Putting the Milkman Joke to Rest

[WARNING: I discuss or imply violent acts by ancestors in this post, read at your own risk].

We’ve all heard it. Some of us have even made it. A joke or implication about an affair or dalliance that conceived a child, often referring to the milkman or a neighbor. It’s usually directed to the biological mother, always ignoring or downplaying any act by the biological father, and is always consensual. The audience (whether in a Facebook forum or at a talk/seminar/webinar), seemingly always primed for the joke, laughs and the speaker moves on.

It’s time for this joke or implication, whether blatant or implied, to die the ignoble death it deserves.

An Admission 

A few years ago during a lecture, I make a flippant remark about a misattributed parentage conception. It may have been as simple as raising my eyebrows at a key moment, or even a simple pause that implied meaning, I don’t remember. After the talk, an audience member came up and called me out for being flippant about misattributed parentage conceptions. And the audience member was right, I had been flippant. I was wrong.

The person asserted that the majority of these conceptions were non-consensual violent acts. While there’s no historical data to suggest or support a conclusion either way, the point is irrelevant. It is indisputable that a significant percentage of historical misattributed parentage conceptions were non-consensual. The modern-day statistics are abhorrent; there is ZERO question that there ARE multiple people in EVERY audience (again, either in person or online) that HAVE experienced non-consensual sexual acts. And that means this joke/implication must disappear.

The Reality

In 99% of cases we have NO IDEA which scenario will be the correct one (there is very rare documentation in some cases, such as a court case), only that there are many situations where it was non-consensual. Situations where we are positive it was consensual may not have been, and vice versa. We were not in the room, and it’s entirely possible (likely?) that an individual may not have have reported or shared the story of a non-consensual act. Indeed, it’s possible that an individual hid the truth due to self-preservation, embarrassment, or fear. Consider, for example, whether you’ve convinced yourself that a misattributed parentage conception was consensual only because you don’t or can’t consider the alternative. In almost every case, you simply cannot be as sure as you think you are.

We tend to either villainize our ancestors, or put them on pedestals. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground. However, our ancestor’s lives were not that different than our own. They had complicated lives with their own difficult situations. Goodhearted love and desire was just as complicated in 1719, 1819, and 1919 as it is in 2019. And, unfortunately, there has always been non-consensual violent acts. It’s entirely possible that the conception was the most rewarding experience of the parent’s lives; it’s also very possible that it was the absolute worst. And in that case, compassion dictates that we be thoughtful and caring.

There’s a reason that people make this joke/implication; it’s low-hanging fruit. The audience is just as guilty, as they readily respond to the joke/implication with laughter. In the years since I’ve stopped making the joke/implication, I find that audiences are almost expecting the joke; they giggle if misattributed parentage conception is even mentioned or implied.

The Result

We cannot change the past, we can only try to understand it. We must understand that misattributed parentage conceptions occurred as a result of both love and non-consensual violent acts. And if we can’t decipher which it was, we must be understanding and thoughtful.

Additionally, because of the prevalence of non-consensual violent acts in modern society, we must be thoughtful of the living people around us.

It’s as simple as this: as a speaker, don’t make the joke/implication. As an audience member, don’t laugh at the joke/implication.

The Postscripts

1. There are no genealogical police and you are free to use whatever terminology you want to use, or make any joke you want to make. But now you’ve been informed that there is baggage associated with the joke.

2. I tried to emphasize this in the post, but “speaker” can be anyone, including someone just leaving a comment on a blog post or FB thread. This applies to everyone, not just genealogy speakers.

3. This is not the first post on this subject. Another genealogist wrote a similar post some years ago, but that post is intentionally no longer found. I have not named the genealogist because I don’t know if the genealogist wants to be named. I credit that genealogist for several of the themes in this post. Thank you.








93 Responses

  1. Barbara 25 March 2019 / 2:25 pm

    Thank you for writing this and reminding us not to assume what happened or judge the people involved. I found one non-consenual act resulting in a child in my research that was finally solved after a great deal of work. There could be more I haven’t identified. I cringe when people assume the mother was the one doing wrong when that is not always the case at all.

    • Blaine Bettinger 25 March 2019 / 8:23 pm

      This really just requires that we avoid assumptions and proceed thoughtfully, right?

      • Curtis Catron 30 April 2022 / 6:36 pm

        I actually have a situation where this is likely a forced act, as the guys father was a judge, and he was trying my 5th great grandmother for not telling who the father of her kids where. And the possible father was present as well. Would be great to bring this question to rest, as Noone to this day knows for sure who the father was. It had happened in 1830 or thereabouts

  2. Martha Watson 25 March 2019 / 3:12 pm

    Thank you for this, Blaine. You’re a good man.

    • Blaine Bettinger 25 March 2019 / 8:24 pm

      So good to hear from you, Martha! I hope you’ve had a great fall and winter. Thank you for the kind words!

  3. Kathleen Sullivan 25 March 2019 / 3:19 pm

    Good job!

  4. Wallace Fullerton 25 March 2019 / 6:53 pm

    While your thoughts may be relevant, I am a bit taken aback by some of your initial assumptions and where you took them.

    You say “While there’s no historical data to suggest or support a conclusion either way, the point is irrelevant. It is indisputable that a significant percentage of historical misattributed parentage conceptions were non-consensual. The modern-day statistics are abhorrent; there is ZERO question that there ARE multiple people in EVERY audience (again, either in person or online) that HAVE experienced non-consensual sexual acts. ”

    That some in your audience may have experienced such acts is possible. That said, how the devil can you come up with the flat statment that “it is indisputable that a significant percentage of historical misattributed parentage conceptions were non-consensual”? No evidence means no evidence. It doesn’t mean you can jump to any conclusion you want in the absence of evidence.

