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From DNA Trauma to DNAngel Part One

Updated On: February 29, 2024

In an episode that epitomizes the very essence of Family Twist, we unveil a story so captivating it blurs the lines between disbelief and destiny. Sit tight as they introduce Jennifer Schweibinz from DNAngels, whose DNA test unraveled a family secret so profound it challenged her identity and reshaped her understanding of family.

From DNA Trauma to DNAngel Part One

Episode Highlights:

  • The Revelation: Jennifer’s world turns upside down with a DNA test result that rewrites her family history.
  • Parallel Paths: Kendall shares his own riveting story, creating a powerful echo of Jennifer’s experience, highlighting the raw emotions surrounding family secrets and the quest for belonging.
  • The Emotional Odyssey: From disbelief to determination, Jennifer and Kendall navigate the tumultuous journey of confronting their new realities.
  • Finding Closure: The episode delves into the complexities of seeking acceptance, the pain of rejection, and the eventual peace in new beginnings.

Closing Thoughts:

The first part of our episodes with Jennifer isn’t just about the shock of discovery—it’s a testament to human resilience, the search for truth, and the creation of new family bonds from the fragments of the past. This episode is a must-listen for anyone who believes in the power of truth to transform lives.

Guest Bio:

Jennifer Schweibinz is a Genetic Genealogist. Jennifer found her love for Genealogy when she stumbled across an old family secret. As she rolled up her sleeves and tapped into her Jersey Girl stubbornness, she relentlessly worked until she found answers. After that, Jennifer found herself volunteering as intake manager for an organization that could teach her a more methodical approach to being a Search Angel. When that organization merged with DNAngels, Jennifer was welcomed to the new team with open arms, and enjoys every moment of it.

In her personal life, Jennifer lives with her husband, Mark. They have four sons together. She grew up in a close-knit, supportive family and loves when the entire crowd gets together for barbecues in the backyard.

Jennifer’s love language is Acts of Service, which she attributes to her appreciation for everyone that reaches out to DNAngels looking for help. Jennifer was a keynote speaker for the 2022 Illinois State Genealogy Society Annual Conference, a presenter at 2023 Untangling Our Roots Summit in Louisville, KY, and an exhibitor at the 2023 National Genealogical Society conference in Richmond, VA.

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Transcript

Kdendall: [00:00:00] Well, I know that you are with DNA angels and I suspect I already know the answer to this question, but, did your, DNA discovery come first or was your advocacy work first?

Jennifer: My discovery came first.

Kdendall: I thought so. I thought so. Yeah. Tell me about that. What was that like?

Jennifer: Oh, my goodness. we'll say it was a very slow unfolding of the discovery. I took my DNA test. with Ancestry in, , 2017, I think it was.

Kdendall: So did I That's just like a magical year. So many of our guests did the same thing, but anyway, go

Jennifer: Wow. Yeah. That, well, it was a pivotal year for many of us. I, I suppose,

Kdendall: Yep.

Jennifer: I took the test and, and I remember like thinking, Oh my goodness, my aunt and my uncle, they both said they took it, but they're not showing up as a match. And I thought that was odd. I just was like, well, who knows? I am a little like little [00:01:00] less Italian than I thought.

And there's some weird Belgian in there. That's interesting. That's probably just from, , way back in the line and that. Carried on stronger than the rest and I kind of just wrote everything off. I had close matches from my mom's family and, and I called ancestry cause I was like, I feel like, , I look back and it's amazing what we can do to rationalize something that doesn't make sense.

Kdendall: Yep.

Jennifer: And I called them and I said. I feel like you guys mixed my results because I have my mom's matches, but none of my dad's as if right as if they can take your. Biological DNA, split it, give you back 1 parent and somebody else's parent. because I was like, my aunt and uncle both told me they took a test here, but they don't show up and they said to me.

Well, , the database is growing rapidly. Hang in there, right? There's updates all the time. You never know what's going to come tomorrow. And I [00:02:00] just was like, oh, okay. And I lost 3 years,

Kdendall: Wow.

Jennifer: 3 years. I was just like, okay, and I look it just out of sight out of mind. They took a test. They'll show up next time.

I look, they'll be there and I just hadn't looked and then, , in 2020. Couldn't even tell you what prompted it, but I was like. Let me just go see if I have any new matches. And I had my top paternal match it was either, , I didn't know at the time if it was like a half first cousin or first cousin once removed.

