Sooner or later in genetic genealogy, you’re going to run across the acronym, NPE or MPE.
Years ago, the phrase NPE was coined to generally mean when the expected parent or parents weren’t.
- NPE means nonpaternal event, also sometimes nonparental event.
- Some folks didn’t like that term and began to use MPE, misattributed paternal event or misattributed parentage.
Of course, today, this situation could arise as a result of an adoption, a donor situation, either male or female, or the more often thought-of situation where the father isn’t who he’s presumed/believed to be based on the circumstances at hand.
Historically, adoptions weren’t a legal situation. If the parents died on the wagon train, someone took the kids to raise. Ditto a woman raising her sister’s children.
At that time, everyone knew the situation and it wasn’t a secret. A couple (or more) generations later, no one knows and the presumed parent(s) aren’t, especially if the child used the surname of the people who raised him or her. That’s a very common step-father situation, especially before official birth certificates.
Regardless of the situation, the “adoption” was undocumented for future generations. Hence, the term “undocumented adoption.” I’ve used “undocumented adoption” for a long time because I felt there was less judgement inherent in that description. Other people simply say “of unknown parentage.”
Discoveries are Common
Of course today with various types of DNA testing, these types of situations are slowly, or not so slowly, being discovered.
When they reveal themselves, you may have to saw a branch off of your tree. That’s ugly if you’re a genealogist, but at least it’s not someone you know personally.
However, if the people involved are closer in time, the discovery may be a shock or traumatic. I experienced this with my half-brother, Dave, who turned out not to be my biological brother. I found him and then heartbreakingly lost him. I loved him regardless and wrote about our journey here, here and here.
These situations used to be remarkable, but with so many people DNA testing, these revelations are becoming daily events.
While the first thought that might occur is that someone was cheating, that may not be the case at all. Lots of circumstances may come into play. I wrote about several here.
I would encourage everyone to suspend judgement, not assume and to give our ancestors and family members the benefit of the doubt. We don’t and can’t know what happened to them.
Moccasins and glass houses😊
Besides that – if it wasn’t for your ancestors, you wouldn’t be you!
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