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.
And finally let me close with a limerick of Van Landry, copied here with his permission. Please note he never knocked a boy from the swings, stole a transistor, or burned down a gym. But he has confessed that he did kick my sister and his only defense is that she was older and had claws (and knew how to use them). He still blames his cousin!
Me, Myself, and I
My third cousin once removed did
Take over my life and then hid.
He’s inside my head
But if he were dead,
It'd kill both my ego and id.
You see that third cousin is me.
I’ve climbed around my family tree.
I must be part monkey
Or just info junkie,
I swing through the branches with glee.
Some interesting things I discover.
The lines of descent I recover
Appear more than twice.
Well, isn’t that nice.
At least I am not my own brother.
It seems that my grandfather wed
His first cousin’s daughter and bred.
For they had eight kids
And one of them did
Marry mom and you know where that led.
It must have been Cajun tradition
Or kids with a lot of volition.
Whatever the cause,
It didn’t give pause.
It happened despite admonition.
I am my own fifth cousin too.
And no I don’t live in a zoo.
But all this inbreeding
And some genes repeating,
Should lead to a head number two.
And then I’d have room for my cousins.
I know there’s at least a half dozen.
Though they are all me,
I’d set a few free,
Cause we are not kissin’ but fussin’.
We fight over who gets to drive
Who’s out first when we all arrive.
Who gets the last piece,
Who pays on the lease,
It’s worse than most husbands and wives.
I wonder how all this got started,
'Cause cousins who kiss now are parted.
To stop a mutation
Or my situation
Where cousins blame me when they’ve farted.
Of course they have done much worse things,
Like knocking that boy from the swings.
They kicked my dear sister
And stole that transistor.
What mischief these cousins can bring.
But one is the absolute worst
It’s him that I mentioned at first.
I’m sure it was him
That burned down the gym.
When mom asked us why, he just cursed.
I guess he’s the strongest, 'cause he
Is the closest relation to me.
He’s really quite tiring
And gets me perspiring.
I wish he’d get lost in my tree.
[Hello, it’s ol’ third cousin here.
I’m here to bring fun and good cheer.
Ignore boring Van.
He’s spineless and bland.
With a “Boo” he just runs off in fear.]
[He blames me for everything bad.
But accidents happen. So sad.
If I don’t come out
And rampage about,
In a very short time I’ll go mad.]
[Who cares if I mock the deceased?
Or my share of work is the least?
At times I relent,
But I would not repent
When he almost made us a priest.]
(Shut up. Now get back in your place.)
Forgive me for that show of face.
He looks just like me
But as you can see,
He’s lacking in wits, style, and grace.
And now I must leave you alone.
A state that I never have known.
So check out your tree,
To reveal who’s in your skin and bones.
copyright Van Landry
Content copyright 2013. All rights reserved.
How Autosomal Testing May Help