As websites like 23AndMe and Ancestry.com become more and more popular, people are finding life-changing information from their DNA. It’s amazing how much chaos the tiny strands can cause in otherwise ordinary lives. Even if you don’t send yours in, your relatives may have and their DNA can still turn your life upside down. Check out the stories below to see how innocent DNA tests led to unpleasant revelations.
Lydia Fairchild went through a horrific experience when DNA results showed that she wasn’t related to her children. In a bizarre twist of events, when she went to file for government assistance to provide for her two children with the third on the way, a routine DNA test revealed that she wasn’t genetically linked to her children.
This result plummeted Fairchild into a nightmarish world of investigation, allegations of fraud, and rigorous testing to prove that these children she’d carried naturally to term were in fact her own.
And there was more news on the way
Countless tests were performed and all of them showed no maternal relationship between Fairchild and her kids. Things even escalated to the point where multiple investigators were present during her third birth. They tested the baby as soon as it was born and found that, like its siblings, it wasn’t genetically this woman’s child.
At this point, even lawmakers were confused and searching for an appropriate solution. The DNA evidence said they weren’t her kids, but she was entitled to their custody by carrying them for nine months and birthing them naturally.
Stranger than fiction
Finally, Fairchild’s lawyer found a potential solution: chimerism. This is a rare condition where twins merge in the womb, long before the mother knows she’s pregnant. The twins’ cells don’t merge; instead, some parts of the body have the absorbed twin’s DNA and other parts have the surviving twin’s DNA.
In Fairchild’s case, her absorbed twin’s DNA resided in her womb, meaning that all of her children would be born with the maternal DNA from a woman who never existed.
Triple The Confusion
The triplets Nicole, Erica, and Jaclyn Dahm seemed to be living a charmed life. Due to their identical looks and similar personalities, even their parents had trouble telling them apart. However, the whole family was thrilled when several modeling agencies offered jobs to the girls at a young age.
They were featured in Teen Magazine at 16 and then made it into Playboy at 21. Their natural blonde hair, fair skin, blue eyes, and thin frames made them ideal candidates for magazine modeling.
Appearance on The Doctors
Their modeling careers took off and eventually led them to fame and stardom. They guest-starred on Boy Meets World, Family Feud, and are now worth $12 million. During this time, Erica met Dr. Phil’s son, Jay McGraw, and things began to take a turn for the worse.
After she and McGraw were married, he convinced her and her sisters to appear on a reality tv show called The Doctors. Eventually, the three all got pregnant at the same time since they were so in sync. They were given a DNA test for the show as a gimmick.
Revelation of differences
Their 23andMe saliva tests first showed that the triplets were in fact identical. No surprises there. But the ancestry follow-up tests showed that they all had varying percentages of ancestries. How could that be if they were truly identical?
This seems to suggest that these ancestry tests may not be entirely accurate. They might provide some fun entertainment, but no one should get too attached to their results if they can vary this wildly among three identical women.
At Long Last Reunited
Mao and Li Jingzhi gave birth to a beautiful baby boy in 1986 while they were living in Xi’an, China. She and her husband were beyond excited to bring their son into their loving arms and designed their lives to accommodate him. Both of them saw early on that their precocious son was charming and well-behaved, especially for a baby.
Obviously, their views may have been colored by parental love, but even friends of the family had high hopes for Jia Jia. It’s also important to note that this was during China’s One-Child Policy, meaning that Mao and Li were legally forbidden from having any more children.
Jia Jia goes missing
At nearly three years old, Li received the devastating news that Jia Jia had gone missing. Mao had looked away from his son for a minute when he went to get the young boy some water from a fountain and the child was gone. Despite the police’s best efforts, a week went by without any news.
Desperate for any crumb of information, Li began making and posting flyers, asking around town if anyone had seen her precious boy. She refused to let go of her hope that someday they would be reunited. At the time, child trafficking was quite common since every couple wanted a boy to carry on the name.
The DNA connection
As the years passed, Li found fewer and fewer leads to her missing boy and none of them panned out. Though she was discouraged, she never stopped looking for her son. She started groups to reunite other kidnapped children with their birth parents.
With a DNA test, Li was finally reunited with her son in 2020, 32 years after he’d been kidnapped. The reunion was understandably tearful and Li finally felt that everything she’d done had all been worth it.
Craig Cobb, a well-known white supremacist who has frequently promoted hatred against non-white people started his own all-white community in North Dakota. As a lark in 2013, he decided to submit his DNA to Ancestry.com, hoping for scientific proof that he was completely white.
