Tuesday, September 26, 2023

My brother Steve, some astonishing truths and (hopefully) life goes on

Some things can be difficult to share, and this post ranks right up there.  Before I even started this, I thought it important to reach out to a couple people and get their blessing first.  I did, so here this is.

This all began a couple months ago when my brother Steve (right) asked our older brother Duke & myself if we might’ve fathered a child in the 1970s.  Say what?

Duke assured him he hadn’t, and while I kissed a girl or two back then, it hardly resulted in a baby.  What’s going on?

My brother Steve, 2017

It turned out that a woman named Ashley (aged 46, born in 1977) had recently submitted her DNA to 23andme and been notified she shared a 26% DNA match to my brother Steve.  How could that be?

According to DNA sites like 23andme and Ancestry.com, when someone matches 25% of your DNA, they’re an aunt, uncle, niece, nephew or half-sibling.  Siblings with the same parents share 50% DNA.  That’s 25% DNA from each parent.

My sister Shawn asked if 23andme could’ve made a mistake, this woman was born & raised in the South.  It seemed hard to believe, but these DNA sites prided themselves on their accuracy and boasted success rates of 99.9998%.

Unfortunately, Ashley could provide little info besides her parents names and where they’re from, Louisiana and Texas.  Both her parents were deceased, her dad in 2012, her mom in 2014.  Steve and I began discussing the results provided to him, and we soon learned these two—my brother and Ashley—did share the same father.

We just didn’t know if it was her dad or ours.

Ashley’s dad Jack does bear a striking resemblance to my brother Steve

When I first discussed this with our sister Shawn, that Steve might have another dad, she got upset and had some pretty choice words for me.

I didn’t like what I was suggesting either, but our options were limited. 

The more we looked at things though, and came up with plausible scenarios, Shawn did come around. 

Our parents weren’t perfect, they were human like everyone else.  So what might’ve happened?

Sometime in 1965, our parents actually split up for a few months.  Mom was only 24 years old and had 3 kids—Duke, myself & Shawn.  One of my earliest memories is of Mom crying on the phone to our Grandma Morris, that she didn’t have enough food in the house to feed her kids. 

Around this time, Ashley’s dad (Jack H.) finished his stint in the Armed Forces, the same as our Dad’s brother (my Uncle Shane).  Were Uncle Shane & Ashley’s dad friends in the military?  Did Jack travel north from Louisiana to visit Shane and meet my mom who was on her own at the time?

All we know is, Mom & Dad got back together, and in March 1966 Steve was born. 

Our mom was one of the most unselfish people on the planet, who lived and breathed and scrounged her whole life for her kids.  If she was alone and scared about the future, who knows what choices she made.  At the very least, Mom had something of her own that no one knew about, that she took to her grave.  I told my sister this is the scenario I’d like to think happened.

Another scenario was still possible though.  Ashley’s mother was an airline stewardess.  She was around 29 years old when she got pregnant for Ashley in 1976, was she still married to Ashley’s dad?  Was she on a flight to Pittsburgh and met our dad at some bar or club? 

Dad was 38 then, a musician who performed on the weekends.  He loved Mom, but did he have a one night stand?  

I told Shawn & Steve I’d submit my DNA to Ancestry.  I know besides mapping out your origins, it connects you to other relatives.  Ashley isn’t on Ancestry, but Steve is. 

If Ancestry said Steve was my half-sibling, the same mother but different dads, then Steve came from Ashley’s dad.

If Ancestry said Steve was my full sibling, that meant our dad fathered Ashley.

A recent photo of Ashley, who is a teacher and resides in Texas

The results are in.  According to Ancestry, my brother Steve is my half-brother.  We only share 24% DNA.  Twice the amount of a first cousin match, half the amount of a full sibling.

We have the same mother, but that’s all.  Our Aunt Terry (my dad’s sister) is on Ancestry, but only I share DNA with her.

