The Genetic Ties that Bind Us: Welcoming Home a Lost Family Member


It is said that in the beginning, Moses did not have a name. He was born to a woman who didn’t name him or know what to call him. It was his adopted mother who plucked him from amongst the reeds and gave him his name. Moses.

About 3 weeks ago, I had a young man reach out to me on Facebook. I quickly reviewed his friends. I looked for commonalities that would support my decision to accept his friend request. There were none. Skip. I wouldn’t accept this friend request. For reasons unknown to me, I did not delete and block him like I regularly do to other random friend requests I receive where we have no apparent connections. My decision would change the course of my days.

A few days later, he sent me a message saying that that he didn’t want to come off weird or have his divulgence be perceived as too much, too soon. I was intrigued. Cautiously so.

He shared that he recently took a popular DNA test and has gotten back results for his family tree. It listed me as his closest relative. It told him that I’m his first cousin, once removed. In normal language: that’s second cousins.

men sitting overlooking the Caribbean seaThose who know me know my love for legacy and family, and know that I am hooked on genetics. No topic can get more yummy for me. Uncovering the genetic ties that bind us together as a family fascinates me.

But this story of genetic ties gets better. This complete stranger tells me that he was adopted at 3 months. He knows he was born in Florida, in 1976. He was adopted by a loving family who raised him as their own. He has never known a blood relative.

I’m the first blood relative he has contacted. What in the world?! I feel a warmth overtake me. Tears spring to my eyes. A deep river flows in my heart. I have to accept his friendship. There’s no way that I can’t. If what he says is true, and there’s no logical reason that he would lie about being related to me (who would lie about being related to me? Sadly, there is nothing to gain.) I already know so much about his heritage that he hasn’t a clue about.

For a moment, I sit with this knowledge. Holding the information deep in my hands. I know it is powerful stuff. It’s the kind of knowledge that can change a person’s life. I look at it. And, try to determine the best course of action. Once open, this is a box that can not be closed again.

He further states that he would love to speak with me if I am open to it. What?!! I was born open. And if I wasn’t, he pushed my mind and heart wide open. Of course, I want to speak with him.

I send him my number and tell him to give me a ring. I tell him to text me his digits too. I know this might sound crazy. But it feels right. So I proceed. Sometimes what is right can feel so foreign. And, scary.

But I am not afraid. I’m excited. You see, what I know is that he has to be my second cousin through my father. My father is one of 13 children. His older siblings, my aunts and uncles, were often the age of my friends’ grandparents. Only on my father’s side could I have a first cousin old enough to have a kid my age. I know this means he is of Bahamian ancestry, like my father. Sherlock Holmes in the house. I may have forgotten to tell you that I am from the Bahamas. My mind started spinning and every possible fact about my new relative jumped into my mind at once.

Bahamian women dancingI know four critical things about him:

  • He is a female cousin’s child.
  • My father had three brothers who migrated to America from the 60s until the 70s.
  • He can only be a child of one of these uncles’ children.
  • He’s related to a ton of folks in Exuma, Bahamas.

Mind blown yet?

I message my parents. I ask to speak with my father. This video camera talk still blows him away. He’s 83. I tell him the story. I look for recognition on his face. I ask him one question:

Which one of his nieces gave birth within a couple of years of him having me?

He puts his head down. Rubs his head. I can tell he’s thinking. I can tell that he might know the answer. He starts to weep. He’s considering this child. This baby, given away. I can tell he feels the family connection through genetic ties. It moves him.

Pause. At 83, my father is more emotional than he ever was in my memory. I think age gives us this. A softness takes over. The connection to where you’re from and where you’re going is one fine thread. I think you feel it’s fine-ness. It’s thin-ness. I think as we age, we can see over the mountain vistas and perceive how much longer before we arrive on the other side. This perception alone awakens us and causes us to feel. Real big. Real deep.

We go down the list of his three brothers who moved to America. Under each name, I start listing their kids. This one had twin boys and one girl. This one had four kids. Two girls. Etc. It is in compiling this list that the identity of my new second cousin’s mother starts to emerge. I think I know who she was. I think I know her name. Wow.

https://vermont.momcollectTo be clear, he never asked me to do this. I wanted to. Uncovering his history and genetic ties was something I kinda had to do. I can’t explain it. I had to see what I found. I had to offer up to him whatever I unearthed.

I feel that shakiness that one feels right before speaking to a large group of people. My mouth is watering. My heart is beating fast. I have to call him. I have to tell him all that I found out. I know he will never be the same after learning what I know. I hope the history and knowledge I have uncovered make his world bigger. Safer. I hope he will hear the love coming from his long-lost family. I call him and tell him everything. We both sit in the quiet and cry. I weep as I tell him this:

Young man, I can tell you that as far back as slavery and Africa, your people are from Exuma and Long Island, Bahamas. There’s a settlement on the Far East Side of Little Exuma. It’s called William’s Town. You are related to almost every soul there.

map of the bahamasThere’s a sound of deep, genetic-level connection. There’s a sound that surrounds long-lost answers. Long-lost genetic ties. I can’t explain what it is. But it definitely has its own unique heart-stirring sound. This sound surrounded us both.

He told me that when he was born, he was given no name. For three months, he lived without a name. He was just “Baby.” This choked me. It chokes me right now as I write.

I see that little baby with no name, and I want to chase down time. Catch it. I want to go back to his birth. I want to hold him. Look into his eyes. Hold his little hands. Tickle his little feet. And, give him a name.

Every child deserves a name. I know he deserved a name. I know he wanted a name. But a name he did not have. I know his inherent value lies in his beautiful humanness. He is, therefore he’s special and deserving of wide and deep love. Every child should be born rooted into a family, anchored with love and tradition. Whether or not they share genetic ties with the people or person raising them.

I know in my bones, however, that his inherent sense of self-worth, dignity, and human value can feel undermined by this history of not being named. It’s a history that comes insidiously to take you down. I’m not going to feign like I know the weight of this pain. But I sense its gravity and depth.

Moses had no name. But the name he was finally given is historical. He’s a key player in the Old Testament. I believe that if a no-name baby was special then, a no-name baby is special now.

His adoptive aunt named him when his family adopted him. She looked at him. Held him and blessed him with a name. Oh, happy day.

I have no idea where or how my second cousin’s story ends. This is just the beautiful beginning. But, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that life and God saw fit for me to be a part of this unraveling of truth and love. His name is J. McCreary. He not only has a name, but he has a family that wants to know him and love him. Win/win. It worked out for Moses. And it’s working out for J.

The Genetic Ties that Bind Us: Welcoming Home a Lost Family Member




Guest Author Cha Sears-Barefield

Cha Barefield is a powerful speaker, entrepreneur, and host of The Cha Show. The Cha Show is committed to bringing people together, creating a safe space to share our stories, and inspiring our hearts to be better, love better, and hope more.

Cha believes in the power of pushing the needle towards love. She sees the extraordinary in the ordinary and causes us to see the same. The world needs what Cha seeks to amplify, now more than ever.


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