‘Help me find my father’

The late Philomena McNutt as a young woman.
The late Philomena McNutt as a young woman.

A woman born in Derry and raised in Texas has issued a public call for help to try and trace the local man she believes to be her father following a shock DNA test.

The woman is the daughter of late Derry woman, Philomena McNutt and now believes her father is a Derry man named Murphy, whom her mother dated shortly before meeting and marrying an American sailor in the early 1960s and moved with him to America.

The 53-year-old woman, who is going by her first name Michelle, said she only had it confirmed that the man who raised her was not her biological father after she and her sister undertook ancestry DNA tests around 18 months ago after watching an item on U.S. chat show ‘The View,’ during which a specialist company was offering DNA ancestry testing at a special rate.

Michelle, a registered nurse, told the ‘Journal’: “My sister and I said, ‘Let’s do that.’

“I was born in Ireland, at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry on April 21, 1963. I’m the oldest out of three. My sister and I did the test and we were going to see how accurate it was. It took a few weeks to get the results back.

“I’m a nurse so I know about DNA and my sister and I had a 50 per cent different ethnicity profile. Ancestry said I was 81 p.c. Irish, 14 p.c. British and 4 p.c. West European. My dad here has American Indian in him and my sister had that in her- 23 p.c. American Indian. My sister and I were noticing there was a 50 p.c. difference in our DNA.”

Michelle said there followed some sensitive conversations with her father and the family. Indeed, in subsequent research, she was told about a man named Mr. Murphy - now believed to be in his early to mid-70s and still living in the Derry area - who was romantically linked with her mother in the period immediately before she met and married the Texan sailor.

She now believes that this man is her real father and that that it is highly probable he does not know it.

Michelle’s mother and the US sailor divorced within a few years of arriving in America and Philomena moved back to Derry and, for a time, to England, keeping in regular contact with her children in the U.S. all the while and meeting up with them on occasions.

Philomena’s daughters flew from the U.S. to be by her side before she passed away from cancer at the Foyle Hospice in 2001 aged just 58.

Michelle said: “I always had a suspicion. I live in Texas but I always knew that I was never comfortable in Texas, although people are very friendly here, just as friendly as in Ireland. I just never felt like I belonged here.

“After the DNA test my sister and I discussed how are we going to bring this up to dad. My dad had done the DNA test himself as he wanted to find out if he had any Jewish blood in him and it turns out he does.

“I had matched with my sister under ‘Close Family’ but I did not match with my dad here in Texas. My father took a bit of time to process it. He asked ‘is it accurate?’ and I said ‘yes it is’. After that I said, ‘It doesn’t change any of my relationships with anybody in the family’.

“I found all this out when I was 51. It was as if my world came together like a puzzle in my mind. It fitted.”

Michelle related how the man she had known as her father had been in the U.S. navy, stationed in Derry, and had met her mother “in a soda shop in the Diamond area.”

“When they first looked at each other they just fell in love right away; like it was in the movies. My mother loved to laugh and have a good time. She was typical Irish. My mother and I look a lot alike.”

Philomena and her American suitor got married in St. Mura’s Catholic Church in Fahan, County Donegal,on April 15th 1963. Michelle said she was born six days after the wedding on April 21.

Michelle claimed she was told that the man she previously knew to be her father, while he was visiting Philomena’s parental home in Derry back in the early 60s, was approached by a man who came up to him and told the US sailor that he was in love with Philomena and asked that he be good to her.

Michelle said she knows that this was Mr. Murphy, the man she believes is her biological dad.

“I think my mother, when she broke it off with this guy, was already pregnant. I think it was love at first sight when they met at the soda shop. He never re-married and his name surname is on her grave.”

She added that at the age of 16 she, along with her younger brother, visited her mother, then living in England and were taken to Derry to meet their relatives here.

“They were all really nice and I felt in a weird sense familiar with them,” she added.

Her mother had remarried during her life and had other children, including a half-sister who was adopted, and who the Texan siblings have now made initial contact with.

Michelle went on: “Now I need to find out who my father is. He may not even know he has a daughter but, hopefully, someone will know him and say ‘you have somebody looking for you.’

“He is probably going to want a DNA test, I have no problem with that. I’d like to meet him, talk to him. I am at the point I have exhausted all my resources here.

“I’m curious about him, do I have sisters or brothers? I don’t know who half of me is?”

If Mr Murphy or anyone with information wishes to get in touch with Michelle, contact the Journal on 71272249 or e-mail: brendan.mcdaid@jpress.co.uk.