The Days of Secrets Are Over

Did you happen to see the fascinating and really well-told story about the woman who thought she was Irish, until a DNA test opened a 100 year old mystery? I really want to discuss it with you, but don’t want to give away any spoilers if you haven’t read it yet. (Go read it!)

Underlying the story, the article is about identity. How much do the labels we give ourselves really mean? And the article is also about DNA tests in general, and the unexpected results that many people are experiencing. Along those lines, one paragraph stood out to me:

“In 2014, 23andMe estimated that 7,000 users of its service had discovered unexpected paternity or previously unknown siblings — a relatively small fraction of overall users. The company no longer provides data on surprise results. However, its customer base has more than doubled since 2014, and now contains more than 2 million people — and as more people get involved with recreational genomics, bloodline surprises are certain to become a more common experience. The 2020s may turn out to be the decade that killed family secrets, for better and for worse.”

Your dad isn’t your dad? You have a sibling you didn’t know about? That’s some major life-shaking stuff. It got me thinking about family secrets, and secrets in general. With the endless data available to us on the internet, are the days of keeping secrets over? And if the answer is yes, how do we feel about it?

One tiny related example: Yesterday, I received an email from a reader who asked me to delete a comment she had written months ago. It was a pretty innocuous comment. It didn’t name names, and didn’t say anything rude. It was just a comment on a party she had attended. But now, months later, her friend saw the comment, and recognized the party that was referenced, and didn’t feel like the comment was complimentary.

I’m sure when it was originally written, the idea that anyone she knew was going to see the comment, didn’t seem at all likely to happen.

When I was a kid, we would study the scriptures in Sunday School (actually, we still do that as adults too). On one Sunday, there was a section talking about how in the future, our secrets would be shouted from the rooftops, and I was fascinated by it. The reference is Luke 12:3 — Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.

I remember trying to picture what that might look like. Someone with a megaphone and a list of secrets on top of a building? Who would be listening? And who’s secrets would be called out? And I remember trying to figure out which of my 11-year-old secrets might make the list. A secret crush? Something I wrote in my journal? Hah!

Cut to now, with things like DNA tests revealing secrets in a way I could never have conceived of. Is it a biblical revelation come true?

Here on Design Mom, we talked a couple of months ago about DNA tests. I wanted to give one to Ben Blair for Father’s Day, but we ended up delaying our Father’s Day celebration and I never placed the order. Many people commented on that post that they didn’t want to take any sort of DNA test for privacy reasons, or for pre-existing condition reasons. I get that logic, but for me personally, those reasons don’t sway me. I’m still super interested in getting tested.

How about you? Have you been tested? Any surprises that rocked your world? Or made you reconsider your identity?Does reading a story like the Irish women’s mystery make you feel more interested in taking a test? Or less interested? And how do you feel about the idea of leaving the age of secrets behind?

P.S. — The image at top is a beautiful family tree of languages, you can order a print here.

68 thoughts on “The Days of Secrets Are Over”

  1. Uncovering of secrets can be surprisingly good.

    This past weekend we learned that my husband’s 85 year-old great-uncle (a long-time confirmed bachelor with no kids) had just been contacted by an unexpected and previously-unknown adult daughter!! He had done a DNA test a year ago, and then last month he received a message from the DNA test site that he had been matched to a person who was his daughter.

    She lived in a different state. He had never known she existed – had never even known that his teenage girlfriend had been pregnant. His girlfriend had moved away, put the baby up for adoption, and he had been clueless about the existence of this child.

    This was nearly 70 years ago. They chatted and met last month. And they hit it off like gangbusters. Here, in the twilight of his years, he is suddenly a dad, and a granddad, and a great-granddad! It’s amazing how much they have in common, and how completely blown-over he is with shock and happiness. :)


      My husband and I took the AncestryDNA test two years ago, he at my suggestion. I was recently contacted via the Ancestry website by a woman who was inquiring about my husband and his family history. She got results indicating that my husband is her biological father. Shocker!! He had no idea of her existence, but did know her mother from his younger years, before he and I had met. This was not welcome news for either of us, and is a reminder to me of my husband’s sordid past. Be careful what you wish for. This information you gain may not always be welcome.

