With client permission, we share one woman’s experience of growing up “Amerasian” and the important role genetic genealogy played in helping her locate her G.I. father.
Growing Up Amerasian
When Anni was little, she would often ask about her father, but her mother always gave her the same vague reply, “I met him Taichung, then I had you.” Anni was born in the 1960s – the daughter of a Taiwanese mother and an unknown U.S. serviceman fighting in Vietnam. Anni said she always felt different, realizing early on that she didn’t share the same facial features the other children in her village had, her skin was lighter, her face more “European” than the rest of her family. People in her village were quick to point those differences out as well, often taunting her into tears. Recounting as an adult, Anni said she could tell that her inquiries about her father were painful for her mother to discuss, and she would often shy away or blatantly refuse to talk about him.
(top) Anni, around age 3; (bottom) Anni and Lucy
When Anni was 11 years old, she and her mother immigrated to the United States. They both spoke very little English, but quickly became accustomed to American culture. Lucy eventually married but sadly died of cancer a few years after arriving. She never revealed who Anni’s father was and for the next 40 years, his identity would remain elusive.
The Waiting Game
Not one to ever give up, Anni took several DNA tests in hopes that she might have some close matches to her father’s side of the family – “it had been 50 years after all… someone must have taken a DNA test by then.” But like many other people, Anni only had distant matches, her closest match being a fourth cousin. She had no idea what that meant, or how to decipher how she was related to them, so she enlisted the help of a genetic genealogist. After reviewing the DNA results, the researcher was able to determine several of the distant matches shared similar surnames in Scotland. In fact, all of Anni’s DNA matches were in Scotland or Ireland. None of them were in the United States! Her mother always said her father was an American soldier, so was she mistaken?
The Research Process
By building out the family trees of each of Anni’s distant DNA matches, our genealogist was able to cross-reference them and found that several people shared a set of ancestors from Glasgow, Scotland. The ancestral couple, John and Jane, had 9 children, but only one of the children emigrated to the United States. Our genealogist then built down the family tree for that line and concluded there were several potential candidates that fit the approximate age of someone who could have been Anni’s father.
Of the potential candidates that were no longer living, military service was examined for any suggestion that they had been stationed near Taiwan. For the remaining living biological father candidates, correspondence was sent inquiring about any military service in Taiwan. One man, John, confirmed that he had been stationed in Taiwan during the appropriate time, but he did not remember Anni’s mother, Lucy. John agreed to submit a DNA sample to confirm the researcher’s hypothesis and six weeks later, test results confirmed that John was indeed Anni’s father. Over the next few months, Anni and her father exchanged correspondence and family photos. She has an adopted brother and a half-sister. Most importantly, Anni finally saw her father’s face for the first time. She was later able to meet John and his wife and see dozens of family photos.
Anni’s story is not unique. In 2009, Smithsonian Magazine published a story about children born to Vietnamese mothers and American servicemen. They dubbed them “children of the dust” – children that were orphaned or left behind once the dusts of war settled. During World War II and the Vietnam War, U.S. servicemen were encouraged to R&R [rest and recuperation] in Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Philippines. Local women often worked in bars, massage parlors, and nightclubs around the cities to support their families, often interacting with the men every day for weeks at a time. Sometimes this led to relationships, thus leading to an influx of illegitimate children during these periods of history. The term Amerasian was originally used to describe the children born to an Asian mother and American serviceman father. The total number of Amerasian children born remains unknown.
Legacy Tree has years of experience connecting families by identifying biological fathers and other family members. Although unknown parentage searches can be emotional journeys, they can also be incredibly fulfilling. Contact us today for a free estimate.