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Old Yesterday, 08:05 AM
 
1,024 posts, read 576,780 times
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As everyone here is aware DNA testing has become very popular and family secrets are much harder to keep. My question is what obligation there is on someone to keep a family secret when we are part of that secret?

My still living grandfather was given up for adoption as a baby. It's a typical story where his mother was young and unwed. He had a wonderful upbringing with his adopted family.

Grandpa finally learned the identification of his birth parents about a decade ago. After that he contacted his biological half sister. Grandpa and grandma have developed a good relationship with my great aunt and her husband. I've also met her a handful of times and she is kind woman.

Grandpa's sister was an only child and is the only person in her family who knows about my grandpa. Her grown children do not know about him. She herself didn't find out about him until she was in her 50's, her mother kept it a secret for that long. She does not want to disclose this information to her family because she doesn't want to tarnish her mother's reputation. I would personally hope that her grown children would understand that these things happen and wouldn't harbor any ill will towards their late grandmother.

The reason I'm writing this is because I have a DNA test on Ancestry and I am also an active genealogist. I have waited a long time to pursue it, but my curiosity has finally led me to begin researching my grandfather's biological family. It is, after all, my heritage as well so I fell I have some right to learn about it.

My main tree on Ancestry is public so I have started a separate unlisted tree to research this family. I really wish I didn't have to do this because I like having one neat tree, and I know I'll eventually want to combine them which will become a lot of work once this biological branch is more fully developed.

My other issue is the DNA matches from this family. One of my top matches is my grandpa's sister herself. She doesn't log on and must have just took the test for fun, but I would think if she wanted to keep this secret she would realize that putting her DNA results out there publicly was a bad idea. My grandpa has a lot of descendants! Some of my other top matches are from this branch and I have figured out they are first cousins of grandpa. Some of them are also very active researchers. I feel like one of them will inevitably contact me at some point to try and figure out how we are related. My question here is, if one of these cousins reaches out to me do I tell them the truth, that I know how we are connected or do I play dumb and just say that one of my grandparents was adopted? I do wonder if these cousins might be aware of my grandpa, their parents would have been his mother's siblings and I would imagine they would have known about her secret pregnancy.

Sorry for the long-winded message, I just wonder what others would do in my place. I don't want to cause my grandpa's sister distress nor do I want to put some kind of strain on my grandparent's relationship with her. At the same time I want to explore my roots and be honest with people should they contact me.
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Old Yesterday, 10:03 AM
 
Location: Lincroft
89 posts, read 79,669 times
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I have a simple answer - YOUR PASSION IS NOT THEIR PASSION proceed with a large degree of caution as you have done by keeping a separate tree. If they do a DNA test in the future and contact you - then have the discussion.
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Old Yesterday, 10:39 AM
 
Location: New Mexico
5,715 posts, read 3,228,802 times
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I think you are doing the right thing for now by being cautious but I doubt that you are the only one who knows or suspects and this will finally come out. Someone will eventually contact you to break the news. Do you identify your grandfather as adopted on your public tree and is it well known among his descendants that he was adopted? If so, the cat is probably out of the bag already. On the positive side, you know the actual ancestral line.
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Old Yesterday, 10:46 AM
 
1,024 posts, read 576,780 times
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Originally Posted by SunGrins View Post
Do you identify your grandfather as adopted on your public tree and is it well known among his descendants that he was adopted? If so, the cat is probably out of the bag already. On the positive side, you know the actual ancestral line.
Yes to both questions. Grandpa has always been very open about being adopted. After I took a DNA test it is grandma who seems most concerned about his biological family finding out. On the other hand grandma has spent several decades working on her own genealogy so she must understand my curiosity regarding my own heritage.
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Old Yesterday, 12:28 PM
 
Location: Colorado (PA at heart)
8,468 posts, read 13,174,309 times
Reputation: 10902
Quote:
Originally Posted by clawsondude View Post
As everyone here is aware DNA testing has become very popular and family secrets are much harder to keep. My question is what obligation there is on someone to keep a family secret when we are part of that secret?

My still living grandfather was given up for adoption as a baby. It's a typical story where his mother was young and unwed. He had a wonderful upbringing with his adopted family.

Grandpa finally learned the identification of his birth parents about a decade ago. After that he contacted his biological half sister. Grandpa and grandma have developed a good relationship with my great aunt and her husband. I've also met her a handful of times and she is kind woman.

