When Tina Ennis sat down for a DNA test, her life appeared to be pretty normal. But unfortunately for her, that stability soon shattered into a million pieces. The DNA results indicated that all she thought she’d known about her family up to now had been a heartbreaking lie. And Tina was left desperately scrabbling to uncover the truth.
Born on May 18, 1964, Tina was the middle kid in her mom Kathryn Jones’ family.
Her sister, Brenda, arrived first, while their brother was welcomed into the world nearly a decade later. And they all grew up in Oklahoma.
Touching on that time in her life, Tina spoke with TV show TODAY in March 2022 via a video call. “My mom’s grandparents were terrific,” she recalled.
“We had horses with them, and [her grandpa] took us to rodeos and playdays. It was very Oklahoma.” Most importantly, though, she noted it was “just normal.”
It wasn’t all plain sailing...
Yet at the same time there were some bumps in the road. For instance, when Tina was a toddler, Kathryn and her husband broke up, leaving her without her dad.
But that wouldn’t last for long, as the mom soon found another partner who filled the void.
From then on, Tina saw this new man as her father. He made a living painting properties, while Kathryn plied her trade as a telephonist.
Kathryn also shared a few details about her youngest daughter’s early years in a separate video call with TODAY.
“Always a blessing”
“I thought [Tina] was the most beautiful little baby,” Kathryn told the flagship morning television show. “[She] had such a beautiful complexion.
[Growing up], she was just always a blessing — always happy-go-lucky.”
Tina worked at the post office, a position which she still holds today. As for her personal life, the Oklahoma native is a mom to three kids, too, mirroring her own mom Kathryn.
So, everything seemed to be going along nicely for the family. This peaceful existence wouldn’t last, though.
A huge shock was coming...
Yes, the wheels were set in motion for a life-altering change during the summer months of 2019. It all began when Taylor, one of Tina’s adult children, joined Ancestry.com.
Her goal was simple: Tina was eager to learn more about her family, so her daughter stepped in to help.
An innocent search
Specifically, Tina was looking for her grandpa, who had walked out of Kathryn’s life when she was just a little girl.
On that note, Taylor and her mom submitted DNA samples to Ancestry, hoping that would lead to a connection. But no one could’ve predicted what happened next.
The test results
After waiting patiently, Ancestry finally provided Tina and Taylor with their DNA results. Mind you, instead of filling in a gap in their clan’s history, the information threw up some head-scratching questions.
Namely, the pair struggled to recognize anyone in their family tree. How bizarre! And the confusion didn’t end there.
A mysterious surname
Upon closer inspection, one surname repeatedly appeared in the results: Brister. Understandably baffled, Tina then reached out to Kathryn and wondered if she had any knowledge of the name.
Her mom was equally puzzled, though, leaving the family in a very uneasy state. What on Earth was going on here?
Kathryn took a test...
Hoping to throw more light on the situation, Tina implored Kathryn to submit a DNA sample to Ancestry as well. She agreed, sending her own completed-at-home test kit back to the genealogy company. Maybe this would clear things up?
Well, not quite. In fact, the information that emerged just muddied the waters further, as we’re about to discover.
Yes, Kathryn’s results left Tina in a state of pure confusion. As per the data, she and Taylor were nowhere to be found. If that was correct, it meant the pair weren’t biologically related to the Jones clan.
But surely that had to be wrong? It didn’t make sense to anyone. The postal worker had an interesting theory to explain the anomaly.
A sound theory?
Apparently, Tina was no longer shelling out on Ancestry’s monthly payment plan by that point.
So, she speculated that she and Taylor might’ve been removed from the company’s system as a result. Was the mom-of-three correct? Her daughter tried to find out.
Yep, Taylor contacted Ancestry and posed the question. Her mom’s hopeful theory quickly got shot down, though.
During that conversation, one of the staff members also had this to say, as per The Daily Beast website. The company spokeswoman said, “You know, you find out some interesting things on Ancestry.”
Taylor’s online investigating
Given the context here, that sounded rather ominous! Anyway, Taylor was still eager to untangle the confusion following that chat.
So, using the Brister surname as a jumping-off point, she started to do some digging on the internet. Tina’s daughter scanned social media accounts and obituaries, leaving no stone unturned.
A possible breakthrough?
Soon enough, Taylor stumbled across something very interesting. It appeared that she’d found a potential connection in the shape of another Oklahoma resident. Her name? Jill Brister Lopez.
You see, not only did she and Tina share a birthday, but they had also been delivered at the same medical facility.
And that wasn’t all. When Taylor took a closer look at one of Jill’s photos, a startling realization washed over her. This woman was the spitting image of Kathryn.
With that in mind, Tina’s kid pieced together her own theory on what had happened, believing it to be the only answer that made sense.
An unthinkable switch
Yes, Taylor was of the opinion that her mom had been inadvertently swapped with another baby following her delivery.
And judging by the names on their family tree and Jill’s appearance, it looked like she might’ve found that child all grown up. Yet Tina had her doubts. You can hardly blame her, right?
Still, Taylor couldn’t shake this nagging idea from her head. In a pivotal moment, she talked with her mom again, and persuaded Tina to reach out to Jill via social media. Still, the postal employee was very worried about how it would all sound.
As she later admitted to The Daily Beast, “If I were to get [that message], I’d think that person was crazy.”
