At 47, Manny Garcia thought he had a good idea of his heritage and family tree – that is until one day he took the Ancestry DNA test for fun.
By Valerie Garcia-Batiz
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
In January 2019, Manny Garcia, a father of five, was relaxing on the couch in his New York home with his wife, Johanne Batiz, when a commercial for Ancestry.com came on the television screen. They both decided to buy the Ancestry DNA kit for fun. What they didn’t expect was how this spontaneous splurge would have the answers to Manny’s childhood wishes.
Manny was born in 1971 in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, the second-oldest of three children. Growing up, Manny was mainly raised by his mom and grandparents as Mr. Garcia was never in the picture. Manny said, “I was told he was my father, but he was never really there, because him and mom were never really together after I was 2 or 3 years old. I never had a close relationship with him at all.”
As a result, his grandfather was his only father figure and Manny often wished he had a father in his life, especially when he was a teenager.
Manny and Mr. Garcia’s lack of connection, however, went far beyond Mr. Garcia not having a relationship with Manny’s mom. Even though they tried, a relationship between them never worked out as it did between Mr. Garcia and Manny’s younger brother. Manny always questioned if Mr. Garcia was truly his father.
“I don’t look anything like anybody else,” Manny said. “Not like my brother or his other kids. Then there were always rumors … that my mom was actually with some guy that was from the military base in Ceiba or from the Navy or something like that.” However, despite the rumors, he was always told otherwise by his mom.
His wife, Johanne, also attested to their estranged relationship.
Johanne said , “He always felt weird with ‘his dad’ and he never looked like any of them.”
Despite everything, Manny continued living his life simply thinking he didn’t have a good relationship with his father. That is until March 2019 when he received the results from his Ancestry DNA kit.
“I took it for fun,” Manny said. “Granted, I always had questions, but it was more for fun. I didn’t think anything would come out of it.
“All my life, I grew up thinking I was Puerto Rican – and that my parents were Puerto Rican, and all of that stuff; but then when this thing came out saying I was 90% Anglo-Saxon, I was speechless at first. I was like, ‘Oh my goodness! What is this? Somebody was not telling the truth, because this doesn’t make any sense.’ ”
Manny was in complete shock.
“I didn’t believe it, so I ended up doing a 23 and Me test just to confirm the results,” he explained. “I didn’t know if this was a fluke or not; but the answer was pretty much the same thing.”
Then the question became if Mr. Garcia wasn’t Manny’s dad, who was?
According to the “Unexpected DNA Matches” on Ancestry.com, “Relationship predictions are almost always accurate for people who are second cousins or closer.” In Manny’s case, hardly any of the people coming up in the Ancestry DNA results, nor in the 23 and Me results, were Hispanic. A lot of them were unknown to him with last names such as Jenkins, Odem and Guthrie.
In regard to his mom, Manny said, “It caused strains in our relationship as she didn’t want to talk about it, so I had to find everything out on my own.”
So, Manny and Johanne ended up reaching out to some of the cousins that showed up. Two of his new cousins, along with their great aunt, teamed up to help Manny find out who his father could be. There were periods of ups and downs in obtaining information to narrow the results, but finally everything lined up together to result in Dana Jenkins being the answer.
When it comes to that period of searching, Manny explained how earlier that year he became a Christian and how everything going on previously, “Was a lie that I had been living all my life, and our God is not a God of lies. So, he opened the veil up on all this stuff and showed me things that I needed to know.”
One of those things was the name of Dana’s mom, Lucy. Manny had actually known her as aunt Lucy (and her husband as uncle Vic) when he was a young child. This information was crucial in Manny and Dana finding each other.
The next step was Manny contacting Dana.
“It was overwhelming,” Johanne said, “I was just praying he (Dana) was open-minded. I was afraid that he would not be interested in wanting to know him, and I knew how Manny always wanted to have a father to have a relationship with.”
A few days later, in Oregon, the phone rang. Dana picked it up and began talking to the man on the other end of the line. The man had Facebook messaged him offering his condolences that his mom had passed away a few years ago, how he knew her a long time ago, and that he had found out she had passed while tracing their ancestry history.
The two talked for a while about the past and then the man on the other end explained his background, where he was from, whom his mother was, some of the stuff he researched through Ancestry.com, and then Manny said, “I think you’re my father based on these findings.”
Dana, having no clue he had a son, was “Shocked,” he said. “My first thought was, ‘Umm, OK, really?!?”
However, Dana admitted that, based on everything Manny had said, “I knew right away he was my son.”
Airing on the side of caution, he acknowledged everything Manny was saying made sense, but, “I need to think about this and I’d like to talk to my wife about this.”
Dana explained, “Any reluctance I had was my concern for my wife.”
When Dana’s wife, Darcy, was brought into this, she said, “I was completely surprised. It took me awhile to take it in.”
Dana said, “There was some sadness between us, but we weathered that situation.”
Their strong marriage of 33 years held strong and Darcy said they both now, “see it as a blessing.”
After having results confirmed through Dana’s DNA test, they embraced their newly found son and his huge family. Through it all, Dana made sure Darcy was a part of it, as her being included was the most important thing for him.
Darcy said, “Dana was very happy right away.”
Dana explained how his happiness was due to the fact that, “I had wished we (Darcy and him) had had kids, so then to all of a sudden find out I had a son … there was no doubt I wanted to get to know Manny and catch up on lost time.”
Catching up they did. More than a year later, Dana and Manny’s father-son relationship is thriving. They discovered they like a lot of the same things, such as “Star Trek”, sci-fi, computers, old radio shows, e-books, etc. They keep in contact weekly and were able to meet in person last fall.
In regard to their first meeting, Manny said, “I was excited to finally get a chance to meet him. We chit-chatted for hours.”
Dana jokingly recalled, “I, all of a sudden, realized I had aged … A LOT! That’s what happens when you figure out you have a son, but also grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”
As to the great outcome, Darcy said, “It was the Lord working on both sides: in Manny searching for his dad and in Dana’s heart to have a son.”
To anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation, Dana said, “Be open-minded and don’t jump to the wrong conclusions. At one point, I was angry and bitter that I wasn’t told a long time ago; but you can’t change the past – all you can do is move forward and build on what is.”
Despite the initial tensions, Manny and his mom continue to have a good relationship. In echoing his dad, Manny said, “What happened, happened. I forgave my mom. It’s all in the past. There’s nothing we can do to change it but forgive and just go off what we have now to make the best of what we got.”
For anyone on Manny’s end of the situation, having to contact a parent, he said, “Reach out to them. The worst thing that can happen is that you get rejected, but being rejected is better than not knowing. There were all of those “whys” I wondered all of these years, and now I know.”
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