Growing up among 10 siblings, Kate Valério often felt like the odd one out. Born in Portugal, currently living in Luxembourg, her brothers and sisters often teased her about how different she looked from the rest of them. A few months ago, she received a message about a MyHeritage DNA match that turned everything she knew about herself on its head… and yet somehow, seemed to explain so much, from her dark complexion to the inexplicable fascination with Egyptian culture she’d felt since childhood.
The DNA match forced Kate’s mother to confess a secret she’d been hiding from Kate all her life: that Kate was fathered by an Egyptian man her mother had met in France 32 years ago. This revelation led Kate on a journey to connect with her Egyptian heritage, culminating in a trip to Egypt to meet her newfound siblings and bond with the large, warm family that welcomed her with open arms.
Kate belongs to a large Portuguese family (10 brothers and sisters, from two fathers). Born in France, she was 5 years old when her family moved to Portugal, where they lived for 10 years. For the past 16 years, the family has been living in Luxembourg. Kate works at a local bank. “We are really a special family,” she says. “I’m the third girl out of 10 siblings. All my siblings are light-haired and -eyed and I’m dark. I always felt different and I could never understand it. My siblings used to laugh at me sometimes, tease me that I’m the postman’s daughter, that I was found in the trash. The only one who had dark hair was the father who raised me, so I assumed I got the genes from him.”
At the age of 6, she received her first exposure to different cultures through a historical encyclopedia she received from her mother, which explores different civilizations throughout history. “I was immediately drawn to the ancient Egyptian civilization,” says Kate. “My dream was to go to Egypt and see the pyramids. I had no clue, even a small one, that it was related to my personal identity. It was completely by chance.” In 2019, she fulfilled her dream and went to Egypt, to travel as a tourist. She could never have imagined what would happen 3 years later.
A surprise birthday message
In 2018, Kate was dating an American guy who took a DNA test and showed her the results. The findings made her even more curious about her identity. “I decided to take a test myself. I bought a MyHeritage DNA kit for my 28th birthday and waited for the results. I assumed I would get at least 80% Iberian, but the results showed that I was only 36% Portuguese. There was a very large share from North Africa and the Middle East.”
She went to her parents’ house and shared with them the results. “My mother immediately asked what this meant, and I replied that I assumed I was more North African due to historical circumstances, as Portugal was occupied by the Arabs for 7 centuries, even though the information did not add up exactly. She agreed with me and that was the end of the story. I didn’t think too much about it. Later it became clear to me that she was under enormous stress when I told her about the test, because she was sure that her secret would be revealed.”
But fate, as mentioned, had other plans for Kate. About a year ago, she received a voucher for a body massage from her partner as a birthday present, and because the partner knew about her fondness for Egyptian culture, the massage was at an Egyptian spa. “The masseuse asked me why I chose an Egyptian massage and I told him about my interest in Egyptian culture. At the end of the treatment, he gave me a papyrus chart as a gift in honor of my birthday, which was the next day. From there I continued to do the manicure and while I was sitting in the chair I received an alert on my phone. I looked at the screen and a message was waiting for me from MyHeritage sent from a user with a short and dramatic text: ‘I think I know who your father is.’”
Her first reaction to the message was laughter. She assumed someone was trying to fool her. “I told the manicurist about the amusing message from someone who said she knew who my father was. I took it as a joke and ignored it, I thought it was a scam. That month I received two more such messages and I didn’t answer any of them.”
It all started with a sewing machine
A month later, Kate received more similar messages but this time on LinkedIn. “I was convinced it was a man trying to scam me but I didn’t understand why this person was insisting so much, why me? Who is the man chasing me and why?” One morning, while drinking her coffee before starting work, she decided to log into the MyHeritage account and check what it was all about. She almost fell off her chair when she found out who was looking for her. She decided to read the other messages this user had been sending her for over a month. “I saw that I have a very strong match with a first cousin. In one of the LinkedIn messages, this person also had sent me a photo of two women. In fact, the person that was desperately trying to connect with me was actually a woman. When I saw the photo I was in shock: they looked like me. I’m starting to think how is this possible? Am I dreaming?”
She began to correspond with the user who contacted her, and slowly the details began to emerge. The user, Samar Tony, a daughter of an Egyptian family from France, wrote that she thinks her uncle is Kate’s biological father. “You look a lot like my sisters,” Samar told her. “As soon as I saw the match with you, I really wanted to talk to you, I was very close to your father. I just have a few questions to ask you and you won’t have to hear from me again.”
Samar said that her brother had taken the DNA test without any intention of finding relatives; he just wanted to find out if they were descendants of the Pharaohs. To their astonishment, they found a first cousin they had never heard of.
Amazed by the discovery and curious to hear more, Kate called Samar and all the dots suddenly connected. She heard about Mustafa, Samar’s uncle who was in France during the years she was born, and died 14 years ago. Kate realized that she should talk to her mother right away and ask her about the new information.
