Ancestry Part 2

The Sins of the Mother

My mom modeling a mardi gras costume made by a local taylor.

Most of my adult life I believed that Hans was my father.

One day in 1982 I collected all my courage and contacted him. He agreed to a meeting that would end up lasting hours. So many questions on both sides. Including from his wife he had brought along. We had dinner together I’d made in advance, and when we said goodbye he invited us over for dinner at his house.

Unfortunately, that never happened. Within 2 weeks of that meeting we moved due to a job transfer; but there would be mail, or so I thought.

Over the years I kept in touch with letters and photos. From him I received one vacation postcard that his wife wrote. I was always left wondering if his wife hid my letters. She did say in our meeting that Hans having had a child already was almost a deal-breaker for her.

I called a couple of times, but Hans was never home. After a tragic event in 2007 and before heading to Germany, my mom now dead, I called again. This time he answered and we ended up talking for an hour. Catching up, lots of questions from him. When I asked why the silence to my mail he replied that he wants and wanted no contact with me. I asked why he didn’t just tell me so, his answer: I thought you would get the message.

Wow! Return the letters or say something, but this was cowardly. A child never gives up on their parents without a clear message.

And so ended my barely started relationship with my bio father. Until….

Yes, after DNA results that suggested relatives in the US (see previous post), I wanted to know more and contacted him, or rather his daughter, via Facebook.

I talked a little bit about that in yesterday’s post. But here are the gory details.

The daughter forwards a letter from him to me via Facebook messenger. He asks why I want to know about relatives of his in the US and says there are none; what the purpose of this DNA test is; if it was a paternity test between Mr. Wheeler and me; who is Mr. Wheeler.

He writes that my mother declared him the father in court and that she didn’t have sexual intercourse with anyone else, so he was forced to admit paternity with all its consequences (that would have been around 50 DM monthly for my support).

More questions from him: How is it possible that another man makes an appearance after 63 years? Have I known about it all those years? Is it possible to exclude him as my father without a DNA test between him and me? Does my DNA test prove my relationship to Mr. Wheeler? How can he legally find out that this new situation reverses his paternity he admitted to in 1954? He writes that this is a legal proceeding and a few lines on Facebook will not be enough. And that if my assumptions are right, this would be of great importance to him.

As you can see, many more than one question. And not one showing empathy with me and what I’m going through. Just him, him, him.

What can I answer? Yes, he’s not my bio father, but I have no idea who my father is. I have no information about the law in Germany. Also, as a teenager I was adopted by my mom’s husband, so there is no certificate I own naming Hans as the father. At the time, he had to agree to the adoption.

I reply with: Oh my! and that this is better done through email than Facebook messages through his daughter. I give them my email, and promptly get theirs. It’s “chat-with-marianna@….” I get my own email address to correspond with them. No comment to that.

I’m back trying to figure out the mystery of my bio father and the twists and turns in that journey when I receive another email from Hans’s daughter with a letter attached by him. And again it’s a me, me, me letter: Weeks have passed and I should at least answer the questions I can answer. And it should be clear to me that the answers are important and interesting to him as well as his family.

Does he want to know about Hedwig and Don and all the other little tidbits I know? I decide that it’s none of his business. If he would have accepted me over the years we could have shared in the forthcoming information and cried and laughed together. But he showed no interest and so has no right to this personal detective story that’s unravelling. He will get his answer when I know who my father is, in the meantime I let him know he can be assured it’s not him.

He goes on in his letter to inform me that he finds it hard to imagine that a man would be willing to do a paternity test with me. He asks if it is the law in the US. And if I find out the paternity he has to react and fight his status if there is a document. Oh, I should not worry: he will not ask for the return of the unjustly paid support for me.

This floored me. Is there one case where a child over 63 years later is asked to pay back child support? Are you kidding me? What an insult! How generous of him.

He asks me if I know if Mr. Wheeler was in Germany at the time of my conception and if he was in contact with my mother. He is interested in doing a paternity test with me. And wonders whether we would do this in Germany or the US.

He writes about the difference between ancestry and paternity. And that family court in Mannheim would deal with fighting paternity, because that’s where he admitted it.

He reminds me that he had no contact with my mother after Oct/Nov of 1953 (I was made in September). He didn’t find out about my birth until 3 weeks after I was born. (My grandmother found out about me the day of my birth. My mother refused to name the dad, but social services threatened her and she eventually named Hans. So most likely no one knew he was the father for 3 weeks.)

My mother was quiet about the pregnancy when they ran into each other in May 1954, a month before I was born. He claims my mom stayed overnight with an American family she worked for and there were lots of parties. (All I know is that my grandmother worked for Americans. My mother worked for a publisher as a secretary.)

He continues insisting on his right to find out what I know so far. That he’s 82 already and needs to schedule dates in court and find out what needs doing before he gets too old to act.

I have no idea what my mother knew or didn’t. She must have thought he was the father. Or she was playing a big game. At the time she was 16 and 17. I can only guess. But Hans was her boyfriend for a while and they had sex. The circumstances of my conception, we’ll probably never know. It could have been a one-night stand, a rape, a short relationship with a GI, a drunken escapade….

I did write back to his last letter and informed him that he’s not my bio father and that the rest of the information I know should be of no interest to him since it’s personal information that doesn’t pertain to him.

Let’s hope it’s the end of the story and a relationship that never was. If he ends up seeing me you’ll hear me scream throughout Nevada County.

Ancestry Part 1

Life can be exciting. Mine recently brought changes that make me question reality.

Liana, our daughter, married into a family with an aunt who’s enjoying the adventures of ancestry. No surprise then that Liana was gifted a DNA kit to expand and fill out the family tree.

Her results show many US relatives and she informed me that my father is not my father. Yeah, right. I told her this was impossible. I’m an illegitimate child of a German man who wanted nothing to do with me. Painful? Yes. I carried that pain around for far too long to now accept he isn’t my father.

She insisted. I knew nothing about ancestry or what relationships mean to make any sense of it. Perhaps my father has a brother who emigrated to the US. That would be a simple explanation, Occam’s razor. Or could it be, a mistake was made and I was exchanged at birth? No, remember, Occam’s razor. But she had me intrigued.

After access to this new family tree, I could find no connection to my maternal family, and none to the one I thought of as my father’s family. While some families have many, many children, generation after generation, my family’s forte was keeping it small with one or two children. This new Wheeler (name changed to protect the innocent ;-)) family seemed to focus on many children and as many marriages. It was a labyrinth of a family tree.

I’m not in touch with my father (you know the one I thought was my father), though I have his address and phone number. With a Facebook search I find one of his daughters and since I’m no family secret I ask her in a Facebook message if I can pose a question. Her eventual answer is that she gladly will answer one question but is not available for further information, as her father didn’t wish to have any contact with me.

Oh boy, one question. I’d better make this a good one, and I decide to wait before asking.

That’s when Liana gifts Stephen and me DNA tests. I wasn’t convinced it would show anything beyond what I already knew. OK, I was a little intrigued by some US relatives, but not that much and thought it a waste of money and spit. Spit I didn’t seem to have lots of.

The results arrive via the ancestry web page  where you sign up with your assigned number. And much earlier than expected, I see the emailed results.

No surprise, I’m 97% European. But the 13% Irish is a surprise, so are a few other numbers scattered over Europe, but all too low to be significant.

The other aspect and the most interesting one to me is the DNA matches with others who took the test. To my relief, Liana is our daughter, no mix-up at the Italian hospital where she was born. We had to leave her alone for an hour the first day to do the paperwork at a local government office. Well, you never know, I mean she was the prettiest baby ever.

I learned so much more about ancestry and familial relationships than I ever wanted to know.

Surprise No. 1: I have a first cousin, no, two first-cousin matches. And yes, they are cousins to each other. What does that mean? We have an uncle or aunt in common.

With absolute certainty I can say that my mother was an only child. Unless she was exchanged at birth back in 1937. Nah, not likely. So this uncle or aunt has to be on the paternal side. This is getting interesting.

The Wheeler family has an extensive family tree online, and I fit in there somehow. These new cousins have many aunts and uncles. It has to be that one of their uncles is my father. This is earth-shaking information.

I’m 63 and all of a sudden I find my father? I start feeling lost. Have to let go of the man I thought was my father. But how can I do that before I find another one? I don’t want to be in limbo.

I message the woman I thought was my half-sister and tell her I have no more questions. That I had been interested in any close relatives who had emigrated to the US, but now know that her father is not mine and to pass this information on to him. Greetings and thanks, Marianna.

One of the first moves is to message the first cousin and second cousin. That works through a system on It takes a while to get an answer, and there is a family story that one of the brothers had a child in Germany they were in touch with. Well, no one was in touch with me, so that must be another child. And it turns out to be so.

There are 4 brothers who could be my father. 3 of them are dead. One of the dead ones we can rule out, as I’m a cousin to his son. That leaves 3. One of them is older and was not in Germany at the time of my conception, that leaves 2. One alive, Jack, one dead, Don. Supposedly both sterile. None of them ever had kids. How can that be?

Jack thinks that both of them were in Germany in my village at the time of my conception. He’s 86 now and it is hard for him to deal with this as I understand from my new cousin, of course he thinks his sterility counts him out as the father. I’m 63 and it’s hard for me, too. He always wanted children but couldn’t have his own, and his wife was against adopting. I decide I want him to be my father, if for no other reason than he’s alive and I could meet him. Perhaps.

The only way to find out if it’s him or his brother Don is through a DNA test. He hasn’t agreed yet. He insists he’s sterile. I believe him, but when did that happen? Through mumps as an adult, perhaps after my conception? My huge imagination is running in all directions at the same time.

I have no direct contact with Jack, everything goes through the first cousin. But she’s not that close to him. My latest idea is contacting him myself.

How about a dead father, Don, as a possibility? And this is where the whole story meanders, and twists, and turns.

Don brought back a wife from Germany named Hede who was my mom’s age and from a neighboring village. They were married a short time before getting divorced. No one has heard from her since.

I contact my mom’s friend from back then who married an American and now lives in Florida. She recognizes the last name but says she only knows a Hedwig Mayer who married a Wheeler, his name was Don and he was a heavy drinker. Hedwig was very unhappy in her family and they were glad to get rid of her and signed the papers for an underage marriage. Hedwig and Don went to the US and she never heard from Hedwig again.

Hedwig is not Hede, but close. Liana eventually finds papers online where Hedwig applies for citizenship. In this paper she also asks to change her first name to Hede. Chills.

She married Don June 1955 in Mannheim (I was born June 1954 in Mannheim). They travel to the US February 1956. In May 1959 she applies for citizenship. We lose track of her after that.

According to my mom’s friend who still has an excellent memory, Hedwig didn’t know my mom and my mom also didn’t know Don. We will see.

I know: he is my father. Or his brother is. Will I ever find out? Is it important?

One change: before I was an illegitimate child, now I’m an illegitimate child of a GI. That makes me a child of the occupation. I’m one of 200,000 to 400,000 children, many of us searching for our father.