It was a casual day when her brother walked into the living room. He had an at-home ancestry kit in his hand, lately, he had been talking about wanting to know more about his Scandinavian roots.
He told his sister that he had bought the kit with the neighbor, who had his own. They had no idea what they were getting themselves into.
Mary Elizabeth Keaton
When Mary Elizabeth Keaton moved to Glendale, Missouri, she’d only wanted to live out the rest of her life in a quiet neighborhood with her loved ones.
She’d led a long life full of triumphs and mistakes equally. But one mistake that dogged her for the last forty-four years would come back to haunt her.
Settling In Missouri
Mary was fifty-nine years old when she settled in Glendale with her husband Mark and her little brother Gary. Her two kids were off to college, and the house was mostly empty, especially when she was off to work.
A biology teacher in the local high school with a beautiful home and wonderful neighbors, most people who saw Mary wouldn’t know that she had a terrible secret she’d kept hidden for more than four decades.
In The Past
Before Mary met Mark, she’d been in love. Or at least that’s what she thought. She was fifteen when she met the boy who stole her heart, a strapping senior she’d been infatuated with while in her sophomore year.
She loved spending time with him, seeing life as meaningless without him by her side. But soon enough, this way of thinking would land her in trouble.
Even after forty-four long years, Mary could still remember that Monday morning when she took the pregnancy test. She could remember how helpless she’d felt when she realized she was too young to raise a child.
She could still hear her boyfriend telling her he didn’t know what she was talking about. At fifteen years old, what could Mary do?
The Best Way Forward
After long hours of conversation with her counselor, mom, and doctor, Mary made the heartbreaking decision to give her baby up for adoption.
Her family was struggling then, and she knew her parents couldn’t afford to take care of another child although they wanted to. Mary’s counselor offered the way forward, stating that it would be best for all the involved parties.
Mary gave up her baby to a beautiful couple who couldn’t conceive, and although it hurt, she could smile knowing her son was in better hands and with a family that would give him all he’d ever need in life.
She moved on after that, putting all the pain behind her. But even as the years would trudge on, Mary would silently remember that she’d given up her first baby – something she considered her biggest mistake in life. She had no idea what fate had in store for her.
Mary went on with her life, but her baby was always at the back of her mind – like a constant, painful reminder. At one point, years later, she was tempted to try and make contact with the couple who had adopted her son just so she could see him again, but she held herself back.
The whole situation also made her curious about her own heritage. Little did she know, this curiosity was the fatal mistake that would crack her secret wide open years later.
Life In Glendale
Life in Glendale was a quiet one for Mary, well, if you didn’t include her neighbors, the Hales, in the picture. Mary’s family, namely Mark and Mary’s little brother Gary, always butted heads with the Hales.
The matters would usually be petty, like whose dog relieved itself on whose lawn and whose yard lights keep who awake at night. But one day, an issue would arise that would blow everything up.
A Can Of Worms
A week into summer, Gary, who was now in his forties, was hanging out with Chris, the Hales’ dad. Their relationship was among the most fascinating things Mary had ever seen. One minute they’d be laughing and the next bickering.
But that week, Gary came into the living room with an at-home ancestry kit, claiming he wanted to know how deep his Scandinavian roots were. He shared that he’d bought the kit with Chris, who had his own. The two had no idea what can of worms they were cracking open.
The DNA Database
Gary put his information in the DNA database, only to receive a notification that he and Chris might be first cousins. Thinking the testing kits were faulty, the two bought new ones from a different brand.
The answer came out the same, prompting them to get additional testing kits. This time, the answer was different. It sent chills down their spines and dredged-up nightmares Mary had worked so hard to keep buried.
“Gary came home that night with his eyes glossy and mouth wide open,” Mary shared. She revealed her little brother had always been the easy-going type, and seeing him this worried made her mind race.
“I couldn’t tell what had happened, but I knew it was serious,” she said. Before she could speak, Chris walked in after Gary. What they’d reveal would send her reeling back.
Gary And Chris
Gary and Chris explained what they’d been doing, and as they continued to talk, the reality of it all began taking form right before Mary’s eyes.
“The results said we were first cousins,” Gary said. “But we’ve taken more tests, sis.” Chris stepped forward, his eyes glistening with stemmed tears, “Most of the tests claim he’s my uncle, and you’re my biological mom.”
Mary fell back. The world around her was spinning, the air in her lungs thinning. She struggled to take her breaths, her mind seemingly threatening to implode on itself.
The pain she’d felt forty-four years ago while giving up her son came back with a stinging vengeance. She ate back a cry. Her eyes trailed up, locking with her little brother before straying to Chris. She gasped.
You see, Mary had also taken a home DNA test a few years ago. When she began thinking about her son, she became curious about her own ancestry and family tree.
Although she hadn’t taken the test for the sole purpose of finding her son, she had a vague hope that she would. She hadn’t found any surprises at the time, but her DNA was in the database. That’s how Chris found the match.
Putting It Into Perspective
Looking at Chris put everything into perspective. For the last two years that Mary and her family lived in Glendale, she’d felt like she knew Chris or had at least met him before.
