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How Frank Billingsley was “Swabbed & Found”

| August 1, 2017

Frank-Billingsley

Frank Billingsley (Photo – ©2017 Al Torres Photography Inc)

Houston’s Popular Meteorologist Untangled A Closed Adoption

By Melanie Saxton

H e is the familiar and friendly face on Channel 2, guiding us through thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornados since 1995. KPRC chief meteorologist Frank Billingsley certainly knows our Houston area forecasts, but was clueless about his blood relatives. His adoption records were sealed by the state of Arkansas after his birth in 1960, creating a real life mystery that seemed unsolvable. It took science, research and a bit of luck to crack his closed adoption and discover his biological family, which he chronicles in Swabbed & Found: An Adopted Man’s DNA Journey to Discover his Family Tree.

The book translates the complexities of chromosomes into a “how to” adventure. For an adoptee or someone searching for a long-lost family members, his experience proves that challenges can be overcome with tenacity and technology.

 

Cautious but Curious

For years Frank resisted the longing to learn about his lineage. After all, he was raised in an all-American home by wonderful parents and grew up with a much-loved younger sister who was also adopted. He and his adoptive mother share a birthday — June 22 — and their bond is extremely close. He didn’t want to hurt his family or appear ungrateful by lingering on something that had been decided for him long ago.

But an Alzheimer’s diagnosis on both sides of his adoptive family had him wondering about his own potential genetic conditions, and entering his 50s gave him the nudge he needed to get started. “My biological parents were aging, the window of opportunity was closing, and it was time to take the journey,” says Frank. At that time his knowledge of DNA testing was limited, yet he was determined to forge ahead and educate himself.

 

Clues Add Up

Fortunately, what Frank lacked in adoption paperwork was found in his own genes. He ordered kits from the Family Tree DNA lab in Houston and learned that there was more to the “simple” cheek swab scenes on shows like Law & Order. “It’s like brushing your cheek instead of your teeth,” says Frank. “You scrape the inside of one cheek for 30 seconds with a tiny toothbrush, and an hour later you scrape the second cheek. Then the ‘scraper’ goes right into a vial, and you mail it back to the lab in a return envelope.”

The results, comprised of 750,000 pieces of information, or snips, unveiled the mysteries of Frank’s MtDNA (mitochondrial DNA passed from mother to child), Y-DNA (passed from father to son) and Autosomal DNA (designed to find relatives on any ancestral line within the last five generations).

Frank also ordered testing kits through Ancestry.com and 23andme.com, ex­cited to scientifically determine biological family relationships, especially since he’d never known one single person who was related to him by birth. Starting at around $100, the kits escalate in price based on complexity and were an investment he gladly made. After submitting a lot of cheek swabs and saliva samples, he discovered he wasn’t swimming in the gene pool by himself.

 

More Sleuthing

Now that he had clues, the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, also in Houston, was of immense help in further researching his roots. A helpful Yahoo Adoption Search group pointed him to the Arkansas Department of Human Services, where Frank requested and received non-identifying adoption information that helped him piece together his biological mother’s backstory and the circumstances of his birth. He had been a “secret” and he was grateful that his mother loved him enough to carry him to term. She gave him up for adoption to ensure he’d have a brighter future — one she simply could not provide.

Frank notes that millions of people visit sites like Ancestry.com and the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), which store incredible amounts of genealogical data. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints in Salt Lake City is also a great resource. Frank notes that it houses the largest genealogical library in the world with more than two billion deceased names on file and a collection of primary research tools, including federal and state census records, port rosters and foreign civil registration records.

 

A Genealogical Roller Coaster

“While DNA doesn’t lie, it can sure trick the heck out of you,” says Frank of the exasperating twists and turns he encountered. His book is full of funny anecdotes, dead ends, endearing connections and plenty of surprises. For instance, he’s related to a former “weather girl” who had worked in Chicago in the 1970s, as well as a cousin from the Bronx via Africa. He was astounded to learn he was born the same day as his grandmother and that both he and she had chosen Dec. 12 as their wedding dates, decades apart.

Fortunately, Frank was able to locate both of his biological parents and forged relationships that initially seemed impossible. He details the story in his book. Never in a million years did he dream he’d find so many biological family members so quickly. “Not easily, mind you, just faster than I ever imagined. Life is funny, and in my case 50 years of questions were answered in a few months,” he says.

 

The Book

Launching in October, Swabbed and Found is now available for pre-order on amazon.com. The book translates the complexities of chromosomes into a “how to” adventure.

Frank’s book, Swabbed & Found, officially launches on Oct. 1 and reveals the clues, puzzle pieces and many hoops he jumped through to find his biological family. It is available for pre-order on Amazon and is published by Bright Sky Press in Houston.

Swabbed and Found is now available for pre-order on amazon.com. The book translates the complexities of chromosomes into a “how to” adventure.

Visit frankbilling­sley.com or brightskypress.com for a signed copy or to order now.

 

Frank Billingsley and Roseann Rogers at a book signing event. (Photo - Roseann Rogers)

Frank Billingsley and Roseann Rogers at a book signing event. (Photo – Roseann Rogers)

 

Thanks to much swabbing and persistent sleuthing, Frank found his biological mother, Susan, and his Aunt Janie.

Thanks to much swabbing and persistent sleuthing, Frank found his biological mother, Susan, and his Aunt Janie.

 

At Frank’s wedding in 2012 to Kevin Gilliard in New York City: Kevin Gilliard, Morgan Gilliard, Frank Billingsley.

At Frank’s wedding in 2012 to Kevin Gilliard in New York City: Kevin Gilliard, Morgan Gilliard, Frank Billingsley.

 

Morgan-Gilliard-DrTerry-Todd-Frank-Billingsley-Kevin

At Frank’s wedding in 2012 to Kevin Gilliard in New York City: Kevin Gilliard, Morgan Gilliard, Frank Billingsley.

 

Baby Frank and his adoptive father Jimmie, Easter 1961.

Baby Frank and his adoptive father Jimmie, Easter 1961.

 

Frank’s biological mother, Susan, poses in a prom photo taken in 1959 – one year before his birth.

Frank’s biological mother, Susan, poses in a prom photo taken in 1959 – one year before his birth.


Category: Cy-Fair People & Places

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