Three years ago Dyan deNapoli, a 57-year-old creator and TED speaker who specializes in penguins, was given a 23andMe genetic testing kit for her birthday. Intrigued, she eject twin in the tube and sent the results to a lab in Burlington, N.C.
About two months later she collected a pie chart breaking down where her ancestors lived (99.4 percent of them were from Europe). What she was most vertiginous about, however, was a 41-page list of all the people who had done the test and were genetically interdependent to her: 1,200 in all. (Customers can choose whether their information is shared with others.)
“I had the labels of everyone from my immediate family members to my first cousins, alternate cousins, third. Once I got past fourth cousins, it went to my fifth cousins, and beyond,” communicated Ms. deNapoli, who lives in Georgetown, Mass. “It started me down this genealogical rabbit aperture.”
Using the website’s internal messaging system supplemented with Facebook, she leagued with three second cousins, who were in neighboring towns. She met each one for breakfast in a townswoman diner, where they spent hours drinking coffee and poring over kinsmen trees and photos, marveling at various resemblances.
“Jorge is an older cousin, a most young 90,” Ms. deNapoli said. “Everybody agreed he looks objective like my dad.”
Last June she visited a third cousin and other subject ti in a mountainous village in the Campania region of Italy, her paternal grandmother’s identify of origin, walking the narrow streets, eating four-course meals and knowledge stories of her ancestors, including a long-ago Hatfield-McCoy-level feud. “That’s why I genuinely didn’t know this side of my family,” Ms. deNapoli said in wonderment.
At-home genetic proving services have gained significant traction in the past few years. 23andMe, which rates $99, has over five million customers, according to the company; AncestryDNA (currently $69), for 10 million.
The companies use their large databases to match assenting participants with others who share their DNA. In many cases, long-lost proportionals are reuniting, becoming best friends, travel partners, genealogical resources or confidantes.
The development is a more layered version of what happened when Facebook beginning emerged and out-of-touch friends and family members found one another. Lassies of long-ago casual sperm donors are finding their fathers. Adoptees are trammel to biological family members they’ve been searching for their undamaged lives.
Sherri Tredway, 55, is a marketing and development director for a collective service agency based in Washington, Ind. She was adopted as a baby, and in January she hustle two and a half hours to Bowling Green, Ky., to meet her biological half sister, Patty Roberts-Freeman, 60, with whom she sewed through AncestryDNA.
Ms. Roberts-Freeman needed an outfit for a wedding, so they arrayed to meet at a shopping mall to find one together. They started in the subsistence court, where they bought sodas and talked for over an hour take their mother, their current lives, their upbringings.
They then look ated to a Belk department store, where they tried on outfits. “I was looking at some stylish dresses and showed her a few, and she said, ‘No, no dresses for me!’” Ms. Tredway recalled. “I memorialize saying, ‘O.K., are you sure you are my sister?’ which we both laughed about. She rest a silky floral shell and a beautiful sweater in rose, pink and cream to endure with some slacks. It was very classy.’”
The half sisters have on the agenda c trick since seen each other several times, meeting in restaurants between their skilled ins. They also see other relatives including two more half siblings, Cry-baby Bonham, 51, and Michael Clavette, 54, as well as their biological progenitrix’s sister, Nancy Kalman Bell.
“Not a day goes by when I don’t talk to Aunt Nan,” Ms. Tredway said. “I tinkle her to talk, when I’m upset, anything. She’s my family now.”
Josh Broadwater, 44, a proxy police sheriff in California, was abandoned when he was 1 day old in a gas station bathroom in California. When he was in his 30s, he implored the power that placed him with adoptive parents to give him whatever knowledge they had about his biological ones but ran into constant dead aims.
In July 2015 he sent a kit to AncestryDNA and found a cousin who shared DNA with him. That led to him chancing his biological father: a man who had had a one-night stand in the front seat of a ’69 pickup sundries and never knew he existed. They connected over the phone, and directly Mr. Broadwater was driving 500 miles to go elk hunting on his father’s farm in Kingston, Utah.
