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The Lost Family: How DNA Testing Is Uncovering Secrets, Reuniting Relatives, and Upending Who We Are

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In The Lost Family, journalist Libby Copeland investigates what happens when we embark on a vast social experiment with little understanding of the ramifications. She explores the culture of genealogy buffs, the science of DNA, and the business of companies like Ancestry and 23andMe, all while tracing the story of one woman, her unusual results, and a relentless methodical In The Lost Family, journalist Libby Copeland investigates what happens when we embark on a vast social experiment with little understanding of the ramifications. She explores the culture of genealogy buffs, the science of DNA, and the business of companies like Ancestry and 23andMe, all while tracing the story of one woman, her unusual results, and a relentless methodical drive for answers that becomes a thoroughly modern genetic detective story.


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In The Lost Family, journalist Libby Copeland investigates what happens when we embark on a vast social experiment with little understanding of the ramifications. She explores the culture of genealogy buffs, the science of DNA, and the business of companies like Ancestry and 23andMe, all while tracing the story of one woman, her unusual results, and a relentless methodical In The Lost Family, journalist Libby Copeland investigates what happens when we embark on a vast social experiment with little understanding of the ramifications. She explores the culture of genealogy buffs, the science of DNA, and the business of companies like Ancestry and 23andMe, all while tracing the story of one woman, her unusual results, and a relentless methodical drive for answers that becomes a thoroughly modern genetic detective story.

30 review for The Lost Family: How DNA Testing Is Uncovering Secrets, Reuniting Relatives, and Upending Who We Are

