In my last post I gave you the “cliff notes” version of a small sliver of my life. To provide much more detail would require writing a book, which I’ve always wanted to do by the way. In this post I will share with you the extremely complicated and wildly interesting last five months of my life.
Like I mentioned before, I did a routine DNA test, just for the sole reasoning of obtaining health information. For some reason one day I was watching Dr Phil, and it was being discussed on his show. That’s strange because I don’t watch that show. I’m more of a Maury show kinda guy. But I digress.
As I watched the show, details about health information obtained from a simple DNA sample through My Heritage were shared and I was intrigued. With a history of new onset diabetes, and the discovery that I only have one kidney, it seemed very reasonable that I should take this test. So I ordered it, took it and sent it in. And I didn’t really give it much more thought.
A few weeks later, probably early December, the results came in. I combed them over and much to my shagrin, I didn’t learn anything. At that point I just wrote it off and essentially forgot about it. Fast forward to Dec 19th. I received a random message through the My Heritage site from a young lady in Texas. She said “I’m not sure how we are related. Who are your parents?” Of course I did what any man would do, totally ignored it. But this girl was persistent, and contacted Kellye, who doesn’t ignore anything, and struck up a conversation. Then the ride was on.
To be honest, I really wasn’t that interested in this whole DNA thing. I was pretty content with the family I grew up with and with the details I had learned over the last couple years. Kellye exchanged multiple messages with this girl from Texas, Ashley, and learned that she had discovered who her biological father was through Ancestry DNA. Somewhat reluctantly I also began to exchange messages with Ashley and then talked with her on the phone. Her passion about this and her excitement about her biological family, especially the cousins, finally intrigued me enough to start digging deeper.
I was still skeptical about the DNA thing as I looked through the data. I had done My Heritage for my DNA, and noticed there were several people who matched me as “cousins”. None of these “cousins” were anyone I remember growing up with or hearing about. So now my radar is up and curiosity is taking over. I also took the Ancestry DNA test, since it was probably the largest and most notable of all the companies. After a few weeks those results came back, and it also had some surprises.
While waiting on these results and talking with Ashley, she educated me a lot on DNA. I didn’t remember much from college about DNA and genetics, but was vaguely familiar with some of it. Determining relationships through DNA is based on something called centimorgans. Basically the number of shared centimorgans (cM) you have with someone determines your relationship with that person. Ashley and I share 1024.3 cM, which put us in the first cousin range. There were also several other people in the first cousin range, which Ashley explained who they were and how they were related.
The first person I noticed on Ancestry was my biological half sister, who I’ve always known about, since we share the same biological mother. Our shared cM numbers, 1856, put us in the half sibling range, so to me, this whole DNA thing was starting to gain credibility in my mind. Also their were several more of these “cousins” that Ashley had told me about, and there appeared to be zero relation with any family I had ever known about.
At this point Ashley began to share with me about her father and his siblings. There were six brothers and four sisters. We talked through details of who my potential father could be, and narrowed it down to a couple of “suspects”, due to the fact that many of the cousins had done DNA. As fate would have it, one of the potential “suspects” has a daughter that happens to live right here in Conway. Can this get any crazier? Yes!
Now seemed like a reasonable time to talk to my biological mother again to see if she could shed any light on these recent developments. After having to search for her new phone number I was finally able to reach her on the phone. When she answered and I told her who it was she hung up on me. I thought that was odd but maybe we were just disconnected. I gave it a few minutes and called her back. The first thing she said was “Charlie, what do you want?” That caught me a little off guard of course. I briefly asked her what I was curious about and was met by a barrage of “I don’t know, I don’t care and I don’t want to know anything about this!” Needless to say I was shocked and hurt. Is there anything wrong with being curious? Wanting to know about your history? So I told her “you’ll never hear from me again”, and I hung up.
Needless to say I was awash with emotion and very confused. I thought we had always had a pretty good relationship. I’m the absolute last person to be judgmental about someone’s past. Mine is certainly riddled with bad decisions. It was such a shock because she had been so gracious and forthcoming a couple years earlier. DNA had proved what she said was wrong, but I wasn’t trying to call her out on it, just trying to figure out who I really am.
It seemed that she had a very vile reaction when I mentioned this man’s name. When I shared these details with Ashley, she said her mother had the exact some reaction when she confronted her mother about the DNA results. What was the deal? Were these men monsters? I just didn’t know. Ashley told me that all the cousins she had talked with didn’t tell stories like that at all. These men were all great guys, everyone loved them.
During this time I also made contact with the girl who lives here in Conway, Tammy, a potential sister or cousin. We met for lunch one day and hit it off well. I think we even favor a little. She told me about her other siblings, and I looked forward to meeting them. There was just one detail left to deal with. She had not done a DNA test, so we gave her a kit and she took it and sent it in. We continued to talk often while waiting on the results, and she educated me on her father and who he was and his life history. He certainly didn’t seem like a monster.
The clock slowly ticked but the day finally arrived that the DNA results came in. Tammy and I shared 1631 cM, which put us in the half sibling range. I finally had my answer. I knew who my biological father was. Unfortunately, he had died a few years ago so I didn’t get to meet him. Once again, I should have pursued this years earlier. In any event, I had the answer I was looking for, and I had a new family to get to know, a large family.
Over the next couple months I made contact with some of the cousins, most of which were girls. There are still some I’ve yet to meet, but the ones I’ve met I’ve enjoyed meeting and learning about them. I’m disappointed that I didn’t know about this family earlier, but at least we’ve got this time to go forward now. I’m also disappointed in my biological mother. Why did she react the way she did? Did I handle that wrong? So many questions there now I’ll probably never have the answers to.
So, my Family Tree really is a bush. I basically have three families I can relate to now. The one through my biological mother, the one through my adoptive parents, and now the one through my biological father. Although quite confusing, it really is exciting. It seems the last few years of my life have opened many, many new chapters that are ripe for exploration. As crazy detailed as this seems, it really only scratches the surface of what I discovered. Maybe more on that later.
If you have questions or curiosities about your family, I highly recommend testing with one of the DNA companies. Ancestry is probably the largest, but My Heritage is a good one too. And maybe the others. I can only speak from experience with these two. If you do decide to take this journey, don’t be shocked if you find some surprises. I mean, who wants just a boring, regular family?