Find Your Unknown Relatives June 11, 2023

In past posts I mentioned how the number of families you're related to and the number of cousins you have greatly increases with each generation.  Did you ever think what could happen if a woman from one of those families had an affair and passed her child off as her husband's kid?  I am amazed at how many times I've seen this happen while researching families.  It can completely alter your family history and no one may ever know about it...  Until now!  If you're seeing hundreds of cousins that don't seem to fit anywhere, or family names that just don't match up on your DNA list, something like that may have happened long ago...  Or, maybe not so long ago.

I've noticed a lot of people are very much into researching their "family name."  Let's say your father's last name was Romano.  You might research that name going back to Italy centuries ago.  I've talked to people who have even visited other countries looking for their ancestor's records.  They visited with distant cousins and went and saw where their ancestors were born.  Well, unless you've done some serious DNA research, you might want to hold off on buying that plane ticket.  Make sure you're really a descendent of the right people first.

DNA can help you find out what country you are from.

I have worked on several cases where DNA data just doesn't add up.  Here's an example.  While reseaching for someone who was Irish, I noticed Italian people showing up on her match list.  The people in their trees were Italian, but their ethnicity chart said otherwise.  How could this be?  To make a long story short, after doing a lot of DNA analysis and research, I discovered a woman who married into this italian family had an affair generations ago.  A child that was suposed to belong to her Italian husband was actually the child of an Irishman.

What this means is, there are generations of people out there who think they have DNA belonging to a completely different family than the one they are really related to, AND...  They aren't even the nationality they think they are.  As crazy as that might sound, I see it happen OVER AND OVER again.  I've seen at least twenty cases involving situations like this, maybe a lot more, I've lost count.

This brings up another question that people are having to deal with.  When something like this is discovered, do you tell your relatives about it?  I was involved in a recent case like this...  While working with a woman named Janet, I discovered a cousin (age 50) on her match list could not really be her full cousin.  His DNA level was way too weak.  I discovered he does not know who his real grandfather was.  His grandmother had an affair.  Janet knew this cousin and was quite upset that he and his father spent their whole lives not knowing the truth.  Apparently, her cousin didn't understand the DNA and had no idea there was a problem.  Janet told me not to tell him, and she decided not to tell him either.  I respected her wishes and didn't say anything, but I told her I thought this was a bad idea.  She decided to just continue the lie and hope no one notices for generations and eventually the DNA will be too weak for anyone to figure it out.  Is that really the way to go?  Think about it.

Think about your family history and family secrets.

As an added twist to that story, I was able to figure out who his real grandfather was.  It was a guy that the family knows who lived in the same town.  He was a different nationality than them as well.  So, unless someone else in the family is smart enough to figure it out, generations of people will continue to not know their true heritage.  I don't think it's right to keep secrets like this.  Let's not forget about medical information also.  What if this "new" grandfather had cancer, diabetes or some other health problem?  Knowing this could persuade you to do the proper medical tests or alter your diet and maybe prevent or control an inherited illness.  Knowing your true family history could save your life.

People need to think about these things when doing DNA tests.  Be open to the possibility that your whole family history could change.  If you can't accept the truth and be open to change, then don't submit your DNA to these websites.  If you think this kind of thing is rare and won't happen to you, think again.  I've discovered many people don't know who their real fathers or grandfathers are.  People sometimes find out they were adopted.  Secret children are appearing everywhere.  I can't even count the number of people I've worked with who discovered they have half siblings they never knew about.  You really don't know the true past until you've examined your DNA relationships.  So, decide... Is ignorance bliss, or do you want to know the truth?

UPDATE - Jan 30th 2024 - I was watching an episode of "Finding Your Roots" last night.  They happened to be talking about this same subject.  Rock Musician Sammy Hagar was on the show.  While researching his family, they discovered his great-grandfather was not really a Hagar.  His mother had a child with someone other then her husband.  Sammy actually has no Hagar DNA.  He is a Belcher.  They are 100% sure of this, but were not sure which Belcher was the right guy.  Hey Sammy, if you happen to read this, send me an email.  I'll find the right Belcher for you.

Next we'll look at possible relationships of strong DNA matches.

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