    2. My father’s father denied being the biological parent of him. He died never knowing who was his father. A few years ago, my brothers took a DNA test and some of the man’s relatives showed up which proved the man is our grandfather. He always said he’d take a DNA test to prove he wasn’t a relative, so they went to see this man and asked him to once and for all take the test with the little kit in hand. It wasn’t a pretty scene, he refused and the man still denies us as his family.

      I suppose I’m the lucky one as I realized quite young the man never wanted anything to do with my father or his grandchildren. He knew about us and never wanted contact. I feel bad that my brothers and mother were disappointed to find DNA doesn’t change a leopard’s spots. They miss my father and wanted to know the man who gave him life to be turned away and still denied.

      DNA kits may finally give you answers or confirmation, but it doesn’t change everyone’s minds and reunions aren’t always welcome. Prepare yourself for that if you are looking to find a long lost relative. My brothers were deeply hurt and I’d hate for anyone else to think DNA is the answer.

  2. Through one of those DNA sights we found out my husband’s great grandfather was biologically the son of a man his g-g-grandmother had an affair with. We learned a lot more about g-g-grandma with that discovery!😀

  3. I was adopted at birth 52 years ago. 13 years ago, following a search, I had contact with my birth mother and learned that I had 2 half siblings. Based on the non-identifying records my adoptive parents were given, I grew up believing that my biological father was German. Being of German descendent sounded much more exciting than the British heritage I believed was my birth mom and adoptive parents’ heritage. In school, I would do projects on Germany and tell people I was of German descent. Upon meeting my birth mother, she told me that she had never known my birth father’s heritage and so I was not of German heritage. Sigh. I was back to being boring British. My birth mom didn’t seem to know much about her family’s ancestors so I started searching on Well what do you know! I learned that all of my birth mother’s ancestors were either Mennonite or Pennsylvania Dutch with roots in Germany. I am biologically German after all!

  4. I’ve long been fascinated with DNA testing/genealogy even though no direct mysteries in my line. But we’ve tested all our kids, parents, grandparents, some of my siblings, and I love seeing the variations in our ethnic heritages (for example, my husband and I are each 15% Scottish; our son inherited both of those percentages and is a full third Scottish, which we joke explains his love of kilts/bagpipes). Just by being in the databases, though, I’ve been contacted by some distant relatives and so far have helped two of my third cousins discover their biological parents. I’m part of that DNA discovery group on Facebook referenced in the article, and there are shocking revelations in people’s lives and families shared daily.

    1. Speaking of avoiding surprises if your son wants to map out his own heritage at some point – the numbers you mention make your son 15% Scottish, not 1/3. The child’s ethnic makeup is whatever percentage ethnicity parents are, added together, divided by two. So if you were both half Scottish, it wouldn’t make him 100% Scottish, it would make him half Scottish and half whatever else you all were.
      I hope that doesn’t dampen your/his enthusiasm for his heritage – my husband is nominally Scottish and I’m not at all and I still went for the bagpipes at our wedding!

      1. And now that I”m talking about it with my spouse… how do we know which pieces of DNA from which ethnic heritage we inherited from our parents and which we missed out on (or our siblings inherited)? Unless we test, you don’t. So your son could be more – or less – Scottish than 15%, depending on which pieces of genetic material he got from you and your husband. I’m so used to the idea of calculating percentages mathematically like I did above – for, say, a family history project in high school – that it blew my mind to realize this.
        This article shows how this plays out:

        1. Thanks for responding, my son has tested his DNA and is 33% Scottish. I don’t understand fully how all the pieces come apart and together again, but it’s sure fascinating.

  5. Such an interesting article! My brother recently did a test and found that he (we?) are a quarter Irish. And that the family story of having Native American heritage was completely a hoax! I have one daughter whom we adopted. I’m eager to have her DNA testing done to learn something/anything about her ethnic heritage.

    1. I was talking with a friend who works at a very big DNA company who said the statistics on American Indians is not accurate because they do not have enough American Indian DNA in the database so it is often attributed to a different ethnicity so you may still have American Indian heritage!

  6. I met a long lost first cousin of my Grandpa’s last month—and he told me some family stories that I had never heard. And my Grandpa loved to talk story. When I went back to my grandmother to verify the stories, she added even more information, and I felt like the axis of my family story shifted. It was a bit shocking. I think DNA testing would be uncomfortable given that many of my ancestors would have been considered scoundrels back in their day… And probably criminals today.

