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20 of the Most Shocking DNA Test Discoveries—Exposed

Thanks to mail-in ancestry DNA services, people are discovering all kinds of surprising things—like shocking lineages, long-lost siblings, and family secrets that have been buried for decades.

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Stack of one hundred dollar bills close-up. (shallow DOF)
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Million-dollar mystery

Writing into MSN’s The Moneyist column, a man told the story that after years of receiving substantial monetary gifts from a wealthy uncle, a 23andMe DNA test revealed that he was actually the uncle’s biological son. The family secret was confirmed by the man’s mother, who had worked as the Chief Financial Officer for the company the “uncle” ran.

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Newborn baby in his baby coat in Hospital after delivery
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Switched at birth

When Alice Collins Plebuch decided to do a DNA test, she did it all in good fun. As originally reported by the Washington Post, the woman, who identified as Irish American, was shocked to find a mix of European Jewish, Middle Eastern, and Eastern European genes in her results. After family-wide DNA testing, she learned that her father was not the biological son of her grandparents. After even more digging, Plebuch finally got to the bottom of the story: Her father had been sent home with the wrong family. A mystery of over 100 years had been solved by a mail-in DNA test.

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An adult hipster son and his senior father in town, hugging.

Oh, brother

ABC News Correspondent Whit Johnson participated in a DNA test on a whim, though he knew his father had been adopted and little was known about his biological family. Johnson discovered that he had an uncle—his father’s previously unknown biological brother. Armed with this man’s contact information, Johnson shared the results with his father—and the two long-lost brothers were reunited.

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Doctor showing a pregnant girl picture ultrasound. She came to the doctor in the clinic. It's a gynecologist. He is dressed in a white robe.

Double trouble

A DNA test revealed that Lydia Fairchild wasn’t the mother of the children she had given birth to. Single mother Fairchild had two children with another on the way when finances got tight, and she decided to apply to government assistance. According to GlobalGenes.org, Fairchild was asked to take a DNA test to confirm the children were hers. The results suggested she was their aunt. Confused, scared, and accused of fraud, Fairchild arranged to have a government witness present at the birth of her third child, and a DNA test was performed on the spot. Again, Fairchild was not a match as the mother to the child she had just birthed. Finally, scientists figured out that Fairchild was a “chimera”—she had absorbed a twin while she was in the womb; it was the twin’s DNA that was showing up in the maternity tests.

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Doctor with stethoscope
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Doctor shocker

Kelli Rowlette knew she wasn’t related to her father—her parents had used a sperm bank to conceive her. However, no one was ready for the results of her DNA tests: After consulting with Ancestry.com, Rowlette learned that the fertility doctor her parents worked with used his own semen to impregnate her mother, according to a BBC report. Rowlette has a lawsuit pending against the retired doctor for fraud, medical negligence, battery, emotional distress, and breach of contract.

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Adult son hugging his senior dad
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Family friends

At the age of 74, Walter McFarlane decided to take an AncestryDNA test to learn more about his biological family. He had been raised by his grandmother, but the details of his biological family were hazy. McFarlane learned that his long-time friend who grew up down the street was actually his half-brother, Alan Robinson (who had been adopted). CNN reported that Robinson and McFarlane shared the news they are brothers at a family dinner. Here are 24 little things that help make you a true friend.

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Native american dancer at a Powwow
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Native knowledge

Two British women were shocked to learn that their ancestry revealed a Native American bloodline—especially considering their ancestors hadn’t been to America. Doreen Isherwood and Anne Hall discovered that they are descendants of Native Americans who were brought to the United Kingdom centuries ago—possibly as slaves, translators, or tribal representatives, says BBC News. This kind of discovery is considered very rare and it’s likely their indigenous American relatives remained in the UK and started families in the communities in which they were relocated.

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20 of the Most Shocking DNA Test Discoveries—Exposed
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Parents and their pasts

You don’t expect scandal with your parents, but that wasn’t the case for Houston Chronicle reporter Paul McGrath. He learned that his mother had been in an undisclosed relationship while serving in the Marine Corps. The man McGrath had assumed was his biological father was not. An AncestryDNA test led him to his half-siblings, the children of his biological dad, Domingo Malaquias. Here are 34 things your parents’ health reveals about you.

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Father figures

A stem cell and reproductive biologist, the (anonymous) George Doe explained to Vox how he came to participate in a 23andMe DNA test when teaching a course about the genome. However, his results offered an entirely different lesson for himself. Upon clicking a link that offered to connect him with close relatives, he stumbled upon a man named Thomas with whom he shared 22 percent of his genome with. It became clear that he and this man had the same father, meaning his father had a secret affair. The revelation tore “Doe’s” family apart, leading to the divorce of his parents.

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Fathers day composition - photo album with a black and white photos. Studio shot on wooden background.

