AncestryDNA, 23andME, Donor Sibling Registry, and Facebook.

When I ordered my AncestryDNA test I originally just had one query: what part of the world am I from? I knew my mom’s side was British AF. But since I was the product of a sperm donor, my paternal side was still an unknown. I figured it was from some European country or something like that but I wanted to know more. After I ordered the test I called my older sister and let her know what I had done and why because I thought she’s like to know. Coincidentally, she had the same idea and ordered the same test through AncestryDNA two days prior without telling me. My first reaction was “what the fuck, when were you gonna tell me?” and “don’t you think I would like to know stuff like that since we share the same DNA?”. Her response was simply “oh, sorry”. Jackass.  

When my sisters results got back she discovered she was only 61% Great Britain, 16% Scandinavia, 11% Europe West, 8% Ireland and 3% other. I was naturally excited to see how diverse as caucasian people we could be and wondered if my results would be any different. Once I downloaded the AncestryDNA app and the results showed up I was excited and curious as I’ve ever been. The first thing to show up was my Genetic Ancestry and major ethnicity regions I come from. Of course Great Britain showed up as 70%, but I was surprised to see Europe West at 15% and even Ireland at 7%. Dude, I am super white. Scandinavia only showed up at 2% whereas hers came in at 16%. What the hell? Than it clicked in me. We might have different sperm donors when all this time I thought we had the same. That was the first shock.

Then I saw Matches.  I touched it and it displayed all the people who have taken this test who I might share the same genetic information with. The first person in Close Family –  1st cousins was obviously my older sister; but then I scrolled down and saw three more people in the same range as my sister and the only thing I could think of was “what the fuck? How?”. Ohhhhhhhh. Sperm donor was busy. Right under my sister was a mans name but no picture that we’ll call Ethan, a girl’s name and her picture who I’ll call Denise and some weird email-looking username that also happened to be a girl. Do I have half-brothers and sisters out there? I scrolled even further down to 2nd cousins and saw two of my moms first cousins on there. That makes sense. But who are these three people who could be my siblings? Since Denise was the only one who had a picture and a full name I decided to search her out first. Where else but Facebook. After a few days of searching for her name and variations of it I finally came across her profile with the same picture she used on the App. It was her. Excited, I showed my wife and we went over her pictures and everything about her. My wife thought we definitely shared some resemblances in our face and hair. I read a little of what she does and was directed to another website. It seems that she is some kind of super fit, life coach, guru that’s always happy. At least that was my first impression. I was actually impressed. I think everyone could use of those at some point in their lives. So I wrote to her on both the App and on Facebook basically saying “Hi, I think we are somehow related. You came up as a close relative with extremely high confidence. would you like to discuss?”

About nineteen days later she finally responded simply with “Yes!” I immediately wrote back telling her my back story of my parents going to a fertility clinic in the Bay Area in the late 70’s and wondered if her father or uncles donated sperm. She said yes, her “father” was a sperm donor too who also donated in the Bay Area and she just found him a few months ago. Holy shit. She found him? She told me his name, how long he had donated for (15 fucking years he donated), from 1975-1990 and from two clinics. My mind was slowly blowing up like a balloon with all this new info. She also said she found two other half-sister on 23andme and so did he to confirm he’s our “sperm dad”. I was blown away at how nice and cool she was and willing to share all this personal information with me. She recommended I do 23andme as well and that we should have a reunion. I laughed to myself and thought “she must be from California”. Then she told me she spoke to him and he’s super cool. She messaged me his Facebook profile on FB messenger and said that he’s excited to meet his “progeny”. I came to the realization that I was part of something much bigger than my little family and that there could be hundreds of us out there. I clicked on his profile and there he was. I grabbed my wife to tell me what she sees and her only response was “Holy fuck you two look-alike. He’s an older, grayer version of you”. Mind. Blown.

