DNA services like 23AndMe are meant to connect us to other people we had no idea we had connections with. But sometimes, we find more than just the distant cousin five times removed. Sometimes, we found shocking family secrets that have the potential to help or destroy the one thing we thought we could believe in.
Some of the people in our stories have found their parents, children, siblings and a whole lot of different relatives that they never expected. And all of them have changed the dynamics of that person’s family forever. An episode of Maury has nothing on these stories and if you’d like to read them, all you have to do is scroll down.
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40. The Ultimate No-No
I found out how a woman, let’s call her “Ay,” is related to me and it’s something no one could have ever predicted. Back when my mom was 16 and my dad was 17, they had a daughter that they put up for adoption. They explained to me that they didn’t have the resources to provide for a child at the time and they had even considered doing the same with me, even though they were married when I was conceived. My older sister would be 38 now and this is the kicker and why my parents are now divorcing. When my older sister, who was put up for adoption turned 18, she came looking for my parents and found them. They had a good relationship with each other, and then one day, she randomly disappeared and cut all contact when she was 20. They had no idea why; let me rephrase that, my mom had no idea why. Years later, I told my parents about a match I had on 23AndMe, Ay, and my dad looked like he’d just seen a ghost. He didn’t talk for a minute, but then he told the truth and I almost wish he hadn’t.
He admitted he screwed up his relationship with his first daughter by sleeping with her (both of them were willing participants) and that Ay is the result of their union. All of those “business trips” he went on weren’t business trips. He would go visit her and they’d get down to business, even right before my mom’s father passed away. He even went to the hospital to be with my sister so he could support her while she gave the baby up for adoption and claimed she didn’t know who the father was. My despicable father thought my mom wouldn’t question his whereabouts since she was too worried about her sickly dad. That’s what he was busy doing. I was so disgusted that I wanted to throw up. I have messaged Ay (my niece/sister) and told her the truth because that’s what she deserves. She’s suffering physically from my dad and sister’s terrible choice, and probably emotionally and mentally too. Looking at her profile picture again, she and I look really similar. What do I even call her? My niece? My sister? Both? Sometimes things are better left alone. I learned this the hard way.
39. I Hooked Up with My Sister
I lived next door to my best friend, and her family, all through my childhood and young adult life. When I graduated from high school, my best friend and I had a weekend bender to celebrate, we hooked up, then started dating. Fast forward a few years, when we decide to try the DNA test just for giggles.
It turned out that she was my half-sister on the paternal side. Apparently, my dad and her mom had been having an affair, and she got pregnant. Both sets of parents are getting divorced, and we haven’t been able to look at each other since.
38. Refusing to Accept It
My mom’s adopted coworker took the test and found a full sibling match (one of four siblings, actually). My coworker and sibling made contact but couldn’t piece together the story, so the sibling put her in touch with her biological parents. Both of them flat out denied that she was their daughter and freaked out.
After a few go-arounds with the parents, the dad admitted to my coworker that she was, in fact, their daughter, but the mother had gotten pregnant super young and they weren’t ready to start a family. Her parents sent her to a home where she gave birth and immediately put the baby up for adoption. Then the two of them decided it never happened. They lived their lives, got married and had kids like they didn’t give their first born child up for adoption because of societal pressures. But the worst part is that the mother actually believes she never had this first daughter because of some psychotic break and cannot accept her own reality as truth.
37. The Christmas Revelation
My ex-sister-in-law got pregnant in college, moved home and married her high school sweetheart before the baby was born. The baby was raised to believe that the high school sweetheart was their biological father. Fast forward 30 years and he (the baby) finds letters of correspondence between mother and biological father. But he doesn’t say a word.
Instead, at Christmas, he bought his mom, dad, himself and his two siblings 23AndMe kits. His mom freaked out and he just questioned her with a smile. It all came out on Christmas morning with everyone there around 2 am, after a lot of crying and lying. My son was there with his dad.
36. Plot Twist
When my birth mom was pregnant with me she was too ashamed to admit who my father was. She was too young to be a mom and so she gave me to my current parents when I was born. I love my parents and don’t care who my birth father was, but I wanted to see what I was made of.
Everyone was pretty pissed when we found out that my dad, the one who adopted me, was my actual birth dad. My adoptive dad cheated on my adoptive mom and adopted me.
35. The Hospital Paid for It, Literally
A few years ago, someone I know found out that his parents weren’t his by doing a DNA test; they wanted to check their ancestry line. He was an adult and was pissed off that his parents never told him he was adopted. The funny thing is, that it was a complete surprise to his parents. They claimed he wasn’t adopted, and were sure he was their kid.
