08/12/2015 09:59 EDT | Updated 08/11/2016 05:59 EDT

Alberta Siblings Meet, Search For Lost Sister, 50 Years After Adoption

After more than five decades not knowing each other existed,  two half-siblings born to an Alberta mother and then adopted are making up for lost time — and looking for a second sister.

Les Kahn, born in Edmonton's Royal Alexandra Hospital Jan. 14, 1954, was adopted by an American couple and raised in California. 

It wasn't until a curious Kahn took a closer look at his adoption papers in 2006 that he noticed a discrepancy in his paperwork that led to the discovery of a sister.

"I saw that one of the documents from back in 1954 said that I had a sister born in 1951 who had also been adopted," he said. 

Kahn got in touch with authorities in Alberta who confirmed the existence of his older sister, sending him a "heavily redacted" document. It said only that he had a sister born in October 1951 at Edmonton's Royal Alexandra Hospital, the same place Kahn was born.

Then on a whim, Kahn Googled his birth mother's name last October and found an obituary for one of her brothers. He got in touch with the family, eventually speaking with a cousin.

It was then that he found out his mother Bertha Mira had a third child, Donna Harty, who she had raised after her birth Dec. 23, 1960 at a hospital in Lloydminster, Sask.

"I got an email and at first it was very gentle," Harty says of the first note she received from Kahn.

"It just said 'I'm doing some genealogy research, would you be interested?' … and I said 'Sure, whatever you want.' And the next email he sends me tells me that he's my brother.

"It was like I was kicked in the chest. The air was knocked out of my lungs, I couldn't believe it."

Since Harty's mother had already passed away, she immediately called one of her aunts who confirmed the story, which had been a closely-guarded family secret for five decades.

"After all these years when I did ask the question, then it was like the cat's out of the bag," Harty said.

Finding 'kinfolk'

"Stunned" is the word both use when asked what it was like to find out the other existed. Kahn and Harty met face to face for the first time earlier this summer at a barbecue at her house in Lloydminster.

"I told him that whatever he wants I can give him, because I can imagine what it would be like in his situation, reaching out to your natural family and wanting some answers," Harty said.

"It's just been great — a second family. I refer to them as my kinfolk," Kahn said with a laugh. "I couldn't have picked a better family for the second family."

Now, the two are hoping to find their other older sister. They've filed paperwork with the Alberta post-adoption registry saying they want to reach out, but in order to connect, their sister must do the same.

Harty hopes by sharing their story, their sister or someone in her life might see it, connect the dots and get in touch.

"We really don't want to reach out to someone when they have no idea — she might not know that she was adopted, so we certainly don't want to upset her or her family," Harty said.

In the meantime, though, the two are simply enjoying knowing the other exists.

"After my mom passed away, I kind of had a feeling that I was all alone except for my son, even though I do have other family members," Harty said. "But now there is someone else to maybe lean on, talk to, to ask advice."