BBC viewers left in tears as 75-year-old whose father was American GI meets living relatives in US

The British son of a GI stationed in the UK during the Second World War revealed how his mother believed her American lover would return to them as he went in search of his father in an emotional BBC documentary. 

Bill, 75, from Leicester, appeared BBC2’s DNA Family Secrets in the hope of finding his father Wilbert Wiley, a truck driver with the US Army who met his ‘fun-loving’ mother Betty at a dance at an American base in Loughborough. 

After the war Wilbert returned to Texas and was never heard from again. Bill explained that his mother, who later married, believed Wilbert must have died because otherwise he would have come back to the UK.

During the documentary Bill discovered Wilbert had returned to the US where he already had a wife and a young son. 

Bill, 75, pictured, from Leicester, appeared BBC2's DNA Family Secrets in the hope of finding his father Wilbert Wiley, a truck driver with the US Army who met his 'fun-loving' mother Betty at a dance at an American base in Loughborough

Bill, 75, pictured, from Leicester, appeared BBC2's DNA Family Secrets in the hope of finding his father Wilbert Wiley, a truck driver with the US Army who met his 'fun-loving' mother Betty at a dance at an American base in Loughborough

Bill, 75, pictured, from Leicester, appeared BBC2’s DNA Family Secrets in the hope of finding his father Wilbert Wiley, a truck driver with the US Army who met his ‘fun-loving’ mother Betty at a dance at an American base in Loughborough

Bill explained his late mother Betty, pictured, believed her American lover would come back - but he never did. Betty went on to marry another man, Bill's stepfather

Bill explained his late mother Betty, pictured, believed her American lover would come back - but he never did. Betty went on to marry another man, Bill's stepfather

Bill explained his late mother Betty, pictured, believed her American lover would come back – but he never did. Betty went on to marry another man, Bill’s stepfather

During the documentary Bill discovered Wilbert, pictured, had returned to the US where he already had a wife and a young son

During the documentary Bill discovered Wilbert, pictured, had returned to the US where he already had a wife and a young son

During the documentary Bill discovered Wilbert, pictured, had returned to the US where he already had a wife and a young son

He also learned that Wilbert, who was African American, would not have been able to return to the UK to marry Betty even if he had wanted to because inter-racial marriages were illegal at the time in the US.

Bill admitted that he had never tried to track down his dad while mum Betty was alive, because she always thought that if Wilbert was alive he would have returned to the UK. 

‘I wouldn’t do it when my mum was alive,’ said Bill. ‘My mum believed that my dad died, otherwise he would have come back to her and I wouldn’t want to dispel that’. 

Betty had fallen in love with Wilbert during his time in Loughborough, and Bill admitted that although he had ‘wondered’ why his dad hadn’t come back, he took comfort in his mother’s affection for him. 

Bill also learned that Wilbert, who was African American, would not have been able to return to the UK to marry Betty even if he had wanted to because inter-racial marriages were illegal at the time. Pictured, Betty with bill as a baby

Bill also learned that Wilbert, who was African American, would not have been able to return to the UK to marry Betty even if he had wanted to because inter-racial marriages were illegal at the time. Pictured, Betty with bill as a baby

Bill also learned that Wilbert, who was African American, would not have been able to return to the UK to marry Betty even if he had wanted to because inter-racial marriages were illegal at the time. Pictured, Betty with bill as a baby

‘She married and so I had a stepfather and it wasn’t worth asking’, said Bill, ‘I did wonder sometimes why didn’t he come back to my mum, my mum she always thought he would come back.

‘I don’t think she was ever the same person and I just know she really cared about him and really loved him and I take comfort from that fact, my mum loved me dad and that was the result.’

Professor Turi King, a Canadian-British Professor of Public Engagement and Genetics at the University of Leicester, took a look at Bill’s DNA to try and gain a clearer insight into his ancestry. 

Through examining his Y chromosome she found that Wilbert’s ancestry could be traced back to Congo and Cameroon, large areas of slave trading in the early 1700s. 

Bills ancestors could be traced North Carolina and Virginia, likely working on tobacco and cotton plants until slavery was abolished in 1865, before moving to Texas in the middle of the 19th century. 

