Thanks to a £99 DNA test, a woman found her biological father 41 years after his one-night stand with her mother.
Kelly Pinkney, 41, from London, was in disbelief when the kit she bought to learn more about her parentage also revealed a first cousin.
And after working tirelessly to track down her family members via social media, she first met her father, Saeed Sotoudeh, earlier this year, and the pair are now forging a relationship.
“It’s such a great feeling to know who I am for the first time,” Kelly said.
Kelly Pinkney was surprised to find a first cousin when she used the site 23AndMe to discover her ancestors
The paramedic and her father, Said Sotoudeh, met earlier this year and are working on their relationship
‘When I look in the mirror, I look at myself in a different way than before. I feel complete. I feel like I belong now.’
Kelly was born in September 1980 and was conceived the Christmas before.
She describes herself as a ‘sad’ and ‘unhappy’ girl who always felt she was different.
Initially raised by her single mother, she was taken care of at the age of four and spent time in a succession of foster homes before being placed with one family for four years.
Kelly grew up feeling different from the white kids she grew up with and never knew her ethnicity
There she says she felt miserable and started running away, only to be placed at the Danes House Children’s Home in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, at the age of nine.
There she began to question her identity, as she had dark hair and a dark complexion with brown eyes, while her mother’s entire family was blond.
“It was very disturbing,” Kelly explains.
“I was bullied at school because there were no black people further north, no brown people.”
Kelly describes herself as a sad childhood complicated by not having a family to rely on
“I’m not even that dark, but I was the darkest in the school, the only one who was brown, everyone else was white.”
“My color became a thing for me. That was very difficult, because I was in a children’s home, so I was different, I didn’t have a family and I was also different because I had color and no one else.’
“If I had been white, no one would ever have questioned me.”
She moved back in with her mother when she was ten and they started asking her about her heritage.
Others always asked where she was from and doubted her ethnicity – but she always felt uncomfortable because she could never answer them without some idea where her dark appearance came from.
Her mother told her that she was conceived one night in a London hotel and that she thought her father was Arab or Egyptian, but she couldn’t remember his name.
Kelly Pinkney with her son Ashdon, now. The couple live together in Bedford, where Kelly settles after his father’s divorce
“Mom didn’t know she was pregnant until eight or ten weeks,” Kelly continued.
“She said people said, ‘Are you getting rid of it?’ because there was no father and at that time it was not obvious to have a baby out of wedlock.
“She was adamant that she loved me and loved me.”
When Kelly was 15, she left the house to live with a friend. They had a son together – Ashdon, now 17 – when Kelly was 24, but broke up not long after.
She said, ‘At this point I had accepted that I would never find my father; I didn’t even know his name.’
‘Where would I even start? I’ve thought about it occasionally – I wondered what he looked like. Do I look like him? Does he have other children?’
Kelly moved back in with her mother when she was ten and she started asking her about her heritage, but couldn’t find any answers
“But it wasn’t something that consumed me.”
Kelly became an ambulance driver and settled in Bedford with her son.
Two years ago, she was talking to a friend who had taken an ancestry test at California-based 23&Me.
Their tests use a saliva sample to assess a person’s genetic heritage.
At the time, the test was advertised for £150 and Kelly couldn’t afford it, but a few months later she saw it on offer for £99 and decided to treat herself.
After she completed and sent the kit, five weeks passed before she received the results – she told her she was 50% Persian, from modern Iran.
Kelly’s appearance, which was not apparent to her as a child, suddenly became apparent when she later discovered her Iranian ancestry
But it also told her that a cousin was also on the site – and connected them.
Kelly took the plunge and messaged the man explaining her story of being fatherless.
It turned out that his mother had six brothers, one of whom must be Kelly’s father.
Two were dead, two lived in the US and others hadn’t been to London in the late 1970s.
They talked on the phone and he said he would explain the situation to his mother.
“I didn’t want to cause any trouble, but on the other hand, I was so excited about this discovery,” Kelly said.
“But he called me back and immediately his tone had changed.”
‘He said a mistake had been made and his mother and grandmother said it was not possible as the family had only come to the UK in the late 1980s. He thought the company had made a mistake.”
“He wished me luck and then interrupted me.”
“But I knew the DNA couldn’t be wrong, so I started doing my own research — I was literally an FBI agent.”
She followed two of the brothers on Facebook, but they didn’t respond to her messages, so she started talking to their daughters.
The women agreed to a DNA test, but it turned out that they were cousins.
After tirelessly doing her own detective work through social media and being turned off by relatives, Kelly got in touch with her father who agreed to take a DNA test
Another brother in the US agreed to a DNA test, but was an uncle.
And then, as word spread, Kelly received a message from another of the brothers named Saeed, who was still living in London.
He thought he recognized Kelly’s mother and agreed to take a DNA test, which came back positive – he was Kelly’s father.
After 41 years, Kelly had finally found the father she’d been missing all her life – and amazingly, his only regret in life was that he never had children of his own.
He had stayed in North West London after he turned 15 and said he wanted a relationship with Kelly’s mother, but she disappeared and he was never able to find her again.
A second DNA test confirmed that they were father and daughter and that they first met a few months ago.
Her own appearance started to make sense as she unraveled Saeed’s Iranian ancestry.
Kelly as a baby. She grew up with white relatives on her mother’s side, which confused her self-esteem
Kelly said she took a picture of them together and was amazed at how much they looked alike when she saw it.
Last week they went out to a Persian restaurant for his birthday and are now forging a relationship.
Kelly said, “When I found out, I cried uncontrollably for an hour. I couldn’t stop. I thought of all the pain and pain.’
“There was a huge relief – I finally knew who I was.”
“He never met the right person, never married or had a family of his own, and he said he always wanted kids. And he was the only brother of them all who had no children.’
“It was a huge shock to him because he never knew I was there when I knew he was.”
She now plans to meet her grandmother, who is also in the UK, and other cousins in the US with whom she has developed a close relationship over the coming months.
She added: “I don’t want my father to feel guilty or sad about what we missed because the past is over and dusted, we can’t get it back.”
“We should be so grateful and happy that we have this because if I hadn’t taken that test, he would never have known about me. He would have spent the rest of his life alone. And I’m so grateful for that.’
“I feel great now that I know I’m Persian.”
A 23&Me spokesperson said: ‘As genetic testing is readily available to consumers, we are increasingly hearing stories of families discovering and reuniting new relatives, and of customers finding unexpected results in their reports.
“While 23andMe is not specifically designed to help people confirm parentage or find biological parents, our DNA Relatives tool does help people find and interact with participating genetic relatives.
“This feature is completely optional, meaning customers must actively choose to participate and be informed in advance that using the tool will allow them to discover unexpected relationships.”