Artificial city

DNA test reveals family-secret artificial insemination – the forward

It should have been a relaxing summer lunch with my maternal first cousins ​​and their wives, but my mind raced instead. I needed to ask a question that’s been going through my mind for months and I couldn’t wait. Pushing my plate aside, I spoke.

“I did an Ancestry DNA test and got confusing results. It showed that I am closely related to many people that I have never heard of and that I only have distant relatives. with a first cousin on my dad’s side. Do any of you know anything that might help explain this? “

My cousin Joanie’s husband responded immediately. “Everyone in the family knows you were conceived by artificial insemination,” he said. “We thought you knew. “

Stunned, I was speechless. “What did you say?” my wife, Melody, blurted out.

My cousin’s husband repeated his statement. At the age of 73, this astonishing revelation would turn everything I thought I knew about my family history upside down and propel me to another personal discovery that I never could have imagined.

Reviews | My wife gave me a Hanukkah DNA test kit. The family secrets he revealed changed my life

My journey began in 2017 when my wife gave me a DNA test in the mail as a Hanukkah gift. I completed the test but only looked at the results. After all, I thought I knew everything I needed to know about my family. What else can I learn from my DNA?

Three years later, with plenty of free time during the 2020 pandemic lockdown, I decided to take a closer look at my DNA test results: 100% Ashkenazi Jewish. There, no surprise. But when I looked at the names of the people I shared significant amounts of DNA with, I didn’t recognize any of them. Further study revealed that my first cousin Sheila, the daughter of my father’s sister, was listed as an eighth cousin on my DNA match list.

I didn’t understand any of this. I sent for another DNA test kit from Ancestry, thinking the results were wrong. A few months later, the results of the second test arrived: they were identical to the first.

My wife and I began to research my close but unrecognized DNA matches to figure out how I might relate to them. Through, I emailed six of the people identified as my first or first cousins ​​on my DNA correspondence list; only one responded. He had done extensive research on his own family which he generously shared, but we both were left in awe of our new DNA connection. I combed Ancestry databases for historical details of my other DNA matches and searched online for recent information about them. We have learned a lot about individuals and their families for several generations, but nothing explained how I was related to these strangers.

Reviews | My wife gave me a Hanukkah DNA test kit. The family secrets he revealed changed my life

Six months later, the answer didn’t seem any closer than when I had started. Frustrated and hopeless, I turned to a genealogist friend, Donna Bouley Goldstein, for help. She suggested that I send a certified copy of my birth certificate to New York, as well as do a DNA test through another provider, 23andMe, to see if I could find more DNA matches in their database. .

In the meantime, Donna began making lists of my DNA matches known to my mother’s family, my father’s family, and those who were not related to either of my parents. Donna’s careful analysis confirmed what I was beginning to suspect: I was not my father’s biological son.

My mind was spinning. Born to working-class parents in the Bronx in the late 1940s, I knew nothing unusual about my past. We had a large and extended family, and we frequently shared Jewish holidays and family celebrations with them. No one had mentioned that I was the product of anything other than traditional conception and birth. I couldn’t understand how this genetic inconsistency could have happened. With my parents, aunts and uncles, and my only deceased brother, there was no one to ask.

To add to the mystery, a recently published article by Mother Jones about a group of 19 strangers who discovered through home DNA testing that they were half-siblings. All of the half-siblings were born in the Bronx in the 1940s and 1950s, all had been fathered by the same sperm donor, and all had been delivered by the same group of obstetricians. I, too, was born in the Bronx in the 1940s and was conceived by artificial insemination. I wondered if I could be a part of this growing group.

Donna suggested that I contact some of my first cousins ​​on my mother’s side to ask if they would take the ancestry DNA test to confirm I was related to them. “Prepare for a possible surprise if you do this,” I warned my cousins. “I’m going to have my DNA tested with my eyes wide open,” replied a cousin.

Reviews | My wife gave me a Hanukkah DNA test kit. The family secrets he revealed changed my life

When my cousins’ results came back, they proved that we were indeed first cousins ​​as we had believed; I was still my mother’s son, not a complete stranger in my skin as I feared. But I still couldn’t identify my biological father.

The response arrived on September 25, 2021, in a simple white envelope containing a certified true copy of my original birth certificate issued by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and signed by the physician. who gave birth to me. Donna, Melody, and I started scouring the internet for information on my mother’s obstetrician to see if he was related to the Bronx group of doctors who gave birth to 19 half-siblings.

What we found was even more shocking: many names in the obstetrician’s family tree were identical to the names of my unexplained DNA matches.

My mother’s obstetrician was my biological father.

A few days after learning who my biological father was, the results of the 23AndMe DNA test arrived with more amazing news: I had two half-brothers, both given birth and conceived by artificial insemination by the same obstetrician as me. A half-brother is a doctor – like our biological father and me.

During my many months trying to figure out my mysterious DNA matches, I learned from a parent that my parents had difficulty conceiving a child. I guess they enlisted the help of a doctor who was familiar with the cutting edge infertility work done by some of his fellow staff at the hospital where I was born. I learned from Donna that the prevailing wisdom of the 1940s and 1950s was that parents say absolutely nothing to infants born through artificial insemination for fear of causing permanent psychological damage.

I thought deeply about the possible motivation of my mother’s obstetrician to practice artificial insemination. Could it be for money? The excitement of being involved in a cutting edge medical procedure? In post-war New York City, could it have been to increase the world’s Jewish population? I chose to believe it was empathy for a childless couple who wanted to start a family.

I will never know what my parents knew about the identity of their sperm donor. It can be argued that it would have been ethically simpler to use another man’s sperm, and why my biological father did not choose this option remains unclear. What is clear is that I feel indebted to him for what he did to bring me into the world. Without her efforts to help an infertile couple conceive, I would not have been born and my two children and five grandchildren would not exist.

Equally important is that I remain deeply grateful to my mom and dad for the love we shared and the many sacrifices they made on my behalf. My dad will always be my dad and my family will always be my family, no matter how much DNA we have shared or not.

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