The recent advent of genetics and DNA biology has permitted people to look deeper into their genealogy and solidify ties with their roots. The new science can verify people’s ancestral genealogical relationships so precisely that their interest in their lineage has long moved beyond a narrow focus on their immediate family. Now their curiosity extends to their primordial relatives and ethnic origins whose traces have been swallowed up with the passage of time. Satisfied by scientific achievements, people’s desire to learn more about their ancestry has sprung complete surprises on them, revealing to them such consanguineous connections they never thought conceivable in their families.
To some people, these genealogical revelations were so stunning that, refusing to believe them, they turned to different testing companies for confirmation of the initial findings. Knowing that the existing testing companies use different ethnic reference groups that consist of living test persons with unknown pre-census time origins and, because of this, they could sometimes obtain dissimilar results, people tried to ascertain which were the best DNA kits on offer. The results of their enquiries showed that the DNA kits created by the testing companies differed not so much in prices and accuracy but in the questions their research answered. Thus, Ancestry DNA is proven to be a good source to seek answers to questions about your immediate family connections. Family Tree DNA lets you go further back in history and link your DNA to early human migration. Yet regardless of the purpose of your search, you need to prepare yourself to be flabbergasted by discoveries. Revelations about your ancestral bonds or ethnicity may indeed shock you beyond belief and will require you to come to terms with your new identity.
Driven by natural curiosity to learn more about themselves, the people whose stories are told below did not expect to light upon anything startling, when they filled in their applications for the DNA test. Yet what they later learned about their ancestry proved to be so unanticipated that they had to struggle to accept the truth.
10 Most Shocking DNA Test Results
Sylvia Knapp always wondered why she looked different from her siblings and parents. Nobody in her family was swarthy and raven-haired as she was. Because on both sides, her relatives had lighter skin and lighter hair, Sylvia often indulged in fantasies about her different origin. As she grew older, the difference between her and her siblings only intensified. On all family photos, she distinctly stood out with her dark complexion and black hair, so sharply dissimilar to her fair brothers and sisters.
After watching a television program about DNA tests, Sylvia sent her DNA samples to Family Tree DNA. The results of the test left Sylvia speechless. She did belong to her parents, she discovered, yet her ancestry consisted not only of white Caucasians but also of South Asians. The test claimed that Sylvia had a full-blooded Hindu ancestor from the last century whose dark looks she miraculously inherited. The company suggested that some of her ancestors had originated in South India and had lived among the inhabitants of present-day southern India 20,000 years ago. The story of the Indian ancestry sounded even more exotic than all her childhood fantasies about the adoptive family. As it often does, life has proved to be much zanier than the flights of human fancy.
The daughter of the famous Russian actor Sergey Taverin, Tatiana Taverina, was unpleasantly surprised when, soon after her father’s death, she received a telephone call from a man who introduced himself as Kirill Dubaev. The reason for his call was his putative kinship with the Taverins. Dubaev explained that he was Sergey Taverin’s son born by a woman who was employed as a scenic designer in the same theatre where Taverin worked in the early eighties. Dubaev added that he had known the identity of his father from his childhood but refrained from getting in touch with Tatiana while Taverin was alive lest their blood ties gained publicity and negatively affected the actor’s image. Tatiana recoiled in disgust from Dubaev’s words. What he said was so out of her father’s character that the news sounded like calumniation. Yet, irritated by his false claims to kinship with her family, she decided to explain to him the absurdity of his behavior face-to-face. What she saw alarmed her: the man was a spitting image of her diseased father.
With a growing sense of panic, Tatiana listened to Dubaev’s story about her father’s infatuation with the scenic designer that led to his birth. And yet, she thought, his resemblance to the famous actor may be accidental and now brazenly exploited for his needs. A firmer proof than physical likeness was required. Before leaving the restaurant where they met, Tatiana took one of Dubaev’s chopsticks with which he ate sushi. This chopstick she later sent to America to LivingDNA together with her own DNA samples, firmly determined to prove Dubaev wrong. The results of the DNA test were sickening. LivingDNA established an irrefutable blood connection between Dubaev and Taverina, confirming the actor’s fatherhood of both of them.
Miles Kingemann would never believe that in his well-regulated, respectful life could be a room for adultery and lies coming straight from the script of a low-budget soap opera. But when his father died, consumed by lung cancer, the reality brought to light the secrets that his mother had been keeping from him for almost forty years. Once, when Miles was paying to his mother a Sunday visit, she blurted out that his father, whom they had recently buried, was not his biological father. Miles brushed off his mother’s story, rather inclined to explain its content as a segment of her grief-stricken imagination. After giving her confession a second thought, however, he posted his DNA samples to AncestryDNA in the hope of rebutting his mother’s extravagant hints at her fornication.
But when he looked at the test’s results, Miles’s head began to spin. There was no trace in his DNA of his distinctly German father. He had a high percent of the Irish blood which came down to him from his mother lineage. But he also had a vivid presence of the French and Italian ancestors in his DNA. His real biological father must have been either French or Italian, or a mixture of both. His mother’s story about her dalliance with a French student at the time when she was about to get married to Tobias Kingemann bore out the findings of Ancestry DNA.