This changes nothing, he’s still my brother.  But there are some new truths to adjust to here.

Shawn and I were talking and wondering if Mom knew.  I’m sure she suspected, but we’ll never know.  We’re sure Dad never knew, we can both recall him fawning over Steve when he was a baby.   

Shawn also brought up something interesting.  In Ashley’s dad’s obituary, it said he was a hunter and fisherman, an avid outdoorsman.  Growing up, our brother Steve was very much the same, unlike anyone else in our family.  We all wondered “where he got it”.   I think now we know.

(That’s not a joke; we’re both convinced that was ingrained in our brother’s DNA.)

Steve, thanks for letting me share your story here.  A personal blog may not be the appropriate venue for something like this, but this sort of news tends to get out quickly, and I wanted it heard honest and right. 

See you soon.

54 comments:

  1. Ah, the secrets people keep. In our family, my husband's sister had her daughter out of wedlock and went to her grave without telling her. As soon as her mother died, the man she thought was her father was left with the job of telling her that though he loved and raised her, he was not her biological father. It was so hard for him but he had promised to keep the secret. My husband had shared the "secret" when I married him but we both thought she had been told. We were shocked when his sister died, leaving behind such devastating news for someone else to share. Had we known, we would've told the child. Though it wasn't our secret, we both thought she deserved to know at a younger age when all the inevitable questions could've been answered. It still boggles my mind that at the very least, 6 of us knew and never told. It still bothers me.
    As for your situation, I'm glad you've figured it out and maybe it can serve as an example for someone who is still keeping a secret to reveal the truth (if they know) before they pass. I think it's the right thing to do, even though it might be difficult. It might save someone you love a lot of future grief and uncertainty. Also, at least you didn't find the murderer you were worried about!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow Bobi, that's quite a story about your own husband's family. Honestly, isn't it amazing how people can keep secrets so well and for so long? I honestly believe my mom was just trying to do what was best for my brother and the family. She passed in 2004, before these DNA tests became available for personal use. It's ironic as we both loved the show CSI and talked about how amazing DNA testing was. Well I wasn't worried about a murderer in our family so much as I was worried about being mistaken for one with my DNA! That could still happen you know.. time will tell!

      Delete
  2. What an interesting story! After I submitted my DNA on Ancestry, I watched for a half-brother or half-sister because my dad had a fling with a young girl (teenager young) when he was in his late 50's. So far, nothing... just 4th and 5th cousins around the globe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My gosh! Thanks Donna and that's very interesting about your dad! As for 4th and 5th cousins, yes I know exactly what you mean. I guess eventually we're all related!

      Delete
  3. Fascinating story. DNA science is amazing. It seems, family secrets are a thing of the past. It sounds like you've puzzled this out to perfection. Your family is a little bit bigger and that's okay.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Susan, this was so nice of you. Very much appreciated, thank you. :^)

      Delete
  4. I'm glad the mystery is solved and that your family is at peace about it. Our parents are human, and this situation wasn't uncommon in the past, just way more hidden, especially for women who would lose their security and reputation. I hope Steve is OK with all of it since it must have been the biggest shock to him.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very nicely said Margaret, thank you. I just hope this didn't weigh too much on my mom, I'll always believe she did what she felt she had to do. Steve has been good about everything, but I'm not surprised!

      Delete
  5. Wow, what an eye-opener for Steve! Of course, your Dad will still be thought of as his 'real' Dad after all the love and care he grew up with. Would be really shocked to discover that my parents had similar secrets. Being dairy farmers and having to be on hand morning and night for chores would pretty much eliminate any opportunities. Ha!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Florence! Well, until Ancestry & 23andme proved us wrong, we could've said the same thing about our own parents, being unable to do anything warranting secrets. I'd give anything to know how & where our mom met this Jack fellow. I hope someday I can post a follow-up.

      Delete
  6. What a story. I can imagine the shock.

