(BILOXI, Miss.) — After decades of searching, a set of twin sisters in Mississippi have been reunited with their birth family through Facebook 54 years after being adopted from Italy by an American family.
“I screamed ‘Oh my God. My family has contacted me,'” Jane Bennett of Biloxi, Miss., told ABC News. “I was emotional, upside down…I was just thrilled. I was just in tears and it was awesome.”
Bennett and her twin sister, Lisa Keeler, were born Maria Concetta Valenziano and Anna Maria Valenziano on Jan. 29, 1960 in Palermo, Italy.
Their mother Maria, Bennett said, died shortly after childbirth.
But on July 7, 1961, the women were adopted by an American family.
“What we are finding out is that [our father] did not want to put us up for adoption,” Bennett said. “[The orphanage] eventually coerced him to sign these papers and after 18 months he finally signed these papers. My parents had to pay a lot of money for us, so we think it was a money issue…we just really have that feeling.”
The twins were adopted by their new mother, Anita Sipler, who Bennett said always made it known that she and her sister were born to an Italian couple.
In 1967 the orphanage in Palermo shut down. Bennett said she didn’t have many leads when she began the lengthy search for her birth family.
“When I was younger I would go to the phone book and you could go in and see Valenziano, but there were so many Valenzianos,” Bennett recalled. “It was too much. In 2000, I looked and I wrote to the global paper over there [in Palermo] and asked the if they knew of anybody with that last name and if they could give me any information and they never answered me.”
In 2005, Bennett said she created a Facebook page and began the decade-long digital search for her siblings.
Then, in October 2014, Bennett had a stroke of luck when she came across her nephew Alessandro Valenziano’s Facebook page.
Alessandro didn’t respond to Bennett’s message, she said, until Sept. 4, 2015 — one year later.
Bennett came in contact with her brother Giovanni who responded to her Facebook message in just one hour.
“It was just crazy,” Bennett said. “My heart was going and I was screaming and hollering, ‘This is a dream come true.'”
Bennett said she and Keeler have booked a trip to Italy in April to meet their three sisters and four brothers.
The twins’ brother, Rosario, died in 1984 and their father Giuseppe passed away in 1983.
“[My father] passed away in 1983 and I’m not sure exactly what happened yet,” Bennett said. “There was a baby picture of us and my father had one in his wallet that he carried all time. [He had a] missing void in his heart. It makes me sad because my son looks just like my dad and I lost my son four years ago and my son’s dream was to take me to Italy.”
Bennett said she and Keeler have been Skype-ing with their siblings since connecting on Facebook.
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