Much to his surprise, his test returned the results that he was 14% sub-Saharan African, meaning that a statistically significant portion of his ancestors was actually black. Upset by these allegations, Cobb dismissed the website and its DNA testing as totally fake.
The Trisha Goddard Show
Unwilling to let things lie, Cobb supposedly resubmitted his DNA in 2015. This time, he refused to let anyone see the results and simply announced that his DNA reflected a 97% white European ancestry and 3% of “an Iberian thing,” whatever that means.
If you think that sounds pretty fake, you’re not alone. In the aftermath of the show’s broadcast, a former follower vandalized his property, writing “back in black” in graffiti on the side of his home.
The Unhappy Ending
In 2017, Catherine St. Clair used a DNA test for fun, but the ending was something far from what she’d expected. The man who she’d always believed to be her father turned out to not be genetically related to her. The devastating turn of events led her to grief and depression.
She tried to reach out to other people who had experienced something similar but couldn’t find a support group, despite the fact that this is happening for more and more people as the popularity of websites like Ancestry.com grows.
Creating a support system
Undeterred, she decided to found her own group, NPE Friends Fellowship. NPE stands for Non-Paternity Event, aka finding out that the man who loved and raised you for decades is not your biological father. In just a year, over a thousand people joined her Facebook group, highlighting its need in the community.
It turns out that people are finding it difficult to cope with the results of DNA tests. Most people send their DNA in for fun, expecting to find out something interesting about their long-gone ancestors. Instead, they receive information about people they still have to look in the eye at family reunions.
Coping with grief, rejection, and disappointment
Another struggle has been that of reaching out to new-found relatives. Many people dislike having distant relatives reach out to them. Others feel rejected when their extended family refuses to accept their friendship.
St. Clair helps people find the support they need during difficult reactions and advises people to keep their hearts open and give others the time they need to accept realities that are challenging to cope with. It may not lead to a happy ending, but there are others who are willing to help.
Golden State Killer
The Golden State Killer was known throughout California as one of the greatest unsolved string of rapes murders that went on for decades. He was one of the most active serial rapists and killers of the 1970s and 1980s.
Investigators believe he was responsible for 13 murders, 50 assaults, and 120 burglaries from 1973 to 1986. Forensic genetic genealogy is a field in its infancy, but it compares the DNA evidence left behind at crime scenes with DNA profiles from consumers who purchase home DNA tests.
A controversial idea
Investigators used the DNA uploaded to a website like 23AndMe to compare with DNA obtained from crime scenes. In fact, investigators don’t even need the criminal to be the person who uploads their DNA results. A close relative can provide enough matches for police officers to hone in on the true suspect.
They found a few individuals who were third-cousins of the genetic provider of the DNA found at multiple crime scenes left behind by the Golden State Killer. They used information from those people and finally were able to find the perpetrator and arrest him in April of 2018, four decades after the first attack.
Long time coming
After tracing the great-great-grandparents of the killer, the investigator combed through the familial branches until he found an ex-cop who was known for buying guns around the time of the Golden State Killer’s sprees. Joseph James DeAngelo was finally taken down at 72 years old.
He might have been too old to continue his rein of terror upon Californians, but the descendants and families of the people who were attacked were grateful to the officers for finally bringing the killer of their loved ones to justice for his deeds.
Paging Doctor Love
Kelli Rowlette was in for a rude shock when she sent in her DNA sample to Ancestry.com for fun and learned that she doesn’t share any genetic information with her own father. Flabbergasted at the results, she began to dig into her personal history to get to the bottom of the mystery.
It turns out that her mother used the help of a fertility specialist to help her get pregnant with Kelli. Despite the help, her mother was promised that her eggs would be fertilized with her husband’s sperm. So how could Kelli not share any DNA with her father?
Rowlette’s results showed Dr. Mortimer as her father. Despite disbelieving the results at first, she then discovered her birth certificate which named Dr. Mortimer as her legal, biological father. She was devastated by the news and contacted her parents immediately.
Her parents had tried to shield her from the truth, but in the face of her birth certificate, there was no denying it anymore: Kelli Rowlette was the child of her unwilling mother and the fertility doctor who’d taken advantage of her.
Apparently, the fertility doctor substituted his own sperm for Mr. Rowlette. The Rowlette family was shocked to hear about this abuse and is currently suing the doctor for medical impropriety. Dr. Mortimer had abused his power and taken advantage of a couple in need to further his own agenda.
Sadly, Dr. Mortimer isn’t alone in his crimes. Other doctors have been accused of the same crime throughout the country ever since fertility treatments were invented. Currently, only five states have fertility fraud laws and until it becomes a federal crime, doctors may continue to use their own sperm without consequences.