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The Journey of Discovery: NPE, DNA Testing & Family Reunions

Updated On: February 29, 2024

The Journey of Discovery: NPE, DNA Testing & Family Reunions

In episode 42 of the Family Twist podcast, Kendall and Corey introduced you to Ryan, who shared their wild story about discovering more than 70 half-siblings, the product of donor conception. A lot has happened since! In this episode, Ryan shares their captivating story of their eventful summer, marked by a unique adventure involving DNA testing, family reunions, and the challenges posed by the growing number of siblings in their group. 

The Exciting Summer Journey: Ryan’s summer began with a fascinating journey, one that many would envy. Their journey started with a trip to Florida, venturing all the way down to the Sunshine State, before making their way back up the East Coast. The highlight of their trip was undoubtedly meeting two of their newfound siblings. The first encounter took place in Jacksonville, where a deep sense of familiarity and connection was evident from the start.

The Growing Sibling Count: Ryan’s last visit to the podcast had him discussing the discovery of 71 siblings sharing the same donor. However, this number had now increased to a staggeringly massive 77. The growth in the sibling count was nothing short of astonishing. 

  • The Process of New Discoveries: Delving into the intriguing process of making new discoveries, Ryan explained how they typically initiate contact with newfound siblings. They recounted how they delicately informed them of the situation, acknowledging the undeniable truth of their shared DNA.
  • DNA Testing Platforms and Ethnicity Results: The discussion turned to the platforms that facilitated surprising reunions. Prime Day events seemed to catalyze an influx of new members, with 23andMe playing a larger part than Ancestry in sibling discoveries.
  • Surprises and Discrepancies: Notably, there were remarkable disparities in ethnicity among siblings, with some having a significantly higher percentage of Italian heritage, while others discovered unique backgrounds like Somali heritage or Jewish ancestry.
  • Contacting Unresponsive Siblings: Ryan estimated about a dozen siblings remained unresponsive, with few outright denying the reality of their shared heritage.
  • Challenges of Planning a Full Reunion: A full sibling reunion, while highly desirable, posed a daunting logistical challenge, given the current number of siblings exceeding seventy.
  • Legislation and Legal Challenges: Ryan touched upon the glaring need for more legislation and regulation within the fertility industry.

The Emotional Experience of Meeting Siblings: Ryan shared a deeply personal account of meeting their siblings for the first time, describing it as a mix of goosebumps, nostalgia, and reunions with old friends.

The Future of the Podcast: We extended an open invitation for Ryan’s siblings to join the podcast. They expressed their interest in hearing more stories and perspectives from this unique family network. Ryan confirmed their willingness to provide updates and share his ongoing journey with the podcast listeners. 

In conclusion, the episode shed light on the complexities of family ties informed through DNA testing, the challenge of engaging with unresponsive family members, and the demand for legal reforms in the fertility industry. Ryan’s story stands as a testament to the enduring power of family bonds and the uncharted territory that DNA testing continues to uncover.

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Transcript

00:01

Ryan, welcome back to the show. Thank you for joining us again. Thank you. You have had a pretty exciting summer, I think it's fair to say, right? Absolutely. When we last spoke, you were just about, I think, to head out to meet a bunch of your siblings. Yeah, I left on June 1st through June 12th, went all the way down to Florida. Nice. And came all the way back up the East Coast. And how many siblings did you meet on this journey? I'd met two siblings, one in Jacksonville.

00:30

And then I met another one around the Myrtle Beach area. And we definitely both have similarities in our looks. We talked like we knew each other our whole lives. It's always a great experience to meet someone for the first time. Absolutely. Wow. So I think what we talked to you earlier this year, I think you had found there were 71 of you from the same donor and that number has risen, right? Yep. We're now at 77.

00:58

just wild. What's the process like when a new discovery is made? So eight times out of 10, I'm the one that will send them a message on either 23andMe or Ancestry, wherever they come up. I'll kind of tell them like, Hey, this is what's going on. We got this happening. This is a thing. I know it's crazy, but your DNA doesn't lie. You know, I say it more nicely than that, but.

