DNA kits deliver unwelcome family surprises

For Christmas last year, I bought my husband and I a home-test DNA kit. I thought it would be a laugh, a bit of fun.

As far as we know, we’re very boring Caucasian people who hail from very standard British stock. To find out that maybe I have a bit of German heritage, or that he has got a tiny dash of Eastern European coursing through his veins, would be a bit of a thrill!

Eight months later, we still haven’t cracked the seal on the packages, let alone considered sending off the tests for results.


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Because here’s the deal: I’m a tiny bit afraid about what we might discover.

Stories like Linda Ketchum’s have put the fear of God into me!

Linda did some genetic exploration as she “thought it’d be fun to learn a little about my genetic ethnicity, to trace how all the pieces came together”.

But what she discovered was well more than she bargained for.

It turns out that her dad isn’t her real father after all. Both of her parents have passed away, so she can’t ask them any of the hundreds of questions her research has stirred up. But so far, all the facts point to her real dad being another man, Bill, who has also passed away.

Furthermore, her heritage isn’t at all what thought it was. Believing she had German, English and Scottish ancestry, she in fact has a huge contingent of Hispanic relatives!

“I looked in the mirror, and I didn’t know who I was anymore,” she says of her DNA discovery.

“Every Hispanic person I saw on the street, I thought, ‘Are you my cousin?’”

This modern problem – it was only in 2007 that these types of at-home DNA kits became available – is expected to affect even more people as time goes on.

The home genetics industry is growing, and will generate $60 billion in sales by 2020, so the number of people interested in exploring their history (and unearthing all of their hidden family secrets) is on the up.

This means that PTDD (post-traumatic DNA-test-results disorder) is going to be increasing too!

With my DNA kits sitting in our junk corner in our kitchen, the question I have to ask is: do I want to know those answers?!

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