Dear Amy: I have a situation related to DNA testing.
I have a half-sister from an affair my father and her mother had many years ago (mid-’50s). I have known about this for several years, but I don’t think she knows about it. She was raised in a highly respected family, and I’m fairly certain this information has been kept from her.
On my DNA page on the website, she appeared in the “number one” position as a sibling to me—above first cousins, second cousins, etc. I don’t know if she has even seen this specific page or not, so I don’t know if she knows anything.
All of the parents are now dead.
This webpage allows me to send an online message to her. I am tempted, but I also think it could be best to let sleeping dogs lie. Family and friends give me mixed responses.
What makes sense to you? —Debating DNA
Dear Debating: I shared your question with Richard Hill, who was one of the first adoptees to identify his birth family through genetic genealogy DNA tests (in 2007). He tells his story in the book, “Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA” (2017, Famillius). He has also written a guide: “Guide to DNA Testing: How to Identify Ancestors, Confirm Relationships, and Measure Ethnic Ancestry through DNA Testing.” He shares his extensive knowledge on his website: dna-testing-adviser.com.
Hill says, “I have four half-siblings myself, and I have read about hundreds of similar discoveries, either in the news media or in private online discussion groups.
“While news of an unexpected relative can be shocking at first, many people are thrilled to discover siblings later in life. I have found that almost everyone involved will ultimately draw one or more of the following conclusions:
1. Knowing the truth is better in the long run.
2. Events that happened decades ago are merely history, and not scandal (especially true when the parents are deceased).
3. No matter what anyone thinks about the actions of the parents, the siblings did nothing wrong.”
Hill and I agree that you should contact your sister to say, “According to my DNA results on the [NAME test], you and I are related. If you’ve received the same result and are interested in getting in touch, here is my contact information...” Because some people have done more than one DNA test, it’s important to mention the name of the test on which the match occurred.
I hope this inspires you (and others) to reach out respectfully, but to also keep your relational expectations in check.
Dear Amy: I grew up without ever knowing my biological father.
In the last few years we have started corresponding on Facebook. He and his wife now send me money for my birthday and Christmas.
I recently got engaged, and he and his wife sent me quite a bit of money to help with the wedding.
I thanked them graciously and now I’m left wondering: should I send them an invite to the wedding?
It is unlikely I would have the chance to meet them face-to-face before the wedding since they live in another state.
I feel like meeting them for the first time at my wedding might be inappropriate, but I don’t want them to feel left out. What is your take on this? —Do I or Don’t I
Dear Do or Don’t: I agree that meeting your bio-parent in person for the first time at your own wedding is loaded, and it might be overwhelming for you (and perhaps also for other family members).
If your father and his wife have the means to send you money, perhaps they can also afford to take a trip to meet you in person. You should invite them for a visit well before the wedding takes place. Otherwise, explain to them—very frankly—that you don’t want to meet for the first time at your own wedding, but that you look forward to having an ongoing relationship with them.
Dear Amy: I could not believe your advice to “Retired Man,” who had been given an antique clothes tree by someone who now wanted it back. You basically validated his anger.
It’s just a “thing.” It’s basically a pile of sticks. He should have happily returned it to her. —Disappointed
Dear Disappointed: People form attachments to “things.” I completely understood why he wanted to keep this item that he had owned for many years.