The Family Mystery (A Funeral Isn’t The Best Time To Reveal Them)

by admin on March 19, 2018

This is a tale to warn against gossip and also the importance of bringing up delicate subjects at an appropriate time.

My Grandmother was one of five children. Each sibling had two children, with a total of 10 cousins. My mother was fairly close with most of her cousins growing up, as a majority lived nearby. As the years have gone by everyone has moved away and now my grandmother and all of her siblings have passed on. It is very rare that we see or hear from these cousins for no reason other than just life has moved everyone onto different seasons in their life.

One such cousin is very interested in genealogy. He has spent years tracing our family back (he’s gotten as far back as the 1400’s at this point!). He is registered on a prominent genealogical web site and has our entire family tree listed there. I find it all fascinating and appreciate his efforts!

He was contacted recently by someone on this site, looking for her parents. She had been given up for adoption in the early 70’s and because it was a private adoption, never knew the identity of her parents. She did a DNA test provided by this site and they linked her as a direct descendant of one of the 10 cousins on the family tree.

This cousin contacted my mother to hear her thoughts about it. The child was adopted in a city that only 2 cousins ever resided in, which is several hours away from any place the other cousins lived. It is safe to narrow down the potential parents to one of these two cousins (who are siblings). The female cousin was in her late 20’s and married at the time the adoption took place, and she went on to have other children shortly after, so odds are it isn’t her. The other sibling is male and would have been 16 at the time. Odds are he is the father and, considering the time in which this took place along with the VERY conservative locale, I imagine the girl was sent off somewhere and it’s possible he never even knew she was pregnant.

The cousin and my mother felt they had solved the mystery pretty solidly, as they recalled what the other cousins were doing and where they were during this time. Most were female and since they all saw each other on a regular basis a pregnancy or large absence would have definitely been noticed.

They debated about what to do. They understood it was possible that he DID know about the child and chose not to be involved. However, if he had no knowledge would he want to know? How would his wife and children handle the news? They finally decided that ethically he had a responsibility to tell his cousin that this person had contacted him and to leave the decision in his hands how he wanted to proceed.

He sent him an email and forwarded the emails he had received. He never received a response. Not wanting to press things, he left it at that.

Fast forward 6 months later and these two siblings’ mother passed away (the last remaining). All of the cousins would be attending the funeral. On the way to the funeral my aunt, who is not blood related), asks my mom if she plans to talk to her cousin about the situation. My mother had shared with her the situation when it had come up 6 months earlier. My mother replied absolutely not! His mother’s funeral is not the appropriate place to discuss this matter.

Later on at the funeral my aunt brought up the topic to said cousin. My mother stood there with her mouth agape, embarrassed to have ever shared this detail with her. The cousin blew it off, acting like he didn’t really know what she was talking about. I’m sure he was mortified.

We still don’t know the result of that situation. 0215-18

{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

lakey March 19, 2018 at 9:59 am

First, no one knows for sure if this cousin you narrowed it down to is the father of the adopted girl.
Second, I don’t think your mother should have told your aunt about this.
Third, your aunt should have kept out of it.

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Dee March 19, 2018 at 10:28 am

It was an inappropriate subject for a funeral. However, as funerals mean a family gathering that might not happen again in the near future, it is an opportunity to converse with people you may not otherwise get a chance to be with, altogether. And as the first attempt at conversation on the topic was ignored I give the aunt somewhat of a pass. This is important information and it will be discussed, one way or another, so having that discussion with the party in question is much better than continuing it behind his back. Also, the cousin knew that the topic was a hot one, and that he would be in the company of those who had brought it up previously (that he had ignored), and so he can’t have been surprised when he was approached with this unfinished business yet again.

Seriously, would he have preferred that this long-lost person just showed up at the funeral instead? Because she had a right to do so, and very well could have. This is a person he’s trying to ignore, it’s not like some dubious income tax claim he made years earlier that has just recently come to audit, or a chocolate bar he stole when he was 12. An secret like an adopted child does not stay “buried” for long, nor should she have to.