    You reference modern statistics . . . I will presume you could provide them if asked . . . and you seem to project those statistics into the past. Nonsense. Today’s world is vastly different from a 19th century world of small rural communities. Today it is entirely possible that a lot of unwanted pregnancies are the result of non-consensual acts but suggesting that also applies to the past has no foundation. The statistics today would be skewed by the simple fact that effective birth control is easily available today and therefore a lot of pregnancies that would otherwise have occurred today from consensual acts are avoided. Once you have knocked out most pregnancies from consensual sex you have left only a small number to compare with whatever were from non-consensual acts and making the latter seem substantially greater. One only has to review church records (the Old Parish Records) in 18th and 19th century Scotland or Quaker records from the same period in the US to get a feel for how unmarried sex was (and the church’s obsession with it).

    While you may wish to avoid the milkman jokes – and I haven’t any issue with that – in the absence of evidence otherwise, I would prefer to consider that my foremother actually did enjoy the event that resulted in my ancestor even if it was unsanctioned by their church. The use of the milkman, mailman, pool man, or as one Facebook poster said, the UPS man (they’d have to be quick since they are tracked to the second by their boss) may be frivolous but it is a way of accepting what us otherwise unknown. The idea that most unwanted pregnancies are from violence is absurd and does it’s own violence to any reasonable conversation about the matter – witness, again, the responses on Facebook.

    • Blaine T Bettinger 25 March 2019 / 8:02 pm

      Notably, I haven’t seen women questioning how often sexual assault of women occurs or did occur, only men.

      I never said ‘most’ even once, nor did anyone else. I said significant. In my opinion even 1% is significant, and it is surely much higher than that. You need to spend more time in adoptee groups, there are many, many such stories. And where there’s no one living any more (1800s, etc.), no one can ever know the percentage. Here are some statistics of modern-day assault: https://www.nsvrc.org/statistics

      I don’t believe in putting on rose-colored glasses about the past, in no small part because it is poor genealogical research. I know it’s easier to believe we are all only the product of generations of consent, but that is not the case.

      • Wallace Fullerton 25 March 2019 / 10:08 pm

        I am not questioning whether or not assault occurs today or did in the past, nor whether pregnancies resulted, nor am I questioning whether 1% is significant or not (I had, in fact, made that point as I wrote my comment but deleted it as unnecessary before finishing). I am only questioning the projection of current statistics into the past without any evidence. I submit that your comments are being received by many – and yes, I suspect most are women – to mean that a much larger number than 1% of NPEs in the past were from violent encounters. I am well aware of the adoptee situation – thru dna I found three of my own fairly close cousins were the result of father/daughter incest and adopted out, and was able to help them establish contact with their birth families. I don’t own any rose-colored glasses and don’t think for a moment that there were any “good old days” – too many women in my family died in/from childbirth or from consumption, and too many had a dozen children of which only a couple survived infancy. Nevertheless, absent actual evidence – the same kind you as a genealogist demand in your research – one cannot make more than a general statement of opinion on the issue.

        • Blaine Bettinger 25 March 2019 / 10:12 pm

          You’re absolutely right, I’m not aware of any research into the subject, so it is entirely an educated hypothesis.

          There’s no believable argument that it didn’t happen, and it didn’t always happen, of course, so we know it’s somewhere between 1% and 99%. It sounds like we agree on everything except where in that range the true amount in the past is likely to fall within that range. I sure hope it’s a lot closer to 1%.

          • Lara Cooper 29 March 2019 / 12:10 pm

            Except there is science that backs this up. One in five women will be raped in their lifetime (National Sexual Violence Resource Center). There are also statistics that show the percentage of rapes and assaults that go unreported. Both of these statistics would absolutely support the assertion that a significant number of misattributed parental conceptions were a result of coercion, assault, or rape. Blaine’s point here (Blaine, please correct me if I am wrong) is that we cannot and should not ever refer to MPC/MPE as a titillating/scandalous/sensational joke. It’s about respecting ourselves as much as respecting history. This is a conversation about our behavior in the present.
            In the interest of full disclosure, the event Blaine describes above took place in Lansing, Michigan on November 12th of 2016, and I was the participant. I know this was upsetting for Blaine, I was shaking and really upset at the time, by the audience reaction, and the delivery of the statement. I am moved and inspired by Blaine’s willingness to hear that feedback, and his generosity in posting here.

          • Blaine Bettinger 29 March 2019 / 1:09 pm

            Like ripples in the pond, a short statement can have a big impact. Thank you for speaking with me that day and for reaching out today. It took a lot of courage, I’m sorry it ever happened.

            Yes, that’s entirely my point. I hope others can learn from my mistake.

          • Stephen Kent Ehat 18 July 2019 / 12:18 am

            I believe that even if they were available, actual statistics about the percentage of non-consensual events (rapes) or statistics about pregnancies resulting from consent fraudulently obtained (by a broken promise of marriage), may not be necessary to make the point about NPEs/MPEs in the past. Human nature has not changed all that much, though the direction seems clear, even during our own lifetimes.

            But there is sufficient evidence from the past that NPEs/MPEs did attract sufficient attention from society and its leaders — churches and civil authorities alike — to have prompted the implementation and conducting both of religious programs and legal measures to deal with the consequences of NPEs/MPEs (such as the infant abandonment scheme that operated in Italy and elsewhere for over 700 years and legislation in all areas of the world regarding inquiries, prosecutions, and punishments for rapes — and often the accompanying mistreatment of innocent women who were victims). If any statistics were to accompany such evidence of the reaction to the prevalence (however rare) of NPEs/MPEs in the past, surely those statistics would likely be sufficiently significant to justify the reaction of various societies’ religious and civil mechanisms to deal with it.

            Read pp. 19, 55, 61-63, 65, 70 of David I. Kertzer’s, “Sacrificed for Honor” (those selected pages supplied here for reference: https://bit.ly/2LnYiZD). The entire book is worth reading.

