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Family History Research and DNA Testing – Another Perspective

September 14, 2016 2 comments

During a meeting with my genealogy group, several members where excitedly sharing their stories of locating new family members through DNA testing.  One lady shared that a person who was a DNA match seemed reluctant to acknowledge the family relationship.  As I listened to her discuss the situation, I was reminded that while finding new relatives through DNA testing can be exciting for some people, it may be a painful experience for others.  This blog post provides another perspective on family history research and DNA testing.

It is important to remember when researching your family history that everyone’s birth was not the result of a loving relationship between a married couple.  It could have been the result of a rape by a known person or by a stranger. It could have been the result of incest.  It could have been the result of a clandestine affair. It could have been the result of a one night stand. It could have been the result of a relationship that did not work out.  Some people were adopted but never told.

In the above scenarios, people handled the situation the best way they knew how at the time. In many cases the truth was hidden and never acknowledged.  Or if it was acknowledged,  it was in hushed tones and covered in shame and embarrassment. In many cases family members took the truth to their grave.

The popularity of DNA testing is bringing many of these situations to light. The testing may expose a family secret that was not known, or if it was known, never acknowledged.  It is important to keep this in mind when approaching someone who is a DNA match.   If the person is reluctant to acknowledge the relationship, it is best to be understanding and compassionate.  It may be a good idea to just share your contact information and give the person some time to process what they have learned.  Perhaps they will be more cooperative once they have had time to think about the information you shared.

Also, people do DNA testing for different reasons.  Some people take the test because they want to know more about their ethnic composition.  Others take the test because they want to locate new relatives.  Some people take the test for both reasons.  Therefore, if you contact someone who only took the test to discover their ethnic composition, they may be reluctant to discuss their family history with you. After all, even though you have a DNA connection you are still strangers.

It would be nice if everyone had a clear cut understanding of their pedigree, but unfortunately in the real world that is not always the case. It is important to remember that while DNA testing can open the door to a wealth of information about your family history, it can also open Pandora ’s Box and everyone may not prepared to deal with the discoveries that were made.

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