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I am a McBriarty



I was just as stunned at the departure of McB2’s test result as I was at its arrival.

Didn’t just we have a nice conversation?  Didn’t he agree to meet with me?  Why would he tell me things about my grandparents and siblings and say that of course my daughters were beautiful, “because they were McBriartys,” and then suddenly jettison his DNA test and me?

What did I do wrong?

I must have asked myself that question a million times.  Because it’s impossible not to take the wordless rejection of your biological father personally.  Grasping at straws, I thought that maybe there was a chance that he misunderstood my intentions so I attempted contact a second time.  The following is a letter I sent a couple of months later:

Hello Mr. McBriarty,

I hope this greeting finds you in both good spirits and health. I haven’t heard back from you and your DNA test was deleted from Ancestry. It’s occurred to me that perhaps you didn’t even see our DNA match made at Ancestry. In case you hadn’t, I’ve enclosed a screenshot I took from my computer. I don’t want you to think I’m some nutty lady that sends letters to random gentlemen making baseless claims of paternity. I also thought it might be a good idea to go over my interest in meeting you.

I have no desire to push myself into your family. When someone asks you how many daughters you have, I would expect that you would to continue to reply, “one.” If you have managed to amass a fortune, good for you! I hope you spend every cent of it enjoying your life to its fullest. I have no interest in making a claim on it now or in the future. I’d be more than happy to sign something legal in regards to this if you’d like.

What I am interested in is family stories about the McBriarty and Dignam families. In piecing together my DNA with genetic cousins over the years, I have collected a lot of documents pertaining to our shared ancestry (census, marriage and death records, etc.,). I’d like to hear what you know about these ancestors and, truth be told, I’d like to get an idea about who you are as well; what interests you have, the sort of books you like to read…that sort of thing. Medical history would be nice too, though I don’t want to pry into your personal business. Really, anything that you’d like to share would be welcome.

I’d like to plan to meet you this summer/fall if possible. Just lunch. A couple of hours. My treat. If you would bring old family photographs, I would be thrilled beyond words. If you’d like to meet in some other town, away from where you live so as not to cause you any issues, that would be perfectly fine. I’m flexible.  If you’d like to meet elsewhere, I can arrange that at no cost to you. If your wife or anyone else would like to join us, that would be a lovely bonus.

I’ve enclosed a few documents I’ve found that I think would be of interest to you. I hope that you enjoy them.

Lastly, I’d like to mention that I certainly hope you harbor no feelings of guilt or remorse. Everything turned out in both our lives exactly as God planned. I’d like to just enjoy that fact, keep the past in the past, and be family history friends.

I look forward to your reply. My email address is: l************ or feel free to call me at (949) *** ****.

With warm regards, (signed) Laurie

I didn’t get a reply.

I don’t expect to get a reply anymore.

When it became apparent exactly who my father is, Mr DNA-Second-Cousin went on Ancestry and attached his Dignam maternal side branch to the paternal side of his online tree.  I guess he thought he was going to baffle me and throw me off the trail or something.

I already know who I am, thanks.

What’s that old saw, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family?”

Despite seeing an endless stream of successful reunions between people and their birth parents on the Facebook page, “DNA Detectives,” I, unfortunately, can’t count myself among them.  Rejection from a birth parent stings, and it brings a lot of soul searching; about my worth as a person, my own ethics, my expectations of others, and my definition of the word, “family.”  I spent a long time trying to come up with a reasonable explanation why my father would delete his test and pretend that I don’t exist.  I still don’t understand it.  At all.  And when I see other people get rejected out-of-hand by their birth families, I don’t understand when it happens to them either.  Rejection doesn’t happen in the majority of misattributed paternity cases, but from time to time, it does happen.

So, why not to me, too?

When I first began my search, I was terrified about anyone finding out about my misattributed paternity.   It took a couple of months to even gather the courage to post about it among people who also were using DNA to find their biological family on, “DNA Detectives.”  Eventually, I would talk about it openly, but only with trusted friends.  Looking back, I carried a lot of unnecessary shame.   I worried about what people would think of my mom.  I worried what people would think of me.  It’s very stressful to carry shame, even if the shame is irrational and you didn’t do anything to cause it.  I felt like I was leading a double life with friends and family neatly divided into the categories of, “those that know the truth,” and “those that don’t.”   And I hoped to God those that did know the truth, wouldn’t casually mention something about it on my Facebook page, or in front of those that didn’t.

Last year, after my story had played out, I was invited by CeCe Moore to be interviewed by a journalist doing a story on people that had received unexpected results from taking a genealogy DNA test.  After four years, I was exhausted trying to keep my secret contained.  I didn’t see any purpose in doing so any longer.  And hey, if you’re going to come out of the misattributed paternity closet, why not do so with a mention in an article in the Washington Post?  I owe a huge debt of gratitude to journalist Libby Copeland who listened to my story and encouraged me to write about it.  Writing about it has set me free.

