'I won the DNA lottery': Woman finds biological father after lifelong search

After decades of wondering who her biological father, Iqaluit’s Bernice Clarke, 41, through an ancestry website, has found him.

'I knew I fit in somewhere, I looked like someone, I act like someone,' Bernice Clarke says

'I’m still in shock,' says Bernice Clarke, 'It’s just a match, really, not just looks.' (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

Bernice Clarke calls the moment she found her biological father miraculous.  

For decades, she had been searching for a man she knew nothing about; asking around Iqaluit to see if people might have known him, browsing ancestry websites to see if she could find a connection.

But at 41, Clarke knew how unlikely it was for her to find him after all these years, especially knowing many friends and co-workers who have also been searching for their dads for years and haven't had any luck. 

But last month, things changed.

She got a notification from an ancestry website, matching her with her biological father, Guy Trinque.

"I stood up as if the computer was on fire and I started saying 'Oh my god! Oh my god!' over and over," Clarke said.

Clarke has been sharing the good news about reconnecting with her dad and sister with friends and family on Facebook. (Facebook)

It turns out Trinque, who was adopted, had been frequenting the same online ancestry site as Clarke.

Trinque, who now lives in Montreal, had no idea he was Clarke's father until she reached out to him. 

A couple of weeks ago, they had their first phone call.

"We were both giggling, we sounded like we were teenagers," Clarke said, smiling.

Clarke says it was hard to decipher Trinque's thick French-Canadian accent and the phone line kept cutting in and out, which made the call a little difficult.

"I was trying so hard to catch every word, because this is a moment I've been waiting for since I was a little girl," Clarke said.

Not an easy find

Over the years, Clarke's mother, who died last year, offered little help with her search. Clarke says there were also too many times when she had gotten her hopes up for nothing.

"I knew I fit in somewhere, I looked like someone, I act like someone," Clarke had told herself, trying to remain optimistic.

Clarke with her daughter. She says she was careful telling her dad about his five grandchildren. (submitted by Bernice Clarke)
In February, she had a glimmer of hope when one of her mother's cousins said her dad might be a man named Bernard.

Excited for a new lead, Clarke posted a message on an Iqaluit Facebook group, hoping someone knew a Bernard who was in the city in the 70s. 

Soon enough, she got in contact with Bernard, who consented to a DNA test.

But, as she now knows, this man was not her father. 

"It hurt. It really hurt," Clarke said, taking in a deep breath. "It shattered me." 

For months afterwards, Clarke abandoned her search for her father, like she had many times before. 

Until that day a few weeks ago.

"I'm still in shock," Clarke said. "I won the DNA lottery."

A lot in common

Clarke says she has more in common with her dad than looks.

She says they have both worked for the airline industry, they're both entrepreneurs, they've both dabbled in acting, and love to travel. 

Soon after connecting with Clarke, Trinque wrote a letter to his daughter explaining how he met her mother in the summer of 1974 in Iqaluit when he was in the community for work.

Bernice Clarke, with her son Simon and husband Justin. Clarke says her dad is eager to connect with her kids. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

And if I'd known about you, I would have chosen to be a part of your life, Trinque wrote.

Those words mean everything to Clarke.

"It heals those moments when I was a little girl, when I was 20, when I was 30," Clarke said, her voice shaking.

Clarke and Trinque are planning to meet in person soon, but for now they're catching up with frequent phone calls.

So far, Clarke has learned she has one sister.

As for her dad? He has five grandchildren.

About the Author

Sima Sahar Zerehi

Sima Sahar Zerehi is a reporter with CBC North. She started her career in journalism with the ethnic press working for a Canadian-based Farsi language newspaper. Her CBC journey began as a regular commentator with CBC radio's Metro Morning. Since then she's worked with CBC in Montreal, Toronto and now Iqaluit.

With files from Kevin Kablutsiak

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