non-paternity event

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Sun Feb 21 18:50:46 UTC 2010

In an idle moment --  which I seem to have many of -- I was looking at a recent issue of the New England Biographical and Genealogical Register, specifically at an article attempting to sort out 3 guys named Isaac Phelps, who were all running about Windsor, Conn. in the early 1700s.  A part of the research involved a DNA test, I suppose of several living men descended from the original American Phelps.  Regrettably, the DNA tests were inconsistent, a fact presented with the remark that evidently "an early non-paternity event" had occurred.
This was a new term to me, but I supposed it to be a genealogist's euphemism for saying that somebody, sometime back when, had made that midnight creep while somebody else was off to market to sell his pumpkins.
It's also new to the OED.  I find that it seems to be entering academic social science writing.
Proquest show 7 occurrences beginning in 2000, the first 6 in connection with genealogical research, but the latest from something called Psychology & Psychiatry Journal, published in Atlanta, issue of March 21, 2009. pg. 108
"According to a study from Vienna, Austria, "Nonpaternity (i.e., discrepant biological versus social fatherhood) if affects many issues of interests to psychologists, including familial dynamics, interpersonal relationships, sexuality, and fertility, and therefore represents an important topic for psychological research. The advent of modern contraceptive methods, particularly the market launch of the birth-control pill in the early 1960s and its increased use ever since, should have affected rates of nonpaternity (i.e., discrepant genetic and social fatherhood)."
 (This is an oddly garbled article.  In addition to "if affects many" in the passage quoted, there is "The eligible. database. Comprised 32 published samples")

I was of course shocked to think that Puritans might do that sort of thing.  More to the point, some of my ancestors also roamed Windsor, Conn. in the early 1700s.  Might one of my 128 great-great-great-great-great grandmothers have. . . ?   Surely not.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

The American Dialect Society -

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