Craig man uncovers eight siblings through DNA testing
For the Craig Press
Victor Greer’s family history was always elusive.
The 41-year-old Craig resident had a “loving, supportive” relationship with his father, James Greer, but the family patriarch closely guarded his past – he was 50 years old when Victor and his brother were born, leaving behind decades of tales untold.
“My dad was really reclusive when it came to his own life story,” said Greer, a former coal miner who moved to Craig from the American southwest five years ago. He’s currently studying at Colorado Northwestern Community College. “All I knew is that he was a hard worker and had been in the military.”
Earlier this year, Greer’s wife purchased him a 23andMe genetic testing kit to connect the dots three years after his father’s death. The man suspected his dad was of African American descent, but his insight stopped there.
“He was a pretty dark-skinned person, and I’m light-skinned with blond hair and blue eyes,” Greer said. “My mother has brown hair and brown eyes. I just wanted to know exactly what I was made up of.”
Weeks later, Greer not only learned more about his ancestry – he discovered eight half-siblings scattered throughout the country.
The 23andMe program includes an optional tool that matches customers with relatives based on shared DNA. After opting into the feature, Greer was contacted on Instagram by a woman who believed she was his niece.
“She sent me a photo of my father when he was 18 or 19 years old,” Greer said. “I had never seen a picture of him that young, and I didn’t know anything about his family because they had all passed away, as far as I knew.”
His niece then connected him with his half-sister, Joan, alongside five other half-sisters and two-half brothers. Greer’s father, it turned out, had eight other children with four women in several states prior to settling down with his mother later in life. He had married all four, Greer said, and had never legally divorced.
“I guess he had three different birthdays and changed his name a couple of times,” Greer said. “The only thing that stayed the same was his first name.”
Greer’s oldest sibling is 72 years old, he said, and many of his relatives had already connected in a variety of ways.
“My brother and I are considered the long-lost siblings,” he said. “They had been looking for my father for many, many years. He left when they were young.”
At first, Greer was taken aback by the revelation. As a one-time single dad himself, he couldn’t fathom leaving so many families behind. His perception of the man who raised him has evolved, but Greer acknowledges the adversity his father must have faced as a predominantly Black man born in 1929.
“He was still around during segregation,” he said. “He was too dark-skinned to be considered white, but maybe too light to have fit in with the African American community.”
Many of the siblings he’s spoken to say they don’t harbor resentment toward their absent father, but wish they could have known him better.
“I knew him to be protective, loving and supportive,” Greer said. “He was one of the smartest men I ever knew. I know he was a good man, he just maybe had some things inside he had to deal with.”
A spokesperson for 23andMe said 95% of customers who participate in DNA Relatives connect with a third cousin or closer.
“We are increasingly hearing stories of families discovering and reuniting with newfound relatives,” the company said in a statement. “23andMe was not designed specifically to help people find biological relatives, but our tool does help people find and connect with participating genetic relatives.”
Greer’s relatives, now living in California, New Mexico and South Carolina, are organizing a family reunion in August to celebrate the news. He’s already traveled to New Mexico twice to meet three siblings and their families.
“Everyone has been so receptive and happy,” he said. “It’s so welcoming.”
Editor Peter Baumann can be reached at 970-384-9114 or at email@example.com.
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Transactions recorded in the month of December, 2021.