YORK, Maine – Bewildered and mystified, Marci Radin looked at the unknown last name that appeared on the genetic match list Ancestry.com sent her.
It was everywhere, that name Barclay. He topped the first dozen names on the list. But Radin didn’t see her maiden name anywhere among them.
“I couldn’t find anyone’s name on my dad’s side,” Radin said in a recent interview.
Barclay? Radin thought. I don’t have Barclays in my family.
That’s what she thought. The ancestry begged to differ.
According to the organization, Radin, who lives in Colorado, had all kinds of Barclays swinging from the branches of his family tree. One of them, a John Barclay, is even buried here in Maine and presents Radin with a mystery that she hopes someone will step up and help her solve. More on that in a moment.
These revelations surfaced last year. At that time, Radin had been registered for some time with Ancestry, the Utah-based genealogy organization. She knew a lot about the maternal side of the family. She knew that some of her ancestors had arrived here with all the other Mayflower Pilgrims.
But she knew little about the members of the paternal family. For Radin, they were a mystery – a mystery that only deepened when Ancestry told him about these Barclays.
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DNA sleuth leads to surprising news about father
Naturally, Radin decided to dig. She hired a professional forensic geneticist – a DNA sleuth, if you will – to examine those unknown roots in the ground beneath her family tree. In just 48 hours, the geneticist came back to Radin with revelations that shook her identity and her self-esteem.
Lyle, the man she thought was her father, was not her father.
Truth be told, Radin had considered this possibility for a “nanosecond” when she saw all of these Barclays listed, with her maiden name nowhere in sight. However, she quickly dismissed this idea and instead tried to imagine other scenarios. Perhaps a relative on her mother’s side gave birth out of wedlock, for example.
There was, however, one thing that Radin did not question: the DNA results provided by Ancestry.
“Science doesn’t lie,” she says.
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Lyle had been there for Radin since day one. When she was born, he told his mother, his wife, Charlotte, that Radin was “the most magnificent thing on earth,” according to a baby book that sat in the house while Radin was growing up. He raised Radin, and towards the end of his life, after his mother’s death, she served as his guardian.
“We were very close,” Radin said.
Lyle went to his grave believing Radin to be his own flesh and blood.
But she wasn’t.
Instead, Radin was the daughter of a man named Gordon Barclay, a widower who had a son, John, or “Johnny” as his relatives called him.
The DNA detective went through the records and produced half of Radin’s family history that she never knew. In the late 1940s, Lyle and Charlotte lived in Maryland, where he was a professor at a university. In October 1949, Lyle flew to Germany to help the university establish a branch for American soldiers who served there after World War II.
Radin had always assumed that his mother had traveled with Lyle to Germany. Not so, Radin said the geneticist told him. Instead, his mother stayed in America for a few months and did not join Lyle in Europe until February 1950. Radin was born nine months later, in November.
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According to Radin, when his mother found Lyle in Germany, “she was, like, five minutes pregnant with me, another man.”
That man was Gordon Barclay, who lived in the same Maryland community as Lyle and Charlotte, according to Radin.
A family she never knew
Radin said she was “shocked” by the news at first. Lyle and everyone else she grew up with — her brother and sister, her paternal grandparents, her cousins — were “suddenly erased from my life.”
“There was no biological connection to these people,” she said. “My maiden name does not belong to me at all.”
Also erased: her German heritage, of which she was so proud.
“I felt deprived,” Radin said. “I had that German heritage just ripped out from under me. It was the worst thing… It felt physically ripped out. But I didn’t go into histrionics. I didn’t cringe It was just what it was. I can’t change the way I was raised.
She now knows that she is mainly Scottish and Irish.
“But I don’t feel Scottish,” she said. “I don’t feel Irish.”
Radin has an old photo of her birth father — and, yes, she sees a resemblance in it. In fact, she placed the photo side-by-side with Lyle’s and thinks the two men look alike.
Radin said she believed Gordon Barclay never knew he had a daughter. She also said that her mother might have believed – or wanted to believe – that Lyle was really Radin’s father. After all, Radin said, the pregnancy timeline could have pointed to Lyle as much as Barclay, and there was no Ancestry.com at the time to set the record straight.
Thanks to the widow of a cousin of Barclay, Radin learned that his biological father and his half-brother were beloved members of the family – intelligent, charming and friendly guys. Radin said she would use those same adjectives to describe Lyle.
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Through online searches, Radin was able to find the grave of John Barclay, his half-brother, at First Parish Cemetery in York.
It was a surprise. Radin and her husband, Howard, have vacationed in Maine for years. To his knowledge, however, Radin had no family ties to Maine. Only her husband did.
John Barclay died in his early seventies in 2008. Radin first visited his grave in York in the summer of 2021. She noticed, then and last week, that someone was still planting flowers fresh on Barclay’s grave. She had no idea who, which added yet another mystery to her increasingly mysterious life.
“It kills me,” Radin said as he approached Barclay’s grave last week and saw fresh new flowers there. “I’m going to cry. Someone else keeps coming here, and I don’t know who.
But that was then. It is now. On Wednesday, September 7, Radin discovered that the person planting flowers on his brother’s grave is the widower of the woman buried next to him. According to Todd Frederick, the cemetery superintendent, this individual began attending to Barclay’s grave when he noticed no one else was.
While Radin said she hoped the mysterious guardian would turn out to be someone who knew her brother personally, she added that she was “thrilled” to finally know the identity of this caring individual.
However, a mystery remains around John Barclay: why is he buried in York, Maine?
“There is not the slightest information of his presence here,” Radin said at his grave last week.
According to Radin, the Barclays had roots elsewhere in New England, as well as New York. John, she said, went to boarding school in Switzerland, attended college there and worked for the international Olympics committee there. He married a woman from France. They settled in Spain and adopted two daughters.
“They’re all over there,” Radin said, meaning Europe.
Again: why is John buried in Maine? Radin said she and Frederick worked together last summer to try to find the answer and failed. On Thursday, Frederick confirmed that there were no records on Barclay’s grave. He even added that the Portsmouth-based company that handled the burial has no records either.
Barclay’s widow – Radin’s sister-in-law in Spain – most likely has the answer. According to Radin, however, she either did not receive or chose not to respond to Radin’s attempts to reach her.
Radin hopes that anyone who knew his half-brother, or knows how he was buried in a condition he apparently had no connection with, will contact her. She can be contacted at [email protected]
“Any ideas would be appreciated,” Radin said from his home in Colorado on Wednesday.
Radin said all of these revelations would have played out very differently had they been revealed to her when she was much younger – especially if it had happened while Lyle and his mother were still alive. She wouldn’t have wanted to discuss the situation with Lyle, and in fact wouldn’t have wanted him to know.
Her mother is another story, however.
“I wish I could tell my mom about it,” she said.