OWOSSO — They have the same bob haircut, straight teeth and big, blue eyes.
The two sisters almost felt like they were looking in a mirror when they recently met for the first time, at ages 67 and 70. But there are differences, too.
“She’s the nice one,” Connie Vida said of her older sister.
“She’s the smart one,” Margaret Ebe said.
As each grew up in Shiawassee County, they both knew they had been given up for adoption as infants — but had no idea they had a sister living nearby.
They grew up only a few miles from each other, Vida in Hazelton Township and Ebe in Corunna. They might even have crossed paths over the years, but if that ever happened, neither felt a hint of recognition.
Today they’re walking down the same path arm in arm, thanks to ancestry.com DNA tests that revealed Ebe and Vida as full sisters sharing the same parents, now deceased.
Ebe and Vida met in person for the first time at a restaurant in Swartz Creek on May 10, the day after Ebe’s birthday.
“The best thing I got for my 70th birthday was my sister,” Ebe said.
“The first thing I thought was, ‘Wow, we have the same haircut,’” Vida said. “I was a little nervous, but Margie and her husband made me feel so good.”
It all began with research conducted by Vida’s daughter and Ebe’s cousin, which ultimately revealed the sister connection, along with a slew of other half and whole siblings, first and second cousins, and aunts and uncles, some still living in Shiawassee County.
Vida and Ebe also learned some disturbing facts from public records: Severe abuse and neglect took place in their biological family, including during their growing-up years.
Under the circumstances, the sisters agreed, it would be best not to identify their birth parents or other family members by name.
“I used to just wonder about my adoption,” Vida said, “but after finding out everything, I thank God we were adopted. We were extremely lucky. It was a happy ending.”
“We might not even be here if we hadn’t been adopted,” Ebe said. “At least I was chosen.”
Ebe and Vida were born at Memorial Healthcare, two years apart. Ebe’s adoptive parents were Al and Liz Schautz, a childless couple. Neil and Marvel Conley, too, believed they couldn’t have children when they adopted Vida, but went on to have a biological daughter and son.
Sadly, neither set of parents lived long enough to see the sisters meet and discover how much they have in common. In addition to similar hair, teeth and eyes, they both have Irish tempers and a good sense of humor. They share an “allergy” to alcohol and suffer from similar medical ailments.
They are even both “vertically challenged,” with Ebe standing 5-foot-2 and Vida topping out at 5 feet.
Independently, the pair were drawn to working with children during their careers. After retiring from General Motors in 2008, Vida served as an advocate at a domestic violence shelter. Ebe worked with children for 17 years at the Shiawassee County Health Department and 12 more at the Shiawassee Regional Education Service District, both in classrooms and as an aide on school buses.
They are both happily married to their second husbands, Gyorgy Vida and Jack Ebe. The Vidas are enjoying retirement in Florida, but Vida regularly comes up to Michigan to visit her adult children and grandchildren. The Ebes, who never had kids, live in Shiawassee Township.
“I can see a lot of resemblance (between the sisters),” Jack Ebe said. “I’m happy for my wife — she never had siblings or kids.”
Adriane Laugavitz, 46, Connie Vida’s daughter, eventually made the reunion possible when, in December 2017, she went searching on ancestry.com for her mother’s biological relatives.
“I knew my mother was adopted and could not know where she came from or who else might look like her,” said Laugavitz, a welfare fraud investigator. “It always caused her pain and I saw that and felt pain that there was nothing we could do. Her pain became my pain, and I wanted to solve this mystery for her.”
Within three weeks of submitting her mother’s DNA to Ancestry, Laugavitz discovered links to more than 1,000 people — mostly distant cousins — and two closer matches, which turned out to be a niece and an uncle of Vida.
Through that information, along with marriage and census data, Laugavitz was able to identify Vida’s birth mother. Confusingly, further research showed that more than two of the birth parents’ children were put up for adoption over the years, while multiple children were raised by the couple. One child who was kept with the family was born in 1952, the year between the adoptions of Vida and Ebe.
Eventually, Laugavitz located the oldest female sibling raised by her birth parents. The woman — who passed away not long after their phone conversation, in August 2020 — told Laugavitz what she remembered but left many questions unanswered, including why some children were put up for adoption.
Ebe and Vida said they are OK with not knowing what motivated their birth parents to give them up or other missing facts about their family history. More important was finding each other.
That discovery began with an email Laugavitz received from Ancestry on April 29 revealing there was a new 53 percent DNA match to Vida — a full sibling. Later, she found out that Ebe had recently submitted her DNA to Ancestry, at the urging of her cousin, Karen Selbig.
At about the same time Laugavitz was telling her mother she had located a full sibling, Selbig was telling Ebe the same thing.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Vida said. “I was so excited.”
Selbig remembers saying to Ebe on the phone: “Are you sitting down? I’ve got something to tell you.” Ebe was shocked and thrilled.
“I’m excited and happy for both of them,” Selbig said.
The sisters have met several times since May 11, talk on the phone and text. They chat about their families, old and new, and about possibly reaching out to other birth relations.
Ebe and Vida might live in different states, but they’re determined to stay in close touch. After all, they’re sisters.
“I love her,” Ebe said.
“Ditto,” Vida said with a smile.