Life Advice



Ask Amy: DNA discovery leads to unsavory letters

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: During the pandemic, I started exploring my genealogy and recently found out that I have a half-sister, “Barb.” We have the same father.

Barb was put up for adoption as an infant. Our father passed away without divulging her existence.

Barb and I have been in touch and are sharing information about our lives.

I recently discovered letters written by Barb’s biological mother to our father during her pregnancy. Most of the letters are very loving, and detail what seems like a caring relationship between two very young people who were teenagers and impoverished students who were not ready to raise a child. I have shared some information in the letters, and would like to share more, however the letters are not all good. Adoption was not the first plan for this pregnancy, if you get what I mean.

Should I give the letters to Barb? Should I weed out the unsavory ones? Should I just give her a couple of letters that detail the love her biological mother had for her new baby and the love these two people had for each other? They are very poignant and heart-felt.

Barb has had a very stable, loving upbringing with her adoptive parents and told me that she never felt like she was missing anything by not knowing her biological parents. Now that she is taking this journey, I thought she might want to have these letters, but I don’t want to cause her any harm, either to her or to our budding relationship.


Your advice?

— Half-Sister

Dear Half-Sister: The isolation due to the pandemic seems to have brought on lots of DNA searches and closet-cleanouts.

I often advocate for liberating people from family secrets — those deeply held secrets that generations conspire to hold close.


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