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Finding Family Unexpectedly

How DNA Brought Me A Brother From Another Mother

Location: Port Orchard Washington

Where do I begin? Well perhaps at the beginning – except the details are sparse. Most everyone who knows the facts has died. And my Dad, well, his health is poor and memory is gone.

So where do I begin? Well here are the details as I know them. I have another brother – unknown to us throughout my life – now here he is.

Me with my cousin, and siblings old and new

Dennis has been looking for his family his entire life. Wondering who his father was. Never knowing. Having a poor excuse of a step-father, and after the death of his mother when he was only seven years old, he struggled to make sense of all the loss in his life. Spending his childhood bouncing from family to foster care. Determined not to become the juvenile delinquent everyone in the “system” assumed was his fate.

Until at age 63, DNA came knocking. Dennis has been on Ancestry for several years. I have been on Ancestry for several years, but I had never taken the DNA test. I bought a test for my Dad years ago, but he never took it, and the test was misplaced when we moved my Dad out of his big house.

Me and Dennis

But Dennis took the test, and my cousin took the test and BAM! First cousins found each other…meaning Dennis was much closer to finding his father…meaning it could only be my uncle (who has passed) or my own father.

Wow. This information all came together last spring and my cousin, brother, sister and I welcomed Dennis, whether he was cousin or brother, and met him for dinner one evening in June.

And he looked just like my Dad. Mind blown.

After our meeting, I felt a huge obligation to Dennis to get the answer, and so I did a DNA test and I got my Dad to do one. Three weeks later, the results showed 100% Dennis is my half sibling, my father’s child.

Dennis is happy to know. He was emotional and excited and relieved. Our family is happy for him. Happy to welcome him. Wishing my Dad wasn’t so far gone into Alzeheimers that we could get more answers. But we are all, including Dennis, in agreement my Dad should not be told who Dennis is due to Dad’s precarious health. For now anyway.

But Dennis has now met my Dad (our Dad). And we will make it possible for Dennis to meet him again, and again. And we will welcome Dennis into our crazy wired family, and probably scare him off with all the craziness we seem to produce – Dennis hasn’t had a family like this. Between my sister, brother and I there are a total of 9 children with 5 spouses and 10 grand children.

Our belief right now is that my Dad never knew Dennis was out there. We firmly believe he would never have shirked that responsibility – it’s not the kind of man he was. My father would have been 22 years old when Dennis was conceived in 1955…he married my mother in 1957 and my sister was born in 1958…I came along two years later, my brother a year after that.

And so here we are. So many questions that may never be resolved, but the biggest question of all for Dennis has been answered. I am glad.

The development of DNA is an amazing thing, providing forensics and families an opportunity to learn things that generations in the past could not even have dreamed of. It must be used responsibly, and not all DNA results and findings turn out positive for families…some people are hurt , embarrassed, angry and unable to cope with information DNA might bring to light. Our family however, views it as a fascinating development and we all are pleased with the unexpected news.

You may have read my book review Inheritance, a book I read shortly before this all happened to my family. In the book a women learns her biological father was a sperm donor – not the man she grew up believing was her Dad. Her search for the sperm donor created lots of questions; what are his rights as an anonymous donor; what are her rights to know who her biological father is; what about genetic diseases; what about unknown siblings and the potential of inter-genetic marriages; should there be more control over DNA and results?

Life was different in the 1950’s and women who got pregnant so often were shamed and hidden. But in the 1950’s and long before, men often carried no responsibility and or knowledge of pregnancies they may have had a hand in – creating many little humans who never knew the truth.

But today, with the continuing advancement of DNA, there are no longer any secrets…lots of men may be wondering…lots of families may be affected. It’s only going to grow.

For me, and this situation in my own family I just feel we must embrace it and move forward. What more can we do? We can’t deny or walk away and why would we? We have found a buried treasure, something we didn’t know was lost. My siblings who I have known all my life and my new sibling who we just met, will now go forward and tread lightly and see what happens next. I’m just sorry it took so long.

Note I am aware of at least ten people I know who have had similar developments in their families. If you are so inclined, and have a story of your own, feel free to share in the comments below.

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12 Comments

  • Reply Jean Boyle

    My granddaughter (M) just joined our family at 23. As we know now, our son fathered a child at age 19 but his girlfriend decided to marry someone else. There is, of course, more to the story but not important at this point. Our son passed on 19 years ago and never knew about his daughter. Once our granddaughter was grown her mother decided to tell her the whole story. To confirm the story our granddaughter decided to take the 23 and Me DNA test along with her half-sister (parents divorced at this point). The results came back and the two had no connection – they couldn’t have the same father. After some time to absorb all of this M asked her mother to help find me. Her mother already knew my son was gone since they were all part of a group of high school friends. It took a little research but she found us through Facebook (we had moved years ago).

    I got a text from M’s mother. She asked if I remembered her, and I did. We chatted a bit and then she sent me a picture of her beautiful daughter. The next text was “and she’s also your granddaughter”.

    I was shocked, curious and excited. We moved our conversation to a phone call and I learned more. Over the next few days, we arranged a visit. We met our granddaughter at our house, along with her mother. Later M came over on her own with her boyfriend and spent a couple days meeting more family. Recently we gathered with another part of the family at a restaurant. In between it all M and I have texted, a lot, asking and answering questions. She is lovely, educated, traveled, self-confident and as excited to find us as we are to be found. She says she has “found her tribe”.

