Leicestershire DNA Family Secrets man’s US reunion hopes – BBC

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By Amy Payne & Jennifer Harby
BBC News

Image caption,

Bill Wiley (centre) – pictured with his UK family – longs to meet his US relatives

A British man who tracked down his long-lost family in Texas, thanks to a BBC programme, is trying to raise the money to see them in person.

Bill Wiley, 77, from Leicestershire, appeared on DNA Family Secrets in 2021, hoping to track down his father Wilbert whom he had never met.

The programme found Wilbert, a US GI, had passed away in 1968 but that Mr Wiley had a host of relatives.

He said the programme had been “life-changing”.

‘Hugely poignant’

Mr Wiley said his father – who was African American – met his mother Betty at a dance while he was stationed in the county during World War Two.

After the war, Wilbert had returned to the US, where he already had a son.

At the time, inter-racial marriages were forbidden in the US.

During the programme, Mr Wiley found he had an older half brother who had also passed away.

Following the filming, he used social media to find his nephew and they are now in regular contact.

Image source, University of Leicester
Image caption,

Prof King said the experience of reuniting Bill with his relatives had been hugely poignant

He said his discovery of his US family had been “life-changing”.

“During the programme, I saw a photo of my dad and [it was] the first time I had seen a photo of him,” he said.

“From there, I was introduced to two of my cousins. I was almost speechless.

“It made me feel like I’ve found a new family.”

Mr Wiley said he was trying to raise funds online to travel to Texas to meet his relatives.

He believes he will need £6,000 to fund the trip, mainly due to travel insurance costs related to his health issues including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and diabetes.

“I’m dying to get over there and see them for real life. I want to visit my dad’s grave. There’s so much to fit in [and] the joy of just meeting family,” he said.

“It really is emotional for me.”

Mr Wiley’s cousin Don Mayes said he had loved speaking to his uncle via video link.

“There’s a lot of conversations about his childhood because my dad would often reflect on being an only child,” he said.

“It’s quite amazing we have an opportunity to put these bonds together and to heal the things that were broken through our society.”

Turi King, a DNA expert who helped connect Mr Wiley with his relatives on the programme and is also a professor of public engagement and genetics at the University of Leicester, added: “To be able to unite him with family members whom he didn’t even know existed was hugely poignant.”

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