May 19, 2014 - Stories

Parallel Lives

Kathy Fisher’s life journey has taken her far from home, but she’s never been far from family, even if she didn’t know it.KathyMom

In an uncanny coincidence, 23andMe connected Kathy with an unknown cousin whose path had crossed hers multiple times in her life — from South Africa, to Botswana, to California.

Kathy, 54, is originally from South Africa, but for the past 30 years, she’s lived in California.  Kathy works at Stanford University, where a colleague who specializes in personalized medicine first introduced her to 23andMe.

Intrigued by the chance to learn more about their DNA, Kathy and her husband both sent in test kits.  When Kathy reviewed her results, she noticed a familiar last name in the DNA Relative tool.

“This last name was most unusual in the United States,” said Kathy, “it was not even common in South Africa.”

Kathy looked into the person’s background and found out they did indeed share some DNA. She sent an email explaining the connection and asked some questions about where this newfound relative lived.  He answered her email immediately, and together they realized just how small this world can be.

Kathy & Cousin 2

Kathy and her cousin Neville.

Kathy and her third cousin, Neville, met in person soon after connecting through 23andMe. Amazingly, Neville lived just 20 minutes away from her in California.  What’s more, as they shared their life stories, they realized their paths had intersected a number of times since childhood in a series of fantastic coincidences.

It all began when Kathy was 13 in 1971, and her family moved north from South Africa to a remote diamond mine, Orapa, Botswana.  She lived there off and on for the next 10 years.  After she left, her sister, brother-in-law and their two children lived there for about another 15 years.  Kathy moved to Namibia and then to the U.S in 1983.

Unbeknownst to her, from 1992 to 2000, Neville worked for IBM in Gaborone and went to Orapa to service computers a few times a year.  Kathy’s sister, Joan was the general manager’s assistant at the time and would very likely have met Neville.

But that was only the beginning, Kathy lived in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1983.  Neville married and had a child and moved to the U.S. in 2002, spent two years on the east coast and then moved to Northern California.  From 2007 to 2009, Neville was working at Stanford University.  At the time, Kathy was working at a private school just 10 minutes from Stanford.

Before Neville left Stanford to work at a start-up near the university, Kathy herself began working at Stanford, so they remained mere minutes from each other every day.  Neville’s start-up was eventually bought by eBay, where he works now.

Kathy and Neville both live near each other in the San Francisco Bay Area now.  They’ve most recently come together for a barbeque at Neville’s house, where Kathy met his family.

Kathy has two grown children who are 28 and 36, and she is organizing another get together at her home so her entire family can meet Neville’s.

“I am amazed by how many times our paths have crossed, but we’ve never met until now,” said Kathy. “It is so wonderful to be able to connect with Neville and to bring our families together after so many near-misses over the years.  It’s the beginning of a relationship that’s been a long time in the making.”

23andMe provides genetic testing services for informational purposes; your results may or may not help you to search for or identify relatives or family members.


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