After Catherine St Clair used AncestryDNA's test, she took to bed crying. What she initially thought was a goof on the part of the company was actually the revelation of a secret that had never occurred to her: Her brother wasn't appearing properly on her family tree because he wasn't her full brother—because her father wasn't her biological father. In a piece for the Atlantic, Sarah Zhang looks at the isolation St Clair felt; she was upset and her siblings didn't understand why, brushing it off as no big deal and telling her they loved her regardless. When she finally met someone else who had experienced the same thing, it was a revelation, and pushed her to create a gathering place for those who had felt similarly isolated: a "secret" Facebook group called DNA NPE Friends, with NPE standing for "not parent expected."
In the span of a year, more than 1,000 people have joined, and while St Clair has no professional background in therapy, genetics, or the like, "she has become a de facto tribe-mother-counselor-guru," writes Zhang, with members Zhang interviewed spouting off pearls of wisdom uttered by her ("We're not a dirty little secret," is one of her signature lines). The group doles out advice to members on how to establish contact with new-found parents or family members (emphasize you're not after money, send three photos), and Zhang explains how they manage to be "findable" yet also not publicize members' secrets. Zhang's piece also provides a broader look at how DNA kits are unearthing decades-old secrets and the roadblocks some of those who uncover them encounter in trying to get family members to own up to and reveal details about them. Read the full piece here. (Read more Longform stories.)