Tag Archives: paternity fraud

I AM A FERGUSON

Ferguson

My arduous 25 year quest to find my father is over at last. I am a Ferguson. I have four sisters, plus 12 or 13 nieces and nephews. I am elated, reeling from these recent developments and working hard to assimilate the news. It proves my theory that the truth always surfaces, like a law of nature and no matter how long it may take.

In 1992 my mother Corona blurted out on her death bed, “Danny is not your father.” I dismissed it as she was suffering from dementia, weaving in and out of lucidity. Most unnerving, but her declaration slowly sunk in and began to make sense, explain many things, like a certain tension between my mother and Danny’s family and people often asking if I was adopted. I do not resemble my mother nor my two younger sisters and certainly not my alleged father. I believe that’s the legal term. These days it’s called paternity fraud. Those questions, that scrutiny must have panicked my mother, that is, if she knowingly lied. I have a feeling, knowing capable-of-delusion Corona that she’d convinced herself Danny-the man she married, the man who raised me-was my father, though I can only speculate. I suspect she had every intention of taking the secret to her grave.

My biological father is 87. We don’t have much opportunity for a relationship at this late date but with no name or leads I had given up hope of ever finding him and certainly didn’t expect him to be alive. It would be lovely if I’ve inherited his longevity genes along with his red hair.

It’s all so bittersweet and I wince every time I hear what a great guy he is. Danny was a decent fellow but cold, remote and often surly. He did instil in me an affinity with nature. I think the only time he was happy was when he was in his element, in the woods with us hunting, fishing, hiking. Danny was a feminist, didn’t condescend or expect us to be ladies. He worked us hard-mowing lawns, chopping and stacking wood-while encouraging my sisters and I to be strong and competent. We had to be.

I asked Danny to take a DNA test. He consented and the results ruled him out as my biological father. He was shocked and said, “I never would have married her if I’d known,” which rather stung but I understood his feelings. Corona betrayed both of us. All of us.

Over the ensuing years I made several trips to Matapedia to interview Mom’s remaining relatives. No one could recall who she may have been dating way back when. I found no answers, not even one tiny clue.

I gave birth to my son in 1994 and though focused on child rearing was determined for his sake as well as mine to uncover our genetic makeup though I had no idea how. Eventually I registered my DNA through Family Tree DNA, which provided more distractions than answers. I didn’t have the time or finesse to pursue resulting genealogical matches. Then about a year ago I signed up for a new program called Family Finder and discovered Amy, a cousin, who happens to be a professional genealogist. She put my profile up at GedMatch which identified Valerie as my first cousin. Then we found another first cousin, Kathy. Valerie had been adopted but knew the name of her father who turned out to be my uncle. One of my father’s daughters kindly took a DNA test which after an excruciating wait revealed her to be my half-sister. Hallelujah!

It occurs to me that dear old Ma effectively deprived us of the Beliveaus and Haleys as well. I might have been bilingual but she became entirely assimilated after moving west. Growing up, my sisters and I were isolated. Dad had one brother who lived on Vancouver Island hence there were no cousins around, aside from an occasional visit. We moved nearly every two years, in and around Winnipeg until I was ten, then spent two years in the Kooteneys because the Plymouth station wagon broke down at the top of Rogers Pass and Dad had to get a job in order to pay the motel room and wound up working on the Duncan dam as a welder. We finally settled in the Fraser Valley when I was twelve.

My parents were miserable together. I will spare you the gory details but our home life was harrowing, rife with neglect and abuse. My parents did not belong together, could not provide their children with stability or security.

There is much discussion around Corona’s motivations. Perhaps she wanted to leave small town Quebec, the past. I know she’d endured a terrible upbringing. And being Catholic, no doubt there was enormous pressure not to bear a child out of wedlock, though her mother first suggested an abortion. I wrote a poem about it, Where Sins Are More Sinful. “Sins are more sinful when the whole town knows.” In any case,  surely Corona had her reasons but there’s not much point dwelling on that along with what might have been.

I was appalled when someone once asked, “Why do you care?” “Likely the same reason you do.” Of course I want to know. No one asks to be born, we are entitled to our heritage. Close proximity to our roots facilitates establishing one’s identity which surely anchors us through life’s tempests. I never had that sense for it turns out  I was a changeling. Foisted.

My son and I are flying out to Toronto in January to meet the clan.  The Fergusons have only been kind, warm and welcoming, another huge relief.

I find it poignant and fitting that a bee rests atop a thistle in the Ferguson family crest, that we are, “Sweeter After Difficulties.”

 

Who’s Your Daddy? The latest from the geneological front

whosyourdaddy2

All right! Received my Family Finder test kit in the mail today. Results will match me with both maternal and paternal relatives. Perhaps I finally have a chance of tracking down the scoundrel that spawned me, or at least, some of his kin. My kin.

I’ve been on this quest for years, ever since my mother blurted out on her death bed, “Danny is not your real father you know.” I paid no attention as she was suffering from dementia, sliding in and out of lucidity, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. I pressed but could not get an answer. After she died, my “alleged father,” apparently the correct legal term, agreed to a DNA test which proved that he is not my biological father. My shock had worn off by then but he was and the first words out of his mouth were, “I never would have married her if I’d known,” which took me aback and I’m not sure why. She did lie, though I have a feeling that knowing my mother, she deluded herself into believing that of the possibilities, Danny was the father. The chosen. Poor guy. Poor me. Looking back I see what an awkward pairing it was.

