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Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The DNA detective helping to reunite families

A man left abandoned as a baby in a cinema toilet 61 years ago has tracked down his siblings with the help of a so-called "DNA detective". But what do they do?
"There's an analogy I like to use: I can crack any safe, some will just take longer than others," Julia Bell tells the Victoria Derbyshire programme.
She helps people - many of whom have no knowledge of who their parents or siblings are - track down their long-lost relatives.
Julia recently helped Robert Weston, who was found in a ladies toilet in an Odeon cinema in Birmingham in 1956, find his half-brothers and sister for the first time.
Many of her cases involve American soldiers, or GIs, who were stationed in the UK during World War Two, she says.
Indeed, Julia says she is approached by someone who has discovered their father was in fact an American GI about once a month.
"More children were fathered by American servicemen than many people imagine," she says.
Julia is also currently helping a woman who, as a baby, was left in a box at London's Kings Cross railway station, while another case involves a baby left on a train in 1928.
So how does it work?

'Searching for 44 years'

"It starts with a spit test, a DNA test, which I get people to do," Julia says. "That's sent away for testing."
She then uses uses three direct-to-consumer DNA databases to cross-reference the data and then the detective work begins.
Julia - who currently is not charging clients - says she begins looking at patterns within the database to try and establish matches.
She then uses contacts around the world to try to identify relatives - however distant they may be.
When Robert Weston contacted her - 61 years after being abandoned in a cinema - he said he "had been searching for a long, long time - 44 years or so" without success.
Julia asked him to provide a DNA saliva test and searched on the database in the hope of finding a distant relative.
"There will be somebody on there - fourth cousins or something - for nearly everyone out there," she explains.
Initially there were more distant matches, but Julia was able to find and test a second cousin.
"I asked her if she had any male cousins and she said 'Tommy'," Robert explains. "He agreed to be tested and he turned out to be my half-brother."
But he says: "You need a huge dollop of luck with all this."
Source By BBC.COM



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