Nova Scotia

Alberta man unites with long lost half-siblings in Nova Scotia after surprise DNA test

An Alberta man has gained four new half-siblings in Nova Scotia after uncovering a decades-old family secret with a DNA test.

Rick Boyd has been curious about his lineage since the 1980s. He found the truth in a DNA test

All five siblings, Doug, Janet, Rick, Joanne and Gordon, are seen during the first in-person meeting in Digby earlier this month. (Submitted by Rick Boyd)

An Alberta man has gained four new half-siblings in Nova Scotia after uncovering a decades-old family secret.

Rick Boyd was 31 when his father told him he didn't think he was his biological dad.

"He said, 'Rick, I don't think I'm your father. I think your real father passed away in 1973 at the age of 47 from a heart attack and I'm telling you this because of your flying career,'" Boyd, a former pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force, told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Friday.

"So it kind of went in one ear and out the other but it stuck with me all these years."

Half-siblings Janet Denyes and Rick Boyd have already talked about getting together for the holidays in Ontario this year. (Submitted by Rick Boyd)

Now 69 and living in St. Albert, Alta., Boyd has finally learned the truth about his lineage.

In 2019, his wife purchased him an Ancestry DNA kit for Christmas in hopes that it might quell his uncertainty.

Boyd received the results in February 2020.

"Right off the top, there was this person named G.W. who was a 100 per cent half-sibling," Boyd said. "That got my attention."

It also confirmed what his father had told him so many years ago. 

"I knew I had another father. I knew right there that my dad wasn't my dad, so my suspicions were gone," he said. "I just knew I had to follow this up to find out who this person was. It was overwhelming."

Connecting the dots

Before Boyd could even pursue this new half-sibling, he received a message from a researcher on Ancestry who works to connect family members. 

Within four days, the researcher had compared Boyd's DNA and that of his potential half-sibling and confirmed their relationship.

It was then revealed that G.W. was actually former MLA Gordon Wilson, who grew up in the coastal community of Digby, N.S.

"He said, 'Yeah, you are Gordon's half-brother and not only that, he's got a brother and you've got two twin sisters, so you're not a Boyd. You are in fact a Wilson, but your mother was your mother,'" Boyd said. 

"So that changed my life right there in that spot."

During their first video call together, Boyd took a screenshot of them, calling it their 'first family photo.' (Submitted by Rick Boyd)

By April, Wilson and Boyd had connected over the phone and they were able to put the pieces of Boyd's lineage together.

He was born in November 1951, only six months after his parents were married. He later discovered that his mother had been dating two men when she became pregnant.

Boyd was an army brat so he spent his teenage years in Greenwood, N.S., only about 90 kilometres east of Digby where his biological father and four half-siblings were living.

One of those siblings is Janet Denyes, who now lives in Brighton, Ont.

"It was a bit shocking, of course, to hear this news and then first thing, we were like, 'OK, when did this happen? When was he born?' We were trying to map everything together," Denyes told Information Morning. "It was very exciting."

'Getting down to Nova Scotia'

Boyd has since gotten to know his siblings, including younger brothers, Gordon and Doug, and twin sisters, Janet and Joanne, over video calls.

Gordon, Doug and Joanne still live in the Digby area.

"It was just a welcoming experience from start to finish. There was no trepidation. Our [researcher] had done all the math. I knew I was born two years before my father got married, so there was no impact to my stepmother, who's still around," he said.

"So it was a very easy transition. The next step was just getting out of COVID and getting down to Nova Scotia."

After 18 long months of video calls, the siblings finally met in person earlier this month. Denyes said the calls more than prepared them for their first meeting.

Boyd, centre, is seen with his four half-siblings during his trip to Digby, N.S. (Submitted by Rick Boyd)

"I don't think there was any hesitation at all about getting that hug, right off the bat," she said.

Boyd went on to learn that his biological father was in fact, Gerald Wilson. He had died of a heart attack in 1973, just like he had been told.

"Everything that I know about my dad, I honestly believe that he very likely did not know at all that he had another son," Denyes said. 

"Because I really feel certain that if he had, Rick would have been part of our life years ago."

Boyd made sure to visit his biological father's gravesite when he was in Nova Scotia. He also visited the house where his siblings grew up. 

Boyd was sure to visit his biological father's gravesite when he was in Digby earlier this month. (Submitted by Rick Boyd)

"When I saw my father's house, I was probably within a couple of hundred metres of where we used to drive by to go catch the [Digby] ferry," he said. "That was my biggest regret — I had an opportunity where I could have seen him, but I never did."

Boyd said meeting his half-siblings was worth the wait. Since Boyd lives out west, they made sure to make plans for future visits and include him in the annual family photo.

"That was when I knew that this was going to be a good experience," Boyd said. 

"I look at that photo all the time. I don't know half the people in it, but I remember seeing the picture that Gordon sent me of his family sitting on the same steps about 18 months [earlier]. Now, here's the same photo with more people, more first cousins, more aunts and myself in it and that's something I'll cherish forever."