Jim Moses: Genealogy date tips and a DNA challenge – Sentinel-Standard

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Last time we were looking at being a newbie to genealogy. It can seem like a huge, confusing, test, but that is just because you might not know what you are doing. That knowledge will come with time and experience. If you want to learn how to do genealogy correctly, read, read, read. Read everything you can find on your subject. Take classes (online or in person). Join a society (genealogical or historical) and talk with the members. They were all newbies at one time and almost all of them will be glad to help answer questions. 

As genealogists, we become ‘collectors of the stuff’. You will quickly find that relatives will give you things that were used by Uncle Fred, or that recipe book Aunt Mable had for her favorite concoctions. I have knick-knacks collected by my great-grandmother as she travelled across the country, and items hand-crafted by long-gone ancestors. These are the treasures of family history. 

We also are the collectors of data. In order to do it correctly, we need to find a system that works, and be consistent with it. For example, dates. I ALWAYS use the same format of a date, unless I’m filling out a form at the doctor’s office that requires a different format. I am consistent with using a two-digit day, followed by a three-letter month, followed by the full year, like this: 06 SEP 2022. The reason for this is to have every date in my family history have the same format. A two-digit day means more than leaving off the first digit from 1 through 9. When someone sees ‘1’ they aren’t quite sure if it is actually ‘1’ or if the person made a mistake and it should be ’19’. I use the three-digit month, in all caps, also for consistency. If I wrote a date like 9/6/22, would it be September 6th, 2022, or could it be June 9, 1822, or any of several other combinations? The idea is to choose a system that is always easily understood, and then use that system all the time. There are many ‘correct’ ways to write a date. Pick one. I did. 

Now, to the other topic of today. Are you an NPE? NPE in genealogical terminology means ‘non-paternity event’. I don’t like that term because there certainly was paternity, and so the term becomes confusing. I like the other use of  NPE better—’not the parent expected’. This happens when dad isn’t your biological father. I just read a book that estimates that at least 10% of us are NPEs. I was surprised by that number, and the author didn’t have much to back up what she said, but maybe it is correct. The book I was reading was concerned with living people and their parents, but NPE can also go back many generations. It is always linked to the male line somewhere in history. 

NPEs are finding out about their circumstances at an almost surprising rate nowadays, because of DNA testing. If you get tested, you may find out that your siblings are really only half-siblings, or that you have half-siblings you didn’t know about. I know this is shocking to some people when they find out, but others embrace the issue, and try to find out more. It is especially important in the area of medical history. If your biological dad and your dad aren’t the same person, you are missing half of what you might want to know about your medical history. 

NPE can have many reasons for happening. There could be unfaithful people in a marriage, an attack on a woman resulting in pregnancy, an adoption, or any of a host of other circumstances. We’ll explore this more next time, and I’ll tell you a story from my family’s past. 

— Jim Moses welcomes comments and suggestions at jmosesgen@gmail.com