Finding Family, Part Two: You Have Sisters
I joined AncestryDNA to find family — why was it so hard to call when I did?
I was at dinner with one of my dearest friends when I saw the match, a relative AncestryDNA described with the tantalizingly vague phrase “close family.” After years of third or fourth cousin matches, their names always meaningless, I had not expected much. The closest match so far had been my brother’s eldest daughter, who AncestryDNA mislabeled as a first cousin, not niece (likely due to the fact her dad and I only shared one biological parent).
Ancestry tells you how close you are connected by the number of cM shared. (Do I know what cM means or why the M is capitalized? No, no I do not.) Before my niece, the matches had all been in the 100s and 200s. So when I saw a new match at more than 1500 cM shared, I knew it was significant. But more than that made it striking: it was the first match ever with my father’s last name.
The problem was what to do about it.
It had been many years since I’d had an active interest in knowing my father. What if we had nothing in common? Worse: what if we didn’t like each other? Between my dad and my brother, I was already contending with two conservative Cuban men: Did I want to expose myself to one more person who would rave about insurrectionists being right and Black Lives Matter being wrong?
But there was more to my reluctance to know Fernando. As a parent who would do anything for his daughter, I couldn’t help but feel that if Fernando had wanted to know me, he could have. I’ve always believed he made an honorable choice to protect his true family, but a choice is still a choice and it’s one that excluded me.
Why had I signed up for AncestryDNA at all?
When I’d mailed away the tiny DNA slush bucket, I told myself that I wanted to know about my family medical history. And there is truth to that claim; the older I get, the more that piece matters. (I like to joke that the parts all start falling off at 50.) But I am human, which means the internal dialogues I have with myself are not always 100% honest. Medical issues were secondary to the desire to know more about my sister.