“Objects may appear closer than they are…” - self-identity reflections from Maggy’s NPE discovery at age 54

“Objects may appear closer than they are…” - self-identity reflections from Maggy’s NPE discovery at age 54

Today we’re lucky enough to share a post entitled “Objects may appear closer than they are…” written in 2013 by a woman named Maggy. We’ve heard from others who discover they are NPEs (not the parent expected) in our #DNASurprise series of guest blog posts, but what happens when this discovery comes later in life? After you’ve spent five decades thinking you know the ins and outs of your family tree?

When Maggy was 54 years old, she discovered that her mother wasn’t who she thought she was. Throughout the ups and downs of her discovery, Maggy has shared insightful blog posts – cathartic not only for her but also providing valuable insight to others going through similar experiences. Throughout her post, we see the theme of identity, and how DNA surprises can impact a person’s sense of self and belonging.

Brief explainer on a first versus second cousin

Brief explainer on a first versus second cousin

What’s the difference between a first cousin, a first cousin, once removed and a second cousin? I get this question a lot! I usually end up explaining it at least once during Thanksgiving dinner each year.

Cousins who share a set of grandparents because their parents are full siblings are first cousins.

Cousins who share one grandparent because their parents are half siblings are half-first-cousins.

Cousins who share a set of great-grandparents because their parents are first cousins and their grandparents are siblings are second cousins.

“Removed” comes in when the two people in questions are from different generations.

A bit about sibling DNA sharing, in honor of National Sibling Day

A bit about sibling DNA sharing, in honor of National Sibling Day

Did you know that by textbook definition, full siblings (brothers and sisters who share a common mother AND father) are supposed to have about 50% of their DNA in common? From projects like the crowd-sourced data collection project by DNA Central founder Blaine Bettinger — The Shared cM Project explained well in this post by Leah Larkin — we have learned that human biology doesn’t always follow the rules!

DNA testing and family medical history: a short intro for genealogists

DNA testing and family medical history: a short intro for genealogists

Genealogists are a creative bunch, and I love to read about the information they discover and record about family. Some genealogists track down death certificates and record the official cause of death for ancestors. Others learn medical history from living relatives and write that down. I quietly applaud when I read about someone finding and saving medical information on ancestors and relatives like this!

As a genetic counselor and genealogist, family medical history will always be an important in my eyes. This information is difficult to retrieve once relatives pass away.  

MTHFR - a new article on Self.com lays out the facts

MTHFR - a new article on Self.com lays out the facts

There is a lot of misinformation spreading online about a gene all of us have called MTHFR. (We each have two copies it, actually: one from mom and one from dad.)

Self Magazine published an article this week specifically addressing the MTHFR gene and all the facts we know about it. It was written by Tara C. Smith, a person with a PhD in epidemiology. Epidemiology is the study of how different factors influence the health of people, and those with a PhD are trained to understand the outcome of studies at both the group level (large populations) and at the individual level (YOU!).

I read this article yesterday and feel like it is the BEST ARTICLE to date on MTHFR. It will be accessible to most readers, no matter your level of knowledge about DNA or genetics research.

To Birth Wives…there is growing support for you if you’re the wife of husbands in reunion with a daughter newly-found from DNA Testing

To Birth Wives…there is growing support for you if you’re the wife of husbands in reunion with a daughter newly-found from DNA Testing

One by one, women have begun to reach out to me. They describe a similar scenario.

Their husbands were unaware they had fathered a child in the past (typically, it's a daughter).

That child is now an adult.

Consumer DNA testing helped reunite the adult child with their father.

These situations involve a lot of emotions for everyone, including the adult child, the father, his wife/significant other, and other children in the family.

A brief note about the diabetes risk report from 23andMe

23andMe released a new health report this week, and it's quite a bit different from the other types of reports they've released in the past.

Most conditions that affect people (like type 2 diabetes) are complex in origin, meaning that even if it's "genetic," it's not necessarily easily-tested by DNA. This is due to reasons such as polygenic factors being influenced by environmental factors (diet, smoking, exercise, etc.). Polygenic refers to the fact that there can be dozens - if not hundreds or THOUSANDS - of genetic factors involved, each one having only a tiny impact on overall risk.

This is what you'll eventually see if you keep scrolling down your 23andMe report, and it's important to read and understand these things before you take anything away from your diabetes risk as reported by 23andMe. It’s important to know what a DNA test can’t tell you, as much as what it can.

Here’s the list of limitations you’ll see if you keep scrolling down your 23andMe report.

Here’s the list of limitations you’ll see if you keep scrolling down your 23andMe report.

Interested in reading more about this topic?

  • This article in MIT Technology Review brings some good points to the discussion.

  • This article by Jeanette McCarthy on Precision Medicine Advisors reviews polygenic risk scores, including a section on why they are controversial and not everyone agrees they are ready for prime time.

  • This article on the International Society of Genetic Genealogy wiki gives a good introduction to polygenic risks scores as well and is written by a PRS researcher.

If you are looking for a licensed and certified genetic counselor’s help in understanding your report, reach out or schedule with me. I’ll be happy to go through it and answer your questions!

Recent coverage of DNA surprise support groups by major media outlets

Recent coverage of DNA surprise support groups by major media outlets

The news of just how many people receive surprises about their family matching from DNA tests is spreading.

As a genetic counselor and genealogy enthusiast, I saw this coming years ago (2014) when the first people began finding their way to me in search of support and information.

In anticipation of the growth, I’ve accumulated many resources and posted them freely on my website, I’ve posted the stories of those who have been through these experiences as guest blog posts, and started and administer secret support groups on Facebook.

DNA Quest program increases available free DNA tests by 5,000

Nearly a year ago, the genealogy/DNA testing company MyHeritage announced the roll-out of a program they call DNA Quest. They asked me to be part of the volunteer advisory board for this project, a program aimed to take down the barrier of DNA test cost to searching adoptees and the birth family members searching for them. Last week at a genealogy conference called RootsTech, MyHeritage announced an extension of DNA Quest to provide free testing to an additional 5,000 participants. Share the news with family and friends who you think may be interested!

Podcasts for the Genetic Counselor audience

Podcasts for the Genetic Counselor audience

I don’t know about you, but I love a good podcast! It gives me something to listen to in the car when driving into the city for an appointment, while out for a neighborhood stroll with my youngest, or folding my family of five’s never-ending laundry piles. This is a reason I am PUMPED that there are now FIVE podcasts in genetic counseling world that can be added to my list! Call me biased since I’ve had the great fortune to be a guest on three of them, but these recordings allow a window into the unique aspects of the work of genetic counselors. Click below to find out more about the topics and guests who have been a part of these podcasts!

Sesquizygotic twins...who knew that could happen?

Sesquizygotic twins...who knew that could happen?

The New England Journal of Medicine recently released a paper on an extremely rare set of boy/girl sesquizygotic twins. Early in the pregnancy, it was noted on ultrasound that the twins shared a placenta, indicating they were likely identical twins. Sesquizygotic twins have been reported in the literature before, but this is reportedly the first case of it being detected during a pregnancy.