Jane Nicholson of the United Kingdom knew that her best friend, Tony Wood, was adopted, and had for years been encouraging him to take a DNA test so he could learn the identity of his birth parents. During last year’s lockdown in the U.K., Tony finally agreed, and when he uploaded his results to MyHeritage, Jane was able to crack the case and help Tony make contact with his biological cousin and uncle.
Here at MyHeritage, we are always celebrating family bonds that transcend time and space and reach across generations. But what we love about this story is that as much as it’s about an adopted child finding his birth family, it’s also about the family we choose — our friends. So in honor of National Friendship Day, here is the story of Jane and Tony and how a best friend can help you make the discovery of a lifetime.
Tony Wood and I became best friends on Boxing Day, 1998. We met at the local working man’s club and he cheekily asked me if I’d be his plus one at a work function at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London. I went and was severely hungover the following day! We have children of similar ages, and Tony even gave me away at my wedding. We’re both happy to be single now though, and we’re more like siblings than friends. My children only recently realized he wasn’t their real uncle, when I told them about tracing his DNA… to say they were gutted is putting things mildly!
Tony was adopted as a baby, and he was always curious about his biological family. However, out of respect for his adoptive mother, he waited until after her death to search for his birth parents. He managed to trace his birth mother, who is now in her 90s, but she didn’t remember many details about Tony’s father. Her family was Irish Catholic, and in a letter she wrote to Tony and left in his adoption file, she stated that she could not ruin a good man’s reputation by revealing his identity. Tony was born in the mid-1950s, so you can appreciate that there were not a lot of options open for her! Obviously, she couldn’t tell her family! All she could remember was that his name was Bernard. She described what he looked like, how she met him, and where he lived and with whom. That’s all Tony had to go on.
Now, family history is a bit of a hobby of mine; I’ve researched my own family tree as well as those of several friends. I had offered to help Tony with his and encouraged him to take a DNA test, but it wasn’t until January this year, under lockdown, that he decided to give it a go.
We started out by writing down every solid snippet of information we had, leaving out rumors and information from his half-siblings on his mother’s side, since we knew the information they had wasn’t accurate. Once Tony’s results came in, he logged into his account every day, and we spoke over video chat about any progress I had made. We created two family trees using his DNA matches, but the closest we could get were 2nd–3rd cousins. We reached out to his matches to see if we could learn more from them. Only a few of them wrote back, but they were very helpful. We managed to connect the trees with a marriage between Owen William Waite and Florence Ellen Walker. One of this couple’s many children was named Bernard. He looked very much like Tony, but we had no solid evidence that he was Tony’s father, so we kept looking.
One morning, Tony called to say he had uploaded his DNA data to MyHeritage. When I took a look at his DNA Matches on MyHeritage, I saw that he had two close matches whose names were already in our DNA tree: a Rodney estimated as a great-uncle or first cousin, and an Owen estimated as a great-uncle, first cousin, or first cousin once removed. We messaged both of these matches, but got no reply. Eventually, we took the drastic step of trying to find living relatives on the Internet. We found his cousin Rodney’s address and an uncle, Peter. We wrote letters and posted them in the mail… and both got in touch with us within 48 hours.
Rodney and Peter were shocked and surprised to learn that Bernard had a child — he had never married and as far as they knew, had never had any children. But they were both extremely welcoming, and Tony’s cousin Rodney confirmed that Bernard had indeed dated an Irish nurse. Slowly, all the missing pieces fell into place.
Tony is planning to visit them this summer! I couldn’t be more thrilled for him. We’ve been having a lot of fun researching this newly discovered branch of his family. Here, for example, is a photo of Tony’s great-great-grandfather, Arthur Holloway, who was quite a famous blacksmith born in Beenham, Berkshire:
Rodney told us, by the way, that he was gifted a MyHeritage DNA kit as a Christmas present, which is how his DNA ended up in MyHeritage’s database. So in more ways than one, MyHeritage played an absolutely crucial part and in all honesty, if we’d started here it would have saved us both a lot of hard work!
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Source: My Heritage