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra-X Off having adventures

    I finished the book. It's a mixture of stories and everything to do with commercial, personal DNA testing. The discussions on ethics were most interesting. We don't have much privacy now, what with Facebook, Twitter and Google tracking us all on every single site on the net, but DNA testing is the end to all secrets. The next era is one of complete transparency. Whether you like it or not. Libby Copeland divides those who get a DNA test into three categories. The first are the avid genealogists w I finished the book. It's a mixture of stories and everything to do with commercial, personal DNA testing. The discussions on ethics were most interesting. We don't have much privacy now, what with Facebook, Twitter and Google tracking us all on every single site on the net, but DNA testing is the end to all secrets. The next era is one of complete transparency. Whether you like it or not. Libby Copeland divides those who get a DNA test into three categories. The first are the avid genealogists who've been members of Ancestry.com for years(view spoiler)[ and, some of them, have turned into DNA junkies testing on every site. It's their hobby, their preoccupation and for some of them, their obsession - they will even occasionally go as far swabbing inside a parent's cheek after death. (hide spoiler)] The second group are those that have a reason, adoptees, people suspecting Dad isn't the sperm donor or wondering if they've inherited a gene that spells disease. (view spoiler)[ They are often angst-ridden with their need to know. There are many Facebook groups dedicated to helping people construct family trees and find lost parents through familial DNA. Then, if successful, helping them write The Letter to the sperm donor dad who never involved himself as a parent, or the long lost mother who gave up her child and the question "why" burns in their heads. (hide spoiler)] The third group are those that get a kit for Christmas, or want to find out if it is true there is a Native American ancestor. (view spoiler)[ These are the ones who might get results they weren't expecting that might disrupt their lives. These are the ones who find out unwittingly that their family has secrets they didn't know. Sometimes knowing that there was a secret is worse than the secret itself. (hide spoiler)] My son falls into the third group and we did get a surprise. 64.6% came out as European. Since I am of 100% Russian Jewish ancestry, 50% of it was not a surprise. My ex husband who is Black had a Welsh grandfather so not having a major sub-Saharan African component wasn't unexpected, but the surprise was my son is 52.8% Jewish. We are wondering about the 2.8%! His maternal haplogroup turns out to be Middle-Eastern, my family go back a long way! In the book it is said that a database of only 3 million samples will mean that everyone in the US can be searched for and found by familial DNA. I would have thought it more like 30 million because middle-class whites are over-represented and African-Americans very much don't support it. I don't blame them. DNA databases and eugenics are made for each other. Terrorist groups, whether cults, religious or racist, could mine them to evil effect. In the near future, I am sure that babies will have their DNA tested at birth. On the one hand, traits for diseases (that they may never have got) can be known and perhaps prevented. Everyone will know who their Daddy is, not who their mother says who is the father. But equally, should the baby have a predisposition to some very dread diseases that require a lot of medical care, could that be used as an excuse to deny medical insurance or up the premiums? Would it not be used to deny them entry into the military or other organisations? Would parents be happy letting their children marry them? And what about racial profiling and intelligence (not possible yet, but I'm sure they will identify the gene for that and report on it as and when). What will that do to educational and career prospects? Undoubtedly all this DNA will be collected by local government and used for planning resource use, as well as police databases, the Mormon Church (Ancestry.com was founded by and probably still owned by a Mormon) who will then baptise all your dead family by proxy. CRISPR is a gene-editing technology (see She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity) which the Chinese apparently have used for the first time to produce a genetically-altered baby. If that really has happened, if that really is possible, you can see the very wealthy queuing up to get their designer baby, beautiful, intelligent, healthy and the poor becoming those that cannot afford any modifications and will end up the underclass of so many dystopian novels. There is the thought that many more murders will be solved. Or prevented. Say there is a gene for psychopathy? SInce many murderers and other criminals are psychopaths, how does that mean the child will be treated? It isn't an illness, there isn't a cure. But then most psychopaths do not commit crimes, any mayhem they cause (I know two very well) is strictly in their personal lives. That's no different from other nasty people. But more murders and crimes will not be solved. Criminals are a market, in prison they are a captive market, and this has led to the development of very expensive small phones they can stick up their botties, ways of smuggling drugs in (drones is one, drugs being glue or paper another) etc. There will be a market for items that protect criminals from leaving any DNA. So probably lots more minor criminals will be caught but the planners, the serial killers, the career criminals, I don't think so. Meanwhile there will come a knock at the door from the police saying they are investigating a crime and your DNA indicates you are related, perhaps a third cousin. Refuse their questioning and a further sample of DNA, and it will be down the police station in the cruiser and you will be compelled to do so. And now you will be on the police computer for life if not actually charged with obstructing justice. This is obviously a 5 star book. But it was hung around the story of Alice who was trying to discover who her orphaned father had been. She was convinced that both her parents were Irish (Irish-American that is) and when she found out that half her DNA was Jewish, which didn't please her overmuch to start with, she wanted to investigate how that could be. I didn't like Alice at all so I wasn't really interested and I guessed what had happened fairly early on. It is a book worth reading but it only gives a picture of 'now'. I believe that as the internet was in, say, 1996 when 20 million Americans used it in the good old days of dial-up when it was expensive and slow and their weren't that many sites, nor people snooping on you, that is where personal, commercial DNA testing is today. God help us all if Facebook and Google ever get hold of our DNA. But they will, you know they will. ____________________ Notes on reading 1.(view spoiler)[ The Chinese, says the NYTimes, were using DNA as part of a campaign of surveillance and oppression" against the country's ethnic minority, Muslim Uighurs. The police have access to FamilyTreeDNA database in the US. I can forsee an extremist hacker looking to find all the (Black) (Jewish) (Muslim) (Asian) people and, using Facebook for further details, build their own database of those and their families as potential targets. Just as legitmate people do to build their own family trees. GEDMatch opted everyone out of permission to give law enforcement access to their DNA, although you could opt in. But then, reported the NYTimes, a Florida detective got a warrant to search the entire database even those users who did not consent to being involved in law enforcement investigations. The judge's decision to grant that warrant means that all the databases, Ancestry.com, 23AndMe and more could literally become police databases. If you have similar DNA, it could be that you could be implicated in the arrest of a family member. The police could come to you and force you to give up any information they want. Add in a phone tracing app (as used in South Korea and other countries) and a coronavirus tracking app and a malign government (or police force) would have taken away all your privacy and your personal power would be only what they allowed or tolerated. (hide spoiler)] Notes on reading 2 (view spoiler)[ This is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by default. The DNA companies are a bit like Google and Facebook in one respect: they are going to sell your data. In another way they aren't like them, you have to pay 23andme, AncestryDNA etc for the privilege and you don't pay Google and Facebook. All of them will own your data forever. We are their perpetual products to sell and to sell to. The DNA companies are going to sell your DNA data for research, for drug companies. Indeed if you use 23andme, GlaxoSmithKline owns a huge share of it and will use your data to develop more drugs which it will then sell you if you need them. You can opt out if you read their ToS but who does that? And you can't do it retrospectively. How long before the insurance companies 'partner' with these DNA companies or are allowed to buy their 'non-identifiable' data and discover that you have genes that could cost them a lot of money in medical insurance and accept or reject or price their policies accordingly? (hide spoiler)] This is a very long review, it was originally a 4 star book but by the time I'd finished writing it I thought it was so thought-provoking that the annoyance of the boring Alice story really didn't spoil it. In an effort to make the review a bit more readable there is liberal use of spoilers.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    The title aptly describes what you'll find in this well researched and compelling read about the world of genetics, and DNA. Highly recommended for anyone considering a DNA test, those who have already tested, beginning, intermediate or knowledgeable genealogists, or someone looking for non-fiction with a narrative flow. I rarely read a book more than once but there is so much to learn in these pages that I wanted to start over as soon as I reached the end. A Selected Bibliography and excellent I The title aptly describes what you'll find in this well researched and compelling read about the world of genetics, and DNA. Highly recommended for anyone considering a DNA test, those who have already tested, beginning, intermediate or knowledgeable genealogists, or someone looking for non-fiction with a narrative flow. I rarely read a book more than once but there is so much to learn in these pages that I wanted to start over as soon as I reached the end. A Selected Bibliography and excellent Index are very helpful.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Astounding. This is absolutely critical reading for those who have either already bought an at-home DNA testing kit or who are considering buying one. Copeland does an excellent job showing the beginnings of this relatively new industry, its promises, its pitfalls, and the numerous concerns and issues surrounding so much of it. Read this book before you buy such a kit, and carefully consider the issues Copeland discusses and whether you are truly ready to handle them if they arise. Very much rec Astounding. This is absolutely critical reading for those who have either already bought an at-home DNA testing kit or who are considering buying one. Copeland does an excellent job showing the beginnings of this relatively new industry, its promises, its pitfalls, and the numerous concerns and issues surrounding so much of it. Read this book before you buy such a kit, and carefully consider the issues Copeland discusses and whether you are truly ready to handle them if they arise. Very much recommended.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Terri

