The Magic of DNA: two stories

by Judy Porra

I was adopted out at two weeks old in 1945, and when the adoption access rules changed in the 1980s, I applied to find my birth parents. After a two-year wait I was finally given details of my birth mother and attempted to contact her. She reluctantly agreed to meet with me under a series of strict confidential conditions. Rose gave birth to me aged 29 to an Australian soldier but refused to give me any details about him. Over the course of a few occasional visits and conversations she told me very few details including that she could not remember his name. She married two years after my birth and went on to have three boys, all of whom I have met and all have accepted me since her death.

In 2018 I did a DNA test that resulted in finding a first cousin who had extensively researched her family and was able to tell me about my birth father who was her uncle. Nonie has written an amazing book on her entire family which has answered all my questions about my birth family. I now have a record of who my father was, his wartime experiences and where he lived out his life in Queensland. I also have a half-sister who is nine years older than me and we keep in regular touch. Just a shame we didn’t meet until our 70s and 80s.

Judy Porra (L) with her new-found sister Pat

I reside in Maryborough, Victoria and my great-great-uncle arrived from England in 1854 and settled not far from here, eventually coming to Maryborough and owning the local newspaper. My great-great-grandmother is buried in our local cemetery and there are a lot of once unknown relatives living within the town, including my sister’s family. I lived in Melbourne for the first 30 years of my life and had never heard of Maryborough until I moved here. What a coincidence to find that my birth family also came from this area.

After wondering and searching for most of my life about my birth parents, I now know and feel at peace with finding family members of whom I once had no knowledge and who are accepting of me.


by Nonie Holman

To know your birth parents is something most of us take for granted. To find your birth mother in the 1980s as Judy did is fulfilling in many ways. However, to have the knowledge of your real father withheld from you for another 30 years is agonising.

New-found cousins. From left, Megan Holman, Judy Porra, Nonie Holman

Here follows my story of how Judy discovered her father’s identity.

After completing family history research and publishing my book for the family and future generations, my children gave me an Ancestry DNA test kit for Mother’s Day. On this thoughtful gift by my daughter hung the one-in-a-million chance that Judy would ever find her father’s name.

The result of my DNA test was as expected but still delightful – Irish and English heritage.

What I did not expect was a note from Ancestry to say I had a DNA close match – a first cousin – Judy, a name I didn’t recognise. How intriguing.

Judy asked through Ancestry if I would make contact and she provided her email address.

I replied immediately and Judy explained that she was adopted, and although she had found her birth mother in the 1980s she did not know who her father was. Our DNA showed that we were both linked to the same male relative. I puzzled over this until the next day Judy wrote that although her mother would not reveal her father’s name, she did say he was an Australian soldier recently returned from the Middle East (WW2) when she met him.

George Reilly

Immediately I knew who her father was. My mother’s brother, George Reilly, my uncle. He was indeed an Australian soldier and had written a diary of his time in the Middle East, which I had published in my family history book.

It was deeply emotional for me to be able to tell Judy the name of her father, something she had longed for all her life. I emailed a photograph, not being able to imagine the emotion of seeing a photograph of your father for the very first time.

We met for lunch and the family resemblance was spooky. Judy was the image of her half-sister, my other cousin. It was such a great pleasure to give Judy a book containing her family history on her father’s side. She now had a heritage, something which all of us long for and many of us take for granted.

Footnote: George Reilly is the son of George O’Reilly who emigrated from Arklow in 1881. He is also the grandson of Johanna White, an Irish dairymaid who came as a free settler from Limerick in 1841. Their story was told in our June 2021 issue.

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