Australian Surprise: DNA for the family win

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Mariellen Pearce, 59, of High Wycombe, Western Australia, had been researching her family history since she was 25. She learned that she had a half-brother given for adoption by her mother, and was interested in finding him. It was with that goal in mind that she and her husband took MyHeritage DNA tests, but it was actually Mariellen’s husband who was amazed to find new family members that he never knew existed.

Now retired as a service consultant for a telecommunications company, she is married to Mark and has two sons and a daughter. Mariellen grew up in a loving family with two brothers and a sister. She met and married Mark, a soldier, and they had a wonderful life raising their children in Australia after Mark left the Army.

In the early days of her research, Mariellen found things more difficult.

It was very difficult pre-internet days. I was helped along the way by my husband’s Mormon relatives and became a contributor to Family Search. I have traveled to Victoria, England and Ireland to research my family history.

Mariellen was searching for an older brother who was given up for adoption at birth by her mother in 1956. She had not had any luck and decided to take a DNA test to find him. Her husband Mark also took one when he became interested as to why he was a match for an American who needed a bone marrow transplant. Mark wondered if he had extended family in the US.

Although Mariellen didn’t get any closer to solving her family mystery, Mark had an unexpected surprise — a match with a great-uncle, 1st cousin-1st cousin once removed, Raymond Mant.

After further research, it was determined that Ray was Marks first cousin, their mothers are sisters. Ray only found out he was adopted at age 73 after taking a DNA test to advance his search for his family tree. At that point, his sister, 85, came clean and told him he was adopted and that she had been sworn to secrecy.

We found a new cousin for my husband after he was a DNA-matched. It was at the age of 73 that my husband’s cousin did a DNA test to find his family genealogy. When he got matches to our family tree and could not work out why, he was told by his sister, 85,  that he was adopted. She remembered his biological mother’s surname which appeared in our family tree.

Lilian and Norma (Mariellen’s mother-in-law). Norma kept Lilian’s pregnancy a secret for 74 years after being sworn to secrecy at age15 by Lilian who was 17 when pregnant.
Ray’s maternal biological grandparents Olive and Stanley Thornton and their children, Lilian, Norma, James, Irene (in her father’s arms) and Sylvia (in her mother’s arms).

Mariellen and Mark are delighted about the connection. She has made contact with them, and the family has already held a gathering with Ray and his biological half-siblings and aunts.

We emailed back and forth and had a couple of phone calls. We got together with Ray, his wife, son and adopted sister and his two living birth aunts (89 and 85 respectively), his half-sister and brother and their partners. Ray and his half-brother Peter (Peter is Ray’s biological mother’s eldest son) looked like so alike and very like their Uncle Stan. The meeting was a resounding success and we have agreed that we will do this again in the school holidays to include cousins and his other half-brothers as well as allowing us to meet his other son.

Peter (left) and Ray at the first meeting of the brothers. Peter was happy to relinquish the big brother spot in the family to Ray.
From left: Betty (Ray’s adopted sister), 85, Norma (Ray’s biological aunt), 89, and Ray’s wife, Maxine.
Ray’s son Shane and Norma’s daughter Lynette at the first family meeting.

Mariellen has discovered that there are always unexpected and wonderful surprises with both MyHeritage Smart Matches and DNA matches, which lead to wonderful family get-togethers and more discoveries.

It has enriched our family and we are all looking forward to a larger family gathering in October.

MyHeritage has helped Mariellen’s communication with her family become more open. Today, family members live in Western Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, France, New Zealand and England. She appreciates the ability to find the truth, and she hopes to find her half-brother in the future through MyHeritage DNA matches.

Mariellen has some tips for people just beginning their research:

Start with your grandparents and move backwards from there.

Use the information on their marriage and birth certificates to verify and crosscheck with census, voting and church registers.

I don’t use death certificates as an absolute; as the information is supplied by other people from hearsay/memory.

Did you enjoy Mariellen’s story? Do you have a story to share? Please contact us.

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