Press "Enter" to skip to content

I Got a MyHeritage DNA Kit as a Christmas Gift. It Gave Me a Whole New Extended Family

Reta Michael, 80 from Worcester, England, had always been aware that her biological father was a Canadian airman, but apart from his name and where he had served in the U.K., she knew nothing — until her husband and her son offered her a DNA kit for Christmas. That gift changed her life.

This is her story:

I was born in June 1943, in a home for unmarried mothers in Hackney. My mother was then a 21-year-old, naive, and frightened young woman from Yorkshire. As it was shameful to have a child outside marriage in those far off days, her family refused to allow her to go home, and were adamant that I should be adopted. My biological father was a Canadian airman, serving under Guy Gibson in Bomber Command at Woodhall Spa Airbase in Lincolnshire, where my mother was stationed as a WAAF. He didn’t want to know when Mum told him she was pregnant, and my mother was completely without support, which is why she was in the home.

‘A casualty of war’

Before the war, my mother had been seeing another young man from her hometown, and they had planned to marry before the war intervened and they were both recruited into the RAF. Mum joined as a typist with Bomber Command, and he joined as an Aircraft Engineer, and was sent to the Middle East. Mum wrote to tell him of her pregnancy, and despite the fact that he wasn’t the father, being the man he was, he told her that she wasn’t even to consider having her child adopted. He would arrange for his family to take us in and care for us until he returned from the war, when they would go ahead and get married and he would formally adopt me and bring me up as his own. That’s exactly what happened.

Reta with her son, her husband, and her Canadian family

Reta with her son, her husband, and her Canadian family

I was adopted into a warm, loving, generous family who accepted me and have cared for me all my life, and my dad — because I consider the man who loved me and provided for me as my dad, the only one I have — was the kindest, most wonderful man with the biggest heart. It takes a very special kind of man to forgive, take on someone else’s child and never even consider her not his own. I had a happy, secure childhood, and my mum and dad went on to have two boys, my brothers. I never knew the circumstances of my birth until I was about 11 years old, simply because it had never been an issue in the family.

When I was told, it was something of a shock, but somehow seemed to have nothing to do with me: it was my mother’s past. She was reluctant to talk about it, and because I was so secure, I never pressed her for information. She simply told me that my biological father was Canadian, where he had been stationed, that his name was Donald Dell, and that she had no idea whether he had survived the war. Until 2018, that was all the information I had. Mum’s words were, “I shouldn’t bother trying to find him. If he didn’t want you then, why would he want you now?” As I grew up, I realized it might hurt my adoptive family if they thought they hadn’t been enough, and there were probably family in Canada who could be hurt too, and so I never really tried to discover my roots.

I married and had a son who, as he got older, was interested in discovering my (and therefore his) ethnic background, and so for Christmas 2017 he and my husband gave me a DNA kit from MyHeritage. Early in the New Year of 2018 the results came back; they didn’t really tell us anything very exciting, but interesting nonetheless. I never expected to find my Canadian family, so when there was an email on the MyHeritage site in March of that year, I wasn’t particularly excited. Then I opened the email. Even before I read it, I knew I had, after almost 75 years, discovered the missing half of my life, and the tears I never knew I needed to shed started almost instantly.

Ina, Reta, and David

Ina, Reta, and David

A close DNA match

I had always understood my biological father’s surname to be “Dell,” but the email was from a man called David Dall in Canada — too close to be a coincidence. He told me he and I had an extraordinarily large genetic match (11.1%), that he was looking for relatives on his mother’s side of the family. I explained that I was looking for information about my biological father, gave him the name I had, and where he had been stationed in England during the war. Within minutes, David replied, telling me he was certain he and I were first cousins: that his father and mine were brothers, and that Don had changed his name to Dell. We then exchanged email addresses, so that we could talk some more — and five years down the line, we have never stopped talking.

My biological father was one of six children, and the family were from Belleville in Ontario. I have three aunts who are still alive, and at that time had a half-sister and almost more cousins than I could count. I learned that Don had been the radio operator on a bomber shot down by the Germans in January of 1943 — six months before I was born — and was the only crew member to survive. He was taken to a POW camp in Poland, where he remained until the Russians moved into Poland and all the prisoners were marched across Germany, until the ones who had survived, including Don, were rescued by the Allied Forces. Emaciated and exhausted, he was flown back to England and hospitalized until he was fit enough to be returned to his family in Canada. He never contacted my mother again, and never knew he had a daughter. His family in Canada — my family — never knew anything about me.

