A long-time Sylvan Lake resident has recently discovered she has deep roots tied into the town.
Corinne Mielnichuk, 53, is an adopted child who had looked for her birth family her entire life.
“I found out my last name was Miller and if you look in 1967 in the phone book in Edmonton there’s another phone book inside the phone book of Miller’s,” said Mielnichuk of her search.
After moving from Edmonton to Sylvan Lake in her 20’s she kept looking, and when her daughter became of age they started looking together.
One day through an ancestry site they found Mielnichuk’s birth mother’s obituary opening a trail of names to call.
When her daughter called last year to say she found them, she couldn’t believe it.
After speaking with her birth aunts the Sylvan Lake family history began to surface.
They said in the 1800’s her great-great-grandparents came from Gettysburg, South Dakota. A total 17 ancestors came to settle in Sylvan Lake, owning land and even donating Petro Beach back to the Town at one point.
She also learned her grandfather, Guy, was the first male born in Sylvan Lake the night the name changed from Snake Lake.
“[When] we moved here I didn’t know at all there was any kind of connection so it’s just been real serendipitous that this is where I came to settle,” said Mielnichuk, adding they happened to buy a place on the old homestead.
Mielnichuk says meeting her biological family has been a positive experience.
“I was of course apprehensive because you don’t know and I didn’t know the dynamics behind my birth or conception for that matter or the reason why she gave me up,” Mielnichuk said of meeting her biological family, but her aunts have been accepting and accommodating.
She says her favourite part of the process was bringing the family back to Sylvan Lake to explore the family roots.
The next step for Mielnichuk is to keep fostering the new relationships while also digging deeper into the family history.
She wants to explore back into the Spanish roots before South Dakota and is also eager to get into the Sylvan Lake archives.
“I’m so lucky I get to live in a place where people knew them and I can still talk to these people.”
Mielnichuk says she had always felt connected to Sylvan Lake even before learning about the family ties, but now she also feels connected to both her Miller roots as well as her adoptive family’s.
“My adoptive family has never treated me any different… I was always the sister, the niece, the granddaughter,” said Mielnichuk, who refers to herself as a “chosen child.”
“I do really feel connected with the Miller roots, I really do, especially now living here… much more than my Ukrainian roots,” she continued.
Mielnichuk says she never thought she would find them “in a million years” with a name like Miller, adding the discovery came at the perfect time.
Within the last year she has been diagnosed with liver cancer and put on the transplant list.
“All of this has just come at the best of time for me, like the support, it’s just been awesome and it’s just amazing to me how things worked out the way I needed them too,” explained Mielnichuk. “Not that many people get that in life and I think I’m really fortunate.
Her message to other adoptees who are searching is to persevere and keep looking.
“If they’re looking I don’t want them giving up, I want them to keep looking no matter what,” said Mielnichuk. “Just even if they don’t find anybody [and] just get a little bit of information, it kind of gives you a place.”