            My own research in the records of one small parish in the northern part of what now is known as Italy — perhaps typical of the situation in other parishes like it elsewhere — reflects, for example, that NPEs/MPEs were not rare in the past (and that in all likelihood non-consensual NPEs/MPEs surely were substantial). See:



            P.S. — For background about the infant abandonment phenomenon, see a FamilySearch wiki article I wrote about it (which includes mention of the renewal of societal concerns today to allow for the abandonment of infants and to care for them):


      • Yo mama 25 March 2023 / 3:03 am

        Knock it off with this feminist BS. 1% of any statistic is not a significant amount. You should make a sequel article “Rape is bad” to get more internet points. People sleep around, it happens… and it happens way more often than sexual assault.

    • Bob C 14 May 2019 / 3:23 pm

      I agree with Wallace…no evidence means no evidence and any amount of self righteous pontificating in this overly PC world will produce it unless it’s manufactured

      • Donna 31 January 2020 / 5:53 pm

        You lost me. Aftet reading your comment four times I’m no closer to comprehending your meaning. Please advise?

  5. Tina Wikner 25 March 2019 / 7:06 pm

    Thank you, Blaine, for writing about this. I feel the same way about the phrase “Indian Princess” – which was repeatedly referred to in a genealogy DNA class I took a couple of months ago. The relationships between Native American/First Peoples women and white men (such as fur trappers and others) are interesting and complex (and sometimes not mutual either), I felt like this phrase simplified and diminished my ancestral history.

    I think actual examples are always better when describing unknown or assumed parentage situations than cliché caricatures. I didn’t have the guts to approach the instructor afterward because sometimes I feel like its swimming against the tide – don’t even get me started on suicide jokes! So I also want to thank your audience member for speaking up, your recognition of the other genealogist, as well as you for your honest and thoughtful post. For me, this isn’t about political correctness, or putting down people who make such jokes, it’s about encouraging critical thinking and about how questioning our own stereotype-thinking can remove barriers to understanding history and to our genealogical research.

    • Blaine Bettinger 25 March 2019 / 8:28 pm

      Agreed, the term “Indian Princess” is highly offensive for so many different reasons, including issues of consent.

      I’m very glad the audience member came up as well. I wish I could go back and thank that audience member properly.

      AND THANK YOU FOR THE FINAL POINT!! This is also SO much about being a good researcher, avoiding assumptions, and engaging in critical thinking!

    • John Ahrens 27 March 2019 / 9:27 am

      Excellent points. Thank you for this thoughtful post. I would not have equated the Milkman with the Indian Princess but you really have opened my eyes to this usually false narrative. Thank you!

  6. Fred Dodsworth 25 March 2019 / 7:46 pm

    Thank you Blaine. The issue of coerced sex is a real one that too many men fail to acknowledge. Yes means yes. No means no. Whining, mewling, and forcing the issue doesn’t change the dynamic, nor does it let the perp off the hook.

  7. Chuck Staples 26 March 2019 / 12:04 am

    As an adopted person who has determined his birthparents, not in contact with either (mostly their decision), but also the recipient of some odd comments through mediated contact, I am certainly sensitive to the possibility (likelihood?) that the proverbial “milkman did it” and all it implies.

    I honestly believe the phrase has lost it coded, euphemistic meaning as the years go rapidly marching away from when there were home milk deliveries.

    The article is good reminder to be be more mindful about how we talk about things (although I think folks are way more easily “offended” these days). Thank you.

  8. Tom Christiansen 26 March 2019 / 8:34 am

    Thank you Mark for a thoughtful article. I have first hand knowledge of this situation and always feel discomfort while hearing these types of comments.

  9. Melanie Rice 26 March 2019 / 8:48 am

    Thanks for this, Blaine.

    This goes hand-in-hand with the assumption: “great-grandma was a fluzie” that many seem to make when they discover an NPE. I’ve always been acutely aware that we just can’t make that assumption. We weren’t there, and we can’t know how the conception happened.

    • Peggy Deras 26 March 2019 / 5:44 pm

      Having such a “floozie situation” in my own tree, I have become familiar with the reactions from the men and women in our family.
      The women always take the side of the mother and the men look upon her with disdain. It’s no wonder women mostly keep quiet about whatever happened to create the child.

      Thank you for a thoughtful treatise on a sensitive and often painful subject.

      • Donna J LaVergne 30 March 2019 / 2:13 am

        I agree. I learned through DNA that my supposed father is not my bio father. My mother has passed and just about everyone in that generation is gone so there is no one to ask. I just assumed my mother had an affair or one-night stand, but I never even considered that she could have been raped. Food for thought. Her husband’s sister and husband adopted me when I was 5 years old, and I saw my mother occasionally and saw my father often since his sister adopted me. However; he was not my father and I think he knew that which is why he never paid any attention to me.

        I am not sure how to go about finding out who my bio father is, and not sure it matters except for medical reasons for my son. I was angry with my mother, but that is non-productive and I don’t know the circumstances. The family hates her and calls her a whore. But I also know that her husband was a playboy so she isn’t totally to blame. Someday I hope to learn who the mystery father is.

  10. Elizabeth Ballard 26 March 2019 / 9:21 am

    Thank you for this. There are also non-consensual non-violent sexual acts. You are right. We don’t know.

    • Blaine Bettinger 26 March 2019 / 9:36 am

      Yes, thank you Elizabeth. Others have made that point that I failed to make, that we should not equate non-consensual with violent for many, many reasons. I appreciate it.

    • Blaine Bettinger 28 March 2019 / 9:06 am

      Oh Jason, if only we could all live in the utopia you’ve (mentally) built for yourself. A man downplaying the occurrence and effect of rape is just unbelievable. It’s amazing to me that only males have had a problem with this blog post. What could that disconnection possibly be caused by?

