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Rapid City couple unknowingly adopted a blood relative in 2004

In this Dec. 2 photo, Sarah McBride, 19, hangs Christmas ornaments at her home with her parents, Steve and Janine Hamilton, in Rapid City. The Hamiltons adopted McBride in 2004 and found out recently that she is blood related to Steve Hamilton. (AP photo)

RAPID CITY -- Steve and Janine Hamilton have always felt deeply connected to their adopted daughter, but that connection was felt even more deeply this year when the family discovered that she is, in fact, a blood relative.

The Hamiltons adopted Sarah, who recently married and took McBride as her last name, nine years ago when they lived in Kansas City.

Sarah, now 19, was born in Texas and was being raised in Kansas City before she went into the foster care system at the age of 8 with her siblings.

In the meantime, the Hamiltons had checked into adoption but weren't counting on anything happening because they were beginning a move to Rapid City.

Instead, just a couple months before the move, they got a call about Sarah, an 11-year-old who needed a home.

She joined them in August of 2003, and the family moved to South Dakota that October.

It was good timing, Janine said, because it gave Sarah a fresh start in a new home that also was new to the rest of the family. Steve and Janine had three biological children at home. At that time, Steve said, "We had no clue," that their new daughter could be related to them. It wasn't until 1940 United States Census data was released that a relative started doing some research and discovered that Sarah is Steve's fourth cousin once removed.

That means Sarah's brothers and sisters in the Hamilton family are her fifth cousins.

The news was unbelievable, Steve said.

"Years ago, we joked that we might be related," Steve said. "Everybody's been having fun with it. The whole family's kind of excited."

Sarah, who still keeps in touch with some of her biological siblings, was also surprised by the news.

"I thought it was very cool," she said. "I love history."

The chances, she added, of their paths crossing like they did are very small. "It all happened for a reason," she said.

Janine said Sarah faced many of the emotional challenges that kids in foster care face.

Because she was older when she entered the system, it was difficult to leave one family and live with another.

"The kids always long for a connection," Steve said, and oftentimes that connection has to be made in the way of support, love and time. That's how it was done with Sarah, and this is just icing on the cake, Steve said. It is nice news to hear, Sarah said, but it doesn't really change the way she sees her parents.

"I've already grown to be close to them," she said. "I've always belonged to them."