This post made possible by 23andMe. All opinions are my own.
When I was growing up, I often heard my Grandpa quote Sir Walter Scott and say, “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!”
For the longest time, I thought Grandpa was just trying to teach his grandchildren a memorable line to remind us not to lie. I never imagined that Grandpa may be ruminating on his own tangled web. That is, until a little over five years ago. That is when my Mom and her cousin, Debbie, began to suspect that they may, in fact, be sisters. Just a few short years later, Mom and her cousin Paula began to suspect that they, too, were sisters. Then it started making sense, that Grandpa and his sister would also often say, “oh the webs that have been weaved and still are.”
Mom was raised as the oldest of five children in the home (Mom, Jerry, Charles, Paul, and Oscar). She also had four siblings that died in infancy or as toddlers (Tom, Jack, James, and Penny). In 1958, when Mom was about eleven years old, they lived in Michigan. She recalls that her Mom was pregnant and went to the hospital. Shortly after, Grandpa returned home saying that he had to hide anything that Grandma could use as a weapon, because she was going to kill him. He also said that Grandma had lost the baby. Debbie was born in 1958.
Seven years later, in 1963 when Mom was nearly 16, they lived in Hartford, Illinois. Her parents left to attend a family birthday party while Grandma was pregnant. When they returned, Grandma was no longer pregnant. Grandpa alluded to a baby being born in a snow storm. Mom said she’s not certain if Grandma really lost the baby, or if the baby born in the snow storm was her sister and they left her for her Aunt, who was unable to have children, to raise. As Mom said, “We were a poor family. Momma and Daddy couldn’t afford any more mouths to feed.” Paula was born in 1963.
Shortly before Grandpa died, he told Paula to “No matter what, stay close to Fredia” (i.e. my Mom) which made it seem he was trying to look out for her. Unfortunately, any other members of the family that could attest to the fact that they are siblings are all since deceased, including one Aunt that insisted she “knew all the secrets” until she died. For a while now, my Mom and her two cousins have been trying to figure out how to prove or disprove that they are siblings. When I asked my Mom what digging into the family history, trying to prove or disprove that the three are siblings has been like, she said, “It’s been like looking for a needle in a haystack. Having the desire to know, to have answers, but not having the ability or the finances to answer the questions. It’s not been easy.”
I recently had the humbling privilege of helping my Mom try to unlock history with 23andMe, the largest DNA ancestry service in the world.
Seeing the smile on my Mom’s face when I gave her the 23andMe DNA kit was absolutely priceless! Seriously, words could not describe the overwhelming sense of gratitude I felt at being able to help my Mom find the answers she seeks.
Submitting a DNA sample to 23andMe is actually simpler than we thought it would be. At points, it was even hilarious.
First I helped Mom register her kit on the 23andMe website. This has to be done using the unique bar code that is on the sample vial. Once that was done, we opened up the kit, being careful NOT throw any of it away. The plastic container that the kit comes in, inside the box, has to be used to return the sample. Once we had the vial out, Mom commenced to spitting in the vial. It is important that the vial be filled to the fill line, and not by bubbles. Do you know how many bubbles you create when you spit? A lot. And those bubbles don’t count in a DNA sample vial. It has to be pure spittle. When you haven’t had anything to eat or drink in a while (minimum is 30 minutes prior to testing), it isn’t easy to produce a vial of spit, and Mom kept checking to see if it was at the fill line yet. I swear, I thought her eyes would cross for a minute. LOL. Once the vial was filled, we had to close it with the fluid filled cap that is attached, to release that fluid into the vial. That keeps the DNA in the spittle from degrading. Then we replaced it with the travel cap and sealed it up in the provided bag. The kit came with a self sealing return mail box, which we promptly dropped in the big blue mail box down the street.
Knowing Mom will only have to wait a few more weeks for answers (processing estimates are 3-4 weeks from the time a registered sample is received at the lab) is beyond thrilling. I won’t lie. It’s been torturous, seeing what my Mom has gone through in the last few years. It played a large role in our decision to teach our own children about their natural families. I don’t want my children to go through the same thing that my Mom has. I want them to know their genetic story. After all, it’s their history.
I’ll let you know, when the results are in, whether or not the three turned out to be sisters. Although, my Mom says in her heart, they are regardless. <3 This post made possible by 23andMe. All opinions are my own.
I can’t wait to find out if they’re sisters! So exciting for your family to finally have answers!
Shannon Gosney says
I’ve never heard of this product before! Sounds like a great product! I’m anxious to know if they are sisters or not! So cool!
Robin (Masshole Mommy) says
No way – I can’t wait to hear if they turn out to be sisters. How cool is this service??
Debbie L. says
I too can not wait to hear what the test will show. Amazing the info families keep a secret – my family has a few they have keep quiet on for years and years.
Sarah B says
Wow! What An incredible story! I’m very interested to learn the outcome! As an adoptee, I’d love to try this and find out some information about myself!
Kim Wolterman says
I have been doing genealogy for years, so I can feel your mom’s frustration! (Though I don’t have an interesting story like she does.) I used the AncestryDNA kit, where you also have to spit in a vial. I have yet to find any relatives who passed the spit test with me – lol! Can’t wait to hear the outcome.