  7. Wow, that story and that they were able to solve the mystery! This makes me so curious about my own DNA!

    I have read some really interesting stories lately, sort of like this. One was about two sets of twins in South America, one of each got switched in the hospital as babies and figured it out at young adults through friends. The other was about a women in Germany who found out her Grandfather was a Nazi, after she checked out a book in the library. Her book is, My Grandfather Would have Shot Me. It is about how she came to terms with her history.

    DNA and family history are so fasicnating! I think the less secrets the better!

    1. Yes! I was also thinking about the New York Times Magazine article about the Columbian twins. Two beautifully written pieces.

  8. I’m very interested in getting DNA testing. Although my dad’s paternal ancestry line is particularly well-developed (we have a complete family tree dating back to the 1500s), my maternal grandmother doesn’t know anything, at all, about where her family came from. We’ve guessed, based on the very few names we know, that there is likely some Scottish or Welsh background but really don’t know at all. We recently discovered that my great-grandmother’s family (she was born in the US but had siblings born in what we were told was either Hungary or Germany) were of German ancestry, but had lived in what was at the time Austro-Hungary, but in what is now Romania! I’m living in Moldova and speak fluent Romanian, so I’d love to know if we have any family members still living in Romania!

  9. Both my family and my husband’s did the DNA testing and, on both sides, the stories of Native American ancestry were not true. My dad actually had Sardinian blood rather than Native American – interesting that some relative felt the need to hide that.

    The genetic markers make me a little nervous. I think I would prefer knowing in advance if a parent is carrying something but it would be hard to know what to do with the information.

  10. I haven’t read the article yet but now am dying to… My husband and I did 23andMe ages ago, when it was fairly new. I find it completely fascinating, and was eager to see how close my actual heritage was to what I’d been told (turns out it was pretty close! A little more muddy than I was told, but nothing hugely revelatory). I also love seeing what traits I’m predisposed to. (Fun fact: as the technology changes and the regulations change, the traits reported on in our accounts change as well!) My husband is big on privacy, but is also a scientist, and so was really interested from a scientific standpoint. We’ve even had our dog tested to see what breeds our mutt was comprised of! I mostly find it really fun, although do understand the concerns of others as well as the potentially enormous consequences.

  11. I find it fascinating, especially because my children are “mutts” and it would be interesting to know the breakdowns. I’m Cuban and Italian (and within these groups I have long assumed there is a “blend” and my husband has been told they are English, Dutch, Native American, etc. Some people in his family have done this sort of testing. But I will not be doing this because of privacy concerns. It’s a shame, but I really do fear that any genetic marker information could be accessed and used to penalize us in the current health insurance culture.

  12. We did 23 and Me almost 4 years ago. It was interesting and a little bit funny, but not earth-shattering at all. I haven’t kept up with the family connections though, so I guess there could still be surprises out there for me. I wasn’t at all deterred (and still would not be) by the pre-existing condition argument or the privacy argument. We leave our DNA all over the place every day. I donate blood and breast milk regularly too. I have no expectation that my DNA is actually private, nor do I think anyone’s is.

  13. We did have extended family discover they were not biologically related to who they thought they were. Several family members already knew this but had been sworn to secrecy-so it was super awkward when they did the genetic testing and then were confused as to their genetic makeup and were asking questions. I guess they realized-although no one ever said-but they’ve stopped discussing it.

      1. Yes-I feel for them-because they deserve to know. But the parties involved are very elderly and have dementia-so even if they asked, I don’t know if they would get answers.

  14. The last time you wrote about this I responded to a comment by someone criticizing this as a Father’s Day gift since it is a “paternity test.” I thought she was genuinely confused…now I’m like, “wait, what? This is a paternity test?”

    Could someone explain to me in more detail how you discover a different paternity/maternity or other relationships than you previously thought? Is it only if everyone in your family does the test?