    At the ripe old age of 85 years, my father learned for the first time that he had two brothers. Not just two brothers but twin brothers. It was a tremendous shock to the family to say the least and we are still recovering from it. I had to read this book to discover just how other families were handling it and the steps they took to heal from the family secrets that older family members took to their graves. I thought the author, Libby Copeland, did a terrific job in explaining just how the sens At the ripe old age of 85 years, my father learned for the first time that he had two brothers. Not just two brothers but twin brothers. It was a tremendous shock to the family to say the least and we are still recovering from it. I had to read this book to discover just how other families were handling it and the steps they took to heal from the family secrets that older family members took to their graves. I thought the author, Libby Copeland, did a terrific job in explaining just how the sense of identity gets shattered when people learn, as my father did, that his beloved father, despite being a religious man, had strayed from the church and his own morals. Also discussed in the book, is the fact that there also can be an overjoyed discovery of new relatives. Fortunately that is what happened in our family and all of us now cherish our new found cousins and want to keep them in our lives. Not all families have such happy endings. The book mainly focuses on one woman who is determined to work her way through a long buried family secret and find her identity. The woman becomes a genetic detective and we are rooting for her to find her answers to just who she is and reunite with lost family members. Four stars.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Hank Stuever

    Absolutely fascinating, revealing and count me as one of those folks who find it all vaguely unsettling. Libby Copeland (we worked together for years as reporters at The Washington Post's Style section) has really outdone herself with this deep dive investigation into everything we know (so far) about where DNA registry and discovery is taking us -- and not just to those happy, long-lost-relative stories you see in the news. On the one hand, we're bringing unsolvable crimes to justice (the Golde Absolutely fascinating, revealing and count me as one of those folks who find it all vaguely unsettling. Libby Copeland (we worked together for years as reporters at The Washington Post's Style section) has really outdone herself with this deep dive investigation into everything we know (so far) about where DNA registry and discovery is taking us -- and not just to those happy, long-lost-relative stories you see in the news. On the one hand, we're bringing unsolvable crimes to justice (the Golden State Killer, for example); on the other, we're giving up our rights. Included in this, I think (and Libby deftly explains, through her reporting), are the sorts of secrets that women (mostly it's the women I feel sympathy pangs for) in the past kept so diligently to protect children, in a not-so-long-ago world where there were real consequences for unwed mothers and illegitimate offspring. The best part of this book is how it recognizes all the illuminating and terrifying ways the past is now very much with us. I'm unresolved about it; I am happy that so many lost souls are finally figuring out the mysteries of their own origins and lineage. This book taught me so much, and is such a compelling read. Once you're in it, it's hard to forget about.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elyse

    My brother gave me a 23andMe DNA kit for my 60th birthday in 2014. I didn't find anything unusual in the results but a lot of other people have with theirs. Their birthday or Christmas gift ended up causing a lot of confusion and grief instead of "fun". This book states that most direct-to-consumer DNA kits are sold in the December holiday season. Back in 2014 I had no idea of the implications of putting my DNA "out there" for the world to see. I have no regrets about submitting my spit. If it ca My brother gave me a 23andMe DNA kit for my 60th birthday in 2014. I didn't find anything unusual in the results but a lot of other people have with theirs. Their birthday or Christmas gift ended up causing a lot of confusion and grief instead of "fun". This book states that most direct-to-consumer DNA kits are sold in the December holiday season. Back in 2014 I had no idea of the implications of putting my DNA "out there" for the world to see. I have no regrets about submitting my spit. If it can be helpful in medical research or finding a serial killer, I say go for it. But I never anticipated the fact that even though I have no problem with it, other family members might. They can be linked to my DNA and I never asked for their permission. The author explores these privacy issues and gives examples of families whose worlds have exploded because of DNA revelations. Thanks to my Goodreads friend, Petra-X, for her review that brought this interesting book to my attention.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jill Meyer