The mother explained that for a long time, she had not been sure whose son Miles was. It is only when his evident mathematical abilities started to shine through that she realized that she had conceived by the French lover, whose mathematical talent had been widely recognized in college. Embittered by his mother’s confession, Miles decided to look for a silver line in the cloud that suddenly hung over his life, mentally thanking his unknown French father for the gift of mathematics that he had accidentally given him.
Rebecca Ferrero was always upset that, like many modern families, she knew nothing about her origin beyond her grandparents. Born in Italy, she remembered well her paternal grandmother and grandfather, who lived well into their nineties. She also had childhood memories of her maternal grandmother, whom the family buried, when Rebecca was in her teens. The family legend also had it that her maternal grandfather, lieutenant Mancini, heroically died a few days before the World War II was officially over. But beyond the generation of her grandparents, there lied a vast area of unknowingness that Rebecca was determined to explore.
Expecting to hear a romantic story about her Italian ancestors coming to Italy after the fall of Troy, she submitted her application to Family Tree DNA. The content of the company’s findings, however, left Rebecca puzzled and slightly disappointed. Instead of Italian ancestors springing from Aeneas and Julius Caesar, her family consisted almost entirely of Greeks on her mother side, while her father’s family boasted mostly the Celts-related ancestry. The Italian blood seems to have been mixed with the Celtic and Greek bloodlines not earlier than four generations ago. Astonished by the cultural traces that her DNA absorbed, Rebecca was motivated to reconsider her attitude to the Greek ancient history and learn English, the language she had always considered crude and void of melodicity.
Andrew Bullock was adopted by the Bullocks from an orphanage in the age of several months and was never told about his biological parents. Afraid to drive their son away by admitting that he was not related to them by blood, Andrew’s parents always kept silent about his adoption. It is only after his mother died, when he was in his early fifties, that Andrew heard about the orphanage and the car crash that had cut short the lives of his young biological parents. Not overtaken by sadness but rather feeling curious about his roots, Andrew contacted AncestryDNA and prepared to be enlightened about his origins. What he was told by the company amazed him. Reared in the USA, he assumed that his biological parents must have been of Irish descent, like the Bullocks.
But his ancestry proved to be almost entirely Slavic with several percent of Mongolic ethnicity thrown into the mix. Somewhere in the 13th century, some Mongol warrior’s blood flowed into his genetic code, when the Mongol Empire conquered the Eastern and Central Europe. Blown away by the revelation that his forefathers had inhabited a distant land and had different customs, Andrew checked out the flights to Poland from where his ancestors seem to have originated and flew there with his sons, paying warm tribute to the nation whose DNA he shared.
When Astar Mazandarani came to study at the University of Birmingham from Iran, she was glad to join the Persian student community that comprised both Iranian immigrants and the British students of Persian descent. During the celebration of Nowrus, the Persian New Year, Astar met a sophomore student, whose family came to the United Kingdom in the seventies from Tehran. Hamid did not speak a word in Persian, but physically he was no different from all Persian men whom Astar was used to see on the streets of Isfahan’s Jolfa quarter, where she had lived until her departure to England. Astar’s friendship with Hamid quickly developed into love, and already by the next Nowrus, her father had arrived to the UK to discuss her engagement with Hamid’s family.
During the negotiations, somebody suggested, perhaps jokingly, to do a DNA test to verify that both parties were purely Persians. Although, unlike Western families, Persians can easily draw their family genealogical tree up to ten generations back in history, neither party dared to oppose the suggestion lest others thought it had something disrespectful to hide in the family. Applications to MyHeritage DNA were promptly filled, tests taken and mailed for the analysis. On receiving the results of Hamid’s DNA test, his family was surprised to learn that the Persian blood was not dominant in him. According to MyHeritage DNA, Hamid’s genetic composition was 76 percent Arabian.
He also had a small mixture of Eastern African and Central Asian ancestries. Still bigger surprises awaited the Mazandarani family. Although Astar had a typically Persian family name and practiced Islam, she was told by the company that she had a large percentage of the Armenian blood running through her veins. Her Armenian ancestors mixed with the Persians in the early 17th century, when they were relocated from their Armenian lands by Shah Abbas to Isfahan’s Jolfa quarter. Why her Armenian ancestors did not retain Christianity, like other Iranian Armenians, but integrated into the Iranian population and Islamized remains a mystery that her family perhaps will want to solve in the future.
When Barry Altergott’s newborn daughter was shown to him in the hospital, a feeling of sudden fear came over him, mixed with a vivid sense of déjà vu. The baby was dark-skinned. Barry’s alarm was caused not so much by the nauseating suspicion of his white wife’s disloyalty; he did not even listen to her vehement asseverations to the contrary. What was particularly distressing in the looks of his new born daughter is that they resurrected the memories of another dark-skinned baby whose existence had long been blotted out in his mind. More than ten years ago, Barry similarly contemplated the dark complexion of the baby cradled in the hands of his first wife, bitterly convinced in her infidelity.