Grandpa's sister was an only child and is the only person in her family who knows about my grandpa. Her grown children do not know about him. She herself didn't find out about him until she was in her 50's, her mother kept it a secret for that long. She does not want to disclose this information to her family because she doesn't want to tarnish her mother's reputation. I would personally hope that her grown children would understand that these things happen and wouldn't harbor any ill will towards their late grandmother.

The reason I'm writing this is because I have a DNA test on Ancestry and I am also an active genealogist. I have waited a long time to pursue it, but my curiosity has finally led me to begin researching my grandfather's biological family. It is, after all, my heritage as well so I fell I have some right to learn about it.

My main tree on Ancestry is public so I have started a separate unlisted tree to research this family. I really wish I didn't have to do this because I like having one neat tree, and I know I'll eventually want to combine them which will become a lot of work once this biological branch is more fully developed.

My other issue is the DNA matches from this family. One of my top matches is my grandpa's sister herself. She doesn't log on and must have just took the test for fun, but I would think if she wanted to keep this secret she would realize that putting her DNA results out there publicly was a bad idea. My grandpa has a lot of descendants! Some of my other top matches are from this branch and I have figured out they are first cousins of grandpa. Some of them are also very active researchers. I feel like one of them will inevitably contact me at some point to try and figure out how we are related. My question here is, if one of these cousins reaches out to me do I tell them the truth, that I know how we are connected or do I play dumb and just say that one of my grandparents was adopted?
I would be honest - they took they test, and if they contact you and ask, you should not be expected to lie. It's one thing to not tell people, but lying when asked outright shouldn't be expected of you. It's not like you went around contacting people and outing the situation - they came to you.

I'm in a similar situation. I found out through DNA that my paternal grandfather's father was not his biological father and managed to identify who my bio great grandfather really was. I also found out, because one of my cousins on that side tested, that my grandfather's sister was also a child of the same bio father (so my great grandmother had an ongoing affair and had two kids with the same man). My dad has been upset by all this, I'm not really sure why because he didn't have a relationship with his grandfather anyway, but he is, and he doesn't want anyone to know about it. My cousins don't even know about it (so they have no idea their grandfather or great grandfather was someone else), but now that one of them has tested, it's possible this might come up. I respect and care about my dad's feelings though, so I promised him I wouldn't tell anyone, but now that one of our cousins has tested, I've had to tell him "If someone asks me about it, I can't lie." So far, that hasn't happened, I think because the cousin in question hasn't looked that deeply at her DNA matches, but that doesn't mean she never will, or that another cousin won't test at some point and look more closely at their matches. My dad is a bit of a control freak, so I know not being able to control this will bother him, but I'm not going to feel guilty about a situation I ultimately can't control (if I figured it out, so could any of our cousins, so even if I played dumb and didn't tell them, it's not necessarily going to stop them from finding out).
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Old Yesterday, 04:22 PM
 
Location: Cumberland
4,674 posts, read 7,802,526 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PA2UK View Post
I would be honest - they took they test, and if they contact you and ask, you should not be expected to lie. It's one thing to not tell people, but lying when asked outright shouldn't be expected of you. It's not like you went around contacting people and outing the situation - they came to you.

I'm in a similar situation. I found out through DNA that my paternal grandfather's father was not his biological father and managed to identify who my bio great grandfather really was. I also found out, because one of my cousins on that side tested, that my grandfather's sister was also a child of the same bio father (so my great grandmother had an ongoing affair and had two kids with the same man). My dad has been upset by all this, I'm not really sure why because he didn't have a relationship with his grandfather anyway, but he is, and he doesn't want anyone to know about it. My cousins don't even know about it (so they have no idea their grandfather or great grandfather was someone else), but now that one of them has tested, it's possible this might come up. I respect and care about my dad's feelings though, so I promised him I wouldn't tell anyone, but now that one of our cousins has tested, I've had to tell him "If someone asks me about it, I can't lie." So far, that hasn't happened, I think because the cousin in question hasn't looked that deeply at her DNA matches, but that doesn't mean she never will, or that another cousin won't test at some point and look more closely at their matches. My dad is a bit of a control freak, so I know not being able to control this will bother him, but I'm not going to feel guilty about a situation I ultimately can't control (if I figured it out, so could any of our cousins, so even if I played dumb and didn't tell them, it's not necessarily going to stop them from finding out).
Likewise. Some of my grandfather's bio dad's family show up as very close cousins on Ancestry. We know why, one is his 1/2 nephew. We still are unsure if my grandfather's bio father ever shared with his family he had this other kid........we have reason to believe he did not.

