At-Home DNA Tests Reveal Family Secrets and Life-Changing Results

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Full of Surprises

With the increasing popularity of relatively inexpensive at-home DNA tests, suddenly anyone can dive deep into their ancestry and even learn about genetic risk factors. But if you’re thinking of taking a home DNA test, you also need to be prepared for some potentially surprising results. From family tree revelations to unexpected health discoveries, you never know just what you’ll learn from one of these tests. Read on for some of the more unusual and unexpected DNA results that have made recent headlines.

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Discovering a Bigger Family

Katy Canning’s mother had always told her that Canning is part Native American. But when Canning took an at-home DNA test, the results revealed that she is, in fact, part Jamaican, reports CBS News. Canning also learned that her biological father wasn’t the man who raised her but instead was a traveling musician who passed away before Canning could meet him. She also learned that she has at least four half-siblings.

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Unexpected Cancer Risk Revealed

After Jill Steinberg’s sister was diagnosed with breast cancer, Steinberg’s sister and mother had clinical genetic testing performed. Since both her sister and mother tested negative, Steinberg’s doctor advised against testing for BRCA gene variants, which can put an individual at a higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Steinberg and her husband later bought 23andMe kits for unrelated reasons, but Steinberg’s test results revealed that she had a BRCA mutation, according to USA Today. A follow-up screening performed by her doctor confirmed the results. Steinberg believes she inherited the gene from her father, and might not have discovered it if she hadn’t taken the 23andMe test.

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Connecting with a Surprise Daughter

When Carl-Eric Benzinger took a 23andMe DNA test, the results revealed that he had a niece in Hawaii, according to WYPR in Baltimore. Carl-Eric reached out to his brother, Robert Benzinger, and the two ultimately discover that Robert had a daughter he hadn’t previously known about. Robert learned that the daughter, Kalaa Clarke, was born after a brief fling he had with a woman in Los Angeles during the 70s. Kaala met Robert but decided not to tell the man who raised her about the discovery of her biological father.

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Helping to Solve a 30-Year-Old Murder Case

Home DNA tests even helped to solve the case of the Golden State Killer, according to a report from PBS News Hour. In 1987, Jay Cook and his girlfriend, Tanya Van Cuylenborg, were murdered. The only DNA was semen found on Van Cuylenborg, but it didn’t match anyone in the police DNA database. The case went cold until 18 years later, when CeCe Moore, a genetic genealogist, took the DNA from the semen sample and compared it to DNA results in public databases. As home DNA tests became increasingly popular, more people have chosen to share their DNA results with public databases. Moore was able to find a partial match and identify the suspect. She gave that information to the lead detective working the case, who collected the suspect’s DNA from a discarded coffee cup. The DNA was a match and the killer was taken into custody in 2018, then convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. 

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Family Secrets Revealed

Driven by an interest in genealogy, Alesia Weiss of Bothell, Washington, took an test in hopes of expanding her family tree. Her results revealed that she was 52% Jewish, and the child of an affair, according to KIRO 7 News. Weiss’ mother had been married at the time, and the father who raised her was aware that Weiss wasn’t his biological child. He never revealed the secret and passed away in 1993. Weiss’ mother was ashamed to hear that her daughter had found out about the affair.

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Sperm Donor Revelations

Gregory Loy found out that he was a sperm donor baby thanks to a DNA home test kit, reports KIRO 7 News. While Loy had previously thought that he knew his full medical history, he is now dealing with the fact that he lacks any medical information from his biological father. The father who raised Loy has not talked about or admitted that Loy is the child of a sperm donor.

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Criminal Discoveries

When Kelli Rowlette of Idaho Falls, Iowa, used for DNA testing, the results indicated that her father wasn’t her biological parent. Instead, Rowlette’s biological father turned out to be the fertility doctor who delivered her, according to the BBC. The doctor, Gerald Mortimer, had artificially inseminated Rowlette’s mother with sperm from her husband and a doctor. But Mortimer used his own sperm during the procedure, concealing what he had done. Rowlette filed a lawsuit against Mortimer.

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Reunited Families

Tracy Melton grew up in Los Angeles never knowing much about her biological father, and was led to believe he was dead. She sent her DNA sample to in hopes of learning more about her ethnic background, reports KXLY. Melton received a surprise when her DNA results revealed not only the name of her biological father but that he was alive — and living about 12 miles away in Spokane, Washington where she now lives. Melton and her father, who coincidentally had also made the move north from Los Angeles, reunited and have since formed a strong bond.

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Revealing Secret Affairs

While using in 2019, a New Jersey man discovered that he was not the biological father of his two sons, according to an NBC report. Gerry had divorced his wife years ago but had always believed that he was the biological father to both his sons. His wife confirmed that the boys’ biological father was a New Jersey state trooper, but said that she wasn’t aware of that fact until hearing about the DNA results. 

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Privacy Problems

In addition to unexpected results that might arise from at-home DNA tests, there are also plenty of potential privacy concerns posed by the direct-to-consumer testing kits. Consumer Reports found that while companies 23andMe, AncestryDNA, CircleDNA, GenoPalate, and MyHeritage do work to protect your DNA for the most part, the companies are much laxer when it comes to the non-genetic personal information they collect. Consumer Reports found that these companies may collect more data than they actually need, and if you agree to a “research” option from one of these companies, they could give third-party services access to your DNA and other data like your family history.

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Insurance Limitations

The information revealed by DNA testing could potentially affect your insurance eligibility and rates, too. Federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on genetic information. It also prohibits health insurance companies from using genetic testing information to discriminate against applicants. But life and long-term care insurance companies aren’t included under that law, and the information revealed by genetic testing could factor into your eligibility or rates for these products, reports NPR

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Proceed With Caution

At-home DNA tests can reveal surprising information, and that information can be difficult to process. It can be difficult to understand what test results really mean about health conditions, like cancer or neurological disorders, so it’s best to have a medical professional who can review your test results with you, a report from UCLA suggests. Keep in mind that test results can also reveal information about familiar relationships, and that information can be emotionally distressing to families. DNA tests can provide valuable details, but it’s also important to be prepared to receive news that you might not want, too.