    Author Libby Copeland looks at the DNA testing business and the off-shoots (the problems) in her new book, “The Lost Family”. Is anyone these days not wanting to check their DNA and their family history. But what if you use a testing kit - and there are quite a few on the market - and you discovered you weren’t who you always thought you were, and that - maybe, say - your father might not be the Dad you always thought he was? Well, if you’re the clever sort, you use the info you’ve newly gained Author Libby Copeland looks at the DNA testing business and the off-shoots (the problems) in her new book, “The Lost Family”. Is anyone these days not wanting to check their DNA and their family history. But what if you use a testing kit - and there are quite a few on the market - and you discovered you weren’t who you always thought you were, and that - maybe, say - your father might not be the Dad you always thought he was? Well, if you’re the clever sort, you use the info you’ve newly gained to look through the generations that preceded you to solve a mystery. Copeland’s book is a bit a look at her own testing as well some others’, but she concentrates mostly on the mysterious results from the family of Jim Collins, a purported Irish-American born in 1913, in Brooklyn. Testing which began on his seven children a few years after his death, showed that Jim Collins had no Irish connection whatever. In fact, he presented as an Ashkenazi Jew. Libby Copeland used the mysterious Jim Collins to show the reader the good and bad parts of genetic testing. She’s a good writer and keeps the scientific jargon to a minimum. It’s a good first book to read about today and tomorrow’s advances

  8. 5 out of 5

    Marcia

    This was an interesting book and raises some valuable questions. However, when the author throws in comments such as President Trump is "a race baiter", "the far right racists," etc. — the biases presented make me doubt the credibility of the author! There is no place for such bias in a book that's supposed to be based on science. The author did a great disservice by including such comments. How do I know that information in the book presented as science isn't also biased? There is probably enou This was an interesting book and raises some valuable questions. However, when the author throws in comments such as President Trump is "a race baiter", "the far right racists," etc. — the biases presented make me doubt the credibility of the author! There is no place for such bias in a book that's supposed to be based on science. The author did a great disservice by including such comments. How do I know that information in the book presented as science isn't also biased? There is probably enough good in the book to give it three stars, but that's it!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    "Bioethics seems to be lagging behind the science, dumping a mess onto the mental health community." (Ricki Lewis, geneticist and science writer) I first got interested in genetic genealogy and recreational genetics after listening to the Bear Brook podcast about a year ago. The Bear Brook case was one of the first to use genetic genealogy to identify victims that went without identities for several decades and to find their killer. It's a fascinating scientific process with both unknown/still un "Bioethics seems to be lagging behind the science, dumping a mess onto the mental health community." (Ricki Lewis, geneticist and science writer) I first got interested in genetic genealogy and recreational genetics after listening to the Bear Brook podcast about a year ago. The Bear Brook case was one of the first to use genetic genealogy to identify victims that went without identities for several decades and to find their killer. It's a fascinating scientific process with both unknown/still untapped potential to make life better or, as has been well documented in numerous book and new articles, much worse. Most of what has been written about it focuses on the results, finding out your background isn't what you thought (most often in the form of NPE's = not parent expected). This book is the first definitive overview of how recreational genetics started, the companies that use it, the legal and ethical implications of results, social implications concerning race, ethnicity, and identity, criminal investigative uses, privacy concerns, medical implications, and some speculation on how it could be used in the future. If that sounds like a lot, well... it is. It's pretty easy to get bogged down in the technical information, but author Libby Copeland manages to keep in interesting with lots of real world examples that examine both the positive and negative aspects of this emerging technology. I found the sections of privacy and the section on the social implications of using genetics to "determine" race and ethnicity particularly enlightening. Until this book, I never really understood how complicated a process genetic genealogy is and how easy it is to get incorrect results. Fascinating stuff! I have not used recreational genetics for my own analysis as I have serious trust issues concerning privacy. This book did nothin to change my mind, maybe even made me question it even more. However, I did find it a well-balanced overview, looking at both sides of each issue.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    I'm sure, for me at least, that I would have gotten more out of this if I could have read it and not listened to the audible. There's so much character, named anecdotal inputs- that that would have been easier to context, IMHO. Not to speak of all the DNA or RNA or mitochondrial specifics that don't lend themselves to description and interactions by vocal aspects alone. Saying that, I still might have not given this more than a 3.5 star because of the width of this survey. It's all over the place I'm sure, for me at least, that I would have gotten more out of this if I could have read it and not listened to the audible. There's so much character, named anecdotal inputs- that that would have been easier to context, IMHO. Not to speak of all the DNA or RNA or mitochondrial specifics that don't lend themselves to description and interactions by vocal aspects alone. Saying that, I still might have not given this more than a 3.5 star because of the width of this survey. It's all over the place too for such tangents. There are probably at least a dozen unforeseen scenarios named/ described that can and do proceed from using personal DNA ancestry or specific origin (by country or ethnic regions) saliva kits. And many of them for my particular "eye" view seem to be of the roving natures of the Wild West. So much goes on that is lawless or next to lawless and so many directions for personal relationship can be broken or bridged or just plain altered. Or cause huge worry for trying to unlearn what would have been best not to know. And often, it is not just for the individual who sent in the analysis but for others who never did this trendy enterprise at all. Like sperm donors, or long lost biological family of every degree. All manners of surprises that happen daily and for which people are always insisting are going to happen to the "other" people. It's not just about secrets either, but about trying to "unknow" something. An impossible task. And usually nothing but a negative any way you look at it. And the sale of information and actual materials! You read that- I have thought of about 4 or 5 not even mentioned here. Fair Warning is a Connelly book I just read. That brings up one I had thought about myself previously to reading it. This uses hours to years of information from experiences of the 4 major companies and also the Mormon registries of every level etc. etc. And all types of governmental or bureaucratic records in tangent additions. Also how obsessive the hobby of this depth information can become. And much psychology about self-identity and outcomes of dozens of other directions that do occur. Most of which were never considered or foreseen. The second half is better than the first half. But it is no more than a 3 star on the whole regardless. Also there were politico statements that didn't at all belong in a book that was supposedly defining science states. It's also overlong with way too much redundancy, at times for the very same people and cases too. But truthfully, there may be outcome or reaction in myriad directions or afterwards for the same cases. And not only for trying to "unknow" but also for extended folk who had no idea that they would be impacted by this. Not always in positive or negative ways particularly. But still impacted. YET, there is a better way to relate this than through repetition of the entire former information about "Alice" or whomever- but just 4 chapters later. It did give some quasi-specific answers that I had questions for though. Especially upon cousins, and other less closely connected blood relations to further degrees. If that is written in stone for degrees of connections by these tests. It's not always accurate for degree distance, it seems. But for people who want to continually look back- you should read this first before you become embedded to gifting this or developing an ancestry hobby, IMHO. I've never did any DNA kits but my 2 sons have and so have many less closely connected relations. So my profile is more or less "there" in many ways and slants already. That also raises an entire question of privacy and personal autonomy that the law or any true measure is not answering presently either. Even with medical conditions being "more known" or tendencies? Anecdotal cases here for this absolutely being a NEGATIVE to decisions made in error. I absolutely get how that happens. I'd much prefer to look forward and own self-identity I've made, just not what I hold biologically.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tina Rae

