When is a Father a Father?

This is probably the most difficult topic that I have written a blog about, because of the naturally sensitive nature of the subject matter and how it can, and will impact on people’s lives.

So when is a Father actually a father?

Father and Son

As genealogists we strive to prove family connections and bonds and to trace our bloodlines back into the dim and distant past. This is in our make up and part of what makes us who we are; to challenge and question where we came from and who we are, it’s what all genealogists seek to prove.

Before the modern day explosion of DNA testing, all we had as evidence and our only means of proof of who we are, was our Birth Certificates, but is this really enough? Of course we can back this up with additional records to support the facts, but in reality the records only stand up based upon the truthfulness of the person recording the event at that moment in time.

So can you safely say, a father is a father, solely based on what’s recorded on a birth certificate?

Family traits, similar looks, pictorial evidence, can all add weight to support who we are, or who we think we are, but I am sure that we all have somebody on our tree born, out of wedlock, who was brought up and passed off as another’s child.

The grandfather passing his own Daughter’s child off as his own and the mother (his daughter) and daughter (his granddaughter) being listed as siblings. As genealogists we like nothing better than trying to unravel these little family mysteries.

Bringing this idea and thought forwards and into the world we live in today, DNA testing can provide us with maybe all the additional proof that we need to successfully prove bloodlines from living family members today.

But is there a danger that they can also disprove bloodlines equally as quickly!

In our quest to follow our true bloodlines is there a danger that we can also find out something that we did not expect to find?

So, to kind of reverse the question above; can you safely say, a father is a father, solely based on what’s recorded on a DNA test.

A father is the loving, caring, kind, supporting person, the one that is the provider, the protector, the role model, the friend, the teacher, at times the disciplinarian, and the fun guy, the one who always listens, plus a whole lot more as well!

Do I need a birth certificate or DNA test to prove that? Most certainly not……….

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11 thoughts on “When is a Father a Father?

  1. Conversely, though DNA testing is a useful tool, it raises another way of looking at the problem you have identified. Can two lines with different Y-DNA be descended from brothers? Of course, they cannot be biologically, but there may be two separate Y-DNA lines that live in the same parish and for whom baptisms for one or both, cannot be located. DNA tells us they are not related but that may not represent the historical reality within the family. To their contemporary relatives they may have been viewed as brothers and the whole as one family, but we, several hundred years later may not be able to see that through either the paper record and certainly not through DNA. And yet, interaction between the two lines in the paper records may arouse suspicions of it, even though science says no.


  2. Discovered you on Dublin Forums tonight and just browsed your blog. Will find time in next week or so to read articles as they are interesting. Big into family tree myself since discovering in 1994 the mothers parents were not her biological parents and this was 20 years after she died. On a high 3 months now after the 23 year old saga was resolved thanks to DNA. Am in Dublin and pass that Woodfield Terrace area 4 mornings a week. Own father was from not too far away at the Ranch small housing estate. Keep enjoying what you do. Pat Monks


    1. Thanks Pat appreciate your kind words, I am hoping to make my third trip to Dublin this summer now that I have finally made contact with my long lost Daniels family. I actually did an ancestry DNA test myself this week. I have no pre-conceived ideas of what I will find but hoping that it picks up my Irish and `Italian ancestry