      I wrote the blog post because the milkman joke has been done to death and just isn’t funny. Some of your ancestors were born through non-consensual conception, which I’m guessing is something you prefer to deny. Making the joke downplays those events and their pain. As noted in the post, specifically to prevent oh-so-wise-and-woke pontification such as yours, you’re free to use this joke all you want. Have at it. My hope is that it won’t get laughs much longer.

      And the irony of your critical lecture telling me that this comes at zero cost to me is sublime. I’ve received plenty of anger and critique from this blog post (ALL from men!), and it has had an effect on me that I’m not going to get into. I don’t need a lecture from a stranger hiding behind a comment wall, thank you very much.

    • Blaine Bettinger 28 March 2019 / 9:40 am

      I think this gets to the heart of your concern: “So rather than blog on the evils of men…” Interesting. In any event, best of luck to you, I have no plans to engage further with the wisest of us all. I will leave this string (on poor Elizabeth’s comment, apologies Elizabeth!) because in the end it only reflects poorly on you.

      (Feel free to address me all you want, but I will not let you bully others so your comments to others will be deleted).

    • Blaine Bettinger 28 March 2019 / 10:05 am

      (there’s no reply option on my comment either; the comment plugin only goes down so many levels).

  11. Walter Simola 26 March 2019 / 9:39 am

    An excellent reminder for all who look into the relationships of our past. We weren’t there and all we can do is record the facts without derogatory comment. Thank you for this!

  12. Debbie Smyth 26 March 2019 / 9:51 am

    As usual, your comments leave me re-thinking the events of my own ancestors. I always embraced the forbidden love story shared by my family, but maybe the truth was more painful. It would explain a few things.

  13. Susan Hughes 26 March 2019 / 10:17 am

    Thanks for this thoughtful piece. I’ve tried to make this point many times in my research and I will be sharing your article!

  14. Blaine Bettinger 26 March 2019 / 10:27 am

    Well this is a creepy comment, routed through Thailand using a fake email!

    I had to lookup virtue signalling, I didn’t know what it meant. I thought it was a nice comment until I saw the puke symbol (which I didn’t know you could do in comments!). For others: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtue_signalling. I think it’s especially ironic, considering the post starts out with my admission about doing the very thing I critique.

  15. Angie Williams 26 March 2019 / 11:24 am

    Thank you for this article. My mom always suspected her dad wasn’t biological. And despite asking questions my grandma took it to her grave. Last year a biological half sister matched to my mom. It was a relief to have it settled and that produced some nervous laughs I suppose. My grandma was a very flirtatious woman, but that does not mean her situation was consensual. He was married with 4 children afterall. He also could have just lied to my grandma about is marriage and children. We won’t know ever. Again, thank you for the reminder. I have always thought about how terrified my grandma must have been to be pregnant in 1948 with the baby of a married man.

    • Cindy Riley 16 July 2019 / 6:31 am

      Sounds like my ex-father-in-law (he was a great liar, had 3 separate families) and the men in his family. These patterns are repeated down through the generations.
      Were they consensual or not, I question that by watching the bahaviors of the sons of the fathers.
      One even admitted, “someone has to teach my daughter about sex, it might as well be me” and his sons were given liberty. They were proud to be able to deceive women. They are great liars.
      My mother-in-law called her mother-in-law a saint for the abuse and what she put up with.
      I just pray his grandson, my son, does not follow in his father and the fathers before him footsteps.
      On the other hand on my maternal side, incest and incestuous rape resulting in a child January of 1961, Searching for him now, he was adopted in MN.
      But the shame that was was brought upon the girls…shame on the grandparents. “My mother should have been the one, not my aunt.” Incest was from uncles, brothers, family “friends” from little girls ages as young 4 – 5.
      My grandmother was shamed for divorcing her abusive husband by the “church” women and the women of the community and her siblings and parents. Her daughters were considered floosey and mentally stupid by the teachers, so they dropped out of school, (2 of the smartest, self-taught women I know.)
      Another family member 6 mos old.
      The women hid this information, because it was their shame, not the men, not the parents (who are supposed to protect) and they were threaten.
      A police chief who studied child kidnappings with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) told me, “It takes only 2 weeks to brainwash someone, no matter their age, especially if they are vulnerable or naive.”
      Have you the the saying “dirty old man”?
      Thank you for sharing your stories and the forum. It does not matter about the bad or the ugly, these stories need to come to light.

  16. David G. Tieman 26 March 2019 / 11:50 am

    I am currently investigating an NPE from 150 years ago and I couldn’t agree with you more. After many years of documenting Who, What, Where and When, I am still left with little knowledge of the Why. It would be easy to write historical fiction about a girl married young to a returning civil war soldier after losing her parents, and an older member of the rural community, but I have no real knowledge of the situation in which my Great Grandmother found herself — Forced or Coerced rape? Love? Prostitution? Polygamy? Polyandry? Lost to time, with the biological father only acknowledged by the DNA. The child was a respected Grandmother. The rest is fluff.

    • Peggy 26 March 2019 / 10:03 pm

      An excellent time to remember the saying attributed to Abraham Lincoln:
      “I don’t know who my grandfather was; I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.”

  17. Diana Mackey 26 March 2019 / 12:13 pm

    Thank you for your article. This hit home as we have a story, told by my grandmother who, when asked by a neighbor where my mother got her red hair, answered flippantly, “The milkman!” The story goes that the very next day they had a new milkman with (you guessed it) red hair! I do however see how this ‘joke’ can be an issue. I very much see your point and that of Mr. Fullerton, both. On that note, it is also wise to remember the history of our country and that of other countries. In the past and even the present, countries were in a state of constant turmoil with many wars and battles. Regardless of the sexual laws or peacetime morals, unthinkable acts did occur during these violent times. For the most part in the past, women were seen as chattel and even virtuous women were victims of unwanted sexual acts which could and did result in a child. Things haven’t changed all that much in this regard. The only difference is that we are now more aware of the statistics.

