Frenchman, 72, finds American brother from GI dad

A retired American has told Connexion of the moving moment he and the French brother he never knew he had met for the first time – on Omaha Beach where their GI father landed on D-Day.

24 October 2018
Brothers André Gantois (left) and Allen Henderson
By Connexion journalist

The meeting came after a DNA test helped André Gantois, 72, end decades of searching since his mother told him as a child that his father was an US soldier.

She died when he was 15 and he had wondered about his Ameri­can family ever since.

Allen Henderson, 64, a radio manager from South Carolina, said: “We stood on the beach with the dog tags that my father wore during the war.

“To know that my father had come in during D-Day and fought through France and that we were standing at the same site... it was very emotional.”

Mr Gantois, a retired postal worker, was born in Nancy and knew nothing about his father except that he had been an American soldier.

He contacted the American embassy for information and his son and daughter-in-law trawled through military archives.

But is was finally a DNA test with the Israeli website MyHeritage.com which revealed a match – a brother in America.

Their father Wilburn ‘Bill’ Henderson had met Mr Gantois’s mother when she was a member of the Resistance. Unaware she was pregnant, he returned the following year to the US where he later started a family.                            

Mr Henderson said: “André had searched his whole life for his family. He said he would look in the mirror and ask ‘who do I look like?’, ‘where do I come from?’

“He had thought he would die never knowing who his father was. He was full of joy to find out. It was important for his family too.” The trip was Mr Henderson’s first to Europe and he hopes his brother will now travel to the US so he can show him the military cemetery in California where their father was buried in 1997, and Missouri, where ‘Bill’ grew up.

Private DNA testing within France is tightly regulated with tests only being allowed with a court order for medical reasons. However, polls show most French people support legalising tests for genealogical. French bioethics laws are under revision and will be voted on next year. 

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