01:23

I basically give them all the information they need and after that, the ball's in their park. A lot of them are like, yeah, absolutely. I'll join the group. And then there's always the few that just don't answer or don't believe that it's real. One of them recently said that he took a paternity test with his dad and passed it. So none of this is real. I mean, not sure how your DNA is showing up, but. That's sad to be at that level. Yeah. Can't like argue with somebody about it though. No.

01:53

Are you seeing more popping up on Ancestry or 23andMe or is it about even? 23andMe, definitely. There was also Prime Day this summer, sometime in July. So we actually had a lot show up this summer, as you can tell, moving from 71 to 77. That happens a lot during Christmas as well. But yeah, I'd say most of them are on 23andMe. Okay. Interesting. We've been talking about redoing. Well, Kendall.

02:21

did 23andMe a long time ago before we made any discoveries. And I've only done Ancestry and I've had no surprises yet, but I think 23andMe, I don't know, something might pop up. You never know. We should do it. Yeah. Cause some people, obviously even we do one or the other, you know? Right. Yeah. So I guess you've got to keep both accounts active. Right. You can even see all your historical, where your promise stuff. So that's always interesting to know as well. And that stuff's always being updated and kind of changing. So it'd be more accurate.

02:51

Right. Yeah, for sure. We were just looking at our ethnicity last weekend and we probably looked like once a month and it's shifted again, you know? Yep. And it's so funny because my biological father has been on the show and I think even on the show, he is stuck on this idea that his mother was part Irish and still to this day on his side, there's zero Irish and it's just comical. You know, he's in delusion about that. It's like

03:21

No dad, that isn't true. I don't, nobody thinks that's true. But oh well. Just ballpark, how many of your half siblings can you estimate just don't want any kind of contact at all? I would say a dozen probably. Probably a dozen don't wanna be contacted. There's a few that just haven't answered. And then there's those three that say this is all fake for whatever their reason is.

03:50

That's a higher number than I would have guessed just because if somebody's going to go through the trouble of doing the DNA test, you got to sort of be open to what the results are going to be. And I know a lot of people do it for different reasons, health reasons, or they're just curious about their genealogy. But you know, as we see more and more stories pop up that the numbers do not lie. They can't. Yeah, yeah. So that's something that you can't manipulate. Like there's no way you're going to get the wrong results back. It's a pretty specific process.

04:19

chromosomes and stuff they analyze. Well, and as you've said, just meeting new siblings, you're seeing similar features, similar mannerisms, the way you talk, the way you walk, all of that, and it's hard to deny when you're related to somebody. Mm-hmm, absolutely. What would you say were the highlights of your trip? Best parts of my trip were going to Ruby Falls in Chattanooga. That was one of the most beautiful things I've seen in my life. It's an underground waterfall.

04:47

There's a whole story and history behind it. Down in Clearwater, Florida, I went to this beach and walked just a couple of miles down the beach until I was the only one there and it was just really cathartic taking in the sun and the energy down there. I went over to Orlando, went on this 420 foot Ferris wheel thing at Epcot. Got a bunch of great pictures of Florida down there. Ooh. Um, yeah.

05:13

two sisters, that was of course a great experience. Spent a couple hours together each. And I ended the trip by going whitewater rafting in West Virginia. And that was a first time for me and was absolutely amazing. Yes, I did that, my one trip to West Virginia and did you stay in the boat the whole time? Yes, I did. I didn't fall out until the very end when I hadn't used my legs in a few hours and forgot how to use them.

05:42

Yeah. Oh, yeah, we flipped in like the first 10 minutes, like the first like category three wave. We all went out of the boat, including the guide and you know, they don't like to come fall out of the boat. And then I was knocked out on the second. Yeah, crazy. So I was like, I was like, okay, wanted to do this. Now I've done it. Don't ever have to do it again. Right. I just feel like we would have probably enjoyed it more had we not gotten knocked out.