    1. In our family’s case, when she did her 23andMe she should have had Ashkenazi show up, as well as some regions in Europe (because her father was partially Jewish). When she and her children did the testing-none of that showed up. So she must have realized her father isn’t her father biologically. So it’s not really “paternity” per se-it’s more knowing what you are (and really knowing-not just the nebulous “Native American”) and then not having it show up at all. She and her kids realized that there was no overlap at all with other members of the family.

      1. So it just raises questions when your ancestry doesn’t match up with what you thought? That makes sense.

        The “paternity” discussion plus the quote about ” unexpected paternity or previously unknown siblings” made me wonder: did they used to contact you if someone else in the system showed up with DNA indicating a close familial relationship? Do they still contact you if there are connections? Sorry if I’m sounding dim about all of this…I’m just curious on the details.

        1. I’m not sure how it works either. It sounds like you get some sort of report that shows you other people who have taken the test that have enough similar DNA with you that they could be a relative.

          1. If you test on a site like Ancestry, where thousands/millions of others have already tested, along with your ethnic heritage you’re presented with a list of close relative matches from among their database when you log in to see your results. If you and the match both have family trees on Ancestry already, it might say 4th cousin match, your common ancestor is John Smith. If one of you doesn’t have a tree or it’s marked private, it might say 4th cousin match, no tree (so you can then contact them and ask about their relatives). The tricky thing where all these stories come out is when it says “close family match: parent/child” if you weren’t expecting that.
            They also put your results into a DNA “circle” of other people who have tested and also match as descendants of a certain ancestor (my kids who have lots of pioneer ancestors are in over 100 genetic ancestry circles). It confirms the paper trail and allows you to connect with other relatives who might be researching that line.

  15. Wow! This is so interesting. I am currently reading ‘The Circle’ which was recently made into a movie starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks (no spoilers, I’m waiting to watch the movie until I finish the book!). Luke 12:3, or secrets being shared seems to be a large theme in the book, which basically takes current trends in social media, technology, and online sharing to an extreme. What ‘secrets’ do we have a right to know, or what ‘secrets’ do we have a right to keep private? Does having these ‘secrets’ made accessible publicly on the internet do more good than harm? In the case of genetics, you have the good of understanding, medical benefits, and an increase in closeness with heritage and culture. But there is the flip side of hurt, infidelity, mistakes, and lies. I don’t know the answers, but I’m FASCINATED lately by this topic. Go read/watch The Circle; it is equal parts riveting and terrifying.

  16. I did a DNA test and not only found my mom’s biological parents, but I also eventually found out that she had also given a baby girl up for adoption–it came as a huge, but good, surprise for me and my siblings. I thought my family was pretty boring, without any secrets. But it’s just that the secrets were very well kept for a long time.

    But the things about it is that family isn’t DNA. It’s a lot more than that. Even though I discovered a whole lot of people I share DNA with, they aren’t really my family. And I don’t share any DNA with my grandparents, but they are 100% my grandparents.

    1. So interesting. When I think of people who were adopted, and don’t have information about their birth parents, getting a DNA test seems like such a potential life changer.

  17. It’s true, today it’s nearly impossible to hide anything from anyone – if it’s on the internet, you can find it. But feel free to quote me on this: that tree poster is AMAZING, I’m definitely getting a print <3

  18. I have always been told that I am 100% Scotch-Irish on both sides. My uncle (mom’s brother) recently took at DNA test and discovered that he has small percentages of Native American and African DNA! Her family has been in the United States since the 1600’s, largely living in the South, so it’s possible that we have ancestors who were slaves. My mom was shocked to find that her reaction to this information unearthed some deep-seated biases (she is very liberal and open-minded). I think it’s very cool, and am eager to test my own DNA.

  19. giselle taminez

    I really want to do this as I am from South America and very much a mutt. My paternal grandmother was of Spanish decent but my paternal grandfather was hungarian (who we suspect may have been jewish), chinese, inca and maybe some african decent. My mother is of european (German, French, Spanish) and african decent. Interested to know if what we have been told is in fact true.

  20. I did an Ancestry test for fun. I knew some parts of my maternal heritage included Early Mexico/South Texas settlers from Spain. But i didn’t know much about my paternal side. I discovered that i’m related to thousands of people (LoL). I’ve always identified as “hispanic.” However, my test results revealed that i’m 53% European made up of Iberian Peninsula (Spain/Portugal) 28%, Italy/Greece 7%, Irish 5%, Great Britain 5% and a few small percentages of others. It was also interesting to note that i’m 33% Native American.