At this point, there was myself, Denise, and my potential brother, Ethan whom I hadn’t written to yet, weird email user-name girl, her two half sisters on 23andme, and our donor’s two grown sons from his first marriage. My mind was reeling. I have a whole other half family out there with so many answers. I told her a little more about myself and where I am currently living (at a naval base in southern Maryland). She responded with “OMGGGG, he lives in northern Maryland, just north of D.C. I mapped out his city and it was only an hour and a half away. All those question marks that once filled my very being and my conscience were quickly being deleted and filled with answers.

She told me a little more about him. Where he was from, what he did, how he came about being a sperm donor, how much he was paid for each sample, and a lot of other personal particulars about his health, family, and hobbies. One thing that stood out to me was his desire for travel. He had travelled all over Europe and across the U.S. before settling down north of D.C. My mother knew at an early age that I had this explorer-traveler-discoverer side to me that my sister did not and it was she who encourage me to join the Navy. I finally got up the courage to write to him on FB; giving him all my details, including my phone number. You can tell I was eager for this. No more wondering who I was, where all the parts of me came from, or how to fill out those family health questions at the doctor’s office. Barely a day later he called me.

 

 

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“Dad’s Not My Real Dad?”.

In November of 2004, I had just returned home to Pasadena, Ca after spending two years at a naval station in Rota, Spain. I was home alone with my mom one night and she told me to come back to her room, she had something important to tell me. So I sat on her bed and she said it’s time I knew a “deep, dark, family secret”. Ok Mom, you have my attention. She said that when she and my dad got married they desperately wanted to have a family. After months of trying nothing was happening. My mother went in to see a doctor and it turned out that her fallopian tubes were blocked. After a procedure she had them cleared and thought that was that. After months of trying some more, still nothing. Maybe it was my dad. Apparently, if a young man has chickenpox late in his teens or twenties, the increase in body temperature from the virus can have detrimental affects on a mans sperm count. So….. Shit out of luck and no way to have children my parents almost gave up. But they were determined to have a family and something like infertility was not going to get in their way. Luckily, soon after my parents got married in Santa Barbara, Ca they moved up to San Francisco and found a nice little apartment in the Haight-Ashbury district right across the street from Golden Gate Park. Within that progressive city they found a fertility clinic that had donor sperm for people just in my parents predicament. Sometime in early 1975 my mother went to a clinic in the Bay Area and had my sister implanted. She was born Oct, 1975. A few years later, my mom went back to the same facility, not really paying attention to the name of the place, only that it was somewhere in downtown Frisco, and had me implanted. I was eventually born May 1979. My mother never knew who the donors were, nor cared. Sure, she cared that the donors description was similar to my dads, but that’s it. She and my dad had their family and that’s all they cared about. Fast forward twenty-five years.

