This reunion between biological father and daughter is shared with permission from our client. *Names have been changed to protect privacy.
Father’s Day in the United States is celebrated on the third Sunday in June—a day filled with honoring and cherishing the special men in our lives. However, for those who feel the aching emptiness of never having known their biological father, it can be a difficult 24-hours cognizant of the void felt far too often throughout the year—a painful reminder of the ever-present absence in their lives.
At Legacy Tree Genealogists, we are often contacted by individuals seeking assistance in finding information regarding biological family members. Utilizing advancements in genetic genealogy and thorough genealogical research, we have helped many clients find closure. Recently we helped client Lisa McArthur* locate her biological father, and so for the first time in her life, this Father’s Day is a momentous occasion she looks forward to—the first celebrated with her biological father.
Lisa McArthur of Fort Worth, Texas, USA, hired us to help her find her Jamaican biological father and half-brother. She knew only their names, and did not know their whereabouts or even whether they were still living. She hoped we could use DNA to identify her father’s Clarke ancestors in Jamaica and then trace their descendants until we found someone who could tell us more about him.
Lisa had already taken autosomal DNA tests at Family Tree DNA, 23andMe and Ancestry.com. She had corresponded with several genetic cousins at Ancestry.com and 23andMe who are likely related to her through the Clarke family, but she had not been able to figure out how.
We reviewed Lisa’s ethnicity admixture results at 23andMe. Through this review we determined that both of her parents had predominantly African ancestry and that her biological father was likely Afro-Caribbean, just as she reported.
We then reviewed Lisa’s closest genetic cousins at the various testing companies, paying particular attention to those genetic cousins from Jamaica. One of them, a confirmed second cousin [Cousin 1], the client already knew was the grandson of Elmer Clarke. We searched for information on Elmer Clarke and soon found his birth record showing he was the son of Leslie George Clarke and Anne Dixon.
By carefully evaluating the shared centiMorgans between Lisa and Cousin 1, we determined that her biological father may have been a grandson of Leslie George Clarke and Anne Dixon.
We found another close match at 23andMe [Cousin 2] who was likely a third cousin to Lisa. Based on her previous correspondence with him, we knew that Cousin 2’s great-grandparents were Roland Lee, Hermina Murry, Obadiah Brown, Juliet Higgins, Henry/William Dennis, Ida Thomas, Basil Hamilton and Ira Thomas/Barrett, all predominantly from Jamaica.
We reviewed the DNA that Cousin 2 shares in common with Lisa and discovered that two of the three segments where he overlaps with her are also shared in common with another match [Cousin 3], creating triangulated segments. When two individuals match a test subject and each other on the same segments of DNA, the segments are considered to be triangulated. This means that the common ancestor between Cousin 2 and Cousin 3 is also one of Lisa’s ancestors.
Through standard genealogical research, we found that Juliet Higgins (the great-grandmother of Cousin 2), from Saint Andrew, Jamaica, was allegedly the daughter of John Higgins, although we could not find a birth record to prove it. We also confirmed that Cousin 3 was the granddaughter of John Higgins and Charlotte V. Graham of Saint Andrew, Jamaica. Additional research yielded convincing evidence that the great-grandfather of Cousin 2 was the same John Higgins as the grandfather of Cousin 3. Correspondence with the son of Cousin 3 indicated that John Higgins was “a ladies’ man who had many children” with multiple women.
Since Cousins 2 and 3 both reported a common ancestor with the Higgins surname from Saint Andrew, Jamaica, we expected that Lisa also had a Higgins ancestor from the same place, perhaps even the same John Higgins.
We hypothesized that Lisa’s biological father was a nephew of Elmer Clarke, the grandfather of Cousin 1. Through previous research, Lisa had already identified four brothers of Elmer: Geoff Adolphus Clarke, Neil Clarke, Douglas Alexander Clarke, and Lane George Clarke. Through careful genealogical research we were able to eliminate all but Douglas Alexander Clarke as Lisa’s likely grandfather. Douglas married Angeline Higgins on 21 August 1935 in Holy Cross Church, Saint Andrew, Jamaica. Angeline Higgins was reported to be the 20-year-old daughter of Samuel Higgins and was a resident of Story Hill, Cavaliers, Saint Andrew, Jamaica. Based on the amount of DNA that Lisa shares in common with Cousins 2 and 3, we might expect that Angeline’s father, Samuel, may have been another son of John Higgins with an unidentified mother.
Given that the marriage of Douglas Alexander Clarke and Angeline Higgins represents a union between the Clarke family and the Higgins family, both of Saint Andrew, Jamaica, we proposed that they were the most likely grandparents of Lisa.
Through additional family collaboration, Lisa was able to learn that her father is still living, just eight hours away from where she lives, and that she has five other siblings including the half-brother she had heard about. Furthermore, Lisa was able to confirm that our DNA research was exactly right, since her father’s mother, Angeline Higgins, is still living at the age of 102!
Of her experience, Lisa shared the following feedback:
“I’ve had an awesome experience working with Legacy Tree. They were able to confirm some of the questions I had about my family history. They are so professional, Carolyn Tolman is a sweetheart that helped me all the way through the process with any questions I had before my project was complete, and even after my project was complete she still gave me direction on the next step to take. Paul was the genealogist that worked on my project…What can I say about Paul except…Paul you rock!!! He figured out who my paternal grandparents were…. I will certainly be using Legacy Tree for my upcoming projects. Thanks Carolyn, Paul and the Legacy Tree team.”
If you’re looking for answers to questions about your family – whether it’s identifying and finding biological family members who are still living, or breaking down a brick wall you’re been working on for years – our experts have the knowledge and expertise to walk you through the process every step of the way. Contact us today for a free consultation.
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