Most people take DNAs test to discover what their ethnic origins are, to construct family trees, or to learn about a potential distant relative. However, the most interesting thing about DNA records is that they often provide more information than originally expected.
Even after you take the test, your results are updated when other relatives submit their DNA, a process that can continue for many years. When one journalist took a DNA test to learn more about his background, it never occurred to him what he would actually unearth. He wound up unlocking a family bombshell “completely by accident.”
Suggested Taking A DNA Test
When Whit Johnson’s mother suggested he take a DNA test, it was simply for him to learn more about his ethnic, regional and national background. Johnson’s dad was adopted in 1950 in Salt Lake City, so they knew very little about his biological family.
Johnson was always curious who his dad’s biological family was, but his dad, on the other hand, never wanted to know. Being that his father’s adoptive parents were so important to him, he didn’t want to risk offending them in any way, so he never pursued looking.
Curiosity Kicked In
Johnson, a journalist, explained to ABC News that when his parents divorced years ago, his mother’s curiosity about learning his background grew. While sitting around the kitchen table with his wife and mother, the latter revealed that she bought him a DNA test.
Purchased from 23andMe, Johnson was reluctant to take it until both his wife and mother convinced him of why he should. “My mom,” Johnson explained, “literally walked out with the test tube and said, ‘All you have to do is spit in this. We’ll fill out the online profile together, and then you wait for the results.’” It was an offer he couldn’t refuse.
He described taking the spit test right then and there, and afterward his mom filled out his profile details. Johnson went home and forgot all about it until he received the results one month later. He figured that the most he would learn is which variation of British, Irish and Scottish he was.
Reviewing His Profile
Being completely unfamiliar with the process, an email to Johnson from 23andMe read, “We have your results.” Then, he simply clicked the email and reviewed his profile and discovered some interesting things. They were facts pertaining to his background and ethnicity.
Learning His Background
Most of what he viewed were things he already knew since his mother previously submitted her own DNA to the site. He saw how his background was mainly from Western Europe, but the results showed that he was Basque Spanish, with a small percentage of Native American.
His Dad’s Family
Johnson figured this must be where his dad’s side of the family originated from but thought nothing more of it. That was until he found a tab on the website that said, “Your DNA Relatives.” Of course, he couldn’t help but click it, and when he did, a bunch of distant relatives popped up, including third, fourth and fifth cousins. Then, he opened another section that read, “Your Immediate Family.”
That’s when Johnson lost it. “I clicked on that, assuming I would only find my mother because she put her profile in, and a warning pops up on the website that said, ‘Warning: You may not know everything that is in here,’” he said. Basically, it was a warning that he may see something that he wasn’t prepared to see.
A Striking Similarity
However, Johnson wasn’t afraid, and after he clicked on a photo of a potential first cousin, he was blown away. “I didn’t even look at the name. The picture blew my mind. My jaw dropped. I fell back into my chair, and I had to turn away from the computer for a moment and just think about this for a second because I saw a picture of a man who looks exactly like my dad,” he explained.
Discovering His Dad’s Brother
This man turned out to be his dad’s brother. Johnson started thinking how he would even contact this person or talk to his dad about it. “How do I figure out the story?” he wondered. Little did he know that the same time he made this discovery, his father decided he wanted to learn about his biological mother and he started doing his own research online, and began taking DNA tests and discovering family trees.
Telling His Dad
But, despite his efforts, Johnson’s dad didn’t find anything. He thought about how he could approach this conversation with his father, so he called his mom and wife for help. He decided to write an email to his stepmother, who happened to be with his dad that day. Johnson wrote that he may have found someone “very related” to his dad.
Connecting With His Uncle
His stepmom replied, “Oh my God. Yes, dad wants to know. We’ll call you later.” In the meantime, Johnson reached out to the man resembling his father on the website and received a message back. The man wrote, “Huh, I’ve been exploring all these DNA websites for years and never saw a relative this close. Tell me your story.”
It All Happened So Fast
Johnson wrote back explaining his dad’s background and saying that he was looking at their genetic markers. Then, the man named Bear responded, saying, “I think I’m your dad’s brother.” After they went back and forth in messages, Johnson’s father called and asked, “Whit, what’s going on?”
An Emotional Day
Since this discovery happened just a few hours prior, everyone was emotional. Johnson’s dad was in tears, and by the end of the day, the two brothers were exchanging emails. They decided they were going to meet in Utah, where Bear lived. It turned out that Bear even remembered watching Johnson on TV many years before.
“My dad’s brother lives in Utah, where I actually worked as a reporter several years back and learned that, for years, my uncle watched me on TV as an anchor and reporter in Salt Lake City, having no idea that I was his nephew.” At their first meeting, Bear and Whit’s dad started hugging as if they had known each other for years…
They Bonded Immediately
Bear said, “It’s crazy, it’s like looking in the mirror. How are you brother?” Soon, the newly discovered brothers started looking at other legal records and documents and they found that they had another brother. Now, there were three brothers and they could tell by the genetic profiles that there were three fathers but the same mother.
The Three Brothers
They decided to set up another meeting with all the brothers. The oldest brother, “Uncle Jerry,” who lives in Wyoming, drove down from Wyoming to Salt Lake City, and everyone met in a hotel there. With a smile across his face, Jerry said to his brothers, “It’s overwhelming…You guys look familiar.” Jerry even brought a bunch a photographs to talk about the background of the family…
Learning His Mother’s Name
Whit’s dad wound up learning his mother’s name and he even saw a picture of her. “With every step in the process, it was like a new wave of emotions,” Whit said. It meant so much to his father, as for years, he was reluctant to go on this journey.
Despite knowing that there are at least three fathers in the mix, the family hasn’t yet been able to connect them through public records. Whit says, “Walking through this process with my dad has been a great life gift for the both of us. And there are many more twists and turns and mysteries and secrets to unlock still ahead. Who knows where it goes from here.”