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(24,259 posts)
Thu Jul 27, 2017, 06:59 PM Jul 2017

Such an interesting story: Who Was She? A DNA Test Only Opened New Mysteries.

This is a bit long but I found the twists and turns in it fascinating perhaps more so since I just recently sent in my sample to 23andMe to find out more about my genetic background/health predispositions since I'm adopted and know only a little.


Five years ago, Alice Collins Plebuch made a decision that would alter her future — or really, her past.

She sent away for a “just-for-fun DNA test.” When the tube arrived, she spit and spit until she filled it up to the line, and then sent it off in the mail. She wanted to know what she was made of.

Plebuch, now 69, already had a rough idea of what she would find. Her parents, both deceased, were Irish American Catholics who raised her and her six siblings with church Sundays and ethnic pride. But Plebuch, who had a long-standing interest in science and DNA, wanted to know more about her dad’s side of the family. The son of Irish immigrants, Jim Collins had been raised in an orphanage from a young age, and his extended family tree was murky.

After a few weeks during which her saliva was analyzed, she got an email in the summer of 2012 with a link to her results. The report was confounding.
37 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
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Such an interesting story: Who Was She? A DNA Test Only Opened New Mysteries. (Original Post) WePurrsevere Jul 2017 OP
My cousin just received hers not long ago tymorial Jul 2017 #1
Would you repost a summary of the article sarge43 Jul 2017 #2
Could you please summarize? It's behind a pay wall for me. Shrike47 Jul 2017 #3
I was able to read without a subscription. LisaL Jul 2017 #6
I googled the subject and found out at least some of the story. Shrike47 Jul 2017 #4
Thank you! nt WePurrsevere Jul 2017 #5
Darn it! I'm sorry, I forgot about their 'free' limit. I found a couple ways... WePurrsevere Jul 2017 #7
I don't have to spit in a tube. hunter Jul 2017 #8
Or so you think... Hassin Bin Sober Jul 2017 #17
There's plenty of that too. hunter Jul 2017 #20
All of my ancestors immigrated from Norway or Sweden. Thor_MN Jul 2017 #29
I'm an evolutionary biologist by natural inclination and some formal training... hunter Jul 2017 #34
It was long but totally engrossing. OregonBlue Jul 2017 #9
This message was self-deleted by its author Boxerfan Jul 2017 #10
Very intriguing, indeed. 3catwoman3 Jul 2017 #11
"biological loneliness"... WePurrsevere Jul 2017 #15
Just wait until you are 90+ MosheFeingold Jul 2017 #18
Interesting story. denbot Jul 2017 #12
That was what I found the most interesting... WePurrsevere Jul 2017 #13
After being matched by Ancestry with cousins, I have found several unresolved "mysteries" wishstar Jul 2017 #14
That sounds so interesting... WePurrsevere Jul 2017 #16
A DNA test completely change my family's life. Hell Hath No Fury Jul 2017 #19
Wow... That's an amazing discovery... WePurrsevere Jul 2017 #21
I just reread your post -- Hell Hath No Fury Jul 2017 #22
Thank you so much for the kind offer... WePurrsevere Jul 2017 #23
"Doing DNA testing for fun can carry consequences few of us might anticipate." ailsagirl Jul 2017 #24
It's interesting to do but it's certainly not for everyone... WePurrsevere Jul 2017 #25
I would never enter into it lightly, that's for sure ailsagirl Jul 2017 #28
Identical triplets take DNA tests and get three different results... TheDebbieDee Jul 2017 #26
The science behind why differences can sometimes show up.... WePurrsevere Jul 2017 #27
My dad said all our ancestors were horse thieves left-of-center2012 Jul 2017 #30
Is one DNA testing site better than the others? left-of-center2012 Jul 2017 #31
I'm a member of a few adoptee groups on FB and... WePurrsevere Jul 2017 #33
Thanks for the very informative response left-of-center2012 Jul 2017 #36
You're very welcome. nt WePurrsevere Jul 2017 #37
Long but very interesting article left-of-center2012 Jul 2017 #32
Yes, she does. She also did, and lucked into, some excellent networking. WePurrsevere Jul 2017 #35


(3,433 posts)
1. My cousin just received hers not long ago
Thu Jul 27, 2017, 07:11 PM
Jul 2017

She was told that she was only 16 percent French. My French Canadian family was... confounded is the best way I can put it lol.


