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Her parents, both deceased, were Irish American Catholics who raised her and her six siblings with church Sundays and ethnic pride.

But Plebuch, who had a long-standing interest in science and DNA, wanted to know more about her dad’s side of the family.

Over the past five years, as the price of DNA testing kits has dropped and their quality has improved, the phenomenon of “recreational genomics” has taken off.

According to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy, nearly 8 million people worldwide, but mostly in the United States, have tested their DNA through kits, typically costing $99 or less, from such companies as 23and Me, and Family Tree DNA.

The son of Irish immigrants, Jim Collins had been raised in an orphanage from a young age, and his extended family tree was murky.

After a few weeks during which her saliva was analyzed, she got an email in the summer of 2012 with a link to her results. About half of Plebuch’s DNA results presented the mixed British Isles bloodline she expected.

The most popular DNA-deciphering approach, autosomal DNA testing, looks at genetic material inherited from both parents and can be used to connect customers to others in a database who share that material.

The results can let you see exactly what stuff you’re made from — as well as offer the opportunity to find previously unknown relatives.

After the initial shock of her test results, Plebuch wondered if her mother might have had an affair. So, she and her sister, Gerry Collins Wiggins, both ordered kits from DNA testing company 23and Me.

The affair scenario seemed unlikely — certainly out of character for her mom, and besides, all seven Collins children had their father’s hooded eyes. “My father, he was in the Army and he was all over the world, and it was just one of those fears that you have when you don’t know,” she says. If the findings were right, it meant one of Plebuch’s parents was at least partly Jewish. They had a gut sense that it was unlikely to be their mother, who came from a large family, filled with cousins Plebuch and her siblings all knew well.

But she talked to her sister, and they agreed she should test again. In a family photo, Alice Collins Plebuch’s father, James “Jim” Collins, poses with his children.

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