45-Year-Old Woman’s DNA Test Reveals She’s the Long-Lost Daughter of a TV Celebrity

Last updated: Dec 06, 2023

Ever wondered about your family history? Imagine the shock of finding out that you do not share the same DNA with your family or are related to someone famous—a celebrity, perhaps. All of this figured out—after taking a simple DNA test.

That’s what happened to Phyllis, a 47-year-old mother whose life was completely shaken up after she discovered the true identity of her long-lost father. But who was this mysterious figure from the past? Follow Phyllis’ story to find out for yourself.

Making It All Possible

While it was once a lengthy, expensive procedure, DNA testing is now a trivial affair. Kits arrive by mail. The instructions are easy to follow, and all it takes is a swab of saliva and a postage stamp to begin the process. The results come by email.

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An open 23andMe genetic testing kit is displayed on a table. The kit includes a saliva collection tube, instructions, and a box with the text 'Welcome to you'.

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The results can shed light on a fascinating array of data, from figuring out who your birth parents are to discovering the predisposition of certain personality types to a person’s ancestral background. It’s no wonder that these types of tests have become more popular over the years.

An Innocent Curiosity

Phyllis herself had never thought to take a DNA test—it was her son who pulled the first thread. The young man had recently become engaged. After a kit arrived in the mail one day as a little surprise, his fiancée convinced him to take the test to learn more about her fiancé’s family tree.

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Two young men standing outdoors with a backdrop of greenery and stone steps

Source: Phyllis Harvey-Thomas/Facebook

DNA test results can be useful as well as insightful. Phyllis’ daughter-in-law probably wanted to know about any possible genetic quirks or predispositions to illness for their own future family.

Shaking The Branches

Amused, Phyllis’ son humored his soon-to-be wife and took the test. All it took was a little swab from his mouth, and before long, the results were on their way to the lab. Neither of them could have guessed how much they would be shaking the branches of their family tree.

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Close-up of a person's open mouth showing teeth and tongue, with a cotton swab being inserted for a sample collection

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After so long, they forgot about the test and went about their daily lives. After the lab technicians decoded the DNA in the saliva sample, they shipped back the results.  

Not What They Had Expected

There had never been any mystery in the Thompson family. Phyllis’ son had expected a few surprises after going back a couple of generations, but nothing major. So when the results came back, he and his fiancée were quite shocked.

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Close-up view of labeled microcentrifuge tubes in a laboratory rack

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What should have been a fun couple of hours looking over the test results became an afternoon of confusion. They weren’t sure what to make of them—in part because they seemed so incomplete. Had something gone wrong with the procedure? It was the only logical explanation.

Scrambling The DNA Map

Not only were the results incomplete, but they had seemed all wrong. It was as though the lab had sent somebody else’s family history, albeit with his and his mom’s name on one of the branches. He picked up the phone and called his mom before calling the lab, just to be sure.

A collection of DNAFit genetic testing kits arranged on a wooden table. One box is open, revealing several test tubes with blue caps inside, while others are closed with the brand's logo visible on the lids

Source: PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

He probably imagined that she would clear things up and that the lab would offer an apology and a refund for their mistake. It would not be so simple.

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A Missing Ethnicity

Phyllis’ son knew that the results should have been off because he had heard from his relatives that his family line included certain ethnicities. These ethnicities were entirely absent from his DNA, according to the results. His mom had been one of the people to tell him these stories. 

A woman with glasses and curly hair stands under a wooden shelter, holding up several photographs with visible images of sunflowers

Source: Instagram/@tonythomasart

Had there been a mistake? Had he misheard, or had one of his ancestors lied about their own lineage? He knew his mom would clear it all up. He laughed about how clumsy those lab technicians must have been. 

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Only Half A Clue

But Phyllis had no idea. In fact, she headed on over to her son’s place to check out the results for herself. It was just as her son had said—whole ethnicities were missing from the charts. None of it matched up with what she had been told by her parents or relatives.

A family of five, with three young adults, sits smiling in front of a decorated Christmas tree

Source: Instagram/@tonythomasart

She was just as confused as her son and his fiancée. She noticed that only half of the results were correct. 

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A Mix-Up On Her Father’s Side

So what was matching up? Everything she knew about her maternal side was accurately depicted on the little pie chart. But there was a big question mark over her father’s side. But as Phyllis’ daughter-in-law pointed out, the lab couldn’t get exactly half of everything wrong. 

