Lisa Wright has always been interested in knowing more about her birth family but was completely shocked to find out that her birth mother was an actress on one of her favorite 1970s television series, “That’s My Mama.” Now, after 50 years, the two have been reconnected.
“I grew up watching my mother on TV and didn’t even know it,” Wright told NBC’s “Today Show” recently. “‘That’s My Mama’—that was our must-see TV. We all sat down and watched ‘That’s My Mama’ every week, and who knew? No idea. … And that’s my mama!”
Lynne Moody played the titular mama on the television show, which ran from 1974-1975 on ABC.
When she found out she was pregnant, Moody made an adoption plan and gave Wright to a loving family when she was 18.
“My (adoptive) mom told me, ‘Your mommy loved you, but she was really young, and she knew she couldn’t take care of you. I wanted the baby so bad, and that’s why your mom let me take care of you,’” Wright said. “You weren’t abandoned. This was just the best thing for you.”
Through genetic testing, Wright was able to track down an uncle who let her know that the entire family was looking for her. She was eventually connected with her mother.
“A voice on the other end says, ‘Is this my daughter?’ And then I just went, ‘Oh, my God, is this my mother?’” Wright said. “And then she goes, ‘Yes, sweetie, this is your mom.’ It was just the most indescribable feeling.”
As it turns out, Wright was Moody’s only and well-beloved child. She had been desperate to find her.
“When I found out that she was my daughter, at that moment, it was like I was giving birth,” Moody said. “Because I lost my legs, I was on the floor in a fetal position, screaming and crying. I didn’t know how deep that hole was.”
In addition to her role on, “That’s My Mama,” Moody also had roles in “Roots” and “Knots Landing.”
“Life is full of surprises sometimes, so hang in there no matter what your circumstances are,” she said. “Be open to miracles, be open to surprises, and keep the faith.”
In the last couple of years, DNA-based websites like Ancestry and 23andMe have helped families connect in ways that they never expected. It’s been especially helpful for those that were adopted decades ago, when closed adoptions were incredibly common.
It’s a resource my own family has used, as my dad was adopted in the late 1950s. When he finally did an Ancestry DNA profile, I was able to go back through his family tree with some distant connections and find one side of his immediate family, though we’re still unsure of some of the details.
When he finally had his birth mother’s information, I was able to go back through and retrace his mother’s side of the family, which revealed many incredible surprises. Her family had a couple of ancestors who fought or donated to the Revolutionary War efforts. One may have even served with future President George Washington at Valley Forge.
A generation or so later, all the men in one family served in the Civil War, on the Union side. A new surprise we found out this year is that one of our ancestors was a prisoner of war at some point and likely served with another future president, Ulysses S. Grant.
God writes our family stories in such unique and interesting ways. The benefits of these DNA tools are incredible in reuniting families but can also reveal some secrets as well. As it turns out, my birth grandmother had given up three children for adoption, including my father, which most of her other children knew nothing about. Overnight, their family grew exponentially and raised some questions as well.
But God is continuing to work through these revelations and hopefully, Wright’s story encourages others to try and see what connections they might discover.
Photo from YouTube