06:09

in the first round, because then all you're doing is paying attention to everybody's rowing and you're not really getting to take in the scenery because you're just looking at the person's ore in front of you. True. Yeah. Luckily we were in the front, so we got to kind of dictate that. Awesome. Yeah. So did the two sisters that you met on the trip, have they met each other? No, they have not. The one I met in Jacksonville met my brother who lives in Colorado. And then the one in South Carolina, I was the first one she met. Wow.

06:38

Wow. How many have you met so far? We are at 12 now. I did meet another one at Kate's wedding. So that made 12. And then as of next Wednesday, it'll be 13. Very cool. Yeah. Are there any that aren't in the country? Not that we know of yet. Okay. Gotcha. So when you get an email from 23andMe, which has happened quite a few times for you now, what does it say? Like what's the subject line?

07:05

Well, so oddly enough, the emails that I get from 23andMe or Ancestry say, oh, you've got a new relative to explore. And it's either a sibling that I already know for like years, or it's like a fifth cousin. I never get updates about a new sibling that joins. So I just go in like once a week and kind of check and see if there's anybody new. And then I go and message them from there. Right.

07:30

Oh, that's interesting. So you don't get the email about matches, but if you just go to your matches, then all of a sudden your sibling group has grown. Yes. Yep. About once every three months. That's funny. So wild. Yeah. Oh boy. How often does the donor respond about new additions? We actually, um, it's kind of a long story, but we took him out of the group. We kind of wanted it to be more people that.

07:58

Only had the experience of being donor conceived. A lot of people also expressed discomfort in him being there. So I kind of tried to tell everybody that we removed him. He kind of got mad about it. I did tell him about it. I sent him a very long message expressing why and thanking him for being such an open donor, um, but he kind of just responded without any empathy, said he doesn't think it was warranted. And.

08:26

It just went to show that he didn't need to be in the group with us anyway. But as far as responding to new people, whenever there was somebody new in the group, he would always just say welcome. He wouldn't ever push a relationship on anybody. He lets them message him. So there are some within the group that are probably still interact with him. There are many that are friends with him on Facebook. I'd say maybe half, which is a high guess, but he does post a lot of things that

08:55

in line with a lot of our beliefs, I'll say. Okay. All right. You probably know what I mean. Yeah. I think we can figure it out. Yeah. I've had to hide some family members too. So if I want to know what's going on, if something happens, I got to get on their page because I'm not seeing their posts. Yeah. I have siblings whose posts I have zero interest in reading. We get along, but probably because we do avoid topics. Right.

09:25

Yeah, we have a few of those, but not too many. Most of us are all pretty alike. Good. Have there been any more talks about trying to put together a full reunion? Uh, there've been talks. That's about it. When we were trying to plan it back in 2020, I think there were maybe 30, 35 at the most. Now with twice that many, plus a few, everybody's kind of scattered.

09:50

I don't even know where to begin to plan something like that, but there are definitely people getting together. I know there's some people up in Boston that they're trying to get together. Some people in New Jersey, Connecticut area, New York, they're trying to get together, so that's wonderful. I love seeing siblings meet just as much as I love meeting my siblings. Yeah. Maybe you could do something online. It would be large, but yeah, that could be fun. We've done zoom meetings.

10:18

I think the most we've had on a meeting was nine people. Oh, okay. That's definitely doable. Yeah. It'd be pretty fun to see like 50 of you in a zoom and see an image of that though. Here's our family photo. Yeah. Right. Kate and I were just talking about if everybody was in a room together, it would be like probably the amount of people that were at her wedding. And it's just crazy to think just a room full of all of us. Yeah. Wow. That is just wild.

10:48

And remind us what is the sort of the age range? I believe it's about 23 to 34. Okay. Pretty close. That's a, that's a lot of years of donating. He donated for 11 years and it's 11 year gap. So that makes sense. Yeah. Wow. 11 years. Wow. Yeah. Every week, I think too.

