This holiday, 23andMe invited three customers to join us virtually and share their DNA discovery stories. Hearing from customers first-hand reminds us of how our work impacts people’s lives. It also gives us a glimpse into our customers’ experience.
This year we heard from Jason, Kimberly, and Lynn. They each shared their stories and described their plans to expand their (virtual) holiday tables this year in order to fit their newfound relatives.
Customer Lynn Mendelson summed up the feeling each had when she said that neither the pandemic nor the quarantine changed the joy of finding family this year.
“Nothing can dampen this discovery,” Lynn said.
It was Lynn who kicked off the discussion by greeting 23andMe employees with an enormous smile. She explained that as an adoptee who knew almost nothing about her health and ancestral background, every detail in her health and ancestry reports thrilled her. But nothing compared to the feeling of shock when she logged into her 23andMe account and saw the words, “predicted niece” written on top of a new message. It was her first connection to her birth family.
Lynn’s next few months felt like a dream as her niece told her about her birth family for the first time. This culminated with her meeting her eight brothers and sisters, and even more extended relatives. You could hear the love in her voice as she described her new family and teared up while sharing a touching video showing the first time she met them.
Lynn, who’s now in constant contact with her siblings, feels as if she’s grown up with them her whole life saying:
“What’s changed for me is that my husband and I now have this massive, loving – I can’t tell you how loving they all are – family.”
Finding a Birth Father
Like Lynn, Jason, a 24-year-old from California, found family on 23andMe. But Jason described something different. He said for him growing up without a father, left him with a feeling of emptiness.
When he first used 23andMe he said he initially was disappointed because he didn’t see any close matches listed on his DNA Relatives. That changed within a month of first opening his reports when Jason received an email from a woman who said that, according to 23andMe, she was his aunt!
Jason laughed as he explained, with admiration, the impressive online sleuthing she navigated in finding him. Together they worked out the identity of his father.
During the panel discussion at 23andMe Jason proudly shared photographs of his first meeting with his father. He said they both are excited to build a relationship. The impact of making this connection was profound, Jason said.
“I feel like I’m now really me, the best version of myself and I’m complete.,” he said, “I feel like I can take on anything.”
Finding the Silver Lining
Kimberly, the third customer on 23andMe’s panel, echoed the feelings of both Jason and Lynn when she expressed the sense of gratitude she had at finding relatives.
Kimberly was adopted from Korea to a small family living in Colorado. She didn’t know anything about her birth parents in Korea and said when she tested with 23andMe she was hopeful to learn something but didn’t have high expectations of finding relatives. That might explain why she was absolutely shocked when she saw a predicted half-sister at the top of her DNA Relatives list.
Kimberly described feeling a roller-coaster of emotions as she reached out to her newfound sister, and then waited three days for a response.
Her sister, Katelyn, who was also adopted shared photographs of her parents and grandparents from Korea. Katelyn had previously connected with them through her adoption agency. She then tried to help Kimberly find her own place in the family.
Katelyn’s investigation ended with life-changing answers, which she revealed to Kimberly on a phone call. After asking Kimberly to sit down, Katelyn told her that she wasn’t Kimberly’s half-sister, but Kimberly’s niece. More, the people in the photographs Katelyn had previously shared were her siblings and parents who had been looking for Kimberly for over 30 years.
Kimberly described feeling overcome with emotions during her first Facetime conversation with her family in Korea. Today with the help of Google Translate and a friend who speaks Korean, Kimberly said she has been able to continue building her relationship with her large Korean family. She also told us she’s become incredibly close to Katelyn, her niece and initial 23andMe match, who feels more like a sister she’s known her entire life than a newly discovered niece. Kimberly concluded her story saying:
“This is certainly my silver lining in this dark cloud of a global pandemic.”