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.We are only just beginning to grapple with what it means to cheaply and easily uncover our genetic heritage.
In 2014, 23and Me estimated that 7,000 users of its service had discovered unexpected paternity or previously unknown siblings — a relatively small fraction of overall users.
According to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy, nearly 8 million people worldwide, but mostly in the United States, have tested their DNA through kits, typically costing or less, from such companies as 23and Me, and Family Tree DNA.
The most popular DNA-deciphering approach, autosomal DNA testing, looks at genetic material inherited from both parents and can be used to connect customers to others in a database who share that material.
If the information Plebuch was seeing on her computer screen was correct, it posed a fundamental mystery about her very identity. In the second row: Jim Collins, John Collins, Bill Collins, Brian Collins and Ed Collins.
It meant one of her parents wasn’t who he or she was supposed to be — and, by extension, neither was she. In the third row: Alice Collins Plebuch and her sister, Gerry Collins Wiggins.