Julia Tinetti '05 was working at a New Haven bar in 2013 when she noticed a tattoo of the Dominican Republic on the arm of a new waitress named Cassandra. Julia was adopted from the DR as a child and, as it turned out, Cassandra was too.
The women soon became close friends, talking about adoption over brunch and dinners. Co-workers noticed that the two even looked alike, and the women would jokingly refer to one another as “my twin.” In a total long shot, Cassandra suggested that they compare adoption papers to see if they had some connection.
“Nothing on my paperwork matched hers,” Julia recalls.
In 2015, Cassandra got married and moved to Virginia and the two fell out of contact. Five years later, however, Cassandra decided to send a DNA kit to 23andMe to try and unspool her family history.
She discovered that she had a cousin living in Glastonbury, Connecticut. From that cousin, Cassandra learned that her biological mother had passed away in 2015 but that her father was still living in the DR. She went to visit him and he revealed that, in fact, he and Cassandra’s mother had given up another child for adoption about 18 months after Cassandra.
Cassandra contacted Julia and, after much discussion, persuaded her to take a DNA test to see if she could possibly be her parents’ other child. “She drove 8 hours straight from Virginia and showed up at my door and said ‘let’s do this,’” recalls Julia. “I didn’t initially want to explore it because nine times out of 10 these things will be a letdown.”
Two and a half weeks later, Julia got word that her DNA results were ready. She nervously opened the 23andMe app on her phone and hit the ‘relatives’ button. “The first name that came up was Cassandra Madison: sister. I closed it out and reopened it three times. I could hardly believe it!”
Julia wasn’t planning to share their story publicly, but Cassandra posted it to TikTok and the story went viral. The sisters have since been featured on CNN, The Washington Post, "Good Morning America," "The Drew Barrymore Show," "Access Hollywood," the Today show—the list goes on and on. Julia says it’s been a whirlwind balancing all the publicity and her full-time job as a mental health professional in Old Lyme.
Next March, Julia will fly to the Dominican Republic with Cassandra to meet their biological family. The sisters have seven other siblings who grew up and still live in the DR. “When Cassandra and I go down there, we’re having a party. Aunts, uncles, nieces, the whole neighborhood!”