When Christine Jacobsen decided to take an at-home DNA test in 2016, she was hoping to learn more about her parents. As far as she knew, they had immigrated from Denmark to the United States and like most who choose to submit their DNA for analysis, she wanted to dive deeper into her heritage. According to Insider, Jacobsen’s quest to learn more about herself came with a lot more information than she anticipated.
“I expected the results to show that nearly all of me was Danish,” she told Insider. She was 64 years old when she took the Ancestry.com test. And it changed her life forever.
To her surprise, the outcome of the test revealed that a quarter of her DNA most likely came from West Africa. However, it also noted that her Ancestry matches were too distant to help her find any close relatives.
A few years later, Jacobsen took another at-home DNA test. This time, with 23andMe. The service matched her to a Black woman the company said may be her first cousin. Jacobsen and the woman got in contact and compared their shared DNA. From there, they set up a family tree and soon came to the conclusion that Jacobsen’s biological father and the other woman’s father were brothers.
It was a hard pill to swallow for Jacobsen. Mostly because of the obvious — the color of their skin.
“My skin is light,” she said.
But the results didn’t lie, and they revealed a decades-old family conflict regarding her ethnic background.
Jacobsen’s now 70 years old, and when looking back at her childhood in New York City, she remembers that “there was always a level of dysfunction.”
“It was the ’50s and ’60s, and my parents were liberal progressives,” she said, adding that her parents would often leave her with a babysitter while they enjoyed jazz in Harlem. They’d often send her to a neighbor or cousin’s home to sleep over, explaining that they were having “friends sleep over.”
She learned that that was code for swingers’ parties.
“I knew, but it was never discussed,” she said.
Jacobsen explains that swinging couples are “supposed to be in the swinging event together, and it’s supposed to cement or unify their relationship.”
Unlike polyamory or open relationships, swingers aren’t permitted to pursue individual relationships outside of their main union.
But Jacobsen’s mother disobeyed that rule. She had a relationship with another swinger, who’d she often hang out with in the family home, but to Jacobsen’s father’s dismay.
In 1968, Jacobsen found herself quarreling with her mother’s lover, during which he dropped a major bomb.
“What do you know? You don’t even know that your father’s Black,” She remembers him telling her.
That’s when Jacobsen’s mom jumped in.
“Oh my God, you promised you’d never tell,” she said.
Later, Jacobsen’s mother showed him a faded picture of her biological father and explained that he was a “light-skinned dancer from the Bahamas.”
“I thought to myself, ‘What the h*** is going on here?'” Jacobsen said.
The father she grew up with said the claim was ridiculous, and Jacobsen’s family never spoke about it again.
The 23andMe test confirmed what Jacobsen’s mother said. Her biological father’s name is Paul Meere Jr., and he was a dancer whose family came to the U.S. from the Bahamas. He served as a Marine in an all-Black unit during World War II and was living in New York City at the time Jacobsen was conceived. Meere was 61 years old when he died.
“My cousin sent me some links to old stories about his career as a performer,” Jacobsen said. “He looked so similar to me.”
Jacobsen later learned from Meere’s former wife that the former Marine participated in swinging in the ’50s.
The 70-year-old says her newfound heritage has changed her perspective on her white privilege and looks at “racism through a new set of eyes.”
“It prompted me to look more carefully at my white privilege and educate myself better,” she said. “I’m still unfinished in terms of finding my identity, but now that I know my truth, my emotions are in a fairly settled place.”