So, if contacted, I would tell the truth. Since I have not been, I don't make an issue of tracking these people down to spill the beans.......even though I would really love to have information and pictures on my great-grandfather.
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Old Yesterday, 11:47 PM
 
Location: VT; previously MD & NJ
2,007 posts, read 1,180,682 times
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I agree with the others. If someone from your grandfather's bio family contacts you and asks how you are related, I think you can tell them. If they later want to discuss it with the rest of their family, that's their decision.

I wouldn't worry too much about keeping a separate family tree. Anyone looking at the trees is looking for family information... they should be able to find it.
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Old Today, 06:31 AM
 
Location: NJ
9,793 posts, read 20,691,761 times
Reputation: 7234
Quote:
Originally Posted by clawsondude View Post
As everyone here is aware DNA testing has become very popular and family secrets are much harder to keep. My question is what obligation there is on someone to keep a family secret when we are part of that secret?

My still living grandfather was given up for adoption as a baby. It's a typical story where his mother was young and unwed. He had a wonderful upbringing with his adopted family.

Grandpa finally learned the identification of his birth parents about a decade ago. After that he contacted his biological half sister. Grandpa and grandma have developed a good relationship with my great aunt and her husband. I've also met her a handful of times and she is kind woman.

Grandpa's sister was an only child and is the only person in her family who knows about my grandpa. Her grown children do not know about him. She herself didn't find out about him until she was in her 50's, her mother kept it a secret for that long. She does not want to disclose this information to her family because she doesn't want to tarnish her mother's reputation. I would personally hope that her grown children would understand that these things happen and wouldn't harbor any ill will towards their late grandmother.

The reason I'm writing this is because I have a DNA test on Ancestry and I am also an active genealogist. I have waited a long time to pursue it, but my curiosity has finally led me to begin researching my grandfather's biological family. It is, after all, my heritage as well so I fell I have some right to learn about it.

My main tree on Ancestry is public so I have started a separate unlisted tree to research this family. I really wish I didn't have to do this because I like having one neat tree, and I know I'll eventually want to combine them which will become a lot of work once this biological branch is more fully developed.

My other issue is the DNA matches from this family. One of my top matches is my grandpa's sister herself. She doesn't log on and must have just took the test for fun, but I would think if she wanted to keep this secret she would realize that putting her DNA results out there publicly was a bad idea. My grandpa has a lot of descendants! Some of my other top matches are from this branch and I have figured out they are first cousins of grandpa. Some of them are also very active researchers. I feel like one of them will inevitably contact me at some point to try and figure out how we are related. My question here is, if one of these cousins reaches out to me do I tell them the truth, that I know how we are connected or do I play dumb and just say that one of my grandparents was adopted? I do wonder if these cousins might be aware of my grandpa, their parents would have been his mother's siblings and I would imagine they would have known about her secret pregnancy.

Sorry for the long-winded message, I just wonder what others would do in my place. I don't want to cause my grandpa's sister distress nor do I want to put some kind of strain on my grandparent's relationship with her. At the same time I want to explore my roots and be honest with people should they contact me.
First, I wish you a lot of luck with whatever you decide. I feel you are entitled to know your truth. My 1/2 brother was adopted out. I found him before DNA too but everyone knows about us. We were even in his obituary, so was our mother as his bio mother.

You have a very sticky situation when the great aunt logs in and sees your test. I bet she doesn't realize the DNA matching, only the ethnicity. I have a feeling this is going to cause a bunch of crap once she sees you or you let the cat out of the bag.

Yes, people are understanding these days. She needs to get with the times. Unplanned pregnancy happened. Her own kids may be happy to know more cousins. They're entitled to their own truth too.

The one I'd be most worried about is grandma and grandpa. Will you be able to fix the relationship if you do tell? What are their ages? Would it be worth it to say if contacted that you don't know how you're related until your grandparents pass? Then you're free to go against his sister.

