Erin McCullough (left in photo) never knew her biological father. And, in a quest to learn more about her heritage, the Gastonia, NC resident turned to 23andMe, a genetic testing service, to help trace her ancestry and learn more about her roots.
What she ended up discovering surprised her and changed her life. While reviewing her “DNA Ancestors,” an opt-in portion of 23andMe that connects users with those sharing similar DNA traits, McCullough, 36, discovered a name she didn’t recognize, who had the genetic makeup of a half-sister.
“I have two half siblings that I grew up with, one male and one female, so finding out that I had two more on my father’s side was a surprise,” said McCullough.
The name that appeared was Edith Stokes, and belonged to a woman who lives in London. As part of a course she was teaching on genetics, Stokes sent her saliva overseas to the California-based genetic testing company, which analyzes customers’ DNA and provides information on health and ancestry.
McCullough reached out to Edith through 23andMe’s website and learned that they shared a father. After connecting and learning more about each other and their family lives, they were invited to meet New York City.
In discussing her family with Stokes, McCollough learned that her father was Nigerian and passed away recently.
Excited to share her story, McCullough contacted 23andMe.
The sisters were invited to meet in New York City to attend a reunion held by 23andMe which included several families who discovered relatives through the service, a practice that has become more common as access to genetic testing services grows.