Learning more about Jill
Like Tina, Jill had also grown up in Oklahoma too, in her case alongside some sisters under the care of John and Joyce Brister.
Then, as she got older, she packed her bags for Lawton — one of the state’s smaller areas. She’s a mother of two kids, and currently works within the real-estate sector.
Though, importantly, Jill didn’t think Tina was crazy for suggesting a switch might’ve happened back in 1964. Yet at the same time, both her hubby and one of her sisters weren’t so sure.
“[She said], ‘Somebody’s trying to scare you,’” the mom-of-two recalled to People magazine in April 2022.
Anyway, once they had made contact on social media, Jill informed Tina that she’d undergo a DNA test through Ancestry too.
Plus, the real estate worker wanted to take up her offer of a meeting as well. But how would the rendezvous go?
“It was surreal”
The pair got together at a local eatery, and began to learn a little more about each other. Oh to have been a fly on the wall!
Tina shared her reaction from that day while speaking to People. Taylor’s mom recalled, “[Jill] looked just like my momma. It was surreal.”
“It was almost like an out-of-body experience, sitting across the table from someone that you just met who looks just like your mother,” Tina continued.
“What I’ll never forget is when she got her lipstick out, and put it on exactly the way my mom does. That’s when I knew. I didn’t need DNA after that.”
Even so, Jill took the test and they all got an answer fairly quickly. We won’t leave you in suspense — the information proved that she and Tina had indeed been switched at birth. Unbelievable, right?
Talk about life-changing news. As for their response, Kathryn’s biological kid opened up to the magazine.
“All I could do is cry”
Jill said, “After getting the results, I drove straight home from my office. My husband asked, ‘What’s wrong?’ I told him, ‘It’s true. It’s true.
I don’t even know who I am anymore.’” Tina was equally shell-shocked, bluntly stating, “All I could do is cry.” We’d probably shed a few tears, too, to be honest.
Tina went into a bit more detail with The Daily Beast as well. She told the website, “My heart just sank [in that moment]. Because I was just like, ‘This is for real.’” So what was her next move?
Simple — the postal worker had to inform Kathryn, her brother, and her sister. But it’d be far from easy.
Sharing the news
As Tina told TODAY over that video call, “All I could think about was how I was going to tell my mom.
I just thought, ‘She’s not going to be able to handle it.’” On that note, she organized a get-together and looked to lay it all out. Yet the seismic nature of what she had to say left Kathryn in denial.
“Looked just like me”
To put it simply, Kathryn wasn’t having it. How could Tina not be her child? In the end, she was handed a photo of Jill, which drew an incredible response.
The beleaguered parent told The Daily Beast, “[I thought], ‘Where was I when that was taken? I don’t remember those clothes.’ Because she actually looked just like me. And it devastated me.”
Dealing with guilt
That poor woman — we can’t even imagine the pain Kathryn must’ve been feeling at that point. After all, her whole world had just been turned upside down.
Suddenly, the mother found herself fighting off pangs of remorse, knowing that she hadn’t been there for Jill during the good and bad times in her life.
Alongside that, Kathryn was extremely scared that Tina would no longer be part of her life now.
“I felt like I was losing my daughter and my grandchildren too,” she admitted to The Daily Beast. But how did things actually pan out?
“Wasn’t gonna leave her”
Tina made things pretty clear when she spoke to TODAY. The Oklahoma native said, “[Kathryn] was afraid that she was going to lose me, and she wasn’t going to. I wasn’t gonna leave her.”
Sticking with the mom-of-three for now, she had some other personal issues to overcome during that spell.
Feelings of jealousy
The big one for Tina was in relation to her real mom and dad. Sadly, both John and Joyce Brister had passed away quite a few years back, meaning she couldn’t reach out to them.
But on the flip side, Jill was able to do that with Kathryn, and it left her somewhat envious.
“Jill got to be with my real parents,” Tina told The Daily Beast. “And now she gets to be with my parents I grew up with.
I didn’t know what to think about it at first, but the more I think about it, it makes me really sad.”
As for Jill, she began to take small steps when it came to Kathryn. According to the latter, they’ve since developed a friendly bond.
It’s much the same with Tina as well, yet the pair struggle to spend time together. The hectic nature of their lives and the trickiness of the whole thing both play a part.
Meanwhile, the trio were eager to file a legal claim against the hospital for what had happened.
You see, even though the place hasn’t existed since 1975, their attorney stated that Duncan Regional Hospital had taken on its historical liabilities when the centers had merged. As a result, action was brought in the summer of 2020.
Mind you, there were complications. The hospital disputed the idea that it was “the legal successor entity” when it came to the old place.
For that reason, the claim was eventually thrown out in April 2022. But the claimants’ attorney is trying to get the Oklahoma Supreme Court involved now.
Overall, the entire episode has been far from straightforward. Then again, Tina and Jill have shown a real willingness to work together in rebuilding their lives with Kathryn.
For instance, to help celebrate the festive season in 2021 both their families gathered together at the grandma’s home. The holiday was said to have been a success.
Final words from Tina
Yet despite that, you should keep these final words in mind. During her chat with The Daily Beast, Tina concluded, “From the outside we all probably look pretty good.
But in my opinion, it hasn’t been something I would wish on anyone.” It’s hard to see a traditional happy ending here, then.