My first thought after hearing all this was “dad’s not my real dad?” and a feeling of I sort of always knew, like Leia always had a feeling Luke was her brother. It made so much sense now why I looked nothing like my dad. I didn’t have his hair, his complexion, his build, or a lot of other little things. Why was he three inches taller than me but my feet were a sixe and a half bigger? I had so many mixed emotions flooding through me that I walked outside to get some fresh air and digest it all. With so many thoughts going through my head I had to tell someone. The only close friend I had at the time was my drinking-buddy’s wife from my time in Spain. Not prepared to go into that backstory at the moment, but she was the only one I trusted to vent to. The moment I told her my moms story and speaking the words “my dad isn’t my real dad”, it became real. I fell to my knees in front of my house and cried like a baby. Gone was this ever so simple and plain family I knew all my life; this bubble of a family I had in my head where I thought I knew everything. It felt like half my very being was just deleted and filled with question marks. Now what? Where do I go from here? After a few months I got over it and continued to look at my dad as I always had. My dad. Only problem was my mom didn’t want my dad to know we knew. She thought it would devastate his self esteem and already fragile confidence. My dad had been misdiagnosed with depression much of his life that was eventually diagnosed as bipolar disorder when he was 68, and had bouts with alcoholism and mixing alcohol with anti-depressants which had cost him many jobs over the years. I hated keeping this secret from him but I conceded that it was my parents secret to keep and no one else outside our immediate family knew. After awhile things went back to normal and I went about my days with this major piece of information sitting in the back of my head. As the years went by I fell in love with my current wife, got married, moved to Hawaii, and had our first child. About two years after our daughter was born we noticed she still wasn’t speaking to where a two year old should be. We just thought she was a slow learner. After we moved to Washington State we had our second child, a son. By this time our daughter was still acting irregularly for a three year old. She still was not speaking complete sentences, she was bouncing off the walls, wouldn’t eat anything we gave her even when she was starving and had trouble with constipation. We were finally seen by a pediatric neurologist when she was three and a half who diagnosed her with autism. My wife immediately broke down. I knew she would automatically blame herself for not living a healthy enough lifestyle while pregnant. She made it her point in life to be as healthy as possible while pregnant. She took all the prenatal vitamins, ate right, and she even did Zumba all the way till her eighth month. She was that one super pregnant lady in the Zumba class doing what ever she could to keep up. But all that didn’t stop the guilty thoughts creeping into her head. Whether it was not exercising enough, drinking the local tap water, or taking anti-depressants  while pregnant, she put the blame on herself. I tried to reassure her that there is still no provable cause to autism, I began to look into the fact in the back of my mind that maybe it isn’t her genes, but mine. Our son was diagnosed at one and a half with autism as well, but now we knew and begun receiving services for both kids in speech, motor control, and cognitive therapy. My daughter is now seven and speaks full sentences and is still a fricken monkey with amazing balance and will someday be on American Ninja Warrior. She still lags behind in spelling and reading but that I’m certain will come along as her speech did. My son is now four and is speaking in short sentences but has no where near the issue his sister had at her age. It wasn’t until their personalities began showing did I start to wonder what I am passing on to them that I don’t even know about myself. There was still this empty space filled with “???????????” on my biological paternal side. So, when tax season of 2017 came around I decided to buy an AncestryDNA test to see at least where, geographically I come from. After about 2 months I got the results back that would change my life forever.

 

Robert Morris and DSDI

When I joined the Navy in ’98 I did my best to stay on the west coast since I’m from Pasadena, Ca. Plus, I had heard all these horror stories about “East Coast Navy” and how cramped and uptight it is. It wasn’t until my last two years in the Navy that I was given a choice of orders: Naval Air Station China Lake, Ca or Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. I talked it over with my wife and she plainly stated “baby, I love you and will follow you anywhere in the world, just not China Lake, or El Centro, or Lemoore, or Fallon, or anywhere in Texas.” Cool. Looks like we’re going to Maryland for my last two years. When I told my parents where we’d be going she suggested I make it up to West Chester, Pa and see her family home. So I put it on my to-do list and thought: why stop there? I decided to start up my Ancestry.com account and traced my roots as far back as I could on both my parents’ sides. When I asked my mother what else she knew about Robert Morris, she only said that her mother got her and her brother and sister lifetime memberships to The Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. Sounded kinda nerdy to me, but ok. I had never heard of it. My mother, nor her siblings had ever been active in it. All they had to show were those fancy certificates hanging in their hallways at my grandmothers house. So I finally decided to do my own research. I simply Googled: “descendants of the signers” and boom, was taken right to http://www.dsdi1776.com/. After looking around the website a little bit (about an hour) I decided to look for Robert Morris. What I found and read about this man astonished me and kinda upset me that no one else had heard of him. His name doesn’t carry the same weight as Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, or Franklin, even though he was best friends and colleagues with every single one of them. I could go on and on about all the things he did for our country but here is the link: http://www.dsdi1776.com/signers-by-state/robert-morris/. To sum up the particulars, he was born in Liverpool, England in 1734 and left England for America in 1748 at the age of 14 and came to Maryland. When Robert’s father died in 1750, he was left alone, without family, at the age of 16, in a new continent. In his twenties he took some of his earnings and joined a few friends in creating the London Coffee House, an institution which the Philadelphia Stock Exchange claims as its origin. In 1769 he married Mary White and had seven children. His fourth child and second eldest daughter, Maria Morris would later wed Henry Nixon and a bunch of horribly British family names would endure. Roberts merchant firm became a stepping stone for him to get heavily involved in the “patriot cause”.  After the war began at Lexington and Concord, Morris’ company brought in weapons and powder for the militia, while his shipping contacts sent him information about English troop movements. So many supplies came into Morris’s wharf that the Congress posted guards there at night. Robert became increasingly active in the patriot cause. He served with Franklin on the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety, and eventually became its chairman. Later, he was elected to the Pennsylvania Assembly, and then to the Second Continental Congress. Robert Morris hoped his work would result in the English backing down from their course, which was clearly against the British constitution. He did not wish to separate from England because he thought Americans were not ready for self-rule and he feared anarchy would result. He was also worried that the colonists were not really prepared for a war with the superpower of the day. He argued for a peaceful resolution, speaking out against independence. Very reminiscent of that scene in The Patriot with Mel Gibson arguing at the town hall in the beginning of the movie for peace. However, Morris was appointed to the Model Treaty Committee following Richard Henry Lee’s resolution for independence on June 7, 1776. This treaty proposed international relations based on free trade, but did not rely on a political alliance. These instructions were taken to Paris by Benjamin Franklin one of Morris’s ships who transformed them into the Treaty of Alliance which made possible the victory at Yorktown in 1781. When the vote for independence was taken on July 2, 1776 Morris left the room so that independence could pass without his dissenting vote. There is some disagreement among scholars whether Morris was present on July 4 when the Declaration of Independence was approved. But when it came time to sign the Declaration on August 2 he did so, recognizing the value of unanimity among the delegates. He said at this time that it was “the duty of every individual to act his part in whatever station his country may call him to in hours of difficulty, danger and distress.” From that moment forward, until peace was achieved in 1783, Morris performed services in support of the war that would earn him the sobriquet of “Financier of the Revolution.” He was so involved in the formation of our country that he was one of only sixteen signers who signed both the Declaration and the Constitution.

