Okay – this isn’t terribly Italian, but I’m still working on the Italy genealogy. There are cool things there too. I promise to get back to that. In the meantime, this is has been occupying my time, and I need to share!!!
In Genealogy there is a designation called “NPE” – Non-Paternity Event. This is where you find a parent that you do not think was supposed to be the parent (i.e., your father, grandfather etc. is not who you though it was). Genealogy (especially Genealogy DNA) uncovers some of these events. This blog post is not about big life-changing surprises, but they do happen. If you have experienced a life-altering NPE, some of my flippant comments may be difficult for you. Then again, it might show how family is family is family. I am certainly not trying to make light of sensitive current family events that can be difficult. I leave it to you to continue reading if you have an NPE that is causing you pain.
Family tree? Seriously – in some sections, my family tree is more of a vine. My father used to make fun of my Mom’s “Hillbilly” Middle Tennessee family (even though he was a Tennessee boy himself), and I’ve found some pretty interesting twists in his family tree (read on)! Even my husband used to make jokes about my family – until I started researching his family, and found that the Italians up in the mountains between Emilia-Romagna and Liguria had quite the same blend of surnames over and over! Don’t be too sanctimonious. People who “stay put” frequently have a lot of intermingled family. My ancestors are mostly Scottish/Irish/English, and early settlers in the US. The first direct ancestor I find who was possibly not born in North America is 1715. I have numerous ancestors who were born in North America in the 1600s. Up until after the War of Independence, most of that family had been relatively planted in their communities. In the 1800s, folks started moving around a bit, and it makes the family tree start to look more varied.
My father’s Grandfather and Great-Grandfather were both named George Washington Burkett. When my father arrived in Middle Tennessee in the mid 1950s, there was a George Washington Burkett (Wash) there. It was assumed they were “not related”. In fact, my family research has found that they were third cousins. Not crazy – their home “spots” were only about 75 miles apart, and this was in the 1950s when the US was much more mobile than in the 19th century. But I’ve so far found three separate incidents in my direct ancestor line where my father’s family from 75 miles away (and across a river) crosses with my mother’s family in the early 1800s, and not through the same people/pairings. In the terms of the 1800s, they seemed pretty remote to be connected. So what kind of intermingling do you think happens when folks live 5 miles apart?
When I first started writing this post, I considered changing the names. But seriously! All of the issues I’m going to discuss are decades, if not centuries old. If you are uptight about what you might discover in your past, and you think you might be related to me, stop reading now. You have been duly warned!
Remember how my father used to kid my Mom? Let’s start there. My mother is a Matlock. My 3rd Great-Grandparents are a Matlock/Choate pairing. My 4th Great-Grandparents are a Matlock/Choate pairing. My 5th Great-Grandparents are a Matlock/Choate pairing. I also have numerous Great Aunt/Uncle pairings of Matlock/Choate. If you are a relative of mine, and you object to my assertion that the Matlocks and the Choates couldn’t get enough of each other, you simply haven’t looked at your family tree!
My Great-Grandfather was illegitimate, and so he was given his mother’s maiden name. Matlock. I assumed we would never know who his father was, and actually had it in my head that his father was probably a Choate 🙂 – I mean, who else????
Enter genealogy DNA tests.
My Great-Grandmother later married Andy Wilderidge. They had three children. When I first started getting DNA “matches” that had Wilderidge in their ancestry, I thought “wow” – Great-Grandma Willie (her name was Elizabeth, but she was known both as Lizzie and Willie) eventually married Papa Lush’s (pronounced Loosh, not like someone who drinks too much) Dad. But it was a dead end. Those DNA matches never went past Great-Grandma Elizabeth, and then it hit me that I DO legitimately share DNA with Wilderidges, because she, as the mother of three Wilderidge children, is the common link! So these hits were not some great new revelation. They were just (half) relatives!
I started getting a lot of DNA hints for Lush on an entirely different name. Since I will never be able to substantiate this one, this is one case where I will not name names (yet). But let’s just say that I’m confident at least as to what my Great-Grandfather would have been named if his mother had let the cat out of the bag! I have received DNA Matches for people who could only share an ancestor 6 generations back in this family line. We have to be related long before my Great-Grandfather was born. But since there are no living people to test for “parent/child” relationships, it will always be a case of genetic percentages that can “possibly” add up to being the unnamed father. At least the “family” is known, but not the exact person who was his father. So my Mother’s line is intertwined, but fairly boring overall. Mostly just distant cousins marrying each other, with a mystery father for my Great-Grandfather.
Now, remember my father, who used to make fun of my mother’s family? You know I miss him daily, but BOY do I wish he were here now so I could rub his nose in it! My Mom’s family was mostly a tree with some wishy washy vines winding through it. Let me tell you about the Maness family (my father’s maternal line)!!!!