11:16

And potentially there are dozens more out there still. Oh, absolutely. There could be twice as much as we have now because he told us there were 74 pregnancies but left out the part that that was halfway through his time donating. So that number could be doubled by now. Wow. He must've had an insane, you know, high percentage of pregnancies take. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

11:43

Do you know, did they ever say anything to him of why couples or individuals were choosing him because he was so, um, reliable? On most of his applications, which a lot of them were different. It said that he was a hundred percent Italian. He's not a hundred percent Italian, which we know based on his 23andMe results now, but at the clinic, they told him to put down a hundred percent since he wasn't sure he was six foot five.

12:11

He didn't really have any health problems at all. No parents history of health problems. So all the Italian families just kind of went after him. Wow. That is wild. So based on that, what is your ethnicity breakdown? Uh, I am about 80% French and German, which most of that comes from my mom. A few of that comes from him. I do have about 18% Italian.

12:37

And then I've got other random stuff, Scandinavian and small percentages of other random stuff. Does it vary between siblings? Is everybody all over the place as far as ethnicity goes? Yeah, we do have plenty that have a lot more Italian than me. One of them has over 50, one of them has 60. So they're up there. I'm sure they got some of that from their moms as well. We do have some that are, I want to say Somalian. It's not Somalian though.

13:06

They have that from their mom's side. I have one sister that is half Jewish. So we do have a little bit of variety there. Wow. So let's talk about the wedding a little bit. What was that experience like for you? It was amazing. It was their day and it was wonderful for them. I'm just really glad that I was able to be in attendance there at my sister's wedding, wanting siblings growing up.

13:30

And then now 30 years later, I'm attending one of their weddings and being in the wedding is just miraculous to me. Everybody there had a great experience. There were six siblings there total. We got to do a siblings dance to Welcome to the Black Parade by My Chemical Romance, which was one of the greatest moments of it for sure. Just all of us singing that song as loud as we could. And yeah, meeting a new sister there, the whole thing was great.

14:00

Well, I saw some of the photos that you posted on your Facebook page and it looks like everybody was having a really good time. Oh, yeah. What was your reaction when Kate asked you to be part of the ceremony? Josh asked me to be his best man. I knew that I was either going to do that or some sort of officiation. Because Kate and I talked about that before, but when Josh asked me to be his best man, I wasn't expecting that. So I was very taken aback, but I was also honored at the same time. And...

14:27

That's the first time I've ever done it and there was a lot involved and every moment of it was worth it.

14:35

Oh, very cool. Very cool. Was there a bachelor party? We had a few. I took Josh and the kids to this local sports bar. We had some fun there, had some drinks and food and then went home. And then we met our other brother, Mitch, at a separate time closer to him. We had pizza at a place and then we all went to a park and the kids were on this big playground. So it wasn't anything crazy, but it was just great day with the brothers and the boys.

15:05

Very nice. Very cool. Were you a little bit nervous on the big day? Yeah, absolutely. I just was hoping that nothing would get messed up. I was trying to help as much as I can and be there for. And I was more happy for and definitely cried a few times. But yeah, it all worked out great. Very nice. Yeah. We love hearing about these things where siblings who haven't known each other all their lives or talking decades and just discover how close they can get so quickly.

15:33

watched it firsthand with Kendall and his sister. When they're together, they're thick as thieves. But it's just amazing to think it's only been, you know, six years. Yeah. A lot can happen in a short time. And then a lot more in a long time. No kidding. Right, exactly. I mean, you all are pretty young. So who knows by the time you turn 40, what this is gonna look like. Yeah, absolutely. And I will say that. There's a few siblings I didn't get to see and it's a bummer, but it's still got a lot of life left. There's plenty of years to go back down and see them again.

16:03

And sometimes when you do meet a sibling or see them after a while, it feels like it's the last time you're going to see them, but you know that you're still going to talk to them and there's still going to be a time where you're going to see them again, whether it's in a few months or a few years. Right. Yeah. That's a great attitude to have because I'm such an impatient person. It still bothers me that I've never seen my youngest brother. I've never met him, which is probably more his choice than mine. But yeah, I hope it happens someday.

