My paternal search

It is many years now since I started looking for my biological father. Not long before my mother died, she wrote to me saying that the man I grew up believing to be my father – Leonard Cummings – was not my father and that my father’s name was Paul Thomas.  Leonard himself told me I wasn’t his son the last time he spoke to me.

At the time it didn’t concern me but when I eventually decided to find out who this Paul Thomas was, anyone who could have helped me had passed away.

I spent many years searching for this elusive Paul Thomas to no avail.  I eventually managed to persuade one of my “younger brothers” to take a DNA test, one that I was certain was Leonard’s son.  When his results came back, it proved that Paul Thomas was a smokescreen but I was totally confused – it seemed that Leonard was my biological father after all.

I asked the genealogist Angie Bush what she thought of my results and after conferring with a couple of other reputable genealogists, including Karin Corbeil, she determined that my father was either Leonard or one of his brothers.  This is what she said:

Given the elaborate story your mother told and other evidence, I (like you) also believe that there was probably another person that your mom had a relationship with and really cared about. There are too many things that point to this being the case. Whether that person was Paul Thomas or one of Leonard’s brothers, I don’t know. Like I mentioned, becoming pregnant directly after a miscarriage is somewhat common. I would bet money that your mother always believed that you were Paul Thomas’s son.  I would even believe that you were actually born in March, too. I know for myself (even being well-educated and older) when I had my first child that there were things I didn’t calculate correctly as far as dates went. I can only imagine that being young, in the middle of a war, etc. made things difficult for your mother, and that being embarrassed about the pregnancy may have caused some miscalculations, etc. Maybe it was easiest for her to believe that you were Paul’s child, as it sounds like he was an important person in her life. Maybe it made getting through the war a bit easier to believe that she had a piece of him with her? Our minds do strange things in order to protect us from difficult realities. The comment from your grandmother about your mother “picking” the wrong person says to me that she must have been seeing Paul and Leonard relatively close to the same time.

There was no Paul Thomas – he was Kenneth Cummings, Leonard’s younger brother.  Further discussion by these experts confirmed that one of Leonard’s brothers was my father.  Karin Corbeil who is a key player in the www.dnaadoption.com group, looked more deeply in to this scenario.  Here is what she wrote and put up on the group:

John was looking for a specific person who he thought was his father. Not until he had a half sibling test did we get the surprise of our lives. His half-sibling appeared to be a FULL sibling and it really made us question it. I called in some of the big guns in genetic genealogy to further look at the results and we did an ROH comparison (Runs of Homozygosity) which is a comparison of FIR and HIRs (Fully identical regions vs. Half identical regions). Full siblings will have a relatively large % of FIRs. John and his sibling showed less than usual. At that time I had never seen or dealt with what we refer to as a 3/4 sibling. I have seen a few others since.

A 3/4 sibling is a half sibling PLUS a 1st cousin. John’s father was the brother of the father of his half-sibling. Who knew???

Leonard had one older brother and three younger brothers.  At the time of my conception, Leonard and my mother were living in Reading, Berkshire.  His older brother was living in Bristol, Gloucestershire, one of his younger brothers was living in Croydon, Surrey and another in Barnstaple, Devon.  None of these brothers came to Reading.  His youngest brother Kenneth shared a house with Leonard in Reading.  Kenneth married late as he went into the Army after the war ended and he never had any children that I know of with his wife Lily.  But Leonard’s other brothers all married and had children.  I have managed to get one child from each of these brothers to test and all were returned as confirmed 1st cousins.

I have further evidence that I don’t need to share here that confirms that Kenneth Cummings was my father.

These past several years have not been a waste of my time. I have learned so much about myself and my family although not all was welcome news. I have also enjoyed learning about the mysterious world of DNA and accept that many experts say that DNA doesn’t lie. But it is still in my humble opinion a science that is in its infancy and DNA testing has a long way to go before it can seriously claim to be 100% accurate.

I have also enjoyed the many friendships I have made with members of several extended Thomas families, many of whom were barracking for me to find a match, and regret that none of them delivered for me! I was moved to tears when I received an email from a particular Thomas family member informing me of a meeting that had taken place between several extended family members, people who were not aware of each other’s existence until I started searching their extended family looking for my elusive father, and they finished their supper meeting by raising their glasses and proposing a toast to me.

I am naturally inquisitive and like to know the answers to questions that interest me.  I have sufficient SOLID evidence collected over the years that tell me a lot about where I came from but not everything.

Clearly I share common ancestry with the following families:

Cummings, O’Gara, O’Hara, O’May, May, McAlister, McKeon, Bartels (Cummins) plus a number of others.

I am confident that my genetic origins are in or around Tobercurry in County Sligo with links to County Antrim in Ireland.  I am confident I have the O’Gara/O’Hara genetic marker but it has come down through the McAlister line. The O’Gara/O’Hara marker is from Sligo but some O’Haras went to Antrim which is where McAlister came from.

Somewhere along the way there was a marriage, or liaison, or non-paternity event with a Cummings.

I have information from a May family member in England who is noticeable in my Y-DNA matches list.  He has traced his family back to Knocknageeha which is in County Sligo not far from Tobercurry.

I also have information from a McKeon in America who is also noticeable in my Y-DNA matches list and he has a possible link to Sligo and Leitrim.

At the moment my Cummings family tree goes back to a Thomas Cummings born circa 1779 in Dublin possibly married to a Mary Dwyer.

My goal now is to see if I can fill in some of the blanks between Thomas Cummings (circa 1779) and the O’Gara/O’Hara families way back when.

John Cummings
Anglesea, Australia

Last updated July 2018