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A DNA test from Ancestry.com revealed much more than what Tina Ennis and Jill Lopez bargained for.
The two women learned that they were switched at birth May 18, 1964, by staff at Duncan Physicians Surgeons Hospital in Oklahoma City — each going home with the other’s parents 57 years ago.
The Daily Beast has reported that the two women, along with Kathryn Jones — who raised Ennis but gave birth to Lopez — are suing the hospital for the screwup.
Ennis said she only meant to bond with her daughter when the pair decided to take Ancestry.com tests in 2019, determined to locate Ennis’ estranged grandfather — who would turn out to be no relation at all.
But while intriguing, the results of their investigation have left all three women feeling adrift.
“It has not been something I would wish on anyone,” Ennis told the Daily Beast.
After Ennis and Jones took the DNA tests, the results showed no familiar relatives on their family tree. However, on Ennis’ results, there was an overwhelming number of family members with the last name Brister. Jones told her daughter she didn’t know any Bristers in their family.
That’s when Ennis and her mother became convinced that she had been switched at birth.
It was true that Ennis looked different from her siblings. But she chalked up the differences to her estranged father — Jones’ ex-husband who left when she was just 2. Besides that, she never had reason to believe her family wasn’t related to her.
“I never felt like I didn’t belong,” Ennis insisted.
Jones submitted further DNA testing, but the results came back missing her daughter and granddaughter. They called Ancestry.com to go over the confusing results. “You know, you find out some interesting things on Ancestry,” Ennis recalled the representative saying.
Using social media, Ennis tracked down Lopez, in Lawton, Oklahoma. She learned that Lopez had been raised by the late Joyce and John Brister in rural Oklahoma City. To their surprise, Lopez was receptive to the shocking claim, and agreed to take a test — removing all doubt that Lopez was indeed the biological daughter of Jones.
Jones knew it was true the instant she saw an image of Lopez.
“The first thing she thought was, ‘Where was I when that was taken?’ and ‘I don’t remember those clothes,’ because she actually looked just like me,” Jones said. “And it devastated me.”
The families have since filed suit in Stephens County District Court in Oklahoma against the hospital, alleging recklessness and negligent infliction of emotional distress, as the lives of three women and their families have been turned upside down by the truth.
The hospital has denied allegations, claiming that the facility where the two women were born no longer exists, as the location had merged with a separate hospital system by 1975. However, a judge has denied their motion to dismiss, according to the Daily Beast. A lawyer for the hospital declined to comment further on the case to the publication.
Now, nearly three years after the ordeal began, they’re still struggling to move forward — each unsure how to navigate their own new realities.
“I felt like I was losing my daughter and my grandchildren too,” Jones said.
“I just had to get my emotions straight for awhile, because it’s a whole lot to get your mind around,” Lopez added. “Like, you had a mom and I had a mom, and now I have a different mom.”
Meanwhile, Ennis admitted she’s jealous of Lopez at times.
“Jill got to be with my real parents, and now she gets to be with my parents I grew up with,” she said. “I didn’t know what to think about it at first, but the more I think about it, it makes me really sad.”
Ever since I brought Gus home from the West Los Angeles animal shelter eight years ago, I’ve wondered what mix of breeds it took to make his 20 pounds of redheaded perfection. According to his intake papers, the owner who surrendered him claimed he was a cocker spaniel and dachshund mix — which was entirely believable given his long hair and short stature. For a period of time, I convinced myself he was a “goldie dox,” which is a golden retriever and dachshund mix, although, anatomically, I’m not even sure that’s possible — but it sounds cute.
Because he’s sort of unusual looking, passersby often inquire about his breed, and I’d grown accustomed to saying, “We’re not really sure.” But I’d always hoped for a more concrete answer. I’d heard of people using canine DNA tests, but I’d always been somewhat skeptical of them. They’re not cheap, I imagine swabs getting mixed up and results getting confused, and I’m not sure I’m even capable of correctly collecting oral cells. But we figured, if nothing else, doing a DNA test could be entertaining. I have now tried a few of the DNA tests on the market, including the Embark Breed and Health Kit ($135 on Amazon), which is Wirecutter’s pick for best dog DNA kit, and Wisdom Panel Premium ($75 on Petco), both of which tend to be highly rated and have robust databases of dog breeds.
