Monday, July 25, 2016
I sometimes wonder whether some of the terms in the genetic genealogist's lexicon could someday evolve into concepts better classified as oxymorons—two words, juxtaposed, which cannot technically co-exist in the real world.
If you've spent any time wading through the vocabulary at the shallow side of the steep learning curve of this gene pool, you may have realized, after having braved the cheek-swabbing of a Y-DNA test (or, for you gals, suffering in proxy for a willing male relative's endurance of such), that the lab's breathless report of the results contained no names matching your father's surname.
"Ah," the wise researcher intones, "a non-paternal event." Translation: some guy upstream in your lineage messed around—anonymously, of course—with one of your confirmed female ancestors, for which her husband got the "credit."
Since it has been nearly two years since I've discovered that my mitochondrial DNA test triggered a rare exact match with someone who happens to be an adoptee, I have often wondered why no one snickers about the reverse of such an undocumented event. You know, a non-maternal event. I mean, could that even be possible? Would such a term be an oxymoron? After all, when it comes to maternity, it's kinda hard to hide the evidence.
Such things can happen, however. I think of the stories of parents discovering, years later, that their baby was switched at birth with the child they brought home from the hospital. Why doesn't anyone call that a non-maternal event?
Or what about the family I found while researching my own mother's line, where the brother of one free spirit adopted the man's two children when he deserted his wife after she fell ill with tuberculosis and could no longer care for their children? In that case, I wouldn't even have discovered who the proper father of those children was, if it hadn't been for newspaper references to the "adopted children" of that concerned family member. Otherwise, I would have presumed the adoptive father's wife was the true mother. Another possible false ascription of maternity in the paper trail.
Sometimes, when after searching and searching and coming up with no solid results, it seems tempting to chalk the failure up to false maternity. After all, I've been trying to identify the most recent common female ancestor connecting my matrilineal descent and that of my mystery cousin, the adoptee, since November of 2014. That's a lot of searching.
Yes, I know I've persistently plodded backwards in time through my mother's mother's mother's line, ad nauseum, and then turned about face and traced each daughter's line back to the future as far as I could go. Just in this calendar year alone, I've added 1,426 additional people to my mother's family tree. Admittedly, not all of them were women, but that thumbnail sketch serves to indicate just how much work has been done on that line.
And still no answer to my question: who was the female ancestor which could be claimed by both my mystery cousin and myself. It's dead end searches like this that make me wonder about such oxymoronic possibilities as non-maternal events. If only there were a way...
Above: Follow that diagonally descending line across the bottom of the chart to trace my matrilineal line. Right now, I'm working on cataloguing and verifying all the descendants of Jane Strother. With only three more of her daughters to go, I will soon move up another generation to delve into the daughters of her mother, Margaret Watts, in my quest to uncover the nexus with my mystery cousin.