It turns out that he was switched at childbirth at the hospital, so they raised him as their own, and their biological child was raised by someone else. Needless to say, they sued the hell out of the hospital.
34. No One Believed Her
My aunt is over sixty years old now, but when she was 18, she claimed she was assaulted by her uncle, and that he got her pregnant. No one believed her, so she made some poor life choices and lost contact. She’s my mom’s half-sister, so she has absolutely no blood relation to my maternal grandmother’s side of the family.
Well, my aunt had the baby, and that baby had a daughter, who did the DNA test. It turns out that she’s related to my grandmother, who also took the DNA test. It confirmed that my aunt was, in fact, telling the truth and no one believed her. I never had contact with her, so I am not really affected, but it’s messed up.
33. Not So Godly
I have a friend who found out that his family-first, godly Christian grandfather had fathered four children outside his marriage with three different neighbors.
The youngest child was born to a 17-year-old girl, the same year the grandpa died. And that’s just the ones they know about so far.
32. Three Different Fathers
Two of my cousins found out by Ancestry.com that they had two different fathers. One is in their late 40’s and the other one is in her early 50’s. All their life, they thought they were half Italian. They both did Ancestry.com, but when they got their results a few days apart, some discoveries were made. My cousin who was in her late 40’s came back as half Cuban & European, while my other cousin (the one in her early 50’s) came back as British, Irish and West European.
The crap hit the fan when they confronted my aunt (their mom). While my uncle, their dad growing up, was overseas in Vietnam fighting in the war, my aunt had two different affairs and had of both them by two different men. Things have quieted down since then, but when it first happened, I felt like I was on an episode of Maury. By the way, my uncle does have a daughter with my aunt, so it’s three of them with three different fathers.
31. Birth Mom Went Ballistic
In September, I found my birth mother. We talked and she invited the man I thought was my birth father to dinner; my older brother who had the same parents, were adopted by the same family and grew up with me came too. We had a great time and we all clicked immediately. The man who I thought was my birth father was amazing and my birth mother and I liked so many of the same things. We made plans to see shows and I was finally going to meet her mother, my grandmother, and learn about my heritage. Then my 23AndMe results came back; I took it right before finding her. I found my uncle, but it turned out that he wasn’t my birth father’s brother. It meant that my birth father wasn’t the man I met and that my brother and I were only half-siblings.
My birth mother went ballistic for me finding out. She called me every name in the book, saying that I was ruining everyone’s lives and how it was my fault that this happened. It came out that she knew all along that I wasn’t the birth father’s kid. Everyone was pissed and stopped talking to her, except my actual birth father’s wife. It turns out that they were friends during high school. My birth mother has been texting and calling her constantly, telling her that it’s all my fault and telling her I’m an awful person and to not let my birth father talk to me. Through all this stress I dont really know if I want my birth father in my life. The funny thing is that my brother’s birth father, the man who I thought fathered me, has been the most amazing man in all of this and is the only person in this invited to my wedding and I can’t wait to have him there.
30. Ended Relationships
We found out that two family members have been sperm donors. One has over forty children, is unmarried, and likely lost his last serious relationship after she found out. She was probably upset because he donated a lot, even after he didn’t need the money anymore, like he was trying to make a clan or something.
The other only has one donor kid that we know of, but he’s married and has a family. His wife was not happy, but the donation was over 30 years ago.
29. We Are the Same People
We thought there were four of us kids, when in actuality, there are 13. Our dad got around and it didn’t help that he was a narcissist; fours of his kids have his first name, two of which are female. Many are the same age or younger or older than us so it’s obvious that cheating was involved. He even had a daughter who is OLDER THAN MY MOM.
I made it my mission to meet them all and let me tell you, nature had way more influence than nurture. I wouldn’t have believed this until I met my siblings who grew up in different countries, speaking different languages and with all kinds of different upbringing. But we had the same laugh, the same taste in food/music/film/fashion, the same sense of humor and the same general level of success. We even had the same mannerisms, the same intelligence and the same quirks. We are the same people.
28. Everyone Knew, Except Them
One of my bar regulars did the test with her older sister. It turned out that not only were they not related to each other, but both of them are adopted.
Sadly, their adoptive parents are both dead, but their entire extended family knew the whole time and no one ever told them.
27. Closed Family Doors
My wife has a cousin who was adopted. He was finally able to find his biological parents and he had several full siblings. As an only child, he was so happy and reached out, only to be told he wasn’t one of them.