(28,968 posts)
2. Would you repost a summary of the article
Thu Jul 27, 2017, 07:13 PM
Jul 2017

A subscription is required to access a WaPo article.

Thank you


(45,727 posts)
6. I was able to read without a subscription.
Thu Jul 27, 2017, 07:40 PM
Jul 2017

Basically, through ancestry DNA testing, she discovered that her father was switched at birth. She believed herself to be fully Irish, but as it turned out her father was Jewish and didn't know it because he was switched at birth in the hospital.


(6,913 posts)
4. I googled the subject and found out at least some of the story.
Thu Jul 27, 2017, 07:34 PM
Jul 2017

Ms. Plebuch's father, of Jewish ancestry, was apparently accidentally switched in the hospital at birth with the child of an Irish couple. Neither man discovered this in his lifetime and each was raised in culturally appropriate ways. The real biological families are getting to know one another.


(24,259 posts)
7. Darn it! I'm sorry, I forgot about their 'free' limit. I found a couple ways...
Thu Jul 27, 2017, 08:01 PM
Jul 2017

that 'might' be work arounds. I just recently signed up for the monthly digital but if I can't share articles with people that they can read that really is a problem for me.

Anyway, WaPo shared it on Twitter using this address: https://t.co/XQNXlPgkv7?amp=1

I got the idea for the Twitter link on an old WaPo Blog article but it was mentioned on a couple of newer blog tips elsewhere more recently:

There are ways to get around the paywall. As the Post put it in its announcement of the news: “visitors who come to The Post through search engines or shared links will still be able to access the linked page regardless of the number of articles they have previously viewed.” That includes via Twitter.

Blog sites have also suggested using Private or Incognito browsing.


Shrike47 in post #4 kindly gives a decent brief summary but if there's a way to get around the pay wall the 'journey' is interesting as well.


(38,573 posts)
8. I don't have to spit in a tube.
Thu Jul 27, 2017, 08:06 PM
Jul 2017

I've got one thread in my family tree tracing back to nineteenth century San Francisco, another to nineteenth century Salt Lake city.

I'm pretty sure the rest are bullshit.

When my ancestors landed in the U.S.A., and what was to become the U.S.A., they hit the ground running.

Hassin Bin Sober

(26,462 posts)
17. Or so you think...
Fri Jul 28, 2017, 09:04 AM
Jul 2017

My friend just found out her sister is really only her half sister.

They've been taking it pretty well as their mom raised them as a single mom and they never really had much to do with their father. So one of them figuring out their father wasn't really their father wasn't the end of the world.

But now the aunt (mom's sister) figured it out because she is now in the database. The aunt is freaking out over the whole ordeal and wants to confront the mom.

I had to laugh at the article mention of the Native American piece of the article. My partner just found out his family is in fact no part Cherokee as they have been told.

But my partner did find out he is part Italian. So I told him to make with the limoncello and vino.


(38,573 posts)
20. There's plenty of that too.
Fri Jul 28, 2017, 02:19 PM
Jul 2017

One of my grandfathers had either a miraculously long gestation or a miraculously short gestation since his father had been away working at the estimated time of conception. It was a very small community, everyone could do the math, and most everyone had a good idea who his biological father was although it was never documented. As an adult, my mom eventually got the name of her biological grandfather before all the elderly people who knew about the scandal had passed. It was Mormon territory, where a man having children by multiple women wasn't unheard of, a few men still polygamous, but such behavior by a woman couldn't be condoned.

