Growing up in a rural town near Buffalo, NY, Andy Perkins had an sense of feeling displaced in his own family.
Perkins has blue eyes and light hair. His parents and siblings all had darker complexions and were taller. He was outgoing, while they were more reserved.
“I have always looked different from the rest of my family,” Perkins, 73, who now lives in Grand Prairie, Texas, told The Post. “It’s caused me problems over the years.”
He started acting out in middle school. He had severe ADHD and started to believe he may have been adopted, but it was dismissed as adolescent rebellion.
Overall, his childhood was a happy one, and his parents — Shirley and Jim — were loving and supportive. “Most people have those feelings in their teenage years like they don’t belong,” said Perkins.
Decades later, he would find out it wasn’t just teen angst.
In 2015, his daughter, Candi Perkins Summers, now 47, started to look into her family history. In 2017, she gave both of her parents DNA tests using Ancestry.com and realized her father was not biologically related to any of his relatives on the Perkins side.
Instead, she noticed her father was related to a slew of people with the last name Robinson scattered throughout Rochester and Warsaw, NY — where Perkins was born — along with Tennessee and South Carolina.
“I looked at the list of DNA matches to my dad’s and I didn’t recognize a single last name,” Summers told The Post. “It was odd.”
Her dad needed time to processes the situation.
“It took him about three weeks to say ‘go ahead, and contact the biological family,’” Summers said.
“At that point, these were random strangers.”
The following year, someone messaged her who appeared to be Andy’s biological cousin. He was from the same area near Buffalo, in Wyoming County, NY.
“I thought that my dad probably wasn’t related to the father that raised him but I didn’t know why,” Summers said.
She and her father were convinced he was not adopted, and also couldn’t imagine that the wholesome, religious parents who had raised him would have strayed from their marital vows.
Then, in 2020, she found an archived newspaper clipping, with her father’s birth announcement, that seemed to solve the mystery.
Just below the announcement for Perkins, she found a reference to a boy named Philip, said to be born to Harold S. and Pauline McElwain Robinson on September 12th in Warsaw — the day before her father was supposedly born in the same small hospital.
“I realized the parents that raised him were not his biological parents,” Summers said.
That’s when she broke the news to her dad: He was likely switched at birth.
“It all made sense,” Perkins told The Post. The discovery left him feeling validated and relieved after all those years of teenage isolation.
The father-daughter duo also surmised that baby Philip, who died just weeks after his 6th birthday from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, had actually been Shirley and Jim Perkins’ biological son.
Perkins’ biological mother, Pauline McElwain Robinson, was a longtime Warsaw resident who worked as a laboratory technician at Wyoming County Community Hospital and passed away in 2015 at age 90.
She was the first wife of Andy’s biological father, Harold S. Robinson, who was in the Army and served in South Korea at the end of World War II before becoming an insurance agent.
He died in 2016 at age 88 from an illness, according to his obituary.
“I went to the graveyards of my biological mother and father. I started a grieving process — not only grieving that I never met them, but grieving their death,” Perkins said.
“It was an unexpected and difficult thing.”
In July 2020, Perkins, was, however able to connect with his biological siblings — Brian, 68; Sally, 69; Lisa, 58; and Doug, who has since passed away.
“Once we all met that summer, we were calling each other almost everyday,” Perkins said.
“I’ve been welcomed with open arms. It’s fun to sit around and see how similar we are having grown up in two different worlds,” he added, noting that they all love liverwurst and while listening to music tend to switch songs halfway through.
In 2021, Perkins and Summers — who both work for the nonprofit BESTWA, which provides food, medical care and education to families in Africa— also revealed the news to the mother who raised him, Shirley Perkins.
She wasn’t shocked and simply replied: “Isn’t the Lord good?”
A few months later, she passed away at age 91.
Perkins, who now uses Robinson-Perkins as his surname, thinks the discovery brought everyone a sense of peace and closure.
“I felt like I found out who I am. I become closer to my Perkins family and my Robinson family,” he said. “Many people have no family. I am rich with two wonderful, loving families.”