Considering a DNA Disclosure

By Amy Dickinson | June 16th, 2023

A cousin wonders about telling the truth, since no one else will

Sad middle-aged women hugging, by motortion. For article on considering a DNA disclosure and family secrets.

A woman is in her 50s, but doesn’t know she is not her father’s daughter – even though everyone else in the family knows. A cousin is considering a DNA disclosure, spilling the beans on the family secret. See what advice columnist Amy Dickinson says in “Ask Amy.”

Dear Amy:

My uncle has four daughters, each about two years apart in age, but his oldest daughter never really fit in. Their mom obsessed over the three younger girls and mostly ignored her eldest.

As adults, the three younger sisters learned from a drunken aunt that their dad isn’t the oldest daughter’s biological father.

It turns out their mom was pregnant with her when she met her husband (in a bar). The daughters are all now in their 50s and for decades everyone in the family has known – except her.

I’ve always believed that someone should tell her. Her father and sisters have said it wasn’t their secret to tell – it was her mom’s, who died two years ago.

In the past few years, the oldest daughter has cut off all ties to her family. When she didn’t go to her mom’s funeral, her father cut her out of his will without telling her.

There are complicated family dynamics, to put it mildly (her mom was a severe alcoholic and emotionally abusive).

I’m just a cousin, but I believe that someone should tell her. It may be because I’m adopted, but I think that her DNA is something she/anyone should know, especially since dozens of other people know about it.

Should I be the one to tell her?

– Concerned Cousin

Dear Concerned:

According to you, your cousin has been excluded since childhood and is now completely cut off from her immediate family. In addition to other dynamics you describe, secrets also separate family members, interfering with relationships.

Your insight as someone who was adopted into the extended family is helpful. Your relative distance as a cousin might make this encounter easier for her.

She already knows she doesn’t “belong” with her kin, she likely already suspects that she has a different father from her siblings, or she may have already had her own DNA sampled.

Yes, I think this is a topic you should broach with your cousin. She has the right to know what so many others already know. One can hope that discovering another group of DNA relatives will bring her into a more deserving family fold.

Want to get even more life tips from Amy? Read more of her advice columns here!

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart – ranging from accepting a new friend to dark family secrets and a DNA disclosure. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

©2023 by Amy Dickinson

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