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At first, she fared no better tracing Margaret, her grandmother. Then in 2013 came a breakthrough: a new website called Ancestry DNA that allowed you to compare your DNA to that of approximately four million others on there — all curious strangers, tracing their family tree.‘Unlike previous DNA tests, which only showed a direct genetic link to, say, a sibling, this one could link you to distant cousins,’ Julia explains.‘I knew it was worth a try.’Julia uploaded her mother’s DNA via a saliva sample provided by the site — and found a number of matches. ‘He wasn’t a Revers, but in my gut I knew he was the man,’ says Julia.‘He’d also been in the same part of the UK as my grandmother at the right time.’Arthur Garrett Junior died in 2009, but he’d had two other children, Faye and Ralph — who agreed to a DNA test, which revealed he was Helen’s half-sibling.
From there, Julia used her years of expertise to sift through data looking for patterns and possible matches.‘Advances in DNA testing mean databases can reveal even very distant matches,’ she explains.Julia is yet to identify his mother, but her detective work led her to Tommy Chalmers, a security worker from Moray in Scotland, 450 miles north of the spot where Robert was left as a baby.Tommy agreed to a DNA test through the Ancestry database and the results showed he and Robert were indeed half-brothers.Many are the descendants of American soldiers stationed in the UK during the war, who left local girls in a spot of bother.Others are the product of decades-old mysteries, including the case of a baby boy abandoned in a Birmingham cinema in 1956 who today has also been united with half-siblings he never knew he had.