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Published Wednesday September 30th, 2009 at 7:48pm

Original Article by Katie Drake

TraudySchwenk, left, and Arnold Nikolaisen pose for a photo on the second dayof meeting each other in Michigan. (Courtesy Jennifer Nikolaisen)

Like many children, Arnold Nikolaisen was not happy to learn he wasn't going to remain an only child.

However, the shock for him was worse than most -- he found out at 75.

Nikolaisen was raised as an only child, never knowing he had an older sister adopted away before he was born.

It was quite a shock to get a call from Traudy Schwenk, who claimedto be his sister. Nikolaisen refused to believe the evidence until aDNA test proved she was telling the truth.

Now the Kearns man is embracing the sister he never knew he had,including paying a visit to her Hesperia, Mich., home. Nikolaisen tookhis wife, two children and granddaughter to meet Schwenk, and it becameimmediately clear she was a missing piece of the family.

"It was like my mother-in-law all over again," said GayleNikolaisen. Schwenk shared her mother's voice and mannerisms, and eventhe twinkle in her eyes when laughing.

The family brought several albums full of photographs and a genealogy determined back to the 14th century.

For Schwenk, the discovery provided some closure to the mystery ofwho she is. Schwenk learned about the adoption when she was 30, whileplanning a family trip to Germany.

Schwenk needed a copy of her birth certificate to obtain apassport, and her mother wrote to ask for one. Schwenk found thecertificate and confronted her mother, who had never planned to tellher of the adoption.

Schwenk found a copy of her adoption papers whencleaning out the house after her mother's death. She hoped to learnmore about her birth family, but in the days before Google, findingthem was not easy.

She was finally able to track down the family using a publicrecords search at the local library, which lead her to Nikolaisen.

"Even now, I can hardly grasp what's happened," Schwenk said.

For the Nikolaisen family, the discovery has raised more questionsthan it has answered. Why did the Nikolaisens give their daughter upfor adoption, and why did they never tell anyone?

Jennifer Nikolaisen, Arnold's granddaughter, is happy to have a newgreat aunt, but cannot imagine the stress on her great-grandmother fromkeeping such a secret. She is sad her great-grandmother never felt shecould tell anyone, especially after adoption became more sociallyaccepted in recent years.

Though both Arnold Nikolaisen and Schwenk agree it is difficult notto have their parents in the picture, both believe they know why thecouple gave up their first child. It was 1933, the depths of the GreatDepression, and most people struggled to feed themselves.

Schwenk believes her parents gave her up thinking she would live a better life.

Schwenk and Nikolaisen hope to solve some of the mystery by gettingthe original adoption papers, which are currently sealed by a court inCook County, Ill. Schwenk has retained an attorney in hopes of gettingthe records and learning more about her birth parents. She holds outhope that her birth mother wrote a letter or some other evidencesuggesting why the family was divided.

Since the reunion, the Nikolaisens have stayed in close contactwith their long-lost relative. Gayle Nikolaisen talks to hersister-in-law several times a week, and the family hopes to visit againnext summer.

Schwenk's initial anger at the situation has cooled. She is notupset she was adopted, but rather that it remained a secret for so manyyears.

"If you have a kid, tell them, 'We loved you, so we adopted you,' " Schwenk said.

She hopes other families can be open about adoption and allow their children insight into who they are.

Schwenk is making progress.

For her 76th birthday, the Nikolaisens sent her a framed photo of her birth mother and father.