Suddenly Family Podcast Unravels DNA Mysteries

Marilyn HawkesMarch 25, 2021
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Photo courtesy CNN Philippines
Photo courtesy CNN Philippines

A new podcast by Phoenix native Samuel Burke unravels DNA mysteries.

When cable news personality Samuel Burke bought DNA test kits for his parents, he had no idea that the results would upend his family forever. The tests revealed three “DNA bombshells”: Burke’s mother found out a woman who was raised in the same Phoenix Jewish community as she was is her half-sister; a cousin the family thought died of AIDS 30 years ago turned up alive; and Burke’s father’s test revealed that the man who raised him was not his biological father. “We’re not related to the Burke family anymore.”

Burke, an award-winning journalist who currently hosts Work From Home for CNN Philippines, grew up in Phoenix, where his family still resides. After learning his family’s DNA results and hearing from others who had similar discoveries, Burke launched Suddenly Family, a podcast that explores shocking DNA results. “DNA tests are marketed as very positive experiences,” he says, but that’s not always the case. About one in seven U.S. adults say they’ve used mail-in DNA testing kits, according to the Pew Research Center.

While searching for information about his family, Burke discovered Facebook and DNA support groups designed to help people piece together their DNA test information. Through these groups he found others willing to share their stories.

The 10-episode podcast features a woman who finds out a shocking secret about her best friend’s father; a gay man who learns about a daughter he fathered 30 years ago; and a son’s discovery that his mother has been a missing person for 75 years. “These are the true life stories of people whose DNA results have turned them upside down,” Burke says in the podcast introduction.

For those considering delving into a “DNA mystery,” Burke offers this advice: “If you start to realize there’s a big question mark, slow down and think about all the emotional consequences… It’s amazing finding my cousin, I love my new aunt, but I really feel like I took a part of my dad’s identity and history from him.” Find Suddenly Family on Spotify, Apple, Google and YouTube.

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