NOTE: Richard Hill founded the DNA Testing Adviser website and managed it until August 2021. The details of his personal search for birth parents are both fascinating and educational. He shared his story over four separate pages and, with permission, his first-person words have been preserved here.
It was parental DNA testing that helped me discover the truth about the man my birth mother named as my father.
This page will explain how I got to that point and what I learned. Hopefully, my experience and insights can help adoptees in similar situations.
A separate page describes how I got started finding birth parents.
Official Records Can Lie
After learning the identity of my deceased birth mother in 1981, I continued to search for my birth father. As I got access to more of my records, I kept finding official documents about my birth that were just plain wrong.
First, I found the fake birth certificate, prepared by the State of Michigan, which listed my adoptive parents. Then I obtained my original birth certificate that correctly showed my birth mother, Jackie. But it listed her ex-husband as my father.
She left him months before she got pregnant. But her divorce did not become final until after my conception. According to Michigan law, her husband was my father. Yet my research had already ruled him out.
An Exciting Breakthrough
In late 1989 I got a surprise call from the wonderful lady who helped me find Jackie’s older son many years earlier. She was now authorized by the court to be a “confidential intermediary.” With my permission she could open my adoption file and see who my birth mother named as my father. She could then try to find the man and see if he would talk to me.
She found him and on New Year’s Day 1990 I talked to Conrad by phone. He remembered Jackie and had dated her. After leaving the Army, he was working as a bartender. Jackie worked weekends as a waitress at the same bar.
We scheduled a personal meeting where Conrad and I talked for hours and exchanged photos. He fit the non-identifying information I had received. But he didn’t look anything like me. Jackie never told him she was pregnant. Furthermore, Conrad had never been able to produce a child and believed he was sterile.
My First DNA Test
Both of us wanted to know the truth. So we decided to do parental DNA testing. We set an appointment at a testing lab in Lansing, where they drew blood from each of us. Then there was nothing to do but wait.
[Today you don’t have to bleed for parental DNA testing. A painless DNA swab to collect cells inside your cheek will usually be sufficient. Furthermore, if the test is for personal rather than legal use, you can use a home DNA test.]
Both of us were hoping for a positive match. We got along well and liked each other. I wanted to find my biological father. Childless, Conrad was hoping he had a son.
The report was disappointing. I did not have one genetic marker that Conrad must transmit to each of his children. And I inherited two markers from my father that Conrad did not have. So he was “excluded” from being my father.
Another False Document
I already had two false birth certificates. Now parental DNA testing had proven the secret paperwork signed by my birth mother was also false.
This left two possibilities. (1) Jackie mistakenly believed Conrad was the father. Or (2) she deliberately lied to cover up another relationship.
Finally, Some Answers
I eventually tracked down Jackie’s best friend from that time period. Jackie had told her that Conrad was the father. Jackie said she did not tell him she was pregnant because she knew he would pressure her to get married. Recently divorced, Jackie was not ready for another marriage.
She quit the bar and her weekday job, arranged for my adoption, and left town before her pregnancy showed.
The Impact of V-J Day
I told Jackie’s friend that parental DNA testing had ruled out Conrad. She could not remember anyone else Jackie dated at the time. But she thought the timing of my birth might provide a clue.
My conception most likely occurred shortly after August 14, 1945. That was the day Japan surrendered to end World War II. Known as V-J Day, this was a time of joyous celebrations, as captured in the famous photograph of the sailor kissing a woman on Times Square.
According to Jackie’s friend, there was a lot of partying and heavy drinking in the days after V-J Day. Perhaps I was the result of a spontaneous, one-time union rather than an ongoing relationship.
Discouragement Sets In
With so many possibilities, I was beginning to think I might never find the truth. I continued my research and found a few more people who knew Jackie. I was willing to do parental DNA testing again, if needed. I chased down another false rumor. Then in 1993 I ran out of leads and put my search on hold.
Thirteen years passed. Then in December 2006 I learned of a new type of DNA test designed for genealogy. To learn how I used that to successfully re-start my search see the Genealogy DNA Testing page.
I have written a book that tells my whole story with all the details and all the highs and lows. In it, I describe in detail every DNA test that I took to finally learn the truth about my biological roots.
Whether you are trying to find birth parents or just craving a darn good read, this is a book you will likely devour in one sitting…and wholeheartedly recommend to others.
Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA