friend Kelli, Catherine found a sheet from Huntsville Hospital with Kellie’s (her mother’s) name.

Extremely nervous, Catherine insisted that Kelli remain on the phone. “I spontaneously decided to look up my mother Kellie on Facebook. Six people with her same name popped up,” Catherine said.

However, Catherine immediately connected with Kellie’s profile picture. “I messaged Kellie on Facebook. She messaged me back not even five minutes later and confirmed everything,” Catherine said. Kellie had hoped Catherine would look for her one day. “I had always known her first name was Kellie and had heard stories here and there about her but did not know much.”

Catherine waited a few days before telling her adoptive parents because she was worried about their opinions. However, her adoptive parents “have been completely supportive from the time I told them I found Kellie,” Catherine said.

Kellie and Catherine corresponded online; they decided to meet when Kellie came home from McKinney, Texas. Kellie recently retired after 20 years in the U.S. Army. Catherine’s biological father, Johnny, lives in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

Three weeks later, Catherine met Kellie, her two biological half-sisters, Lindsey-Blaire (age 30) and Olivia (age 25), for dinner. “The rest is history,” Catherine said.

Catherine’s reunion was “not one you would expect. Yes, we were all excited to meet each other, but, at the same time, it felt like we had known each other forever. We compared features and personalities. It was interesting to see how alike we were, physically and mentally, even being apart for almost 20 years and not growing up together. It was very special.”

“Finding Kellie’s family was honestly an accident,” Catherine said. Catherine completed “23 & Me” to determine if her ancestors included American Indians … and found Kellie’s family.

Catherine matched with two people, Barbara and Jamie. Barbara had been searching for Kellie for 20-plus years. Barbara concluded that Jamie could be Kellie’s half-brother. Barbara and Jamie actually attended the same high school.

Catherine feels lucky about her easy experience with adoption search. “Most adoptees have a hard time finding family or have trouble being accepted. My advice to anyone who has been thinking about searching: TRY!” Catherine said.

A Madison native, Catherine attended Rainbow elementary, Discovery middle and graduated from Bob Jones High School in 2011. She studied at Calhoun and Wallace State community colleges. In the U.S. Navy, she was a Machinist Mate stationed on the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) in Coronado, Calif. Currently, she works as an IT Customer Support Analyst for KBR, a contractor on Redstone Arsenal.

After marrying in 2018, Catherine and Tyler Bickel are parents of Garrison, who will be 10 months old on Christmas.

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