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Michelle March 20, 2018 at 8:21 am

She has no right to show up to a funeral and start accusing people of fathering her. The cousin received the emails with the information and chose to do nothing. Either he did not father this child or he did but has chosen to not contact her. The cousin, the OP’s mom and the aunt should have kept their lips zipped and not gossiped about who in their family could have fathered the child. The cousin may not have even known he fathered a child if the mother of the child did not tell him and then was sent/or moved elsewhere for the duration of the pregnancy. There is no actual proof the cousin fathered the child; the cousin and OP’s mom just decided it must be this cousin because they assume they know everything about what went on decades ago.

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Dee March 20, 2018 at 5:46 pm

Who says that she would accuse anyone if she showed up at the funeral? She has a right to be there, just to see the people in her genetic family. Nothing wrong with that at all. The bio parents have every right to not want to contact their bio child, and the bio child has every right to seek contact. No one’s rights trump another’s. But in this case, it sounds as if the family isn’t completely opposed to contact, and family members have the right, too, to decide if they want to get to know this person.

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Ergala March 22, 2018 at 8:46 pm

You don’t think people who ask her who she was and how she knew the deceased? If a stranger showed up at my mother’s funeral I would ask who they were.

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Michelle March 23, 2018 at 8:20 am

There is no PROOF that the cousin is the father. The genealogy cousin and OP’s mom DECIDED through conversation that the male cousin is the father. There would need to be a conversation with the possible father (not at a funeral) and more specific testing. Again, it’s possible that the cousin did not know he fathered a child if the mother of the child did not tell him and/or moved away within a few months of becoming pregnant. If she is his daughter, he may (or may not) want to get to know her, but that decision should be made at another time, not while he is burying his mother.

If the girl wanted to pursue the matter she could do so , but not by just showing up at a funeral. Surely someone in the family who speak to her and ask her how she knew the deceased and what is she supposed to say? That the deceased “could” be my grandmother?

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Kat March 29, 2018 at 7:36 pm

This line of thought is really speculative. There’s no reason to think the adopted person even knew the funeral was taking place.

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Eener March 20, 2018 at 2:45 pm

Granted, I’m not an expert on private adoption but I’m not sure I understand how the woman who was given up for adoption “had a right to” show up at the funeral. It makes sense to me that she would want to know her birth family but I always thought in these cases both parties had to be open to connecting.

One thing that’s perfectly clear to me, however, is none of this was any of the aunt’s business in the first place.

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EchoGirl March 22, 2018 at 1:30 am

The funeral might’ve been a step too far (assuming the daughter even wanted to show up at the funeral in the first place, that’s never stated) but there’s no law that can *stop* two people from communicating just because the adoption was closed. Closed adoption just means that all records are sealed and public officials can’t release the information. It doesn’t prohibit anyone from searching for the information by other means.

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Devin March 19, 2018 at 11:26 am

I would cast doubt as to whom the father is. If the practice of the area was to ship off unwed women to have their children in secrecy at this time, any of the male cousins could be the father, including the one doing the genealogy. Or your family could have been covering for one of the female unwed cousins as well as to not ‘disgrace’ the family. Since he was the one contacted, I would have privately messaged all of the cousins with the woman’s information. Something along the lines of ‘this person contacted me and is directly related to our family via our generation, here is her information if you’d like to reach out to her.’

OP, you aren’t the parent, so I would stay out of it and any further family gossip. Either one cousin will step forward as the biological parent, or they won’t and that is their choice to make.

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Michelle March 19, 2018 at 11:28 am

Well, I guess you know which aunt to NOT trust with sensitive information. Actually, I don’t think your mom should have told the aunt anything at all.

A little off topic, but this line in the submission “She did a DNA test provided by this site and they linked her as a direct descendant of one of the 10 cousins on the family tree” makes me feel…uneasy. I understand why police need a DNA database system but how did this site match the girl’s DNA to the cousin? I think a big database of people’s DNA on the internet available to whoever can pay the price for a subscription is dangerous.

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Kate Musso March 19, 2018 at 4:49 pm

I actually did my DNA through 23andMe dot-com, and they gave me the option of revealing my DNA to my cousins, and other people that may have connected on there. Obviously, both of these people selected that choice.