    Not sure what to say really. Is this the danger of DNA testing? Or is it good to have these things out in the open? I couldn't tell you, not for sure. In this story, the people most affected by this post are gone from this world. It doesn't always happen that way though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Debby, wisely said. There's been a couple times here I wish we'd never learned this stuff to begin with, even with our parents gone it hasn't exactly been a bed of roses. But at the same time, I really felt my brother had the right to know.

      Delete
  7. What a fascinating post! If I were Steve, I, too, would be okay with telling the story. We also discovered a very interesting lineage story in our family after submitting DNA samples. Our “event” happened several generations ago but we found out because the Ancestry connections allowed to to contact a relative we didn’t know who DID know the old family mystery. Our DNA data also showed no Native American “blood” even though family lore always said there was.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Don! And hmm very interesting about your own family... It's amazing how this DNA stuff can uncover stuff from so far back, but like you mine didn't report any NA ancestry either, bummer. :^( They DID say they're greatly refining the 'root results' in upcoming weeks, however.

      Delete
  8. My goodness, that must have been quite the shock for all of you. I'm glad you were able to determine the link and answer some questions for Steve and Ashley.
    I can't help but think of your mom and her situation. I was a single mother at that age as well, (thankfully with only one child). While I'm not trying to project my feelings onto your mom, but I can recall moments of loneliness and the need just to be held when life was daunting. Perhaps that meant keeping a secret from your Dad, but no matter as Steve grew up in a loving family. And now he has another sister. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maebeme, you just gave me a lump in my throat... thank you so much, this was very sweet on your part and I appreciate the way you related to my mom here. Gee I've read your comment about 4 times now. Much appreciated. :^)

      Delete
  9. Wow, fascinating story Doug! Thanks for sharing. I've heard that with DNA testing, these kinds of stories can pop up, sometimes causing happy reunions, sometimes hurt feelings. It sounds like you and your siblings have made peace with this new information.

    I did the 23 & Me DNA testing. So far, no surprises; but hey, you never know! Kudos to all of you, and hopefully no more surprises!

    Carole

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Carole, and to be honest there was some surprise and hurt feelings at the start. But things calmed down right away, thank goodness. I certainly wish you good luck on yours, and YES hopefully no more surprises haha :^)

      Delete
  10. Congratulations on your new niece! I discovered one of my own about ten years ago. No one can judge what happened years ago. A friend is in a similar situation as yours, growing up with a doting father who he recently discovered is not a "blood" relation. There is a complicated time table with a woman left at home while her fiancรฉ was in the service. Did she know her husband's friend was his father? Or did she ever question it? Did the friend? It's all water under the bridge now. You can never have too many people that love you. I am sure your niece blessed with both a bio father and an adoptive father, whether either father knew it or not. I think finding more family is to be celebrated!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And now I am confusing myself! Is she your new sister or your new niece? I think I mixed up generations. As a genealogist, I consider everyone in my tree as a cousin. It makes life easier.

      Delete
    2. She is Steve's half-sister, but no biological relation to Doug. Steve and Ashley share a dad--different moms. Doug shares a mom with Steve--different dads.

      Delete
    3. Margaret, thank you so much! Omigosh you summed it up well! Miss Merry, thank you too for your very sweet words here, I know how confusing this can get. I had to keep rewriting it as I was getting a little confused myself. :^)

      Delete
  11. I hope you are all doing well with this new information. We are all human and things happen. I hope your brother is doing ok. My dad found out when he applied for social security and needed his birth certificate that his dad wasn’t his dad. They had both passed, so no closure for him. I had my dna tested, but can’t narrow anything down since it’s been so long. Best wishes to you all. Joyce

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much Joyce, and my gosh I am so sorry about your dad. It just amazes me how many people are affected like that. I was recently told there are NPE groups sprouting for people learning their dad wasn't their dad. Unreal.