    So. This entire book was fascinating. I learned so much from this book! It is filled with a ton of fascinating, useful information but also, doesn't read like an info dump (which is always appreciated!). A lot of the information presented is woven into real life stories and the entire book follows a lot of different players who had very different experiences with DNA and with the use of testing sites. Honestly, I loved this book so much. I especially loved following the mystery of Alice and her p So. This entire book was fascinating. I learned so much from this book! It is filled with a ton of fascinating, useful information but also, doesn't read like an info dump (which is always appreciated!). A lot of the information presented is woven into real life stories and the entire book follows a lot of different players who had very different experiences with DNA and with the use of testing sites. Honestly, I loved this book so much. I especially loved following the mystery of Alice and her parentage. I love that that mystery is woven throughout the entire book and a lot of the good information that comes from this book is embedded in that story. The entire thing was fascinating and having that mystery as the backdrop was a wonderful choice for this book! It helped the information presented feel more real and accessible because it was presented through the lens of a real story. This book is also a deep dive into nature vs nurture but it also brings up a lot of things that I had never really thought about. How children created by sperm or egg donors don't really know their true DNA heritage, how DNA testing sites are even changing the way law enforcement catches violent crime perpetrators (I especially loved the section discussing how the Golden State Killer was caught; I read Michelle McNamara's wonderful book on that subject so finding the rest of that story here was a nice surprise!), and even how distantly related we can be to some of our own genetic ancestors just because so many genes are lost through generations. So. Overall, this was an absolutely wonderful read that I'm glad I picked up. I think it helped that I was already fascinated with this subject and this book was everything I wanted it to be. It's a well written little think piece that answered questions I didn't even know I had. And it was just a wonderful picture of a fascinating subject. I highly recommend!! Thank you so much to NetGalley and Abrams Press for allowing me the chance to read and review this book!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Biblio Files (takingadayoff)

    Excellent book! It's one of those rare books that I think I may want to read again, just because it was so packed with information that I think I probably missed some good stuff the first time around. I have recently (about three years) gotten into genealogy and find it's a blast, with combing through documents and newspapers, figuring out puzzles, and finding out interesting bits of history. But I have not jumped on the DNA bandwagon, because I don't think I have any questions that will be answ Excellent book! It's one of those rare books that I think I may want to read again, just because it was so packed with information that I think I probably missed some good stuff the first time around. I have recently (about three years) gotten into genealogy and find it's a blast, with combing through documents and newspapers, figuring out puzzles, and finding out interesting bits of history. But I have not jumped on the DNA bandwagon, because I don't think I have any questions that will be answered by DNA and I have doubts about the "ethnicity" results. The Lost Family delves into the good and bad of DNA testing, its strengths and weaknesses, with lots of real life examples to illustrate the points. Non Paternity Events (NPEs), DNA use by law enforcement, ethnicity results, who owns your results, do you have any control on what happens to your sample, and more, all addressed in fascinating detail in The Lost Family.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Wow. Extremely engrossing, engaging, well written and researched work that combines the stories of personal family searches and revelations with the entire environment of the implications of genetic testing. Fascinating.