“He good-natured of sat there quiet for 10 to 15 seconds,” said Mr. Broadwater beside their first conversation. “And then in his cute little country turn he said, ‘Well, if Gloria is your mom, and this thing says I’m your dad, there is a castigate good chance I am your dad.’ He is just the coolest person.”
The two got along so expertly that they now talk on the phone once a week about the sick, what is going on with the children, about the hunting season. “I not at any time thought finding my biological dad, he would be the one calling me,” Mr. Broadwater said.
He also talks to a half chum who is eight months older than him. “I just got a text message from him that I’m customary to be an uncle in October,” Mr. Broadwater said. “I don’t know how much I will be knotty. This whole new family is new to me.”
Others who have their DNA tested are state relationships not with specific people, but with their family’s places of cradle.
One example is Leah Madison, 32, an education outreach coordinator for the Unpeopled Research Institute in Reno, Nev. She was planning trips to Peru and Korea when she well-trained a year and a half ago from 23andMe that her family came from Greece, Italy and the Iberian Peninsula.
At an end the winter she and her father went to the Iberian Peninsula for two weeks. She felt an ineluctable acquaintance to the people as she ate their bread masterpieces, toured buildings by Antoni Gaudí and danced to flamenco music.
“I had a percentage of paper that tells me I’m from Spain,” Ms. Madison said. “But then I fancied there and I noticed all these people have curly hair, and dialect mayhap that is where mine comes from?” Now she feels compelled to call in the other places as well.
But other testers have found their follow-ups more alienating.
In February 2016 Christine Carter, a marketing strategist, was on a commerce trip to London when she decided to open her 23andMe dossier. She was in her bed room, rushing to dinner. “I thought it would be a quick reveal,” she conveyed. “I was going to learn that I was Native American and black, and maybe learn a bantam bit more about the stories I heard as a child.”
Ms. Carter was shocked when the conclusions showed she was 31.5 percent white or European. She struggled through dinner, amassing this revelation mostly to herself, until she got back to her home in Baltimore and contended with her sensitivities.
She wrote a Huffington Post blog post, “I Celebrated Black Annals Month … By Finding Out I Was White” that went viral. It attracted thousands of remarks, from white supremacists who berated her, to people who had a similar experience and shared her susceptibilities.
“It took me less than 30 minutes to write the post, it was predilection journaling, something to get it off my chest,” said Ms. Carter, 32. “So to have that feedback was insane.”
Perhaps the most frustrating reality is when users don’t give birth to any known connections at all. This can happen to people in certain ethnic congregations, including Latinos and Asians, that thus far have fewer people contemning the services and a smaller database.
“Diversity in genetic research is a global poser,” said Joanna Mountain, the senior director of Research at 23andMe, totaling that the company is offering free testing in some countries to found to rectify that. “The results for Hispanics and Asians aren’t there yet, but they are draw nigh,” said Jenn Utley, a family historian at Ancestry (the parent partnership of AncestryDNA). “The database keeps growing.”
Even for those privy to fecund in data, using a genetic-testing service as social network poses problems. Ms. deNapoli has written to 25 people related to her and has heard back from no greater than nine. “I guess a lot of people aren’t doing the tests to connect with people,” she said.
Ms. Tredway said she had a difficult experience after reaching out to her biological mommy, getting an out-of-the-blue phone call from North Carolina while she was come to a haircut: “She said, ‘There is no way you could be my daughter,’ even though I recognized I was.”
And then there is David Hughes, 38, the owner of an executive search corporation, Sandbox Partners, who was ecstatic when he got his results back from 23andMe. “My review is basically 60 percent Balkan, which is Mediterranean or Greek, 25 percent Domestic American Indian, 11 percent Middle Eastern and 4 percent Eastern African,” he implied. “I’m like the heritage of warriors or something.”
But as much as Mr. Hughes wants to tour the different regions he comes from and meet the family members whom he got that DNA from, he hasn’t combined with anyone through the genetic testing service.
“My biological dad is 50 percent Indigenous American Indian, so I eventually hope to find which tribe I am from,” he judged. “But I have nothing yet.”