Three of my great grandmothers lived in the heart of Mormon territory and all four of my great grandmas, fiercely wild west, had nothing nice to say about the Mormons. (The men in the family got a surprising amount of work as arbiters in conflicts between competing Mormon factions; surveying, settling water and range disputes, as telephone linemen, etc..)

In the days when children were born at home and there were no computer databases, there was a lot of messing around with birth dates too. My other grandpa had three official birth dates he maintained throughout his life; one for his military record, one for his social security, and another on his driver's license. One of his sisters claimed yet a fourth date for him, which was probably the authentic one.

On both sides of my family there is a fluidity of names too, beginning in childhood. You call someone what they choose to be called.

Perhaps I'm more interested in the "nurture" side of the equation than the "nature" side of the equation; the cultural genealogy.

The genetic signal gets noisy very quickly and loses correlation with the culture. Before modern medicine there were some very strong selective pressures too which further disrupt any cultural meanings one might tease out of the genetic signal.

The genetics are amusing however when a bigot discovers ancestors who were among groups they despise. There was a thread of "Nope, no Irish here," in my family. Apparently if you couldn't pass as English, try Scots Presbyterian. Nobody who wasn't Mormon went to church anyways, the nearest churches were too far away.



(11,843 posts)
29. All of my ancestors immigrated from Norway or Sweden.
Sun Jul 30, 2017, 11:49 AM
Jul 2017

Yet my results said 9% Finnish. My dad did a test and he was 18% Finnish. A little more digging and I have found that his grandmother, who was born and died in Sweden was of Finnish descent.

Also found that the guy that sits next to me at work is related by a marriage in 1780. I'm helping him with his tree and a branch of his mom's family is from the same area of Norway that my grandmother was from.

The 1800 were not all that long ago, in terms of generations. And if you haven't found where they came from, a DNA test could tell you quite a bit. If nothing else, it will give you a lot of new leads.


(38,573 posts)
34. I'm an evolutionary biologist by natural inclination and some formal training...
Sun Jul 30, 2017, 05:04 PM
Jul 2017

... but when it comes to recent human history I'm a lot more interested in cultural evolution.

A genetic analysis wouldn't place me in any tribe, and it's very obvious most of my ancestors were escaping the tribes they were born to when they fled Europe. That's why they were in the American West, and that's why they made up stories about their own family origins, some of them quite fanciful and easily discredited in these days of computer databases which now include just about every paper document that still exists. (We visited Ellis Island and my wife easily found the records of her last immigrant ancestor. My wife's family is also Southwestern U.S. and Northwestern Mexican Native American. There are Catholic Church records for many of them. I don't have any genealogy that easy. My last immigrant ancestor to Salt Lake City told her LDS sponsors what they wanted to hear and then she ran away when she got here, discovering she was not willing to share a husband with other women.)

One of my great grandfathers is a genealogical dead end and it's very clear that's exactly the way he wanted it to be. (His kid is the one with four birth dates and a few names.) I can respect that and not dig deeper. It doesn't matter to me, I'm sure he was doing the best he could to escape whatever hell he'd been born into. If I claim now he was a time traveler who got stranded on nineteenth century Earth I'll bet it would make him smile.

Response to WePurrsevere (Original post)


(24,516 posts)
11. Very intriguing, indeed.
Fri Jul 28, 2017, 12:08 AM
Jul 2017

My late father was stationed in Hawaii during WWII, in an Army supply unit. He was there for 3 years, and really enjoyed it.

After the sudden death of my only sibling, my 23 year old brother when I was 26, I found myself wondering if my dad might possibly have fathered a child with a local woman - certainly not an uncommon occurrence for men in the military. He was tall and good looking, and I'm sure many young women would have found him desirable. He was pretty much a "straight arrow," but you never know.

