DNA, Serendipity & who’s your (grand) daddy? By Tricia Whipple

Published on 13 August 2022 at 08:00

serendipity • \sair-un-DIP-uh-tee\ • noun

Example :Serendipity is an unplanned fortunate discovery. 


Serendipity is a common occurrence throughout the history of product invention and scientific discovery.

Let me  introduce myself. My nam is Tricia Whipple and I am a self employed Genetic Genealogist based in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. 


With a professional background in Counselling, Health Justice and Community Work, it was a long and winding road that lead to me changing my career to genetic genealogy that in retrospect now seems the most natural and healthy thing for me to do.  


Some context my father Charles is orginally from Oklahoma,USA and my mother is form Whangareie, New Zealand. 


My mothter Merle was born in pre WW2 smalltown Whangarei to single mother Sadie her birth father was George Nash who did not marry Sadie nor provided for his daugher or is named on her birth certificate. 


Despite the enormous judgements and pressure cast on Saidie to put her daughter up for adoption. Gran raised Merle herself with support from her parents. 


George in 1939


Sadie in the 1940s


Merle in 1965


George's oldest daughter

Noreen in 1950s

George enlisted in the New Zealand Army in 1939 and died in an accident in Yorkshire on 17rth August 1942. 

Some background context. Mum went on to graduate from the University of Auckland with teaching qualifications. She met my father after moving to Wellington and leaving teaching and gaining work with Television New Zealand. Where she met my father who was a Television director on the Graeme Kerr cooking show. 

they were married in Kaurihohore, Northland in January 1963 with George's sister Dos attending - just to confirm George's family was involved in Merl's life. 


Fast forward to July 2015. merle passed away tragically in May 2007 with Sadie passing away on 17th August 2008 aged 92.  Sixty-six years to the date that Goerge had died in 1942. Sadie loved George to his dying day - and would never hear a bad word spoken of him despite him abandoning her and Merle. 


On the 5th of July I was  called to the emergency department at the Prince Charles Hospital TPCah) where my father had been taken by ambulance earlier that morning. The registrar spoke to me that my father's health had deteriorated markedly and he was now nonresponsive, in a coma with a sepsis infection. . He had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma 3 years earlier and was in partial remission which had weakened his health against infections. He was also a quadriplegic after a fall had damaged his spinal cord and was living in a high care facility. I was advised to alert the family that he might not survive the day. It was just me in Australia by myself with my sister-in-law on a cruise in the Pacific and nephews visiting their Dad (my brother) in Hawaii. My father was transferred to the Emergency Medical Unit (EMU) at the TPCH for observation still non - responsive in a coma by on strong IV antibiotics to fight the infection. he was admitted by a male RN MIke- this is relevant. 


one of the female RNs Janine was taking my father's obs during the night and I was speaking to my family in updating them and texting my sister-in-law who was updating my brother. I notice that one of the female RNs - Janine had a slight New Zealand accent and distracted myself from the worry about my father's health.  I asked her where she was from, she replied Kamo - which is a suburb of Whangarei - I wasn't sure that I had heard correctly as Kamo is a small but very significant place where my NZ ancestors on George's side had settled. I didn't say anything but thought to myself that I would ask Janine if I saw her again. 


With the strong antibiotics working well for my father he woke from the coma as the fever dropped. After regaining consciousness for a couple of hours, my father's health was stable. I had been in the hospital with him for 1-5 hours and felt sure that he would survive the night and got ready to head home. I said to myself that if I saw Janine again I would ask her about her Kamo connections. As I was leaving the ward, Janine emerged from one of the rooms asking about my Dad and I updated her. I asked her about Kamo informing her that my ancestor had built the Kamo Hotel. Janine said that her ancestor had owned the Kamo Hotel and asked what was the surname. I said 'Tremaine" Janine then proclaimed "I'm a Tremain!" Turns out that George's mother Louisa and Janine's grandfather John were siblings! Also, Janine's husband Mike was the RN who admitted my father to the EMU ward so my Dad had two very special people looking after him that night. 


When consumer DNA tests became more available in Australia Janine, Mike, and myself all tested. DNA confirmed that Janine and I were related through George and also confirmed that Georg had fathered at least 2 more children including a son John born in England 2 weeks before George's accidental death..  a  year later Janine's sister was showing me some family photos. One photo had no description but the boy looked familiar in fact he looked like me at the same age. 


Nash family 1922 George is boy with the dog. 


Me at age 14 with my unflattering haircut and school uniform. 



George at 14

I manage Janine's and Mike's DNA accounts. As I was researching Mike's ancestor I noticed the same small town in Devon that Janine's and my ancestor was from. So using GEDmatch I checked to see if Mike and Janine might be related and they are 4th cousins! After informing Janine that night she said that figures because her mother always liked Mike. 

I get annoyed with George especially for abandoning my Gran and Mum, but it's hard to be too angry when clearly I am the female version appearance of him. Also, George was described as a 'man's man" and very much part of the patriarchy and likely would not have been supportive of his daughter having a career and moving away to Auckland to attend university. I just wish that he had done better by my Gran who needed his support. My Gran never married. 


Sadie Nichold Whangarei 1940s


George Nash 1939 NZ Army


Me now at age 40

Dividing Ridge genealogy would like to sincerely thank Tricia Whipple for being our guest blogger and genealogist this month. Please follow her & learn more about her story on LinkedIn. To be a contributing guest on History & Heritage visit our Contact page, or message Dividing Ridge Genealogy on social media. 

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