Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series about Bill Nalbone of Concord and his search for his biological father.
A simple DNA test turned into the gift of a lifetime.
Struggling for years with not knowing the identity of his biological father, Bill Nalbone was excited to learn his heritage through an Ancestry.com test kit his wife and kids bought him this past Father’s Day. No one thought a little poking around would yield answers to those deep-seated questions. But a little bit of research and a few phone calls later, Bill Nalbone found himself talking to a man he never thought he’d have the chance to meet.
“I had no idea who I belonged to,” the Concord resident said. “I always felt like a third person to a two-person party. So when I found out my heritage, that was a big deal for me. And then to actually find my father—I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it. Here I am, 60 years old, and he’s 83, and he introduced me to his neighbors as his son.”
Bill Nalbone’s wife, Shannon, got the ball rolling when she visited the local history room at the Concord library to do some genealogy research. Staff suggested checking out Ancestry.com because, since so many people use the company, it has a large database of information.
“When I gave him the test, I didn’t think I’d be able to find his birth father,” Shannon Nalbone said. “I was just giving him the DNA kit. I really thought I was just giving him his heritage, and we had no hope of finding who his father was because his mother wasn’t going to tell us and nobody else knew.”
Growing with questions
Bill Nalbone had long suspected he was adopted by his mom’s first husband, with the last name Sanchez.
“Growing up, I was always told, ‘Bill, you don’t look like your brother and sister,’ ” he said. “I was the tall, blonde-headed kid, and my brother and sister were olive-skinned and had dark hair.”
When he was about 11, his mom remarried and moved the family to North Carolina. Their new step-father adopted the children, and they all took on the last name Nalbone.
When Bill Nalbone was 49 years old, his mother finally confessed to him that her first husband was in fact not his biological father; she told him that she had gotten pregnant at 23 years old with a 22-year-old man. But she wouldn’t tell him any more than that.
So when the DNA results came back as 100 percent European—primarily English, Norwegian and Swedish with a little Irish—it answered some of those questions about where he came from.
Finding a father
Having a heritage was a big deal to Bill Nalbone, and he said he never really expected to find anything more than that. But, since Ancestry.com lists all of the people in the database that could be related—and Bill Nalbone suddenly had a spreadsheet of 1,500 new cousins—the family decided to do some investigating.
They found the first person on the list whose name they didn’t recognize and sent her an email. On July 20, just a few days after getting the DNA results, she responded that they must be related on her mom’s side, through the Gardners or Phillips.
“There were three people that had lived in Albuquerque, [N.M.], at the same time Bill was conceived, and two of them were much, much older, so we assumed they were the parents of his father, and then his father,” Shannon Nalbone said. “So we thought, well, it’s got to be him because it’s the only one in Albuquerque. So we looked over at his brother—his picture was on there. His brother had died in World War II, and it looked just like Bill. So we’re like, OK, we’re Gardners.”
Excited as the family was to find him, Ancestry.com had listed the man they thought might be Bill Nalbone’s biological father—William Gardner—as deceased for several years. They fell into a sort of grieving while searching online for an obituary. Eventually, they called the Albuquerque library for some local assistance, and staff there suggested they look up property records.
A little digging surfaced a marriage certificate from 1958 and then a property record from the 1990s.
“We thought, wait a minute, we thought he died in the ’80s,” Shannon Nalbone said. “Then we saw one for the 2000s. We thought let’s not get our hopes up.”
The latest property record listed three names, so Shannon Nalbone searched online for all three together, and a phone number popped up. That night, she decided to give it a call.