  14. 4 out of 5

    High Plains Library District

    Are you among the 10% of Americans who have had their DNA tested through at-home kits? Are you thinking about buying a test for you or a family member as a holiday present? Are you simply curious about what such a test might tell you? Journalist Libby Coleman takes a look at a situation in which the technology of genetic testing seems to have outpaced the social preparedness for scenarios in which the answers received are not the ones expected. Illuminated by a number of personal stories—both hea Are you among the 10% of Americans who have had their DNA tested through at-home kits? Are you thinking about buying a test for you or a family member as a holiday present? Are you simply curious about what such a test might tell you? Journalist Libby Coleman takes a look at a situation in which the technology of genetic testing seems to have outpaced the social preparedness for scenarios in which the answers received are not the ones expected. Illuminated by a number of personal stories—both heartwarming and heartbreaking—of surprise results and their aftermaths, The Lost Family describes unexpected outcomes owing to a variety of circumstances: adoption, donor-conceived children, and the relatively-not-uncommon “non-paternity events.” Coleman sensitively investigates the world of amateur sleuths piecing together genetic and genealogical clues to determine and make meaning of their family histories and personal identities, even as she asks the hard questions about whether we have considered all the implications of sharing this most personal of information. An interesting and thought-provoking read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    This book thoroughly explores the many ways that direct to consumer DNA testing can cause disruption to individuals and families through secrets and mysteries unexpectedly brought to light. Copeland frames the whole book around the central mystery of Alice who takes a DNA test and discovers that rather than being half Irish as she and her family had always believed she was half Jewish and the many routes she travels to unravel that mystery. Along the way Copeland delves into other peoples storie This book thoroughly explores the many ways that direct to consumer DNA testing can cause disruption to individuals and families through secrets and mysteries unexpectedly brought to light. Copeland frames the whole book around the central mystery of Alice who takes a DNA test and discovers that rather than being half Irish as she and her family had always believed she was half Jewish and the many routes she travels to unravel that mystery. Along the way Copeland delves into other peoples stories as well people who find out they were the product of an affair, adoption, and even rape, and the ethics of DNA information being out in the public arena as the police and FBI have begun using these same methods to solve cold cases, and insurance companies that may demand your DNA information before agreeing to insure you. She also delves in to how DNA tests work and some of the intricacies of inheritance. This part was slightly boring for me because I had recently read the book she references a lot, She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity. I was originally put off by the more casual and currently discouraged use of Mormon to refer to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and it's members, but she does eventually use the full name and talk about the reason for the church's interest in genealogy in a very complete and respectful way. Popsugar Reading Challenge 2020: A book about of involving social media. (while I could make a good case that the various genealogy sites are themselves social media this book also talks extensively about the use of facebook and other social media sites.)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Crane

    I have been a genealogist for over forty years and was an early adopter of DNA for genealogical research, so was interested to read this book. The "seeker" stories are interesting, but most have been told better in other places. The stories were so chopped up that it was hard to keep track of which one she was returning to, after the "scientific" sections. There was nothing in the book that I wasn't aware of or hadn't heard or read before, as I'm sure would be the case with most genetic genealog I have been a genealogist for over forty years and was an early adopter of DNA for genealogical research, so was interested to read this book. The "seeker" stories are interesting, but most have been told better in other places. The stories were so chopped up that it was hard to keep track of which one she was returning to, after the "scientific" sections. There was nothing in the book that I wasn't aware of or hadn't heard or read before, as I'm sure would be the case with most genetic genealogists. Even non-genealogists have probably heard some of the seeker stories and would almost certainly be bored to death by the science, so I'm not sure who the intended audience is. The fact that she is a reporter for the New York Times indicated what her slant would be, but I guess I expected a little more objectivity. I did, however, muddle through to the end.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Irene Newsham

    This is an interesting book that not only chronicles the history of the use of direct-to-consumer DNA testing but it's personal and social impact on families. It interweaves interesting stories of individuals who have discovered family "secrets" while also examining the social, emotional and personal implications for those individuals and their families upon learning about these "secrets". This aspect of DNA testing is something that people do not think about or anticipate. The author manages to This is an interesting book that not only chronicles the history of the use of direct-to-consumer DNA testing but it's personal and social impact on families. It interweaves interesting stories of individuals who have discovered family "secrets" while also examining the social, emotional and personal implications for those individuals and their families upon learning about these "secrets". This aspect of DNA testing is something that people do not think about or anticipate. The author manages to keep your interest by interweaving the personal stories with the discussions on the implication of DNA testing. If you have any interest in genealogy, this is an interesting and important read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Marjorie Elwood

    Utterly mesmerizing, this book weaves compelling personal stories with the science of DNA testing. Once I started it, I couldn't put it down - I wanted to hear the ending of each narrative, to find out which mysteries were solved and who was related to whom. Utterly mesmerizing, this book weaves compelling personal stories with the science of DNA testing. Once I started it, I couldn't put it down - I wanted to hear the ending of each narrative, to find out which mysteries were solved and who was related to whom.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    Whilst I found minor parts a little dry, the driving narrative of Alice's mystery spurred me on and did not disappoint. Truly eye opening. Whilst I found minor parts a little dry, the driving narrative of Alice's mystery spurred me on and did not disappoint. Truly eye opening.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Katrina