Two women standing side by side outdoors on a sunny day. The woman on the left has curly hair and wears glasses and a denim jacket over a white top, while the woman on the right sports sunglasses, a black hat, and a camo jacket over a yellow top.

Source: Instagram/@moserwife4life_96

Surely Phyllis’ father hadn’t been lying about his own background. Why would he do such a thing? She decided to call in her brother and get him on board. Perhaps he could shed some light on the problem. 

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A Mysterious Past

It wasn’t uncommon for people to lie about their past or even their lineage. Sometimes they would have to do so to outrun some kind of trouble or to simply avoid discrimination. As Phyllis’ brother made his way over, she wondered if she would have to have an uncomfortable conversation about their parents.

A close-up of a smiling woman with curly hair and glasses, standing next to a bearded man wearing glasses.

Source: Instagram/@tonythomasart

This investigation would drag her and all of her siblings into an uncomfortable situation. Or would it? Could she be the odd one out? Her mother had given hints over the years—or had she? 

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A Way Forward

Everything Phyllis knew had been put into question—everything except her relationship with her mother. So who was her father? And what about her siblings? Her brother could offer no more answers than she could—but he did convince her to get their sister on the line. 

Close-up selfie of a woman with curly hair wearing a straw hat and black-framed glasses

Source: Phyllis Harvey-Thomas/Facebook

Once their sister got onboard, the mystery became unstuck. What they would need is a DNA lab and another swab stick—this time for Phyllis’ brother or sister. Soon, the whole family caught wind of their problem. 

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Giving It Another Swab

What should have been a fun little test result turned into a full-scale ancestral investigation with Phyllis and her siblings at the center. They sent off for another DNA test kit. This time, Phyllis’ sister would do the swabbing. At least that way, they would know about their own relationship. 

A group of five people posing on a beach at dusk

Source: Phyllis/Facebook

Phyllis had a gut feeling that she was the outlier in all this. As the family waited in anticipation for the results of the second test, Phyllis did some soul-searching and strained her memory for clues about her father. 

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Distant Whispers

There had been comments and jokes over the course of her life—especially when she had been a small child—hinting that she had been different from her brother and sister. Since she had been so young, she hadn’t made anything of it. 

A woman with curly hair and glasses is wearing headphones and speaking into a studio microphone, indicative of a podcast recording session

Source: Unashamed/YouTube

The comments had never bothered her—she always felt close to her siblings. But somehow, she knew that she was once removed from them in some way. Disconnected. It wasn’t that she felt like her blood didn’t match theirs—it was more of a personality contrast. 

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Just To Be Sure

Nothing that could come with the next results would stop Phyllis from loving her brother and sister. They were her family, and she loved them no matter what. All the same, she wanted answers to these bewildering questions about her lineage.

A smiling woman with curly hair and glasses holds up a photograph in front of a white brick fireplace

Source: Tony Thomas/Facebook

While her sister awaited the results of her test, curiosity got the better of her. Phyllis decided to order a kit, too. It couldn’t hurt to give her own DNA a thorough examination—especially with them being so affordable, painless, and convenient. 

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Not So Shocked

After reflecting on all the news, at her most honest, Phyllis wasn’t really that shocked. Even if she hadn’t understood all the off-hand comments about her as a little girl, they had sunk in somewhere. In a way, it was a relief to discover that those feelings of alienation had some merit. 

A selfie of a bearded man and a woman wearing glasses, with a blue heeler puppy between them

Source: Phyllis Harvey-Thomas/Facebook

She commented in an interview that, in the days before the arrival of the other tests, she wondered if this would be the moment that she discovered that all of her suspicions were true.

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The Waiting Game

When her son had taken the test, there were no stakes involved. It had been an amusing little game. Now the family awaited Phyllis’ results, and her sister’s, with bated breath. Nobody was more anxious about the results than Phyllis herself.

A close-up of a smiling couple; a woman on the left with her hair pulled back and a man on the right with a beard and glasses

Source: Phyllis Harvey-Thomas/Facebook

Before, they had returned the kit and forgotten all about it. Now they counted the days and weeks since sending the little swab in the test tube away. What would the new, revised results have to say? How would they impact her family line? 

