How an Ancestry TV Commercial Brought Together a Mother and Daughter After 53 years

by Keith Sharon

Have you seen the commercial for Ancestry, where the guy grows up thinking he’s German only to find out he’s Scottish?

A California woman named Suzi saw that commercial and took an AncestryDNA test. The test reunited her with her birth mother after 53 years.

This is her moving story, which originally appeared in The Orange County Register.

On Aug. 29, 1963, a newborn baby named Denise Marie Mills gazed into her mother’s eyes for the first and last time.

Her mother’s name was Laurie Ogilvie. She was 15, a sophomore at La Habra High. She had an after-school job at a doughnut shop. Laurie was allowed 10 minutes with her daughter before adoption agency representatives took little Denise away.

“We are saying goodbye for now,” Laurie Ogilvie Coburn, now 69, remembers saying. “You are going to live with a wonderful new mommy and daddy. But you are always going to be in my heart.”

She handed over her daughter and walked away, the toughest walk of her life.

When school started in September of 1963, Laurie tried to be just another student. She doesn’t remember anyone teasing her about giving birth. She’s not sure if the secret held, or her classmates were just being polite. Years later, she got married, had two more children, became a secretary and a nurse’s assistant before she retired in Vancouver, Wash.

In the next 53 years, she only told a select few people about the baby girl she kept in her heart.

And Denise? She grew up with a new name, a new family and one question. Did the mother who gave her away ever think of her again?


Have you seen that commercial for The one where the guy grows up thinking he is German, only to find out – after having his DNA tested – that he is actually Scottish? He trades in his lederhosen for a kilt.

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Suzi Conroy Brown, director of communications for the Disneyland Resort, saw that commercial.

She grew up thinking she was Scottish, Irish and English. But she knew she was adopted. So she wasn’t sure about her ethnic heritage.

Brown paid $79 for a DNA test, spit into a test tube and mailed her sample to

Through that test, she discovered that she was Scottish, Irish and English – exactly as she had suspected. There would be no changing of kilts.

But there was another notation on the report she received. She had 237 relatives in the United States.

And one of them was her birth mother.

In the fall of 1962, a friend set up Jimmy Mills on a blind date with Laurie Ogilvie. They met at Knott’s Berry Farm.

“He was 18. I just turned 15,” Laurie said. “I was dating a man.”

The Knott’s date was fun. So they went out a few more times. But it ended there.

A couple of months later, “Jimmy asked me if I had my period,” Laurie said. “I told him no. I’m late.”

It was difficult, but Laurie had to tell her parents she was pregnant. Her first decision was to keep the baby. There was no discussion about abortion. Jimmy agreed to help pay Laurie’s expenses during pregnancy.

She left high school and checked into St. Ann’s Maternity Hospital in Los Angeles.

Jimmy moved to North Carolina and quickly married someone else. He died several years ago without ever making contact with his ex-girlfriend or their child.

Over the years, Laurie’s curiosity grew. Whatever became of Denise Marie Mills? On Aug. 29, 1982 – what would have been her baby’s 18th birthday – she wrote a letter and put it in Denise’s file at the Holy Family adoption agency. Just in case Denise ever got curious and checked.

“I hoped she had a wonderful life, and I dreamed some day we would meet,” Laurie said.


Bill and Georgia Conroy of Buena Park tried for years, without success, to have children naturally. So they made a decision to become an adoptive family. In total, the Conroys adopted four children, two girls and two boys.

Their first was Denise Marie Mills, who they adopted from the Holy Family agency in October of 1963, just about a month after she was born.

They gave her a new name.


The Conroys were always open about adoption. But there wasn’t any contact with Suzi’s birth mother. Suzi grew up with a healthy and happy family life.

“Their position was that we were loved more than other kids,” Suzi said. “We had love from them and from a birth mother who loved us, too. I’ve always been curious.”

Suzi’s sister, Kelly, had connected with her birth mother. And they had a great relationship. In the early 1980s, Suzi sent a letter to an agency that specializes in matching adopted kids with birth parents. She didn’t get a match.

She married Michael Brown and had two children of her own.


If it wasn’t for that television commercial, Laurie and Suzi might never have reconnected. Laurie had seen it, too, and she had also mailed in a DNA sample.

Laurie sent in her DNA sample in January. Suzi did it in July.

On Sept. 2, Suzi got the email from It listed her mother’s name – Laurie Coburn.

“I called my sister and told her, ‘You’re not going to believe this,’” Suzi said.

Suzi checked out Laurie’s Facebook page, which was full of inspirational messages.

So Suzi sent her a message that ended with the lines: “If nothing else I want you to know that I love you for the decision you made 53 years ago.”

And Laurie responded:

“My dear Suzi I just opened your message and felt my heart fall to my feet. I gave you up for adoption 53 years ago out of love. I have loved you all your life. In my thoughts, in my dreams, in my heart. I dreamed that this day would come. God heard my prayers.”


On Nov. 5, Suzi flew to Vancouver, and set up a meeting with her mother at the Hampton Inn near Laurie’s house.

Laurie Ogilvie, left, is reunited with her daughter Denise Marie Mills at Ogilvie's her home in Vancouver, WA. Mills was given up for adoption when she was born. The two were recently reunited after a search on brought them together. (Michael Kroh, Contributing Photographer)
Photo by Michael Kroh, Contributing Photographer, The Orange County Register

The problem was that Suzi and her husband got on the wrong shuttle bus and headed to the Hampton Inn in Portland. The mother and child reunion would have a bit of a delay.

Suzi got to the right place first. She was seated in a room off the lobby when Laurie entered the hotel. They paused when they saw each other for the first time in 53 years.

“Amazing. Beautiful,” Laurie thought. Then she looked at her daughter and said, “You’re a real person,” almost as if she didn’t believe it herself.

Suzi thought: “She’s so tiny.” And she promised herself she wasn’t going to cry.

That promise was quickly broken.

There were tears and hugging and more tears.

Suzi presented Laurie with a necklace she bought on a recent business trip to China. It was the Chinese character for double happiness.

They promised to see each other again next summer.

“It’s wonderful to have more love in my life,” Suzi said.

Suzi had wanted to know if Laurie had ever thought of her after giving her up for adoption. Laurie showed her a 53-year-old Polaroid picture of Denise Marie Mills, taken by someone at the adoption agency a few days after she was born.

Laurie had kept it all these years. And when it started to fade, she made copies.

Just in case she got to meet that little girl someday.

Article by Keith Sharon, The Orange County Register

We may not all have long lost family, but we for many of us, there are unexpected connections to our past.

Whether it’s a connection to other test takers or a broader connection to a part of the world you never imagined, your AncestryDNA test results may well surprise you.