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BOTH my Grandfathers Caught out by DNA Matching

About 4 years ago I was contacted out of the blue by a chap called Bob who lives in Western Australia. He'd never known the identity of his maternal grandfather until one of his sisters uploaded her DNA to Family Tree DNA. The report came back that it closely matched my mother's brother who had had his own DNA analysed and stored online for an entirely separate purpose. Seems his dad, my grandfather Simeon, had a 'relationship' with an 18 year-old waitress in Portsmouth in 1924 when my mother was 4 years old. He was a travelling salesman and Portsmouth was on his patch. We'll never know if he knew she became pregnant because the baby was given up to an orphanage. Shame on him if he knew and abdicated his responsibility. But we'll probably have to give him the benefit of the doubt, because it happened again to her a couple of years later with another unknown man.

Bob shared some pictures of his mother with me. She was the spitting image of my mum. They were without doubt half-sisters.

My mum Pearl
Bob's mum Patricia

We never shared the news with my very old and frail mother. She'd never have understood and thought the world of her father, so why upset her? Sadly she passed away never knowing she had a sister who had also died several years before knowing about her roots.

And then a couple of weeks ago I got another email. This time from Derek in New Zealand. Similar story. Derek and his 6 siblings all thought they knew who their father's father was... until DNA testing showed they were a quarter Jewish. Their father's family didn't have any trace of Jewish ancestry according to So they did a full DNA match and lo and behold, it matched my grandfather... but this time, it was MY OTHER GRANDFATHER!

My dad Norman    
Derek's dad Ernie

Clearly a resemblance between these two handsome chaps.

BOTH grandfathers had been caught out a century after their nefarious activities by DNA matching. To be fair, unlike naughty Simeon, my father's father, Harold, wasn't married at the time, although he did get married later that same year because he had also got my grandmother pregnant with my father. Two girls 'up the duff' at the same time. Busy lad (at least I assume it was only two!). According to dad's autobiography, his birth certificate was apparently forged to show his birth date in June 1926 (9 months after his parents married) whereas he believed he was actually born in May. So my grandmother was pregnant before she was married and it isn't known if she ever knew of Harold's other accomplishment in the 'family business'. Highly doubtful. So in this instance it was not my grandfather but Derek's grandmother who committed adultery while her merchant seaman husband was, presumably, away at sea. Assuming he could do his maths, it is to his credit that he treated Ernest as his own - although tragically he died a couple of years later and Ernie was brought up by a step dad. 

It would also appear that the girl my grandfather married, my grandmother Pearl, and who was pregnant at the time of the wedding in October 1925, was the oldest of 4 sisters. In fact she was born in Ukraine near Kyiv (as we now have to spell it). Her family came to London as refugees in 1905 to escape the pogroms. Sadly her father, Nathan, committed suicide in March 1926, just a couple of months before my father was born and only 5 months after the marriage of his eldest daughter. Might there have been a connection? I'm sure my grandmother becoming pregnant out of wedlock can't have been a blessing to him, quite apart from his future son-in-law also managing to get a married woman pregnant at the same time. If Nathan knew about this, was the disgrace or disrepute my grandfather was to bring to his family too much to bear? Today these things might be trivialised. Not so in the 1920s.

My own father passed away a few months before I learned of the existence of his half-brother, so we'll never know if he knew about it - although I suspect not. So now I've got two sets of cousins I never knew I had, and both in Australasia. It's been fascinating getting to know them. Indeed I've now met some of the Australian cousins who have visited the UK since their revelation, and I am hoping in the not too distant future to re-visit New Zealand... where I hope to also meet my newly discovered family over there too.

There was a time when extra-marital sex was so scandalous that families would do everything they could to bury the truth - often to the detriment of mothers and their babies. Thankfully, although not encouraged, most of us have learned that accidents can happen and that the welfare of the mother and child is more important than social stigma. And we've also discovered DNA testing - where familial bonds that were previously unknown have been unearthed and families are brought together who never knew those bonds existed. And that's got to be a good thing. I wonder how many more skeletons there are in my genetic closet... hopefully none of my own :-(


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