DNA Uncovered – A Question of Ethics

There is often an air of uncertainty when people think of doing DNA testing.  Who has my data, what happens if I get unexpected results like a sibling I didn’t know about pops up in my matches or conversely, I am not related to a known relative?

There are always possibilities of unknowns when you embark on this journey.  And the rule of thumb is that there is always an explanation for all discoveries.

I know someone who has done testing for a number of their family members.  Although the people  they have asked are generally happy to do the test, there are often discussions about who owns the DNA matches and information.  Invariably, there is agreement between the parties relating to who has access to the information, who can see if, what will happen to it after the person passes away and ultimately, I’m reliably informed, it often comes down to who paid to get the test done.  It’s not down to whose spit or saliva it is… it’s who paid for the kit in the first place.  Generally, people are more than happy to do the test but just in case there is any ambiguity, it good to clear up any questions beforehand.

When I say that there are unknowns, the example I know about is where a friend of mine is not matching with their 2nd cousin on one of the DNA testing sites. There is an explanation to this which may or may not have anything to do the randomness of DNA inheritance.  But I would get another common ancestor to do the test and see what the results are.  They may wish to purchase the test themselves or they might not be able to afford to do the test.  So, be careful not to pressurise people when you may not know their financial position. 

When the unknown relates to a newly found sibling or close relative, you have to thread carefully.  This can be a very sensitive situation as you can imagine so don’t go in all guns blazing.  Try to assess the information before you and try to ascertain whether this new found family member is from your maternal and paternal line.  Don’t fire messages asking probing questions…. Chances are that they have found you on their list and are curious about you too.  Do your homework and when you are ready to ask questions, do so in a sensitive and gentle manner.  You may be dying to find out who this person is and feel you have discovered this humongous family secret that you can’t wait to tell everyone about but less haste on the occasion.

I was very lucky recently in helping my adopted sister find her biological father using DNA genealogy. You can read about it here;

Adoption Story My Sister

You will see that I was very lucky finding a close relative of my sisters.  I quickly realised that this contact was on her father’s side of the family.  Although I made contact with the aunt, I did not make contact with other family members who were listed as also being on the paternal side.  They may be curious as to why my sister is listed so high up on the list and they don’t know anything about her but it’s not my place to spread gossip and family tales.  I left that to the new proud dad and his sister if they so wish to.

So, curb your enthusiasm. Talk a deep breath. Be patient. Be sensitive.

Warm wishes


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