This is the third in a series of posts telling this tale as it unfolds. Since the case involves living people, identities will not be disclosed unless and until all parties have agreed to publication. You may have guessed this by the made-up names I’m using, but just in case…
Esmerelda had no identifiable matches on her father’s side, and closely matched an unknown person, Match 1, on Ancestry. Esmerelda and Match 1 shared 383 total cM– statistically somewhere in the first cousin once removed/second cousin range. The family tree Match 1 uploaded contained just four names and no maternal information. However, traditional research expanded the paternal side and helped identify the common ancestors of other, more distant shared matches between Esmerelda and Match 1.
To this point, the tale has been told in mostly chronological fashion. However, research is not linear. Match 1’s tree had been roughed out once the match first appeared, but sat idle for essentially two years. Somewhere in that span, the first of two paternal relatives tested and didn’t match Esmerelda. She didn’t match that person, but she did closely match Match 1. At least one of these three people had a different biological family than they thought, but there wasn’t enough evidence yet to reach any conclusions.
In the past few months, two more test results became available. The first was another paternal relative that should match Esmerelda and didn’t. Her two paternal relatives matched each other, but not Esmerelda. It’s at this point that research bias introduced itself. Esmerelda’s family couldn’t be the one holding the secret, right? For a few wasted weeks, research continued using that faulty premise. And then, the sudden realization of what that extremely close unknown match probably meant sunk in. Red flags, alarm bells, whatever cliché you want use, there were only two possibilities: Esmerelda’s biological grandfather was someone other than the one she had known, or the man that had raised Esmerelda as his own was not her father.
The second test result, Match 2, appeared shortly later as a second cousin to Esmerelda, and a shared match with Match 1. Esmerelda and Match 2 shared 287 total cM. Match 2 had no family tree posted and didn’t respond to messages. What was the relationship between Match 1 and Match 2? The screen name for Match 1 was of no help in determining her actual identity. Match 2, however, was clearly a real name which helped to figure out how he his relationship to Match 1. A collateral relative’s obituary did not specifically name Match 2, but it did identify a person who was either his mother or grandmother. She was a daughter of Harold Copperfield and Donna McEnroe, making Match 1 and Match 2 either first cousins or first cousins once removed.
While there was still a remote chance that Esmerelda’s father (on paper) could be the secret, non-DNA evidence suggested otherwise. Geography also helped rule out her father. When Esmerelda’s father was born, his family was nowhere near that of Match 1 or Match 2. The families did not live in close proximity until many years later. Also, the DNA evidence is difficult to interpret any other way.
Quite simply, Esmerelda’s biological father is not the man who raised her as his daughter. But if he was not her father, who was? Match 1 and Match 2 came from families that lived in the general area where Esmerelda’s parents were both raised, but her parents had moved to another state by the time Esmerelda was born. Her mother obviously had to have had physical contact with the man who would father her daughter. But where? How? And of course, who?
All the more distant, common identifiable matches shared by Esmerelda, Match 1, and Match 2 were on the McEnroe side. Therefore, research focused on the immediate family of Donna McEnroe. Donna had ten siblings, seven of which were sons. There was plenty of work to do.
Next: McEnroe research reveals an unexpected geographical connection and the list of potential candidates narrows.