Three weeks ago I told you about finding the background of my birth mother and actually corresponding with a couple of her nieces, my cousins.
Today I am going to tell you about finding the background of my birth father and how the two were intertwined.
It has all come together that quickly, the latter a chance question I put to Lori Kay, who as comriegirl was No. 5 in my list of matches on AncestryDNA. Her mother, Donna Kay (nee Newman), is No. 3, so we knew the DNA match was tight.
Lori and I had been messaging back and forth for some time when I finally asked:
Is there an O’Neil in your background?
The answer was yes and in short order came a list of replies from Lori spelling it out.
I had discovered that my birth mother, Edith May Roberts, had worked as a maid in the home of William Nelson O’Neil and his wife Bella for about 20 years, from 1911 to 1931. It was in the latter year that she was shipped off to a home for unwed mothers in Winnipeg to have a baby.
I only had the name of my birth mother when I approached the Ontario Ministry of Social Services in 1993 for help in finding her. The ministry uncovered the fact that I was born in Grace Hospital and that my birth mother was 36 at the time and her stay had been paid for by a businessman from Vancouver, who was not named when my birth was registered.
But that was as far as the ministry could get as the hospital’s records had been destroyed in a fire.
I didn’t discover that my birth mother had worked as a maid for the O’Neil family until recently, when both the 1911 and 1921 Censuses showed her as residing in the O’Neil home in that capacity. The 1931 Census has not been made public yet but I have had no reason to believe that my birth mother had moved on.
Since he was a businessman, owning a tile importing business, and with my birth mother living in the family home for so long, the thought began to nag at me that he might be the missing link.
It was a thought that hadn’t escaped Lori Kay.
So when I put the question to her about whether there was an O’Neil in her background, I quickly got a reply in the affirmative.
It fell quickly together after that.
The DNA match through Lori Kay and her mother provide the evidence that William Nelson O’Neil is indeed my birth father.
“We do,” Lori had sain in reply to my question. “My great-great-grandfather had two sisters, Jane Elizabeth Long and Mary Ann Long. Jane married John Moody O’Neil and they had several children. When Jane died, her widowed sister Mary Ann must have come in to help and she ended up marrying him.”
Lori said this meant she was connected to William Nelson O’Neil by both his mother, Jane Elizabeth, and his stepmother, Mary Ann.
“Their older brother, my great-great-grandfather John Alexander Long,, was born in 1835 in Port Credit, Ontario (Toronto Township as it was then called), and he was the son of William Long and Mary Ann Alexander,” Lori said. “I must admit to not knowing much about the O’Neils until a few years ago when I started to really research the Longs (still a work in progress).”
She said Matthew Wilkinson, a local historian in Mississauga, where she lives, gave her the document on the O’Neils/Longs that she shared with me.
“The O’Neils are the key,” she said of my search.
She sent along a picture of the O’Neil family that showed my birth father Nelson at about the age of 12 or 13. Although it may just be wishful thinking, I think I see a resemblance to him in a picture of myself at about the age of six.
The O’Neils had a daughter Kathleen and a son, Nelson James. Kathleen, my half-sister, eventually went by Kay. In a strange twist, my adoptive parents, William and Lillian Millroy of Dryden, Ontario, named my sister Kathleen. She later went by Kay.
In another twist,
My half-sister never married but she adopted a son, Terence. Born in 1910, Kathleen died in 1983.
My half-brother, who was born in 1923, married Hazel Ann Zacharias in 1946 in Otter Lake, P.Q. They had six children with given names William Alexander, James Lloyd Nelson, Charles Dwight, E. Victoria, April Joy and Robin Zacharias. None of them have appeared on AncestryDNA.
Nelson, my birth father, was born in Brampton in 1874. He died in 1934, two years after my birth. He was married to Bella Victoria Raich of Hamilton. Lori was also related to Bella through another branch of the family.
My birth mother, May Roberts, died in 1981 in Surrey, B.C., at the age of 85.
Society, probably even with the lesser moral clarity of today, would have frowned at what went on in the O’Neil household and no doubt Mrs. O’Neil would have as well, if she had known.
But as for myself, I can only be thankful that the indiscretion occurred.
If it hadn’t I wouldn’t be here telling you about it.
And I wouldn’t have had all the joys and love of the Millroy home in the town of Dryden, a place I will always call home.
I wouldn’t have had the reward of raising four wonderful children and the immense pleasure and pride in watching the development of the grandchildren and great grandchildren they have brought me, the absolute thrill of finding fresh love later in life, a love that seems to never stop growing, and the massive emotional benefits and love from the blended family which resulted from that love.
I wouldn’t have had a career in journalism, a craft with which I have had a love affair for more than 60 years, the practice of which eventually brought me to the Sault as editor of The Sault Star.
And after all of that I was led to the discovery of another family, actually the first family I had, that was out there. I am in contact with and have been warmly welcomed by nieces of my birth mother, Joanne and Colleen McNally and Joanne’s daughter Demi Montes, in Whiterock, B.C.
In another twist, Joanne and Colleen’s father, Robert Thompson McNally, and his sister, Lillian, used to visit their Aunt May in the O’Neil home. As a result of a friendship formed then, Lillian and Kathleen, my half-sister, remained lifelong friends.
Lori, who lives in Mississauga, has been a welcoming contact on the O’Neil side.
Looking back on it all I can only say my life has been one big plus.
No one could ask for more.
Unless maybe, considering I am 85, that the unravelling of my life’s mystery could have happened a little sooner.
SPEAKING OF MORE, I may have one more short tale to tell. It appears I have a cousin from the Roberts side who lives in Connecticut. As soon as we nail that down, I will pass the information along. We are also still attempting to find out how I connect with Donna Kreutz, who is a high DNA match and who has been helping me extensively in my search.
I am hoping that the positive results from my search will encourage others who are looking for relatives past and present through AncestryDNA or other DNA sites.
Wonderful story Uncle Doug! So happy you have discovered new relatives and friendships.
Love you Renee
You took my spot !!! Just kidding lol, I love your writing and have for many years !! keep up the great work
I hope you do encourage others Doug! Great reading, and I did not see all those twists coming! Just wow. Thank you for sharing.
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