16:33

hope for the best, prepare for the worst, I guess. Well, there's definitely a lot of opportunity. Again, I'm sure it'll be a huge undertaking, but at some point, somebody is going to come up with an interesting solution for a reunion. Maybe somebody who lives on like a farm or something like that that can accommodate a bunch of you. Yeah, we're hoping that 23andMe or AintIncestry can pay for like a whole reunion for us. And then they get some free advertising out of it, you know.

16:59

Absolutely. For sure. There's a commercial right there that they could be showing around. Have you heard from any other family groups just through your discoveries that they're in a similar situation that they've got multiple siblings out there? Yeah, I have a few friends on Facebook that also have the same experience. I know one that I don't know the pod personally, but I know of a pod who has over 300 siblings so far that they've discovered and there's some sort of big lawsuit going on with that.

17:27

I'm not really able to discuss and I'm not given a lot of information about it. But then I know a few others that are in the 50s right now. And I just met somebody the other day who just discovered her 25th. Wow. It's wild how much more common it's becoming. Are there siblings in your group that are kind of involved with like legislation or anything like that about getting laws changed? I would say I'm the one that's most involved in that. And that's not a lot at all.

17:56

I'm in contact with Laura High, who does all kinds of stuff with that. She dressed up in a sperm costume once and was going around interviewing lawmakers and stuff. She's hilarious. She's going to this protest in New Orleans on October 15th. She invited me to that. I can't make that, unfortunately, but just the fact that I'm being invited to these things, that's great news as well.

18:19

Absolutely. It just takes more information getting out there or journalists willing to write about it and talk about it. Yeah, she's definitely done a lot on that front. She's TikTok famous for that reason too. And a lot of people are asking questions in her comments. She's answering, she's making video replies, answering everybody's questions.

18:42

There's a lot of stuff that comes up about it, a lot of stuff that she doesn't even think about. And then she's like, oh, that's a great question. She's really doing a lot to open people's eyes and minds to the fertility industry and how it's been handled over the last 30, 40 years. It's definitely something that Kendall and I didn't know too much about until we started doing this podcast. And it's really eye opening and disturbing in a lot of ways. And whatever we can do to help get the truth out there, we'll do it.

19:13

Absolutely. I didn't even know about anything related to donor conception. I knew of it as a concept, but I didn't think that having even 10 or 20 siblings was a scenario that existed, let alone 77 to 300. So there's just all these things that are being discovered every day, case by case, with new people, different discoveries, different surprises. It's like multiple universes of scenarios. It's true.

19:41

For sure, yeah. It sounds like science fiction, but it's not. Right. Yeah. You have to stop and think about at the time that people were doing this, even in your own case, the thought that we would find people through DNA sound like something you'd hear on Star Trek, not in real life. Yeah. They were promised that anonymity all those years ago. And now it's really hard to protect yourself from anything with the DNA testing.

20:10

You never know if your cousin's on there, your cousin be like, Oh yeah, my cousin's a sperm donor and boom, you lose your anonymity. And that's why a lot of the people in the fertility industry are freaking out because all of a sudden these tests come out and now their little ploys and games that they were playing are being realized by everybody. Absolutely. The lack of regulation is alarming. Absolutely alarming.

20:36

One of the conversations we had recently with someone is like if somebody's donating in a certain region Or there are people that are coming to a certain clinic on something who's been there multiple times Well, you know if you're growing up in the same area and down the street you could be dating or married to your half-sibling Yep, absolutely and with the growing amount of nieces and nephews we have which were in the 40s now I don't know the exact number but

21:03

If their parents don't tell them, they're all going to take a test one day and wonder why they've got 1500 cousins. Right. Right. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. Because imagine how simple it's going to be 10, 15, 20 years from now, you're not going to have to send in your test, you're going to be able to get your results in 15 minutes, like a COVID test, you know. Oh, yeah. You just scan your fingerprint on your phone and it'll tell you. Right. Yeah, it's definitely not going to get smaller. It's only going to get bigger, I think.