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Cheryl March 19, 2018 at 11:20 pm

So does Ancestry.com, although I did NOT make that choice. My niece was still able to come up with me as the person she shared the most with genetically, until my brother (her father) and his family did the test also. NBD for me, but know that if you and a relative do the DNA thing on Ancestry, it will match you whether or not you said, “Oh, sure”.

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Wendy March 20, 2018 at 11:13 pm

This may have happened because you had already disclosed your relationship.

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Lucy Loo Who March 22, 2018 at 7:25 pm

No, Ancestry will tag relationship regardless of any sort of listed disclosure. I recently helped my grandmother do her DNA, her account has no family tree linked to it at all. When the results came back, my uncle (who’d been tested already) got an email alert for “new DNA match found”, logged into Ancestry, and boom! “This person is your parent”, and matched with my grandmother’s account.

My personal Ancestry DNA shows links to my paternal side, and I have zero contact with them at all. I don’t even have any listed on my family tree because I don’t know who they are!

Michelle March 20, 2018 at 7:51 am

Thanks Kate and Cheryl for clearing up how that works. I have never done DNA testing so I wasn’t sure how they were able to match people.

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NicoleK March 20, 2018 at 8:15 am

23 and me gives you the option of contacting near relatives… I’ve made contact with a few second cousins.

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Zhaleh March 19, 2018 at 12:46 pm

Not a bad story but what an anti-climax! I thought for sure it would have turned out to be the other cousin and her husbands and kids would all find out at the funeral.

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Aleko March 19, 2018 at 12:51 pm

I don’t think the occasion being a funeral – even its being his mother’s funeral – is really the issue; it would have been massively tactless for anyone to tackle him about it in the middle of any family gathering. And it wasn’t any business of this aunt to do so anywhere, any time, even if his own blood relation hadn’t specifically and emphatically said not to. (And yes, it was wrong of OP’s mother to have shared this highly sensitive information with her in the first place.)

That said, it’s my experience that there’s nothing like a death in the family to impel people to come out with stuff – not necessarily touchy stuff as in this case, just family anecdotes and information – that they simply haven’t ever mentioned before. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a family funeral without learning something new, or rather old, which doesn’t tend to happen at weddings or just family get-togethers.

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Gena March 19, 2018 at 12:55 pm

I’m not really sure anytime would have been good to bring that up. Cousin was notified of the situation and chose not to respond (or at least to anyone’s knowledge). No one had the right to bring it up, at any time. Aunt was just being nosy.

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Miss-E March 19, 2018 at 1:17 pm

Man I feel so sorry for the woman looking for her birth parents. I hope the cousin gets in touch wi5 her eventually 🙁

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Aleko March 20, 2018 at 3:15 am

If indeed he is the father, which is not nearly so certain as OP’s mother and other cousin seem to think.

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NicoleK March 20, 2018 at 8:16 am

Seems pretty clear, if he wasn’t he would have laughed and said no and talked about it.

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Michelle March 23, 2018 at 8:25 am

No, it’s not really clear. It’s possible if he did indeed father the young lady that he did not know. If the mother chose not to tell him and moved away or if she moved not knowing she was pregnant. The cousin doing the genealogy stuff and OP’s mom decided it was the male cousin. Maybe he thought laughing and gossiping about this at his mother’s funeral was inappropriate.

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Ergala March 23, 2018 at 1:15 pm

Or perhaps he was laughing it off as completely ridiculous and had no desire to discuss it. When I am annoyed at a totally inappropriate question sometimes I’ll laugh at the fact it was even brought up…and then I’ll change the subject. I am not required to discuss anything with anyone and neither is the cousin. It isn’t their business.

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Lisa March 19, 2018 at 1:22 pm

Eek… this is so cringeworthy.

It’s possible he never received the email for some reason and really didn’t know what she was talking about. Doesn’t make it any less embarrassing for OP’s Mom though. Yikes.