Professor Turi King, a Canadian-British Professor of Public Engagement and Genetics at the University of Leicester, took a look at Bill's DNA to try and gain a clearer insight into his ancestry. Pictured, Bill with programme presenter Stacey Dooley

Professor Turi King, a Canadian-British Professor of Public Engagement and Genetics at the University of Leicester, took a look at Bill's DNA to try and gain a clearer insight into his ancestry. Pictured, Bill with programme presenter Stacey Dooley

Professor Turi King, a Canadian-British Professor of Public Engagement and Genetics at the University of Leicester, took a look at Bill’s DNA to try and gain a clearer insight into his ancestry. Pictured, Bill with programme presenter Stacey Dooley

The professor also revealed to Bill that his father had been married before his deployment and already had another child, his half brother Don who had died 11 years ago. 

‘That’s real news to me,’ said Bill. ‘I thought there might be someone when he went back. That’s quite a revelation that really’. 

Despite the shocking news, Bill found comfort after discovering that even if Wilbert had wanted to return to the UK to marry Betty, he wouldn’t have been able to because interracial marriage was illegal in the 1940s. 

‘Even if your dad would have wanted to marry your mum in this country, he would not have been able to get married, his commanding officer would have refused it,’ King explained. 

To which Bill replied: ‘It wasn’t a choice he could really make’. 

Host Stacey then showed Bill pictures of his father, his half brother Don, his uncle – a baseball player nicknamed ‘Fireball Wiley’. 

After discovering his uncle had two daughters, an emotional Bill chatted with his cousins Phillis and Regina over Zoom. Pictured, his cousins in the US

After discovering his uncle had two daughters, an emotional Bill chatted with his cousins Phillis and Regina over Zoom. Pictured, his cousins in the US

After discovering his uncle had two daughters, an emotional Bill chatted with his cousins Phillis and Regina over Zoom. Pictured, his cousins in the US

After discovering his uncle had two daughters, an emotional Bill chatted with his cousins Phillis and Regina over Zoom.  

‘It’s just unbelievable,’ said Regina ahead of the chat. ‘It really is. I’m nervous I’m excited, I’m kind of sad too.’  

‘All these years, wondering and wondering,’ Phillis added. ‘He’s 75 years old, all this time.’ 

Visibly emotional, Bill met his cousins for the first time over Zoom, admitting: ‘This is really something out of fantasy land, I don’t know it’s like magic.’ 

‘I didn’t know what to expect,’ admitted Regina, ‘I’m still shocked I see the resemblance in Bill, he looks a lot like our dad.’ 

Bill replied: ‘Really? Fireball Wiley? Your dad I am so proud of. If I was you I would be so proud of him. I had dreamed I had relatives, I wished I had relatives.’ 

‘You have us’, the pair replied.

Viewers were moved by Bill's chat with cousins Phillis and Regina over Zoom, with one calling the moment 'hugely emotional' while another admitted that they were in 'floods of tears'

Viewers were moved by Bill's chat with cousins Phillis and Regina over Zoom, with one calling the moment 'hugely emotional' while another admitted that they were in 'floods of tears'

Viewers were moved by Bill’s chat with cousins Phillis and Regina over Zoom, with one calling the moment ‘hugely emotional’ while another admitted that they were in ‘floods of tears’

‘I wanna climb through the screen and sit down and talk to you,’ said Bill. ‘There’s such a lot of life that has gone by and I’d like to keep in touch with you’. 

The pair teared up replying: ‘I wanna give you a hug’, before telling Bill they ‘loved him’ and would love to come to London once the pandemic is over.

Viewers were moved by their chat over Zoom, with one calling the moment ‘hugely emotional’ while another admitted that they were in ‘floods of tears’.

One person said: ‘Must have been hugely emotional and overwhelming for Bill to receive all that news in one go, but so happy to see the impact DNA testing can have to bring people together.’

Another penned: ‘@StaceyDooley #DNAFamilySecrets what a show. I am in bits here.’ 

While a third wrote: ‘Bloody hell #staceydooley #DNAFamilysecrets has me in floods of tears already’

Bill added after the emotional chat: ‘I never expected it to get to this stage. After all these years they didn’t exist to me, nobody existed in America to me and now they do.’ 

Link hienalouca.com

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