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BOTH my Grandfathers Caught out by DNA Matching

About 4 years ago I was contacted 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. Seems 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.

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 older brother'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
They'd BOTH been caught out about 100 years later 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 year because he also got my grandmother pregnant with my father. According to dad's autobiography, his birth certificate was apparently forged to show his birth date in June (9 months after his parents married) whereas he believed he was actually born in May 1926. This time it was Derek's mother who committed adultery while her merchant seaman husband was, presumably, away at sea. Assuming he was away, and 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.

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 illicit 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... although hopefully none of my own :-(


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