I didn't even know what a first cousin once removed was, but , it was this close match and they lived at town over. And I thought, what the heck? So that kind of stopped me in my tracks, right? So I'm doing some research and I was like, I don't know who this is. That person's probably adopted or something. Right still just rationalizing this away and, . I decided to reach out to him one day and I just said, , and it was just still so naive. I just said, I really would like to [00:03:00] understand how we're related. Are you willing to help me, , figure this out? And he wrote back and was like, love to, I don't want to share any of my, , living family information, but we can talk about, , deceased.

And I was like, that's fine. , so we worked through it and, and then I was like, Oh my God. And it was just this moment where I thought, this is, something's up and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I mean, literally after three years, it hit me like a ton of bricks and I said, Oh my God, I don't think my dad is my dad.

And at that point in time, so I'm. I'm South Jersey. I got a little bit of the, , my husband will say stubborn. I can get into the nitty gritty and get out of my way. Cause I've got something I've got to figure out. And I got into that mood and this was like all encompassing for me for probably three weeks where if I wasn't sleeping, I was doing this.

I mean, [00:04:00] literally even when I was eating, I was at my computer. And I didn't have a clue what I was doing. So if I look at my matches today, my case is so easy that it's one of the ones that we would give an angel who's in training

Kdendall: hmm.

Jennifer: like, here's an easy cut and dry case.

We're going to show you, , how to methodically sort the matches and how to methodically map the matches. You're going to have dad in about an hour, but I didn't have those skills. So it took me a week and I, , ingenuity, right? When you're like, I'm dying to figure this out. I exported every name from his family tree and.

And then I chunked it away. So I had this long list of names. And I was like, all right, remove all the females. Gone. Remove all the men who died before I would have been conceived. Gone. Remove all of the men. , and you had to be careful because of travel. So I was like, just because he lived in California doesn't mean he [00:05:00] couldn't come to New Jersey.

Or my mom went to California. Whatever. So you start to get. , a little more careful with who you're chunking away. And, and I had stumbled across two brothers who, looking at my top matches tree, he would have been a close relative of them. So that looked nice. I didn't know what it meant, but it, it looked good.

And, , they lived two towns over.

Kdendall: Wow.

Jennifer: I thought, okay, okay. So this is something but still without really having any kind of method behind me. I felt like I was just grasping at straws

Kdendall: Sure.

Oh, I didn't probably makes you feel so unsure, right? Like as you're walking through that, like, what am I doing? And , that that must, it must have been a Almost overwhelming.

Jennifer: It was overwhelming and it was the scary part about it was am I going like it was? The amount of, of weight that I put on my own [00:06:00] shoulders for what I was responsible on how this might impact other people's families,

Kdendall: Mm

Jennifer: , that, that was almost paralyzing that I had put on this front of, , without the, like, this ridiculous determination to figure it out.

I was also as ridiculously determined to not upset anybody's life. And those two things are really hard to reconcile when you're feeling reckless, but you're feeling extremely fragile at the same time,

Kdendall: I definitely had some of those same feelings when I found my family. and Corey was right when I found my family, , on my mother's side, he's like, Kendall, before you dive in there, just keep in mind, they might not know you exist. And he was exactly right because they didn't, , yeah, my mother.

her husband knew about me, but, , her children didn't. Her husband's whole family didn't. I mean, it was, I was this dirty secret that, , had been kept for 47 years by [00:07:00] that point. And, , still to this day, believe it or not, supposedly, Even though my mother's other children know about me, supposedly her husband's family still doesn't know, , six years later.

So it's just weird, but, , yeah, I hear you. I, I guess I'm selfish enough though, that, , at that moment in time, I was like, I found them. I found them. I don't want to miss one more moment. Even though I thought Corey was giving me good advice. I definitely didn't take it.

Just dove right in.

Jennifer: , I think you heard him, but what choice you can't toe into it. There is no other way, right? There is no other way. I mean, the first step is going to be, you have to open that door. You can open it slowly, or you can open it with a wham. But this door has to open and then we can figure out with what speed we want to move forward.

Kdendall: ,

when you're making these discoveries, were you discussing it with your mother [00:08:00] and the man that you thought was your father?

Jennifer: No, so a little bit my, so my mom and dad, I, when I say my dad, I'm talking about the man that raised me. He's, he's my dad. My mom and dad have been, , married. So I was born in 79. They got married in 78. , they are still to this day. Very much in love with each other.

Kdendall: Oh, that's wonderful.

Jennifer: , I have an older sister that we knew was from my dad's first marriage.

