Monday, May 27, 2013

Help Us Find Christopher’s Birth Mother: DNA Provides Clues

Dr. Christopher Harris of Toronto, Ontario

On May 10, 2013, I received the following message on Facebook from Raquel Tomlinson. She stated, “My husband is one of your cousins on 23andMe. His name is Christopher Harris.”  I checked my 23andMe account, browsed my Relative Finder database, and found his name among my 400+ “DNA cousins”.  However, what was most interesting is that he is a Black Canadian!  How am I related to a Black Canadian?  Dr. Christopher Harris resides in Toronto, Ontario. He recently received his Ph.D. in Education from the University of Toronto.

In helping her husband find his birth mother, Raquel shared more information, and I soon spoke with Cousin Christopher on the phone.  He was born on November 1, 1978 in Canada in Windsor, Ontario.  He does not know his birth mother’s first name, but her last name is believed to be Harris.  He knows that his birth mother’s mother (his maternal grandmother) is a Black Canadian who descends from former slaves who migrated to Canada via the Underground Railroad.  He also knows that his birth mother’s father (his maternal grandfather) is an African American from Detroit, Michigan. His occupation was welder.  Christopher knows that his biological father is from Tanzania, a country in East Africa. 

His birth parents met while his biological father was a foreign engineering student at the University of Windsor. His birth mother was 18 years old when she gave birth to him. She herself had been in foster care for all of her life; she was given up for adoption after her birth, as her birth mother (Christopher’s maternal grandmother) allegedly got pregnant with her outside of her own marriage (affair).  Coincidentally, Christopher's adopted family’s last name is also Harris (no relation); they are from Barbados. His adoption was a closed adoption. However, the information thus far is based on his adopted mother's memories. Christopher recently filed an application to receive his birth parents' names, a process that could take a year in Canada.

But how is Christopher related to me? Is he on my Mom’s side or my Dad’s side?  Utilizing the family inheritance tool in 23andMe, I compared him to other known cousins in my database. Low and behold, my findings raised eyebrows and helped to determine more!  Christopher also shares DNA with Lenro Morgan and NeNise Smith, my cousins on my Dad’s side.  As explained in my previous blog post entitled “DNA Continues to Amaze Me,” Lenro, NeNise, and I are all double third cousins and direct descendants of Robert “Big Bob” & Jane Ealy, as well as Lucy Kennedy, from Leake County, Mississippi.  Additionally, NeNise shares a segment of DNA on Christopher’s X chromosome; this verifies that the connection is on his mother’s side. The following chart shows the DNA matching results:

UPDATE (09/13/2013): My father's DNA results from 23andMe are in. Christopher shares 93 cM across 5 segments with him. Predicted relationship is 3rd cousin, with a range of 2nd to 4th cousin.

The sharing of DNA over multiple chromosome segments with another person implies that the two likely share a common ancestor(s) that is not so distant. For example, NeNise and I share 43 cM over 4 segments. Our common ancestors are Robert & Jane Ealy and Lucy Kennedy; they were my great-great-grandparents and her great-great-great-grandparents.  Lenro and I share 155 cM over 7 segments. Robert & Jane Ealy and Lucy Kennedy are also Lenro’s great-great-grandparents. To add, Lenro and NeNise share 63 cM over 5 segments. Since Christopher shares DNA over multiple segments with both Lenro and NeNise, and even shares DNA with me, I feel strongly that his Harris birth mother and her father are direct descendants of Robert & Jane Ealy and/or Lucy Kennedy – possibly her father is a great-grandson. I believe that they fit in the Ealy family tree somewhere and her father may actually be my Dad’s second cousin. Interestingly, many people in the Ealy Family migrated to Detroit. 

To all of my Ealy and/or Kennedy family members, especially those in Detroit who read this post, please share this blog post with other family members. Someone may know something about Christopher’s birth mother and can connect him with her and her family. He suspects that his maternal grandfather may still be living in Detroit.  He would love to connect with his biological family.

If anyone has additional advice to help Christopher locate his birth family, feel free to post a comment here or e-mail me at melvinjcollier@ or Dr. Christopher Harris at 

Me (far left) with cousins at the 2010 Ealy Family Reunion in Detroit, Michigan


  1. Wow, fascinating story and great detecive work!

  2. That's amazing! It's wonderful that Christopher already has so much great information about his birth family. I wish you all luck in finding out the rest!


  3. Oh I am hoping and praying he will be able to find out more. Great detective work again!

  4. We're not related but I will check with my Canadian cousins in the Windsor area. Maybe they'll remember something.

  5. I searched for (& was successful in finding) my birth father back in '07. I had been looking online for a few years but nothing had turned up. I finally caught a break when I accidentally misspelled his name in a google search and, low and behold, there he was! I was 34 at the time. I created to help others who are in the same or similar circumstances. I know all too well the pain that accompanies "not knowing". FFA is unique in that it creates a great "exposure" piece that is very useful for those persons (ie parents) that may be searching for YOU right now. Use of the site is totally free and there is no obligation. Hope this helps and perhaps will see you on Good luck!

    1. Gina, thanks so much for sharing the link!


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