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LadyV March 19, 2018 at 1:32 pm

The OP’s mom has to take some responsibility for what happened. The cousin who discovered the info really shouldn’t have said anything to anyone but the possible father – but I can understand how he might not have wanted to decide about passing on the information on his own. However, OP’s mom had NO reason – or right – to share the information with a third person – especially someone who isn’t a blood relative. Yes, the aunt was absolutely wrong to bring the whole matter up – but if she hadn’t been told about the situation to begin with, she wouldn’t have been able to confront the possible father.

As an aside: WHY do people think that a family funeral is the time and place to spill family secrets?

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Miss-E March 19, 2018 at 5:42 pm

That’s a good question. I think maybe people feel their mortality at funerals and don’t want their secrets to die with them! Doesn’t excuse how inappropriate and obnoxious it is!

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VickyJoJo March 19, 2018 at 2:21 pm

Wow the timing of this post is freaking me out a little bit. I am adopted and it was a closed adoption. Out of curiosity to my heritage, I did an AncestryDNA test, mostly to see where I “come from.” It was interesting and what I expected. I was interested in the genetic side of the equation and loved what I found out. But in the course of this, I discovered 2 first cousins and numerous 2nd/3rd/4th cousins. I have done nothing with this information. I have not sent a message or reached out in any way because it can create unnecessary drama in complete strangers lives. It opens up secrets that might be better kept secret. I don’t know if it is related on the paternal or maternal side and could very well be a situation such as the letter writer describes. So I will likely not reach out but will respond if someone contacts me.

LW – I think you all need to let it go. If the cousin/potential birth father wants to discuss, he will. It is his business and his business alone on how he handles it. Much also depends on what the “child” wanted out of this interaction. The adopted person may have only wanted medical information – she may not have wanted a family.

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Dyan March 19, 2018 at 4:32 pm

I don’t know VickyJoJo I think I would love to know any extra family…

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Vicky March 19, 2018 at 7:44 pm

But it Can be difficult to consider them family. In my case, we are connected by DNA, not emotionally. Knowledge of me could do more harm than good. I will not risk that. It was brave to give a child up and it was designed to be in my best interests. Why would I cause trouble now for that person, especially if it is not known that he or she gave up a child.

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TinyKat March 19, 2018 at 11:43 pm

Not everyone would want to know. I have two adopted nieces & a very good friend who was adopted. My niece’s, who are both adults now, have no desire to find their birth families. My friend WAS contacted by her younger burth sister and she told the sister, “Thank you, but I am not ready to get to know you or your family at this time.” She didn’t shut the door completely, but at this point several years later she still doesn’t want to be involwith them.

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TinyKat March 19, 2018 at 11:46 pm

So sorry for all my typos. I accidentally hit post before I proofread my comment.

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stampysmom March 20, 2018 at 3:46 pm

23&me showed my mom and her first cousin that they weren’t as related as they thought. It turns out they are only half first cousins – basically that the man my mom thought was her Grandfather was not. He was the Grandfather of the first cousin though based on other matches. We would love birth Grandfather’s family to get matched with us one day especially for health reasons. That said my mom isn’t sure if her dad actually knows. Since he was 90 (the eldest sibling by 10 years) at the time this was discovered she shared with her mom who opted not to pass it along. My Great Grandmother surely never thought her secret would get out lol.

SamiHami April 5, 2018 at 11:55 am

But they aren’t family. They are strangers who happen to have a genetic connection to a person they have never met and have never had a relationship with. The woman’s actual family is the one she was raised in.

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rindlrad March 19, 2018 at 5:10 pm

VickyJoJo – I’m also an adopted child. In fact, there are four of us in my family – all of us are adopted. Two of us know who our birth parents are, two of us don’t. My brother went looking for his birth mother and was told she wasn’t interested in getting to know him. It was devastating. My younger brother and sister both have found their birth mother and have a relationship with her and were able to get to know their grandmother before she passed. Lovely and wonderful.

It’s a highly personal decision that does carry some risk. Of course, it can be very rewarding, too.