And then I have a younger sister from my mom and dad. , and the, again, the fear that I had with knowing how much they love each other and. , my mom grew up in a dysfunctional home and, , was really, really sensitive to, , conflict and any type of upset. , and my dad has always been very protective of her.

Kdendall: Mm hmm.

Jennifer: My biggest fear when figuring this out, you go through all this. Okay. So was mom. Am I a [00:09:00] product of rape? Was mom attacked? , does mom even know that? I mean, mom must know that I might not be dad. There's no way mom doesn't know that that's possible, but does dad know? Am I the product of an affair? Does dad know if like, if so, does dad know that mom had an affair?

so again, just wait on the shoulder. I might tear the family apart with saying, Hey, I found this out.

Kdendall: Mm hmm.

Jennifer: I could talk to my mom if I chose to, but mom was super fragile and I didn't want to talk to my dad because, because he might not know,

Kdendall: Right.

Jennifer: this is one of my funniest things that I have pictures of it.

, I have a background in project management and my younger sister is a teacher. And every year we do, , just a sister's weekend, no husband, no kids, we go random places. And it's lovely. , and back in 2020, when all this was happening, we went to Woodstock and we were in the cabin. Just [00:10:00] the 2 of us have just had dinner and we had, like, our little cheese and grapes and some wine and everything.

And we broke out, , those big wall, , sticky post it notes. And we made flow charts and it was like, okay, , here's the situation does mom know? And we go with this way, , yes, no. And then we talk about how do we tell her? What does does dad know? This, this, this does this. we had an angle for whatever way the conversation would go all in preparation really to just try to.

Control the outcome of me saying, what the heck guys, I don't think you ever told me who my father is, ? And we even laughed about that coming from a different family. It might've been a whole different scenario where it's like, what the heck? I just took this test. What's up with this? , everybody sit down.

And I was just like,

navigate through this. Cause you can only do it once, ,

Kdendall: yep. And I think I would have done exactly what you [00:11:00] did. I mean, my scenario is so different because I was adopted by both parents and, , always knew that and was hoping to find my birth family, but wow. Yeah. I, I can, I can imagine how guarded you, you want to, you want to protect them all, you

Jennifer: Yes. And it's, it's just, it's a silly thing to own. And that's one of the things that we say a lot now is you are not responsible for this. I'm an, I am a result of this. If there is upheaval or if there are emotions that need to be dealt with, deal with them. , but I didn't create the situation.

I only uncovered it.

Kdendall: And , it was so different because when you were born and when I was born, DNA, wasn't something that we ever thought, you know what I mean? Like if it were happening today, if somebody had an affair today, they better be thinking this is going to come out, you know what I mean?

But, but whereas back then, , the likelihood that many, many people could keep those [00:12:00] things private. It was real. I mean, yeah,

Jennifer: yeah, I, I completely agree with you. And I actually say that often who would have ever thought back then that DNA would be used recreationally, nobody would ever thought that. so my mother was pregnant when she and my father met. And she told him cause he thought she was really pretty and he wanted to dance with her.

What she's told me is he wanted to dance with her and she said no and started to cry. She just found out she was pregnant. And she said, I'm pregnant. And you don't, you don't want to get caught up with me. And he's, , he said, because he was in the Navy and was just there temporarily like stationed at that spot.

And he had said, , he has a daughter and he's a single parent too. And , a baby's never bad news and I just want to have a dance with you. And so she danced with him and he said he fell in love with her at that dance. , but he'd known my whole life

Kdendall: wow,

Jennifer: kept telling her, you have to tell her, you have to tell her.

one day I was [00:13:00] making meatballs. And I remember I had been talking to a therapist and I had been talking to my sisters and I'd been talking to my husband, like everybody but my mom and dad. I remember like it was yesterday, just standing in my kitchen, rolling the meatballs.

And, and I was like, what, I'm done. And I put them in. And I said, I said to my husband, Do me a favor, stir the sauce. I'm going to mom's don't wait up. And I just walked out the door. Oh. And I said, I said, and I need you. And I grabbed his hands and I still get, I still can feel this in my throat. I grabbed his hands and I said, and I need you to tell me that I'm strong and everything's going to be okay. And he just looked at me and he was like, you are strong. And everything's going to be okay. And I'll handle the sauce. And I walked out the door and, My mother says that as soon as I knocked on the door, she answered and I said, mom, can we talk for a minute? And she said, she knew right away why I was there.[00:14:00]

Kdendall: wow,

Jennifer: And I was like, Oh my God. So I said, I've been, , I took the ancestry test. is some of the things that I've discovered. And she was like, I don't know. I don't know who it is. I don't know who your father is. And I said, okay, okay. Okay. I've got it down to. Some possibilities, maybe can I throw you some names and you can see if anything rings a bell and she said, okay, and I gave her the names of these two brothers and she was like, it's that one

Kdendall: oh,

Jennifer: and she knew she always knew she just was paralyzed in this fear.