She’d spent the first few months trying to place him but ultimately gave up when it became too taxing—but staring at him now filled in the blanks. Chris was her son.
Mary sat down with her husband, brother, and neighbor that evening. She opened up about her past, remembering that Gary had been a little over a year when she gave Chris up, so he didn’t remember it.
She’d expected Chris or Mark to be mad at her for her past, but they were anything but. They understood the tough decision she’d had to make and assured her that they still had time to create a lifetime of memories together. But Mary’s secret wasn’t the only one that was uncovered by a home DNA test.
Home DNA Tests
Most people have heard about the cute little test you can easily take in the privacy of your own home called the home DNA test. The little box is easily available at most drug stores, and people are fascinated by their unknown history being brought to life.
Some people even wonder if the DIY kit can tell you more about yourself based on people long past who make up your genetic code. And there have been some interesting things that have been uncovered as a result of these DNA kits.
Ancestry.com is one of the most popular home DNA kits. The test costs as little as $59, and 1 in 5 Americans have already submitted their DNA and have been loaded on Ancestry.com’s database.
But, as the tests unleashed drama on countless families, Ancestry.com felt it needed a disclaimer. “You may discover unexpected facts about yourself or your family when using our services,” warns Ancestry’s privacy statement. “Once discoveries are made, we can’t undo them.”
A Redditor claimed he had been searching for his biological father for ten years when he decided to take a home DNA test. The results were horrifying.
“I found out, A. My bio father was 14 when I was born B. My mom was 20 when I was born C. My father died when he was 24 D. He was murdered by his best friend E. That there was a lifetime original tv series with an episode dedicated to his murder F. That I had a half brother G. My half brother didn’t know the person he called dad his whole life wasn’t his dad.”
Another Redditor wrote a post explaining how his dad and his dad’s his two siblings found out that they all had different fathers: “One other brother has already passed, so we’ll never know if there was a 4th baby daddy or not. My dad is a junior and named his son the third after a man who it turns out is no relation,” he wrote.
“Our last name is an Irish name, and we’re 0% Irish as his bio father was likely 100% German. My grandmother was a quiet, devout Catholic woman as far as I always knew, so it’s been wild finding out she had some major secrets.”
“My brother and I did 23andMe tests, and when we went to compare our results, it said he was only my half-brother. We thought we were full-blood related our whole lives,” another anonymous Reddit user wrote.
“Turns out, our biological mom (who has since abandoned us and passed away) cheated on my dad and made him believe the baby was his. My dad was 20 at the time, and it changed the whole course of his life. He loves my brother as his own but damn.”
Missing In Action
Another sad-but-true home DNA kit story involves someone finding out that their relative actually faked his own death. Turns out, he just ran away.
“Not my ancestry, but my partner found out their great grandfather did not die in war like everyone believed. turns out he started a new family across the ocean and abandoned his home life.” But not all stories are completely negative.
Confirmation Of A Family Legend
“Yay! I can finally share this! I proved a family urban legend TRUE! When I took my 23&Me test, it came back that I’m 2.8% Ashkenazi Jewish. My mom was a little confused, but my dad got VERY excited. Turns out, there was a family legend on his side that someone(about 150 years ago) had an affair with a Jewish person, and the resulting kid left Germany to the US at 18.”
“How did this legend start, you may ask? Well, it started with my paternal great grandma(who looked very Jewish), who kept having people come up to her speaking Yiddish. So with my results, we could prove that the affair DID happen.”
A man named George Doe told a story about when he gave his parents a 23andMe DNA kit as a gift. He only intended to discover the health history of the family, but what he found was extreme.
A line at the bottom of the page read: “check this box if you want to see close family members in this search program.” He did check it and found that he shared 22% of his genome with someone else in the database: a man named Thomas.
When he asked his father if he knew any ‘Thomas,’ his father said no. But George went to check and discovered that in his father’s “close family member” box, Thomas popped up with a 50% genome match.
This meant that George’s father was also Thomas’s father. But not all DNA kits end up with sad stories and cheating spouses.
Another case sees Chassity, who, at 31 years old, had no idea who her father was. It was because of how little knowledge she had about her ancestry that she decided to take a DNA test in the first place.
When she got her results, she was surprised to see a lot of European heritage, which was coming from her x chromosomes. She pressed her mother for more information about her true heritage.
A Name She’d Never Heard Before
Her mother is African American, and she would always say that Chassity’s father was ‘deeply dark-skinned,’ but Chassity would find out that wasn’t quite the truth.
She argued with her mother until she gave in and told Chassity a name she had never heard before. Her entire identity was based on a lie about her ethnic heritage, who her father was, and even the last name she had been using for 31 years.
With the name, Chassity managed to track her father down on Facebook. With shaking fingers, she sent him a message.
“I didn’t know if he even knew about me or would even accept I could possibly be his child,” she recalls with apprehension, but the message she got back was better than she could have imagined. u
The Moral Of The Story
“Wow, I’ve been looking for you forever,” her father replied on Facebook messenger. Chastity couldn’t believe it.
Chassity’s story is among countless good decisions to take a home DNA test, as well as decisions that were not quite thought through. Make sure you want to know about your past before you go digging seems to be the moral of the story.