    • Cindy Riley 16 July 2019 / 6:49 am

      Amen, not much has changed except women have knowledge and are speaking up.
      I was fortunate enough to get a y-chromosome DNA sample from my cousin and through familytreedna.com found out our last name Harriman should have been Whitney. My mothers grandfather, Albert Whitney Harriman, was “adopted” (archives in Wisconsin shows he was raised by his grandparents, so his mother, Almira (Harriman) Mead, had a better chance of marriage)
      Was she raped? (Let’s call it what it is, we don’t need to be an idiot like Whoopie Goldberg) When I find the Whitney (most likely an Albert Whitney) around the time of his conception (1856) in Wisconsin we will see.
      On the other hand my grandfather, Joseph Harriman married Almira’s granddaughter, Gladys Mead, his first wife. Go figure.

  18. Dave Robison 26 March 2019 / 1:12 pm

    As I read this, I can honestly say that I rarely use the “milkman” reference. But what is ironic for me is that I used nearly the same words just this morning in a genealogy class, the section on DNA, of course! But in hindsight and thanks to your relaying your experience, it is now gone from any presentation.

    Thanks and I’ll see you in Manchester next week!

  19. Pam 26 March 2019 / 3:21 pm

    I’m crying as I read this article, particularly because I’m still coming to grips with my African American heritage. I traced all of my ancestors back into slavery and after finding them living in families in 1870 and 1880 census records, I drove myself crazy wondering how many of them could have been misattributed parentage conceptions. Enslaved people usually weren’t allowed to marry, and mothers, fathers, and children as young as five or six were often sold away from each other. It only added to my pain to see how many were described as “mulattos” in the census records. This issue is only part of the baggage that comes from the stigma (of blaming the victim) that still follows so many today, but knowledge and hope bring healing. Thank you so much, Blaine.

  20. John Ahrens 27 March 2019 / 9:18 am

    Great post and great advice. It is, as you say, such a standard “joke’ that I think it is easy to forget the realities that may lie behind it. I spent most of my own youth joking that I must have been the son of the milkman. In my family tree, and family lore, is the story of a 3x great grandmother who was believed to have been working as a domestic in a family’s home in Poland (who this family is remains my last major brick wall) and was raped by one of the sons. I recently published a novel which I dedicated to her. The novel deals with the history of violence including rape that we all have in our ancestry somewhere. Taking these stories lightly is neither professional, nor respectful of those who are living those experiences today. So, again, thank you for this post to remind us that the people around us have had experiences that we may never know about, and we should always be conscious of that.

  21. Laura W Carter 27 March 2019 / 9:23 am

    Thank you for this thoughtful and illuminating post. I have been guilty of being flippant, and by being so probably unintentionally implied blame on the victim. I was aware that many of these incidents were probably non-consensual, but many who are just beginning to explore their families are truly unsettled when they find their ancestors were not angels. I tried to make the point that people are people, then and now – good, bad, and ugly. I will be more sensitive in the future.

  22. Bob Dupree 28 March 2019 / 7:16 am

    My DNA shows that my DNA does not match people who were related to my maternal grandfather. Through DNA, I have narrowed who my prospective grandfather is to someone who was living in the same city nearly 100 years ago.

    My chief complaint right now is that while I use due diligence to insure that my tree is correct, Ancestry is spreading falsehoods. For example, right now it is using an incorrect tree of a relative of mine, instead of MY tree, to construct MY ThruLines and DNA Circles.

    Additionally, I have Native American ancestry and have tribal membership in that tribe but Ancestry shows my ancestry as being from South America which is misleading to anyone wishing to compare our heritages.

    I have tried to contact someone in Ancestry to fix these problems but to no avail. Is there someone beside a bot that I can communicate with?

    • Mack 29 November 2020 / 6:01 am

      I sympathize with your problem of errors in other people’s trees on ancestry.com….. That company has made it so easy to just copy other people’s data into you own tree. Some of my ancestors are in over 1000 other trees there. No way to write and ask for corrections. I have concluded that the wikitree.com model is better; “one tree for all mankind”. It is free, and the website requires some experience to navigate easily, as we are all volunteers there. Check it out? Take an ancestor way back, quite likely to be listed on wikitree already, and see if the data on them is correct. Then scroll down generation by generation and see if You are already listed. You might never go back to those for profit sites that entice us with the Thrulines and Circles power.

  23. Linda Coppola 28 March 2019 / 2:16 pm

    Thank you for this article. It really opened my eyes to look at all possible scenarios.

  24. Katherine R. Willson 28 March 2019 / 9:48 pm

    Blaine, you’re so treasured. Those of us who’ve spent significant time with you know well what’s in your heart. You have no need to “signal virtue” – you live it. “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” (wrongly attributed to Dr Seuss)

    • Blaine Bettinger 29 March 2019 / 6:45 am

      Thank you for your support, Katherine!

      • Blaine Bettinger 29 March 2019 / 10:48 pm

        Let’s be honest, is there really anything I could say that would make you happy, other than saying I was wrong and begging for forgiveness? You’re not going to change my mind, and I’m not going to change yours, so what is the goal of your obsessive commenting? Certainly you don’t think you’re going to change my mind, right? For goodness sake, I don’t even know who I’m talking to.

        The goal is simply to help others understand that the past is not rosy and that non-consensual conception occurred. We are all descendants of both the best and the worst, and that needs to be part of our understanding of ourselves and the past. And thus, ultimately it is all about respect for both our ancestors and the people alive today that have been victims of assault. These people might be in our audiences and making this silly and old joke has far more potential to re-victimize them than to educate or humor the crowd.

        I have hundreds of comments of support for this post, (here and on FB) so although it does not resonate with you, it clearly resonates with MANY people.

