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A home DNA test revealed that the man who raised him wasn't his father. What he learned next shocked him -- and made him grateful

Rita Giordano, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Parenting News

PHILADELPHIA — Joel Gottfried's relatives never know what to get him for his birthday.

That changed a few years ago, when Gottfried began researching his family tree. He started with his father's parents — Jews who fled hardship and persecution in Europe — and managed to document, in minute detail, their arrival at Ellis Island. He loved it.

So when Gottfried's 69th birthday rolled around in March 2018, his sister Debbie Heller at last had the perfect gift for her big brother. She ordered both of them an at-home genetic test, 23AndMe, so they could explore their genetic history together. It would be fun.

When they viewed the results six weeks later, their jaws dropped:

What they had believed all their lives — that they shared the same biological parents — was not true. The results instead showed that they were only half-siblings. While they shared the same mother, they had different fathers.

"So who's your daddy?" Gottfried asked his sister, stunned.


To which she instantly replied: "Who's your daddy?"

The two people who perhaps could've provided answers for them — their parents, George and Tina Gottfried — had died years before. Other older relatives who might've had information were long gone, too.

"I was shocked to such a degree that it didn't seem real," said Gottfried, who lives in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania. "I'm a data guy. And here I am looking at data that is very clear — no ambiguity. We were not [full] brother and sister."

At first, both Gottfried and Heller presumed the other sibling was born of the mystery father. But soon, Gottfried admits, he began to believe that the mystery father was probably his.


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