Life Advice



Ask Amy: DNA match creates cousin confusion

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: A relative contacted me on an ancestry site after learning that we were cousins (most likely first cousins, once removed).

We had no knowledge of each other and excitedly exchanged information about ourselves and our families. Eventually, though, she wanted specific names of male relatives who, presumably, might be her birth father.

She was not adopted and was raised by two parents (presumably, the father who raised her didn't know he was not her biological father).

At that point I explained that I did not feel comfortable giving names and asked if she could speak with her mother about this, however uncomfortable that might be.

I truly felt I'd gone as far as I could, ethically speaking.

My cousins (one of whom might be her biological father) are married, and I had their lives to consider in this genetic search process.


After declining to provide names of family members, I never heard from her again, which grieves me.

Now I'm left wondering: In this age of DNA discoveries, what are our obligations to family members, whether they be known or hidden? What is ethical here?

-- Curious Cousin

Dear Curious: This is a great question, and it -- and others like it -- are emerging as DNA discoveries unearth family secrets.


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