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Surname change without NPE ?

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  • Surname change without NPE ?

    I have a query about paternal surnames - in that, is it possible for a surname to change - discounting a NPE. The reason I ask is because my YDNA test has shown up three matches with the same surname, although varying from GD 1 to GD 5. However, having heard a family story in the distant past, which offers a different surname, I am wondering how true the story could be. I have discounted a NPE because I have never actually known my father or his name, and have no living family who would have had access to that knowledge, so didn't know which surnames would show as a match when I took the test. I have a match on Ancestry with a male with the first name and surname from this story, albeit only 8cm across 1 segment, and although he has an extensive family tree, I can find no other link to him. I have searched his tree for a match to my YDNA surname without success, so hence my question. From the information I have learned on FTDNA, I don't believe the surname can change, but would be grateful for input from anyone with different experience or views.

  • #2
    Surnames can and do change, even in modern times, and not necessarily for nefarious reasons. When surnames first appeared (in Europe, most people seemed to have surnames by about the 14th Century), they were often not regarded as a permanent family name transmitted through the paternal line. Many family names changed frequently, and different branches of the same family were often known by different surnames or by multiple surnames (a more modern example: the "dit" names encountered in Quebec). In different places, the tradition of a fixed surname, transmitted reliably from generation to generation, eventually became fashionable. In some areas, a patronymic system was used instead, and only replaced by "modern" surnames relatively recently, in some cases during the 19th Century. But surnames continue to change. Adoption is one reason, but it may be just a matter of convenience or personal choice. Sometimes a child ends up living with a different family entirely, and takes their surname. A distant cousin was actually left at a gas station by his mother, and was taken in by a local family. It was simpler for him to take the name of his new family.

    Given the long history of unstable surnames, it frequently happens that Y DNA places us in a cluster containing more than one surname. The Y DNA pattern was already there, when related families happened to choose different names. Sometimes the history becomes clear with further research. We just have to be persistent and very, very patient, as genealogists have always done.


    • #3
      The surname I have matched with goes back to the 1500's in at least two of the matches, so I think that is quite a stable surname. I know there is not an adoption as I was brought up by my maternal grandmother and took my mother's maiden name. I have been trying to reconcile the two names within different trees where I have matches, but have had no success at all. My dilemma is whether to abandon the surname in the family story, but I have read so many times that family history can be very enlightening in some cases.


      • #4
        In addition to John's good comments, throughout history at times many Jewish people had to change their surnames to avoid religious persecution. Also, when migrations took place from one European country to another, the surname could change somewhat to the phoenetic sound of the new country, thereby changing the spelling. And, when immigrants came to America earlier on, new, or shortened, or spelling-changed surnames were given to Americanize the name, or because the official could not spell their surname.


        • #5
          Thank you both for your input on this. I would be grateful for your (and others) opinion regarding the Ancestry match of 8cm over 1 segment match that I have with the person who has the same name as the family story. Given that I have a FTDNA Y67 match GD2 (both differences on the Y25-37 section), is the opinion that my surname is more likely to be from my YDNA match rather than the autosomal 8cm on Ancestry. The person I have the Y67 match with is going to provide his Y25-37 section so that I can see where the mutations occur, however I will probably be back on here asking questions on what the mutations mean.


          • #6
            Dana: What I am going to say has no scientific foundation, but is just my experience and common sense, thinking outside the box.

            At Ancestry, I have more than 400 dna matches with 6cMs shared; and I have actually found tree matches with all of these, using the search function in THEIR tree going upstream, back in time.

            And, I have actually had Shared Matches with some of these 6cMs matches.

            I am ~2 generations older than most of these matches. Depending on re-combination, there is a possibility if a parent of these matches had tested, it possibly could have been a 12 cMs match. And if the grandparent had tested.........

            Just something to think about if there is a big age difference between you and your match. In fact, the first thing I do when looking at the tree of a match is to determine when their grandparents were born so I know the approximate age of the match compared to my age.
            Last edited by Biblioteque; 31 July 2020, 12:59 PM.


            • #7
              The match on Ancestry has quite a large tree, over 1000 family members, and the family story name matches his uncle. I have tried to place the uncle in the UK at the relevant time, however, his muster rolls only begin in 1944 from what I have been able to see. This would place him on the US side of the pond in the relevant period of 1942/43, therefore ruling him out. I did apply for his uncle's service history at the end of March, however the current pandemic has closed down NARA. The other problem is of course, I am on the UK side of the pond so when it does re-open, I will have to wait for them get through the mountain of mail they obviously will have, and then to find the record, send me an invoice and then when they have received my payment, send me the documents. That is of course if I am allowed to see them as I can't prove I'm next of kin. I know the time has passed and I should be able to have them under FOI, but I am a UK citizen and not US. In respect of searching my match's tree, I have done a tree search for the name that my YDNA shows, but there is no such name in his tree. I have other matches of similar size cm's, and these have a common ancestor to each other in the 1700's, and to the family story match, but I just can't find a link between them and myself. Any ideas would be welcome as I am intrigued as to how I found a match with the family story name, yet my YDNA surname match is totally different.


