Poplarville resident finds biological father through DNA test

Published 7:00 am Saturday, August 10, 2019

Twenty-three year old Poplarville resident Austin Pruitt thought her biological father was dead, until she took a genetic test to learn about her family history and discovered the man she’d mourned was not related to her after all.

Even though her birth certificate lacked the name of her father, until she was 20 Pruitt believed what her mother told her, that the man who raised her was her biological father. But, a family member would later let slip that the man who raised her was not her biological father.

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When her mother finally told her the identity of a man she believed to be Pruitt’s biological father, she added that he passed away days prior, Pruitt said. Three years later, Pruitt decided to take a DNA test to learn about her ethnicity and family health history, she said.

But the test results showed Pruitt was not related to the deceased man whom her mother claimed to be her biological father, adding another layer to the mystery Pruitt was determined to solve. It was then she contacted every newly discovered distant relative from the DNA test results; searching Facebook and Instagram profiles as she looked for a man who lived in Pearl River County about the time she was conceived.

Through 23 and Me, Pruitt found a third cousin in Texas, and he agreed to help with her sleuthing. He called distant relatives, until he tracked down Dwayne Williams.

Pruitt was nervous to reach out to Williams because she had already gone through the process of messaging strangers on Facebook and telling them she believed were related, only to discover they were not blood relatives due to the results of her DNA test. And so, Pruitt’s mom messaged Williams, expecting him to take the newly found information as bad news.

However, Williams said he was thrilled to discover he had a “new oldest daughter.” Now, a month after their reunion, he is moving from Lafayette, La., back to Picayune to be near Pruitt.

“I never thought I’d live in Pearl River County again, but you get a chance to spend time with a daughter you didn’t even know existed—who could pass that up?” said Williams.

Spending time together is fantastic and awkward, said Williams.

The pair have a lot in common. Both attended Southwest Mississippi Community College. The dorms Williams lived in when he went to school are now the women’s dorms where Pruitt lived during her time there, she said.

Williams said he also didn’t meet his biological father until he was an adult.

“I can relate to the not knowing, wondering the history, ‘where do I come from, who are my people?,’” he said.

Williams and Pruitt both believed they had biological fathers who did not want to be in their lives. Pruitt even visited the grave of the man her mother initially claimed to be her biological father, she said.

“I was expecting to be mad. Instead, I started crying,” she said.

Williams also expected to be angry when he first met his biological father at the age of 19.

After all of the ups and downs in her search for her biological father, meeting Williams has been a breath of fresh air, Pruitt said.

“I don’t like that it happened the way it did, but everything that happened made me who I am,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt said she wants to share her story because she believes there are people who are afraid to confront their complicated family trees for fear of judgment.