He was a very private man, and the classic "man of few words." I never had the courage to ask him about this, and if I had, he might not have answered. There is no question that my mom was a virgin when she married my dad. They met in 1947, and married in 1948. She claims she knew nothing about, as she put it, his "romantic" past. She knew he'd had girlfriends, but never inquired about whether any of those relationships took a sexual turn. Things like that were not talked about in the 1940s like they are now. I've never asked her if she ever wondered about any unknown offspring.

I'm 66 now. The feeling of what I call "biological loneliness" that resulted from the loss of my brother has never gone away. I'm not a sister anymore. I miss that relationship terribly. I am intrigued by the idea of a half sibling out there somewhere, but leery of it, too. Is such a person existed, would he/she want to know me, or would there be feelings of resentment because my dad had not been there to be his/her dad.


(24,259 posts)
15. "biological loneliness"...
Fri Jul 28, 2017, 05:17 AM
Jul 2017

I'm truly sorry you feel this way. It's a horrible feeling I know a bit about because that's similar to how I've felt all my life as an adoptee. To some it may sound odd but even though I have 2 daughters and grandchildren now that 'missing link' feeling hasn't gone away.

Anyway, back when your dad was single if a young woman turned up pregnant she normally put the baby up for adoption, although having a family member raise it or raising it as a young 'widow' wasn't unheard of. As someone who's adopted and knows others I'd say your odds of resentment are lower than those of happiness of finding a new close relation. If they had been lied to that could cause confusion and anger but most of the time it's not towards the messenger and the most common response is to cut communications or not reply at all.

I'm 57 and don't hold out a lot of hope finding my biological parents alive but I know that I'd want to know if I have 1/2 or full siblings or other family still alive are out there (my birth father is Canadian and I'd love to claim that birthright, especially since Trump, lol). Like you in a way, I'm also very nervous about it with a fear of being rejected playing a big part plus there's the question of will I get along with them if I'm not rejected outright. Because of all this my mind set is to find out my genetic history and health predispositions. I'll enter the data in to see if any genetic matches come up, leave it up to fate and deal with it at that point if a close family member or two show up. That way the finding of actual blood relations would be sort of a bonus not an expectation.

Perhaps if you do a DNA test you'd find interesting things about your family or reassurance in knowing it's what you expected. In seeing your family tree, seeing the connectedness, as a visual thing perhaps it will help you feel a bit less biologically alone too.


(3,051 posts)
18. Just wait until you are 90+
Fri Jul 28, 2017, 10:40 AM
Jul 2017

And not only all your family is dead, but even all your friends.

Everyone in the obituaries are 20 years younger than me.


(9,904 posts)
12. Interesting story.
Fri Jul 28, 2017, 12:35 AM
Jul 2017

Mrs Collins-Plebuch was tenacious in following up on leads, testing people that were no more than random data "hits".
Even if you compared her to a professional detective, Alice pulled off quite the sleuthing job, discovering, then solving a one hundred year old mystery.


(24,259 posts)
13. That was what I found the most interesting...
Fri Jul 28, 2017, 04:31 AM
Jul 2017

The work and tenacity she exhibited were very impressive as was the help by others, some virtual strangers.


(5,305 posts)
14. After being matched by Ancestry with cousins, I have found several unresolved "mysteries"
Fri Jul 28, 2017, 04:55 AM
Jul 2017

3 years ago, I took the DNA test and started researching my family tree with help of cousins that were DNA matches on Ancestry. I have had great success determining my ancestry quite conclusively going back to all of my great great great grandparents. ( Ancestry .com seems very accurate in determining ethnicity and degree of cousinship of the DNA matches they have identified.)

However I have spent a lot of time trying to help several of my DNA match 2nd and 3rd cousins figure out their ancestry and how we are related but we have not been able to figure out how we are related. None of them are adopted and only one is not sure of true identity of their father. I am trying several theories and hope to eventually figure out our connection, but as most of the older generations are deceased, we may never know.