David and I emailed, exchanged photographs, started to discover our differences as well as our similarities, talked about our lives, marveled at the miracle of discovery — and decided we liked each other a lot. And eventually we risked a phone call. It was an emotional call. I think we laughed and cried. David was eager that I should be welcomed into the family with the same pleasure and warmth he had shown toward me. I was a little more cautious. I’d always been aware I may have family in Canada: no one in Canada had any idea I existed. I suppose I was a little concerned about the feelings of my half-sister, who had been brought up by Don, and imagined herself to be an only child. However, she accepted me and appeared to be glad to have a sister. Most of my many cousins were not even remotely interested, which I quite understood.

Reta and Anna

Reta and Anna

David and his wife, Ina, made plans to visit us in June, 2019. They flew to Dublin, as our Canadian grandmother was of Irish descent, and my husband John and I were to take the ferry to Dublin, spend a few days in Ireland with them and then bring them back to us. When I walked through the door into the Arrivals Hall, it was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. It was such a momentous occasion. I needn’t have worried. David and I hugged and I think he said, “Hello cousin,” as we just stood and hugged for a time. It was easy. So easy. As though we had known each other for a lifetime. The four of us had a wonderful few days driving around Ireland, and we were relaxed and happy together. Such an amazing feeling.

We brought David and Ina home, introduced them to friends, showed them some of our lovely countryside, and had a tea party, and David and John bonded over their shared passion for Formula 1 racing. It was a magical two weeks, and there were tears when it was time for them to leave — although we were to meet again in September when we visited Canada.

The journey of a lifetime

It was a journey of 3000 miles and 76 years. The adventure of my life — discovering the part of my life I had never known. Since David found me, he had told the Canadian family of my existence and I had been writing to another cousin, Deborah, and we were to spend time with her and her partner, Jim, before we visited David and Ina. John and I had sailed to New York and spent time there before getting a train to Toronto. My son Matthew had flown in for a few days to be a part of this reunion.

David, Ina, and Deborah

David, Ina, and Deborah

My husband and son stayed in our hotel room, so that Deborah and I could share our first meeting together. She walked across the hotel lobby and we just looked at each other and couldn’t stop smiling and hugging and saying hello! It was another magical moment. There is no other way to describe it: I felt I had come home. There has never been a difficult minute. I was welcomed with love and warmth. I was family.

My son, sadly, had to fly home, but not before he and Deb had established the beginnings of a lasting affection. He was worried that I might be disappointed or disillusioned, but when he met Deb, he knew I was going to be fine. She and I are so alike.

Reta and her Canadian family

Reta and her Canadian family

We spent four idyllic weeks in Canada. Three of them with Deb and Jim at Jim’s home beside a lake, surrounded by trees. It was glorious, and they were so, so kind to us. And then we moved to David and Ina, who were also the kindest hosts. David did a barbecue and I met several more cousins, all of whom accepted me so readily. I also met my sister. Sadly, Anna wasn’t in the best of health, but I’m so glad I got to meet her, as she died in 2022, and it was almost too late for us. I was able to learn more about my family and it was a magical few weeks.

This year I turned 80, and David and Ina and Deb were with me for my birthday. We spent a glorious week by the sea, in Cornwall, with my son and some very dear friends — 11 of us and two dogs! — and the house was full of noise and laughter and love. I felt so blessed to have, at last, found this amazing and caring family. It seems miraculous that I now have an extended family, thanks to MyHeritage. I am so grateful.

A MyHeritage DNA kit turned out to be a life-changing gift for Reta. Who knows how it might change the lives of your loved ones? MyHeritage DNA is the perfect gift for the holidays — and it’s currently on sale for an incredible price! Order yours now.

The post I Got a MyHeritage DNA Kit as a Christmas Gift. It Gave Me a Whole New Extended Family appeared first on MyHeritage Blog.

Source: My Heritage

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *