Sunday, July 5, 2015


I spent the next twenty four hours waiting for the rest of the results to come in.  Someone on the message boards had said that sometimes information uploads to accounts at different speeds- so maybe all of Malcolm's data was slower to load.  It didn't seem likely as Lynn's had loaded immediately and she was listed second on my list of DNA Relatives- actually proclaiming her my "mother" and saying that we shared 50% DNA on 23 segments.  No mystery there.  After writing a frantic "Community" post asking for advice I started receiving various suggestions-
Check Malcolm's account settings to ensure that he is "opted in" for sharing.
Done.  I manage the account so we automatically share.
Could he have sent a decoy sample?
No.  I watched him give the sample (saliva).
Use the "Family Inheritance: Advanced" feature.  This tool allows you to key in both donors data and compare by chromosomes.
Did it. Results showed 0 cMs, 0 segments.  No match.

Ok.  Now I was really starting to freak out.  The only solution could be that there had been some sort of sample mix-up in the lab.  There was probably someone else out there right now receiving nonsense results and as soon as 23andMe was made aware of this mix-up all would be well with the world. Right?
It was now Friday evening.  I finally decided that it was time to talk to a human at 23andMe- however, after locating a customer service phone number (no small feat I tell you)  I discovered that I wouldn't be able to speak to anyone until Monday.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS????
 Always needing to be proactive and possessing a general lack of patience, I finally found an e-mail address (it's like an easter egg hunt) and jotted off a desperate plea for help. I'm sure the title line was in all caps and followed by several quotation marks.  I tend to turn into a child when faced with such adversity.
Knowing that I probably had the weekend ahead to wait for any sort of response I took solace in the message boards and continued to read the advice from many educated and well meaning responders. Many of them are also adopted as I am a member of the community for adoptees - and others are just knowledgable of the workings of DNA matching and genealogy in general.  Most of the responses were words of empathy- expressing how this happens, that mothers are often deceptive as to the identity of fathers.  Perhaps my "parents" used a sperm donor, maybe they needed help getting pregnant (obviously not an option as no one was trying to get pregnant).  I refused to entertain the idea that this was anything other than a lab mix-up.  Lynn had never wavered on the point that Malcolm was my father- even though they had only had one physical coupling.  I felt somewhat indignant that so many people were offering condolences because of this "discovery".  I kept wanting to tell them that no, this is different. My mother has no reason to lie to me.

I suddenly had the overwhelming desire to talk to Lynn.  Initially, I had opted not to tell her about this until it had all been cleared up- but the longer it went on, my resolve became weaker.
In the back of my mind, it had occurred to me that perhaps there had been another "encounter" and she had kept that information from John- all the while assuming that Malcolm was my father.  It's an understandable tactic- especially in 1965. It would make sense for her to not want John to find out about something that she had kept a secret for almost fifty years.
I dialed Lynn's number and John answered.

Hi John.  It's Julie.  Can I talk to Lynn?
Hello Julie. I'll just get her.
Lynn came to the phone. We exchanged the usual pleasantries.  Then I said
Can you go somewhere private so no one can hear you?
She did.  Then I said
So this is weird and I'm sure it's a mistake- but Malcolm's DNA came back and it says he is not my father.
That IS weird.
Do you think that John could be my father?
No.  I was already pregnant when we met.
When was that?
I think October?

If that timeline was correct- John could not be my father.  Although it did occur to me that perhaps Lynn had thought she was pregnant- or had become pregnant and unknowingly miscarried, then became pregnant again, fairly quickly, by John.  Of course, that would have meant that I was a couple of months premature- and there was no evidence of that from my hospital records.  Then I decided to just put it out there- and asked Lynn if she thought that there could be another option.  Perhaps there was a "secret" that she had kept from the world for fifty years- assuming that there was no way it could be uncovered.  I told her that I knew she was aware that I was writing a blog and was perhaps afraid that I would "out" her if she disclosed the nature of said information.  I assured her that if she could relieve herself of this burden, that I would cease writing my story and keep that secret to myself.  After all- the only person that genuinely needs such information is me.  In finally coming clean- we could both move on with our lives and I could explore the truth-privately.
She was steadfast in her original claim.  Nope.  No way.  There was never anyone else. Nobody.

