"Dear Brianne...I reached out to my unexpected half-sister but now I'm worried. Did I jump the gun?"

I recently received a message from someone who made an unexpected discovery of a new family member after doing DNA testing. The parents involved are all deceased, and the person who wrote me had written to her match (an apparent half-sister) welcoming her to the family. While she’s been waiting for a response, she’s begun to have regrets. Had she considered the other person’s reaction? Did she say the right thing?

As more NPE discoveries are made, these types of questions grow more frequent. Read my brief response to “Excited but Now Concerned” below.

Dear Brianne,

I found an unknown half sister from my father before he married my mum and had us five children. Both my parents had died years before I did my DNA test. In my excitement at finding her I made the mistake of making contact very soon after the discovery not realizing how this might affect her. I knew from her tree that both what she believed were her parents were deceased and thought she may also be as excited as me about the new found family member. I have not had any message from her and now I know how traumatic this must have been for her I am worried we will never have any contact. My last message to her explained how this must have come as a huge shock to her and while I may just be a DNA match to her in her eyes to me she will always be my sister and I will be willing and ready if she ever like to make contact.

-Excited but Now Concerned

Hi Excited but Now Concerned,

Thank you for reading and posting. It is hard to know the right thing to say, how quickly to write someone and then write them again. There are no guidebooks which means the good news is that there is no right or wrong. But the bad news…there are no second chances to make a first impression.

Think of response time from your match after a huge shock like an NPE discovery in terms of months or possibly years, rather than in days or weeks. In other words, a lack of a response right away doesn’t mean you will never hear back from her; she might need more time to process everything. The waiting can be grueling.

Consider also that she might not have seen your messages (yet). If she doesn't log into her DNA account often or doesn't have certain notification settings turned on, your messages may still be waiting to be read, held in her inbox by the DNA company.

As a last comment, are you matching her through 23andMe? Because if so, there are a number of cases I know of where a first cousin was errantly reported as a half sibling. There are a few different reasons for this.

Reach out if your match was reported by 23andMe -- I work with people one-on-one to investigate an unexpected DNA match more closely to figure out if the company might be misreporting the relationship and to explore all the possible reasons for the match, whether it could be human error, lab error or be explained by an unusual biological explanation.