As genealogists have incorporated DNA testing into the research process over the last few years, amazing strides have been made. Increased precision in testing as well as an increase in the variety of tests available have produced many new clues for research. But in addition to breaking down brick walls, DNA can introduce new possibilities for the research. And sometimes these can be very challenging.
By now we are all familiar with the term “Non-paternal Event.” This is the term used when an individual’s surname does not match the y-DNA. It means that somewhere along the way, the man presumed to be the father of a son did not actually father that child.
Unfortunately, researchers are too often quick to look to the mother as the source of the problem. She is often thought to have cheated on her husband. While did happen, it is not the only possibility, and we must be careful to include other possibilities as well. Among the other reasons for a non-paternal event are:
- Mother was pregnant by another man at the time of the marriage.
- Child took the surname of a maternal relative to honor him and perpetuate a surname that was about to disappear.
- An apprentice, orphan, or other child was adopted into the family.
- Child was the product of a rape.
Part of the challenge in answering the question is in the extensive testing that must take place to determine in which generation the event occurred. Starting with the person tested, and going back to the immigrant ancestor, the break could enter at any point. The only way to know for certain is to test multiple individuals at every generation until the break is found.
There is another way of looking at these events, however. Adoptees often have a difficult time determining their origins. Laws prohibit access to information on birth parents, leaving adoptees and their descendants with many questions. DNA testing companies, however, are offering a way around these laws. Combining with online family trees, many adoptees are able to find their birth family. The Washington Times recently ran a story on this subject.
Whether the adoption was today, or two hundred years ago, DNA can help you identify the birth lineage of your ancestors. If you have this type of problem, start mapping out a plan for testing to combine with traditional resources to identify your true ancestors. And realize that you may never know the true circumstances behind the non-paternal event, so do not judge your ancestors so hastily.