After a DNA Test Revealed a Shocking Truth, He Documented His Journey to Find His Birth Dad

After a DNA Test Revealed a Shocking Truth, He Documented His Journey to Find His Birth Dad

Growing up in Rochdale, the U.K., Luke Davies always felt a little different. Even after he came out as gay, the feeling never quite went away.

His parents were both white, but people kept commenting on his appearance, asking where he was “really from” and assuming he was multiracial. “There had been questions and theories about the way I looked for quite a few years, but I’d not found any need to question my own identity until things reached a point where it was coming up almost every day,” says Luke. “A friend had mentioned that they’d taken a test before and it revealed some secrets in their family, which prompted me to think, maybe this will put the issue to bed once and for all.”

Luke Davies. Credit: BBC/Nine Lives Media/Ibitayo Ibikunle

Luke Davies. Credit: BBC/Nine Lives Media/Ibitayo Ibikunle

One day, he came across an ad for a sale on MyHeritage DNA kits. That same day, he had just received a bonus at work for the exact cost of the DNA kit, and he saw that as a sign: the universe wanted him to take a MyHeritage DNA test.

He had no idea what surprise the universe had in store for him.

His Ethnicity Estimate indicated that one of his parents was West African and Iberian. This didn’t square with what he knew of his family history, so he approached his mother and asked for an explanation. She was forced to reveal a secret she had hid from both Luke and her husband Gary for 27 years: Luke was fathered by another man. A few weeks after meeting Gary, Liz traveled to Portugal and had a brief fling with a bartender named Carlos. Carlos, and not Gary, was Luke’s biological father.

“It wasn’t easy,” says Luke of those first conversations with his parents.”I think that the parent-child relationship flipped on its head. I was the one to tell my dad so I felt a bit let down by my mum at that point which put a strain on our relationship causing a lot of pain for the first year or so.”

Finding Carlos

The DNA test results completely changed the course of Luke’s life. As a filmmaker, he decided to document his journey to find his birth father — a journey that took three years. “It certainly felt like looking for a needle in a haystack,” says Luke. Through MyHeritage, he received a match with a cousin, Renato, and that gave him the confidence that he could get somewhere, “but there were a lot of ups and downs over the years as I began to grapple with the idea of potentially not finding Carlos.”

Thankfully, despite the initial shockwaves, his family was supportive. “I wanted them to be a part of it but it could be on their own terms; always hoping that this might be the way we found our way back to each other,” says Luke. “And that’s what happened. There can be a tendency in families to sweep things under the rug, but making the documentary forced us (in a good way) to confront things and have those difficult conversations, which in turn made us see each other and trust each other in new ways.” He believes that ultimately, the experience made them closer than they’d ever been.

Luke with the parents who raised him, Liz and Gary. Credit: BBC/Nine Lives Media/Ibitayo Ibikunle

Luke with the parents who raised him, Liz and Gary. Credit: BBC/Nine Lives Media/Ibitayo Ibikunle

Luke enlisted the help of a genetic genealogist, and through a combination of DNA matching and historical records, they were able to identify Luke’s biological grandfather and another close relative. Armed with this information, Luke traveled to Portugal and with the help of another genealogist, was able to find Carlos’ contact information at the bar where he worked. To their surprise, they discovered that Carlos currently lives in London — and that he was happy to take a DNA test to confirm the relationship.

‘I am a product of all these memories, places, and people’

The next step was for father and son to meet for the first time. Carlos was delighted to meet the son he never knew he had, and introduced him to his other two sons.

“Learning more about my birth father and my family has definitely made me feel more comfortable in my own skin,” says Luke. “The more time I spent researching, learning about the Ultramar (the war between Portugal and its West African colonies) which my grandfather fought in, meeting family, and hearing about my Bissau-Guinean grandmother, I realized that I am a product of all of these memories, places, and people. It becomes harder to feel anything other than connected to them, and proud of the good things they put into the world, and even more so to call them my family. And I feel excited about exploring even more about my cultural heritage moving forward.”

Luke hopes that his documentary, Stranger in My Family, will inspire people to ask questions about their pasts and feel connected to their heritage. “It’s been said that to know where you come from is to know where you’re going, so I hope that my story will comfort those who might have had secrets from the past add difficulty to their life, and also show that forgiveness of others is a special kind of freedom,” he says.

You can watch Luke’s documentary on the BBC website (from the U.K. only).

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    Margaret Eldridge

    December 9, 2023

    I have a very similar story.

    At age 78.75 found out the man who I always thought was my dad was not my biological father. Quite a shock.