The Atlantic

Letters: ‘My Dad Was Not My Biological Father’

Readers share their experiences receiving surprising results from a genetics test.
Source: Phil Noble / Reuters

When a DNA Test Shatters Your Identity

“These are boom times for consumer DNA tests,” Sarah Zhang wrote last month. But what happens when the results are shocking? Many people, she found, have turned to support groups on Facebook as they try to come to terms with surprising revelations about their own origins.


Last year, I asked my dad for a 23andMe kit for my birthday. My mother passed away 14 years ago and I’m an only child (or thought I was). I also got my dad and stepmom kits for fun; they bought another one for my husband. We were going to have a “reveal” party. I got my results first (I cheated and peeked), and was shocked to find out I am half Italian. Neither of my parents has any Italian heritage. Since I hadn’t previously disclosed Italian heritage to 23andMe, a very cheerful dialogue box appeared that asked, “Wondering where your Italian heritage comes from? Click on DNA relatives.” I did and a half-brother appeared—and that is when I knew that I wasn’t biologically related to my dad. Because I was worried that my

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