Search for a Father
Jul 7, 2019 | by Nancy Newbrough
My mother-in-law has never known the identity of her father. She grew up in Pennsylvania. Her mother had become pregnant during her senior year in high school, and my mother-in-law was delivered on December 29, 1946. She was told that a man named Robert was her father, and this was what she believed all her life. Because her mom passed away a few years ago, my mother-in-law felt she would never find out for sure his identity. There was also the probability that he was no longer alive.
About a year ago she had a DNA test, hoping to discover her dad’s identity. Knowing how much this search meant to her, I decided to get DNA kits for my husband and our daughter. I thought perhaps having their DNAs would give more conclusive information in the search for the biological father.
Suddenly I found myself very involved in the research! After a couple of months of searching their DNA matches, I told my mother-in-law that Robert could not be her father. There was no DNA link to Robert and his family!
I did come up with a list of names that were a DNA match to my husband, but not part of any family known to her. So, I began searching through yearbooks and census records to find every boy born at the right time and place that could have gone to her mom’s school. It was very time-consuming, and months passed!
In the process, along with frequent prayers, I sent out emails to people who might possibly provide information. A nice lady, who was an ancestry buff, answered one of those emails. I had three of her cousins listed as the possible father. With her help and knowledge of her family, she wrote that the most likely was her cousin Wilbur. I was off and running, trying to find proof that he was my mother-in-law’s father.
This endeavor took months and I frequently worked long into the night. My mother-in-law began stopping by more often just to see what I had found. Scared and excited, she was facing the fear of being rejected by this new family. It loomed large over her every day.
I could verify most of the DNA matches because people usually use their real names on their ancestry profile. There was one profile that did not, but used a cryptic female name consisting of eight letters and one number. Over and over I emailed this contact with no response. It was important to know who this was in order to verify that Wilbur was the father. More months passed!
Then I hit upon a Facebook account that had all the right people in it. It contained the cryptic name and revealed her identity. This person is the granddaughter of Wilbur! The Facebook account also revealed her father and her mother -- who was one of Wilbur’s daughters and potentially the half-sister of my mother-in-law. I then used another search tool to find every email address that was associated with their names and sent each of them a message from my heart, pleading my mother-in-law’s deep desire to learn her father’s identity!
A few hours later, Wilbur’s daughter began emailing me back! How exciting it was! At 10:00 pm on Mother’s Day she called me and asked, “Is this some sort of scam? Who have you been talking to?” I began telling her all the people I had spoken with and listed all the ancestors I had uncovered. Finally, she believed I was for real! After we finished talking, I hung up and called my mother-in-law and told her I had just talked to her half-sister! And we had verified that Wilbur was her father! Happy Mother’s Day!
Since that day she has been in contact with two of her half-sisters and one stepsister! They are planning on a trip to get together!
As it turns out, Wilbur most likely never knew that he had fathered my mother-in-law. He enlisted in the Army and left town in September of 1946, just months before she was born. During his life he was married seven times between 1948 - 1976 and had three daughters. His daughters told her, “He always married the pregnant ones.”
So, at 72 years old, my mother-in-law found out that if Wilbur had known her mother was pregnant, likely he would have married her – and her life might have been different. Wilbur passed away in 2014, so she will not ever get to meet him -- but she has seen pictures of what he looked like and is getting to know him from her new sisters. How faithful is our God to answer our prayers and give us our heart’s desires!
He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness and light dwells with him.