  21. I’m not opposed to the DNA tests, but I am somewhat baffled by the value that seems to be placed on the percentages involved. To me, it seems almost inappropriate to refer to oneself as a percentage of an ethnicity that up until that point they were unaware of. I guess I am more thinking of situations where one might become very proud of their newly identified minority group ethnicity, without any of the life experiences that traditionally go with it.

    Who knows, given we live in an age of no secrets, perhaps this is a perspective I will no longer feel in a few months and deeply regret having posted publicly. :)

  22. We completed DNA kits for Christmas. My husband had always been told he was upwards of 25% American Indian. The big surprise? Less than 1% American Indian. And, he is 9.7% West Saharan African; it has been a fascinating journey. The DNA report has definitely rocked some family members long held beliefs and prejudices.

  23. The stories are fascinating! As a trained genealogist, I’ve always been interested in family stories. There are many secrets out there–my own father’s family legally changed their surname (because it was Jewish & it was WWII) just two years before he met my mother. He never told her until I figured it out at about age 21! He didn’t mind that I discovered the family secret, but boy, was my grandmother mad!

    Also, as much as I hate to point this out, some of those women who had “affairs” which resulted in children may have actually been victims of rape. I know it’s hard to think of great-grandpa as a rapist, but it is more common than we’d like to think. Especially when an unknown male shows up as the father of a child–it wasn’t always (often?) an illicit love affair that produced that baby. Sad but true.

    1. Solid point! Same with the ones finding out there’s something unexpected in their DNA (such as a “white” person finding some Native American, African, etc. – a lot of our “great grandpas” did what they wanted).

  24. Both of our kids are adopted and we’d love to know their heritage. Can anyone suggest if 23andme or myancestory is better?

  25. As the mother of a child conceived via IVF using an egg from an anonymous donor, I think this is amazing! To think that my child has a way to find out more about their genetic heritage–It’s such an exciting possibility!! I’d heard about DNA testing for sure, but I didn’t know that you could use it to find other family members. Amazing!
    {This is not the name I usually use to post here as my husband and I have only told a handful of people about how our child was conceived. We feel it’s our child’s story to tell as they grow, not ours. So I’ve taken steps to protect our identities.}

    1. Hi! Your comment stood out to me, as I was conceived via IVF (I have 2 Moms, so they needed a little extra help to make me a reality ;) ) and took a DNA test via because it was on sale. I was struggling with some minor health issues at the time and thought that having some extra insight into my unknown genetic makeup could be enlightening. I ended up uncovering two half sisters (!) from the same donor. I also have a sister, who I was raised with, who is technically a half sister (the donor used for me was unavailable a few years later, so they switched to a different donor). It brings up fascinating (I think) questions about nature vs nurture and what it means to even be family and related. Wishing you and your family the best of luck!

  26. I love the concept! I feel it is only a matter of time before such tests become the norm and there will be no hiding from the facts! Maybe it can be quite useful to predict our health and habits based on these tests.. would love to try it someday soon..

  27. My husband and I just recently received our 23andme results. Both of us had surprise results. My husband is Caucasian, who can trace his roots back to the Mayflower. Years ago, a great aunt discovered their family had a Cherokee Native American relative. His DNA results proved this claim to be incorrect but did find some Scandinavian roots. I, on the other hand, am Filipino. My mom told me her grandfather, my great-grandfather, came from Spain. My DNA results only showed 0.2% Iberian but did show I am 1.5% British and Irish. Unfortunately my mom believes this is incorrect and wants to get tested herself. I am tempted to try’s version of the DNA test to see the difference.

    1. My husband is really into the different DNA testing. I’m told you can download the raw data and put it into other DNA engine results. Like FTDNA for a small fee. Rather than taking a whole new test, consider taking your data and running it through other services.

  28. My mom bought me a 23andMe kit this year along with all my siblings…it uncovered a gene for a certain blood iron disorder (hemochromatosis) that one of my brothers and one of my sisters ended up having and they are both in treatment now. Luckily, I didn’t carry that gene, and was also relieved to find I didn’t have any of the gene markers for Alzheimer’s either (which my grandfather died from).