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Phyllis And Her Siblings

Phyllis and her sister got their results at around the same time. They were conclusive. As Phyllis remarked in an interview on the Unashamed with Phil Robertson podcast, “[my sister] did a DNA test, and I finally did one. It came back that [my brother and sister] were half-siblings. “

A woman takes a selfie during golden hour, with the sun casting a warm glow on her face

Source: Phyllis Harvey-Thomas/Facebook

It seemed that Phyllis had a different father from her sister and brother. In forty years, nobody had ever revealed this truth to her. It didn’t matter all that much to the trio—they loved each other, and that was that.  

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The Mystery Man

But now, another question hung in the air. Who was her real dad? Since she had never been given more than a hint when she was much younger—and even then, she couldn’t be sure if they were memories or dreams—she had no leads from her family to follow.

Close-up of a woman with curly hair and black-framed glasses. She has a gentle smile and is looking directly at the camera

Source: Phyllis Harvey-Thomas/Facebook

Was this a dead end in the chase? Not quite. Thanks to her DNA results, Phyllis had one hope of finding the identity of her biological father. But it would take a little digging.

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On The DNA Trail

It turns out that DNA testing is more sophisticated than ever. The lab doesn’t just break down your ethnicity and personality predispositions—they also allow users to track where their relatives are around the world. That goes for direct relatives, too. 

A close-up selfie of a couple; a bearded man with glasses on the left and a woman with curly hair on the right

Source: Phyllis Harvey-Thomas/Facebook

Phyllis put on her investigator’s hat and began searching for matches by geography, region, or country. This helpful feature would lead her all the way to finding her true father—and what a shock that would be! At this point, the whole family was watching.

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Like An Outsider—But Now More Than Ever

There was no way to find a direct link to a name, but Phyllis would have to whittle down a list of potential candidates. Phyllis had a mandate for her investigation—the results had dropped a big blank spot where her father was supposed to be.

indoor selfie of a couple; a woman with glasses and curly hair, dressed in a red coat and white scarf, and a bearded man in glasses wearing a green jacket

Source: Tony Thomas/Facebook

While her family had her back, the nature of this search made her feel even more like the black sheep of the family. The research was slow, but Phyllis didn’t let anything deter her from finding out the truth of her lineage.  

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Building From The Stem Up

Phyllis was thorough while rebuilding her family tree. She had to be considering the enormous gaps in the branches. Thankfully, she wasn’t alone. Her husband joined in on the search. Together they poured over information from the DNA testing company’s website and cross-referenced it with their own independent research. 

A woman with curly hair and black-framed glasses stands outdoors. She is smiling gently at the camera with a large tree and green foliage in the background

Source: Tony Thomas/Facebook

Through hard work and determination, they had compiled a sturdy list of candidates. One name, in particular, stood out from all the rest. It was the name of a well-known celebrity. But they didn’t jump to conclusions yet.

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But The Name Stuck With Her

Tree-building had just about become a full-time job. But with each blank that Phyllis and her husband filled in, they were closer to revealing the name of her biological father. It came down to just a few blanks. That name was still on the candidate list.

A woman with curly hair and glasses is smiling at the camera, seated indoors with a neutral-toned wall behind her

Source: Tony Thomas/Facebook

Phyllis had another gut feeling—the same kind of gut feeling she had all her life about not quite fitting in. It was telling her it was this name. But she wouldn’t have proof without first at least meeting him in person.

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She Knew Him—From T.V.

She recounted on the Unashamed podcast that turned to her husband and said, “I think I know [him].” But she didn’t mean she had bumped into him in the street or at Walmart. She meant that she had seen his face on billboards, in magazines, and the television. 

woman with glasses and curly hair holding up a colorful painting of a duck on water

Source: Tony Thomas/Facebook

And she didn’t mean years ago, either. This man—her potential father—was currently a huge star. It was a crazy thought: the idea of being related to a famous person. This drove her onward in her investigation. She was onto something big.

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Who Else But The Duck Dynasty Star, Phil Robertson? 

Phyllis’ investigation determined that her father could be non-other than Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson. She had seen his face many times on A&E—but how could Phyllis have ever guessed he was her biological dad without the help of the DNA test?

Phil Robertson stands in front of a backdrop featuring characters from the Duck Dynasty show

Source: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway

Not only was their DNA a potential match, their names, too. Phil and Phyllis. Could that have been a running family joke over the years? Either way, it wasn’t 100% certain. They would have to meet. 