It was a difficult moment. The mother took a deep breath and began to tell the story. 32 years ago in France, she told her daughter, she worked as a sales agent for sewing machines. She used to find private customers through the Yellow pages, call, and offer a demonstration. On the day Kate’s mother arrived, Samar’s uncle Mustafa — who had come to France for work — was at home and saw Kate’s mother as she walked inside the house. “She said it was love at first sight,” says Kate.
Is it okay to hug him?
In those days, Kate’s mother was on a break from a long relationship with the father of Kate’s 2 older siblings. The relationship with Mustafa developed quickly, and the two even thought of getting married, after discovering that she had become pregnant. However, when they arrived at the Portuguese embassy in France to explore the option of getting married, Kate’s mother found out that Mustafa was already married to another woman in Egypt, and that he had children with her. This shocking information angered and distressed her. She chose to say goodbye and disappear from his life. The mother later divorced her husband, the father of her two eldest children, and about two years later remarried another man, with whom she gave birth to seven more children: Kate’s half-siblings.
“She told me that in the 90s there were many cases of Western women who had babies with Muslim men and the men took the children with them and refused to return them to the woman. She was afraid that this would happen to me,” says Kate.
It was not an easy moment for either of them. The mother said that she kept it a secret because she wanted to protect her daughter, so that she would not be harmed. When the father who raised Katherine discovered the new information, he was very sad. “Mom wanted me not to tell anyone, but it wasn’t fair to ask that of me.”
From this point, things moved forward quickly. Countless friend requests came to Kate through Facebook from relatives she didn’t know. “A flood of friend requests, from people with Arabic names who wrote to me that they heard we were relatives and that they wanted to meet me,” says Kate. “I was shocked by the number of messages. It was exciting.”
The first meeting was in June 2022, Kate flew to Paris to finally meet her cousin Samar, her uncle and aunt, and her other new cousins who live there. “Samar and her sister came to pick me up from the airport in Paris, and in the car I asked them if it was okay for me to hug my uncle when we meet, because I don’t know how to behave with Muslims,” says Kate. “They started laughing and said that I have no idea how much he wants to hug me, that he suddenly has a vivid memory of his brother that passed away and he is happy. When I entered their home, he waited for me with arms outstretched, he said that now he has another daughter.”
During that visit, she met one of her half-brothers, who lives in France, for the first time. While filling in the decades-long gaps, Kate had the opportunity to get to know the father she had never met through his family.
Watch this video Kate made about her visit to France:
The climax of the discovery took place recently, when Kate and the new family she found in France took off together to Egypt for a heritage trip, where Kate would meet her other two siblings (brother and sister) who live in Egypt. “My sister came to pick me up from the airport. She doesn’t speak English or French, only Arabic. We smiled, laughed together, talked with our hands without understanding each other, but I felt like I had come home. She took me to my brother’s house, where I met him and my little nephews.”
That day, many guests came to welcome her. Distant relatives came to see Mustafa’s daughter up close. “People came from nearby villages, some riding donkeys, to meet me. It was amazing, everyone wrapped me in love,” she says. She recalls a scene that made a great impression on her: when they sat down to eat a traditional meal, on the floor. “I looked around me, people with facial features identical to mine, they look like me and I look like them. My uncle was standing and praying. I’m used to going to church and he prays in Arabic — it was a cultural shock. I think about this situation, how strange and exciting it is. I never imagined that I would be in it, and it strangely felt natural to me.”
Since then they have been in close contact, talking frequently, sometimes for long hours. Some of the family members have already visited her in Luxembourg. She herself visited her cousin Samar in Abu Dhabi, and recently started learning Arabic to communicate with her family members better. “I feel today that I am part of their family and they are part of my family. We lost 30 years together and now we are trying to make up for the lost time.”
And what about the siblings she grew up with? The family discovery, says Kate, was a challenge at first but everyone overcame it. “At first they felt as if I had been taken from them. They were worried that I might give them up for the new family. But I made it clear to them that I have no intention of leaving or giving them up. They are my family. They always called me Cleopatra for loving Egypt so much, and they continue calling me Cleopatra now because I’m Portuguese AND Egyptian.”
She believes that her story could inspire many to reconsider biases and preconceived notions about different cultures. “All my life I thought I was one thing, until I discovered that I was something else and it is likely that there are many like me. If only humans knew their origins, took a DNA test, they would find out that most of us are a little bit of everything and there is no difference between us.”
Check out Kate’s Instagram highlights to see more photos and footage from her remarkable journey to Egypt.
Many thanks to Kate for sharing her amazing story with us! If you’ve also made an incredible discovery with MyHeritage, we’d love to hear about it. Please send it to us via this form or email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The post A DNA Match Revealed Her Secret Egyptian Heritage and a Loving Newfound Family appeared first on MyHeritage Blog.
Source: My Heritage