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Ethics of DNA NPE/adoption exposure

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  • Ethics of DNA NPE/adoption exposure

    I am the result of an NPE event. As far as I know it is still a secret. I know exactly who my bio-father is, and every year closer and closer relatives of his show up on the various DNA services as close cousins of mine. I wonder what people generally think is the right thing to do in the case where a very close relative might find me as a match and wonder who I am. I don't want 50+ year marriages to crumble because of what the DNA reveals. I guess the same question could be asked of adoptions that have been kept secret from family members.

    What do people think?

  • #2
    Nothing will crumble if you know the missing connection to your matches u should let them know I would want to know


    • #3
      I always recommend the classic treatment of this question by Sissela Bok, "Secrets: on the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation". An easy read, and well worth it! You will find very clear discussions of how secrets work, who benefits, who suffers, both while the secret is kept, and when it is revealed.

      A hint for genealogists generally: Whenever we discover a family secret, especially in someone else's family, we have to consider the consequences of maintaining the secret, as well as those of revealing it. Just because we happen to know a secret of some family, does not entitle us to tell the world. Read the book!


      • #4
        A complex ethical question. I'm not familiar with Sissela Bok's book (or her other writings), but if John recommends her 'Secrets' book then it would be worth reading.

        Exposure/revelation will only become an issue if one of your cousins contacts you, right? So you have time to consider what you should do - and rightly you're preparing for it.

        A cousin-who-doesn't-want-to-know won't get in touch. So you might never hear from any of them.
        A cousin who genuinely wants to know might be able to work it out for themselves. They could well get in touch just to confirm what they suspect. To me, there are two options for a response: 1) be honest; 2) hedge, and say you don't know your birth father.

        Another thought: if your matches are only "cousins" rather than half-siblings, how much do they need to know?

        Personally I would be delighted to find a half-sibling through DNA!
        Last edited by Fern; 26th January 2018, 02:33 AM. Reason: clarity


        • #5
          You are not some secret that needs to be kept. You are a living, breathing, feeling human being and are entitled to all the benefits of such. You do what you want to do for yourself, not coddling to someone else to keep some sort of secret for them, as if another human being is a dirty secret that needs to be kept, as if you're only able to perform half the actions of that of another person. It is not, you are not and you are entitled to the full benefit of whatever that DNA test revealed. Just go about what you would normally do, it doesn't need to be complicated.


          • #6
            Bingo good answer


            • #7
              ftdna customer

              I am going thru the same search at present, my birth mother is deceased and her family swear they do not know who my father is. My DNA test shows ethnic link to an uncle by marriage or his family, don't know if I should approach my cousins or Aunty ( I think my Aunty may know). But I feel it is my right to know, but don't want to upset people in the process. At the end of the day it is my story and if my birth father chose to do what he did, then he should stand up and own it.....My Aunty has seen my DNA results and has not commented.......


              • #8
                I agree w didi & Rebecca’s postings. You have done nothing wrong. I think every human being should have the right- at least for medical purposes- to know who their birth parents are unless doing so would be damaging or extremely detrimental to someone’s psychological health (rape, incest, etc).

                My father was adopted and I have found close cousins and contacted them. All had no idea about my father- and only one was rude and nasty but she is mentally ill. Most were quite friendly and welcoming. You may be surprised 😲


                • #9
                  Thanks. No close relatives have contacted me yet, but a 1st cousin of my bio-father showed up recently as a DNA match to me. (I was able to determine the exact relation from recently published obituaries.)

                  On FTDNA I have no tree associated, but on AncestryDNA, my whole tree is there, but I have made the last two generations "living" so the names do not appear.

                  I do somewhat agree that, hey, this is my DNA so deal with it. But I have also seen social media posts where his kids say things like, "I wish that every newlywed couple could have the kind of perfect marriage that my Mom and Dad have had for the past 50 years". I thought of contacting him, but always think better of it. The DNA testing for me was to settle the paternity question as there was not 100% certainty before the results came back.

                  Thanks. It is interesting to hear of others in similar situations.


                  • #10
                    An interesting topic and one for which there probably isn't a universal answer. I am also the child of a "NPE" and have only recently began dabbling in the DNA side of Genealogy (I don't even have my Ancestry or Y-111 results back yet)...

                    In my case (and I know this with 100% certainty) my bio-father KNEW my mother was with child and he bailed on her never to be heard from again. Otherwise, the only "fact" I know is that he and my mother were both graduate students at a major southern U.S. university when she became pregnant.

                    When I decided to embark on this DNA journey I asked myself two questions; (the first a reprise of the Anhueser-Busch ad campaign from a couple of years ago) "Are you ready for whatever comes next" and secondly "how will you approach any "discoveries"? After concluding that (yes) I was emotionally prepared for WHATEVER the results revealed, my conclusion to the second question was that - The discovery of my birth and existence by other parties is not my problem, nor will I allow it to be made my problem.

                    Didn't mean to make this response about "me" - and I DO respect the O.P.s position that they don't want to wreck good relationships...Rather I just wanted to offer an alternative perspective to others facing similar choices.


                    • #11
                      A match of 1,800 centimorgans just appeared, so I think it won't be long now before someone is asking me who I am. I believe it is an uncle. I had a feeling that we were reaching critical mass in the DNA testing market. All the holiday DNA results are coming in. Exciting time to be doing DNA genealogy.


                      • #12
                        I agree about critical mass.

                        I've been helping a "cousin" (a match, previously unknown to us) find his biological family. He only knew his mother's name and country of birth. We worked out who his paternal grandparents are from trees and DNA, and I worked out who his mother was, and her ancestry, but didn't know her name now.

                        So I've been thinking of ways to find her married name, but there's no longer any need, because she tested recently and is a match.


                        • #13
                          Hi ec1970 ... hoping it all goes well for you and please let us know what happens!


                          • #14
                            Very interesting thread. My philosophy, if this were to happen, is to tell no lie and not volunteer more information than necessary. Let them come to you and answer their questions honestly.

                            Cousins (especially the ones who went through the steps of getting a DNA test) are more likely interested in finding out the truth rather than preserve a family secret. People directly involved in the cover-up may have a different reaction.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Fern View Post
                              Hi ec1970 ... hoping it all goes well for you and please let us know what happens!
                              A year later and critical mass has definitely been reached. A half-niece showed up and recently reached out to me. I basically asked if she had heard of DNA exposing family secrets and would she be prepared to know who I am. I think I may be lucky. It sounds like this family is very open and excited by the prospect of meeting a new relative.