11 Times DNA Testing Changed Lives

When it comes to DNA testing, the results can be life-changing. Millions of people are now getting direct-to-consumer top notch DNA tests, by companies like 23andMe or Ancestry.com and many of them are finding surprises within their genome. Some of these are good surprises, while other times people wish they had never taken the DNA test. Below are some of the most interesting stories to have surfaced.

Reader Beware! Not all of these stories have a happy ending….


Woman Finds “Dad” is Not Biological Father


Rose Mayeux took a DNA test to learn more about her Italian heritage. To her surprise, the test came back saying she had no Italian heritage whatsoever. Thinking the results were incorrect, she had her brother take the test. His results came back as 58% Italian, roughly in line with her known family history.

But, Rose found another surprise within her results. The results showed clearly that Rose and her brother were half-siblings, sharing only a mother. Come to find out, Rose had other half-siblings on the site. After confirming her relationship and reaching out to them, Rose found that her biological father was a man who had lived down the street when she was a child, with a family of his own. Though Rose was disappointed her parents had kept this secret from her, she is now happy to have more family members and a better understanding of her family history. She wouldn’t necessarily recommend paternity tests to those wanting it. 


Fertility Doc Secretly Impregnates over 50 patients


You can file this next story under “Disturbing”.

Typically, DNA testing is used to confirm your ethnicity and family history. For most people, there will be minimal surprises. But for 50+ people conceived at a certain fertility clinic, the surprise turned to outrage.

Knowing she was conceived by a donor, Jacoba Ballard began looking for half-siblings using DNA testing and matching services. After finding over a dozen matches, Ballard began to put the pieces together. All of the matches led back to a single man, Donald Cline, the doctor of a fertility clinic her mother had used.

More and more results popped up, and Ballard eventually joined a group of 50+ people, all of who had been fathered by Cline. Cline, throughout his time as a fertility clinician, repeatedly mixed his own sperm with the samples he was supposed to be using. Because of this, there are an untold amount of children fathered with his genes. These people are now in their 40’s, and are just now figuring out that Cline was their biological father thanks to the information from DNA tests.


Switched at Birth


Have you ever felt like you were stolen away from your real family, and placed with strangers? For most of us, this is a fun thought that allows us to distance ourselves from crazy family members. But, for Sandra Pyne and Debra Zaffuto, this story was their reality.

After taking a DNA test, Pyne noted that she had relatives on the platform she used. Not only this, but one of the matches claimed to be a “full sister”. This woman was Debra.

But Pyne already had a sister, born on September 22, 1942. When Sandra contacted Debra, she found that Debra was also born on September 22, 1942, and in the exact same hospital as her younger sister. Apparently, the hospital had sent the wrong baby home with Sandra’s family, leaving Debra with their family. After over 60 years apart, DNA tests allowed the families to figure out what had happened, and the sisters were reunited.


DNA Testing Serves Justice after 34 Years


In 1984, a 25-year-old Navy seaman named Pamela Cahanes was brutally beaten, raped, and subsequently died in an abandoned parking lot near Jacksonville, Florida. In March 2019, someone was finally arrested for her murder.

Though police had found DNA evidence from the killer at the scene of the crime, their limited databases proved to have no matches. With the advent of modern DNA testing and genetic libraries, police were able to turn the tables. By creating a family tree of the killer based on genetic similarities found with DNA testing, the police were able to narrow down their suspect list. This list included a Thomas Lewis Garner, a dental hygienist, now 59 years old.

So, the police watched, and they waited. When Garner threw out some trash on his way to work, policemen quickly recovered the items from the trashcan. They matched his DNA directly to the DNA found at the crime scene. 34 years later, and justice was finally served to Garner, who is now facing murder and rape charges.


Best Friends Discovered They Are Biological Brothers


Two highschool friends from Hawaii who have maintained a tight relationship over more than 60 years, and connected because they were both adopted, have decided to use Ancestry.com to find their biological ancestry. To their surprise, the DNA test results discovered they are in-fact half brothers who share the same mother. Unfortunately, their mother has passed by the time they use a home DNA kit, but their families were thrilled by the discovery because they felt as one family even prior to the surprising results.


Confused Artificial Insemination


If you thought that the doctor who inseminated his patients was disturbing, other reports have shown that fertility treatments of the 1960s often included mixing two samples of sperm together, though typically from a donor and not the doctor.

This practice, known as confused artificial insemination, was a process used to make sterile men feel like they had contributed to the conception of a child. While this is physically impossible, the practice was used heavily to avoid the negative stigmas men might experience if people knew they were impotent.