Embark Dog DNA Test Kit
$135 on Amazon
- 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon with over 10,600 reviews
- Wirecutter’s pick for the best dog DNA kit
- Tests for more than 210 health risks and is partnered with Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
Wisdom Panel Breed Identification & Health Condition Identification DNA Test for Dogs
$125 on Chewy
- A Wirecutter pick, with the site noting that it “identifies more AKC-registered breeds than any kit we tested” and has faster turnaround, though it also notes this may be slightly less accurate
- Detects over 350 breeds and over 200 tests for genetic health conditions
For each of these tests, I swabbed the space between Gus’s cheek and gums for several seconds while my husband held Gus’s quivering body. Then I sealed the cotton stick in the included envelope and mailed it off in a self-addressed package to the laboratory. Gus wasn’t thrilled by the swabbing, but it wasn’t awful, and it actually easier to do than I’d expected. Each test took a few weeks to come back.
The results showed me that Gus is clearly a mutt (there’s some Cocker Spaniel and Poodle, and even some Pomeranian, among other breeds). Alas, complete with an official-looking certificate, a lab reference number and an explanation of the different breed-determination levels, Gus’s possible ancestry was now at my fingertips.
What I like about dog DNA testing:
- I have an answer (albeit a complicated one) to give people when they ask me what kind of dog Gus is.
- It’s a pretty painless process, and it doesn’t feel too invasive for the dog.
What to consider about dog DNA testing:
- It’s pretty hard for me to be certain of the accuracy of the results.
- It might not be that easy to get a DNA sample from your dog’s mouth. You have to swab the space between their gum and their cheek for several seconds, and Gus wasn’t thrilled — it might be helpful to have an extra set of hands to help conduct the swab.
- It can take a while to get results.
I like knowing what some of Gus’s DNA makeup might be so that I can research common personality traits and characteristics and educate myself on how dogs like him age and what to expect in terms of breed-specific ailments. You can try the Embark Breed and Health Kit ($135 on Amazon), which was Wirecutter’s pick for best DNA kit, or Wisdom Panel Premium ($125 on Chewy).
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that the author has now tried multiple dog DNA tests.
‘How no one in my family knew this is beyond me.’ I took an at-home DNA test, only to discover I’m cousins with this former president
I’ve long been intrigued by genealogy, though it’s always felt like a giant, time-consuming undertaking to attempt to construct a complete family tree that goes beyond my great grandparents. But a few years ago, curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to send a saliva sample into two of the most well-known health and ancestry companies, 23andMe (the 23andMe Health + Ancestry Service is now at its lowest price of the year on Amazon for $99) and AncestryDNA (now on sale for $59, down from $99). I wanted to see if any unexpected morsels of information would pop up — like maybe an undiscovered sibling or some heritage I wasn’t aware of. Part of my results were just what I expected: I’m three quarters Ashkenazi Jew and the other quarter is Irish, British and German (both tests gave me the same results on this; I did two different tests just so I’d hopefully be able to tell how accurate they were). Then things got interesting, like famous-relatives and parents-may-be-related interesting.
23andMe + Ancestry Service
- Best price of the year on Amazon at $99 and free shipping
- Ancestry composition from over 2000+ regions in the world
- 150+ personalized genetic reports
- Health predisposition reports, including likelihood of disease
- Carrier genes identified
- Your personal data is encrypted, and you decide what you want to share
- Like 23andMe, this is a well-reviewed DNA kit (it is actually Wirecutter’s top pick, with 23andMe getting the runner-up spot, though the site says both are equally accurate)
- Ancestry composition and family tree development from over 1,500 regions from around the world
- Connect with over 100 million family trees on Ancestry
- More extensive options and a 3-month membership available for $149
With these services, you get everything from a health history and genetic reports, to links with potential relatives who share your DNA. (It’s also important to note that there may be some privacy concerns with these tests as well, which this piece from Consumer Reports details; but the New York Times notes that the better known companies are safer bets and there are ways to protect your data. Both 23andMe and AncestryDNA have extensive privacy policies on their site and note that your data is protected.)
Have you found a fascinating story when looking into your family tree?
Tell us your story: email@example.com
After a few very late nights constructing a tree that went back as far as the 1500s on my mom’s side — I signed up for a more extensive family tree service on Ancestry.com to get more in-depth — one arm of branches shot off with relatives that had the last name Eisenhower. This piqued my curiosity and after piecing together person after person, I discovered that President Dwight D. Eisenhower was my third cousin, five-times removed. How nobody else in my family ever knew this or figured it out is beyond me.
Perhaps even more surprising, I found a correlation between a first cousin on my dad’s side and my mom. My dad passed away in 2015 and he never signed up for 23andMe, but my mom sent a sample in. After digging deeper, I learned that somewhere, at some point — my parents were related. Thankfully, it’s a distant relationship, and I have yet to pinpoint it, but nonetheless, it was a startling realization to swallow.
