There is an excellent article in the Washington Post today: “She thought she was Irish — until a DNA test opened a 100-year-old-mystery. ” So many people are taking DNA tests these days. It is cool, for sure, to learn or confirm your ethnicity. But sometimes there are definitely very big surprises, and not always entirely pleasant ones. This has happened among my own family and friends.
Oh, sure, there have been lots of people who had been told their whole lives that Grandma or Great-Grandma was a native American and then found out otherwise when they did a DNA test. In fact, my previous husband’s late aunt told me years ago that her grandmother was Indian. She even showed me a photo of her native American family, showed me the dark skin of her grandmother in the photo. Unfortunately, the aunt died and the picture she’d promised to leave for me was not given to me by her son and I had no information available. I dug deeply into that family tree, never finding a hint to back up what she’d said. But then DNA tests came out, and my son took the test. Not a drop of native American blood showed up. Oh, well.
In another case, someone I know learned that her father wasn’t who she thought he was. Her parents died long ago, and it’s possible neither of them knew, though her mother, at least, must have suspected. But this completely shook up the world for this woman to learn that the man who had been her father wasn’t. She wondered whether her cousins would ever look at her the same way. It took a while to be reassured that cousins are cousins based on growing up together and knowing each other their entire lives.
And then there are uncovered long-held family secrets where the truth finally comes to light in a very positive way. One day a couple months ago, I was contacted by someone who popped up as a “near relative” match for my husband. Ancestry said this woman was either his grandmother or a niece, based on how close the relationship was. Clearly, it wasn’t his grandmother, so she must be a niece. This woman is 48 years old and was adopted at birth and had been told her father was 17 and her mother 16 when she was born. My husband’s only brother, five years younger than him, died 27 years ago, so we certainly couldn’t ask him if he’d had a baby when he was in high school. However, my husband remembered a time 48 years ago (yes, he has an amazing memory) when he went home from the Air Force on holiday leave — six months before this woman was born — and just always had the feeling that his parents and younger brother weren’t telling him something. So now we have a new niece and her kids and grandkids as extended family we hadn’t ever known. She is already enriching our lives through knowing her. And she has found new half-siblings and cousins and learned so much more about where she came from.
I have done the test myself, and I had my mother do the ancestry DNA test last year before she passed away, because there is a family member I am looking for, a brother who was put up for adoption at birth. I keep hoping he or one of his children will someday do one of the DNA tests and I’ll finally be able to get to know him. He was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, at the SueEmma Coleman home for unwed mothers, in probably late 1951 to mid 1952. If anyone who reads this knows someone who fits that profile, please have him do a DNA test!
I feel like I’m throwing a bottle with a message into the ocean, but you never know. Weirder things have happened — just read that article I linked above.