21:32

people that are still trying to hide in the shadows and pull their little dirty tricks, they're going to have to wise up fast. Yeah, they're absolutely going to end up having to pay somebody in damages. I don't know who that would be, but there's going to be lawsuits and lawsuits to come over the next several years, exponentially with the discoveries that they're going to have. Absolutely.

21:57

coming out that a lot of these places didn't do their due diligence and people lied on applications because it's like, hey, I'm going to make 10 bucks, I'm going to make 25 bucks a shot or whatever. And yeah, they don't need to know that I'm bipolar. Or have other health concerns that children would want to know. The last four generations of the family all had breast cancer. Well, I'm not going to include that in my application. And it's the professionals that are, I know we're probably not hearing too much more about doctors being the ones who are the donors, but there's still some devious stuff happening.

22:27

Yeah, you said it right there. So what can you talk a little bit about the trip you're going to be making next week? So it's about a two hour drive. There's this place in Indianapolis that I've wanted to try. Somebody at work suggested to me it's a barbecue place. Apparently it's like the best in the city or something. So I was like, all right, well, next time I'm in Indianapolis, I'll go there, try it out. Well, then, like three days later, Charlie shows up and she works right there in Indianapolis. And I was like, oh, well, hey, I'm going there in a couple of weeks.

22:57

So you can meet me at this barbecue place or I can meet you somewhere else. And she said, yeah, I'll meet you right there after work. It's like 10 minutes away. So I'll be the first brother that she met. When I talked to her on the phone about things, she mentioned that she had a similar childhood as me where she wanted siblings growing up. That was something she longed for as a kid. And I also shared that sentiment, as I said in my speech at Kate's wedding. So now to have...

23:27

all of these, that's something great for us. So we share that sentiment together. So I think it'll be great for her to meet her brother. Absolutely. So since you've done this a handful of times now, when you lock eyes with somebody, do you immediately know that's a sibling? Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, most of the things have been planned. So I kind of know when they were coming, but even at Kate's wedding, when I saw...

23:53

one of my sisters from far away, I'm like, oh, there she is. The one that I had never met before, so I knew it was her. And then the one I met in Jacksonville, I saw her from kind of far away, but I knew it was her. Can you describe the feeling a little bit? Is it like goosebumps or what are you feeling in your body when you meet a sibling for the first time? It's kind of a mix of goosebumps and meeting somebody that you know, like just an old friend. You know that you've never met them before.

24:20

but you also feel like that person is half of what you are. So you kind of just naturally talk about whatever comes up. There's no small talk or any of that stuff like you would do with meeting a friend or like dating or something. Conversation just kind of happens and we vibe together and there's stuff that you discover you have in common that you didn't know before besides like just facial features and stuff. So yeah, it's always just a great experience. Awesome.

24:49

That's very great. Please tell Kate, she's welcome to come on anytime with you or without you. And we wanted to open the door to any of your siblings. If they've got an interesting story they want to tell, if they're open to coming on onesie or twosie or whatever, we'd be happy to do it. It's a great story and it sounds like everybody's pretty cool. Yeah, absolutely. I will definitely put that word out there. I'm sure there'd be a few people that might be interested. And then it could be like, whole thing you guys have, you got a whole family interview.

25:18

Right. Exactly. Yeah. And, and we want to continue our conversations with you as, as long as you want to, for instance, like we'll want to hear how everything goes with Charlie. It's interesting to us. This whole journey you're on. Yeah, of course. I'll come on whenever there's an update and I'll follow you guys as well. And once again, I appreciate you having me on here.

25:42

Of course. I think one of the unexpected benefits for Kendall and I has been getting to make new friends through people we meet through interviews and we've met some wonderful people. You included. We just think you're awesome and that's why we wanted to have you back. You too. You guys both are awesome as well. Oh, thank you. Excellent. Thank you so much. We'll give our best to Kate and I'll reach out. We'll figure something out at some point of getting her on. All right. Awesome. Sounds good. Thanks, guys.

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