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Ange March 19, 2018 at 8:19 pm

I’m doing one of those tests this year because my mother was adopted and I know absolutely nothing about that side of my family. I don’t know how I’d react with any of that information either, all we know is my mum had a lot of siblings. I do intend to talk to my mum about it beforehand though, just so she’s aware and can decide her level of involvement. It’s a dicey situation and you never know if the people you find are people you actually want to know…

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kingsrings March 19, 2018 at 10:26 pm

This could very well happen with my family, too. In the late 70’s, my aunt gave up a daughter for adoption. She’s never once spoken of it since. I always wonder if some day her daughter will try to contact her. Or any of us other relatives. I have no problem with that and would love to know who she is, etc. But I don’t know how my aunt would feel. I think all things need to be dealt with and not an elephant in the room type situation.
What I’ll never agree with – posting such looking for info on social media. No one should ever have to find out that way. What an unexpected and emotional shock!

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Cheryl March 19, 2018 at 11:27 pm

If all she wanted was medical info 23andme would have been the way to go as I understand it. Correct me if I am wrong but doesn’t it give not only ancestry but also a person’s chances of developing hereditary diseases?

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Multi-Facets March 20, 2018 at 12:38 pm

Yeah, actually. Two of my favorite British YouTubers took the test. One was told he carried the gene for red hair and had to be careful about possible heart risks; the other was simply told he was likely lactose intolerant and had a yellow ring in his irises, both of which are true.

I want to save up for a 23andme test as well; my biological father died in 2009 while only in his fifties, and my older brother and I would both like to know why, since Bro couldn’t find any obituaries and the surviving siblings aren’t saying anything to either of us. While it’s possibly my results won’t be entirely helpful to my older brother, since I’m female and I might be more prone to problems a man might not get, every little bit contributes at this point. In the meantime, we’re just trying to get better handles on our physical and mental health.

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Mysteryguest March 19, 2018 at 3:25 pm

The first misstep was sharing it with the aunt in question. The least number of people should have knowledge of these kinds of situations until the relative in question chooses to share the information.
These incidences where a long lost child/relative surface can cause great havoc in a family. Many of these reunion situations do not have a fairytale ending!

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sandisadie March 19, 2018 at 3:35 pm

I’m the genealogist in my family, and in my daughter’s father’s family as well. Over the years I’ve found out and verified through documents several things not generally known in either family. I haven’t revealed anything about any of these things except to my daughter. However, whenever a family member has wanted a copy of the family tree, with all the notes, etc., I’ve been happy to comply and if they then find out what I’ve documented then so be it. I have been questioned a few times and can only point out the documents pertaining to the event or events in question. A few mysteries have been cleared up and new ones brought forth. Pertaining to the Aunt in the story – I think she is a busybody and enjoys in stirring things up. Ignoring her will be in the best interests of the family, IMO.

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Vermin8@earthlink.net March 20, 2018 at 6:13 am

Sandisadie, I thought the same thing about the aunt. There was no reason for her to bring this up. I’m guessing she enjoys drama.

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rindlrad March 19, 2018 at 4:15 pm

I am appalled at how your Aunt decided to involve herself in a situation that is absolutely none of her business. There are people with privacy rights here – none of whom are your Aunt. I believe your cousin handled it appropriately – pass the information on to the potential birth father and let him decide how he wants to proceed.

I’m not clear on why on your Mother felt the need to share this information with anyone else. You don’t know for certain who the father is, as Sherlock Holmesing it based on old memories of where people were and what they were doing when the child was conceived is iffy, at best. Additionally, if it is true, depending on family dynamics, values, religion, etc., it could have a significant impact on the potential birth father’s current life and family situation. I would think a little discretion would not be out of line.

As an adopted child, I find these DNA tests can be double-edged swords. I have done it and, so far, have not received any close family matches. I admit to a little relief (some adopted children have been told their birth parents/siblings don’t want anything to do with them – which, I believe, is the right of both parties) and a little sadness (most of us want some connection to the past – where did my eyes, nose, musical ability, etc. come from). Don’t get me wrong – my adoptive family are the best. But, throughout my life I have wondered about the people who contributed the actual genetic material that make me – ME.

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Josie James March 19, 2018 at 5:04 pm

Too many people assuming too much information that is none of their business. If genealogy cousin doesn’t know what to do, he should have asked a hypothetical question to get his advice.

