DNA reveals family secrets

Picture courtesy by Edward Jenner on Pexels
Picture courtesy by Edward Jenner on Pexels

Looking at your ancestry can be interesting for some as you may discover you have a Scandinavian heritage or you are related to a monarch from 200 years ago.

It can be insightful but with such intriguing information can come at a hefty price.  

A woman from a Lancashire family, who wishes to remain anonymous, registered her DNA with 23andMe, a genomics and biotechnology company based in USA.

She wanted to find out more about her family’s heritage because she hadn’t met her grandparents as they were from different European countries, so she was curious to find out more about her ethnicity.

She recieved the results back. The limitations are, as a female, she could only find out her maternal heritage, not her paternal heritage. She encouraged her family to have tests too so they could find out more, even paying for a sibling’s test.

In an interview she said:

‘’I was surprised by the result that we are not full siblings, and it emerges we have different fathers which has caused some upset in the family.

‘’My hope of finding more information about my heritage and ethnicity dies because I can’t explore that anymore.”

The other siblings in the family, who are in their 40s, are now questioning their paternity.

Their experience is quite common. Many people who thought they were the full siblings are discovering they are actually half siblings.

Two years ago the fertility regulator Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority called for DNA testing websites to warn customers about the risks of uncovering traumatic family secrets and underlying health traits.

A DNA Surprises support group has been set up on Facebook to enable customers to talk about their own experiences whether positive or negative.

23andMe have a statement issued on Customer Care which details what customers can expect upon learning about their DNA.

DNA testing sites also encourage customers to speak to the National Society of Genetic Counsellors for specific questions regarding their genetics.

The Lancashire woman warned people considering tests of possible consequences. She said:

‘’I think people need to be prepared for that prior to exploring their DNA, it didn’t even cross my mind that it would be something we would discover and I may not have even done it.

‘’Just be careful when you go searching for information and make sure you’re emotionally robust enough to deal with the outcome.’’

If you are interested in finding out about your DNA you can visit Ancestry and 23andMe.