  25. Alexis Dennison 29 March 2019 / 3:25 am

    Whenever I’ve seen people on genealogy sites report that they are upset that their birth mothers haven’t been responsive to their inquiries, I’ve often wanted to ask if the person had considered that their birth might have been because of rape or another form of coercive non-consensual sex. It would be painful and possibly embittering to tell the child that she was conceived in those circumstances. It may be that the birth mother hasn’t been able to heal from the trauma and can’t bear reliving it . There are many more women who have been silent about the sexual aggression they’ve faced than those who have been courageous enough to come forward. Just reading some of the responses from men in this thread show why women decide to remain quiet. It was kind of Blaine to write this thoughtful article and fend off the more derisory comments in this thread.

  26. Christina McKillip 29 March 2019 / 12:38 pm

    My very smart daughter (who is not a genealogist) mentioned this same topic to me a few years ago when we found out that my husband’s paternal grandfather was not the biological one. It changed our thought process as we don’t know the circumstances of this event. The grandmother was married at the time but did she have an affair or was it a non-consensual event? I guess we are more sensitive to the subject now since the news coverage is much more than in the old days. I have presented a talk about an abandoned baby case and we wondered the same. Was it consensual or not? It was also complicated by the fact that the bio father and bio mother were in-laws but it still shouldn’t make us assume one way or another. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

  27. Natasha 29 March 2019 / 10:12 pm

    I jumped into genetic genealogy a few years ago when investigating who may birth mother was and I have always enjoyed the insights Blaine and Others share on their blogs. I learned that my mother gave me up for adoption because she lost my father in an act of bravery and she didn’t feel she could support me at the time and wanted me to have a health two parent home. So I have to say that what some of the critical comments here are saying rings true to me. The overwhelming profile of our ancestors were hard-working, decent people. The incidence rate of NPEs I have seen cited to be very small, like 1%, and I am sure most of those can be accounted for with reasons other than rape… with extra-circular affairs being common human nature. So suggesting that the milkman joke is offensive to anyone other than a very few does seem a little off topic and different from what I am accustomed to seeing on this blog. The story reminds me of today’s outrage culture – young folks looking to score social credit. I am a strong woman and I have little doubt that my distant maternal ancestors were the same. We were and are not victims and I too do not want to see victim mentality creep into what is not my dearest hobby. I think the responses to Jason are unfair – it is not creepy to want to fight to keep political correctness and social justice out of our hobby, and just because a man posts from Thailand doesn’t make him a creep either – lovely country and people. I for one would like to see everyone lighten up and let jokes be jokes good or bad. Thanks Blaine for what is otherwise a great blog that has really helped me as a beginner!

    • Blaine Bettinger 29 March 2019 / 10:56 pm

      Thank you for the kind words, and for sharing your story, I’m sure it’s been quite a journey.

      I think there is a tendency to paint our ancestors with a rosy picture, and I think you’ve underestimated the number of MPEs. As others have said, we don’t have historical data. But I can offer you two points of data that may help.

      First, the statistics suggest that 20% or more of women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Several have suggested that number wasn’t that high in the past, but why would that be? There was FAR less chance of retribution or punishment in the past.

      Second, I speak to thousands of people and I have made it a habit to ask attendees at every conference to raise their hand if they’ve found a surprise in their family as a result of DNA testing. EVERY time, between half and 2/3rds of the room raise their hand. Every time.

      MPEs are FAR more than 1%.

    • Suzanne E Blanchard 13 January 2020 / 1:26 pm

      I’m sorry, but this isn’t about politics (“political correctness” “social justice”) but about the reality of being a human. We know that there is interpersonal and societal violence including rape in every generation. We know of many, many circumstances which resulted in large numbers of NPEs due to rape (war, violent systematic racism, slavery, misogynist laws – until relatively recently in history, even in America, women and children were essentially property). If you have friends and family with whom you are honest and vulnerable, you will know that an unacceptable number of them have experienced sexual violence, and so know that the %s Mr. Bettinger cites in his audiences are what you would expect. You are deluding yourself if you think the incidence is less than one percent and can mostly be explained by consensual relations. In my family, on one side my mother’s family lived in Central Europe where during war and post war occupation, gang rape *to death* by soldiers wasn’t uncommon, let alone rape. On my father’s side, war, patriarchy/misogyny, poverty and alcoholism were some of the factors in NPEs. There are NPEs in every single family I’ve researched that wasn’t my own. Every. Single. One. Some of those were not consensual. It’s time we stopped hiding from that reality. Thank you Mr. Bettinger, for this post.

  28. natasha 30 March 2019 / 12:52 am

    OK I stand corrected on the 1% NPE but I do recall reading a scholarly article by a female British academic (Cambridge?) where true NPEs (ie those that remain after non-paternal line naming conventions have been removed) is quite small in N. European culture (I will try to find the reference). But a 20% real rape incidence would apply more to the Congo or Papua than to the countries most engaged in genetic genealogy as a hobby – that’s just misguided feminist propaganda coming out corrupted disciplines this past decade. I will contemplate further your “rosy perspective of our ancestors” comment, but again that does not seem consistent with modern day America where I am astonished to learn how unfairly negative attitudes are to the past. I would think genealogists have a reverence for their history and would not hide dark moments where they are known to be true. However, If anything, the otherwise public viewing lens seems to be quite grey rather than rosy and hence the pushback by some on victim culture. I am an anthropology academic and am frustrated how real issues that impact women and families are being drowned out by ideological agendas that skew facts. I am confideny you are very well-meaning, but we must be careful to not build opinions and judge others on false narratives thrown out willy nilly in the media that exaggerate sexual assault and every other grievance to serve political agendas. Also, Urban life today, that includes drugs and alcohol and a different sexual playing field, cannot be projected back more than a generation or two. If one’s ancestors came from a small religious European hamlet (which is where most ancestors are from for current people living in the West), I would hazard a guess that violent rape was very uncommon. I am certain I have read informed literature on this matter. Of course things were different during wartime, and so specific times, locales and definitions are pertinent. Anyway, sexual assault statistics are a misused political weapon and I would tend to agree that extrapolating statistics and inferring too much about the past doesn’t serve my ancestors well. The MeToo movement is controversial by many for good reason and hence is very political even where I live and travel. IMHO, unless credible evidence speaks to the contrary, NPEs are not best viewed thru the lens being suggested and I see why there is pushback from men above. It could lead down a slippery slope and paint our ancestral cultures in an unfair light. And BTW, exactly for political reasons do I also prefer to use only my first name. I don’t think that’s hiding is it? His words may seem sharper and more provocative than most (not my style), but shaming joke tellers due to political correctness is a hot button these days down under.