This is just half the stuff he had for our country. And frankly I feel kinda bad copying and pasting all this info from the bio, but those were some of the major things he was responsible for. I decided to reach out to the DSDI and see how I could become a member. I was instructed by the Registrar General on how to apply and was directed to a  very lengthy application. When I told him my mothers name and her lifetime membership he basically said yes, we have her and her marriage to my father on file but nothing else. All they would need from me now is my birth certificate tying me to my mother and an annual payment.

One thing that really inspired me to join the DSDI was a commercial I saw around July 4th. It was and Ancestry.com commercial showing some of the other descendants clothed in clothing of the time standing in Independence Hall in Philadelphia.  It wasn’t the thought of “hmmm, that could be me on TV”, it was that I was part of something much larger and deeper in the great history of our nation. I’m still waiting on my birth certificate from my mom. I’m hoping to travel up to Philly next 4th of July for the DSDI Annual Congress at Independence Hall to meet with everyone and possibly sit where he sat and visit his burial site.

One other service Ancestry.com has is something called AncestryDNA. And from what my mother told me when I was 25, I was in for another shock of a lifetime.

 

Who the hell is Robert Morris?

Growing up we always spent our holidays and summer vacations in Santa Barbara at both my grandmothers’ houses. My mothers home was filled with American Revolution memorabilia, paintings, and old looking certificates written in fancy cursive on old parchment paper. One caught my eye which said something along the lines of Descendant of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence and Robert Morris. I asked my mother about it and she said that we are related to signer of the Declaration of Independence through her mother, Ann Wentworth Park Darlington. Oh, cool. His name was Robert Morris. Period. That’s all she told me. So I just assumed he was some random non important guy who happened to be there during the signing and didn’t do much. After that I never really thought much more about it. It’s not like he was a Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, or Hancock. There was no royalty or fame or money to be claimed by this or any other materialistic advantage. It was just a piece of family history I kept to myself that was never worth sharing. Until now.

