Oprah reveals she has half-sister

January 24, 2011 (CHICAGO)

A Milwaukee woman who had been given up for adoption as an infant began seeking her birth family later in life, and through a 2007 coincidence, discovered that she and Oprah had the same mother.

Patricia, 47, said she spent her life bouncing between foster homes. She appeared on Monday's The Oprah Winfrey Show.

"I was put up for adoption at birth, and I was left in the hospital for about a month," Patricia said. "I lived in foster homes until age 7. It wasn't easy for me growing up in foster homes. I've had some good foster homes, and I had some that were not so good, so it had its challenges."

Patricia obtained her adoption records, but her birth mother did not want to make contact.

"I received this big old package of information in the mail, and it has all of my birth information in it. I was like, 'Oh, my God. I have a family,'" said Patricia.

The documents dated back to 1963, the year Patricia was born. Although the names of her family members were not revealed, the documents did include some key information.

"The years that my siblings were born, so that day I found out that I had three other siblings. It states the ages of my sister, which was 4 1/2, and my brother, who was 2. Then it also states that at the time of my birth, my one sister born in 1954, lives with her father in Tennessee," Patricia said.

The records also showed that two of those siblings had since passed away, but her oldest sister was still alive.

In 2007, Patricia watched a Milwaukee TV interview with Oprah's mother, Vernita Lee, who talked about her three children, two of which had passed away. The story Lee told the TV station matched the records Patricia had about her birth family.

Patricia was born April 26, 1963, when Oprah was 9 but living with her father in Tennessee. Oprah said she finally met Patricia on Thanksgiving of last year in Milwaukee when she and boyfriend Stedman Graham drove up for the holiday.

Oprah also learned she has a nephew and niece -- Patricia's children, Andre and Aquarius.

Oprah said on Monday's show that she was touched by the fact that Patricia spent a few years trying to make contact, knowing she was related to Oprah, but did not go to the press.

"Since I have been a person known in the public, there have been few times that I've been anywhere and not been sold out," Oprah said. "There have been few times where you can bring anybody new into your life and not have that person in some way betray you or use you or take advantage of you. What is so extraordinary about Patricia and Andre and Aquarius is that they have known this secret since 2007. She had tried and tried and tried again, even wrote an e-mail to our offices back in 2007 that we tracked -- but nobody would've given me an e-mail with somebody saying, 'I'm your sister' -- had sent me an e-mail, had gone to her pastor, who contacted my mother's pastor, who then sent a letter to my mother. She tried and tried and tried again to get responses from my mother and other people in the family. She never once thought to go to the press. She never once thought to sell this story."

Patricia shares her name with Oprah's sister, Pat, who passed away in 2003. To make contact with the family, Patricia finally approached Oprah's niece Alisha at her restaurant in Milwaukee. Patricia and Alisha, who is Pat's daughter, took a DNA test that confirmed the match.

"It feels like closure for my sister Pat, who passed, because my sister Pat, I did the best I could for her, and many of you know I had to put her through drug rehab twice, and when she came out, she just didn't survive it, and it feels to me like you are Pat on her very best day," Oprah said to her newfound half-sister.

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