    A surprise for me was that after being told my whole life that I was 25% Spanish, because of my grandmother, whose ancestors came from Spain and settled in New Mexico during the Inquisition. Turns out I am only 5.9% Iberian (Spanish), and 9.6% Native American (Pueblo Indians from New Mexico, perhaps?) My more recent ancestors emigrated from northwestern Europe so I turned out to be 36.6% British & Irish.

    One interesting thing to keep in mind is that even though you have the same parents, grandparents, etc., siblings can end up with different percentages of where their particular combination of genes come from. My husband’s grandfather was born in China, and you can clearly see Chinese features in my husband’s face, and his father’s, and some of my husband’s siblings (our daughter, too), but there is also a lot of German ancestry because of who his other grandparents were. So out of the 10 children in his family, about half got a higher percentage of the German genes and have fair hair, skin and blue eyes, and then the other half look more Chinese.

  29. Another thing about the 23andMe test is that it is not as detailed as other genetic DNA testing, as far as medical issues go. All it can really do is tell you about your “genetic variants that may increase your risk of developing certain health conditions” (It compares your genes to other users’ and calculates statistics based on the medical history everyone submits). So even if you carry a genetic variant for a particular disease doesn’t mean you for sure will get it. Lifestyle and other factors still come into play.

  30. Awhile back I did a 23 and me test to find out my MTHFR mutations. And I recently contacted my aunt to find out some genealogy stuff since she has done our whole family tree. I never heard back from her until one day she sent me a message on Facebook asking if I had any Native American on my 23 and me. I hadn’t paid much attention since that isn’t what I did the test for, but I went and looked and sure enough I did so I said “yes.” Never heard anything else from her until later that week my dad called me and left a voicemail saying “call me. That DNA test you did revealed a 56 year old secret that my mom never told me. ” all I can think is OMG! My dad is adopted. My mom and I and my husband have always questioned my dad because he looks absolutely nothing like his father. So I finally call my dad back and sure enough the man who raised him was not his biological father, his uncle was. My grandmother (whom I now have choice words for) couldn’t even tell my father on her death bed this huge secret. My dads bio father also died several years ago so no way to contact him either AND to boot!!! My dads brother KNEW! And had planned to wait until their dad died to tell my dad!!! From what we can figure out from my dads memory at some point my grandmother and grandpa were separated and this “uncle” was dating my grandmother and trying to convince her to marry him, she got pregnant and decided to go back to my grandpa for some reason and the “uncle” ended up marrying my grandmother’s sister with whom she had a major falling out with (now we know why). It is really unfortunate for my dad because he wasn’t informed by his family and he was the ONLY one who didn’t know. My uncle had known for over 5 years and didn’t even think to tell him or to have my grandmother tell him. My grandmother never really seemed to love my grandfather and always treated him like an annoyance so it makes me wonder if she would have rather of married the “uncle”. Sadly it has created a huge barrier in our family and my dad doesn’t really go to see his father and refuses to even bring it up to him. ☹️

  31. I am living a version of DNA test fallout right now. I found out in my early 20s that my dad was actually my adopted dad and that I was conceived in a non-consensual encounter. Last year I took a test hoping to find out where my heritage was from. I got my results and was excited for a little more info. Imagine my surprise when a few months later my birth father had completed the test and appeared in my results. His fairly anonymous username gave me clues I needed and within a few hours I had discovered who he was, found my family history in his line back to the 1600s, and also unearthed a large extended family including 3 half-siblings I didn’t know about. I have the option through the testing service I used to send him a message, but I haven’t yet. It seems a little overwhelming to introduce myself given the circumstances of my creation. At the same time, I’d like to get some medical info from him and tie up this loose end that has been hanging over my head for over a decade since I first found out about my adoption. It’s crazy the gamut of emotions I’ve gone through during this experience, but currently, still no action. How do you introduce yourself to the dad that doesn’t know you, his daughter, exist?

