Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Story of Bernadette: Part 5 - Piecing Together a Life Story

DNA Puzzle
Over the next year Bernadette related bits and pieces of memories from her long life. She enjoyed writing extensive emails and often circled back to the mysteries that plagued her. 

Surprisingly I learned she had known one of my aunts and an uncle who lived not far from where she grew up, but could not remember specific details of her friendship with them. There were many memory gaps within her stories and I simply accepted whatever Bernadette wanted to share and how she wanted to share it.

Since we lived on different sides of the country, there was no opportunity to meet in person. But on one occasion I was able to have lunch with Bernadette’s son. He was traveling across country, sent me a text and we met-up at a local cafĂ© in my city. Being close in age, he and I found much common ground and became immediate friends. Jim (not his real name) and I continued our conversation via email, discussing his mother’s fragile health and the possibility of having a DNA test done. By this time I had been working with other NPE cases for the past two years and knew this was the only real option for finding answers about Bernadette’s parentage. I also felt it was important for Jim and his young son to learn about their heritage and maternal medical history. If Bernadette’s family line was in question, then her descendants could not be sure of their own ancestral roots or knowledge of inherited diseases and genetic issues. This lack of basic family history could have an impact on present and future generations.

One hurdle I was sure would present itself was the fact that Bernadette had outlived everyone in her immediate family! Both of her parents were long gone as were her two siblings. Therefore there was no one to test who could be a close family match. Bernadette did have nieces and nephews through her brother and sister, but the family had splintered many years ago and they were not close to Bernadette’s children. There was little chance of contacting them to take a DNA test.

My best option was to test Bernadette through a major company and hope for an existing close match in their data base. A first cousin match would be the next best thing, but I knew this would probably be a long shot since any cousin from Bernadette’s generation had most likely passed away.

I tried to impress on Jim the urgency of having his mother tested before it was too late. With her health deteriorating, fewer emails arrived from Bernadette. I knew she was struggling and time was slipping away. Finally in the autumn of 2018, Jim contacted me. Yes, he had purchased a DNA kit from Ancestry.com and his mother had agreed to spit into the tube. I was anxious to dig into Bernadette’s results and see if I could find answers to her life-long questions. Could I fit together the DNA puzzle pieces of Bernadette's ancestry?

Finally the day came! Jim contacted me with the news - Bernadette’s Ancestry DNA results were posted!

The puzzle pieces of DNA


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