The whole “you have a famous relative thing” was fun, but the real perk, for me, was getting a more complete picture of my ancestry and health predispositions, without it being too much of a pain to do it. You send in a sample by spitting into a small tube or swabbing your cheek. Other reviewers also give high marks to both 23andMe and AncestryDNA, with Wirecutter, for example, recommending both of them, noting that they both have a similar level of accuracy. (In my case, both delivered very similar results.)
That said, these results aren’t fast (they can take 6-8 weeks to get back), and some of the health results could prove worrisome.
‘I grew up thinking we were the perfect family’: A DNA test revealed I was the product of an affair. Am I entitled to a share of my biological father’s estate?
I grew up thinking we were the perfect family. My parents were married for 60 years, and my siblings have always been very close. My mom passed away a few years ago. For fun, we all took one of those DNA tests and, shockingly, I found out that I was the product of an affair.
While I haven’t been able to confirm 100%, I have a good idea of who my biological dad is through some mutual relatives and friends. I do remember him and his family. Here’s the kicker: He won’t discuss anything with me.
In fact, his first question was, “What do you want?” Honestly, I really wanted answers. I can’t get them from Mom and don’t want to break my father’s heart. I don’t know if he knows or not. He’s elderly and not well.
While my father — the one who raised me — is alive, I don’t know if I want a relationship with my half-siblings or not. It’s all very overwhelming. However, my biological father is also elderly and in poor health.
My siblings have counseled me to consider what I may be entitled to as an inheritance, as this man is actually very well off, and always has been. Ironically, my parents purchased a home from him and his wife many years ago.
I don’t even know what I may be entitled to, whether I want it or not, whether I want any relationships, etc. Can you help guide me on the financial side of this affair?
No family is perfect, but all families start out with the illusion of perfection.
Achieving perfection is an impossibly ambitious goal for any couple contemplating having children. At their worst, families can be the equivalent of an 18-year lockdown. They’re a group of people thrown together under one roof with a limited budget for an extended period of time. It can be hard to endure.
You have two challenges with a claim on your biological father’s inheritance. The first is proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are, indeed, his daughter. Secondly, assuming he is your biological father, you must grapple with the possible ramifications of his response to your contacting him.
Now that you have made yourself known to your presumed biological father — and, presumably, word has gotten around that you could be his biological daughter — he and his family may have the same thought you’re having, except in reverse: “Is she entitled to anything from this estate?”
He could specifically disinherit you and/or all of his biological children who were not born from his marriage. Hell, he could disinherit all his children, if he wanted to. However, if a person dies intestate — without a will — inheritance laws of the state apply. Beneficiaries include direct descendants.
Once upon a time, children who were born outside of marriage were denied inheritance under the law. But those laws were effectively overturned in 1968 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Levy v. Louisiana. I try to avoid the old-fashioned term “wedlock,” as it suggests some kind of open prison.
“Once upon a time, children who were born outside of marriage were denied inheritance under the law. ”
If a court has not established paternity during your biological father’s lifetime, if he does not openly acknowledge you as his daughter before he passes away, and/or if it was not possible for him to do so while he was alive, you are left back where you started: DNA testing.
Under California law, for instance, “The court will not accept private genetic testing as evidence in a paternity case unless the test has been ordered by the court. If the court orders genetic testing, it will provide the named parents with the information they need to get the tests done.”
The question now is not so much “Do you want a relationship with your half-siblings?” but rather “Do you want a relationship with your biological father — assuming he is your biological father?” My advice is to answer that question and proceed on that basis, putting all thoughts of inheritance to one side.
It is obviously a surreal experience to discover that your known father may not be your biological father. As you process the fact that you have not had a perfect family, brace yourself for the fact that any relationship with your biological father will also be less than perfect. But there is a strange beauty in that too.
You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.
Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.
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More from Quentin Fottrell:
• ‘Our friends always yearned for a relationship like ours’: My husband of 16 years left me for another man. I don’t want them to live in our properties. What can I do?
• ‘She trusts me completely’: My sister offered to pay off my credit-card bill. I’ll repay her over the next 4 years. Am I taking advantage of our relationship?
• ‘He is the most computer-illiterate person I know’: I was my husband’s research analyst, caregiver, cook and housekeeper. Now he wants a divorce after 38 years.
This is the “world’s most inbred family” with four generations of incest — including at least 14 kids with parents all related to each other.
