“How long do you think it takes to get a letter cross-country?” I asked virtually everyone in my life. I had googled the information, but I wanted a couple of dozen man-on-the-street opinions. I had mailed the letter to McB2 on Saturday afternoon. Google (and most people I know) estimated the letter to arrive on Wednesday or Thursday. I didn’t hear anything on Wednesday. I was on pins and needles.
Thursday was my regularly scheduled day off and I had an appointment for a haircut. I woke up that morning and, as I always do, I reached for my cell phone. Laying in bed, still a bit foggy, I hit “refresh” on my Ancestry DNA homepage. I keep a running track of the number of “4th cousins or closer” DNA matches I have. Checking the number is the last thing I’d do every night before I’d turn off the light. When I went to bed on Wednesday night, I had 293 “4th or closer matches.” When I woke up to Thursday I had 294. I must have gotten a new one overnight. Cool.
I hit the “View All DNA Matches” button to take me to my match page. And at the top my DNA Matches page, I saw the new match.
I sat up straight in bed. “WHAT?!” I couldn’t believe what I was seeing: McB2 had DNA tested at Ancestry. On his own. Well, sort of. I immediately recognized the name of the person that administered the test: his daughter. Suddenly, my case was officially and unequivocally solved. No response to my letter from McB2 needed.
McB2 IS MY FATHER!
I have a sister! And she had already seen his results. Ugh! I wondered what on earth she must be thinking. When I thought about trying not to cause problems for people, I didn’t even consider in terms of potential siblings. I would have never chosen to tell a sibling first. Ever. And now this poor woman, who probably bought the DNA kit for her dad as a holiday gift, inadvertently opened the door for me, unknown older half-sibling to make an appearance. Ugh! Not cool. Not cool at all.
I called Teresa first. “If this was a movie, I wouldn’t believe this plot twist,” she laughed. “I’d ask for my money back at the box office. Would you ever have imagined that McB2 would just DNA test? And the timing? This is totally unbelievable!”
I couldn’t believe it either. I took screenshots of the match page, four identical ones; two on my Mac and two on my phone. I was beyond elated. I know who I am. And once again, I had a full, biological branch on my family tree. My genetic genealogy work was proven correct. On 4th cousin DNA matches. I went to my hair appointment beaming. And I felt an undeniable sense of gratitude: to the God, the universe, to everything and everyone; for all the hell and high water I’d gone through to get this thing solved. And to just have the answer, finally, at the end of it all, just handed to me. It was a miracle.
While driving home from my appointment, I checked my phone. I had a missed a call while getting my hair cut. The person didn’t leave a voice message, but I recognized the area code.
It was a missed call from McB2.
When I got home, I took a deep breath and returned the call. He answered. “Hi, this is Laurie. I believe you called me.”
“Yes, yes, hello, Laurie. I got your letter today and I wanted to talk to you,” McB2 said.
“Great! I hope my letter didn’t upset you too much,” I replied.
“Well, it’s a little surprising; a shock really, to read your letter. That was a long time ago. I don’t remember ever being in Maine in 1964. I think would be impossible for you to be my daughter. You must belong to my brother. You should know, that he’s not well and as you can imagine, this wouldn’t be a good time for anyone to hear this news. In fact, I’m planning a trip to see him…”
Obviously, McB2 hadn’t see his Ancestry DNA results.
“Mr. McBriarty,” I interrupted, “your Ancestry DNA results came in today. I don’t think you’ve seen them. You were DNA matched to me in a parent-child relationship. You are in fact, my father.”
“I didn’t take that kind of DNA test. I took one that tells you what nationality your ancestry is,” he countered.
“Did you spit in a tube for Ancestry?” I asked.
“Well, there’s only one kind of DNA test at Ancestry. You get an ethnicity result, as you mentioned, and you also get pages of people that share DNA with you; your family, your cousins, and in our case, your child. It’s the same test.”
“Huh. I don’t remember ever dating anyone in Maine.”
“Let me try to help you with that,” I began. “I was conceived in January of 1964. Do you remember what you were doing when President Kennedy was assassinated?” (Again, they always remember everything about their lives when Kennedy was shot)
“Yes, I was working at ******** at the time. I was on the road, Monday through Friday. I went home on weekends (just as my mom had told me). My territory was New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine…”
“I’d go to a bar after work sometimes, have a beer, maybe dance a little (check!) but…I don’t remember being with anyone.”