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staceyizme March 19, 2018 at 5:34 pm

Your blabbermouth of a relative had no business interfering in a situation that did not directly concern her! It’s hard to imagine that she could make any believable excuse for her bad behavior. Worse, however, is your mother, who shared the situation with someone who was not primarily affected! There isn’t anything shameful about tracing an inquiry into the family’s history. It is inexcusable, however, to gossip about it.

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Aleko March 20, 2018 at 4:12 am

I think everyone concerned is being far too credulous about what has been allegedly “proved” here. For one thing, I am very sceptical *indeed* about a DNA test being able to prove that the adoptee – let’s call her A – must be the child of one of the grandchildren of a single couple. I don’t believe that any site contains or even could contain a complete enough database of DNA results to show that, even if there is a relationship, it doesn’t come from generations back, or from another branch of the family altogether. The very fact that A believes that her results “prove” any such thing implies a hefty dollop of misunderstanding and/or wishful thinking about what a DNA test can do.

(I did my BA in archaeology at a time when it was experiencing a boom in new scientific dating techniques. Media reports consistently yelled excitedly “Amazing New Dating Method Proves Such-and-Such 100%!!!”, but every archaeologist knows that nothing is ever 100%, and that you need to fully understand the science and look at every individual case with a very hard and sceptical eye before judging that it is even 90%.)

For another, even if one could accept this as proven, I don’t believe that OP’s mother and the genealogical cousin are justified in ruling out all the other siblings on the grounds that (a) they didn’t live in the city where A was adopted (although OP speculates that the pregnant mother might have been “sent away” to have her baby, in which case you would expect the place of adoption *not* to be the city where she lived) and (b) that most of the other cousins were female and saw each other often enough to have noticed a pregnancy or long absence. That doesn’t hold water either. There are many, many cases of young women managing to conceal a pregnancy from literally everyone around them, giving birth in secret and ‘doorstepping’ the baby with nobody any the wiser. Just as common have been cases where the mother or a sister was in on the secret and helped them cover it up. (It used to be quite commonplace for a child to grow up quite unaware that their “mother” was really their grandmother, and their real mother was “much-older Auntie Jane”.)

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Anon March 20, 2018 at 9:24 am

Yeah, people say to be cautious of these websites. These websites are not doing DNA testing like they do in government laboratories where they need to find out who the true criminal is. If someone gets a match, I would be skeptical about getting it from one place.

If you truly want to know, I would suggest sending it to at least 5 places that does DNA and seeing if the results match or are off by just a little bit, or if they are off completely.

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Ernie March 20, 2018 at 12:47 pm

Agreed 100%. Some other explanation could be at work here that no one concerned is considering or can fathom.

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Kristen March 20, 2018 at 1:27 pm

Genetic genealogy is actually able to pretty accurately pinpoint very close relations. From wat I understand, anything 2nd cousin and closer is a person that you are 100% guaranteed to share DNA with. The further away you go, there is more of a chance that you may not have inherited the same segment of DNA from the common ancestor.

But for the situation the OP describes, I imagine the level of relationship was able to be very easily determined based on the DNA match between genealogist cousin and the adopted person.

These websites – 23andMe, Ancestry, FamilyTreeDNA, My Heritage, etc. – will give you a list of people whose DNA you match. They will also give you a percentage value of DNA you share or a specific number in centimorgens.

A parent/child relationship will share 50% DNA.

Grandparent/grandchild, aunt/uncle/niece/nephew and half-siblings share 25%, on average. (These can be +/- a few percentage points based on the vagueries of DNA inheritance.)

12.5% would be roughly what is shared by a 1st cousin, a half-aunt/uncle, great aunt/uncle, great grandparent.

If genealogy cousin was a full 1st cousin to the prospective birth father, then I would guess that adopted person would likely share around 6-7% DNA with genealogy cousin. Since this is another full step further, there are a few more possibilities at this level of DNA shared but this is at a level where it is not a mistake and tere is some direct relationship to this particular branch of the family. Usually at this point you’d have to consider the age of te adopted person and the general age of the cousins to try to figure out potentials.