They dated, they dated for quite some, like, I don't know how long, but they dated.

Kdendall: wasn't like a one time thing, yeah,

Jennifer: She knew his first name, his last name. She knew his brothers like she knew she knew, but she was paralyzed in the fear and in the shame. And I say this because it goes back to what you said 1979. My mom and dad made the agreement that I [00:15:00] was his daughter and I never knew anything else.

He's on my birth certificate. He loved me just like loves me just like he loves my sisters. I'm his child. And that's it. And she buried it so deep. She said she was going to take it to her grave. She never told me because I was doing really good and she didn't want to bring me down. I was going through a hard time and she didn't want to make it worse.

I was too young and I wouldn't understand. I got too old and what difference would it make? So it was just rationalized away.

Kdendall: Right. And I, I hear parts of that in my, cause , I've never, I've never spoken to my birth mother. And when I hear my sister's, her daughter's explanations about why she doesn't want to connect with me, kind of those same things come up. What I mean? Like I've just suppressed it for so long.

And I think she also worried that I would have animosity. Toward her. But my parents were 15 and 16 [00:16:00] when I was born. I mean, they had no control. I mean, both families, stories go that both of my parents wanted to keep me. Like my dad apparently went to his parents and said, let me get married.

I mean, how silly would that have been? But let me get married to her and we'll raise the kid. Or, or even if you won't let me get married, let me let us stay together. , that sort of thing. I don't have children, but. And even as an adoptee, I think if my 15 year old daughter and, , 16 year old, the boy came to me, I'd have been like, I don't know, that doesn't sound really smart.

a, I had a wonderful relationship with my adoptive parents. They were fantastic people. , , yes, they died quite young. So that part, that's the sad part of my story, but I wouldn't trade. My experience with them for anything, , like I, I love, I've met my birth father.

Corey and I moved from San Francisco, , right after meeting my birth family to, to live near my birth [00:17:00] father and two of his other three kids. So that's the reason we're on the East coast now. So, I mean, it's, yeah, it's, it's amazing. Love having them in my life, but my parents are always going to be my parents.

Just like you feel about your dad,

Jennifer: Yeah, he's my dad but that's , that's so the shame That So there's a few things that as a search angel we see often and that's I mean so it can go either way Sometimes it's nobody knew she never told anybody. She's one of the girls who was sent away and , whether it was her choice or her parents made her or whatever the case, it was nobody knew, , , and if they knew, they never talked about it.

So the younger generations didn't know or. It's we've been looking for you forever. I'm so glad and, , it can go either way or it's. Go away, , we see that too. Right? Go away, like, we had 1 client got a cease and desist that was like, do not contact this family again. So you never know what [00:18:00] to expect.

, but. Even with all of the different scenarios, what we see regularly. Because you can't, you can't impact the outcome, or I should say, you can't dictate what the outcome will be. You can't dictate the outcome, but. There's always this underlying thing of shame.

Kdendall: Mm hmm.

Jennifer: Always. And it goes from like the mother, my mother, maybe it sounds like potentially your mother.

I don't know why I didn't tell you. , I was so young and I don't, I shouldn't have even been getting myself pregnant. , I was looking for love in all the wrong places. And it's like, we're all kids, ,

Kdendall: Yep. We all make mistakes. Yeah, exactly.

Jennifer: a break. Like let's just, and then, and then there's also.

Oh, well, it looks like my grandma must've got around. Cause there's like, , so many broken lines here. And it's like, your grandmother, , like have a little bit of respect. This is also the woman who raised you and loved you. And, and [00:19:00] we have to be forgiving because these emotions are real. The pain is real and it's going to come out in a way that's not pretty.

And there has to be room for that, but it also we, I always encouraged people to come back around. Like you said, we all have made mistakes. We've all made bad judgment calls and none of us are perfect. So I think it just is, it's just a hard. Situation

Kdendall: It is. It is.

Jennifer: how many people will say the other, like the other thing is how many people will say, oh, but that's still your dad and just leave it alone. It doesn't matter.