Dani Shapiro, conceived from donor-sourced artificial insemination, recently found out that her parents were one of the many couples who had undergone confused artificial insemination by taking a DNA ancestry test. This test led to a deeper understanding of her history, and of the historical stigmas associated with fertility clinics and couples trying to get pregnant.


Adopted Sisters from South Korea Find Each other 40 years later


Imagine living in the same city as one of your siblings, with no idea that they were related to you. This was the case for Jen Frantz and Janine Dzyubanny, two adopted sisters originally from South Korea. Both siblings were adopted too young to have any memories of their family, and both were seeking answers through genetic testing services.

One message, from Janine to Jen, unlocked their entire history.

“I just got my results back. I think you and I might be sisters,” the note said.

Long story short, the sisters decided to do more research. They found that they had been found at a Police Station in South Korea, and were eventually adopted out by the same agency. However, they had found placements in different American families. Amazingly, 42 years later they found themselves only an hour from each other, and the sisters are now trying to make up for all the time they missed out on.


The Lie of Ethnicity


The difference between culture and ethnicity is a fine line. If you think otherwise, just look at the intriguing case of Sigrid E. Johnson. Sigrid grew up in a black neighborhood, with mixed-race parents that identified as black. Sigrid went to a traditionally black college and formed her identity around this notion of race and ethnicity.

However, she also learned when she was 16 that she had been adopted. So, when DNA tests became popular, Sigrid decided to take a test. To her surprise, she was only 3% African. Mostly, she was Hispanic, Middle Eastern, and European; cultures she knew nothing about.

Sigrid’s story illuminates the power of DNA tests to challenge our preconceived notions of race and ethnicity. Just because your skin is a certain color, or your parents have told you one story, does not mean that your genes aren’t hiding another version of the truth.


Not My Biological Father


If you feel like some of the results from DNA tests cause more anxiety than they are worth, you would not be alone. In fact, a significant group of people who receive genetic testing face what is known as a Non-Paternity Event or NPE. In short, this means your dad is not your biological father.

The Facebook group NPE Friends Fellowship is a support group for people who have found this disturbing news. While the group started with 20 members in the first week it was created, over 1,000 people have now found and joined the group. Members help each other connect with lost relatives, and help each other deal with the rejection that can sometimes come with contacting biological parents and family members.


Gaining a Family


While some stories end in rejection, others end in happiness. For Whit Johnson, an ABC news reporter, good things came from his decision to get DNA tested. In fact, Whit gained an uncle.

After taking a genetic ancestry test, Whit looked at his possible connections. Though his father had no known siblings because he had been adopted, his results showed that someone out there was very closely related to his father. He had his father take a DNA test, and the platform showed clearly that Whit’s father had an unknown brother.

After contacting his estranged uncle, the family reconnected. The brothers were strikingly similar, and have developed a great friendship since finding each other via DNA testing.


DNA Tests Reveals Years of Infidelity


While DNA tests are most often used by children seeking to understand their biological roots, DNA testing can also be used by suspicious fathers to test their children. One such father, Christopher, found out the hard way that his wife had been cheating for years and lying to him about it.

After taking his own DNA test, Christopher also bought one for his 15-year-old daughter. Christopher had suspicions, though he had never caught his wife cheating. Two weeks after the results came in, Christopher filed for divorce. The test proved that his daughter was not really his and that his wife had been cheating for some time. Tough break!


My Dad, The Traveling Guitarist


While these stories may seem terrifying, how you take the results is up to you. Katy Canning, for instance, found out that her “dad” was not her biological father. In fact, she found out that her actual father had been a traveling guitarist named Baron Duncan. Not only that, but she also found that Duncan had gone on to have 4 other children with various partners. But Canning didn’t let it get her down.

“People are smart enough and capable, they can make sense of it,” she said about the situation.

Canning went on to meet her new siblings, got her mom to confess to the affair, and has a better understanding of herself. Plus, her non-biological father was supportive the entire time. In his view, a DNA test doesn’t matter.

“Family isn’t just blood, but family is what you make it, and family is your heart.”


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Sarah Smith
Sarah Smith
4 years ago

I was dating two different men during the time I could have become pregnant with my daughter. Now that she is having some health problems, I would like to figure out who her father is so we know more about her medical history. Your information that DNA results can help you find not only your parents, but also people who are closely related to them is very helpful. We will start looking into a DNA testing company.

4 years ago

Awesome post. Thank you so much.