There Was Only Me… Now There’s a We

There Was Only Me… Now There’s a We

Esther D, 52, from Germany had been looking for her biological father since she was a young teenager. When she took a DNA test with MyHeritage, not only did she find out who her father was — she also discovered and connected with 6 half-siblings. Here is her story:

Imagine being 4 years old and wondering why your parents gave you up for adoption.

I grew up always feeling different and wondering where my dark skin came from. In kindergarten, the other children would ask me why I was brown when my parents were not. It wasn’t just my appearance: my personality was different from that of my parents, too. I had a different attitude towards life, a different temperament, a different vibe.  

Who was my mother? Who was my father? Why did they not want me? What did I do wrong to make them not want to keep me? There were so many questions — questions that made me doubt myself throughout my life. 

In 1982, when I was 13 years old, my adoptive mother gave me my adoption documents and birth certificate. She told me that I could do whatever I wanted with them. From that point on, I was determined to find my biological family.

It was not so hard to find my mother, as there had been a mistake in the birth certificate: it was not supposed to mention her name and address, but it did. I reached out to her when I was 17 and understood quickly that she was not a person of color. She refused to tell me about who my father was. “You don’t deserve to know,” she said. 

The man in the photo

A few years later, when I was 24, I visited my biological grandmother. I found my mother’s diary, and there, tucked between the pages, was a black and white photo of a Black man. There was writing on the back: “Billy Kaot — Düsseldorf — 68.”

I knew immediately that I was looking at my father. I took the photo and the pages from the diary with addresses of my mothers’ friends and left.

My search, however, was far from over: it would take another 38 years to solve the mystery of my father’s identity.

One of my mother’s friends told me that my mother had been madly in love with a Black musician and would follow him wherever he would play. I called old taxi companies that were working in Düsseldorf during the late 60s, as well as clubs where he could have played. I hired detective bureaus to help me. But there was no trace of any Billy Kaot. I learned during the search that back then most Black men were called Billy in Germany, and this didn’t make it any easier. I was left with no trace or leads and decided to turn to the media. They covered my story in the papers and on the news, but still — no one knew who Billy Kaot was.

My search was conducted in waves. From time to time, the feeling of hope would rise and I would try to make more progress, but then I would lose hope and abandon the search. I began to accept that I would not get to know who my father was, and that what was clearly the source of my musical and artistic side would remain a mystery. I began to accept that I would never know my roots. I accepted that the feeling of being alone would stay with me forever. I accepted that there was only me.

A new chapter of my search

At the end of  2019, I was watching TV, and saw something about DNA in a commercial. It caught my attention, and luckily I was able to rewind to see it again. It was a commercial for MyHeritage. I thought, maybe this could be it.

I immediately looked up the company and started to compare it with other DNA test providers, but ultimately, I felt most comfortable moving forward with MyHeritage. I started building a family tree, subscribed so I would have access to all the features of the platform, and purchased a DNA kit. A new chapter of my search had begun. 

I got my result in June 2020 and was determined to use everything in my power to find my family. I had only one 2.3% match with a Black person: a young woman in her early thirties from Belgium. Was this it? By studying the different features, I learned that the AutoClusters function might help me. AutoClusters is a genetic genealogy tool that groups together DNA Matches that are likely descended from common ancestors in a visual chart.

The only person who wasn’t included in my AutoClusters chart was the young woman from Belgium.

As she was my only lead, I decided to reach out to her and contacted her via the MyHeritage messaging system. Later we moved on to Facebook, and I sent her the photo of my father. I asked her if she could ask her mother or grandmother if they knew who this man was.

The mother knew.

The discovery

Billy Kaot’s real name was Raphaël Alingabo. He was born in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He was a musician who spent several years in Europe during the late 60s and 70s. Unfortunately he had passed away in 2017, but there was something unexpected that was revealed to me: I apparently had 6 half-siblings out there.

My heart leaped, and from that moment my life has not been the same. I developed a relationship with some of them on Facebook and over the phone. I finally met my half-sister Linda from Sweden here in Germany a couple of months ago, as COVID-19 didn’t allow us to meet earlier. I asked her to do a DNA test to confirm our relationship. The next time we met, which was in the beginning of June 2021, the result was ready. I was terribly afraid that I was wrong — but she was a 26.6% match. I was looking at my half-sister. 

We are 7 half-siblings from different mothers. I always believed that my artistic side came from my father, but now I am convinced as all of us inherited the artistic gene from him. All of us either sing, create music, dance, or paint. We are so different, but yet so alike. I finally feel that I am a part of something beyond myself.

The reunion

Recently, I finally had the opportunity to meet one of my sisters. It was an incredible and life-changing experience. We went over our DNA results together and bonded over our shared interests. My life will never be the same.

Not only did MyHeritage help me on my journey, it made my dearest wish come true.

Then there was only me; now there’s a we.

Thank you, MyHeritage.