The Lost Family: How DNA Testing Is Upending Who We Are

Abrams. Mar. 2020. 304p. Mar. 2020. 304p. ISBN 9781419743009. $27. SCI. SCI
Journalist Copeland explores the rapid advances in home genetic testing kits in the last decade. The kits have become popular gifts, but Copeland shares numerous cautionary tales of “seekers” who found more than they bargained for. The heart of the book is the story of Alice Collins Plebuch, who tested in the early days of commercial kits and discovered that her genetic heritage was not solidly Irish, as she had supposed, but was Ashkenazi Jewish on her father’s side. This led to a years-long quest to unravel the mystery of her heritage, resulting in the discovery that her father was switched at birth with another baby in a (no longer existing) hospital in New York in 1913. Copeland uses fascinating stories of family discoveries to illustrate the science behind genetic connections and to discuss the ways bioethical considerations have not kept pace with the improvement of the kits, including privacy concerns with how genetic databases are used by law enforcement. She emphasizes that if you choose to send in your saliva sample, the results can reverberate through the whole family tree.
VERDICT Highly recommended for popular science and memoir fans, as well as readers with an interest in genealogy.

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