Jan 20, 201401:04 PMAfter Hours
with Jody Glynn Patrick
Sister Act II: DNA test uncovers two new relatives
(page 1 of 2)
Well, this is a weird turn of events, an unexpected development. It seems I have one (or maybe two) sisters I knew nothing about.
A few years ago, I ordered an Ancestry.com DNA kit — not to find my biological father, as I’d more or less given up on ever knowing his identity, but hoping perhaps to unearth distant cousins to help me fill in some holes on my maternal Webster side. As a longtime Ancestry member, I had dibs on one of the first kits and excitedly paid my $99.99 plus shipping. I knew it would take years to bear relevant matches but, as I tell historical society members when asked to speak, “time is relative to a genealogist.” (I’d like to put that on a T-shirt and sell it at conventions.)
Spit in a tube is all it takes to identify shared relatives. Initially I got a couple “hits” a month at best. Now, as more and more Americans mail their spit to a lab for analysis, my profile is flooded with cousins marked “4th-6th” level, meaning that four or more generations back, we shared an ancestor. (A fourth-level match is considered a good lead, actually.) I come from very large ancestral families, and some of those matches made immediate sense with my known Irish or Scottish lineage, but many more don’t, because the person hasn’t traced the same lineage I have or doesn’t have any family tree on file to compare, etc.
As more and more surnames popped up, I began logging the mystery names appearing most often, thinking they might lead to a clue as to the small percentage of British blood in my veins. Then, in November, two matches in one week came back — one linked to a “sibling/close family” member and the other a “sibling or first cousin.” Both women were linked to a surname that had shadowed me from the beginning. Then another person came back as a second cousin, tied to the same family tree as the other two women. Likewise, the other DNA submitters were notified of my existence.
It was a huge surprise to all of us. One quipped in an introductory email that we three should buy matching T-shirts that say, “Is [name] your daddy?” since the gentleman at the heart of the matches didn’t marry our birth mothers. We wondered how many more unclaimed children he might have fathered.
The man was raised 10 miles from my mother’s hometown. He then moved to Texas, where I believe the birth mother of one of the other two women met him. I don’t have all the facts — or even the facts I’ve been told — completely straight yet, but we three “close family” matches are now sharing timelines, photographs, and family trees and slowly putting together the pieces of the puzzle.
“Aren’t you excited?” a friend asked, apparently confused when I related the strange tale in a rather detached tone.
I answered that I wasn’t sure what I felt. My sister/cousin kin were searching for birth parents with nothing more than DNA kits and a random universe of profiles. We three are like electrons circling a nucleus father or pair of brothers. The magnetism that has kept me orbiting a mystery man all these years is a wanting to know — an intellectual quest — not necessarily a wanting to meet or to acknowledge.
When I was young and seriously bugged my mother about the blank on my birth certificate where my father’s name should have been, she told me that she had been raped at 17. Later, when I again demanded info, she told me a more romantic tale of a one-night stand and of his coming back for me after he’d married someone else, and her refusal to give me up. She sent me down different lanes of inquiry with conflicting hints, and eventually I wondered if she even knew who my father was. Disgusted with her, and with my own insipid desire to know someone who apparently didn’t want to know me, I stopped asking.