Adopted man finds his Irish family after DNA test in America

Kevin Battle was adopted from the Sean Ross Abbey. Years later he has found his siblings

Kevin Battle is the harbour master in Portland on the northeast coast of the US. Photograph: RTE

Kevin Battle is the harbour master in Portland on the northeast coast of the US. Photograph: RTE

 

A present of a DNA kit led to a man in Portland, Maine to find the Irish family he never knew he had. Kevin Battle was adopted from Sean Ross Abbey mother-and-baby home in Co Tipperary as a baby, and had been unable find his birth mother because of incorrect records.

Battle told his unusual story in a report by Brian O’Donovan on RTE’s Morning Ireland. He is harbourmaster in Portland on the northeast US, and took O’Donovan on his daily patrol on board. As he looked across the Atlantic, Battle remarked that “a little bit to your right” is Ireland, the country of his birth.

After taking a DNA test he got as a present, Battle found relatives he was unaware of. Unfortunately his mother had died in 2009, but he discovered she had been looking for him: “They were looking for me. They knew about me. I always wanted to hear that from somebody.”

His cousins told him he had half-siblings, two brothers and three sisters, living in Wales.

He recently met his family, who told him his mother was forced to give him up for adoption, and his adoptive parents had to donate $1,000 to the religious order.

“I always the feeling of not quite fitting in. But when I went to Wales, and we went to this place to eat, and looking around at my brothers: I felt welcome. And I felt like I belonged.”

Battle was adopted by a couple in America and over time tried to find his birth mother. At one stage he was incorrectly told on the phone by a nun at the abbey that his mother was dead. This was years before she died.

The Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Tipperary, which was mother and baby home operated by the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary from 1930 to 1970. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
The Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Tipperary, which was mother and baby home operated by the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary from 1930 to 1970. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

In a statement to RTE, the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary said all its records about the Sean Ross Abbey mother-and-baby home were passed to the Health Service Executive and Tusla and that it was working directly with the Commission of Investigation on related matters.

Battle plans another trip to see his new-found family again, he told RTE.

The Maine Irish Heritage Centre offers DNA-testing and genealogy services to Irish Americans in Portland trying to trace their roots. Chairwoman Pat Dunn told O’Donovan on Morning Ireland that “adoption records from 50 or 60 or 70 years ago were often sealed and difficult to access.

"Sometimes the records weren’t accurate, but DNA is very telling, and if you take the test and you’re a match somewhere, then that gives you some angle to work from. Sometimes it’s like a needle in a haystack, but boy if you hit it, you can be right on.”

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