The modern day wonder of being able to use DNA to determine your genetic heritage is a wonderful thing. It can tell us what haplo group we’re in, what region our ancestors were from; good and bad things. With DNA testing we’ve been able to confirm parentage, convict people of crimes, exonerate innocent people, unite families, and tear families apart. But what if your DNA says you’re not you?
So you ordered your DNA kit from (Your choice here) and you’re all excited because it might help you find other cousins, make new connections, and such. You wait with eager anticipation for the kit to come in the mail. As soon as it does the cheek swabs are administered, it’s packaged up, and sent on its way to a laboratory where someone with gloves and a white coat will then process your spit into a sequencer where the resulting information will be parsed into a set of numbers you can correspond with others as genetic cousins.
Let’s say you are a mother who provided a sample and because your child was interested too, they submitted a sample. Then you wait. That’s always the hard part, isn’t it? It’s the waiting that kills you slowly as you count each day waiting for something to happen.
Then it does happen.
You got the email.
Your results are ready for both kits and there are matches in other trees.
You look the other trees over and recognize many of the surnames from your years of genealogy work as you’re able to connect with new cousins. As you’re scanning the names over, that’s when you notice your child doesn’t even match you. They match the same people you do, but your own biological flesh who inherited half of their genetic code from you doesn’t match you.
What does that mean?
You’ve never taken a DNA test before. There’s a number of questions flying through your mind as you try to process why your child has matches to your family but not you.
This is just one scenario where your DNA can fail you.
This is also a very real scenario with a very real probability.
It’s Called Chimeraism
Traditionally, a Chimera is a beast which exhibits very obvious characteristics of 2 or more creatures. For example, the Minotaur is a mix between a man and bull. The Cenataur, man and horse. A Satyr, man and goat.
Some gods have also been portrayed as being chimeras. You can look at all the ancient Egyptian gods with humanoid bodies and heads of other creatures. Chimeras have been a part of our legends, myths, and lore for as long as mankind has been on the Earth. They’re certainly not something new. It’s perfectly fine as long as they stay in those ancient myths. With a little bit of imagination, I’m sure you could think of a lot more. However, these are obvious chimeras.
As creatures of this world, we’re not immune to this bizarre reality. It happens in humans too.
A chimera is essentially a single organism that’s made up of cells from two or more “individuals”—that is, it contains two sets of DNA, with the code to make two separate organisms. 3 Human Chimeras That Already Exist | Scientific American
Many years ago, a woman by the name of Lydia Fairchild who lived in California had separated from her husband and upon filing for support was asked to submit parentage DNA. When the results came back that she was not the mother of the children, but the father was the father, her life as a normal citizen was nearly destroyed. After sampling DNA from different places in her body, it was finally determined that she was who she said she was: the mother of the children.
Lydia wasn’t the first case. A prior case of another woman in Boston is what had saved her from jail and losing her children.
Some scientists have discussed that chimeraism in humans happens when the zygote absorbs a twin zygote. DNA is already present at the onset and when the baby, during its first days of development, splits into twins, there then develops a second set of DNA. If that twin dies and becomes absorbed, then a person is born with 2 sets of DNA.
By now, you’re probably wondering how often this happens.
That is an excellent question. The very real answer is … no one knows. There are over 7 billion people on the planet at the moment. Even if there were a large sample taken and tested, there’s still no positive way to know. It’s a genetic anomaly.
These naturally occurring instances of human chimeras can’t be helped. But that isn’t good enough for us humans. You’ve probably heard of human stem cells being injected into animal embryos, but there’s something new out there. Scientists are now developing “3 parent” children.
Ladies, pay attention, because this will affect you.
… a child in which the vast majority of DNA comes from the mother and father and a small amount of DNA comes from a female donor. ‘Three-parent babies’ explained | Science News
The small amount of DNA from the female donor is Mitochondrial DNA.
Ladies, if you’ve taken a specific mitDNA test, then you already know that it is used to trace your direct female ancestor. If more of these people are born which have 3 sets of DNA in them, which is not as controversial as “designer babies”, then there is another question modern day genealogists are wondering.
Now that you know about human chimeras and 3-parent babies, these are only in addition to the problems we face as modern day genealogists, a new questions arises.
What will be the future of genealogy?