Finding out about our ‘DNA Family Secrets’

Tuesday: DNA Family Secrets; (BBC2, 9pm)

Monday, 1st March 2021, 5:00 pm
Stacey Dooley and Prof. Turi King

Some people might find the idea of their DNA being on file somewhere a little disconcerting (and not necessarily because they’ve been up to no good), but for others, the commercial availability of testing kits has been a chance to find answers to some very important questions. Over 26 million people have taken the plunge in the past decade.

The growing popularity in genetic testing has also created a network of databases that can tell people more than ever before about their families, ancestry and health.

Now, in the new series DNA Family Secrets, Stacey Dooley is inviting Britons who want to find out more to visit a one-stop-shop DNA testing clinic.

It’s manned by one of the UK’s leading geneticists, Professor Turi King, and a team of top genealogists, social workers and doctors, who will use the latest advances in technology to help reveal lost heritage, track down missing relatives and detect potentially debilitating diseases.

As well as bringing us some fascinating and moving stories, the series explores the science behind DNA and what the results really mean. It will also look at what people do with the findings – and what viewers at home should ask themselves before embarking on a home test.

In the first episode, Stacey, whose background in documentaries and investigative reporting means she’s got extensive experience of dealing with emotional and difficult subjects, meets up with 75-year-old Bill, who was born at the end of the Second World War. His father was an African-American GI who his mum met and fell in love with while he was stationed at her local Loughborough airbase. He returned to the US at the end of the war, and she never heard from him again – all his son really knows about him is his name, which is on Bill’s birth certificate.

Now, Bill is hoping that his own DNA might be the key to finding out what happened to his father and if he has any living relatives in the US.

Stacey also meets 53-year-old Richard, who was always very close to his dad – making it even more of a shock when, after his father’s death, he discovered that they were not biologically related. In an added twist, another man has claimed that he might be his father, but Richard is hoping that DNA testing will give him definitive answers and reveal whether he has a half-brother.

Finally, we’re introduced to couple Charlie and Rob, who were overjoyed when their son Cian came along just over a year after they embarked on a whirlwind romance.

However, their happiness was overshadowed when Charlie’s father was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, a debilitating terminal illness without any cure.

To add to their distress, there’s a 50% chance that Charlie also carries the gene for the condition, and if she does, she could have unknowingly passed it on to her son. It’s a deeply worrying prospect, and only a DNA test will tell her whether she – and possibly Cian – will develop the disease.

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