By Hayley Fedor
Valrico resident Danielle Harris grew up in a household with her mother, her brother and, for the first couple years of her life, a father until his passing; however, this picture is only the tip of the iceberg in her story.
Just a few short years ago, Harris completed a genetic testing kit from 23andMe after being encouraged by her brother, and the results took her view of family and flipped it on its head. The site linked her with biological family she never knew she had, including four half-siblings. Even more surprising, Harris’ results indicated that the brother she grew up with is only her half-brother on her mother’s side.
Receiving these results kindled a new curiosity in Harris about her DNA background, and after speaking to her mother about the discovery, she learned that back in the 1970s, her parents decided to use a sperm donor in order to conceive both her and her brother. Although her mother had little information on the donor, she did share that the artificial insemination was completed through a medical clinic in Miami.
“You grow up thinking one way and then it’s a whole, like, wait a minute, there’s little twists and turns in your upbringing and who your father is and donor,” said Harris.
With the help of 23andMe, Harris has been able to connect with two of her half-sisters that have the same donor and the communication between them has been extraordinarily comfortable and natural from the get-go. They feel like they have known each other for years. Harris has even had the opportunity to meet in person with two of them individually.
“I would love for all of us to get together at some point, that would be really cool,” said one of Harris’s half-sisters.
Since taking the 23andMe genetic test, Harris and a few of her half-siblings have been working with a genealogist to continue putting together the puzzle pieces of their ancestry.
“It just makes me think of my life differently, so now I’m on a mission, so to speak, to find out what the other half of my identity is; who am I?” said Harris.
In the near future, Harris and her half-siblings hope to be able to coordinate a big family vacation where they can get to know each other even better.