After 18 months of contact over Zoom, St. Albert resident Rick Boyd flew to Digby, N.S. to meet his side of the family for the first time.
The 69-year-old had been faced with a mystery for most of his life, after the man who raised him relayed the news he didn’t believe he was Boyd’s biological father. Boyd had mostly pushed the idea aside until his wife, Wendy, purchased a DNA testing kit from Ancestry for Christmas in 2019.
The results were life changing. The test revealed Boyd had two relatives from Digby, N.S., about an hour away from where he had grown up in Greenwood, N.S.
Though Boyd only had their last names — Wilson — he was able to find who they were with the help of a third-party collaborator, and more: Boyd had a total of four siblings — two brothers and twin sisters.
Over Zoom, Boyd met his four younger siblings Gordon, Doug, Janet, and Joanne for the first time on May 13, 2020. He would have to wait nearly two years to be united with them in person.
After COVID-19 two-week isolation restrictions had been lifted in Nova Scotia, Boyd flew to Toronto to meet up with his sister Janet before all of them headed to Digby the following week for a full family reunion.
“I’d been warned sometimes these things don’t go well,” Boyd said. “But when I met Janet in Toronto and spent three hours with her, I knew right away everything was going to be wonderful.”
Boyd described the transition from chatting virtually to meeting in person as seamless.
“It was uncanny, it was like I’d always known them,” Boyd said.
Wendy, Boyd’s wife who had purchased the DNA test, also accompanied him for the trip to Digby. Though her parents had always been close with Boyd, she said seeing him among his own family was very emotional.
“They took a family photo, and it struck me that it was the first time Rick had ever been in a family picture where he was family by blood,” Wendy said. “That really touched me.”
“I’ve been borrowing off other families my whole life,” Boyd said. “It didn’t hit me until we were driving away after 48 hours of time together. I just thought, ‘I’m saying goodbye to my family.’”
Boyd’s biological father, Gerald Wilson, had passed away at an early age in 1973 from a heart attack. In 1951, years before he was married, Wilson and Boyd’s mother had had a brief relationship after they met in Digby.
During that time, his mother got pregnant with Boyd, and then married another man. As Boyd was growing up in Greenwood, his biological family lived a mere hour away, and neither had knowledge of the other.
Since meeting his family, Boyd said they have all commented on the resemblance between him and Wilson. Wendy noted the siblings also described the two men as similar in other ways: both had been avid golfers, go-getters, and family men who loved to hunt and fish.
“You learn blood is thicker than water, that’s for sure,” Wendy said.
She added one of the standout moments from the trip was when Boyd visited Wilson’s grave site.
“He said he felt closure for the first time in his life,” Wendy said. “That will always stick with me."
Daughter there to 'take it all in'
Sandra Goble — Rick and Wendy’s youngest daughter — was able to join her parents in Digby as they met the Wilsons.
“I needed her there,” Boyd said. “I wanted to have someone in the family there to take it all in, and she did.”
Goble had the foresight to snap the candid photo of Boyd and his four siblings FaceTiming his middle daughter. Janet and Joanne were leaning their heads on Boyd’s shoulders.
“It didn’t feel like it was the first time we’d ever met in person,” Goble said. “I would be standing there and all of a sudden someone would come and put their arm around me, and it would be one of my new aunts and uncles.”
Goble met Boyd’s stepmother, who immediately asked her to call her Nannie Potts.
“I haven’t had a Nannie in a long time,” Goble said. “It was pretty special.”
The weekend was filled with food and drink, golf, and touring to key spots around the town. Boyd’s siblings showed him the camp where they had spent their summers, and the house they were raised in.
“They showed us where the girls sat on the doorstep and watched their dad come home from work,” Wendy said.
When the Boyds were leaving, Nannie Potts told Goble she had something for her, and pulled out a bag of rocks she had collected on the beach over the years; Goble had told her she was a fan of amethyst and agate.
“We learned not to say we liked something, because if we did, it was handed to us,” Wendy laughed. “It was more than we ever could have expected.”
Boyd said he is still processing everything that happened, and expects it be a while before he fully absorbs the impact of everything he has been through.
“It was just an amazing experience,” Boyd said. “It still hasn’t sunk in for me.”
This Christmas, Boyd plans to see Janet in Toronto again, and wants to return to visit the whole family in Nova Scotia next summer.
By the end of the Labour Day weekend trip, Goble said everyone was in tears at the prospect of saying goodbye.
“None of us wanted to leave,” she said. “But the cool thing is this is forever now. It’s a forever family.”