From the beginning, my aim was to find my father and to restore my true biological identity.  Mission accomplished.  It was never a given that my biological father would be alive when I found him; for years, I operated under the assumption that he likely wasn’t.  Finding him alive and getting an opportunity to speak to him was a wonderful added bonus.  I’m still grateful that I got a chance to thank him for my life; I have no regrets about that at all.  I wish he would have accepted my offer of friendship, but I can’t control what other people choose to do.  Today, I choose to move forward in my genealogy work as if he’s passed.  I now have copies of vital records and obituaries for my grandparents.  I chat up librarians, town clerks, and cousins.  I visit cemeteries.  I take photographs.  My work as a genealogist is to put “flesh on the bones,” of my ancestors through documents, stories, and photographs.  I do all these things, just as I’ve always done them.  Validation and a friendly relationship with my father would have been amazing, but I don’t need permission to work on my genealogy.  Openly.  Because it’s mine.  It’s my hope that in telling my story, those people that find that they too don’t get that, “photo worthy reunion,” with their birth parents, acknowledge their biological identity and discover their family history as I do:



McBriarty cousin, Beth and me.  August 2016

Along the way, I’ve met numerous paternal cousins that have welcomed me into the family; even when they didn’t know where I belonged in the family either.  They’re the unsung heroes in this story.  Some even purchased their own DNA kits before I could even offer them one.  I’m still humbled by their generosity and kindness.

And, I remain deeply grateful for the journey.  All of it.

When I didn’t know who my father was, his ancestors lead me to him.  Through DNA, they pointed to the way; my paternal grandmother ancestors, Sarah Gallagher and Margaret McCurdy; my great-great grandfather, William McBriarty, and the Dignam and MacInnis ancestors…they live on in me and they still speak. 

They told me who he was.

They told me who I am.

I just had to learn how to listen to them.









Categories: Uncategorized

Laurie Pratt

Perpetually curious. I love history, genealogy, old movies, good books, all sorts of music, and adventures involving travel. In my spare time, I help admin a genetic genealogy Facebook page for CeCe Moore ("DNA Detectives") and coach people how to connect with their biological family using DNA.

30 replies

  1. Just like Beth, my sister, I am excited and proud that you are … forever … part of our family! We are all in agreement that your original definition of “family” … the one filled with unconditional hope and love … is how it should be … and anything less is truly a loss to those who choose less. We love you and are truly blessed to have you in our family!!! 🤗❤️😘

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I admire your bravery, Laurie. This “finding our roots” thing isn’t for sissies. It takes courage, countless leaps of faith and a willingness to accept our truths. Happy Journey. No one can take away the moments when we find the missing pieces. How they touch our souls and connect us to countless histories of those who went before us. Keep writing and thank you so much for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Laurie, thank you for writing this and sharing as much as your did. So much resonates even as a genealogist. Yes your ancestors led the way, it blows my mind that people living sometimes hundreds of years ago As for your biological family, entirely their loss – they’re cutting off life itself and you do come across as such a great person. A crying shame they’ve slammed that door shut (maybe just for now), no-one should die with ‘what ifs’. You tried and the ball is out of your court but as you say, it is entirely your heritage too. Best wishes to you and your family for the future. Please keep writing, you are good at it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. THEY may have slammed the door, but Laurie has not – no telling what is still out there to discover about all of this. No telling whether “dad” may reach out on his own.

      One day.

      But in the meantime don’t wait around – do exactly as you are doing, get on with what from everything I see here is a fantastic and rewarding life! As you said, you do not need permission to have a wonderful life – of your very own! XXXOOO

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Like others, I learned the truth to my paternity through DNA testing. I had no idea that my paternity had been misattributed. I Love how you were able to shed the shame that and take ownership and control of your ancestry.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Beautifully written. I absolutely adore that you can write so “in the moment”, with events unfolding and you doing what was within your power, and accepting the outcomes as they happen. Mr. McBriarty is missing out on a wonderful friendship.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I have enjoyed reading your blogs so much. They have been well written and informative. I am so sorry that your birth father’s daughter decided to reject you.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Thank you. I cried today. Your story reminded me of my birth father’s hatred when I contacted him. But more importantly your words reminded me that he does not define me. Yes, I know that. But that shame… And I do not have a loving, supportive adoptive family behind to hold me up.

    All things happen as they should. We just need to be still to understand. Your story came into my life at such an opportune time. My heart aches for your father and half sister. They were presented with the opportunity to open their hearts and grow their love. They chose to turn away. Despite this, you have moved on and found others to love in your family. I am very happy for you. Some will see this as a less than happy ending. As painful as one man’s rejection was, his lack of acceptance made you reach harder and farther into what constitutes “family”. A father does not a family make!