To really “confirm” this, either prospective birth father would need to take a DNA test with one of these companies or one of prospective birth father’s children. If he’s not the father, he’d share roughly the same percentage DNA, while if he was he would show up as the father on the site.

Rest assured, such skeletons in the closet are very difficult to keep hidden in today’s day and age.

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Cheryl March 20, 2018 at 7:19 pm

As for siblings sharing 50% DNA, I haven’t seen my brother’s report but his daughter shares more of his ancestry profile than his son does. As a matter of fact I am 82% Scottish, and my nephew has either 0% or <1%. His ancestry looks much more like his mother's. Since they did the Ancestry test, we don't know if he also inherited his father's genetic propensity for type II diabetes (my brother actually has Type II diabetes as does his daughter.) for example.

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Kristen March 22, 2018 at 6:42 am

Ah – when I say 50%, I mean 50% of the actual DNA, not the Ancestry Composition.

Ancestry Composition (IE, you are 50% Irish, 20% Eastern European, etc.) is all over the map and should be taken with a grain of salt, as it’s not an exact science.

Technically a child can get a little bit more from paternal grandmother than maternal grandmother, for example, so they may appear more or less of one particular ancestry depending. They also will not share exactly 25% with each grandparent.

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Zhaleh March 20, 2018 at 4:49 am

A lot of posters seem to think that the OP’s mother had no business telling the aunt about this. I’m not clear why that is.
I know the aunt behaved badly and the OP’s mother regretted telling her, but that’s a hindsight situation.

The genealogist cousin was the one who signed up for and agreed to participate in this project. That cousin was contacted by someone searching for her family. Cousin contacted OP’s mom to “hear her thoughts about it”.

Why is this moment ok, but mom talking to aunt about it is not? A poster even said she “had no right”. Why did the cousin have a right to hear others thoughts but the mother doesn’t? The cat was already out of the bag so to speak.

I think if you’re freely exchanging information about family on a website then it’s your responsibility to handle that information with sensitivity. The cousin that mom and genealogist suspect is related to the woman, isn’t on the site. Presumably did not make a decision to share his DNA and now has been forced into a strange situation.

I wish it was possible for an etiquette panel to decide if the people who signed up for these sites should be sharing info with those who have not

Anyway, I don’t think the OP’s mom is anymore guilty of wrong doing than the cousin that told her in the first place. It may have been a mistake for her to tell aunt, but I don’t think she was violating any rights or needs to be thrown under the bus for this.

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Aleko March 20, 2018 at 6:15 am

I think the mother was wrong to tell the aunt on three grounds.

One: OP says the aunt is “not blood-related”, and so this genealogical issue is not strictly her business in the same way that it is the business of the people whose blood relation this adoptee appears to be.

Two: if the aunt insisted on confronting the putative father in public despite the mother saying explicitly in string terms that that was utterly inappropriate, she is evidently not someone who should be entrusted with any sensitive information, so the mother showed bad judgement .

Three: the genealogist cousin only told the mom in the first place because he wanted help working out the probabilities and deciding what to do about it. Their decision was, to inform the putative father but otherwise to stay shtum. So the mother’s “sharing the situation” with an in-law not only served no purpose but went directly against that decision. We all know that ‘We aren’t telling anyone, but I know I can tell you’ is a sure-fire recipe for spreading a story around.

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Zhaleh March 20, 2018 at 3:31 pm

Point number one- not a blood relative.

I understand your argument, I don’t agree it’s relevant. Mom wanted to talk about it Aunt is someone she talks too. In my family, if you marry in, you’re one of us.

The second point – the aunt insisted on confronting the punitive father in public-
Again, that happened after the fact, it was a matter of hindsight. The mother regretted it. Would rights have still considered to have been violated by the mother if aunts kept mum as Mother expected her too?

Three- you got me there. I thought that the cousin told the mom to “hear her thoughts” and then they naturally started trying to figure out who it is.