    • Blaine Bettinger 30 March 2019 / 6:57 am

      Oh how I wish you were right: https://www.nsvrc.org/statistics.

      Pretending non-consensual conception didn’t occur doesn’t do anyone any favors either, but you’re of course free to believe what you will.

      • natasha 31 March 2019 / 1:27 am

        Blaine I am beginning to see why some objected to your blog. You make assertions that are well known to be controversial (at best) and then assert motivations on others… such that I am “pretending” that pregnancy from rape doesn’t occur. I did no such thing and it is you who are not doing anyone any favours with over-simplifying a complex topic. It is well known that the definitions of rape have been migrating greatly of late under pressure from some extreme political agendas. I see no need for genetic genealogy to be tackling this topic as it is well beyond the simplicities you are advocating. Until the science is in, I would stay clear of projecting biased studies onto our distant ancestors.

        • Suzanne E Blanchard 13 January 2020 / 1:38 pm

          It’s you that needs to get yourself in hand, Natasha. Most of the sexual violence that resulted in children in our ancestry doesn’t need any ‘modern’ (your implication: false) definition. These women were straight up raped, just the way we think of it. Until recently, I had not realized just how much of a ‘conservative’ agenda was about delusion and willful ignorance. Honestly reference your own life and that of your family and friends. Sexual violence is rampant today, even when women are generally recognized as equal, full human beings, at least on paper. What do you think happened when, well within the last century, that wasn’t true? Acknowledging reality is NOT embracing victimhood. Denying it is flat wrong. To be an objective researcher, you need to let go of your delusions. More power to you Mr. Bettinger.

        • Suzanne E Blanchard 14 January 2020 / 1:08 pm

          Are you aware, Natasha, that there are literally hundreds of thousand of rape kits left untested in evidence lockers across the country? More than a million rapes are *reported* each year, and we know that sexual violence is deeply under-reported, under-charged, and under-prosecuted (again, you can live in denial of this, but it won’t change the reality). With a national overall fertility rate of about 10% that’s an awful lot of NPEs resulting from rape. You can challenge any of these individual statistics, Natasha, but no challenge will result in the kind of numerical absurdity you claim.

    • Alec van Helsdingen 30 March 2019 / 3:41 pm

      I find this comment to be somewhat offensive. Have not, for instance, alcohol and drugs been available to humans for thousands of years, not just “a generation or two”? You seem to be denying the terrible way in which most women in history have been treated by men.

      • natasha 31 March 2019 / 1:40 am

        Alec you seem to get easily offended. The point is that modern urban life has little similarity to the life our ancestors lived, excluding recent generations. I was not intending to focus on any specific factor. And yes just to be clear, I don’t buy into the popular feminist narrative that the principle way of viewing our history is that men treated women poorly. Traditionally, each sex had roles to play as dictated by nature, and it was nature itself that oppressed both men and women, albeit in different ways. Yes men have treated women badly, as they did most other men. And let’s not forget that women have also been bad actors too. This whole oppressive patriarchy theme is misguided IMHO.

        Is it not possible to discuss a topic without offence being taken these days?

  29. Blaine Bettinger 30 March 2019 / 10:42 am

    I had to delete comments from an individual on this post. I encourage debate (as long as it’s backed up with logic or science), but when it devolves into insults to me or others, I will not allow it. I don’t like to moderate conversation, and in the 13-year history of this blog I’ve only deleted comments from a very small handful of people.

    • natasha 31 March 2019 / 2:09 am

      Blaine just for the record, I saw Jason’s most recent posts before you deleted all his posts and they did no such thing wrt insults. There was nothing derogatory and he seemed to be only correcting the record (from his perspective), referencing a public intellectual, and summarizing his motivations concerning his comments. If you don’t like being challenged, it is best not to enter into public discourse espousing concepts that at the very least are open to rigorous challenge. Removing comments you don’t like is not a healthy debate; and please remember that you were the initiator of this debate, expanding the genealogy discussion into moral judgments.

      Bottom line for me as an anthropologist is that to extrapolate modern day ideology backwards in time is fraught with pitfalls (although it is unfortunately becoming very popular). Until very recent political agendas have taken hold, there is very little in our anthropological record to indicate abnormal violence by men against women was prevalent. Certainly we have a violent past, but its a lot more complicated than the feminist theories of 2019. You advocate for science and logic but you seem to be quite biased on what assertions to believe or ignore. You have a PhD so you would agree that the majority consensus is often mistaken. Deleting contrarian arguments to obscure what you don’t like or have been led to believe is not the solution.

      • Taylor Clemmons 31 March 2019 / 3:59 am

        I was following this debate with some interest and really do not see what everyone is upset about? I would like to know what to think about my NPEs. Most comments here are aligned with political correctness today, and others were challenging the status quo that sometimes plays with the narrative (we have the msm to thank for that lol). Deleting parts of the discussion and all of Jason’s comments is disappointing and doesn’t reflect well on the blogger. It makes me now wonder when I read anything online just how much is being censored or manipulated? It is becoming difficult to know what is fact and what is bullocks anymore and I would think a genealogy blog could have some open discussion. I always thought the milkman joke mostly centered around how diverse children can look despite the parents, with a playful wink about infidelity which everyone knows exists, and which is overtly tolerated in many cultures. It was never about sexual violence? You blokes need to watch some Monty Python!

