Do you know where you come from? Do you know what your real heritage is? Do you know how far your family tree goes back? A lot of people think they have an idea about their family history, where they’re from, and what their heritage is. However, thanks to the rise of at-home DNA tests, more and more people are discovering that not everything is what it seems. These people thought they’d take at at-home DNA test, sometimes just for fun, but they weren’t anticipating what shocking results they’d all find.
From Jane Doe to…
Karen Heiting was abandoned at the door of a church in Chicago when she was just a tiny baby.
Nobody knew where she had come from and there was no information about who her family might be. She was labeled ‘Jane Doe’ which is the name given to someone with no name. She never thought she’d be able to find her relatives when the time came, but then she took an at-home DNA test, and everything changed.
Sending off her DNA to Ancestry.com
After Karen Heiting sent off her DNA, she wasn’t expecting to find any living relatives. However, the results were utterly shocking.
Through the test, she found out that she had two half-brothers who looked just like her – Ed and Ray. On top of this, the DNA test showed her several other blood relatives, mainly cousins, that she never thought she would find. Suddenly, ‘Jane Doe’ had found the missing link.
Time to meet up
If Karen Heiting had felt lonely before, it wasn’t to be the case for long. The extended family agreed to meet up, so they decided to throw a party so that Heiting could come face to face with her relatives.
She told Twin Cities Press that the party featured all of her cousins and half-brothers, all with name tags explaining how they were related to her. When she saw her half-brothers and how similar they looked to her she was totally overwhelmed.
A Presidential link
James Pylant is another person who wasn’t expecting to find anything that interesting in an at-home DNA test.
However, after taking tests from Ancestry, 23andMe, Family Tree DNA, and MyHeritage, they all came back with some incredible news. His family was related to former President, Abraham Lincoln! Imagine finding that out through an at-home DNA test!
Not the news she wanted
When Catherine St Clair sent off her DNA test, she wasn’t expecting anything abnormal. Unfortunately, what she did discover was not happy news.
She found out that her brother only half matched her DNA, meaning he wasn’t her full brother. In fact, she didn’t genetically match with anybody from her father’s side of the family. The man who raised her was not her biological father. After some searching, she tracked down her real dad; a man her mother had known over 50 years ago.
When Catherine St Clair first found out that the man who raised her wasn’t her real dad, she felt totally lost. She told The Atlantic that she “looked into a mirror and started crying.”
She felt as though she didn’t know who she was, after spending her whole life thinking she was half of her mother and half of the man she thought was her father. However, it wasn’t to be all bad news.
Finding more family
While St Clair may have felt lost at first, she did find a silver lining.
Through the AncestryDNA website, she discovered that she had two half-sisters; Raetta and Mona. The three have become close sisters and even flew to Los Angeles together to celebrate Raetta’s birthday. Blood is thicker than water!
After Catherine St Clair got over the initial shock of her DNA results, she decided to set up a Facebook group to help others who received unexpected news from their tests.
The group is called DNA NPE Friends, with NPE meaning “not parent expected.” So far, it has over 1,000 members of people who received unexpected DNA test results.
Not everyone wants to connect
One member of the group discovered that not everyone wants to find out more about extended family members.
Todd found out about several cousins he had after taking an AncestryDNA test, so thought he would get in touch. Instead of being happy to find new family members, his cousins decided to block him on Facebook instead.
Looking for someone else
Another member of the group wanted to learn more about her son’s history and discovered something about her own!
Lynn decided to order an at-home DNA test for her son, as her husband had been adopted and didn’t have any information about his family. She wanted to find out more about her son’s paternal grandparents but ended up with more than she bargained for.
When she received the results, she noticed something strange about the results surrounding her brother and son.
They didn’t look like a typical uncle-nephew pair, meaning that her biological father was not the same as her brother’s. She had grown up thinking that one man was her father, but that wasn’t the case.
Always felt different
Lisa, another member of the DNA NPE Friends Facebook group, explained that she always felt different from other members of her family.
She had darker skin, and her hair was naturally curly and fine. Lisa explained that she spent a lot of time straightening her hair, to look like her relatives. She knew that she had to take an at-home DNA test to confirm her suspicions.
When Lisa received her DNA test results back, it told her everything she needed to know. Her father was likely African-American and not the man she grew up with.
She asked her mother but wasn’t given any answers. Her mom refused to come clean, and Lisa didn’t want to push or upset her parents anymore. How would she find her biological father, however?
On the hunt
Using the DNA test results, Lisa managed to track down someone who was her biological cousin in California.
This led her to finding someone she believes is one of her grandparents, but that’s where the road stops. Lisa still hasn’t found her biological father, but she hasn’t stopped searching. One day, she will find him.
One man, who actually works for MyHeritage found something extremely interesting in his DNA results.
Rafi Mendelsohn found that he has a famous distant relative – the German composer Felix Mendelssohn. While he may have lost an S from his surname, he has gained an impressive link to his past.
