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Despite My Birth Father’s Denial, MyHeritage DNA Connected Me with My Family

MyHeritage user Steve Higginbottom was disappointed when his Danish biological father denied their relationship. Then, Steve took a DNA test that connected him with the family he had never known. This is his story:

I knew of my biological father from an early age, but I did not know him. 

I grew up knowing that I had been born out of wedlock. My mother married when I was 4, her husband adopted me, and they went on to have 3 children together. A stepsister also lived with us for a few years.

And yet, I was curious about my birth father and the part of my biological family that remained a mystery to me. My mother sometimes mentioned him — a student pilot from Denmark — but we never discussed him in detail. What I knew was that they had met at an Air Force base in my hometown of Bainbridge, Georgia, where he was training with his Royal Danish Air Force unit. And I had inklings that he disavowed my existence and did not admit to being my father.

My mother, however, never wavered in her certainty as to who my father was.

MyHeritage DNA connections eventually proved her right.

Cordial, but uninterested

I chose not to pursue the matter of my parentage mainly out of respect for my mother. She was a special person — gracious, gentle, and kind to everyone. She chose to keep me and raise me during the 1950s, a time when unwed mothers were highly stigmatized. I had tremendous respect for what she sacrificed for me. I always assumed that forcing a discussion about my illegitimate birth would be difficult for her and I had too much love and respect to cause such pain.

After the birth of our daughter, my wife suggested it would be good to know more about my biological father, especially his medical history. I agreed, and thanks to her investigative skills she located him in Vancouver, British Columbia. I made contact, he responded, and it just so happened that he planned to attend the 50th reunion of his RDAF squadron at a resort near our home in Florida.

We met there for a two-day visit and learned quite a bit about him. That’s because he was cordial, engaging and quite the talker. We heard about his time with the RDAF, how he started his art dealership, a little about family in Denmark, that he was in the midst of a divorce, and that I had three half-sisters in Vancouver who were some 30 years younger than I. We also heard his doubts that he was my father. 

As time passed we had a few long-distance conversations, during which he still questioned my parentage and made it clear that he was not interested in a relationship. Seeing the futility in attempting any sort of relationship, I stopped contacting him. 

The proof is in the centimorgans

I did the MyHeritage DNA test 27 years after that Florida encounter. The expected connections on my mother’s side turned up. Eventually, so did Danish matches linked to my biological father through my wife’s genealogical research. The first MyHeritage DNA matches were 2nd and 3rd cousins from his father’s side. So, there it was: proof in the centimorgans that my mother was right. 

We connected with a couple of those Danish DNA matches through the MyHeritage web site. My newly discovered relatives were friendly, open, and welcoming — and in May of 2019 my wife, daughter and I visited the land of my heritage. We visited my cousins, saw the farm where my biological father was raised, toured towns and villages in which my ancestors lived, worked, and raised families.

Smørrebrød – the traditional Danish open–faced sandwich.

Family welcomed us into their home with Smørrebrød – the traditional Danish open–faced sandwich.

We stood beside the graves of my aunt and grandparents — an act that forges an indescribable bond to one’s familial past.

Steve and daughter Babs at the grave of his paternal grandparents and aunt, at Draby Kirke, or church, in Ebeltoft, Denmark.

Steve and daughter Babs at the grave of his paternal grandparents and aunt, at Draby Kirke, or church, in Ebeltoft, Denmark.

We sat in the pews of churches where my ancestors worshipped and saw the baptismal font where my sisters were baptized.

Draby Kirke, or church, in Ebeltoft, Denmark, where Steve’s grandparents and aunt are buried and a sister Sara was baptized.

Draby Kirke, or church, in Ebeltoft, Denmark, where Steve’s grandparents and aunt are buried and a sister Sara was baptized.

Draby Kirke

Steve and daughter inside Draby Kirke. Steve’s sister Sara was baptized in the font (left side of photo).

And in Copenhagen, we met one of my 3 “new” sisters for the first time. 

My MyHeritage-found family

I had no contact with my Canadian sisters even though we had known about them since the Florida meeting. They, however, did not even know I existed. That is, until my wife wrote the youngest a letter introducing me after the MyHeritage DNA results confirmed my parentage. 

We received no response for several weeks, so we assumed the sisters did not believe that they had a long-lost brother — particularly one 30+ years older than them. As it turns out, they were doing research of their own. Looking through social media photos, they saw the resemblance between my father and me. Further, specific traits and characteristics my wife pointed out in the letter affirmed a familiarity that only family would have. The sisters knew their father well, and so were not surprised to learn he had kept the secret of a son — their brother — from them.

My sisters have since been more than welcoming. They have even expressed regret for the way their father — our father — treated me by refusing a relationship and disavowing his paternal role. I have told them that an apology, while appreciated, is not necessary, for it was not their doing and they have welcomed me with grace and dignity.

I have now met two of them, one during our trip to Denmark as I noted earlier, and another during a visit to California. It was during that visit that I also met my wonderful brother-in-law and young niece. That sister is now pregnant, so my MyHeritage-found family is growing even bigger, and I could not be prouder.

Perhaps because I refused to admit it, I never recognized the void caused by not having a connection to my biological father’s side of the family. The visit to Denmark, meeting blood relatives, walking the earth my ancestors trod, gave me a sense of completeness that I never knew I was missing. MyHeritage DNA made that possible.

My mother did not live to see the affirmation MyHeritage DNA gave us. How I wish she had. The MyHeritage DNA test confirmed what she knew all along — and brought me the family I never believed I would have.

Steve (4th from right) and daughter Babs (2nd from left) with cousins and their families in Frederikssund, Denmark.

Steve (4th from right) and daughter Babs (2nd from left) with cousins and their families in Frederikssund, Denmark.

Steve and daughter Babs at family graves at Durup Kirke.

Steve and daughter Babs at family graves at Durup Kirke.

Draby Kirke, or church, in Ebeltoft, Denmark

Inside Durup Kirk where family of Steve’s maternal grandmother worshipped and are buried. Ships are traditional features in Danish churches and can symbolize many different aspects of Danish life.

 

The post Despite My Birth Father’s Denial, MyHeritage DNA Connected Me with My Family appeared first on MyHeritage Blog.

Source: My Heritage

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