That was good enough for me.  As I've said before- Lynn had always been straightforward with me.  Though her memories had always been a little foggy- and often not accurate- she appeared to be genuinely bewildered (though a little complacent) at the results.
I ended the call telling her that I would talk to her after I had talked to the testing company.  I was even more sure that it was just a mistake and things would make sense after talking to 23andMe.

Appointed with Lynn's assurance that it just couldn't be true- I went back to my records of the Campbell family.  I had acquired loads of documents and photographs over the past few months.  The resemblance to my "grandmother" was striking and did not go unnoticed by others.  We shared hooded eyes and a ready smile.  I can't see me in Malcolm- he is tall and has dark brown eyes (mine are green)- but in contrast with Lynn- his personality makes perfect sense.  While Lynn is understated and reserved, Malcolm is loud and attention grabbing.  Though I have never felt a "connection" to him, I believed that much of my personality was formed as a direct result of his DNA.  My search had been over. I should have the freedom to research both sides of my tree- and this little hiccup- though irritating- would soon be amended.
Malcolm's mother, Arline

Monday morning I started calling the 23andMe Customer service number.  The "waiting" message told me that they were experiencing higher than normal activity- and instead of allowing me to hold, I was instructed to "call back later. Click."  This was not helping my frayed nerves- though I was bolstered by the thought that the reason they were so backed up must be because of the messed up batch- and I was not the only one experiencing this angst...
By early afternoon I finally got through to a customer service representative.  I attempted to calmly relay my story to her and insist that there must be some sort of mistake.  She was patient and seemed to be armed with the language to use when such a situation occurs.  She told me that 23andMe stands by it's results, they had no reason to believe there had been any kind of lab mixup- but, as a courtesy, they would be happy to send a new test to the original recipient and pay the testing costs and postage. I was happy to hear that she was willing to help- but unnerved by her confidence that mistakes like this don't happen in their lab.  She told me that providing their customers with accurate data was their number one priority.
The representative arranged for the new test to be sent out asap and assured me that an open line of communication would be established by e-mail throughout this process.
The same day I purchased another test and sent it to my sister, Serena.  The best way to control my perception of the results was to have her results on hand.  If she matched me and not Malcolm, then I could conclude that his original results were incorrect. But, if she matched him- and not me- then they were correct. I was relieved to have an ally in Serena.  We had gotten quite close over the past months and I knew that I could count on her help in any way possible.  Also, I had the added comfort of knowing that if Malcolm decided to stop complying (given the nature of our last conversation in Australia) I could at least have Serena to test against me.
It turns out that my concerns about Malcolm were unfounded.  I had been worried that he might refuse to talk to me the next time I called- but he was more than willing to help out when I told him that the results had come back as "inconclusive" and they needed another sample.  This would be his third time giving a sample- and hopefully the last.
In the meantime I sent an extra Ancestry DNA test I had laying around the house to Lynn and John.  John had agreed to test-on the off chance that Malcolm's next results were the same as the last.  This way I was covering all of my bases- and I would hopefully have all of my answers within the next six to eight weeks.  Discovering that John could actually be my father put a whole new narrative on the story.  It would mean that he and Lynn had given up their mutual child and gotten married just a couple of months later.  While I wouldn't blame them for such an error- I would imagine that it might be difficult for them to reconcile at first.  It would also mean that my original family was still intact.  I would have three full siblings.  It occurred to me that John being my father would actually make more physical sense than Malcolm.  He is shorter than Lynn (was actually a jockey in Ireland) and has light eyes- were actually green when he was younger.  Then I remembered how surprised I had been when my initial Ancestry DNA estimate said that I was 44% Irish.

To pass the next few weeks of anguish I began to research Johns family genealogy.  I figured it would be good practice-and I would be one step ahead in my research if the results came back that he was my father.