He was dropped off for adoption because he was born after the parents’ divorce and no one wanted him, including his siblings. It was really heartbreaking to hear about because he’d always wanted this big family and they wouldn’t accept him.
26. I May Tell Her
I’m the only one beyond my husband who knows, but I may eventually tell the woman who birthed me, if I ever have the serious displeasure of speaking to her again, that I know her secret.
I know that the reason she doesn’t know who her birth dad is, is because he’s also her great uncle.
25. The Secret Keeper
My 75-year-old grandmother just found out her dad was not her real dad. It turns out that her mom had an affair with the family doctor and never told a single soul. Not only did she find out that her family doctor was her real dad, and the one who birthed not only her, but also all of her own children, but it turns out this family doctor was sleeping with a lot his patients.
She now has a bunch of new half sisters and brothers, some of who knew who their real dad was and some of them didn’t. My great grandmother was quite the secret keeper.
24. We Ended Up on TV
Mine actually went really well. I found out my biological brother went to the same university as me; we had the same major and minor, and we loved the same things. I also met my birth mother a day later, and the day after that I met my birth father. I got to know almost the whole family soon after and we ended up on TV because of our story. AncestryDNA then sent me on the trip of a lifetime to Benin, Africa because of it.
However, when I met my birth father’s extended family, my grandfather bought everyone in the family a DNA test kit. My brother’s fiancé took the test and when it came back, she found out her dad wasn’t her biological dad. It turns out her mother had a one night stand in Hawaii on vacation and never told anyone. Feelings were hurt, but so far it hasn’t ended their family.
23. An Unexpected Name Change
It turns out that my last name didn’t come from Ellis Island, as my family had always thought. My great grandfather changed it when he married my great grandmother, to hide the fact that he had walked away from his other wife and their eight children.
So now, my grandfather has eight half-siblings and we’re just finding out about it now, about 80 years later. I have a lot more cousins than I thought.
22. Got Some Explainin’ To Do
My spouse found out his dad wasn’t his dad. His judgmental, holier-than-thou, Catholic mom had some explaining to do. He lost an immense amount of respect for her, especially when his biological dad tried to reach out to him.
At that point, she was still in contact with the married man she had an affair with over four decades ago. He refuses to speak to his new father and has limited contact with his mom.
21. Blood Work
My ex had the blood type AB. She told me her dad had blood type O+ and I told her that didn’t work.
Her mom admitted that her dad wasn’t her dad and it ruined my birthday.
20. The Popular Option
My aunt married a guy who underwent cancer treatment as a young man that left him unable to have kids. My aunt then used the same donor to have two kids, my cousins G and B. I took my 23AndMe, and then a few months later, my first cousin G did as well. When we were looking over her results, I showed up as expected labeled as a “first or second cousin” genetically. But there were also these other people showing up as “first cousin or closer.” I’m 100% her first cousin, so I said to her “G, these people are more closely related to you than I am. They could be siblings!”
This was not totally unexpected, but intriguing, so G proceeded to look into it. We found out that she has not just one or two, but HUNDREDS of half-siblings! Apparently, the particular donor that her mother used was WILDLY popular in the early ’90s, and despite the fact that they’re not supposed to do so, the donor company used him over and over and over again. There’s a Facebook group of this man’s offspring; they have meetups, and somehow, one of them even found the guy and contacted him! He has since moved to Switzerland or somewhere and started his own family, which is probably for the best.
19. What’s the Relation?
Everyone hears about this kind of stuff, but you never expect it to happen to you. A guy found me on 23AndMe and it turned out we had 12.5% DNA in common, making us close cousins. But then I found out he was born in the fifties, which makes cousinship impossible.
It turns out he’s my half-uncle. In the process of figuring out how the hell he eluded the family, it turned out that the guy we thought was my grand uncle was actually my uncle – my grandmother hid the fact that her much younger brother was actually her kid. And he was this guy’s brother. Those kinds of bombshells can completely rewrite your family tree.
18. She Still Denies It
My mom and I did ancestry last year for Christmas and found out her birth dad wasn’t her actual dad. We were able to find out who her real dad was (both deceased) because one of her birth cousins found her on Facebook and contacted her and they put the puzzle together.
My grandmother had an affair with someone my grandfather was serving in the military with and when we brought it up to her, she denied it ever happened. After, we were going through old photo albums and found a picture of the three of them- on the back, she wrote the month and year with, “had an affair with (his name).” And still, she denies it.
17. Bad Things to Come
I’m dreading the day my kids want to take one of these stupid DNA tests. The only reason they’ve gotten so popular is because Americans are absolutely obsessed with ethnicity/nationality. One of my sons is genetically not mine. His dad assaulted many women when he was alive; his mom is a victim.
