The availability of home genealogical testing has made genealogical searches popular and easy to do. This has led to many interesting stories from people who meet long-lost relatives, knowing that their inheritance is not what they think, and even finding that they are not genetically related to people they think are blood relatives. Genealogy testing: Prepare for the emotional reaction
Although much has been written about privacy concerns related to genealogical DNA testing and how the information is shared, there seems little attention paid to preparing people for the emotions they may experience in reaction to what they may find. This preparation includes considering what people expect for testing, and the best way to deal with surprising results ("good" or "bad"). Genealogy testing: Prepare for the emotional reaction
Genealogy and family connections
Finding "new" family members through DNA genealogical testing can trigger a variety of emotions, including happiness, anxiety, sadness, or even anger. In fact, emotional experiences may be so strong that many genealogy sites state that they are not responsible for "emotional disturbances" that may be caused by the use of the service. Genealogy testing: Prepare for the emotional reaction
If you are considering testing a consumer pedigree, think carefully about your motivation for your search. What do you want to learn? What do you want to know? What would you do if you received unexpected results (for example, your DNA indicates that your roots are not in Ireland as you expected, or that you are not biologically related to your family)? Do you anticipate trying to connect with relatives you never know? What would you do if you could not make that connection? What would you do if you could ? How will these new people get into your life and the families you already know? Genealogy testing: Prepare for the emotional reaction
What happens if the results are disappointing? Genealogy testing: Prepare for the emotional reaction
Do not do the genealogy test yourself
Whatever you expect, understand the search in life you have. Consider talking to family members about your interest in testing before you take the plunge. Share your goals for exploring your family tree, and invite family members to share their thoughts as well. Provide space for family members to express their concerns and fears and curiosity. This conversation offers an opportunity to explore family history in a new way. Be prepared for it also to gather information that was previously kept secret or difficult to talk about. Genealogy testing: Prepare for the emotional reaction
Preparing for genealogical test results
It takes weeks to months to process tests and get results, so think about how you will manage the waiting time for results. You can choose to spend time collecting data about your family. Keep reflecting on the reasons for your interest in your family history, and plan ahead for how you will see results. Alone? With family? With friends? Genealogy testing: Prepare for the emotional reaction
Take time to consider whether you want your results to be shared with others on the genealogy site. Think about whether you want to be contacted by a stranger with whom you can share your DNA, and whether you want to reach out to others.
Proactively make plans to address the potential of strong emotional responses. Plan how much time you will allocate when you enter the genealogy site. Make sure you have other activities scheduled for your day, and do not neglect any other plans you have made to spend additional time on the genealogy site.
Getting (and in action) the results of the genealogical testing
Once you receive the results, you may at first find the amount of data you receive incredible. For example, you may receive information about your ethnicity, and the hundreds (or thousands) of people with whom you share a significant amount of DNA. Make it a point to tend to your emotions. Are you happy? Restless? Sad? Is this what you expect to find? If it starts to feel like too much process, take a break from mineing the data. Update your family and friends about how you do it, and let them know if you need support.
For some people, the results of genealogy testing encourage them to reach out to strangers to whom they share DNA. This can lead to new and positive connections. This can also lead to disappointing connections. And probably the most difficult to deal with no response. Some people you try to contact on the site will not reply to your email. Consider how many times you will reach someone who is not responding.
Moving forward after genealogical testing
DNA genealogical tests can yield information about your heritage that you never knew and never even thought about. It can be fun and can expand your thinking. It can also be confusing to learn about the difference between what you think you know about your family and what the results of testing are. And for some people, it may not bring about the insights and direction they expect, or it may cause problems around difficult family relationships to handle. Genealogy testing: Prepare for the emotional reaction
Ultimately, the results of genealogical testing do not change who you are as a person. But it may provide interesting information about your family tree and produce a strong emotional experience. Be prepared with plans and support systems. Genealogy testing: Prepare for the emotional reaction