BORDEN, IN (WAVE) - Trading teaching for genealogy on nights and weekends, Christina Pearson spends her free time helping people from all around the country reconnect with family members.
It started as a favor to a friend but has since blossomed into a regular hobby, helping reconnect more than 100 families on the way. Using websites like ancestry.com, she’s able to search to find adopted siblings, unknown parents and reunite families.
“Every search is so different,” Pearson said. "Whoever I’m helping pops into my head and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh. Their world’s going to change today.’”
The West Clark Schools teacher spends her free time tracking down family trees for complete strangers, using her living room couch as her genealogy office -- one she uses every day.
“Every day, I will find some time to work on something, even if it’s 30 minutes,” she said.
Reconnecting lost family members online has slowly become a hobby.
“Just like my husband has a hunting hobby and he buys all his hunting toys, I buy all my subscriptions,” Pearson said.
She helps people from all over the country connect with family they never knew they had. It started when her best friend asked her to help track down her dad.
“I immediately was like, ‘Oh, that sounds really interesting,’" Pearson said.
That first search moved slowly as she worked to understand family trees, tracking down cousins and using websites that can track down distant family members by DNA.
More than 100 cases after she successfully helped her best friend find her father, she’s hooked.
Some cases can take months, others less than an hour. On average, a case takes around three days, she said.
Requests to help often come in through the Facebook group DNA Detectives or from a message sent to her phone referred by someone else she’s already helped.
“I just never know where a case is going to come from,” Pearson said.
Across the country in California, Teresa Ericksen is spending the weekend with her sister, Jennifer, her brother, Sean, and father, Matt. She’s meeting them Labor Day weekend for the first time.
“It was just instant, we feel like we had known each other for years,” Ericksen said, talking about the instant bond she felt with her sister Jennifer.
That instant connection is creating a new chapter in Teresa’s life as her newly found father will walk her down the aisle later this week.
“Because I know how much the search meant to her, so thank you,” Pearson said.
“Thank you for helping her find us,” Jennifer said.
Teresa, Jennifer and Matt joke around about the interesting beginning to their new relationship, but they are all excited to get to know one another and reconnect further. Sitting side by side with one another on Labor Day, they’re all grateful for the fresh chance to be a part of each other’s lives.
”Heartwarming that this kind of thing happened in our lives," Matt said.
“It was just something I mean, I'll never forget," Pearson said.
From that first finished search, helping her best friend find her father, to the photo album that’s now filled with memories of the families she’s helped reconnect, the need to search has become ingrained in Christina’s life.
It’s a hobby, she said, that’s so much more.
"The future’s wide open for it,” Pearson said. “I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon.”