October 9, 2016

Perseverance + serendipity = Success

I found my biological father. 

I feel both grateful and guilty – at the same time. Grateful to my friends who encouraged me to dig and helped me analyze data but guilty that I found him so quickly when others have searched for years.

Were it not for DNA testing, I would have never known my father was not my biological father. I would have been blissfully ignorant the rest of my life, chasing dead Stancil family members until the cows came home never knowing I was pouring my soul into finding people who not my blood relatives. Would that have been a terrible thing? Not really. However...

Were it not for DNA testing, I would have never found my biological father. I would have never known my own truth.

DNA testing can be a blessing and a curse. As they say, don't ask the question if you can't take the answer.

One day. On a whim. Because it was on sale. Because all my friends were doing it. Because I was curious about my ethnicity. Because I wanted to expand my research skills. Because I wanted to know more about my family. Because it seemed like innocent fun…I took a DNA test.

It changed everything.

It changed nothing.

How I found my biological father in 10 easy steps:

  1. First, tested with AncestryDNA. Results = 40% Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. Whaaatttt? Not what I expected. Nah, not possible.  
  2. Next, tested with FamilyTreeDNA. Results = 43% Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. Umm...there are no Jews in my ancestry. What’s going on here?  
  3. Then, tested with 23andMe. Results = 47.7% Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. Uh Oh. Oh gosh. No. Could it be? Oh goodness.
  4.  The unthinkable hit me: one or both of my parents may not be a biological parent. Seriously?!? I stared at my results in disbelief. Went to that night bed dazed and confused. The obsession set in. 
  5. Attended DNA workshops, joined a DNA Special Interest Group, read DNA how-to books at night until I couldn’t hold my eyes open, bugged my knowledgeable friends endlessly. Saints they are, my friends. 
  6. Sent many many many emails to my matches; most total strangers. Got 1 or 2 responses.
  7. Discovered one 1st cousin match and one 2nd cousin match online. Focused on those.  Like a laser, I did.  
  8. Couldn’t make contact with either until I found the 2nd cousin’s address via a Google search (i.e. Internet Stalking).  Mailed him an old-fashioned letter. The kind you put in an envelope and drop in a metal box.    
  9. A week later, he called and gave me names to research.  The entire family were German and Russian Jews.  My 2nd cousin handed me the key to the truth. God bless him. 
  10. Created a family tree based on those names. Lo and behold…staring at the 1940 census for Lenoir County, NC…I knew I’d found my man. A family friend from my childhood. I knew him well. Apparently, so did my mother.


All the pieces fell into place. Certain things now make perfect sense. A fellow named Harry, for whom my mother worked in the late 1950s, a family friend (and his wife) we visited often even after they retired to Florida in the mid-1960s. 

I still have lots of questions and loads to process. But even if I never get those answers, I’ve answered the most important question of all. I feel more peaceful today that I have in the weeks since learning of my “situation”. I can breathe without strategizing the next step in my search.

I have always been very proud of the fact that my roots run deep in North Carolina. Thankfully, Harry continues that tradition; he was born and grew up one county over from mine. Whew. I coulda been half New Yorker or something. Close call!

Is closure in sight? Not really. Probably not ever. The upside is 1) I have an answer, 2) I have a new family to research, and 3) I understand my mother just a little bit better now. All good things. 

3 comments:

  1. Hello. This is my first visit to your blog & this is an amazing post. I cannot imagine what it would be like to discover that one of your parents was not biologically related to you. I honestly don't know if I would share that with the world. It is wonderful that you calmly, bravely & logically followed the path to discover the truth. I wish you continued luck in learning about these new family branches.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Colleen! I thought long and hard about making my "situation" public, but decided that not only would I need the help of others to determine my biological father, but there was really no reason not to share. Both of my parents are gone and I am an only child. If they were alive, that would have been a different story. I really appreciate all your kind words! Thank you.

      Delete
  2. What a riveting story, I'm glad you solved your mystery and so quickly.

    I added your blog to the list of blogs on my own blog some time ago simply because your roots are in the Wake/Johnston area in North Carolina and you research the Allen family. The sister, Mary Reeves, of my 3rd great grandfather married Bartlett Allen, RW soldier, in Wake County in 1785. They didn't leave a very noticeable footprint in historical records so I've spent a lot of time digging around in NC records researching local Allen families as well as my Reeves.

    Again, I just wanted to say Hi and let you know how much I enjoyed the tale of your DNA results and ultimate revelation.

    Beverly

    ReplyDelete