      Delete
  12. Unraveling the story through Ancestry is probably better than what happened in my cousin's household.

    Forty years ago a young girl showed up at their doorstep. My cousin's husband, Don, had a brief affair with this girl's mother while he was in the military, stationed abroad. She named the baby Donna, after the dad, and kept all the information about him. After her mother died, leaving this information behind, Donna tracked him down and came knocking on the door. Checking it out and believing it all to be true, my cousin and her husband and their family accepted Donna. I met her at a family reunion.

    My cousin has since died, and her husband just died, with his obituary listing Donna as one of his children. I was pleased to know the relationship had endured over all these years and that she had a family that loved her.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. dkzody, what a sweet, amazing story--thanks for sharing that, I was so glad to read this girl wound up with a family that loved her. Wow.

      Delete
  13. Wow, I can't believe this story. Who would've thought this would happen? I might try Ancestry.com myself. Who knows what I'll find?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Gigi, it's amazing alright--well, your daughter Maria did it, you should too. I read that 1 out of 10 wind up with these sorts of events, so the odds of no surprises are in your favor. :^)

      Delete
  14. What a complicated family you have, unlike my boring one.
    When I look in the mirror I see my dad (well, apart from the beard which he never had).
    As I was born and grew up in a small country town, had there been any shenanigans, it would have been widely known.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Peter, but I don't see my family as being complicated... I have one brother who's a half brother, it turns out. I grew up in a small country town too.

      Delete
  15. I did the 23&Me thing years ago, but nothing came up of any interest at all! I think this is a great story, Doug. Thanks for sharing this family secret. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks very much DJan. I didn't want to sensationalize my brother's story, but I know how rumors and such get started and I just thought it important to have the facts out there. Sure got a lot of great comments here!

      Delete
  16. Thank you for sharing, Doug. The world gets smaller, and yours gets larger. As I scrolled through comments I kept my eye out for any other stories. Here's one for you:
    I had a brother who in my blog I called the Old Cornmudgeion, which he was. Three wives, three sons, a daughter. At his funeral a young woman came up and introduced herself as his daughter.
    Whoa. I made an appointment to meet with her (and her very tiny baby) the next day. There was no doubt in my mind she was another niece. She wanted to sit and hear all about these wonderful aunts her dad often spoke of. I asked her please to invite us to her family gatherings instead. She never did.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My goodness.. Joanne thank you too for sharing. I am sorry you couldn't maintain contact with your young niece.. I like the nickname you gave your brother but he sounded like a real ladies man! My brothers newly found half sister Ashley, her dad had three wives too I believe. I really hope that someday you hear from that niece again.

      Delete
  17. What a story! The closest thing we have in our family (that I know of) is my brother-in-law. His family was very religious. Church every Sunday; went on missions. When his mother died her marriage certificate came to light. The wedding date was 8 months before my brother-in-law's birthday. Oops!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Tom (and good to hear from you); I must admit, your little share here gave me a chuckle but I AM old enough to remember how something like that could cause a real scandal back in the day!

      Delete
  18. My own three brothers showed up as "cousins" to me since we all share a mother but they all have different fathers to me. Makes no difference at all to me, a brother is a brother, there is no "half".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow River, interesting! And I liked what you said about there being no half, that was very nice. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Delete
  19. Wow! You've approached this very sensitively and proper. I'm voting for the past scenario #2 of the airline stewardess and the weekend musician, but I might have mixed up the people and the possibilities. I verified through direct research in Shawnee, OK records, history archives, that yep, my Mom's mother ran a "boarding house" in the early 1920s. The spot is now a library, and the elderly town clerk told me of the ladies waiting in skimpy gowns on the fire escape landings! The town had 3 railroads through it, so it wasn't the only "boarding house." Her Mom had 4 kids, but she "dated" a different guy who fathered my Mom. Unfortunately, my Mom thought her step-dad was her real dad until about 7 years old and was forever upset. (The step-dad always meant to adopt her but legalities weren't so important with folks being so poor.) This is the same Mom that died in the '30s of TB. Being the "black sheep", my Mom was passed around to 3 different aunts before she married my Dad. Hanging out with blood relatives was a priority for her! Probably good for offspring to know their lineage as best as possible. Love the fact that one likes the outdoors! Maybe I'm adopted: I'm the only one in my family that hates football. Hang in there! Linda in Kansas