These days it’s called paternity fraud. I imagine that in small-town Quebec there were few fates worse than unwed mother. Or, bastard. So Corona she did what she had to do. I went to Matapedia several times to talk to her family but none of them could remember anything, or anyone she might have been dating. It was so long ago. I believe she had every intention of taking the secret to her grave.

In any case, I’ve been working with an outfit called Family Tree DNA who claim to have the most comprehensive ancestry database in the world. I will swab my cheek today and return the envelope. Some detective work will be required but I have to admit, I’m excited! Plus, feeling optimistic, hopeful that the mystery of my paternity can be solved at last. We’re on our way, as the result directly impacts my son as well.

Watch out Papa, this intrepid redhead is coming for you.

WHO’S YOUR DADDY?

I wish someone could tell me. Let’s talk paternity fraud, a term that didn’t exist when I was born. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to find my biological father. Or try to. “Does he even know I exist?” I asked dear old Ma after she’d blurted out on her death bed that my father, the only father I’d ever known, was not my “real” father. Shocked naturally, I didn’t believe her at first, but it explained so much! Why people often asked if I was adopted. Why I felt no kinship to my father’s side of the family, the Daneliuks, or the “Danefucks”, as our schoolyard tormenters called us. Why I took my mother’s maiden name. It explained the bouts of estrangement between my sisters and I, my half-sisters. We’d always been so different, what little common ground we shared divided in two. Why Grandma Daneliuk favored my sisters. She must have harboured suspicions. Why I always felt like a freak!

I asked my *alleged father*. Equally shocked, he could provide no information, but sympathetic, took a DNA test at my request. The results excluded him, “as the biological father of Heather Haley.” First thing out of his mouth; “I’d never have married her if I’d known.” Thanks Dad. Poor Dad. By lying on my birth certificate, my mother had betrayed both of us. All of us, biological father deprived of any relationship with his daughter. I was stunned by my sister’s reaction, intense sibling rivalry. “Ha! That means I’m the oldest.” Neither could she understand my dismay, why I should care. She should know me better. I must always know the truth. Besides, I have a child and our health to consider. Ironic too, that fascinated by crime, intrigue and mystery, I wind up saddled with huge one, seemingly impossible to crack. I’m running out of time with everyone, including me, getting older. I’ve questioned my mother’s surviving relatives, all claiming to know nothing, though I wasn’t spared gossip. Apparently, Ma liked to have fun, often driving down from her home in Matapédia, Quebec to the CFB base in Chatham, New Brunswick to attend parties. Maybe bio-dad was stationed there, serving in the Air Force. I’d consult with a private investigator if I could afford to. Though I could go mad speculating, the writer in me can’t help imagining. I’ve developed a theory; she couldn’t tell me, didn’t know his name. Maybe it was a one-night stand. Maybe she was raped. She did describe such a scene to me once. Catholic, rural, Great Darkness-Duplessis Orphans era Quebec was not a good place to be knocked up. Ashamed, desperate to be married, her child legitimate, she lied. This is the real kicker; wed or not, knowing people would do the math, my grandmother tried to coerce her into an abortion.  Sins are more sinful when the whole town knows.

I’ve been advised by someone who does understand how much this means to me that generalized ancestor DNA testing can provide valuable insights, give me an idea of bio-dad’s racial, genetic back ground. Family Tree testing provides email addresses of people who share your DNA and wish to be connected. My only other hope is to visit the relevant villages back east and start asking a lot of hard and persistent questions, if I can find people willing to talk. Of course any such information can be extremely unreliable and vexatious. I will try to arrange a trip out there in the not-too-distant future. Hey, I could make a documentary. We shall see. I still hope there is some way to solve the mystery.

I envy adoptees and sperm donor babies; they have legal recourse. Clues. In 2010, a woman named Olivia Pratten mounted a lawsuit against the provincial government, the first of its kind in Canada. It sought to amend the B.C. Adoption Act requiring physicians keep permanent records of all egg, sperm or embryo donors and allow offspring to access those records when they turn 19. Not having the right relegates Pratten to “second-class citizen status and represents the province’s wholesale abandonment of equality rights,” according to her lawyer, Joseph Arvay, a veteran constitutional attorney. Indeed. It’s a fundamental right to know our origins. Arvay cited a passage from Roots, stating “that in all of us, there is a hunger—marrow deep—to know our heritage, to know who are and where we came from. Without it, one is left with a disquieting loneliness.” Try and explain that to my sister and long-dead mother, whom I still miss. I think she had every intention of taking the secret to her grave, but dementia prevented that. Ah, family secrets, all too common and often entwined with abuse and domestic violence.

Though it’s not in my nature, perhaps I should just give up. Let it go. I’m torn. Still wondering. Thanks Ma.

And neither can the poet in me help but imagine:

PRINCESS NUT

If I could have been inside
the hollow tree that night
I would have seen his face.
I would know his face. His body,

spiced with sweat salt and tobacco.
My father. Forbidden topic.
Fugitive. Alien, though earthly
as a cyclone to my mother, clinging

from an oak as he pried her limbs apart.
I would have heard howling, watched
his head rearing back. Full lips, gappy grin
revealed. Full lips, gappy grin like mine.

I would have seen the twigs
and russet leaves stuck to their thighs.
I could have picked up
the knife. Saved my mother.

I would know, what is his,
what is mine. I would know
he’s the smooth nut in a rough cup,
I, one of many acorns.