When Mission resident Glenn Wells submitted his DNA to Ancestry.ca in 2018, he didn’t expect a family reunion years after the results.
Wells spent time in the foster care system growing up, and had been looking for his father. Four years later, by chance, he’s going to meet a new uncle, cousin, and his mom will be connecting with her long-lost half-brother for the first time in over 60 years.
“I was crying because I was able to provide my mom with some happiness,” he said. “She was totally beside herself, and it was all she could think about.”
On March 20, Wells received a message from the other side of Canada from Courtney Mahler. Mahler lives in Brantford, Ontario, and is helping her father in-law, Harry Mahler, dig for answers regarding his biological parents.
Harry, 74, has had some health problems as of late, and decided to submit his DNA to Ancestry several months ago. The result came back on March 18, and Wells’ name came up as a 12 per cent match.
Harry’s adoptive parents never told him the truth about exactly where he came from, according to Courtney, adding he suffered a lot of hardships growing up.
“They never actually came out and told him he was adopted. He just always had questions, because it didn’t make sense,” she said. “And then later on in life, he actually located the adoption papers (and birth certificate) in his adopted parents’ home.”
The documents list “May Simm” as his mother.
After receiving the DNA results, Courtney reached out to Wells on Facebook, not knowing if he was Harry’s cousin or nephew. They spoke by phone shortly afterwards, and Wells told her his grandmother’s name was May Simmons.
He then asked his mother, Violet, if she knew someone named Harry from Brantford.
Violet is 77-years-old and her memory is not always reliable, according to Wells, but “a light went off in her head” when he mentioned that name.
“She goes: ‘Oh my God! I think I have a half-brother in Brantford!’” Wells said. “She said: ‘I’ve not seen him since I was a teenager.’”
Harry did, in fact, remember meeting Violet and May growing up, but he had no idea how closely related they were, according to Courtney.
She said they visited Harry a couple of times when he was a teenager, but his adoptive family told him Violet was a cousin, and May’s relation was never explained.
Courtney and Harry are continuing to try and piece everything together. She said they don’t know why Harry was given up and Violet was not, and May had been married several times.
After his adoptive parents passed, Harry came into possession of some old black and white photos.
One photo shows a woman – now confirmed to be May – with a man they suspect to be Harry’s father. Another shows the same man in military uniform with a baby girl, who they suspect is Violet. Wells said Violet was also placed in group homes growing up. He said he was as well, and so were older kids, who are now adults.
“It’s been a vicious circle for that kind of stuff, but it’s stopping here,” Wells said of his 10-year-old daughter. “I’m breaking that cycle right now, this little girl is about to be a black belt in Taekwondo.”
Wells is travelling to Ontario to see his mom,Violet, on May 18 for her birthday, something he does every year.
But this time, Courtney is bringing Harry, and her husband, Jon – Wells’ new first cousin.
“(Harry’s) very excited about it,” Jon said. “Our goal was to get him the truth before his time.”
They’ve also made contact with the family of the mystery man in the black and white photos, and will be meeting with them soon.