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Reaching Out To Phil

Meeting your real dad would be hard enough for anyone, but for Phyllis to have to confront such a celebrity? How stressful! The rest question was: would he even want to meet her? Well, she had come this far. She and her husband came up with a game plan. 

Phil Robertson wearing a camo headband and sunglasses

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They decided that the best course of action would be to simply write him a letter. It was a non-confrontational way to break the ice—the best way to avoid drama.

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But What To Say?

According to Phyllis, this was probably the hardest step in the whole process. She didn’t want to step on anyone’s shoes—Phil had a family of his own, after all. They prayed for answers and spoke to their close friends about what they should put down in the letter.

Phil Robertson poses with his wife in a public setting

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Phyllis was worried about what Phil’s wife would think most of all. She knew the two had been together for as long as she was alive. It would be an uncomfortable part of the conversation.

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She Wasn’t Just Going To Put It In The Mail

Both Phyllis and her husband thought that a letter would be the best way to convey their thoughts to Phil, but she didn’t just want to put a stamp on an envelope and send it off. She would deliver it to him in person. She believed their mutual faith would at least be enough for him to take the letter out of her hands.

A close up portrait of a woman with blond curly hair wearing sunglasses in a tropical setting

Source: Phyllis Harvey-Thomas/Facebook

Phyllis and her husband arranged to take a December trip out to Louisiana. They decided to put whatever would happen next in God’s hands.

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He Was Scheduled To Preach At Church

It seemed that somebody had heard their prayers—they discovered that Phil was preaching one Sunday in December—and it lined up with their travel plans perfectly. The two arrived at the church and listened to Phil deliver his words.

Phil Robertson on stage, wearing glasses and talking into a microphone whilst holding a book

Source: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

Given the time of year, Phil was performing during a Christmas reading. According to her husband, Phyllis was a bundle of nerves the whole way through. She sat watching the man, who was potentially her father, from the back pews. 

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The Excitement

Phyllis’ mind was getting blown as Phil delivered the gospel to the whole church crowd. On the Unashamed podcast, Phyllis remarked, “how cool is it that the first time I see my dad [in person], he’s preaching. To me […] that’s a cool dad.”

Phil Robertson appears on stage holding a microphone and pointing with his right index finger

Source: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

She was star-stuck and blown away by his delivery. But that just made it all the harder to work up the nerves she would need to pass the letter into his hands. She could have chickened out with all that anxiety.

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A Loving Squeeze

But thankfully, someone was in her corner, squeezing her hand and giving her all the encouragement she needed to take the first step forward. From the moment they arrived in the parking lot to the moment Phil stepped away from the stand, he was there for her.

Portrait of Phil Robertson dressed in a camo headband and dark sunglasses

Source: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway

Phyllis described her husband as her biggest cheerleader. He reminded her that she had come this far and that she could do it. She just needed a little push to make the first move.

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One More Complication: His Security Team

It wasn’t just Phil’s presence that was putting her off. When the two first came into the church, they watched him roll in with a team of bodyguards—or, as Phyllis described it on the same podcast, “an entourage.” That’s more than enough to scare anyone away. 

Phil Robertson holds his hand up to the camera whilst wearing a hat and dark sunglasses

Source: Charles Norfleet/FilmMagic

But thanks to her husband’s support, she hung in there. But they did wonder how on earth they would actually get to deliver the letter with all those men in the way. They were at an impasse. So close, yet so far!

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She Just Sat On It

Phyllis and her husband hadn’t figured Phil’s armed security crew into their game plan when they decided to take the trip to Louisiana. There had to be something they could do! But no matter what they tried, nothing sounded viable.

Phil Robertson wears a camo headband and stands next to a microphone

Source: Suzanne Cordeiro/Corbis via Getty Images

All she wanted to do in the whole world was to get this man—potentially her father—the heartfelt letter she had written him. It seemed impossible. In fact, Phyllis knew it was impossible. The moment he exited the church, Phyllis broke down in tears in front of him.

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Losing Faith In Herself

Upon seeing Phyllis burst into tears, Phil got scared and made a getaway out of the church building. He assumed something weird was going on—and in a way, he wasn’t wrong. But had Phyllis missed her one chance to present the letter? Not yet.

A woman with blond curly hair wearing glasses, smiles whilst in a store

Source: Chad Debie Merten Smith/Facebook

She didn’t give up. If she couldn’t get the letter into Phil’s hands, then she would have to find someone to deliver it for her. It would need to be someone close to Phil, too. But who would do it?

