Sonny and Brina Hurwitz raised a family in Boston. They both died with secrets.
In 2016, their oldest daughter, Julie Lawson, took a home DNA test. Later, she persuaded her sister, Fredda Hurwitz, to take one too.
In May, the sisters sat down at the dinner table in Ms. Hurwitz’s Falls Church, Va., home to share their results. A man’s name popped up as a close genetic match for Ms. Hurwitz. Neither had ever heard of him.
Ms. Lawson searched for the man on Facebook . When she saw his photos, she knew. He looked like their late father. Based on his age and the close physical resemblance, Ms. Lawson immediately told her sister, “He’s got to be our brother.” This was their father’s secret. He had a child they never knew about.
Then came a second shock. Ms. Lawson’s test showed she didn’t appear to have any genetic connection to this new man. This was their mother’s secret: Ms. Lawson was the product of a brief extramarital affair. The man who raised her wasn’t her biological father.
The revelations ricocheted through the family. They created new bonds with people who were once strangers. They caused tension with family they had known all their lives. And they sparked a fight between the sisters about the bonds of loyalty—and how much their parents should have told them.
Ms. Lawson, 65 years old, said she is still grappling with “the pain of knowing my life was a lie and having all these questions that can’t be fully answered because both my parents are gone.”
The hardest part, she said, came the moment she and Ms. Hurwitz, 52, realized they were half, not full, sisters.
“We held each other,” Ms. Lawson said, “and we sobbed.”
In an age of ubiquitous direct-to-consumer genetic testing, family secrets are almost impossible to keep. The Hurwitzes had no idea how much their lives would change when their test results revealed their parents’ hidden past.