A man who just moved to Malibu to be closer to his family recently discovered other long lost relatives thanks to a DNA testing kit. The kits, which are especially popular as holiday gifts, proved to be the gift that keeps on giving for Frank Churchill Sr.
He was given the kit by his daughter-in-law Jerri Churchill, who thought she’d be helpful in solving a decades old mystery. Frank Churchill Sr., whose son is married Jerri, to was always told his birth father had died when he was a baby. When he was 15 years of age Churchill’s mother died, leaving him an orphan. As an only child, Churchill had always dreamed of having brothers or sisters and didn’t have any other family members in his life.
Jerri, who said she’s “always been into genealogy,” tried to research Churchill’s background, but there was always a dead end.
In April, before the now 83-year-old Churchill moved to Malibu, he took the DNA test and quickly learned he did indeed have relatives. Jerri wasn’t surprised.
“I saw immediately there were two people very highly matched. I reached out to one of them, who oddly lived in the next town over from his in Massachusetts. I told the woman, ‘I think you’re related.’ However, the woman said she couldn’t find a connection. I told her I didn’t think Churchill was the real name so don’t get caught up in that.” The very next day the woman called Jerri back and told her she was positive that her grandfather was Churchill Sr.’s father. The newly found niece said she wanted to meet Churchill Sr. right away, but more importantly she said he needed to meet his 98-year-old half sister Frances Smith.
Soon after Churchill drove from his then-home in Massachusetts to Maine to meet his half-sister. They were both thrilled to find each other after so many years of not knowing of the other’s existence. Looking at photos, it appears there’s a resemblance. Plus, they have other things in common, according to Jerri.
“I think there’s no coincidence that this 83-year-old man who’s super fit has a half-sister who’s 98. She still drives herself to church and is in terrific shape. For someone to be 98 and someone to be 83 and at the gym every day doing four sets of 85 crunches, I don’t think there’s a coincidence that they’re both super fit and super healthy. They grew up totally separate. That’s genetics,” Jerri Churchill declared.
Frances Smith eventually took a DNA test as well, confirming the blood relationship.
“My mother had said to me that my father passed away. She had a brother—my uncle—but I had never met him until after her death. For 15 years, I believed I didn’t have any family whatsoever,” Churchill reminisced. Churchill’s uncle did offer to take him in after his mother died, but he declined and accepted a scholarship to school. During his teenage years, Churchill was mostly on his own. He worked as a theater usher and as a magician to support himself and finish school. He longed for family, though, and finally met his uncle and an aunt who told him he may have been born out of wedlock. That may have estranged his mother from the rest of her family. His biological father, who was married at the time with children, may or may not have known Churchill had been born, but he did move out of state upon Churchill’s birth.
“My mother was a pistol. She danced in a chorus line on Broadway. She ran bootleg during prohibition. I don’t know if my real father ever knew—or if my mother even knew who my father was,” Churchill speculated.
Jerri Churchill thinks his mother knew the identity of the father because the man’s name was Frank and that’s what she named her son, even though the last names are different because she had been married earlier to a Churchill.
Frank Sr. went on to have his own family, including Frank Jr., who’s been married to Jerri for 25 years. Frank Sr. and his wife of 62 years, Lenore, just moved to Malibu to be closer to their grandchildren, but say they’re grateful for the DNA kit because most people find their matches “too late.” Frank Sr. plans on staying in touch with his half-sister and nieces, saying, “It feels like family.”