It cannot be repeated enough, anyone considering a DNA test should be prepared for an unexpected result. If you aren't ready for the TRUTH, do NOT take a DNA test! DNA simply reports what is there and doesn't care what we think or want. Perhaps you have a well documented lineage and are positive you will connect with Patriarch X. Then you get the results back and you are shocked to discover that you don't match any of the other participants. You have just encountered a "Non-Paternal Event" or N.P.E. for short or as my friend Jean calls it something in your tree just went "sideways." Another term not as commonly used is "misattributed paternity." Whatever term we use it means the same thing. Somewhere along the line the man that was supposed to be the father was not and someone else's Y-DNA is reflected in all of the line's male descendants. In the beginning it is not always possible to determine whose surname came first or whether this is a case of shared ancestry that precedes surname adoption. That's just the rocky road we encounter when searching for the truth.
Here's a great little video to put it all in perspective (and it's funny too!)
And this one's even crazier
"We believe that the rate of unannounced adoption or false paternity is about 1-2% per generation. When confirming your lineage we recommend that you test yourself and your most distantly related male ancestor to verify the line back to the common male ancestor."
At an estimated 30 years per generation and a conservative 2% NPE rate in 400 years it is possible that if you are 13 generations from a common ancestor the NPE rate is expected to be about 14% or nearly 1 in 7. More recent estimates suggest the current rate could be as high as 10% given a relaxation of social norms. At 800 years (25 generations) the probability jumps to 40% and by 1000 (35 generations) years it is about 50%. There are also those who point out that the NPE rate is different for different families and this makes sense for it can be a characteristic of some men and or women to be more likely to stray outside the bounds of matrimony.
When you get your results and it "doesn't match up" it can be a bit distressing but in the end you'll find you are not alone. Isn't it better to claim the heritage of the genes you carry?
N.P.E.'s are not necessarily due to infidelity of the mother. Reasons for N.P.E.s include:
I am interested in documenting all those surnamed Wheaton and not just those that track back to a particular patriarch. I hope that most administrators feel similarly. So rest assured we aren't going to throw you off the bus. It could be that your claim to a surname is older than the patriarchs we have currently identified. Sometimes it is clear that your ancestry reflects a completely different surname and in such cases I suggest joining the appropriate surname group. This is when you match many men of another surname and do not match any surnamed Wheaton.
Although we are all highly invested in our "names" remember in human time the surname is a rather recent invention (less than 1,000 years ago and most adopted in Great Britain in the 1300-1400's). Surnames in Scandinavian countries are even more recent.
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How Autosomal Testing May Help