Woman has 55-year search for family

November 12, 2009 10:00:00 PM PST
Imagine living most of your adult life with a void you just couldn't fill. That is what one woman said she's endured for far too long."You know, it's a vacant spot in your heart and your mind, and you just leave it," Dollie Ann Henson said.

For 55 years, Henson has lived life with few answers, wondering if a family she barely remembers ever wonders about her.

"I'd like to know if they missed me," she said.

Henson was just five years old when she claims her neighbor took her from her parents' home in the Fifth Ward and moved her from city to city, eventually settling down in Oakland, California. That is where, she said, her identity was changed along with her date of birth.

For years, she said she lived with the neighbor and the secret, having been told that her family had given her up.

"It was hard at first, then -- who do you tell?" Henson said.

Although she was treated well, she said she never forgot about her real family.

Six years ago, a relative traveled back to Houston only to find the neighborhood Henson left was now a freeway. Henson's daughter, Kia'Ora Laverne, said she refuses to give up hope.

"She deserves to know who the family is and where they are," Laverne said.

The Laura Recovery Center said cases like this are sometimes hard to solve, but they point to a recent reunion of a Washington man who found his mother after 40 years.

"His biological father had taken him when he was two and told him his mother was dead," representative Sandy Stafford said. "She was also told her son was dead, and 40 years later, they were reunited."

Henson does remember a few things: her real name was Darlene McDaniels; she was taken near Milam Street very close to the train tracks; her real mother's name was Helen; and she had three siblings, including a brother named Darnel or Daniel.

She's praying someone out there can fill in the rest, piecing together the puzzle of her life.

"Hope is like, 'I hope I'm going to win the lottery.' Well, this is a lottery part of my life," she said. "My daughter has gotten this far, and that's farther than I've ever gotten."

Eyewitness News will not name the neighbor because she was never charged with a crime; and thanks to our story, Henson got her wish.

After seeing Henson's story on Eyewitness News, Donilla McDaniel was contacted by her nephew-in-law because he thought Henson favored her in looks.

The two women talked to one another on the phone and determined that Henson was the missing member of the McDaniel family. They are in the process of talking and reconnecting after all of this time.

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