Ask Amy: Siblings confront challenging genealogy

Dear Amy: My brother and I are the byproducts of extramarital affairs our mother had between 1943 and 1953, presumably to the same man.

For decades we were led to believe that the father who raised us was our biological father.

Out of a guilty conscience, our mother eventually spilled the beans about her past. We were devastated.

Even though we’ve subscribed to two well-known genealogical databases in an attempt to track down our biological father, our efforts have been fruitless.

Both databases put forth hundreds of “possible relatives,” even though his surname has never even appeared in either one of them.

The only confirmation that we have of his actual existence was an obscure death certificate, dated 1963.

Although he was passed off as nothing more than a family friend at that time, we actually did have social contact with our biological father on rare occasions, so we do know his name.

I might mention that our mother did several stints in psychiatric hospitals after her paramour died, so the veracity of her story could be called into question.

My brother and I are 79 and 72 respectively.

We’re stuck between having closure and letting go, and would appreciate your advice.

— Constantly Wondering

Dear Constantly Wondering: My immediate reaction is that you and your brother should expand your search from genealogy databases to also include DNA databases.

If you and your brother both submitted samples, a DNA search would first of all reveal whether you and your brother are full or half-siblings. It would also likely turn up some DNA relatives along both your mother’s and biological father’s sides.

One advantage of DNA genealogy research is that it is not dependent on names, surnames, family trees, or public records.

Learning the truth about your DNA heritage might enable you and your brother to close this particular door — and I hope you will also prepare yourselves that it will likely open others.

Dear Amy: I live in an affluent neighborhood of expensive, although older homes.

The vast majority of homes are very well-maintained and manicured. Many have had major remodels to look like brand-new homes.

However, there are a couple of homes that are in serious need of a facelift!

One home in particular is a complete eyesore.

Although it is worth over a couple million dollars, the lawn is dead, there are high weeds where the lawn should be, paint doesn’t match and/or is faded in places, wood facia is rotting, along with other significant cosmetic problems.

There do not seem to be any code violations that would get the city involved.

I am not aware of the owner’s financial situation, but they have been there long enough where there should be significant equity to refinance and pull out money for repairs — or sell and move to a less expensive home.

Other neighbors have left notes, to no avail.

Any suggestions on how to get this family to fix up their house, or even move?

— Frustrated Neighbor

Dear Frustrated: It is so generous of you to provide such a detailed list of repairs that need to be made to this property! You’ve obviously inspected the property quite closely.

You’ve also extended your generous attitude toward these strangers by offering suggestions for how they might finance improvements to their property in order to meet your needs, including the idea of them moving.

What you haven’t done is offered to mow their lawn. Or offered to get a group of people together to help with some cosmetic repairs to the outside of their home (oh, the horror of faded paint!).

What a neighborhood! People leaving notes and developing repair punch lists and investment advice — and not one person finding out who these neighbors are and asking if they need a hand.

I suggest that you approach this by putting human values ahead of property values.

Changing your own orientation and approach should improve the neighborhood.

Dear Amy: Unfortunately, your predictable response to the “Upset” (the parents who stay overnight at their son’s apartment) comes as no surprise.

Upset mentions that her son’s girlfriend (not fiancé or wife, by the way) is not comfortable with these visits.

If my girlfriend complained and showed disrespect toward my parents in this manner, she would be sent packing and would no longer be my girlfriend.

— Disgusted

Dear Disgusted: The girlfriend expressed her concern (not disrespect). This apartment was (also) her home. The parents were visiting every month — and bringing their dogs!

Maybe the boyfriend should be sent packing.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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