Recently my sister underwent genetic testing. While learning more about her heritage, she noticed a woman who was listed under “possible genetic relations.” She reached out to this woman, “Jane,” who confirmed that yes, she is our first cousin once removed, the product of a brief affair of my great-uncle’s more than 40 years ago. Jane knows enough about the circumstances of her conception to know who her biological father is, and that he is unaware of her existence. Jane has two loving parents and isn’t looking for a replacement family; rather, she wants to learn more about her history and connect with her biological brother. My great-uncle, his wife of 60 years, and their children are all still living. My sister and I are less close with that side of the family, largely due to distance, but we now find ourselves in possession of a huge family secret.
My sister brought me into the conversation after realizing that she couldn’t navigate this secret alone. Jane and I happen to live in the same small city! I live 800 miles away from the nearest family member, and the prospect of having a new cousin just down the road is tantalizing. Regardless of my desire to build a relationship with Jane, I am taking some time to consider the potential fallout. Jane is very levelheaded about the whole thing and said that we should take as long as we need. Right now I am considering calling my great-uncle and being direct with only him, but I’m still not sure whether that’s the right approach. Am I asking myself the right questions? Am I being considerate enough of all parties involved? What would you do in this situation?
—Twenty-Three and Me, and Me