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Linda, you are a trip! Well, the second scenario with the airline stewardess and my dad the musician wasn't the right one, it was the first scenario with my mom and Ashley's father. But I very much appreciate what you said about this being proper as I tried my best. And your grandmother's 1920s escapades blew me away! Maybe I'm adopted like you, I'm the only one in my family that hates football too. ๐Ÿ˜„

      Delete
  20. Wow Doug, you said you had something interesting to share when we emailed a few weeks ago but I didn’t think it was this. Incredible! Jack and Steve do look alike. Thanks for sharing this Doug.❤️

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Robin! And I'm glad to know someone else thinks my brother & Ashley's dad look alike, yesterday our mutual friend Danielle said "wow Steve and Ashley look like one another" and I thought she was right too. I sure hope you and Chuck are doing ok, and very glad to hear from you as always. :^)

      Delete
    2. Oh my goodness, they do! Through the nose, cheeks and chin. You definitely have prompted Chuck and I to do Ancestry.com now.

      Delete
    3. Yes yes yes! I have to show this to Danielle. Robin, I hope you guys do it (though Chuck's backstory with his mother is pretty amazing already).

      Delete
  21. Family stories are always interesting... and family is still family. We've done Ancestry DNA and apparently there are lots of relatives out there we never knew we had... both here, Ireland, London, etc. However, at our age, we will probably never know them. One story that came out was my grandfather's brother moved from London to Canada. He had 6 kids. We never met any of them, but apparently one had a child out of wedlock that found the connection with our family through Ancestry DNA. It does have it's uses. Maybe I'll try 23 and me... and see what it comes up with.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rian, you're very right "family is still family". And yes, I seem to have a slew of second & third cousins out there I've never met (or even heard of). What's interesting, a couple years ago my brother Steve told me we had a lot of cousins and such in Louisiana and I didn't give it a lot of thought. I should've, because it turns out we don't--only he does, thru his "biological dad". Anyway, so interesting about your grandfather's brother! It just amazes me how much is unknown, vs known!

      Delete
  22. It sounds like your family handled things with a lot of grace, in the end.

    Ceci

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ceci! That was very kind of you to say, thank you. I hope you're well.

      Delete
  23. Dug, think my comments are going to your spam again...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rian, you're right it did! I am sorry about that, I don't understand why...

      Delete
  24. Your family are good people. We did the testing too. Nothing earthshaking. My Mom believed she was half Swedish from her father and so my sisters and I rhought we were a quarter also. But no. My sisters and I turned out to be about half Scots, less than half Irish with a roughly 8% mix of E Indian, Black and assorted Asian. Some of my cousins on my Dad's side tested too and came out 100% whte, also mostly Scots and Irish, so we guessed the more interesting DNA was from Mom's side. I wish we had done it sooner when there were still people to tell stories.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Celia, and how cool about the 8% mix--I wish I'd had that in mine! Also this is interesting as Ancestry shows a comparison of my mix and my brothers, and he DOES have an 8-10% Swedish in his makeup, I have none of that in mine. I'm thinking he got that from his new-found paternal dna.

      Delete
  25. Hi Doug, What an interesting post! When I started reading, I thought, wow, this is a little bit complex. But the more I read, the more interesting it became. What a story! Good on you for telling the full story and even getting your DNA tested. Doug, you are an amazing human … I love the way you get things done. Thanks for sharing! Wishing you a fine weekend! John

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad to hear from you and appreciate the time you take to comment.