Thomas Faltysek is a Shawnee resident now, but it wasn't always that way. His move here was the result of a 40-year search for his birth mother.

Thomas Faltysek is a Shawnee resident now, but it wasn't always that way. His move here was the result of a 40-year search for his birth mother.

Raised in south Texas, Faltysek discovered he was adopted after another third-grader teased him about it. When he confronted his parents about the life-changing information he had learned, they confirmed that though he had been theirs since he was three days old, his birth parents were an older couple who had several children already and couldn't afford to keep him.

For years he attempted to find them. But, living in Texas with some of the strictest adoption laws in the country, Faltysek couldn't get access to his own records.

Most of the adoption agency records were moved into storage when it shut its doors in 1975; tragically, a fire destroyed them. There were few records to survive, but some information tied to him did. Because of a background check he learned he had a relative — a brother.

Eventually things took a turn for the better; he was interviewed by a woman writing a book about the adoption agency used when he was born. She encouraged Faltysek to get a DNA test done.

Sometime around April 2017, Faltysek did get that DNA test, and within a few days he got a hot lead to his family.

Through Ancestry.com, the top name matched with his had the potential of being someone as close as a sibling or parent.

As it turned out, the name with a California address belonged to his uncle — who had died in 2014. Faltysek did get to talk to his aunt though, who responded to his message.

Faltysek said since his parents were older, and since he was born in 1963, he figured they had likely both died by now.

He soon learned it was true that his father, William Hickman — who knew nothing about him — had died in 2015.

But he discovered his mother was still alive and living in Oklahoma, in the Paul's Valley area.

“About three to five days after I received the (DNA test) results, I was talking to my biological mother,” he said.

He found out that she didn't want to, but she was forced to give him up, he said.

“Her first question was did I have a good life?” he said.

After finding his biological family, he discovered he had six brothers and sisters on his father's side, and a brother and two sisters on his mom's side.

Faltysek's oldest paternal brother died before his dad, but all his other siblings are still around, including ones as far away as Florida and Montana.

Not only did Faltysek have his family restored to him, but his heritage, as well.

“To account for my black hair, brown eyes and darker skin, my parents were told I was on Italian descent,” he said. “Actually, my father was half Chickasaw and half Choctaw.”

Faltysek discovered through a lineage in two tribes, he is half Native American — a clue Ancestry.com had also keyed in on.

“The toughest part of growing up was not having a lineage to pass along that was mine,” he said. “Now I can at least leave my kids with a knowledge of where they came from.”

After Hurricane Harvey — Faltysek's second experience with a devastating storm — he and his wife, Kerri, decided to make the move to Shawnee to be closer to his new family; she also has family ties in the area.

Faltysek is employed with Citizen Potawatomi Nation (CPN) while he works toward a doctorate degree in Biblical education.