George Dryden says he is going to change his name to George Diefenbaker.
The Toronto man, who has been searching for months for evidence that he is the son of John Diefenbaker, said on Wednesday that a dirty Q-tip has finally given him the proof he needs.
Unable to find DNA on belongings of the former prime minister in a museum, Mr. Dryden spent the summer tracking down some of Mr. Diefenbaker’s distant cousins in southern Ontario.
When they all refused to give him samples of their DNA, he hired a private investigator.
The sleuth collected a Q-tip covered with sticky ear wax that one of the relatives had tossed away, Mr. Dryden said.
He said he had it tested against his own DNA and it revealed a genetic link to the Diefenbaker family.
The sample is not enough to prove conclusively he’s the former prime minister’s son, but Mr. Dryden said it shows he’s a Diefenbaker by blood, and that’s all the proof he needs.
“I feel like I’ve done enough to prove it,” Mr. Dryden said, adding that he’ll next be changing his last name to mark the discovery.
“We know scientifically I’m not a Dryden, right. And we know scientifically I am a Diefenbaker. So I think it only makes sense if I do change it.”
The 43-year-old businessman, who bears a strong resemblance to the former Conservative leader, claims his mother had an affair with Mr. Diefenbaker in the 1960s. Mr. Diefenbaker passed away in 1979.
Mary Lou Dryden was a known confidante of the prime minister and there were long-time family whispers about the father of her child. Mr. Dryden said late last year he found out the man he believed was his dad was not his biological father.
So began his paternity quest, starting with the Diefenbaker Canada Centre in Saskatoon.
The museum selected several items owned by Mr. Diefenbaker – hats, a watch band and his pipe – and allowed a company Mr. Dryden hired to test them for his DNA. But the tests were not conclusive because the artifacts had been handled by too many people.
Mr. Dryden said he then turned to a genealogist. The prime minister and his brother had no known children, but the researcher found distant relatives who had changed their name to Diefenbacher and settled around Kitchener, Ont.
She gave Mr. Dryden a list of two dozen male relatives – third and fourth cousins of Mr. Diefenbaker. Mr. Dryden said he contacted them all and two agreed to hand over samples of their saliva. But within hours, they changed their minds.
“I had family members of them call me back and say, ‘No. Don’t come. We’re not interested. Please stay away from us. We have no interest in helping you.’”
Mr. Dryden said his only option was to hire a private investigator, so he contacted an agency in Toronto experienced in paternity cases. “They said, ‘Yeah. No problem. Let’s go get you a DNA sample.’”
The lead investigator, a former police officer named Al Duncan, refused to comment on his work on the case.
The agency initially followed a Diefenbaker relative leaving a Tim Hortons, hoping he would throw away his empty coffee cup, Mr. Dryden said. The team later lost him on the busy Highway 401.
Mr. Dryden said the agency tried another relative and struck gold with the Q-tip. He’s not sure if the find involved going through the relative’s garbage. “It was what they call a discarded, discreet sample. They got it discreetly and they got it legally.”
Mr. Dryden isn’t naming the relative it came from.
He said a Toronto company called Accu-Metrics tested the Q-tip and compared it with two swabs swiped inside his own mouth. The results show he’s a distant relative.
Mr. Dryden said it makes sense that if Mr. Diefenbaker was a distant family member, he would be too.
“That’s the closest that’s out there. There’s nothing closer left to test.”
Last week, the Diefenbaker Centre discovered a lock of child’s hair labelled as belonging to Mr. Diefenbaker during renovations.
The museum offered a piece to Mr. Dryden for testing, but he said there was no point. Because the hair has no roots, it likely has no DNA, he said.
Mr. Dryden said his mission is now over. And proving Mr. Diefenbaker is his dad is not about getting any money. There is no estate or inheritance to claim, he said.
“The first thing I wanted to do was confirm he was my father, which, as far as I’m concerned, I have done. And whatever comes next comes next.”