    More like 3.5 stars. This book is fascinating and a must read for anyone interested in genealogy and genetics. While I knew the story of the Benson-Collins mystery, this book flushed it out further as well as discussing the issues with genealogy and direct to consumer testing. My qualms about this book are, 1) some of the stuff is a little technical and overwhelming. It made my eyes kind of just skip over things. 2) the whole Benson-Collins thing needs a freaking family trees(s) to keep track of More like 3.5 stars. This book is fascinating and a must read for anyone interested in genealogy and genetics. While I knew the story of the Benson-Collins mystery, this book flushed it out further as well as discussing the issues with genealogy and direct to consumer testing. My qualms about this book are, 1) some of the stuff is a little technical and overwhelming. It made my eyes kind of just skip over things. 2) the whole Benson-Collins thing needs a freaking family trees(s) to keep track of who is who. And finally, 3) there was a bit too much repetition about the Benson-Collins mystery. It could have been paired down. Overall, it's a good book and highly recommend if you're thinking about doing a genetics test or have done one already. I will say this did help clear up some of my recent confusion about some of my Ancestry results.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Wanda

    A very thorough overview of direct-to-consumer DNA testing: its history, the science behind it, the ethics of its use in law enforcement and commercial applications, and several intriguing cases where the testing results were *not* as expected. This is well written investigative journalism – the author explains the book is an expansion of an article she wrote for the Washington Post – and does an excellent job of balancing all the technical terms and science with the human interest side of the s A very thorough overview of direct-to-consumer DNA testing: its history, the science behind it, the ethics of its use in law enforcement and commercial applications, and several intriguing cases where the testing results were *not* as expected. This is well written investigative journalism – the author explains the book is an expansion of an article she wrote for the Washington Post – and does an excellent job of balancing all the technical terms and science with the human interest side of the subject.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alan Cook

    The area of DNA testing is changing very rapidly, but this book does a good job of explaining its past and talking about current issues. My wife has done DNA testing of relatives and friends almost since it has been available, and she knows many of the people in the book. She is also familiar with the larger testing services. The book talks about them in a fair way, and tells how they have changed since their inception. People who take DNA tests should be aware that the results may not agree wit The area of DNA testing is changing very rapidly, but this book does a good job of explaining its past and talking about current issues. My wife has done DNA testing of relatives and friends almost since it has been available, and she knows many of the people in the book. She is also familiar with the larger testing services. The book talks about them in a fair way, and tells how they have changed since their inception. People who take DNA tests should be aware that the results may not agree with what they expected. This doesn't mean the tests are wrong. Many a test taker has discovered that the man who helped to raise them isn't their father. This may come as a shock, but DNA testing has also helped orphans find their parents, and helped uncover situations such as babies being switched between families at birth. DNA databases have also helped to solve criminal cold cases as they have grown in size and value. DNA tests also help to show the potential for medical problems. Privacy questions have been raised and should be discussed. The future of DNA testing is uncertain, but it is a fascinating subject and has done a lot of good.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    This is a timely overview of direct to consumer genetic testing for ancestry. It is written at a popular level yet is comprehensive in its scope of how this type of testing is shaping individuals' perceptions of themselves, facilitating connections (wanted and unwanted) between biological relatives, and influencing society at large (ex. facilitating crime solving of cold cases). A story about a woman who discovers via ancestry testing that her deceased father was swapped at birth in the hospital This is a timely overview of direct to consumer genetic testing for ancestry. It is written at a popular level yet is comprehensive in its scope of how this type of testing is shaping individuals' perceptions of themselves, facilitating connections (wanted and unwanted) between biological relatives, and influencing society at large (ex. facilitating crime solving of cold cases). A story about a woman who discovers via ancestry testing that her deceased father was swapped at birth in the hospital was woven throughout the book, which made it even more intriguing. I was less a fan of the 2 chapters advocating that race is purely a societal construct (the author asked the key question of, "how do we then account for physical differences that we see?" but did not provide any answers). The chapter on genetic privacy was very insightful: one of the scientists who pioneered the study of this subject ~5 years ago was ridiculed by his colleagues at the time as it never being a relevant topic...my how the tables have turned! Overall, highly recommend for all my fellow genetics nerds out there and any one wanting to learn the history of and explore the vast implications of ancestry DNA testing.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    Lots more scientific data then anticipated- but very interesting. Personal search stories adding new insights. Also covers ethics and consequences of genealogy investigation in terms of families, adoptees, sperm donors and criminal DNA searches.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rita Ciresi

    Focusing more on the negative than the positive side of DNA testing, this book will make you think twice before submitting your personal information to a commercial genealogy site.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kirsti

