They’ve been best friends since the sixth grade, a relationship that for many would feel like family.
And it turns out, they are: Alan Robinson and Walter Macfarlane, both from Hawaii, recently discovered they are brothers after knowing each other for more than 60 years. The two learned that they had the same biological mother after independently doing DNA tests.
Robinson and Macfarlane, of Oahu, told their story last week to local television stations in Honolulu, after hosting a party to tell their families.
Recreational DNA tests have grown in popularity in recent years as the price of testing kits offered by services like 23andMe, Ancestry.com and Family Tree DNA has dropped to about $100 or less, despite some lingering privacy concerns. The results can turn up information about distant or unknown relatives.
The men both met as adolescents decades ago and went on to play football together at the Punahou School, a prestigious private high school on the island that counts former President Barack Obama among its alumni.
“When we played for Punahou, we were both first-string,” Macfarlane said in a video posted by KITV 4. “We’re brothers, playing side by side.”
Even though the two had similar interests — and looked alike, according to some people who knew them — they said they never considered the possibility that they were related, the station reported.
“It never crossed my mind,” Robinson said. “That’s what’s really amazing.”
Robinson was adopted by his family, while Macfarlane never knew his father, reported another local television station in Hawaii, KHON 2.
“This guy was like an older brother all along,” Robinson said. “We’d go skin diving. I’d be making noise in the water, splashing around; he’d be teaching me how to do it right. He always came out of the water with a bigger string of fish. And I had the smallest.”
“As it should be,” Macfarlane chimed in. “You’re my younger brother.”
Macfarlane took a DNA test after trying to seek out more information about his family online.
“So then we started digging into all the matches he started getting,” daughter Cindy Macfarlane-Flores told KHON 2.
A username Robi737 came back atop the list of DNA matches. “Robi,” was one of Robinson’s nicknames; he used to fly 737 airplanes for Aloha Airlines, Macfarlane’s daughter said. Robinson had also taken a DNA test, the results of which had been uploaded to Ancestry.com.
Macfarlane and Robinson had identical X chromosomes; the men did some research and learned they had the same biological mother, KHON 2 reported.
“It was an overwhelming experience; it’s still overwhelming,” Robinson said. “I don’t know how long it’s going to take for me to get over this feeling.”
The two, both retired, plan to do some traveling together, KHON 2 reported.
“This is the best Christmas present I could ever imagine having,” Robinson said.