Finding a new branch of my family tree in Thailand

My second cousins John (center) and Nakon (right) show me family pictures with familiar faces during a reunion/introductions of sorts in Bangkok, Thailand. (Photo by Dacia Saenz)

BANGKOK, Thailand– They were complete strangers, but it instantly felt like a family reunion.

One week before I departed for my first international reporting trip, my grandmother Cece and my great aunt Karen casually drop to me on Facebook that, oh by the way, I have relatives in Thailand.

Come again?

Now I’m from a long and proud line of auto factory workers, mechanics and nurses from Flint, Michigan. But other than trips to Canada, I was one of the few people in my family to travel and live outside the U.S. since our ancestors came through Ellis Island. Or at least I thought.

So to learn that I have Thai relatives was not only a major revelation, but one that profoundly altered how I view my family in the world.

But the facts were fuzzy at first. I wasn’t exactly clear how my little branch of the tree spanned to this corner of the world.

So I sent a Facebook message and a few days later I was off to meet these mysterious family characters in the bustling city of Bangkok.

The experience was surreal to say the least. As an adult, I believed I had a mostly complete picture of my family, who they are and how we all fit in the world. But meeting John, Nakon and their family has forever connected my heart to Thailand and to these people who made me feel like I was home. (Photo by Dacia Saenz)













Sara Stogner and Dacia Saenz are currently reporting from Thailand for “The Cost of Gender,” a documentary exploring transgender health care discrimination in the US and why Americans are traveling abroad for better options.