    Fascinating account of what happens when you take a commercially available ancestry test such as 23andMe. If you decide to do this, understand that some of these things may happen: * Someone may steal your genetic information in a data breach. * Future employers, insurance agencies, or other organizations may secretly and illegally discriminate against you based on genetic information. * You may find relatives that you didn't know you had, and this may be fun and enriching. * You may find relatives Fascinating account of what happens when you take a commercially available ancestry test such as 23andMe. If you decide to do this, understand that some of these things may happen: * Someone may steal your genetic information in a data breach. * Future employers, insurance agencies, or other organizations may secretly and illegally discriminate against you based on genetic information. * You may find relatives that you didn't know you had, and this may be fun and enriching. * You may find relatives that you didn't know you had, and this may be shocking and upsetting. * You may find out that people you thought were your relatives are not biologically related to you at all. * You may find out that there was incest in your family. * You may experience an NPE or "not parent expected" event. * It may turn out that you don't have the racial background that you thought you did. * It may turn out that you don't have the ethnic background that you thought you did. * This one is unlikely, but you may find out that you were the product of a sperm donation and you have dozens of half-siblings. * This one is really unlikely, but you may find out that you or one of your ancestors was switched at birth because of a mistake at the hospital. (The most recent cases of this occurred in the mid-1900s, as far as anyone can tell right now.)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kerri (Book Hoarder)

    This book is completely fascinating and hits close to home for me, as my mother was adopted and I don't know much about my father's family, either. It seems like the older I get, the more I wonder about the history - 'where I came from'. I treasure the family that raised me, and I will never stop considering them to be family, but I still wonder. This book delves into stories like this and more, and I found it incredibly intriguing, if I'm being honest. My gran knew that I'd uploaded my informat This book is completely fascinating and hits close to home for me, as my mother was adopted and I don't know much about my father's family, either. It seems like the older I get, the more I wonder about the history - 'where I came from'. I treasure the family that raised me, and I will never stop considering them to be family, but I still wonder. This book delves into stories like this and more, and I found it incredibly intriguing, if I'm being honest. My gran knew that I'd uploaded my information to 23andMe, and was supportive of it, but as closer relatives start to pop up on that site and others, I do wonder what she would think of it in the end. I never really talked to her about my mother's birth family... At any rate, even for people who are 100% sure of their genetic history, I would recommend this book. It looks at a lot of important issues and has some fascinating stories woven in above the information and facts, as well as an exploration of how DNA testing has progressed over the last decade or so.

  28. 4 out of 5

    ♥ Marlene♥

    After reading and loving Hidden Road Valley I wanted to read more good non fiction and this book was one recommendation. I very much enjoyed it. It does make you think of the negatives as well as the good. I think I am going to skip but this would be so good for my sister‘s ( who has passed) son. Perhaps he can figure out his father now because we still do not know. That being said the dna business is just starting here in The Netherlands. Not as big as in the USA but I am sure that will change a After reading and loving Hidden Road Valley I wanted to read more good non fiction and this book was one recommendation. I very much enjoyed it. It does make you think of the negatives as well as the good. I think I am going to skip but this would be so good for my sister‘s ( who has passed) son. Perhaps he can figure out his father now because we still do not know. That being said the dna business is just starting here in The Netherlands. Not as big as in the USA but I am sure that will change and I am not sure that’s a good thing. A well written book easy to read which gave me more knowledge about dna.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Martha

    This turned out to be a lot more enthralling than I expected. The author provides a clear and detailed history of home DNA tests and the companies that sell them, interwoven with the personal stories of people whose lives were changed for better or worse by the results of those tests--and the stories are fascinating, especially that of Alice and her siblings, which provides the thread tying the book together. The author shows that as more and more people are tested, few of us can remain unaffect This turned out to be a lot more enthralling than I expected. The author provides a clear and detailed history of home DNA tests and the companies that sell them, interwoven with the personal stories of people whose lives were changed for better or worse by the results of those tests--and the stories are fascinating, especially that of Alice and her siblings, which provides the thread tying the book together. The author shows that as more and more people are tested, few of us can remain unaffected, even those who don't test themselves--with important implications for our family relationships and society in general. Highly recommended.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    I just took a DNA test turns out incest is a lot more common Yeah I got genetic problems that's the DNA in me. Spit, swab, then I analyze them that's the geneticist in me. First, I'm not a product of incest, but if you read the book, you'll get the joke. Overall, I enjoyed this book and I learned a lot about genetic testing. There are so many taboos that I never considered before. The potential can of worms has the power to change how you view yourself entirely. My gripe is that it takes a good while b I just took a DNA test turns out incest is a lot more common Yeah I got genetic problems that's the DNA in me. Spit, swab, then I analyze them that's the geneticist in me. First, I'm not a product of incest, but if you read the book, you'll get the joke. Overall, I enjoyed this book and I learned a lot about genetic testing. There are so many taboos that I never considered before. The potential can of worms has the power to change how you view yourself entirely. My gripe is that it takes a good while before the info and stories start to pick up. If you are considering doing one of the online genetic testings, maybe give this a read first.

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