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Kim Ross sent off a DNA test. Six weeks later, a life-changing discovery arrived.

I’ve been researching my family tree for thirty years. I started the research when I discovered my grandmother was part-Maori. I learnt about my descendant, Wharetutu Tahuna, and I stood near the beach where we believe Wharetutu is buried. I felt a connection and wanted to know more. So, two years ago I made the decision to take a commercial DNA test because I was curious about how much Polynesian DNA I had.

I sent off the DNA test in November 2016 and about six weeks later, just before Christmas, I had my results. My heritage indicated British and Scottish ancestors. The Scandinavian and Irish were a bit of a surprise… but there was no Polynesian. I was so confused so I decided to phone the DNA company. Their plausible answer was I probably didn’t inherit the markers their company tests. I accepted what they told me but something was niggling at me. On Christmas Eve I posted my results on Facebook, with the comment ‘Something seems weird. Confused’.

I was spending Christmas Day with family and early morning I received a phone call from an old friend. “Kim, I think you need to know the truth, you were adopted”. As a child I had asked my mother several times, “Am I adopted? It’s OK if I am, you can tell me”. But it was still a shock to hear the words.

Ancestry DNA test adopted
At first Kim was confused at her test results, but she was still surprised by the news. Image: Supplied.

Externally, I was calm and trying not to let my emotions get the better of me. It was Christmas Day and I didn’t want to spoil it. I tried very hard to act like everything was OK, but after a few hours, I cried and had an urgent need to talk to anyone who could confirm the news. Each person I spoke with already knew – cousins, uncles, aunts and family friends. I remember feeling “silly” that I hadn’t worked this out myself. Everyone knew, except me. Why didn’t my mother tell me when I had specifically asked her?

I had little information to go on, as my adoptive parents had passed away. I knew I was born in Auckland and that was it. I wrote to Births, Deaths and Marriages in New Zealand for my ‘pre-adoptive birth certificate’. It took forever to arrive and when it did, I discovered my biological mother’s name, but no father was listed. I started searching my DNA matches but nothing would link me directly to her. Obsession took over and I was determined to find out who I was – I thought my birth parents may not be alive or at best they were elderly, so I felt a sense of urgency. I wanted to know who they were, what did they look like? Did I have siblings? What if my birth mother had been looking for me for decades?

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Ancestry DNA test adopted
Kim and with her adoptive mother. Image: Supplied / SBS Insight.

Within three weeks, I worked out who my biological mother was. I also discovered I had a brother and sister. As an only child this was exciting, I had always wanted siblings. It sounds awful but I was grateful my adoptive parents had passed as I didn’t have to deal with feelings of guilt or explain to them why I needed to know ‘where I came from’. I had great parents and would not have wanted to hurt them. I simply wanted to know my roots and to see one person (aside from my children) that I was biologically linked to.

A few months later, a paternal sister showed up as a DNA match and together we started our search for our father. We are still trying to work that out. We have had many twists along the way.

There have been tears, anticipation of meeting new family and far too much time spent on searching. I am sure I have bored my husband and children repeatedly. I have felt anger and wished I never knew the truth of my adoption but mainly from the frustration in trying to work out ‘my truth’.

Would I do a DNA test again? Yes. It’s not always an easy road to travel. Personally, I simply can’t imagine going through the rest of my life not knowing. One day I will know the stories of my ancestors and take joy from them; just as I did with the life of Wharetutu Tahuna.

Kim is a guest on tonight’s episode of Insight at 8.30pm on SBS, which asks: What happens when you get more than you bargained for from a DNA test?

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