First let’s discuss the binary effect of families.
- We have two parents.
- We have four grandparents.
- We have eight great-grandparents.
- We have 16 Great-Great Grandparents (in genealogy, we start saying 2G Grandparents here to keep from having to type so much).
- We have 32 3G Grandparents.
If no one is closely related in a 6 generation span, there should be 63 unique people, including us as the first person. We’ll return to this number.
On my father’s side of the family, things are pretty calm until we get to my 4th Great Grandparents. That’s pretty far back right? Taking into account the range in generations, and the range in ages of children, my 4th Great Grandparents were born primarily in the late 1700s. I’ve tried and tried to disprove this one detail, but it keeps coming back to me, especially now that DNA tests have come into play. My 4th Great-Grandfather was William Nathan Maness, born in 1782. In the family bible, his wife is listed as Mary Maness, born in 1780. I went around and around between the two possibilities that either she truly was born a Maness, or that she simply had “no identity” outside of her marriage at the turn of the 19th century, and her maiden name was simply lost to us. But as the DNA matches kept coming in, she started looking more and more like both my 4th Great Grandmother and my 5th Great Grandmother. You see, her husband and her father were LIKELY brothers. Now, before you start getting images of creepy older men and younger nieces, I will point out that her father was 19 years older than her husband. In fact, my 4th Great Grandmother was two years older than her husband, so it was really a case of two contemporary young Manesses falling in love 🙂
It looks bit like this:
Because of this, William Jacob Maness, Sr. and his spouse Nalise Williamson are in my direct ancestor tree twice, as my 6th Great Grandparents and my 7th Great Grandparents. William Jacob Maness, Jr. and Keziah Brooks are both my 5th Great Grandparents and my 6th Great Grandparents. Daniel Maness is both my 5th Great Grandfather and my 5th Great Uncle. And Mary is my 4th Great Grandmother, and my 1st Cousin 5 times removed (she’s that relationship two separate ways). I know – confusing – it will get a little clearer (barely).
So that’s fine and dandy. And then I found another one! My 7th Great-Grandfather John Williamson had a son named William, and a daughter named Nalise (recognize her from the previous paragraph??). William Williamson had a daughter named Nancy (this would be John’s granddaughter) who married Daniel Maness (who by the way is assumed to have been the father of the Mary above, making Nancy also Mary’s mother). His daughter Nalise married William Jacob Maness, Sr., who was the – hold on – GRANDFATHER of the same Daniel Maness. So let’s try to get this straight. John Williamson was the Grandfather of Daniel Maness, and also the Great-Grandfather of Daniel Maness through his two children. Kind of like my Mary Maness being my 4th and 5th Great Grandmothers. So, John Williamson and Jemima Reid are my 7th Great Grandparents twice, and my 8th great Grandparents. Confused? You betcha!!!
Seriously Dad? You were making fun of the Middle Tennessee Hillbillies? Gimme a break!
This causes interesting “lapses” in the binary effect of ancestry.
Because these two siblings of my 7th Great Grandfather found love in close proximity to their parents, it gets almost impossible to follow in a narrative. So I’ve created a color coded chart (geek that I am).
This chart shows my 3rd Great-Grandfather George Maness as the start of the tree. Any time there is a duplicate ancestor pair, they have been marked with a color. Males to the left, females to the right of the pairs. The grey at the top means that if we were to go another generation, all of the “colored” items (including grey) would continue to be duplicated to that generation. It will eventually end (I think)!!!
That’s a lot of duplication! Look at George’s Great-Great Grandparents! There is only one set of Great-Great Grandparents who do not have some duplication in his tree. That’s pretty amazing!
Remember I said that in this chart there should be 63 unique individuals? I’ll save you the trouble of counting. There are 43. We are missing 20 people in this tree over the course of 6 generations! This is known as Pedigree Collapse.
So what does it all mean? Not much – hehe – We all seem to be fairly intelligent, successful folks, at least those I’ve known personally from the most recent 3-4 generations. But it was a really interesting exercise to see just how intermingled a community could become in the 18th century in Colonial America. In fact, I would guess that people who have an “easy time” finding their ancestors from 300 years ago will have similar patterns. People showed up to a new continent with limited supply of partners (it really doesn’t look like my ancestors mingled with the Native Americans at all, at least not after 1700). Small communities of a few hundred people would not make for a varied ancestory.
The parts of my extended families (through marriage) who emigrated to new lands in the 19th and 20th centuries are much more difficult to piece together. Not only do they not have so many commonalities in family groups, but due to their mobility into fully settled and populated areas make it more difficult to track them down. I must search records in at least three different languages (German, Italian and Latin), and wonder if I’ve got the correct people when their names all start looking the same. And it’s great fun overall.
If you haven’t started working on your family tree, get going! It will only suck up all of your available time! And it will make you feel more connected to your past.