Yet Another Story of Misattributed Parentage

Mark Overbay

Story thanks to the Right to Know people.

Every MPE (misattributed paternal event or misattributed parentage) story has a starting point. The discovery comes entirely by surprise for many, whereas it confirms others’ long-held, conscious or subconscious, suspicions. If there truly is one, the typical story involves submitting a direct-to-consumer/recreational DNA test yourself or being contacted out of the blue by someone who has. Mine has a little of each with an added twist.

One afternoon, a friend of mine called me with what he described as “interesting news.” He told me that he and his older sister had taken DNA tests and found something unexpected. He informed me that both had discovered the man they thought their father wasn’t. Their research afterward led them to believe that my father was their BF (birth father). Additionally, they had reached out and somehow convinced my father to submit a DNA test. The results confirmed their research findings. “We,” he informed me, “are half-brothers.” He sent me a screenshot of the DNA evidence to prove it. Because I was already aware of two other half-siblings from my father, this news honestly wasn’t that surprising. I remember laughing with him about the strangeness of our new situation.

What my friend didn’t know, however, is that many years ago, I had also taken a DNA test from the same direct-to-consumer company, primarily because I was ethnicity curious (as both of my own parents were adopted – this was originally my own motivation). When I told him about this, he informed me that I wasn’t on his match list and followed with the question, “You are the adopted one, right?” “Adopted? I was not adopted.” I quickly replied. Confused, he told me that my father had told his sister I was adopted. He must have misunderstood. I was 58 years old and was confident that I wasn’t adopted. My birth certificate listed my father and mother. I had seen it many times. I called his sister to see where this part of the story originated. She repeated her brother’s claim that my father had told her I was adopted. Further, she explained, he had married my mother, knowing she was pregnant with another man’s child.

When I learned the adoption news, I was more than two hours from home and my laptop. I wasn’t laughing anymore. My head was now cloudy and confused. The drive home was a blur. “Could this be possible?” I asked myself, “Was I adopted?” Once I arrived, I quickly checked my DNA matches. Neither my father nor these two new “half-siblings” were there. As I surveyed my 80,000 + matches, none matched my surname. I found that it was 100% confident regarding the connections tied to my mother. However, most of my “close” matches were surnames utterly foreign to me.

It was true then; I had been “adopted” by my BCF (birth certificate father). But, unfortunately, my mother had taken her secret to the grave. My BCF had told a stranger rather than me. I found out I was an NPE from a friend who was a completely unrelated NPE (nonpaternal event, also sometimes nonparental event). My friend was right about the adoption but wrong about the two of us. We were not related. In a nutshell, that’s how my story began.

Life does not prepare you for such moments. As abrupt and shocking as it was, this revelation explained so much. My physical appearance, personality, and temperament differed significantly from my father’s. I was athletic; he was not. We had little to nothing in common and even less to talk about. We have not spoken in many years. Those who knew both my father and me well commonly joked that I must be “the milkman’s child.” My wife has known my father for more than 30 years and never once thought we were related. I laughed these comments off, but I really couldn’t disagree. The differences were problematic to me. I knew enough about genetics to know that much of what defines our identity, the sense of who we are, is inherited. I feared that I would start to see undesirable attributes of my father revealing themselves in me one day.

The realization that I was adopted lifted an incalculable weight from my shoulders. The fear that I would someday become my father was a burden more significant than I had previously appreciated. Yet, strangely perhaps, as the reality set in, this genetic enlightenment was validating and liberating for me. The truth had freed me.

You can read the rest of his happy ending family reunion story here – Mark Overbay.

Secrets

I think because my parents were both adoptees and I spent most of my life with no idea of my heritage or our family’s origins, I am particularly sensitive to the need to know.  Most people take what they know about such things for granted.  Adoptees are grateful when they are able to gain such information, since so very often they encounter only obstacles, sealed records, hidden identities and struggle with a lack of family medical history when they have unusual health challenges.

So I have gifted my husband and both of my sons with 23 and Me kits.  I want them to have a clear and honest understanding of their own origins.  For me personally, it isn’t the most comfortable situation but as my own family history indicates, it is important and I understand that.

Inexpensive DNA and the matching sites of 23 and Me as well as Ancestry do out family secrets now and even 20 years ago this was not an obvious risk to keeping secret children conceived in novel ways made possible by advances in reproductive science nor does it keep secret the relationships of adoptees to their true genetic relatives.

I think it is all for the good because genetics is now proving that DNA has more influence than previously believed.  A book – Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are by Robert Plomin – makes a persuasive case for the primacy of genes over environment in shaping our individual personalities.  The genetic influence is great even in areas we’d hitherto assumed were almost entirely environmental.

So, you may need to reconsider those “secrets” you thought possible to keep from your children because chances are, they will know the truth for themselves eventually and if they didn’t hear it from you, they will likely feel they were deceived.

Freed From A False Story

So very much like Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, the author of this month’s Science of Mind Daily Guides, Dr Temple Hayes, describes her family’s lifelong belief that a great-grandmother was Native American.  Eventually, an inexpensive DNA test revealed the truth that they were not.

Such advances in what was once expensive medical technology are freeing people from false stories that they have been told all their lives.  This allows the newly liberated person to create a new, bright and dynamic existence.

When we believe a false story we feel disconnected from our family.  On an energetic level, we may simply feel that something does not add up, the shoe doesn’t fit.  My mom believed she had been deceptively “stolen” from her original parents.  While the story she concocted wasn’t accurate, the general circumstances of exploitation to take away a baby were the truth.  The story I had made up about my dad’s origins – that a Mexican woman named Maria had left him on the doorstep of the Salvation Army – also turned out to be false.

I never expected to know what I know now. My parents had to be taken away from the families they were born into, in order to come together from the families they were adopted into, so they could marry, so my self and my sisters could be born.  I cannot regret my very life.

I am happy to have had my false stories proven to be the mistaken ideas that they were.  I am now more interested in everything to do with Denmark or Scotland than I was just a very few years ago.  I prefer reality.  Most people honestly do.  Adoptees deserve to know their reality.  All efforts at reform are seeking that outcome.