  3. In my long life I have yet to meet a man matching your description of the man who is all things to his children; ditto for mothers. However that father is the sire of those kids-and only he has given then each 50% of his genome -of which has the gens of uncountable ancestors before him. That is the unshakeable essence of parenthood-tried and true
    No court or agency can alter the truth of parentage despite their many attempts .We are what our combination of mum & dad’s DNA which has been passed on to us. This is proven by gathering the supposed family wherein someone stands out in the crowd, not quite like the others. And even if the difference is ignored, it is there like the nose on our faces. Eventually the truth will out even if generations later, causing consternation and confusion for those caught in the middle of the deceit, for the truth is that families cannot be blended. We all come from a unique set of multi-lineages, each with tentacles going further in time than we can imagine or even ferret out. No one will ever be able to document my great X infinity Neanderthal grandmother who apparently became enchanted by a handsome H sapiens male who is my great X infinity grandfather. But none-the-less this adoptee shares some of their genomes, the genomes which have been shared with my sister from whom I was separated in 1948 -by abandonment and adoption. I was old enough at 5 /1/2 to know that I was unwanted by parents and was adopted; my sister to this day does not know. She has married and birthed 3 children -two with a husband whose name I do not know anymore than I know my sister’s adopted name and the third who was born because of something called hormones amok from a yet unknown man and who is an adoptee in consequence..
    About 2 mos. ago I received notice that I had a ‘close family to 1st cousin’ match-only the 2nd I have had in the 20 decades I have been in multiple data bases hoping to find my sister. Whoever that person was had to be via my sister or my mother and not my brother (also separated from me and her but not an adoptee) because I knew hos story (by research and the names of his children and their mother). The person could not in reality be a half-sister because of my mother’s age, and the only other option was that I was her aunt. I had to wait a few weeks for her to respond to my message regarding our relationship-and ultra cautious in what I said. It was and still is a delicate situation. When she did respond I knew instantly that she was my sister’s child by the simple fact of where she had been born-in the state of my adoption but not my birth. She has two adult sons and 2 adult daughters -one of who is … an adoptee. That’s four adoptees in a fairly straight line-each saddled with birth certificates that name adopters as parents and which also seal the original birth certificate so that the adoptees cannot have access to their own information which also denies any child born to these mothers knowledge about their own ancestry and, more importantly, of ‘whose my mummy–who’s my daddy-which trickles down to who are my grandparents, great grandparents, etc.
    Of this group, I am the only one who fought heaven and earth and a gazellion devils to retrieve my own identity and origins and can pass on the truth to my son and his son about who they really are. It took me 37 years to obtain my own OBC and another 29 to meet an uncle who new my birth name and me briefly in 1947-48 who could give me some scant information and a few photos. From there I retrieve what little was left of my files regarding my adoption and which set me out on a wonderful adventure of creating a tree with almost 5,000 names -all vetted as well as can be-with some very interesting ancestors, I also have my sister’s OBC -one the adoptive state does not have because she, as I, was not born in that state. I am still hoping that I can give my sisters the gift of her own birth certificate. Our parents certainly were felons, and, in my case, quite a bit more-but at the end of the day, without them neither I nor my sibs would have been given life. for better or for worse, they are our parents and what gives us the genomes which makes us, us., and which we pass on to our own children who pass it down to theirs, and so forth.
    My sister’s children do not know their reality or origins just as my niece’s children do not know theirs. Calling a Smith a Jones is always harmful and it is the children who are the victims.
    BTW: neither race nor ethnicity exist. No one has genes that say Irish, Algerian, French, Chinese, , etc. and physicality is genetic-we are all 99.999% the same. Autosomal DNA cannot be split apart between genders and are skin deep. mtDNA (Maternal) and Y-DNA (Paternal) evaluation will give haplogroups which tie one to their legions of ancestors. Males have both but only pass their Y-DNA to their sons; mtDNA is passed by mother to all of her children, but only the females of the line pass the haplogroup to the female descendants.
    Just remember the story of the ugly duckling… He may have been an most ugly duck, but he was a very handsome swan.
    Do love the children in your care -but please don’t call them ‘yours’ if you share no DNA. A rose may well be as sweet if called by another name-but it is still a rose! The DNA is the proof of the pudding-not the birth certificate. .


    1. But there is also a valid argument between nature and nurture, we cannot change or alter DNA as thats a given, but in certain environments we copy and learn by what we see equally as much as what we inherit. I think that both sides have a valid point.


    2. Is DNA really what makes a family? How many of your 5000 new relatives were also adoptees? It is likely that some of them were. Since we can’t do DNA testing all the way back we have to accept that your children are the children you raised.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. An interesting discussion. In May I bought my wife a DNA test for her birthday as she was interested in discovering her ethnicity. What neither of us expected was that she had a step-brother! Same father, different mother. Having chatted on the phone they are now great friends and in a couple of weeks time he and his wife are flying from England to visit us here in France. Lots to discuss and unravel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do think these test kits should come with some kind of a warning on the side! You never know what you might discover when you take a test, fortunately in your case things worked out wonderfully, but I’m sure that for many others, their lives are shattered. You cant out the genie back in the bottle once you’ve let him out! I am really pleased to hear that things have worked out well for you, I had a very similar experience myself, which again worked out really well.


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