Harsh accusations and divorce then followed, after which both his wife and the baby sunk into oblivion only to come into his life back now, with a vengeance. Knowing that lightning never strikes the same place twice and that the dark skin of his two children by the white women cannot be coincidental, Barry sent his and his daughter’s DNA samples to 23andMe to receive a complete analysis of their genetic makeup. The results of this analysis filled Barry with the excruciating sense of waste. Not only was the newborn girl 97 percent his child but he himself was identified as having African ancestry. The company estimated that he had black forebears several generations back. It is his African ancestors’ complexion that his children inherited, even though he and both his wives looked and identified themselves as unequivocally white.
Nikola Caron always knew that his French family had Italian roots. His paternal great grandfather, Giuliano Tuoni, relocated to the south of France in search of more stable income than he could find in his native San Remo. The family lore has it that he had done well in his new country, assimilating comfortably into the French community, though till the last days he retained unmistakable traces of Italian grammar in his French speech. Nikola always felt that his Italian great grandfather’s spirit was miraculously present in him and guided his choices in food, music, and clothes, all of which had a distinct Italian flavor. Nicola’s friends and later girlfriends also were mostly of Italian origin. When the advertisements of different DNA companies began to be broadcasted on all television channels, and when more and more people became obsessed with learning about their genealogical code, Nicola also fell under the sway of the general infatuation with DNA tests.
Suddenly curious to know the exact percentage of the Italian heritage in his mostly French blood, he sent his saliva sample to LivingDNA and spent a few weeks impatiently waiting for the company’s verdict. When he opened the envelope with the reply, the blood rushed to his face. His immediate impulse was to call the report incorrect, because it clearly stated that together with the French and 16 percent of Italian ancestries, he had 3 percent of African Haplogroup L lineage. The paper said that his DNA carried also sub-Saharan African component, explaining that his African forefathers could have arrived to Italy 10,000 years ago or could have dated to the later time of the Roman Empire. The indication of the African ancestors in his DNA was so shocking to Nicola that he refused to take the results of his DNA test as even remotely scientific. He was not prepared to recalibrate his French and Italian identity and make a room in it for even a few percent of the African ancestry.
The only distinguishing feature in her character Sasha Balewa considered to be her musical talents. From an early age, she could sing American rock and jazz songs, which she later learned to accompany by an acoustic guitar. But as Sasha grew older, she discovered that her biography has another curious mark – the identity of her father, whom she had never known. When she was old enough to absorb painful information without being thrown off, her mother told Sasha the story of her brief passionate encounter with a Finish rock musician who achieved the peak of popularity in his country at the time when Sasha was conceived.
Sasha’s teenage mother met the musician during his brief vacation in the USA and spent a few evenings in his hotel room. Only after his departure did she discover that she was pregnant. She never tried to track the musician down and tell him about his daughter, convinced that all traces of his holiday had long vanished from his memory and that he would not want to acknowledge his responsibility for Sasha’s birth. But Sasha, after she heard her mother’s discloser of her father’s identity, thought differently about the whole affair. Having spent some time on internet, she found that her biological father was still a public figure in his country, though he was dallying more with politics now than with rock music. He also was married and had children.
Contrary to her mother’s expectations, the musician replied to Sasha’s email but, as she suspected, remembered nothing about his voyage to the USA nineteen years ago. When Sasha offered him to take a DNA test, he unexpectedly agreed, though he thought it rather a waste of time, certain that the young American girl was simply craving for publicity. When the results from National Geographic confirmed his fatherhood, the musician stared at the company’s letter in sheer bewilderment. Not opposed to the idea of having another daughter to support, he had rather a genuine difficulty in recollecting who her mother was. Some old photos, he hoped, might cause the memories of her face to flood back to him.
Peter Rotaru was the only person in all his Romanian extended family who had blue eyes and naturally blonde hair. Although some of his cousins were less dark than others, nobody in the whole family could recall any member on any side who flaunted such light blonde hair as Peter did. Curious to learn more about their ancestry, Peter’s sister sent her DNA sample to 23andMe, hoping to find truth about Peter’s hair color. The results of the DNA tests amused the whole family: in their mixture of the Romanian and Turkish ancestors were thrown a small percentage of the Scandinavian ones, with whom blond hair color is believed to have originated. As researches on Scandinavians show, the pigmentation of both hair and eyes is the lightest in the Scandinavia and around the Baltic Sea area. Although several later migrations to the region had changed the Scandinavian gene pool, the Rotaru’s family still traced its history to the early Scandinavians who had passed their gene of fair blond hair to Peter down through many centuries.
There is definitely a hunger in everyone of us to know who we are and where we came from. The development of the DNA biology has made possible the satisfaction of our desires to learn about our genetic roots. Yet it is always good to remember that not every discovery may be what we expect to hear about ourselves. We may inadvertently be plunged into a struggle to regain a sense of our identity after we hear our DNA results.