              • #8
                In my husband's family 3 brothers came over from Europe at differing times and they all ended up having different spellings of the town or area they were from as the last name. One of them changed his name to a totally different name because no one could correctly pronounce his Polish town name. My husband's name that is frequently mistaken for being Greek do to his ancestor's interesting spelling. We figured that the name had been truncated by the time his ancestor came over, because his name is short and easily pronounced. His cousins are all Schwartz's back to one of the other brothers who changed his name.

                In my family I have a census record that half the relatives on the page seem to be Arthurs and the other half Arters. The family was moving to an anglicized version of the original name. And when it comes to Y-DNA my family Lynch name from the 1740's seem to bring out several groups of names Lindsey, and O'Briens are some that I have a number of from 1-5 steps. I do have some Lynch's as well, but all coming from the same man, my 4th Great Grandfather.

                And as for changing the name, that was frequent enough that there is a song written about it. "What Was Your Name In The States" An NPE wasn't the cause of the change of a name, but perhaps a murder, or robbery was. Of course there was always ditching the family (wife and kiddies back home) for example.


                • #9

                  And as for changing the name, that was frequent enough that there is a song written about it. "What Was Your Name In The States" An NPE wasn't the cause of the change of a name, but perhaps a murder, or robbery was. Of course there was always ditching the family (wife and kiddies back home) for example. [/QUOTE]

                  These are several of the reasons surnames have been changed.


                  • #10
                    Wow, thanks for the input, some of those things never entered my head. I think I need to look further into the past, several generations maybe to see what I can find. I understand how names are passed generation to generation, so maybe I need to see if there was any migration involved.


                    • #11
                      Sometimes a bigamist uses an alias for his extra marriages.


                      • #12
                        Yes I agree, but I can see the family trees of both matches and I'm not sure that's the case, although someone committing bigamy would probably not make it evident.


                        • #13
                          ISOGG has a list of "NPE scenarios in the context of genetic genealogy" on their "Non-paternity event" page, which I will copy and paste here (my bolding):
                          • Illegitimacy outside marriage: boy taking maiden name of mother
                          • Infidelity within marriage: boy taking surname of mother’s husband
                          • Re-marriage: boy taking surname of step-father
                          • Rape: boy taking surname of mother or partner
                          • Changeling, surrogacy, sperm donation, unintentional embryo/baby swap: boy taking surname of mother or partner
                          • Adoption, incl. ‘hidden’, orphan & foster: boy taking surname of guardian
                          • Apprentice or slave: youth taking surname of master
                          • Tenant or vassal: man taking surname of landlord or chief
                          • Anglicisation of gaelic or foreign name: man taking translated/phonetically similar name
                          • Formal name-change, e.g. to inherit land: man taking maiden name of wife or mother
                          • Name-change to hide criminal past, embarrassing surname, or a stage name: man taking unrelated surname
                          • Informal name-change, alias, by-name: man taking name of farm, trade or origin
                          • Mistake in genealogy, or in DNA analysis

                          Informal name changes, the use of aliases and by-names, and name changes by tenants, vassals, apprentices and slaves were prevalent in the 13th-18th centuries, in some cases before surnames became hereditary, and in this latter context, strictly speaking, they are not NPEs. Similarly, a genealogical mistake is not strictly an “event”, but this too can be manifest as an NPE.

                          Anglicisation of surnames occurred in Ireland in the 16th century, in the Scottish Highlands in the 18th century, and in America in the 18th through early 20th centuries. Formal adoption and unintentional baby swapping in hospitals have only arisen in the last two centuries, while surrogacy, sperm donation and unintentional embryo swapping are obviously recent developments. The other scenarios above have been on-going for centuries. NPEs may have been more common in Scotland than elsewhere because of the right and custom of mothers to retain the use of their maiden name after marriage.

                          The important point emerging from the above is that in genetic genealogy the potentially embarrassing possibilities of previously unsuspected illegitimacy and infidelity are only two of many scenarios. Probably the most likely scenario is the death of a young father, perhaps due to accident, combat or disease, resulting in the mother remarrying and the young boy taking the name of his step-father.
                          Several reasons for surname changes appearing on the above list and otherwise have already been mentioned in this thread, and there are no doubt other reasons.


                          • #14
                            I think looking at all of these possibilities, it is not quite so complicated. In my situation I think it is a case of a family story versus the scientific evidence, and really I am trying to verify which is the truth. My head tells me the science wins, but I can't reconcile the fact with any evidence, my mother kept her secret very well. I also don't have any evidence for the family story, anyone who may have been able to help with information had long since passed when the situation of my birth was confirmed. The era that I was born in is still under some restrictions information wise, so I am waiting for that breakthrough moment when I click on something and the brick wall falls down.