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Dee March 20, 2018 at 11:21 am

But this case isn’t about “info”, it’s about a person. A person can’t be locked up in a file or kept a secret; they exist, and have just as much right to as the person who would keep them forever “gone”. All these people attending a funeral for a person they’re related to but they don’t want to even acknowledge the existence of another person who is just as related? That’s a hierarchy that drops jaws. If the parent of this adopted person is ashamed then that is their issue to deal with; the person who was adopted is not shameful and should not be treated as such. Their birth is not a shameful secret. It’s the beginning of their life story and should be regarded as a happy one, because it meant the start of their existence here on this planet.

So, while it isn’t necessary for the “found” family to express great joy at the prospect of meeting this person, it is abhorrent that they would treat the prospect as something secretive and somehow untoward.

Imagine trying to explain the whole shameandsecret thing to someone from another planet – they’d scratch their heads bald and deem humans to be a horrid bunch. And, with this example, I’m inclined to agree with them.

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Ergala March 20, 2018 at 11:27 pm

But they don’t know for sure if she is even his daughter. Perhaps he did a paternity test in private for her and it came back as him not being her father. Either way the only two people this involves is the potential father and the young woman in question.

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Semperviren March 21, 2018 at 8:19 am

The gathered family is in mourning. They, unlike the long-lost relative, actually knew and loved the deceased and are emotionally occupied with the business of mourning. It is not the place of a non-blood relative to take it upon themselves to decide THIS is the time and place for another emotionally delicate matter to be dealt with.

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Wendy March 21, 2018 at 11:32 am

Except in this case they don’t know for sure who the parent is. And while the adopted child should not be made to feel shamed their birth may have been a traumatic experience for the parent/s who have the right to not want the wider family to know about it.

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SamiHami April 5, 2018 at 12:07 pm

I completely disagree. The accident of sharing DNA with a stranger doesn’t magically make you family. Her family is the family that raised her, and whatever family she has created as an adult.

And if someone wants to keep something such as a teenage adoption private, that his his/her right–and that assumes that this particular cousin is her father.

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Ernie March 20, 2018 at 12:51 pm

I get that some view this as a hobby, but I feel like this hobby is starting to fly in the face of the protections, desires, reasons and rights of people who, possibly for good reason, used closed adoption as an option in a time in their life when they needed it.

My worry here is the long term negative effect this is going to have on a process (adoption) that may already be too costly and cumbersome.

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Zhaleh March 20, 2018 at 3:35 pm

Yes, you said a lot in that post but the idea of privacy is something that strikes me. We have a right to privacy even in regards to members of our family with whom we live or grew up with.
That right should extend to include family we don’t know.

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EchoGirl March 22, 2018 at 1:23 am

I absolutely agree that confronting the cousin at a funeral was a *massive* etiquette breach. But I disagree with the idea that doing this kind of research/investigation is necessarily a bad thing. I understand feeling like things are encroaching, but apart from adoptions, you have, for example, European Jews who are finding family members (or descendants thereof) who they thought were Holocaust victims.

My family’s situation was so close to this that for a moment I actually had the thought that OP might’ve been a family member before I realized some of the specifics didn’t match. We found a family member who had been adopted; his mother is deceased but he got to meet his aunt and vice-versa; they’re both very happy, but she in particular was moved to tears when she realized she this last piece of her sister, if you will, was reachable (she’d known he existed, but never expected she’d hear from him). And we were also one of those families who found a Holocaust survivor relative after the family spent 75+ years thinking he was dead.

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Marozia March 22, 2018 at 7:33 am

At a funeral!! How vulgar and gauche!! Some people have no morals.

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Dawn March 22, 2018 at 10:35 pm

I’m not sure how accurate these tests are. Mom and Dad did them and they came back as having zero Native American. Mom KNOWS there’s Apache on her side. Dad’s grandmother was full-blooded Cherokee. I also read an article where three identical triplets did the test and all got different results.

-Dawn

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Patti March 28, 2018 at 1:22 pm

The funeral being the proper place is only a secondary issue. Any genealogist knows nothing is a fact until you prove it with documentation. So, the aunt and the mom were actually just gossiping when trying to guess the parent. Gossiping is never a good idea as the aunt proved to the mom.

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