Until March of 2021, long-time Bienville Parish resident Evangeline “Evan” Kelley had always thought her biological father had died before she was born. That is what her mother told her and what her mother believed. Evan never met any of the family of the man she believed was her father. Evan’s mother told her that her father was Native American, but through recent genealogical research, she learned that the man believed to be her father was actually part Italian. His mother remarried a Native American and the man adopted him.
Evan was born in Longview, Washington and lived in Kelso, Washington until 1984, when she moved to Louisiana. A few years ago, Evan completed a home DNA test and submitted it to Ancestry.com’s DNA program. Within a short time, she was notified that her DNA results were ready for her to view. She immediately knew something was amiss. Her DNA results showed that her ancestry was only 4% Italian. Evan began to suspect that the man she believed was her father was not her real father, but she thought she would never learn the identity of her biological father.
A couple of years ago, Evan’s aunt, Laura Olson, began researching Evan’s DNA to try to help unravel the mystery. One day, Evan’s aunt got a notification from Ancestry of a new DNA match, a 2nd or 3rd cousin named John Bass. Evan’s aunt was unable to link him to any relatives on Evan’s maternal side and realized that John was on Evan’s father’s side of the family. Since he was such a close match, Evan’s aunt contacted him. With John’s help, Evan’s aunt narrowed the possibilities down to two Mills brothers. Then, in March of this year, Evan received a message from her aunt which said, “I think I found your dad.”
Through family connections, Merlin Mills learned about Evan’s search and received pictures of Evan. The family resemblance was undeniable. Merlin submitted his DNA to Ancestry and awaited the results. On Friday night, Evan learned that Merlin’s DNA test showed a positive parent/child match.
Merlin remembered going to a restaurant in 1978-79 where he met Evan’s mom. “I used to go there all the time,” he said. They dated for a little while. Evan’s mom then began dating the man she thought was Evan’s father. Merlin was unaware of Evan’s mother’s pregnancy and, until recently, had no idea that Evan existed. Merlin lives just up the hill from Evan’s aunt in Kelso, Washington, Evan’s previous hometown.
With a simple DNA home test kit along with the help of Evan’s aunt Laura and newly-discovered cousin John Bass, Evan eventually learned that her father is alive and well and that she has two sisters. Evan has a host of previously unknown relatives who are anxious to meet her. Evan and Merlin have not met each other yet but are excited to do so. Evan’s mother passed away a few years ago without knowing that Evan’s real father had been alive all this time.
Source: Evangeline Kelley, phone conversation with Brad Dison, May 2, 2021.
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