What a story and history they have. I’m so curious to see if they are in fact sisters.
So did the cousins (possible sisters) have to do a sample too? It’s amazing how far we have advanced to allow this at home!
Oh my goodness, I cannot wait to hear the results! What an incredible story and family history there. I’m so glad they always remained close one way or another, but what a thing to discover.
What an amazing story! Please, please keep us posted. I know it will take a lot off of her mind just to know.
I seriously can’t wait for the results. I really hope they’re sisters!
That’s awesome! I can’t wait to see what the results turn up.
You’ve got me hooked! I’m dying to know your mom’s results! My family doesn’t have any dynamic secrets (that I know of), but I’m curious what I could uncover about my own family.
Cayce Lovato says
Wow Virginia!!! What an interesting story!! And the kit is pretty cool too! I love hearing people tell old stories! Be sure to let us know what it says!
aimee fauci says
What a fascinating story! This is an amazing product and I’m glad you go to present it to her to give her this opportunity.
Janel (A Mom's Take) says
I hope they get the answers they want. What a neat thing to be able to do in the privacy of your own home.
Jesica H says
aaah, I’m on pins and needles. I can’t wait to find out the results, I’m just as excited for you and your mom!
Wow! This is really neat. Can’t wait to hear results, talk about suspense’
Shop with Me Mama (Kim) says
Very exciting! Can’t wait to find out if they are indeed sisters!!
So exciting to get to find out the results! Let us know what happens!
Sara P. ( says
What a cool service! I can’t wait to see what the results say!!
Wow. What an interesting story. I can’t wait to hear the results of the test.
Everyday Living with Chrys says
That is such an interesting story. Thank you for sharing it with us. I look forward to the result post!
This is really interesting! I can’t wait to find out the results. Thanks for sharing!
This can be an exciting thing! I can’t wait to find out.
Wow! What a story! I hope she finds all the answers she is looking for! Good luck!
Oh wow – I haven’t heard of this before. Can’t wait to hear the results!
What an interesting story! Family trees can definitely be deceiving. I can’t wait to find out the answer!
How exciting. I can’t wait to hear the results.
How wonderful that you were able to offer her the DNA kit! No matter the answer, it will be so nice for your family to know!
This is so interesting! I look forward to seeing what the results are.
Kimberly Grabinski says
Wow, what an interesting history she has. I love that she will finally have an answer! I can’t wait to hear the results!
Oh my word, how exciting for them!!! <3 <3
Liz Mays says
I had no idea this option was even available. What a neat thing to be able to take advantage of.
Wow! What a story. I never heard of this product but I hope it gives you the answers you are looking for.
Janeane Davis says
It is incredible how technology helps us to learn so many secrets about ourselves. I am happy your mom will be able to get the information she wants.
Tammy Litke ( says
Wow I can’t imagine wondering all those years of whether your ‘cousins’ were actually your siblings! I’m anxious to find out the results too. It’s interesting to me that something like DNA testing can be done so simply at home these days when it wasn’t so long ago that they weren’t even doing it for criminal cases.
That is kind of neat and scary at the same time. I would want to try this out as well. Thanks for sharing and I couldn’t help but laugh at you describing your mom trying to fill the line! LOL
how exciting for your family. i’m sure she is anxiously awaiting real answers
Ann Bacciaglia says
What a great story. I cant wait until the results come in. Technology certainly has come a long way. It so great that this is available to be done at home. Looked simple to. Thanks for sharing.
That is such a blessing that technology can help provide answers for your family. What a unique option! I can’t wait to hear the results.
This is so exciting and i don’t know anyone involved. I so hope that your mother gets the answer she is looking for.
Angela S says
It is so wonderful that you are able to help do this for your mom. I hope she gets the answers she is looking for.
Now I am on the edge of my seat, waiting to find out if they are indeed sisters! What a really interesting kit!
Ann Bacciaglia says
I hope you are able to untangle the web. What an interesting story. Please let us know the results!
I had no idea such a test existed! How cool for your family! Can’t wait to hear your mom’s results!
Dawn McAlexander says
That’s really interesting. I would love to try this out for myself. I hope that your mom is pleased with her results.
You guys must be on pins and needles waiting for the results! I would be!
Jaime Nicole says
I want to do this so bad!!! I bet you are super anxious!
Jessica Beal Harlow says
This is such an amazing story! I cannot wait to hear the results! Seriously, it’s a great plot for a book!
This is rather interesting. It’s amazing the thing that science is capable of now. I wonder what the results will be!
I have used this service and was highly impressed! Learning my medical history was so eye opening!
Whoa, no WAY!! What an unbelievable story!! I can’t WAIT to hear the results!! We had a similar situation. Both of my grandparents died in 1997. The following month, we found out my dad and uncle had a brother they never knew about. Apparently, my grandma was married before my grandpa and nobody knew. She had a son from that marriage. SO crazy to find this out. SOMEBODY has to know the whole truth but finding it out is impossible.
What a story! Can’t wait to hear the results! I’m really curious to try this. Very interested in what my story would uncover.
I hope your mom finds all the answers that she is looking for. Glad this program could help her.
I am scared to look back and find out things! lol
Debbie Denny says
Good Luck on the results. Hope u get all the answers you and your mom want.