This story is a real reminder to check even the most basic of information that you add to you tree; well known English geneticist Sir Paul Nurse made the news this week with his remarkable family (hi)story.
It all started when the nobel prize winner and Rockefeller University President got his green card request rejected by the US department of Homeland Security due to the missing of the details on his parents on his birth certificate….only to find out more than he bargained for.
When the new and fuller version of his birth certificate returned from Britain’s General Register Office, his secretary asked him if he’d made a mistake in his mother’s name and handed him the document.
It turned out the name of his mother given on the certificate was the name of the person he thought was his sister and the space for his father’s name was just a dash to indicate the father was unknown. Thus he found out the parents who had given him a happy childhood were in fact his grandparents and his older sister, in fact, his mother, shifting all his family relations one generation. And he had to accept he, ironically, wasn’t sure of his own genetic make-up.
By the time he found out about his real mother, both his “parents” and his birth mother – his “sister”, Miriam, had long passed away so he never got their full account of what happened. But he did notice that the birth certificate said he had been born in his great-aunt’s house in Norwich. He rang her daughter and she told him how, as an 11-year-old, she had been sworn to secrecy about his birth. She was able to tell him that his mother became pregnant at 17 and was sent away to her aunt’s for the last months of pregnancy and his birth. His grandmother then came and pretended that she was the mother and returned to the family home with her son. His real mother, Miriam, married when Paul was nearly three and left home. Everyone kept the secret, even his two brothers, really his uncles, did not know the truth.
At present he’s still doesn’t know who his father is, despite taking part in some DNA testing. When he went public with the story, he’s reported to have said: “I am probably quite a good genealogy project for someone.”