“That’s okay, Mr McBriarty,” I said smiling, “My mom didn’t seem to remember you either.”
And so we chatted. Though, at first it seemed like he was talking to me as if this was a employment interview: “You appear to be an educated person. Your letter is very well written and you have a job with responsibility….”
Does he think I’m interviewing for a position? Odd.
He expressed that he was worried, very worried, about how his wife and daughter would take the news. He didn’t think it would go over well at all. He wasn’t married at the time of my conception, but had been dating his wife.
“It was half-a-century ago. I’m sure you’ve proven yourself to be a good husband over the course of the last five decades,” I assured him. “And your daughter isn’t a child. She’s a grown woman. She’s had come to terms with your infallibility and mistakes by now, as well as her own, I’d imagine.”
“I guess so,” he said, clearly unconvinced. “Do you think she’s already seen you listed as my child over on Ancestry?”
“It’s hard to say but maybe not,” I told him. “You have to click over to a different page to see your DNA matches. She may have just looked at the home page. It’s entirely possible. But, I would definitely talk to her as soon as you can. I don’t think she should find out about me by accident. That wouldn’t be good.”
“No, no, it wouldn’t,” he said. “I just wish I could remember how this is possible.”
I got the impression that he assumed that I was demanding an explanation for my existence, which of course, I wasn’t at all. “I think I should tell you,” I began, “I have no interest in knowing anything about the relationship you had with my mother. It was over fifty years ago and frankly, my parent’s sex lives are none of my business. I’m here. That’s all I need to know about it. I’m good with just moving forward.”
Once he relaxed, he told me a little about my grandparents. That my grandmother had been feisty and would be prone to rambling on about stuff that got under her skin. He said that my grandfather was patient with her but would joke about sending her back to Canada if she couldn’t behave, and he’d wink at my father when he’d say it. It was obvious that he had been very fond of his father. He told me that he’d seen the photo of my children and thought they were beautiful: “But of course they would be,” he said. “They’re McBriartys.” And he was very proud of his daughter’s many accomplishments, the same daughter that administered the test for him at Ancestry. The loving way he spoke about her was endearing. At one point, he mentioned that he and his wife were thinking about moving closer to his daughter. I encouraged him to do so. “I enjoyed having my parents living near me,” I told him. “I could check on them easily and they could stop by and visit. They were very close to my children, too. It was a wonderful arrangement for all of us. I think you should do it.”
“Laurie,” he said, “I want you to know that I would have never abandoned a woman pregnant with my child, had I known,” he said. “I’m full of Irish Catholic guilt. I’m not the kind of person that would have just left someone with the responsibility of raising my child alone.”
“I understand,” I said. “You didn’t know. Really, please don’t feel bad about this. I was raised by parents that adored me, in a family I love, and that loves me. You got married and had a wonderful family as well. Everything turned out exactly as it was meant to be. But mostly, I just want to say, ‘thank you.'”
“For what?” he asked.
“For my life. I have a great life and I’m happy to be here. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here at all. So, thank you.”
He paused for a moment. “You know, you should’ve been a therapist. Or, if you were a man, a priest. You offer absolution to everyone,” he chuckled.
I smiled. “Well, what’s done is done. And I am very thankful to be here.”
“I think I should ask you, what would you like to do with this?” he asked.
“I’d like to meet you. Would you be willing to do that?” I asked.
“Yes. I need to talk to my family first of course, but yes, I would meet you.” he replied. “But like you said in your letter, you’ve had four years to come to terms with this and I just found out today. I’m going to need a little time.”
“I completely understand. I do,” I said.
We talked for 53 minutes; nearly an hour. I liked him. I didn’t need a dad, I already had one, but when I hung up the phone, I felt like I had just received the best possible outcome. My mom was right: my father was a nice guy. He seemed friendly and in good health. Best of all, he had family stories to tell. And I couldn’t wait to hear them.
So, I was stunned when, two days later, I logged into Ancestry and saw that his DNA test had been deleted.
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.