Last edited by Roselvr; Today at 06:56 AM..
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Old Today, 07:54 AM
 
1,024 posts, read 576,780 times
Reputation: 2773
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roselvr View Post
First, I wish you a lot of luck with whatever you decide. I feel you are entitled to know your truth. My 1/2 brother was adopted out. I found him before DNA too but everyone knows about us. We were even in his obituary, so was our mother as his bio mother.

You have a very sticky situation when the great aunt logs in and sees your test. I bet she doesn't realize the DNA matching, only the ethnicity. I have a feeling this is going to cause a bunch of crap once she sees you or you let the cat out of the bag.

Yes, people are understanding these days. She needs to get with the times. Unplanned pregnancy happened. Her own kids may be happy to know more cousins. They're entitled to their own truth too.

The one I'd be most worried about is grandma and grandpa. Will you be able to fix the relationship if you do tell? What are their ages? Would it be worth it to say if contacted that you don't know how you're related until your grandparents pass? Then you're free to go against his sister.
Good points from you and everyone else. My great aunt hasn't logged on to ancestry in over a year so I'm guessing she won't log in and find out on her own that I am on there. If she does she could opt to make her test private. What I could see happening is one of her children or grandchildren taking a test, seeing a relatively close relationship with me, and that great aunt is also a shared relative. This could obviously lead to them questioning her. I keep thinking she must realize it is bound to happen eventually. My grandpa has three children, 6 grandchildren, and 7 great grandchildren. With the growing popularity of these tests several of us are bound to take them.

I really wonder why great aunt is so protective of this secret. The handful of times I've met her she seemed to be pretty laid back and not uptight at all. Maybe she made a promise to her late mother that she wouldn't reveal the truth. I do know that her mother didn't even tell her the secret willingly. Great aunt was in her 50's and at a courthouse to get some of her birth records and it listed her as being her mother's second birth. Apparently she left the courthouse and drove straight to her mother's house with a lot of questions!

My grandparents are in their early 80's and are still in good health. There is a lot of longevity in both of their families so I'm hoping they are around for many years to come!
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Old Today, 10:34 AM
 
14,896 posts, read 7,466,092 times
Reputation: 7724
I honestly wouldn't even see this as an issue.

You are not obligated to keep your great grandmother's reputation pristine.

As you noted, this is your family and your lineage as well as hers. I wouldn't feel any kind of way about it.

FWIW I discovered my 2nd great grandmother had a baby by another man in the late 1920s. That baby died but it was born aroudn the time her husband - my 2nd great grandfather left her. My great grandmother, their oldest child, told me that her father left the family and she talked about him in a very negative way as do other people in the family. They always spoke fondly of her mother though. Finding out what I found makes me believe that my 2nd great grandfather left her because she cheated on him and had a baby with another man. Note - this baby had another father listed on her birth and death record but my 2nd great grandmother's married name and her address, which they lived at this address a long time, so I know it is my 2nd great grandmother. My great aunt was shocked I found out this information and there are family jokes calling her a lying "hussy" now lol, which upset some other older relatives who knew her. But it is what it is and IMO it makes our family story more realistic and doesn't paint this 2nd great grandfather in that horrible of a light as what he has been painted in for the past 80+ years!

Interestingly 2nd great grandfather changed his name. I think I finally found his death record but our local library just happens to be under construction and I don't know if I'll be able to access his funeral records (they are on microfilm at our main branch library that is being renovated) until the fall when they finish renovations or not to confirm that this is indeed him.

I've also recently gotten a new DNA match to my great aunt for an individual who I believe may be related through my 2nd great grandfather potentially having another child. This new match is a VERY close match to my aunt and some of my 3rd cousins who are descendants of my great grandmother's brothers. The close match indicates that this new match is either the child or grandchild of one of my great grandmother's siblings in this line. I'm going to have some other members of the family test to see if they are half siblings of this new match.

If the person turns out to be the illegitimate child of one of my uncles, who I believe that they may be, then this will also tarnish his reputation. He has a great reputation in the family and I've actually been hesitant in sharing this info with his children thus far because it will be a shock to them to potentially have another sibling who is nearly 50 years old. The match didn't know who their father was as their mother refused to tell them other than that the father was in the military in a prestigious unit. My uncle was a Tuskegee Airman so I'm thinking that he may be this persons father. If he is not, then they may have an illegitimate brother via the 2nd great grandfather who changed his name.
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