Thanks for posting this interesting story


(24,259 posts)
16. That sounds so interesting...
Fri Jul 28, 2017, 05:48 AM
Jul 2017

There's a group on FB (if you use it) called DNA Detectives. Maybe they'd be of help sorting it out. There's probably more. I've found some very supportive, helpful and informative groups on FB.

I find the science of this very interesting so I'm trying to learn more. There's so much exciting new stuff since I learned about genetics in biology and nursing 35/40 yrs ago.


Hell Hath No Fury

(16,327 posts)
19. A DNA test completely change my family's life.
Fri Jul 28, 2017, 12:56 PM
Jul 2017

I gave my Mom a Ancestry DNA test as a gift around four years ago -- we were interested in finding out if a family story about her grandmother being part Native American were true. The results came in and we went to check her matches -- as we scrolled through them, we were shocked to see almost no one but Puerto Ricans as her closest matches! My Mom's family is as white bread, mid-western as they come -- to see second and third cousins, all Puerto Rican, from PR, Hawaii, and the East Coast was shocking.

It took four years, an insane amount of research, and a good amount of luck to discover the story behind the results. If fact, we just put the final puzzle pieces together two weeks ago: it turns out my Mom's father not the Irishman my grandmother was married to but was instead the kid brother of my grandmother's Puerto Rican best friend with whom she had an affair.

In this whole process we've gotten to know dozens of new cousins -- which is a big deal for my Mom who grew up and only child with no cousins -- and discovered an amazing new family history.


(24,259 posts)
21. Wow... That's an amazing discovery...
Fri Jul 28, 2017, 07:46 PM
Jul 2017

It sounds like your newly discovered cousins are welcoming you all to the family and your mom is really enjoying it all.

I hope any family discoveries that I make when I get my results back and share them are as warm as your mom has found.


Hell Hath No Fury

(16,327 posts)
22. I just reread your post --
Sat Jul 29, 2017, 11:40 AM
Jul 2017

about being adopted. As a result of my research into my Mom's PR family I have became a bit of a go-to resource for PR adoptees who are DNA related to us and who are looking for their families. So far I have found several birth families and put the adoptees in touch with those families -- I am currently working with four more. The receptions have all generally been very positive, though one of my Mom's half-sisters has decided she wants nothing to do with us. :/

If you would like some help with your situation when your results come in, PM me -- I am REALLY good at this.


(24,259 posts)
23. Thank you so much for the kind offer...
Sat Jul 29, 2017, 12:40 PM
Jul 2017

I truly appreciate it. My knowledge of DNA/genetics is almost 4 decades out of date so I'll gladly accept any help I can get.

I probably won't get my results for another 6 weeks or so since it was just sent it. I'm nervous and excited. I know a bit more than most adoptees like birth name (hasn't helped much), hospital born in, a bit of non-identfying bits of my bio parents story, etc) but it doesn't cover nearly enough. I won't put it all publicly online since some is unique enough that it could confirm a birth parent or such. I 'think' I now know more so one bit I was told is true since my youngest daughter and her father had the test and he showed up with 5% Irish... she showed up 28% so I'm going to 'guess' that contribution is from my side.

Anyway, I'm rambling... thank you again for the kind offer.


(23,040 posts)
24. "Doing DNA testing for fun can carry consequences few of us might anticipate."
Sat Jul 29, 2017, 12:44 PM
Jul 2017

Wise words. I'm rethinking having it done.


(24,259 posts)
25. It's interesting to do but it's certainly not for everyone...
Sat Jul 29, 2017, 01:18 PM
Jul 2017

I spent years debating doing my own and even once I got the kit I had second thoughts so it took me a few days and reading a couple of adoption stories that hit home to finally send it out. Needless to say I definitely don't think the decision should be taken lightly, especially if you're going to go the step of inputting your test results to find genetic connections.