We’ve hidden this from him for almost a decade now, and now it’s painfully obvious that it will all come crashing down. Every time I see one of those commercials I tear up. The Christmas one where the family members have the percentage shared DNA on display is especially brutal. He’s my son. I’m his father. I don’t ever question it outside of DNA. I love him equally as much as my other child. I would die for him; he doesn’t deserve the heartache that is in store.
16. While He Was in Korea…
My grandmother cheated on my grandfather while he was in Korea. She had a baby girl and put her up for adoption all before grandpa came home from the war. They then went on to have five boys.
None of them knew they had an older sister. My dad’s cousin matched with my newfound aunt on 23AndMe and since she only lives an hour away she stops by once a month to get to know the family.
15. Quite the Floozy
My mother found her true biological father through one of those DNA tests. My grandma had been married and divorced many times and never told any of the kids who their real father was in order to keep the kids tied to her emotionally (without a dad, she’s their only support system). She was, apparently, quite the floozy-to the point that the men she claimed were the kids’ dads weren’t even sure.
I had always been raised with a grandpa who was supposedly legitimate and a few step-grandparents. My mom took a DNA test and tracked down some potential cousins and was able to force the real answer out of my grandma. He passed away 10 years ago, sadly, but it turns out he was a special effects pioneer in Hollywood, which is pretty damn cool.
14. The Gift that Kept Giving
About a year ago, my co-worker’s husband bought her one of those tests as a Christmas gift. Shortly afterward, he died in an accident at work. She got her test results back a few weeks after his death and found out that her dad had fathered two daughters with another woman.
She was mildly shocked, but since she was feeling particularly alone after the loss of her husband, she made contact with them. The three of them have been close ever since, and it’s really helped pull her through the tough times this past year.
13. Haven’t the Heart to Tell Her
My aunt is super proud of her rare AB+ blood type. But there is one problem: my grandparents had the blood types B and O.
Considering she cared for both of them in their twilight years until their deaths, I haven’t the heart to tell her.
12. Better Than LinkedIn
My dad knew that his father was not his biological father, but never wanted to know the details. He took a 23AndMe test about six years ago and, since then, has discovered 35+ half-siblings. Their biological father was a urologist doing research on artificial insemination in the ’50s (with his clients’ consent, of course), and many had no idea that they did not grow up with their biological father; it was definitely a difficult time for some when they found out.
Since then, they’ve had multiple family reunions and stay in touch via a Facebook group. It’s pretty wild. They all have the same jawline and are successful in their chosen fields: they’re all doctors, engineers or academics of some sort. I actually wound up getting my current job via a referral from my favorite new half-aunt—I often joke that 23AndMe is a better networking tool than LinkedIn
11. The Sigh of Relief
My sister and I both took tests a while ago, but my parents just got their results last week.
My mom sighed BIG TIME when my dad matched with my sister; she cheated on him just before she got pregnant.
10. German Connections
My friend’s mother just told her that she miscounted how long a pregnancy is and that her dad is not actually her dad. The mom was in the military and slept with a military man somewhere in Germany in the ’90s, and then a month later, slept with her fiancé. My friend wasn’t sure if she should believe her mom, so she got an ancestry kit. She just found out that her dad isn’t her father.
So now she’s on this search to find her biological dad and her mom is pissed. The mom thinks she should just accept her dad as her dad and how dare she expose her mistake like that. My friend’s younger siblings are also taking the mom’s side, when she just wants to meet the guy and see if she has any relatives or siblings.
9. An Unpleasant Surprise
I met a guy with a VERY interesting 23AndMe story. He was adopted, and had taken the test a couple of years ago. To his surprise, he had something like 10 half-siblings from his father’s side, from all over the country.
After contacting them, he learned that his biological father was a serial criminal who was wanted in many states, but had never been caught.
I was adopted by my grandparents and didn’t know until I was older.
The person I grew up with as an older sister was actually my biological mother.
7. No Bad News, For Once
23AndMe showed me that the dad I knew as a child (he left us so there’s no real relationship) wasn’t my biological father. About a year later, my sister on my actual biological dad’s side (I thought I was an only child) reached out because 23AndMe told her about me.
Now, I have a biological dad, a brother, and a sister. They are all really nice and we are all trying to forge a new relationship. They are all coming over in about two hours, where my wife and daughter will meet my father for the first time; they’ve already met the brother and sister. I have nothing but good things to say about what 23AndMe did for me.
6. Searching for 61 Years
I have an 86-year-old friend that found out he had a son he didn’t know about. The guy is 61 and has been looking for his father all of his life.