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Thank you for sharing your story! I also was hoping for a different ending!
    I felt like I was reading about my own life. It’s nice to know someone understands your feelings about this situation.
    One question, how did your brothers feel when you told them?

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I think you are an amazing woman, with a huge heart and a wonderful, unconditional love of family. I hope one day your father and 1/2 sibling will realize what they’re missing. But, if they don’t, you are 100% correct. You cannot control others and you have what you were looking for. Their acceptance would have been icing on the cake. Thank you Laurie for sharing your story. We have all been blessed by it!!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Awww… That sucks! But like you say, you can’t control what other people do or say. What you can control is how you respond to it and it looks to me like you are doing the honorable thing – and the best thing for your own well-being. Your story is very touching. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    Oh, and one other thing. I’m not sure how true that “I’m not nutty” statement in your letter is. You go on and on about dead people and then stalk living people on Facebook. It seems a bit nutty to me. I should know, I do the same thing!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I found your site — right after you wrote the letter to a stranger. That post was well worth the read, if only to have a role model in you and your letter. Then I read your whole story — in one sitting — and I was even more impressed with the strength, compassion, and gentleness of your story. Today was a capstone — again a role model. Love your “pit bull” determination to seek out the truth, your openness to new cousins, your gentleness with your Mom, and your willingness to go on with your family, genealogy, and life. Kudos.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I just read your story–from initial blog entry to the last, in one sitting this evening. Our stories are so very similar, right down to the final resolution! I’m adopted, but I found my birth mother several decades ago (1982), and had a relationship with her until she passed in 2016. Like your mother, she gave me a name that I tried to trace for years with no success. “He was an Italian boxer,” she said. I spun my wheels in genealogical mud until I took a DNA test. I’m 99% northern European–Great Britain and Scandanavia, Not a drop of Italian blood, not even a drop of southern or eastern European blood. I joined DNA Detectives last winter and learned how to work my matches, just like you did. I followed surnames and bloodlines through my matches, until I narrowed it down to three brothers, all deceased–the Faulkner brothers. I chose the most likely candidate based upon his age (F3), and found and contacted his daughter. She agreed to test. I fully expected that she would test out as my 1/2 sister, but, CeCe is right– the one you expect it to be is never the one it is! She tested as a strong first cousin (1220 cM, but no full x match). F2 never had any biological children. That left only F1–so I located and contacted F1’s only son. He was friendly at first, said he would take a DNA test, but then suddenly changed his mind and cut off all contact. So, here I am, one DNA test from the finish line, but it looks as though I’ll never cross it. I’ve had the same experience you described with my more distant Faulkner matches–I’m blessed to have developed warm relationships with some of them, including my confirmed first cousin. I’ve done the same soul searching you described–feelings of shame, wondering if I’m damaged goods, feelings of adoptee rejection all over again– only to finally understand that their rejection cannot and does not define me. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Laurie! I’m not alone, and neither are you!!!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your own journey with me. I will say, one of my cousins found herself in the same situation with a group of brothers/candidates. Only one was in the right place at the right time. You may be able to suss out a candidate. And her bio dad was the one that was married and never had any children (other than her, that is).


  13. I have a newly discovered 1/2 sib (since Thanksgiving via DNA) and have been communicating with her since mid December. Biological father’s family (we share) is mostly all passed by now, but his sister says she does not believe it or she would already know, thus it never happened. My new 1/2 sib’s birth mother – who raised her – refuses to comment, despite the fact that she sent her mother a photo of him and asked if he looked familiar. Answer: “No.” We are not even certain that her mother ever told anyone who her father was, since she was married at the time to the father of her two older sibs. Our father might not have known. Her “father” (of her sibs) might not have known. I guess her mother might not even be certain . . . No matter, I think that DNA facts are hard to contest. And then there are the matches shared in trees for our shared DNA matches. And some physical similarities. Based on my own experience at learning purely by accident at age 40 that I had a different birth father from the wonderful Daddy who adopted and raised me, by some point in one’s life – you are who you are, at the beginning of each day. Truth does not scald but only heals. Sad that some people prefer to live each day in the comfort of darkness that never changes for them.

    Give me the Light.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Laurie…SO not the outcome I was rooting for. I have enjoyed your blog immensely. And cried a few times. My biological daughter and I reunited in 1994 so your search meant a lot to me. Fortunately we have had a happy ending. I am hoping that your bio dad will have a change of heart and contact you again. From what you have written, it would appear it is his daughter who is the driving force in stopping contact. They are missing out on so much.

    Liked by 1 person

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