  32. My parents were already separated by the time I was born & my father wanted nothing more to do with my mom, so by default I never met him. I decided to go looking for siblings in 2007 (having been told my whole life that my father had 1 other child, a son, who was 21 years older than me.) What I found rocked my world. My father actually had a total of 8 kids, with 5 different women. I was able to get contact information for my younger sister through a series of cousins on when I contacted my sister I learned that I had been the big secret. Nobody in my father’s family knew I existed, though they weren’t terribly surprised with the news of my existence. I traveled to Texas that summer & met my family & it turns out that my sister & I are very alike.

    Fast forward to 2016, my sister & I get out DNA tested to confirm/rule out a 9th sibling. Turns out the person wasn’t related, but we did learn that my sister & I share 26% of our DNA & that I’m 100% European. I was always told that I had a considerable amount of native American blood on both sides of my family tree & my sister was told the same story about our father’s heritage, which is also absent from her DNA. I thought that was very interesting & definitely helps explain the red hair, & inability to tan (haha.)

  33. My parents were both only children. I did Ancestry DNA just for fun, to find out our origins in the world and maybe connect with some distant cousins. I was so excited to find a connection which was under the heading “close family/first cousins”. I though maybe one of my grandparents had another child besides my parents. I never considered another sibling. My parents were so devoted and married at 25, spent their entire lives together. My father had been briefly married before my mother, but no children were part of that union, or so I thought. He and his first wife had married quickly, as he’d been drafted into the army and was shipping out during the Korean war. Their relationship soured while he was gone for eighteen months, reasons differ, but another man at home was involved. When he returned to the states, they divorced, but not before a night together apparently. My father’s first wife married that other man shortly after her divorce and her daughter was born 5 months later. It turns out that daughter is actually my sister! I don’t think her mother ever really knew for sure. There wasn’t DNA testing in the 50’s and both men were quite tall and blue eyed.
    This has been the best surprise! My new sister is in her 60s (10 years older than I) and took the news so gracefully. My parents have both passed, so I’m not sure what they would have made of it. Her mother is still living, but her father is not. She and I have a lot in common, and we’re delighted to have each other. Family is family. I have children who joined our family from adoption and they are just as much mine as the biological one. Their birth families and our adopted families are both “real” family. To me, this is just so good.

  34. One of my parent’s mother was adopted and I had searched for a long time on and 23andme for information about my grandma’s heritage. My grandma told me that she had met her birth mother when she was a little girl so I figured there was a good chance there were other relatives.

    This year some 1st cousins turned up genetically and I was able to work out some people who could have been my grandma’s mother based on birth year and location. After a bit, one of the family opened up about the oldest of a set of sisters who had a child that was given up for adoption. Oddly, I thought, there were no links to my grandma’s dad’s side. Then another email came a few days later saying that the father had abused all his daughters and they left home as soon as they could. So, my grandma was the product of incest.

    At first I was a bit shaken by it. Genetically it has no affect other than on my grandma (who shockingly was an amazingly healthy, smart, loving woman), but it definitely gave me pause.

    My great-grandma, who adopted my Grandma, was the sweetest lady on earth. She had also been abused by her own step-father and was unable to have kids. The one thing that gave me comfort was that she had taken in this abused girl and given her daughter such a loving life. There is some evidence they kept in touch, that she helped her find a good husband, and my great-grandma looked out for her until she died in childbirth with her 4th child.

    For me, that was enough. People have sent stories and photos. I can see the family resemblance, I no longer wonder. But there is a lot unexpected, so you should brace yourself for that.

  35. I come from a family of secret keepers. I already know that and nothing shocks me. I have secrets I’ve kept for decades. In fact, I surprised my siblings recently when I said something about the sister born just after me. My mother had told me about her years ago and I assumed that we all had heard the story.
    I did the Ancestry DNA test last year and haven’t learned anything shocking, but if I do I certainly won’t be shocked!
    I know of many secrets in my family, but nobody will hear them from me!

  36. Hello! I’m new to your blog and really enjoying exploring! I took a DNA test in February, expecting to find more cousins. I have one uncle who has 13 children with five wives, and thought I might find a connection. All of the usual, expected cousins who had taken the test showed up in my profile…but this one, unfamiliar person was at the top of the list as a first cousin. Took a few days, a lot of email and a couple of uncomfortable
    questions, but it turns out that my Mom had a fling, of which I am the result. I have two half brothers! They have been warm and welcoming and I look forward to meeting them in person!

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