When Linda Ketchum asked her husband about an Ancestry DNA Kit for Christmas, it was just a lark. She had no family secrets to uncover, no genealogical secrets that needed answers. She was just curious.
"My father was German, and my mother was Scottish English," said Ketchum, from Glendale, California in the US, New York Post . "I thought it would be fun to learn about my genetic ethnicity to see how all the pieces came together."
But she ended far more than she expected.
When she visited the AncestryDNA website to see her DNA matches, there were no connections between her and her dad. In addition, at least two-thirds of Ketchum's games had Hispanic surnames.
"At first I did not believe it," she says. "But then I checked it over and over and I realized, oh my god, that means that I … I'm Hispanic! All those years, I thought I was German at my father's side, but suddenly it dawned on me that my father was not my real father and that I had a very different ethnicity. "
At age 51
As the only child whose parents had both died, she had no one to turn to. So she kept looking for AncestryDNA. She finally discovered the identity of her biological father Bill Chavez from New Mexico, who had died when Ketchum was just 17 years old.
"It somehow consumed me," says the eightfold mother. "I wonder sometimes, would my life have been different, if I had known before, my real father, my real grandparents, they all spoke fluent Spanish, I can not even speak a word of it!"
Although no one can confirm What she considers to be an affair between her mother and Bill Chavez claims she has had "flashbacks" since hearing from her real father. "I remember my mother took me to Bill's house when I was very young," she says. "I can see myself so clearly in this kitchen, Bill is sitting at the table and there's another woman in a pink dressing gown, she's friendly but not warm, I remember that his wife's name was Rose, I do not know whether the woman I met was his wife. "
She joined a secret Facebook community called DNA NPE Friends – NPE stands for" Not Parent Expected "- and not only found the support she needed she is far from being alone.
"I never noticed that there are so many others," says Ketchum. "DNA blasts family secrets everywhere in the country."
Never was the business better for "recreational genetics". The number of people who have analyzed their DNA – that includes sending saliva or cheeks tuberculosis to a genetic testing company like 23andMe, AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA or My Heritage – will double in 2017 with more than 12 million customers, or about Pay 1 in 25 American adults to decrypt their genes.
What These Companies The offer may sound appealing to anyone, even with the least interest in genealogy. For just $ 100 – the average cost of a genetic genealogy test – you can "get a fuller story from you," as AncestryDNA's website explains, or "Find new relatives you never knew existed "23andMe promises. 19659003] Only when you look at the fine print does the possibility of a genetic bomb become clearer: "You can discover things about yourself that may burden you and that you may not be able to control or alter," warns 23andMes Words (19659003) This burgeoning genealogy On Demand Market – which some projections claim could generate an estimated $ 60 billion in revenue by 2020 – has spawned its own unique syndrome. Call it PTDD: Post Traumatic DNA Test Result Disorder.
The NPE Facebook community, launched by Catherine St. Clair last summer, has up to 2,364 members despite the rigorous screening process (at the time of going to print). (You can not join the group unless you've actually pulled out the DNA carpet under it.) Lurkers do not need to apply.)
"People do not understand that it's really a major trauma," says St. Clair, a 56-year-old Texan who discovered through Ancestry.com that her biological father was not the same person she raised.
Because the homegenetics industry is still relatively new – the first tests were not commercially available until 2007 – there is no research into the long-term psychological implications of getting bad DNA news, says science writer Carl Zimmer, author of the recent book She has the laughter of her mother: the powers, perversions and potential of heredity. But, he adds, "There is evidence that some people have to struggle with test results for a long time, especially when they are not preparing for the possibility of a surprise."
This article originally appeared on the ] New York Post and was re-released with permission.