The Gift of DNA

I was folding the laundry so I didn’t actually see the commercial, I just heard it, but I nearly hit the ceiling. One of the big ‘trace your family history’ websites was suggesting that people give genealogical DNA reports as holiday gifts to loved ones. I’m sure that finding out you’re 50% Scotch or 100% Eastern European, might be amusing, but can you imagine the scene around the Christmas Tree or at the table full of latkes when the members of a family open their reports and discover…That they are NOT all pretty much the same.

Imagine the tall, thin, dark-eyed sibling “discovering” that he has a family history that doesn’t match his short, chubby, grey-eyed brother? One report might say 50% Greek/50% Scotch-Irish, while the other report was 80% Scotch-Irish/20% German. Just picture the brothers looking at mom and wondering… Not to mention what dad would think.

The story possibilities are unlimited.

Now, for some of us, a DNA-based analysis of our ancestry is simply going to confirm what we already know. I’ve seen enough photos of my maternal grandmother’s family to know where my cousins and I get our curly hair and hazel eyes. I’ve got other traits from my dad’s side and nothing—not even my (lack of) height is a surprise. I wonder if a little wildcard DNA—perhaps the evidence of a great grandmother’s dalliance with a stranger visiting her shtetl (Yiddish for a small town) would pop in the report. There might be a little story in that.

But the commercial brought to mind big, ugly family scenes, conflicts over wills, accusations of adultery and even a murder or two. Do those website folks have any idea what they might inspire?

A hair selfie...

A hair selfie…



  1. -giggles- I love the hair selfie but HATE the idea of cheap DNA testing ruining lives. Like you, I resemble all my relies so no chance of adoption or other shenanigan there. Nevertheless, getting that confirmed by DNA would imply both a complete lack of trust and a horrible invasion of privacy.

    Of course with fiction, I could be a little more flexible. 😀

    • Candy Korman

      Glad you get it. The Ancestry DNA report could be a crazy opener for a story—or an out-of-the-box way to wrap-up a novel, but it’s a strange idea for a holiday present in real life. We all know people who simply don’t look like the rest of their family. The truth might be a painful revelation—a rape, an affair, a secret adoption—or it could be absolutely nothing. But the idea of a family group opening up their reports together and unveiling evidence of a mystery.

    • Candy Korman

      And I was thinking BLACKMAIL and the crazy sibling competition that comes from competing claims on an estate.