    August 9, 2019 at 7:19 am
    • Reply Laureen

      Jean thank you for sharing. It’s a happy ending for you, especially to have a piece of your beautiful son back in your life. And she is a beautiful woman! ♥️♥️

      August 9, 2019 at 7:55 am
    • Reply Cheryl Allred

      I grew up knowing I had a sister 6 years older than me. My mother cried every March 8. I tried searching for her when I was older with no luck. One day in 1980 while watching the Phill Donahue show I learned of the Adoptees right movement and contacted the lady introduced on the show. I was asked to write a letter and she would forward it to my half sister. As what could have only been Gods Plan` the sister who grew up in the Minnesota where I was born was now moving here to Gig Harbor where her husband was starting his medical practice. So as it was we ended living across the road from each other for years and raised our families together. My sister passed this past spring. I thank God for the time we had together and will hold her memory in my heart.

      August 9, 2019 at 4:41 pm
      • Reply Laureen

        Great story Cheryl.

        August 10, 2019 at 8:23 am
  • Reply Janet Oberg

    The author of Inheritance also has a podcast called Family Secrets, which is very good.

    August 9, 2019 at 8:03 am
    • Reply Laureen

      I didn’t know that. She is a great writer.

      August 9, 2019 at 8:43 am
  • Reply Bekki

    This is such a great story, thank you for sharing. I had no idea it was so common – I don’t know anyone who this has happened to.

    August 9, 2019 at 10:47 am
  • Reply Sharon Spicker

    Laureen, this is an amazing, wonderful story. Coreen and Steve are friends of mine from high school, so it’s no surprise to me that your family have embraced Dennis as one of your own. Thank you for sharing!

    August 9, 2019 at 1:18 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      Thanks for commenting.

      August 9, 2019 at 2:15 pm
  • Reply Dennis White

    I bless Laureen for writing this story…OUR story. Years ago I had given up hope of ever knowing who my father was, and didn’t even consider that I had “half-siblings” (who I will choose to consider “full siblings”). Somewhere in my mid-30s the anger of “not knowing who I was” I held during my teens up to that point I became determined to be as happy as I possibly could. Fortunately ‘giving’ makes me happy-robbing convenience stores does not! LOL! But I DID drown in my sorrows and pay a heavy price to get to that point. I drank excessively and had low self esteem. I was angry that my mother became ill at a young age, and had to be put into care…meanwhile there was never anyone (like a father) to swing down, pick me up and save me. Now I understand that it’s highly probable that my mother never told my father she was carrying his child. He could not save me because he didn’t even know I existed!

    On August 5, 2019 only knowing I had new siblings a couple of weeks, I made it to 27 years clean and sober. I am glad they met me when I was on the positive path, rather than destructive path of my life.

    Since my ‘transformation’ I still wondered “where I came from” but I never expected to know, so I moved on to try and be the best person I could be. I knew how often I’d fail to live up to my own expectations…but still be happy to know I have frailties, unexpectedly wrong ideas, and obliviousness at times. But I also learned the skill of always apologizing when I hurt someone, to be quick to admit I was wrong when I had made a mistake. I believe these were characteristics that might have come from “not knowing who I was”: Being eager to please, to be accepted, and to know I was not always right.

    But life throws all of us curve balls, doesn’t it? I never expected at age 63 to find my ‘other’ family. Even though my dad has Alzheimer’s I’m glad I can at least meet him, and best of all I have discovered I have three very wonderful siblings who share many of the traits that seemed so mysterious to the “other” side of my family.
    Curiosity. Creativity. The joy of travel. The value of education. An interest in building things.

    I know there might be fear and hesitation of the unknown for folks to take DNA tests. I imagine some people believe they might find secrets they’d rather leave covered, or find ’embarrassing’ or ‘shameful’ facts. But consider my own story; I was hurt and angry as a child. I came to resolve that hurt, but it came at a heavy price. I have no doubt there are people out there in the world who will never resolve that anger and still feel abandoned and terribly sad.

    I was fortunate, though what seems a highly improbable set of circumstances…but I know this is exactly the moment we were all made to meet each other.

    As a person who has been involved in family genealogy, I’ve worked about as far as I can on the maternal side of my family-both grandparents, off-shoots, 2nd and 3rd cousins…but I would always see the other side of my tree. Empty. Not a single person. Today I have begun to fill in the places those ancestors belong…and if you’re like most genealogists, discovering the stories is even better than finding the missing links.

    This is the gift I have now been given…not just to fill in the blanks of ancestors on a family tree, but to learn the stories of my own immediate family; My siblings. My aunts and uncles. My grandparents. My father, who I’ve been told was an amazing man.

    We all know the expression “I’m so happy I could cry”. Well, I’m that happy, but there’s no need for me to cry. I shed those tears long ago. From here on out I only expect to be happy. I should add that I also have one other “half brother” I grew up with. I have never and will never consider anything less than a full brother. He is so happy for me…and curiously, this discovery has brought him and I closer together.
    Thanks again Laureen, and everyone else for being so kind, generous and accepting!

    August 9, 2019 at 3:09 pm
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