It wasn’t until early 2017 that I decided to pick up the reins of maintaining my family’s ancestral records and genealogy. I was able to connect the dots from my mother Ellen Nixon Darlington, to her mother, Ann Wentworth Park Darlington, to her mother, Ellen Nixon Park, to her mother, Esther Nixon Waln, to her mother Ellen Cora Nixon, to her mother, Maria Morris Nixon, to her father, Robert Morris. Holy shit. I’m directly descended through all his daughters. He’s my five times great grandfather. But who was he how was he important? It wasn’t until I simply Googled him that I realized just how important this man was to our fragile country and its foundations.

My Parents Early Life

My story begins like everyone else’s, with their parents. My father, Andrew Hitchcock Camp was born Oct 29, 1941 at a US Naval Base on the island of Burmuda just before it was evacuated due to the war breaking out in the Atlantic. His father, Irving Luzerne Camp Jr was a lieutenant in the Navy that had previously served on a destroyer tender prior to my father being born. Three months after he was born, he, his mother, Sally Holmes Camp, his father, and his older sister, Sally Ann moved to New York for a few months before moving to Pasadena, Ca where his younger brother Peter Holmes was born in June of ’45. His father was able to get stationed in Santa Barbara, Ca as lookout officer in the Naval Reserves reporting any sightings of Jap U-boats off the coast or near the oil refineries. By the age of 35 his father passed away from a brain tumor the Navy docs misdiagnosed as headaches and was buried at Arlington in 1946. Thankfully my fathers mothers father, Ralston S. Holmes was a two star rear admiral in the Navy and was able to expedite financial services to my grandmother (his daughter) and her three children where she was able to buy a 3.5 acre home in Montecito, Ca right next to a park and across the street from a school. Because my grandmother had her hands busy with three kids she decided to send them all of to boarding school in Switzerland where my father learned French naturally. During his high school years he went to an all boys school called Shawnigan Lake just north of Victoria, British Columbia.   He attended the University of Virginia for a few years and tried to do the ROTC route and become an officer like his father but partying and alcohol got the best of him and enlisted in the Navy instead. He served onboard a submarine tender in the Atlantic before returning to Santa Barbara where he eventually met my mother.

My mother was born 19 Oct, 1945 in old  West Chester, Pennsylvania and lived in her fathers  large family home. Her father, Percy Smedley Darlington II was the only child who grew up in that house along with his four aunts whom never moved out or had families of their own. Only one of his aunts, the eldest moved out and had a family of her own (see Smedley Darlington Butler). The house was built in the 1860’s during the civil war and was purchased by my great great grandfather Smedley Darlington. He was a delegate to the Liberal Republican National Convention in 1872 and the 1896 Republican National Convention. He was elected as a Republican to the Fiftieth and Fifty-first Congresses. The funny thing is my mother never heard of any of this because her father never wanted to be a father. Because he was an only child he was so used to having everything all to him and getting whatever he wanted. And all he really wanted was his nice cushy life in his nice family home while my grandmother, Ann Wentworth Park Darlington raised their kids, Isabelle Ann Darlington, Percy Smedley Darlington III, and my mother Ellen Nixon Darlington. My grandmother, being the strong woman she was wasn’t having it. She gave my grandfather an ultimatum: he got her and the children, or none at all and she would leave him. So one day my grandmother packed the car, picked up the kids from school and began her cross country trip to stay with a family friend of hers in Montecito, Santa Barbara, Ca in July of ’58. My mother lived in Santa Barbara most of her early life and eventually met my father where the two fell in love, got married at All Saints Church by the Sea in Montecito, Ca. (http://allsaintsbythesea.org/). My mother never saw her father again. Her brother and sister went back to visit him a few times but by then he was a bitter and angry old man. He had his wealth, his enormous house, and all the time in the world to himself. Even when my mother married he wouldn’t even fly out to give her away; my uncle “Perk” had to. My mother said that my older sister, Rebecca talked to him on the phone when she was only three but she doesn’t remember. He passed away from liver damage due to drinking in September of 79,  three months after I was born at the age of 67. He did know of me. That was the extent of our “relationship”. His house went to the state and was transformed into a bed and breakfast called Faunbrook Bed and Breakfast (http://faunbrook.com/history/). The rooms are all named after my grandfathers father and his four aunts that lived there.