Gabrielle Pattillo


My mom happened to be the genealogy queen of the family, so I decided for her birthday in July that I’d buy her a DNA test from 23andMe. I typically don’t buy gifts too far in advance, but this was one I had been planning for a while. Secretly, my mom had wanted to submit her DNA to find out if she had a different biological dad due to information my grandma had shared with my mom. That DNA test sat in my top kitchen cupboard for a couple of weeks before I decided I too wanted to submit my DNA for review. So, I purchased one for myself.

A little bit about me. I was raised by my stepfather from the time I was about 6 months old. I had always known I had a biological dad out there somewhere and I had met him when I was about four years old, but he didn’t have anything to do with me while I was growing up. I always wondered about this man, who he was, and I wanted to know about my heritage. My mom told me very little about him. All I had to go off of was that he was Italian and his name. I remember being in elementary school and checking out the “Learn Italian” language book multiple times over the years. I never learned Italian, but I had big dreams of trying. My mom never talked about my dad. I never asked her either. I guess since she didn’t offer the information, I was afraid to ask her.

When I was sixteen, I decided I wanted to find my dad. I didn’t ask my mom. I happened to be at a girlfriend’s house and started sifting through the phone book looking for anyone with the name of Louis Rose up north from where I lived. I just started calling. I made a connection and hung up. I just wanted to hear his voice. I called back shortly thereafter and talked to him. The very next day he called my mom and tried to arrange a time for us to meet. I remember how mad my mom was that I didn’t ask her first, but she ended up setting up a day and time and we met up for the first time. What an awkward moment that was!

I ended up taking a drive with him after meeting my grandma, grandpa, and my uncle. My dad wanted to bring me to a nearby beach so we could sit and talk. We got together one more time after that and then I was done. It was just too uncomfortable being a young teen trying to get to know a man I never really knew. I ended up calling Louis again when I was in my early 30’s, but nothing came of that call. I finally connected with him when I was about forty-two and we met at my house—we were able to connect after that. My dad Louis is now part of my and my family’s life and is included in most family events from that time on.

Fast forward to July 9th of 2017. My mom opened her birthday gift and I couldn’t wait to tell her I had purchased a test too. I was so excited to find out more about my whole family! I knew my mom was too. We both spit in the tubes and sent them off. She ended up purchasing two more tests for her sisters, which would make it easy to see if mom came up as a half-sister or a full-blooded sister.

We received our results within about 5-6 weeks. I didn’t know much about DNA at the time, but my ethnicity estimate came back with only 0.4% Italian. I was a little surprised but figured it wasn’t that accurate. These tests are just for fun! I didn’t think too much of it. I matched up with my mom, my aunts, my cousin, and a few more family members on my mom’s side, but I didn’t recognize anyone on my dad’s side. No Rose’s popped up and neither did any Casaleggi’s. I figured that none of his family probably tested, so I couldn’t make any connections. I did have one connection, but after contacting him, he and I couldn’t figure out how we were related.

After a short time, I told my mom I was going to purchase another test from My mom told me she had already purchased 2 additional tests through Ancestry, so she told me not to buy another. She said we could do them together and maybe we would get some family connections that way. Ancestry had a bigger database and was more well known than 23andMe, so it seemed promising.

I submitted my DNA sample about a week after my mom did, so the results came back about a week apart. I remember looking at my mom’s results and seeing more connections than 23andMme. I had an Ancestry subscription, so I was planning on doing research on my dad’s side since mom had already been researching her side of her family for a long time. While waiting for my test results, I tried learning more about DNA and centimorgans. I was prepared to find out my family information since my dad knew very little about his parents.

After a week in Disneyland, I received an email from to let me know my results were finally in. I recall being so excited to see what new information this test would provide about my family. This time there wasn’t any Italian listed, but the percentages for Swedish and Norwegian were very similar to the 23andMe test. Hmmm?? I went to my matches and my mom popped right up as a mother/daughter match. To my surprise this time, I had a close match named Lois.

I automatically called my mom to see if she had known the woman appearing as a close DNA match. This person wasn’t listed in my mom’s matches, so it was obviously a match that would be from my dad’s family. I shared centimorgans (1778) with her, which meant she was a very close relative and could very well be any of the following possibilities: grandparent, aunt, half-sibling, niece, or grandchild. Well, I knew she couldn’t be a grandparent, granddaughter, or even a niece, so that left a half-sibling or aunt. Since this was a match on my dad’s side, I felt he would’ve let me know if I had a sibling out there, so I guess the only other option could be an aunt. The interesting thing was that my dad only had brothers. Did he have a sister no one knew about??

I was going crazy with all the things running through my mind at the time. It was a good thing I had time to research things and my daycare kids had all gone to school. The detective in me was about ready to come out! I started thinking of all the possible connections…..Was this woman adopted? Did she know about my dad? Was she a half-sister? Who was she? I messaged her on Ancestry and asked her if she knew my dad’s family or even possibly my mom. She responded rather quickly and said she had no idea how we were related because she didn’t know my dad or any surname I gave her, but she had gone to school with my mom and my aunt. She said if I had come up with how we were connected to let her know.