A strange link
Dominick Miserandino found a fascinating connection after ordering his DNA test from Ancestry.com.
He found an eighth cousin through the test, but it was someone he already knew… His cousin was actually his old babysitter. His search didn’t stop there, however.
After finding one of his cousins, Dominick Miserandino decided to dig a little deeper. His DNA results showed more cousins, most of whom lived in Canada.
He told Twin Cities Press that he had since taken a trip to Canada to meet his distant relatives and that they all now keep in touch. He explained how they FaceTime and have had great moments together; moments that would never have happened had he not taken a DNA test.
Finding her father
Tracy Tennant always believed that the man her mother told her was her father, was indeed her father.
Although she had never met him, his name was on her birth certificate, and it’s who her mother had always said her father was. When her mom passed away in 2014, Tracy decided to reach out and try to connect with her long-lost dad.
Taking the test
When Tracy Tennant connected with her father, she knew she wanted to take a DNA test to make sure that he definitely was who she thought he was.
The pair took the test in 2016 but received some shocking results. He wasn’t her father! In fact, her birth father was a married, failed Hollywood actor who had passed away in the 1980s. She also discovered that she had half-sisters, too.
Solving a 100-year mystery
A lot of people decide that they want to take an at-home DNA test just for fun. After all, why wouldn’t you want to learn more about your heritage?
A few years ago, one woman decided to do just that. Alice Collins Plebuch decided to order a DNA test to see what it would bring up. What she found was not quite what she was expecting, however.
Knowing some results
As Alice Collins Plebuch knew one side of her family quite well, she had an idea what some of her test results would say.
She had been brought up in an American-Irish Catholic family, and so she expected to see some Irish in her DNA results. However, her father, Jim Collins, had an unclear background. He had been brought up in an orphanage and Plebuch was desperate to know what his side might bring up.
A mixed heritage
As expected, one half of her DNA results showed Plebuch what she had always known.
Her Irish ancestry was clear from her mixed British Isles DNA, but the other half was a complete shock. The results showed European, Jewish, Eastern European, and Middle Eastern DNA. Alice Collins Plebuch was perplexed.
Some kind of mistake
Plebuch was sure that there had to be some kind of mistake in the DNA results.
She was so sure that she decided to write to the company who provided the at-home DNA test and complain. They offered for her to take the test again, which Alice and her sister agreed to. Surely this time it would come back with results she was expecting.
Both Alice and her sister ordered more tests from 23andMe to try and clear everything up. They wondered if perhaps their mother or grandmother had been in an affair, which would explain the mix-up.
However, that didn’t make sense – everyone in the family shared the same features. Their father had to be the missing link. He had been sent to an orphanage with his siblings when his father had died, and he’d never really connected with any extended family.
It didn’t seem as though the father could be the missing link either. Jim Collins had always been staunchly Irish, and his parents had been Irish immigrants who brought him to the US.
Surely he couldn’t be the Jewish part of their DNA? Alice and her sister convinced her cousins to also get tested, both their mother and their father’s nephews. This way they could see where the unexpected DNA was coming from.
The same results
The results came back the same as last time; Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, which is from areas such as Russia, Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine.
Coincidentally, Alice’s brother had also taken an at-home DNA test around the same time and found the same results. Plebuch wasn’t adopted, this was her real heritage. But how could it be?
The family had to look deeper into their genetics to get the answers they were looking for.
Girls receive a ‘X’ chromosome from each one of their folks, whereas boys receive an ‘X’ and a ‘Y’ from their mother and father, respectively. When Alice’s brother’s results came back, it showed that his ‘X’ chromosome was purely Irish. This meant that the Jewish DNA and heritage must have come from their father, Jim Collins.
What about Jim?
When the test results came back from Jim Collins’ nephew, Alice Collins Plebuch discovered that her cousin wasn’t her cousin at all – and that Jim’s nephew wasn’t his nephew!
There was absolutely no genetic overlap, meaning that there was no way Jim could be related to his siblings or parents. While the rest of the family was Irish Catholic, Jim Collins was somehow Jewish.
A reverse problem
Alice decided to do some more digging and searched through the genetic data of 23andMe.
Here she found a seemingly complete stranger who had been matched up as a close relative to her cousin. Plebuch discovered that this woman was experiencing exactly the same problem, but in reverse. She expected to find Jewish DNA but had found some Irish.
Switched at birth
Finally, the answer had been discovered. Jim Collins had been switched at birth! He was born in the same hospital in 1913 as a Jewish family gave birth to their son. Their birth certificates were one number apart and signed by the same doctor…
This meant that, after some confusion, the Jewish family received an Irish son which they called Philip Benson. And the Irish family received a Jewish son, which they called Jim Collins. Now, the two families consider themselves as one big ‘swap’ family after solving a 100-year mystery, all thanks to an at-home DNA test.