Having watched the stories in the group unfold, Kirkpatrick emphasizes they aren’t all negative experiences—even if they start that way. “How people react in the short term will not necessarily predict the long term,” she says. St Clair put it to me in even more vivid terms. She compared finding out about the existence of a secret child to finding out your teenage daughter is pregnant. “Everyone’s tearful, upset. Excuse my phrase, the shit just hit the fan,” she says. “But nine months later they’re standing at the hospital goo-gooing and celebrating and passing out cigars and balloons.” It takes time.

When St Clair took her AncestryDNA test, the parents who raised her and her biological father had all passed away. She didn’t have to—or perhaps never got to—confront them. But she did realize that one of her genetic matches on AncestryDNA’s website was a half-sister, Raetta, who shared the same father. When they got in touch, St Clair learned about another half-sister, Mona, who still lives in Arkansas, where St Clair was born. Earlier this month, she and Mona flew to Los Angeles to celebrate Raetta’s 80th birthday. After losing half of her identity, St Clair gained another family. And the Facebook group has given her purpose.