It’s Complicated

Virginia Hughes, one of the writers we always try to keep up with, has a thoughtful piece about some of the unintended consequences of uncovering family secrets using DNA testing.Virginia Hughes

As we’ve seen in many of the stories we’ve featured here about customers finding unknown family or uncovering family secrets using DNA testing, it can lead into unexpected territory. Even in the happiest of endings — siblings meeting each other for the first time, sons finding their mothers and daughters learning about their real fathers — it’s almost always complicated.

As Tolstoy so long ago said in the opening of his epic Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Virginia writes about Cheryl, a woman in her 60s whose family is equally unique in its sad history. But the story is more than just about Cheryl’s search — along with 23andMe, Cheryl used a number of resources from public records to DNA testing to even “search angels” to assist her— Virginia uses the story as a way to discuss such issues as privacy and even personal identity.

The story called “Uprooted” appears in Matter, an online long-form journalism publication specializing in stories about science, medicine and technology. (It’s 99 cents to see the whole piece.)






  • MaryAnn

    How accurate are the test?

    • ScottH

      The vast majority of the variants on our chip, especially those associated with our Health and specific Ancestry features, have a 98% or greater call rate, meaning that the chip can provide accurate data for more than 98% of those variants in any particular person. Variants for which a confident determination cannot be made are reported as “no calls.” A small portion of variants, including those on the sex chromosomes (X and Y) and the mitochondrial DNA, are difficult to analyze because of biological issues (e.g. pseudogenes, DNA structure, and highly variable regions). These variants will typically have a lower call rate.

      While we do not include genetic markers with low call rates in our Health reports, they are still valuable in our ongoing research efforts and so you may see information for some of them in your raw data.

  • Rebecca

    is it possible to use my Brothers DNA to find out about my Paternal side R/T father is now dead

    • 23blog

      Yes Rebecca. Having your brother tested would allow you to see your paternal haplogroup and more easily identify which side of the family your relative matches come from.

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