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Message To His Son

While she was still in church after she pulled herself together, Phyllis noticed one of Phil’s sons, Jase, sitting on one of the pews. She recognized him from her research and realized he could be her half-brother. Without hesitation, she approached him and asked him to deliver a letter to his dad.

Jase Robertson wearing a dark brown beanie and sunglasses, stands in front of a promotional backdrop for 'Duck Commander Musical'

Source: Denise Truscello/WireImage

Phyllis explained the situation in an interview later, recalling how she walked right up to Jase and gave him the letter. She told him it was important and asked him to give it to his dad.

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A Change Of Fortune

Jase was more than willing to help Phyllis. He greeted her warmly and promised to deliver the letter to his father. Phyllis didn’t expect much, as the Robertson family might have more important things to worry about than a random woman claiming to be Phil’s long-lost daughter. 

Jase Robertson is pictured wearing a camo jacket and black beanie with sunglasses on his head

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The rest was in God’s hands. Days passed, and they received no word. Phyllis decided to send a letter to the Duck Dynasty HQ as a last resort. A week later, everything changed.

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The Snail Mail Won Out

The snail mail letter reached the family, and it’s what got Phyllis’ plea the attention it deserved. It had arrived at Phil’s store, Duck Commander. After Jase saw it, he became curious about the letter he had been handed at church. It was the turning point.

Jase Robertson holds a microphone whilst wearing a gray shirt and cap

Source: Kris Connor/Getty Images

On the Unashamed with Phil Robertson podcast, Jase recounted receiving the letter from Phyllis. He stated, “I received the letter but didn’t read it. A week later, I was at Duck Commanders and found out that Phyllis had also sent a letter there. Phil was not [yet] aware.”

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Al And Jase Investigated

Jase mentioned that he received Phil’s mail at Duck Commanders and found a letter from Phyllis, which was the same letter that he had received from her in person. She had written two letters: one to Jase and another to the Robertson family, which he only saw when he was at HQ. 

Phil Robertson and 2 of his sons pictured wearing baseball uniforms

Source: Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Curiosity made him want to know what Phyllis wanted. He made Jase and Al read the letter, and they were just as surprised to find out about this ‘missing daughter.’

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Should This Go To The Patriarch?

Once they had scoured the two letters, Jase and Al came together. They needed to know if their father was really her biological dad. If true, it would mean they have a half-sister. However, a question arose: how could she prove it? 

A man with a full beard and long hair wearing an American flag bandana adjusts his headband while speaking into a microphone

Source: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

A DNA test was one of the options, but, more importantly, how would they break this news to their parents? The brothers were curious yet worried about the consequences. This news could potentially break up their parents’ marriage.

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Phil: Let’s Do A Test

On the podcast, Al spoke about his feelings on the news that Phyllis had written in her letter. He said, “It was difficult for me to sleep. My mind was filled with possibilities. It was exciting for me. If it was true, it meant I have a sister out there.” 

Phil Robertson speaking into a microphone in front of an American flag backdrop

Source: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Phil was the one who decided to take the paternity test to confirm it. It’s a testament to his character as a father that he would humor this idea from a woman he’d never met.

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The Results Came Back: She Was His Daughter

The brothers were expecting immediate results from the paternity test, but it turned out to be a few days of anxious waiting. They were dying to know the test results. They had so many questions—did they have a sister? 

Phil Robertson is pictured with his long lost daughter Phyliss

Source: Tony Thomas/Facebook

After a few days of waiting, the results came in. Phyllis finally had the answer she was looking for—the test confirmed that Phil Robertson was her biological father. After all the mystery and questions, she found her biological father, and the Robertson family found a new member.

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The Duck Family Tree Got A Little Wider, Too

Phyllis’s journey of searching for her biological father had finally come to an end. She now had irrefutable proof that her father was Phil Robertson—star of the legendary Duck Dynasty TV show. After he received the results, Phil invited Phyllis to come and meet the family. 

A large group of people posing for a family photo in a cozy room with wooden beams and a rustic chandelier

Source: Instagram/Missy Robertson (@missyduckwife)

It was an emotional reunion, and Phyllis finally found what she had been looking for: the truth. She covered the whole story on his podcast. The two have since been reconnecting—a difficult but not impossible task, given their story.

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