And it's like,

Kdendall: Mm,

Jennifer: you let me know when you find out that your dad who you knew and loved and knows and loves you isn't your biological relative. , yes, he's still my dad, but I don't look like him.

Kdendall: Right.

Jennifer: , and I've always wondered why and I'll try to be like, I'm the only one in my family [00:20:00] with lighter hair and blue eyes, only one.

Kdendall: Mm.

Jennifer: And my mom will always say, well, you look like my dad. So I'm just like, okay, I guess I can somewhat see it somewhat. I can, I can make myself believe that, right. Just like I can make myself believe that the matches will update and my aunt and uncle are going to show up. , I can make myself believe that.

But then I saw a picture of my biological father and I am the spitting image of him.

Kdendall: Wow.

Jennifer: Spitting image down to one dimple on the right cheek.

Kdendall: Wow.

Jennifer: nose, same mouth, same eyes, same.

Kdendall: Mm. So have you connected with him?

Jennifer: , not in person. We will text regularly. , we don't talk on the phone. It's very safe. It's a very, it's a very safe relationship.

, We'll text each other news articles and, , interesting links to movies or we're both into, , us, like civil war and revolutionary [00:21:00] war history, , things like that. So he has sent me some videos in the mail and a book that his mom read that he loved. And I think, , I recognize that it's the.

Best that he can do at this point. I've offered a few times to meet him. He lives an hour from me

Kdendall: Wow.

Jennifer: and I've said, , I'd like to thank you for these gifts. I got very thoughtful guests for this past Christmas in the mail. And I said, I'd love to thank you in person. Can I take you to lunch at your favorite restaurant?

And he responded with an interesting news article about the underground tunnels in New York and how they used to be used for mail. And I thought, okay, like, he's just, he can't face me. ,

Kdendall: Do whether you have other half siblings on his side?

Jennifer: I do. I have a half brother. , and I have a half sister. My half sister has told me I'm not interested. I'm she just said, [00:22:00] I'm just not interested in having a relationship with you. If I ever change my mind, I'll reach out so you can wait to hear from me.

Kdendall: Mm

Jennifer: I was like, okay, that's fine. , the interesting thing is. My, my mother and my biological father had their relationship before either one of them was married to, , my dad that raised me or my half siblings mother.

Kdendall: mhm,

Jennifer: , there was no affair. There was no, there was no, nothing like inappropriate going on other than the fact that they were 2 young kids.

Kdendall: Right,

Jennifer: young kids.

, so for my, the half sister to just, that kind of stings a little bit because it's like, hold on, like your dad didn't, there's no betrayal in this one. There is no betrayal other than me not knowing, ,

Kdendall: right.

Jennifer: but I'm okay with that. I'm very close with the sisters that I was raised with. I never felt like I was lacking for [00:23:00] siblings, and I never, I'm very close with my father that raised me, so I never had a hole for a dad, , which is good.

I did meet my half brother. he's very interesting, and it felt like we had known each other. And it was the weirdest thing and they talk about the, , genetic attraction. Which is a little bit about it is, , just to confirm for in case anybody is not familiar with the phrase is that. It is not a sexual attraction.

It is just a genetic attraction. So it's almost you, you're drawn to things that look like you. , and. When I sat across from him, I actually met him almost one year ago this month.

Kdendall: Wow. Use

Jennifer: , we had lunch at a diner, safe place, me and him and my husband came and he sat across from me. And it was the first time in my life that I had looked at somebody who had eyes like mine, like that.

It was like, [00:24:00] I mean, not just the color, but I mean, like the setting, the shape, , with, with the whole frame. And I couldn't look away. And it was just like, Oh my gosh. Like,

Kdendall: Yep.

Jennifer: because all of my life I've tried to make myself fit and be like, well, you can see you guys kind of have this. And it's like you two both have curly hair.

And it's like, no, her hair is. really like an entirely, we do not have the same curly hair. We both have hair, .

Kdendall: Right.

Jennifer: So to look at someone and it's like, there's no denying you two are relatives, ,

Kdendall: hmm.

Jennifer: was, it was a very, very impactful experience. And I never had a brother. So he sends me cards for Christmas and Thanksgiving and my birthday and , whatever.

And it's always, Hey sis. And it just makes my heart mush.

Kdendall: of course. Yeah. And I mean, and he has a sister, right? So I mean, another, another sister. [00:25:00] So, , for him to embrace you, I think that's wonderful, ,

Jennifer: Mm-Hmm.

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