My paternal search

It is many years now since I started my project – 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. By the time I decided to find out who this Paul Thomas was, anyone who could have helped me had all passed away.

In time Y-DNA testing proved that Paul Thomas was not my father but in fact Leonard or one of his 4 brothers is.   Looking back, I find it hard to believe but it doesn’t matter whether Leonard or one of his brothers is my father – I now know who my paternal grandparents were.

I appreciate and understand those who always thought that Paul Thomas was a smokescreen, and that my mother felt that she needed to tell me that Leonard wasn’t my father but was too ashamed to tell me who was and therefore concocted an elaborate story to put me off the scent.

I also appreciate the thoughts sent to me by the genealogist Angie Bush who has been very kindly assisting me in my search:

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.

But………. I still have so much reliable evidence that suggests there was another person, and whether he was Paul Thomas or someone else…………..

…………..and I am not being unkind to my mother when I say that I doubt she was capable of dreaming up such a farfetched story.

What has left me completely perplexed is the fact that not only did my mother tell me that Leonard wasn’t my father, Leonard himself told me the last time we spoke when I was 17.

One of my goals in my paternal search was to have a valid name above my own name on my paternal family tree. I now believe that I have that.  For the time being I have put Leonard and his siblings’ parents in my paternal grandparent’s box and worked the family tree back from there.

For those interested in the deeper aspects of DNA research, I initially thought that when I first saw the DNA results for my half-brothers, that maybe Leonard was my father after all. But an expert who was helping me assured me he wasn’t and wrote the following as a case study for a 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???

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 the supper meeting by raising their glasses and proposing a toast to me.

I can’t consign Paul Thomas to the waste paper basket just yet and I am not going to actively continue looking for him but something is nagging me to suggest that there may just be a connection between Thomas and Cummings but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Have a look at my “Conundrum” page!


As I said on my “Conundrum” page, one of my better Y-DNA matches is a John Bartels whose grandfather was Cornelius Joseph Cummins but he never married John Bartels’ grandmother, Mary Ann Bartels. John Bartels and I have both done the FTDNA Y-DNA and Family Finder (FF) tests.

I match John Bartels 36/37 and 65/67 on the Y-DNA test. On the Family Finder test, I have 264 matches and John Bartels has 232 matches. There is only one name that appears on both lists and that is a guy in America whose name – incredibly – just happens to be Paul Thomas. Now this Paul Thomas is younger than me so clearly couldn’t be my father.  And unfortunately he does not have much information about his paternal grandfather.

I put this conundrum to Angie Bush and of course she had an answer!

I think the cosmos is playing tricks on you throwing Paul Thomas into the mix of all of this! There is no other reason for that name to show up other than pure coincidence.

A yDNA test and an autosomal DNA test are very different types of tests. Most of the time if you have a connection through yDNA, unless you are a 3rd or 4th cousin (or closer) to that yDNA match, the yDNA match will not show up in a Family Finder/autosomal DNA test. Once you are at a 5th cousin level with another person there is less than a 10% chance of that match showing up in an autosomal test. However. yDNA tests do allow you to look at ancestors who are further back in your family tree – say 8-20 generations.  We can determine these relationships on a direct paternal line with a fair degree of accuracy. Autosomal tests are better/best for proving and disproving closer relationships, such as siblings, 1st or 2nd cousins, aunts/uncles, etc.

It is a pretty distant relationship that is predicted for both you and John Bartels to Paul Thomas – so he is not your father. This Paul Thomas likely has a common ancestor on the Cummings side of your tree, as this is where you and John Bartels connect. That is all we can conclude from these results – that and that the cosmos likes to play tricks on you.

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 the 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 (there’s that name again!) 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.  I have also decided to help John Bartels in finding out more about his grandfather to find the common ancestor that we share.

John Cummings
Anglesea, Australia

Last updated 4 April 2015