For people who do not know the identity of their biological parents, Julia can now help them find answers.
By using direct-to-consumer DNA testing, it is now possible to identify heritage, genetic cousins and, eventually, biological parents.
Julia combines traditional detective work with DNA analysis to achieve results. Too few in the UK realise that there are matching databases out there to facilitate this kind of work. Julia is particularly passionate about getting the message out there that this ‘can be done’.
Many American Word War II servicemen fathered children in Britain in the 1940s . Whilst 70,000 British women married GIs and eventually left for America, there is evidence that many more children were born out of wedlock, fathered by American servicemen. Even now, more than 70 years later, at least once a month, Julia is contacted by someone new who has just discovered their father was an American serviceman.
Julia Bell has spent more than 20 years finding GI fathers for their children in England. She is very experienced with steps that need to be taken to access conventional paper records in the US when a name is known. Those cases where there is no name or useable data of any kind are now also being solved thanks to DNA. Julia finds that the American families rarely know a child had been left behind, and are usually thrilled to learn they have a close relative in Britain.
Thanks to Julia’s unique ability to spot patterns and work all available data, some absent fathers have miraculously been identified nearly 75 years later – among them Julia’s very own grandfather, Arthur B. Garrett (1925-2009) of Alabama.
The GIs were unforgettable to most women at the time, their accents only heard on the silver screen and the constant threat of death heightened passion and emotion. More than a million GIs were crammed into the UK in the run up to WW2. Most country girls had never met anyone from London let alone New York. This all contributed to a heady and unusual situation as the late Pamela Winfield, prolific writer on the topic and GI bride, said “unless men land from the moon, the arrival of the GIs and the impact on the women will never be the same again.”
It is wonderful for something good to come of war and to be able to reunite British children with their American families. Julia knew Pamela well and shares her very personal, professional and involved approach to searching. Julia believes Pamela would be delighted that those she couldn’t help personally as they had no name for their fathers are now having searches successfully resolved.
UK FOUNDLINGS/ABANDONED BABIES
Julia believes most UK foundling cases can now eventually be solved with her DNA expertise. It’s not just a question of passively waiting for a ‘lucky’ match any longer, for two reasons. Firstly, databases have grown exponentially. Plus, Julia is very experienced in this type of research, applying DNA testing methodologies, logic, intuition and hard work to crack the most difficult of cases. Julia is particularly passionate about this type of work, solving cases and reuniting families. She was the first to highlight genetic genealogy and DNA testing at the three main providers (AncestryDNA, 23andme, and Family Tree DNA) for an English foundling case on TV.
Julia conducts 3 DNA workshops a year in her home. Those attending enjoy skilled instruction, lunch and an opportunity to build relationships with other people on similar journeys of discovery. Many friendships are firmly forged in this way.
All this takes place in the most personal and perfect of settings – Julia’s 1920s-era home in the English countryside where you can almost envision Sherlock Holmes, Hitchcock and Agatha Christie raising a convivial glass to celebrate success as mysteries are solved.
SO, HOW DOES ‘DNA’ WORK TO SOLVE THESE MYSTERIES?
Many will say, if my parents haven’t tested how can I find them? Surely they need to be on the database? The simple answer to this question is: NO. Autosomal DNA testing can identify a shared common ancestor pair back 5-7 generations.
By cross referencing family trees of genetic cousins on the databases and messaging those that show as the closer matches it is possible to deduce who shares common ancestors. Then it is a matter of tracing descendants forward and some trial and error to eventually identify the biological parent of an individual with an unknown parent.
It is like completing a jigsaw puzzle: the amount of DNA shared shows how close the genetic cousin matches are.
An expert safe cracker once said: no safe is uncrackable, it is just that some take much longer to open than others. Julia believes that is also the case with unknown parentage mysteries.