I read a fun story on the Washington Post website. It's about the unexpected surprise element in the growing field of DNA testing, an idea that has become more commonplace in the past few years. My mother and my half-brother have taken one. If the story-line in the article were a novel, it might almost be too convenient to be a believable plot. "Woman takes DNA test and discovers that she's half Jewish, not 100% Irish as she had thought, beginning an adventure that would span years, and people that she would not have otherwise met."
I wouldn't have expected their real-life reaction, though. I suppose it would have to do with the way we were raised, but I don't think that a surprise in a DNA test would unnerve me in the slightest. Granted, this comes from a person who knows next to nothing about his ancestry's heritage. The person in the story was Irish, through and through, so I can see how having that fact ripped away from her could cause an existential crisis. (The same half-brother told me once that he was eleven years old when he discovered he was Hispanic, even though his last name is Spanish and he lived in Mexico for three years. That did, indeed, cause an existential crisis for him.)
Also, having five half-brothers and sisters means mixing it up with people I'm not biologically related to is pretty much a way of life for me. They have a half-brother on their father's side, who has a half-sister on his mother's side, so our family Christmas parties are always fun. For the past 20 years or so, there have always been at least three children under the age of three toddling around, which leads to the game of sitting with my sister and asking, "Are we related to that one?"
My father passed away recently, so I wouldn't be able to talk to him about anything we discovered. Again, I don't know how much the DNA aspect would matter to him. A cousin of mine did some genealogical research a few years ago and it was fun to find relatives and ancestors that I hadn't known before. Even Dad was pretty excited about that. (I also learned that the name 'James' being given to everybody in our family [including myself] is not a new trend – it seems to go back to the days of the Civil War.) But, if we found out that one of them wasn't biologically related to us, it wouldn't have much of an impact. Why would it? We didn't know about them to begin with. I never knew any of my grandparents so I don't have a personal stake in a genetic relationship. My maternal grandmother's family came from Mexico, but that is also of vague/mixed heritage.
I was happy to see that, while birth certificates had a part in the story, their integrity was not questionable. Very nice to know that our collection, keeping and indexing of vital records has proven efficient and useful. They even played a minor role in the solution.
All in all, I think that my family's experiments with DNA testing has been one of discovery. Not having preconceived notions about our heritage helps a bit. I haven't taken a test yet, myself, but I do plan to do it soon. (I have to research which one would be best.) It's not likely that any of us would find that we had a different father than we expected – we all look too much like our fathers and each other. There remains the possibility that one of my parents' siblings had a father from an extra-marital affair, or we might find an adoption that we hadn't previously known about. Considering everything we've been through, though, I don't think even that is likely to bother us much at this point. Maybe some of my siblings or cousins would be upset, but from where I sit it would just be more intrigue in the family.