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 find out about her ancestry also revealed a first cousin.
And after working tirelessly to track down her relatives through social media, she met up with her dad, Saeed Sotoudeh, for the first time earlier this year and the pair are now forging a relationship.
‘It’s such an amazing feeling knowing who I am for the first time,’ Kelly, said.
Kelly Pinkney was surprise to find a first cousin when she used the site 23AndMe to discover her ancestry
The ambulance worker and her father, Said Sotoudeh, met up earlier this year and are working on their relationship
‘When I look in the mirror I look at myself in a different way than I did before. I feel complete. I feel like I belong now.’
Kelly was born in September 1980 and conceived the Christmas before.
She describes herself as a ‘sad’ and ‘unhappy’ little girl who always felt she was different.
Initially raised by her single mum, she was taken into care aged four, and spent time in a succession of foster homes before being placed with one family for four years.
Kelly grew up feeling otherness from the white children she grew up with and never knew what she was ethnically
There, she says she was miserable and started to run away, eventually being placed in Danes House Children’s Home in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, aged nine.
It was there she began questioning her identity, because she was dark-haired and dark-skinned with brown eyes while all her mum’s family were fair.
‘It was very unsettling,’ Kelly explains.
‘I got bullied at school because further north there were no black people, no brown people.’
Kelly describes herself as having had a sad childhood made harder by not having a family to rely on
‘I’m not even that dark, but I was the darkest kid in the school, the only kid that was brown, everyone else was white.’
‘My colour became a thing for me. That was really hard as I was in a children’s home so I was different anyway, I didn’t have a family and I was also different because I had colour and no-one else did.’
‘If I was white, no-one would ever have questioned me.’
She moved back in with her mum aged ten and she began asking her about her parentage.
Others would always ask where she was from and question her ethnicity – but it always made her feel uncomfortable because she could never answer them with no idea where her dark looks came from.
Her mum told her she had been conceived one night in a hotel in London and she thought her dad was Arabic or Egyptian, but she couldn’t remember his name.
Kelly Pinkney with her son Ashdon, now. The pair live together in Bedford where Kelly settles after splitting from his father
‘Mum didn’t know she was pregnant until eight or ten weeks,’ Kelly went on.
‘She said people said “Are you going to get rid of it?” because there was no father and back in those days it wasn’t the done thing to be having a baby outside marriage.
‘She was adamant she loved me and was keeping me.’
When Kelly was 15 she left home to live with a boyfriend. They had a son – Ashdon, now 17 – together when Kelly was 24 but split up not long after.
She said: ‘At this point I’d accepted I’d never find my dad; I didn’t even know his name.’
‘Where would I even begin? I thought about it on the odd occasion – I wondered what he looked like. Do I look like him? Does he have other children?’
Kelly moved back in with her mum aged ten and she began asking her about her parentage but didn’t find any answers
‘But it wasn’t something that consumed me.’
Kelly became an ambulance driver and settled in Bedford with her son.
Then two years ago, she was chatting to a friend who had done an ancestry test with California-based 23&Me.
Their tests use a saliva sample to assess someone’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 completing the kit and sending it off, five weeks went by before she received the results – telling her she was 50% Persian, from modern day Iran.
Kelly’s looks, which were unclear to her as a child, suddenly became clear as she later discovered her Iranian ancestry
But it also told her there was a first cousin also on the site – and connected them.
Taking the plunge, Kelly messaged the man and explained her tale of being fatherless.
It turned out that his mum had six brothers – one of whom must be Kelly’s dad.
Two were dead, two lived in the US and others hadn’t been in London in the late 1970s.
They chatted on the phone and he said he would explain the situation to his mum.
‘I didn’t want to cause any trouble but then again I was so excited about this discovery,’ Kelly said.
‘But he rang me back and instantly his tone had changed.’
‘He said there was a mistake and his mother and grandmother said it wasn’t possible as the family hadn’t come to the UK until the late 1980s. He thought the company had made a mistake.’
‘He wished me good luck and then cut me off.’
‘But I knew the DNA couldn’t be wrong so I started doing my own research – I was literally like an FBI agent.’
She tracked two of the brothers down on Facebook but they didn’t reply to her messages, so she began talking to their daughters.
The women agreed to a DNA test, but it revealed they were cousins.
After tirelessly doing her own detective work through social media and getting shut down by family members, Kelly connected 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 called Saeed, who still lived in London.
He thought he recognised Kelly’s mum and agreed to do a DNA test, which came back positive – he was Kelly’s dad.
After 41 years Kelly had finally found the father she had been missing all her life – and amazingly his one regret in life was that he had never had kids of his own.
He had remained in north west London after coming over at 15 and said he wanted a relationship with Kelly’s mum – but she disappeared and he was never able to find her again.
A second DNA test confirmed they were father and daughter and they met for the first time a few months ago.
Her own looks began to make sense as she unravelled Saeed’s Iranian ancestry.
Kelly as a baby. She grew up with on white family members from her mother’s side which confused her sense of self
Kelly said she took a photo of them together and was amazed at how much they looked alike when she saw it.
Last week, they went out for his birthday to a Persian restaurant 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 hurt and pain.’
‘There was massive relief – I finally knew who I was.’
‘He never met the right person, got married or had a family of his own and he said he always wanted children. And he was the only brother out of all of them who had no children.’
‘It was a massive shock for him as he’s never known I was out there whereas I knew he was.’
She now plans to meet her grandmother who is also in the UK, and further cousins in the US who she has built up a close relationship with, in the coming months.
She added: ‘I don’t want my dad to feel guilty or sad about what we’ve missed because the past is done and dusted, we can’t get it back.’
‘We have to be so grateful and happy we have this because if I hadn’t done that test he would never have known about me. He would have spent the rest of his life alone. And for that I’m so grateful.’
‘I feel great now I know I’m Persian.’
A spokesman for 23&Me said: ‘With genetic testing readily available to consumers, we are increasingly hearing stories of families discovering and reuniting with newfound relatives, and of customers finding unexpected results in their reports.
‘Although 23andMe was not designed specifically to help people confirm parentage or find biological parents, our DNA Relatives tool does help people find and connect with participating genetic relatives.
‘This feature is completely optional, meaning customers must actively choose to participate and are informed up front that by using the tool, they may discover unexpected relationships.’