The response to unexpected discoveries of previously unknown family is different for everyone. While not everyone has the same experience with the discovery of their NPE experience, many people have shared with me that there is a lack of tangible resources. Truly, this topic, unexpected discovery of parentage as a result of a recreational ancestry test, is relatively new. DNA ancestry tests for genealogy research accessible to consumers are only a couple decades old (Family Tree DNA in 2000 was the first to offer direct-to-consumer DNA Ancestry testing). A few years later, 23andMe, Ancestry, and other companies began using saliva collection and autosomal testing making the tests more accessible and attractive to use. As ancestry companies are businesses, increased advertisements about access developed interest. These tests were marketed for familial ancestral origins and for increased personal health knowledge. Spit parties were held with friends collectively sending off their DNA. Genealogists and serious family historians appreciated the additional information that these tests uncovered. These tests, while concerning for some due to the databases keeping genetic material for 20 or more years for their use or study, have proven guilt or innocence through genetic material left at crime scenes.
What we don’t know is whether or not ancestry companies considered how many people would uncover their maternal and paternal secrets. Previously kept secrets within closed adoptions, donor-provided insemination material, or anyone’s interest in secretly swabbing a baby’s cheek and claiming online that the individual is over 18 to prove paternity (or not). Were these things considered before the access to direct-to-consumer DNA ancestry testing occurred? However any NPE was conceived, these tests provide the truth about biology. Once that cat is left out of the bag, there is no putting it back in. NPE stories are full of mixed and complicated emotions. There exists levels of grief, betrayal, shock, and oftentimes, a lack of understanding about the story as many of the important players of the story may be deceased. More on this subject will be forthcoming.
We hope you benefit from this guide as you navigate this new situation for yourself, your clients, or your family members or friends. There are many stories of NPEs who feel they are completely alone while they struggle with this new knowledge. This can be an immensely isolating process. This experience can leave an NPE feeling all the feelings to be completely honest with today’s lingo. Sometimes these feelings are felt all within five minutes and on a loop over the following hours, days, weeks, months and years to come. It’s complicated to re-write a family narrative. It’s more complicated if the family life was fraught with chaos AND it’s complicated if it’s the best news ever. There’s a sense of having to replay parts of childhood and adolescence to recollect if there were clues or to make sense of events that occurred. This information can destroy relationships within families – old and new. There’s the fantasy thinking about what life might have been like had this information been known back then. Your journey is your journey. We hope this guide provides some calm within the storm.