I Lost a Father and Found a Father in the Same Week

Customer Stories
8 June 2023
by Kenneth LeBaron - Ancestry® & AncestryDNA® Customer

It Starts with a Summer Love Story

In 1974 my mother, Rebecca, moved to a small town in central Louisiana. Mom’s first friend there had a cousin, Mike LeBaron, and he had a serious crush on my mother. He tried to get her to go on a date with him for months, but she was only interested in friendship. Later that summer, Mom and her friend were at a pool bar, and she met a man named Rick. They spent one week together that summer, but then he moved away to start college at LSU, several hours away. She never saw him again.

And Grows into a Family Story

Meanwhile, Mike LeBaron was still head-over-heels for my mom, looking for every reason possible to talk to her. Something changed and she decided to go out with him. They went on a date and fell in love immediately. They got engaged in two weeks and decided to have a small, quick wedding. Right before the wedding, she discovered that she was pregnant (with me), and the child was not Mike LeBaron’s. Mike said that he would raise me as his own child and that nobody ever needed to know. So, that is what they did. I was named Kenneth Michael LeBaron. Daddy loved me so much that he gave me his first and last name.

Kenneth LeBaron as a baby
Kenneth as a baby, courtesy of the author.

Revealing—Then Searching for—the Truth

At the age of 12, my mom decided to tell me about my real father. I never fully understood why she did, but she felt that it was the right thing to do. It was difficult news to receive at that age. The only thing she could remember was that his name was Rick and his dad worked at Angola Prison. She thought his last name was White.

As I got older, I wondered where I came from. My personality traits, hobbies, talents, abilities, and quirks were nothing like anyone I was related to. I wanted to know where this all came from.

In my mid-20s I contacted two friends who were State Police officers to help me identify every “Rick/Richard White” in the country. I wrote countless letters, but the only responses I received were from wives, stating that I had the wrong guy. In my late 30s, I started using social media to search for every “Rick/Richard White” I could find. I contacted every one of them. Again, the only people that responded were some of their wives. Ironically, some remembered from the letters that they had received from me.

In 2020, a friend shared his success with Ancestry. I was so inspired that I took an AncestryDNA test. When my results came in, I was connected to a possible half-uncle named “Larry Watts.” Fortunately, Larry Watts had made his family tree public. I instinctively looked at his father’s information, Laurence Lee Watts. In Laurence Watts’ obituary, it stated that he retired from Angola Prison and that he was survived by his two sons, Larry and Richard Watts. My mom had misremembered his last name! I had been searching for the wrong person for 34 years. I could not help but laugh. This would only happen to me. 😊

Now that I knew who my biological father was, my wife helped me find him. She found his Facebook account and his company’s website. He was living in Arkansas. I saw pictures of him for the first time! His email address was listed on his employer’s website. I decided to send him an email, letting him know who I was and that I believed that he was my father.

A Life-Changing Week

The day before I sent Rick the email, my Daddy passed away from cancer. The next day, my biological father called me and we talked for the first time. I lost a father and found a father in the same week.

Rebecca, Kenneth, and Michael LeBaron
Rebecca, Kenneth, and Michael LeBaron, courtesy of the author.

Rick didn’t waste any time sharing that he remembered my mother, and that the story happened exactly as she had shared. He assured me that had he known about me, both of our lives would be VERY different. I let him know that the man that raised me as his son had just passed away. I asked for two weeks to process all of this, which he respected.

Exactly two weeks later, Rick called and asked if my wife and I would have dinner with him and his wife. I said yes, and we met at the halfway point, which was Monroe, Louisiana. That was the longest drive of my life!

Finding Incredible Family Connections and Similarities

When we met, we hugged, sat down at our table, and talked as if we had known each other our entire lives. In the weeks to come, I learned some amazing things:

  1. My wife is 3 years older than me. His wife is 3 years older than him. My mom was 3 years older than him when they met.
  2. I was in the Army. My Grandfather was in the Army. Many ancestors in my father’s family were in the army, all the way to my 6th-Great-Grandfather Watts, who was promoted to Captain by George Washington during the Revolutionary War.
  3. My love for playing guitar, woodwork, and jazz music came from my Grandfather Watts. Like him, I taught myself how to play “by ear” when I was a small boy.
  4. My biological father’s family was enormous, and they all lived in the town where I was born and raised in. I learned that my best friend from grammar school, high school, and college was my cousin! I was surrounded by family and didn’t know it.
  5. I lived in the same neighborhood as my grandparents and passed their house 1000s of times.
  6. I built a home on property that was in the same neighborhood where my 2nd-great-grandmother was buried (in the woods next to our subdivision).
  7. My biological father and I share the same tastes in clothing, hobbies, liquor, politics, and sports. We sound alike. We look alike. We walk alike.
  8. We both own dachshunds.
Kenneth LeBaron & Rick Watts
Kenneth LeBaron and Rick Watts, courtesy of the author.

We have now known each other for 2.5 years and it has been a dream come true, for both of us. My daughter looks just like my grandmother, when she was the same age. My wife is going to write a book about this because there is so much more that I have not shared (it is all fascinating), but I wanted to thank Ancestry for making this possible.

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