SERGEANT BLUFF -- When Tyler Hanson was 5 years old, his mom, Amie, told him he was adopted.
Hanson, now 23 and a nursing student at St. Luke's College, said he didn't really understand the concept of adoption until he turned 9 or 10.
"She never hid the fact that I was adopted," Hanson, who was born in Leesburg, Virginia, said, while seated at the kitchen table in his Sergeant Bluff home.
At age 12 or 13, Hanson found his birth mother on Facebook. Heeding his adoptive mom's advice, he waited until he was 15 to send her a message. His birth mother responded, providing the alleged name of his birth father, which was a common name that turned out to be inaccurate.
"I had looked on and off for a few years. It would just come in spurts kind of," Hanson said of his search for his biological father. "When I first went back and looked, the background check websites were kind of new. There wasn't much on the internet, but then I'd check back in another year or two and there was a little more. I'd check back again and again and there was a little bit more."
In October, health issues prompted Hanson to resume his search for his birth dad. After a couple weeks of searching, Hanson said he had "given up." Then, he saw a commercial for 23andMe and decided to give the at-home DNA test kit a try. Six weeks after spitting into a vial and mailing it in, Hanson had an online report with a last name he didn't recognize.
"It showed paternal uncle with a name completely different than what I had been told. I used that name and started researching from there," said Hanson, who sent a message through 23andMe to David DeSeve, who was listed as his paternal uncle. Hanson received a reply from DeSeve asking to speak with him over the phone.
"It was weird because I didn't expect him to actually get back to me," said Hanson, who procrastinated for two hours before calling David DeSeve in November. "My adoptive mom was like, 'You have to call.' She wasn't going to let me get away with not calling."
After telling David DeSeve what he knew about his birth mother, Hanson said DeSeve contacted his brother, Jonathan DeSeve. About five minutes later, Hanson said David DeSeve texted him and told him to call Jonathan DeSeve, his birth father.
"In a matter of 30 minutes, it went from not knowing any of them to -- I've talked to my uncle, I've talked to my birth dad, I've talked to my stepmom, all in that short time span," said Hanson, who was excited to learn he has a 19-year-old half-sister and a 13-year-old half-brother.
Jonathan DeSeve said he had no idea that his former girlfriend, whom he had known in high school, was pregnant with Hanson. DeSeve said he had recently gotten out of the Marines and moved back to northern Virginia, when he dated Hanson's biological mother.
"I was really sad that I missed out on Tyler, because had I known about him, I would've scooped him up. It was hidden from me," he told the Journal by phone.
Jonathan DeSeve said he wasn't a fan of at-home DNA test kits before finding out about Hanson and would've never taken such a test. He has since taken a DNA test to confirm Hanson is his son.
"It was definitely a shock that your brother goes and takes a DNA test and you find out you have a son," said DeSeve, who was eager to meet Hanson.
In early January, with the support of his adoptive parents, Ron and Amie Hanson, Hanson traveled to Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, to meet Jonathan DeSeve. At the airport, Hanson and DeSeve immediately recognized each other and embraced.
"I could tell right away that he was my son. It was kind of just weird. It's a family member, but I don't know them," said DeSeve, who works in field operations for T-Mobile.
Hanson also described the meeting as "weird."
"It almost felt like I was talking to one of my friends when we were walking to get my bags," he said.
During the visit, Hanson met his stepmom, siblings and his extended family, including his grandfather. He discovered he shares a love of hunting and sports with DeSeve. The two also have similar mannerisms.
"We kind of carry ourselves the same way and walk the same way and have a similar type of sarcastic humor. I don't know how much of that is genetic or it just worked out that way," DeSeve said. "It's kind of interesting, even just the way we're sitting or the way I use a fork -- it's very similar to what he's doing."
Hanson and DeSeve text each other every few days; and DeSeve is planning a visit to Iowa in the coming months.
"We get along great," said Hanson, who believes he could've actually located DeSeve years earlier based on Ancestry.com results.
Hanson urges others looking for long-lost family members to reach out to second and third cousins named in their results, even if their last names don't look familiar.
"I could've actually met him several years prior, had I reached out to those people instead of waiting and searching in the wrong place," he said.