My friend only went out with the mother twice and then she disappeared. The men for the first time this month; I hope they have several more years to spend time together.
5. A Family Affair
My dad, who passed away 15 years ago, fathered a kid when he was 19 and never knew about it. My half brother found out and reached out to me on Facebook. We’ve actually developed a neat relationship even though he’s more than twenty years older than me.
My mom’s sister found out that my grandfather (now deceased) was not actually her dad a couple of months ago. She’s actually been kind of accepting about it and has reached out to her biological father’s family. On the other hand, my 90-year-old grandmother is absolutely devastated and embarrassed that a mistake she made 50 years ago has come back to haunt her.
4. Going Way Back!
My great-great-grandfather cheated on his pregnant wife with the neighbor.
My aunt found out when she had a match with a stranger and they found out they lived in the same town in the late 1800s.
3. It Wasn’t An Affair
I learned my father was not my biological father. He died a few months before I took the test but apparently, he knew and didn’t want me to know. I didn’t get the chance to tell him that it didn’t matter. My mom doesn’t even know my biological father’s name either since it’s been over 30 years.
It wasn’t even an affair because she met my dad a month later. The math of the pregnancy had always been tight so it makes sense. But now, I wonder what to do since 23AndMe has three close family connections, none of which are from my mom’s side. I wonder sometimes about opting in.
2. North Carolina Roots
I just got off the phone with my newly found biological dad. My mom died in 1980, my dad in 2012 and I logged into AncestryDNA to get my results from their Black Friday sale.
It said that this person in North Carolina was my father. It turns out that it was my mom’s boyfriend before my dad came along. I have no idea if anyone knew, but my newly found father certainly didn’t.
1. No Regrets
I ordered 23andme to try to figure out “what” I was, not to track down any long lost family members. I had known since I was a teenager that my dad who raised me wasn’t my biological father. I used to ask my mom if I was adopted because I don’t look like anyone in my family. My mom is almost 100% Irish and my dad (who raised me, he is and always will be my dad) is also Caucasian and I look a bit ethnically ambiguous. Olive (but fair) skin, dark hair, and green eyes; no one else in my family looked like me. My mom finally told me the truth when I was 16. When I got my report back, I was mostly European by my breakdown, I was still confused. I had several cousins show up, but contacting them didn’t interest me at all. One day, I got a notification that I had new relatives and a half-sister popped up. This caught me completely off guard and I didn’t know what to do because I wanted to contact her. For the first time ever, I wanted to know more. I messaged her, not telling anything about myself, just that if she’d like to know more about me, I would be open with all that I knew. I never got a reply, this kind of broke my heart if I’m being honest, but I accepted that she probably knew nothing of me and that the revelation of my existence may have hurt their family horribly. A few months later, a second cousin popped up and she was shown to be the first cousin of my “half-sister,” this confused me even more. Why was she my second cousin and my half-sister’s first cousin? She contacted me because she thought I may have answers for her, I told her that I had tried to contact my half-sister but heard nothing and apologized for not being able to help her. (Her story is oddly similar to mine.) She also told me that she had communicated briefly with her first cousin, but after bringing me up, she cut off contact with her. That made me feel horrible. But through our brief interaction, I realized that the three of us were connected through my “half-sister’s” maternal bloodline. I know my mom is my mom, there’s no question there, so I started thinking, how could this be? Then I realized that my “half-sister” was actually my aunt, my biological father’s sister. Half-siblings, aunts and uncles, and grandparents all share 25% of their DNA, all the connections on these websites are based on probability.
I messaged her again and told her that I thought she may be my aunt and I told her more about myself — my birthdate and where I was conceived, and that if she had a brother who was in that area at that time, he was my biological father. She messaged me back in no time. It turns out that my paternal grandfather had passed away years ago and when she got the first message and saw the half-sister connection, she assumed her father had a child that none of them knew about. I’m younger than her and her siblings, obviously, so I would have come along after them. She didn’t contact me because she didn’t want to hurt her mother, and I’m sure she was hurt by this too. I understood, completely. She then went on to tell me that they all knew about me but didn’t want to disrupt my life. She said my biological father never forgot about me. I had always thought I was his dirty little secret. (He and my mother were both married to other people when I was conceived but that’s another long story.) Anyways, my husband, children, and I have since met them all. I actually have three half-siblings that also knew about me. It was so strange to finally meet people who I resemble. I’m a spitting image of my paternal grandmother when she was young, they were all blown away by that. We stay in contact and I couldn’t be happier that I bought the 23andme kit.