In October 2010, Oprah Winfrey learned a massive secret about her family tree: She had a half-sister named Patricia whom she had never known about

By Emily Zauzmer
November 27, 2018 11:46 AM

In October 2010, Oprah Winfrey learned a massive secret about her family tree: She had a half-sister named Patricia whom she had never known about.

Lee gave birth to Patricia in Milwaukee in 1963 and gave her up for adoption. Winfrey was living with her father in Tennessee at the time. Winfrey and Patricia’s mother Vernita Lee died on Thanksgiving in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at age 83.

“I thought it was a terrible thing that I had done,” Lee saidin 2011 about keeping the birth of Patricia from her family. “I did think about the baby. I went back looking for her and they told me she had left.”

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Patricia was in the foster care system until age 7, when she was adopted. Patricia, a single mother, had daughter Aquarius at age 17 and son Andre six years later.

As an adult, Patricia tried to get in touch with Lee in a number of ways — including by contacting an adoption agency and by having her pastor talk to Lee’s pastor. Lee declined to meet.

“I received this big old package of information in the mail,” Patricia explained about her search efforts on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2011. “And it has all of my birth information in it. I was like, ‘Oh my god. I have a family.’”

Patricia went to a restaurant in Wisconsin that Winfrey’s niece owns in an attempt to connect with her birth mother’s family. A DNA test showed that Patricia and the niece were related.

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When Winfrey asked her mother if she had placed a child up for adoption, Lee initially denied having done so but later acknowledged it.

Patricia met Lee in October 2010 and met Winfrey on Thanksgiving in 2010. “It was one of the greatest surprises of my life,” Winfrey said on her talk showin 2011. “It left me speechless.”

In 2013, Winfrey gushed about Patricia on OWN’s Oprah’s Next Chapter. “I think she’s been just a remarkable human being,” Winfrey said.

“That was a new experience for me to be in a relationship with somebody who actually didn’t want anything but was just there to be supportive of me,” Winfrey continued. “So it’s been really great. Really great.”