(24,259 posts)
27. The science behind why differences can sometimes show up....
Sat Jul 29, 2017, 03:47 PM
Jul 2017

Below is only the first bit from the reply. The answer goes much deeper if you read the whole article.

The science of this is still relatively new and accuracy is increasing with further studies, etc. If your get results you're not sure of, use a second company to verify. That's what I plan on doing.

My twins each did a 23andMe DNA test and the results verified that they are identical; however, their ancestry composition is not!

How is that possible if their genomes are identical?

-A curious adult from New Jersey

I can see why you’re confused. The same DNA should give the same ancestry results. And yet they haven’t.

This is pretty common with DNA ancestry tests and it isn’t just a 23andMe thing. Companies like Ancestry.com or MyHeritage will give these sorts of results too.

This does not mean these companies are doing shoddy work. They aren’t—they are doing outstanding, cutting edge science that brings DNA testing to many, many people.

It is just that the analysis is complicated enough that it is incredibly difficult to get an exact result. There is some wiggle room.


(24,259 posts)
33. I'm a member of a few adoptee groups on FB and...
Sun Jul 30, 2017, 05:01 PM
Jul 2017

most use Ancestry.com and/or 23andMe.com to help find their roots/bio connections.

The following are only from my basic observations and research. YMMV...

Ancestry specializes in family genetics but it has a larger data base if you want to find bio relatives. You don't have to use their test to enter in data from a different test though. If you're looking for some Irish genes, Ancestry splits that out separately. They're reasonably priced and have a decent reputation. They also have a sale ATM of $20 off BUT.. If you sign up for Ancestry.com emails I've found that they have the same sale a few times a year.

23andme.com - Has 2 packages... one for family and one for family and health. They're more into medical research than Ancestry so if you're interested in predispositions etc they're good for that. Their family only one has one interesting aspect that Ancestry doesn't seem to yet. 23andme will show if you have any Neanderthal roots. As you might imagine the health with biological medical info is very popular with adopters since most of us know zip about that and knowing can of course help doctors know what to watch out for for you, your children, etc. Sales seem to be less frequent with them. I happened to luck into a half price on the family & health one during Amazon's big Deals promo a couple of weeks ago or I might still be waiting.

Family Tree DNA is used a bit too but I haven't heard enough to comment one way or the other on it.

If you already sort of know your 'recent' family history, I've heard this is very interesting...
National Geo's Geno Project. I know less about it since the adoptees aren't using it much because it's very ancestral based.... as in 500 yrs ago and more... not current to 500 yrs ago. I find this project/test absolutely fascinating and may do it someday but I need to start closer in time first.

FWIW there's a group on DU, under Home & Family called Ancestry/Genealogy (link) that looks helpful too.

I know 'you' and most other DUers know to do this but please read the terms closely on any one you're looking into. In the last few months Ancestry.com and 23andMe.com have changed to improve their terms, security because of very vocal concerns about their privacy aspects. I'm using 23andMe and they seems to be very good about cautioning people now.


(34,195 posts)
36. Thanks for the very informative response
Sun Jul 30, 2017, 06:14 PM
Jul 2017

"23andme will show if you have any Neanderthal roots."
That would be interesting.

I had thought in the past about the Nat Geo, but am more interested in more current times.
Good to know your comments there.

Seems it's between 23andme and ancestory.com

Perhaps I can do one and a brother the other one.

Again, thanks and much appreciated.


(34,195 posts)
32. Long but very interesting article
Sun Jul 30, 2017, 02:52 PM
Jul 2017

However the author had extra sources most of us do not,
or could not afford.


(24,259 posts)
35. Yes, she does. She also did, and lucked into, some excellent networking.
Sun Jul 30, 2017, 05:05 PM
Jul 2017

I think I was impressed with that network of hers as much as her story.

Latest Discussions»The DU Lounge»Such an interesting story...