In the meantime, I decided to look her up on Facebook. With a common name like Lois Hanson, what were the chances she’d even pop up in my search? Well, the first person listed was a possibility. She was from Everett and had worked at the Boeing company. She could be the one! My family was from Everett and Boeing was located there too. I clicked on her picture. I was perplexed. She looked familiar, but the man standing next to her was someone I knew.

I started freaking out because I quickly put two and two together. I must have a different biological dad! How could this be? At first, I thought I was sure the man standing next to her could be my father, but soon realized she wouldn’t show up as a relation to me if she was my aunt by marriage. That would have to mean he was my uncle.

So, who was my dad? I hoped my aunt didn’t have 10 brothers to try and figure out which one may be my father! I started going through her friends’ list. Luckily she only had a little over 90 friends, so it wasn’t too difficult to sort through. I recognized a name I had heard many times over when I was growing up, Lenny. My mom always talked about Lenny and Dean. Mom was good friends with Dean, the man in the picture with my aunt. In fact, my mom had met my stepdad through Dean when they were in the service and Dean had married my aunt’s best friend many years before.

Lenny happened to be Dean’s best friend. I remember my mom always talking about them. She had the best stories to tell when I was a kid! She told me how much fun they were and the good times they had together. What I forgot was that my mom and Lenny had dated for a short while. How crazy was that? I had a different dad!!! I feel like I had put it all together within a matter of minutes. I couldn’t wait to call my mom.

I dialed her and waited for her to answer. I knew she had no knowledge of what I was about to tell her or she would’ve shared it with me long ago. My mom answered and I asked “Mom! What did you do?” in a joking voice. “Is Lenny my dad?” She was in total disbelief. She told me he couldn’t be. How could he be? She was sure her pregnancy timing had been right on.

My mom lives only a couple of minutes away, so she immediately came up to talk some more. She was completely sick to her stomach. She tried to recall dates from over 50 years ago. She couldn’t believe it. It was very upsetting to her. She told me if she had known all those years ago that Lenny was my dad, she would’ve told me. If she would’ve been able to choose a dad for me, she would’ve chosen Lenny over Louis any day.

The funny thing out of all of this was that I didn’t care. Yes, I had missed a lot of years, but I had a new dad. This was amazing!! I checked out his family on Facebook. Who were these people? How many more siblings did I have? I was hoping they’d at least be interested in meeting me and maybe someday consider me part of their family. I had a new dad and a whole new family!!!!

Once my mom left, I messaged back Lois and told her my mom and her brother had actually dated for a short while in 1967, so her showing up as a close match/aunt was correct and her brother was in fact, my biological father. She responded by saying she would have concluded Lenny was my father too. I let her know that I didn’t want anything from anyone. I just wanted to know about my family and possibly meet them at some point down the road. She told me she would contact my dad, but couldn’t promise he’d get back to me right away.

She gave me her phone number and said I was welcome to call her. We talked for what seemed like forever. I didn’t know what to ask. If I wanted any family information said she would be happy to share that with me and actually invited me to her house east of the mountains to come and visit her and my uncle Dean.

This was all happening so fast! I can’t tell you how excited I was to learn this all in such a short period of time and already started making family connections. My uncle Dean couldn’t wait to call my dad and relay this new information to him! What a call that was!! My dad happened to be driving home from his meeting with the local Rod and Gun club and had had a few drinks that night. My uncle could hardly contain himself. He told my dad that he needed to pull over because he had some news to share with him that he might not believe.

Since they were best friends, they were used to kidding with each other over the years. I’m sure my dad thought what Dean had told him next was a joke. Dean told him that Lois had gotten a match on Ancestry after submitting her saliva in a tube and I had come up as a niece to her. Dean reminded him that he had dated my mom back in 1967 and now he had another daughter. He shared many words with Dean and was in disbelief, especially after all these years.

Lois and my dad talked the very next day by phone and soon after that call, my dad sent me a message via Facebook messaging saying “Seems like we may have something in common and should talk soon”. He left his phone number and his email. When I read his message, I got so emotional, I started crying. My dad was actually contacting me and was interested in talking with me. I messaged him back telling him I’d call him shortly after I regained my composure.

The call went surprisingly well and wasn’t awkward at all. He invited me over that Saturday to meet him, his wife, my aunt, and uncle. My dad sent an email message to my brother and my two sisters a couple of days later detailing the events leading up to him finding out about me. Within a short period of time, we had all connected. My dad and his wife only lived about 25 minutes away, so the drive would be somewhat quick. I couldn’t wait to meet them all!

I know I should’ve been nervous driving there, but I think the fact that my husband and daughter were with me made the drive less nerve-racking. Once we got to my dad’s house, we were welcomed in and shown around their place. They shared pictures and took some pictures to remember the beginning of this new journey. I left feeling so good about our meeting and hoped there’d be many more to come.

I swear that almost every waking moment was consumed by thoughts of this new family I had gained overnight. I couldn’t help but think of what it would’ve been like to have grown up with all of them. It would’ve been nothing less than amazing. For over the past 3 years, my dad and I have made an effort to see each other whenever we could. We visited him, he and his wife would visit us. I had hoped for many more years with him to make lots of memories for me and my family, but unfortunately, my dad passed away on February 14th of 2021 after a short and ferocious battle with cancer. He made a huge impact on my life in the short time I had with him.

In the end, I am so thankful for the everlasting bonds I have made with family and all the time I was able to spend with him. He will be greatly missed by us all.