Perverted patriarch of the oddball clan Tim Colt ran an “incest” farm in the Australian Outback where he raped his daughters and fathered their children, say reports.
Research, based on data published by the Children’s Court Down Under, reveals how Tim fathered seven children — five girls and two boys — with wife June.
The fiend, who died in 2009, also had multiple kids with daughter Betty and his eldest girl Rhonda, the Daily Mail in Australia reports.
The 38-member Colt clan were forced to live in squalor in a sickening story of incest, neglect, and pedophilia that shocked the world when their story was first revealed.
Since then, the children have all been given court-appointed pseudonyms to conceal their identities.
One of the members of the family — Frank Colt — was found guilty in 2020 of sexually assaulting a teen relative during a visit to the family farm near Yass in 2010.
The offense occurred two years before shocked police discovered the clan living in an isolated camp.
The disgusting details of the family — who moved between rural Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory — were revealed after a gagging order on their gruesome family history ceased.
Their twisted family tree shows there were four known generations who were living together, including four kids who were the great-grandchildren and grandchildren of Tim Colt.
His youngest daughter had children with her brother Charlie, a court heard.
DNA testing discovered 11 of those children were the product of parents who were closely related to each another, say the shocking reports.
Also living in the camp were a dozen second or third-generation family members who were legally adults so not required to undergo DNA testing.
Three of the late Tim Colt’s daughters have been dragged through court trials, assaulted in prison, and ostracised in communities due to their inbred children — the products of rape and sexual relations with their own father and siblings.
In one Colt trial, Tim Colt’s son Roderick was found guilty of raping his niece, who was also his half-sister.
The victim, Petra, was the biological child of Tim and Betty and was also attacked by her uncle Frank in the back seat of his car during a visit to the family farm in February 2010, for which he was convicted.
She told police back in 2013 that she had never gone to school, lived “in a cult” and that “all my aunts, uncles and cousins have all been sleeping together.”
Betty and Rhonda’s sister Martha, who openly shared a “marital bed” with her brother Charlie Colt, gave birth to five children.
Their brood were likely fathered by Charlie, her own father Tim and another brother, Roderick, it was revoltingly revealed at her trial.
She was slapped with a two-year prison sentence after concealing the paternity of her kids, who were all proven to be the product of sexual relations with a biological relative by DNA tests.
Martha gave birth to three sons and three daughters, one of whom died, between 1988 and 2006.
She claimed the kids were the product of five casual encounters, a tale a judge called “demonstrably untrue.”
The court heard how police intercepts of conversations between Martha and brother Charlie were brimming with “giggling and a degree of sexualized banter.”
Charlie Colt — who originally faced 27 charges — was found not guilty on two charges and acquitted, with the balance being withdrawn.
Tim Colt’s other two daughters were also convicted of perjury for attempting to hide the identity of their children’s fathers.
Betty was convicted of four counts of perjury, one of lying under oath and one of perverting the course of justice, and was jailed for 14 months.
Rhonda also received a 14-month intensive corrections order for perjury.
DNA testing would reveal all four women had children whose fathers were the mothers’ own father or brother, or a half brother, uncle, nephew or grandfather.
Of the original 80 charges originally leveled against eight Colts – including incest, child sexual abuse, indecency against a child and perjury – many were dropped.
Although all eight family members were imprisoned after their 2018 arrest, only half have subsequently received custodial sentences.
Suppression orders had remained on the family’s interbreeding practices and rampant sexual interactions as eight family members were before the courts.
Three family members, Roderick, Martha and Derek Colt, filed notices of intention to appeal in 2020, all of which have since expired.
The horrific family history intertwined with incest only began to emerge nearly nine years ago after authorities discovered nearly 40 relatives living in inhumane conditions in an outback bush camp.
They lived amongst an uninsulated shed, old caravans and tents on a New South Wales bush block that was found in 2012.
The Colt children were sleeping in tents without running water, toilets, or electricity, had shuffling gait, and could not speak intelligible English.
They spread to remote parts of Australia after the NSW farm was raided.
The clan traveled around the country performing at town halls, festivals and country shows, and even produced records with album covers featuring the patriarch and three children.
One sickening album was even entitled a collection of family “love songs.”
Many of them have now reached adulthood and have shown marked improvement in personal hygiene and health — but they are still overshadowed by deprivations from their childhood.
Some have low-slung ears or misaligned eyes as a result of inbreeding and they look decades older than their actual age.
This story originally appeared on The Sun and has been reproduced here with permission.