Sibling surprise

Adopted as a child, Matt Heninger took an AncestryDNA test to learn more about his ethnicity. Once he had the results—no surprises there—he forgot about the test. Until a few months later he received an email from Joyce Burgener who said her results suggested that they were closely related, possibly first cousins. After some more digging, the two discovered they were actually brother and sister. As a 12-year-old child in an extremely poor family of five, Burgener had a memory of Heninger being born—and their mother giving him up for adoption, reports the Deseret News. Read these bizarre sibling stories you won’t believe are true.

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Closeup of a support hands

Close encounters

Tracy Melton has always assumed her biological father was deceased, according to a KXLY news story. Eager for answers about the paternal side of her family, Melton signed up for an AncestryDNA test and discovered her father—Reynaldo Delgado—was very much alive. Melton, who was raised in Los Angeles but relocated to Spokane, connected with Delgado and the two learned that they lived only 12 miles away from one another. Delgado and his wife had decided to move to the state just three years earlier.

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scientist record result of blood inspection in report form

DNA discoveries

Keeping family secrets under wraps isn’t as easy as it used to be. Case in point: Bob Hutchinson told the New York Times that his mother was always very secretive about her upbringing and family, never disclosing anything about her own parents except to say they were Italian and Swedish. Hutchinson decided to take a mail-order DNA test and learned he is one-eighth sub-Saharan African, which revealed his mother was actually mixed race. Read how one writer had her DNA tested and she says it changed everything.

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Catalog cards in library, closeup
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We are family

Neil Schwartzman, who was aware he was adopted, turned to 23andMe in an effort to find his birth parents. He ended up finding his biological sister, who had no idea that her mother had ever given a child up for adoption. According to Forbes, the three finally met after Schwartzman’s newfound sister confronted their mother about the results.

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Leftover pizza in box
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Crime and punishment

Sometimes it isn’t an unassuming at-home DNA test that proves most shocking, but a court-ordered one. The California serial killer known as the Grim Sleeper was finally identified through DNA he had left behind at a crime scene; the link came through the killer’s son, who was forced to provide DNA because he had committed a felony. To confirm the killer’s DNA link, though, detectives had to get a current DNA sample from the man—which they did by grabbing the leftover pizza he tossed while out for lunch. This is considered the first familial DNA arrest in the state of Californa.

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Close-up of mixed race couple holding hands on the green mountain background
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Mistaken identity

WUSA9 reports that Marion Cohen, who identified as African-American, used a company called Kin Finder, LLC to learn more about her background. Cohen discovered that she is 70 percent white; the man she thought was her father is actually her step-father. Her biological father was white, but at the time in her home state of Virginia, it was illegal for a black woman and white man to marry. Her parents separated and her mother later married the African-American man Cohen came to know as Dad.

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Overturned glass of wine isolated on white
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Heartbreaking answers

The Denver Post printed a heartbreaking letter in their Ask Amy advice column: A DNA test revealed to the writer that the man who the woman thought was her biological father was not. Her actual father turned out to be a family friend—and he was a serious alcoholic. The findings led the letter writer to question who she really is; she also warns others about delving too deeply into their DNA.

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MRI Scaner Film

Curious connections

The Maneages had three children but wanted a fourth, reports People. They chose to adopt a ten-year-old girl named Elliana from China who had been diagnosed with a brain disorder. Upon arriving home, they shared their story with the Galbierz family who belonged to their church and had also recently adopted a daughter from China named Kinley who had a similar brain disorder. Independently the families decided to test the girls’ DNA, only to learn that they had a 99.9 percent match of being sisters.

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Calendar fragment with half-opened sheets in different angles

Sister search

Las Vegas local Rich Bodager’s parents had adopted him in 1968, and he was curious about his biological family. A 23andMe test produced a disturbing result: Someone one else in the company’s database was related to him—and she was his granddaughter. Bodager knew there was no way this could be right. The “granddaughter” eventually reached out to him. As it turned out, she was his half-sister and she had been looking for him for 15 years. Find out how childhood can actually change your DNA.

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A closeup shot of the feet of twin girl babies. Shot in the studio on a sheepskin rug.
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Surrogate scandal

Jessica Allen volunteered to become a surrogate mother to a couple of Chinese descent. After undergoing IVF, everyone was excited to learn that Allen was pregnant with twins. The pregnancy was easy for Allen and the babies were born perfectly healthy, according to the blog Eternal Lifestyle. But while one child clearly belonged to the couple, the other looked like Allen. A DNA analysis supported the eye test: One twin was the couple’s; the other child was the product of Allen and her husband Wardell Jackson.

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Scientists hold Various cell culture plates so isolated in the laboratory.

Setting the historical record straight

Knack, a Belgian news magazine, reports that journalist Jean-Paul Mulders and historian Marc Vermeeren tested Hitler’s relatives Y-chromosome DNA. They’ve found that along with German heritage, Hitler’s forebears also included Greeks, Sicilians, and North Africans. There are even traces of Ashkenazi Jews. “The purebred type of the übermensch, and the associated breeding programs to perfect that racial purity, have been pure inventions,” Professor Ronny Decorte, a genetics expert at KU Leuven University in Belgium, tells Knack. Next, find out what doctors have to say about whether or not genetic testing is worth it.