        Can we get back to talking about genetic genealogy? I still don’t understand exactly how triangularization works when there is so much IBC generated by the tests??

        • Blaine Bettinger 31 March 2019 / 7:39 am

          It’s always interesting that so many comments about not taking offense always focus on “I” statements. If it doesn’t offend you, that’s great. But it offends many and doesn’t reflect our true genetic heritage.

          Remember that you can always just scroll past something you don’t like.

          And notably, a blog is not a democracy. I almost never remove comments (I can count it on one hand), but his comments were insulting and frankly I don’t have to stand for it. Anyone is free to start their own blog and spread their own ideas & agenda.

          • Taylor Clemmons 31 March 2019 / 9:25 am

            Blaine most blogs enable comments to allow community engagement. First person is either I or We… so if not “I” than who is “We?” You want to shame folks out of using some innocent joke because you think our heritage is full of sexual violence. I think it is not unfair that some of the “we” don’t see it that way… at least not without facts. No need to be so authoritarian because some disagree with you. I’ll scroll past as you request… it’s your blog.

  30. Dennis Hicks 30 March 2019 / 1:19 pm

    On the morning of May 3, 1998 my mother called me and asked me to go to the hospital because my grandmother was expected to pass away. She had been in the hospital for the last several years of her life with Alzheimer disease. I was the only person in the room when she passed and I did it with great respect that she didn’t deserve. None of her three living children, her husband of 65 years, none of her other grandchildren were present but me. What does that tell you about the family feelings toward this woman? In 2016 I discovered my mother’s father was not my grandfather through DNA testing of myself and one of my uncle’s. I have since discovered the family of the man who was my genetic grandfather. Is it possible my grandmother could have been a victim of sexual assault? Yes. But does that excuse her lifetime of behavior toward her own children and grandchildren? No. I have no problem letting the joke die but I do have issues with you telling us what our emotions should be about our ancestors. Maybe next time you will omit that as well.

  31. Blaine Bettinger 30 March 2019 / 3:58 pm

    Of course no one can proscribe emotions toward any specific situation. I can only say that we need to be aware of the past, and that it is not as rosy and easy as most people pretend.

  32. Blaine Bettinger 31 March 2019 / 7:34 am

    Obviously we’re not all going to agree about this issue. There’s no need to use this joke, period. Issues of pro- or anti-feminist agenda, man-hating, and others are your issues and problems, not mine, and none of them are necessary to address the issue of making stupid jokes about events that no one can refute included rape. It did, often, like it or not. I saw this joke hurt a member of my audience, and I know MANY genealogists that are offended by this joke. So I won’t be using it, and I suggest not use/make it. Although it’s more fun for people to take offense and put forth their favorite agenda, the post VERY clearly says that you can do as you please; there are no genealogy police. But even those opposed to my post can no longer make the joke flippantly. Now you know that it ignores the reality of the past, and that it re-victimizes living people. If that doesn’t bother you, great. But be aware, thousands of people have read this here and in social media, and you’re going to be called out for joking about issue.

  33. Stephen D Echard 31 March 2019 / 5:54 pm

    Alcohol and loneliness are the catalysts of a lot this. Also abusive or neglectful husbands. My father was a bigamist bicoastal. His brothers were Tomcats as well, I keep running into new close DNA matched unknown relatives even as a septuagenarian. There are at least half a dozen products of consensual affairs in my family.I am always amused for instance when some of my Latino relatives call someone an anglo when they are Polish or Irish. I will joke hey you Navajos can’t tell Celt from a Slav from a Saxon. Being an old Opelousas Coon Ass I grew up tough and Jokes and insults about marrying you cousins and such etc were plentiful. Blaine is right in my eyes

  34. Melanie Mayo-Laakso 31 March 2019 / 7:58 pm

    Thank you, Blaine, for having the insight and courage to write on such an important topic. Posts like yours encourage much-needed dialogue and help to create positive change. Some of the comments here are a stark reminder of that.

  35. Badger 5 April 2019 / 6:00 am

    Interesting but as someone who was the victim of parental fraud not every woman who gets pregnant by a man who is not her partner has been raped. In my case my then spouse lied about me being the father and when found out lied as to his identity and then the law refused to take action for her crime.

  36. Wayne Townsend 28 April 2019 / 5:32 pm

    You neglected the middle ground between Love and Rape. I have an NPE in my 3x Great Grandfather whose mother was separated from her husband due to his infidelities. My reading of this was revenge sex (or simply desperate to have sex). The man involved in the sex also sired another man in the area by another woman. He was an itinerant surveyor who passed through going to and fro from the Virginia to what would become Kentucky.

  37. Shirley 29 April 2019 / 12:04 pm

    Informative article. I had a situation where a child ended up on the 1870 census for my 3rd great grandparents. They were clearly too old to have a child but the child had their last name. It turns out that he is the child of one of their daughters and they apparently raised him until he was old enough to go off on his own. The daughter married but the son never lived with the daughter and her husband. I discovered this from the descendants in a long story that I won’t go into. My first thought was rape since this occurred during the civil war but I can find no instance of a battle in their area. Of course the daughter could have been visiting somewhere else where a battle did occur. Nonetheless, a non-consensual event likely occurred. I made a note in my ancestry account that he was born out of wedlock just to explain what was occurring and why he was listed with the daughter in the genealogy. I made no personal determining either way. I’m hoping that statement was OK and that it doesn’t cause harm to the descendants.

  38. Kami 3 May 2019 / 1:49 am

    Thank you, Blaine, for your thoughtful blog post. I definitely agree with the points you made. It often bothers me when someone finds an NPE and assumes it can only mean that a wife was unfaithful. There are so many reasons unexpected parental results happen. Some are consensual, some aren’t; some are violent, some aren’t; some are cheating, some aren’t; some are loving, some aren’t.

    You may have seen the articles about a woman whose DNA revealed her known father wasn’t her biological father, but she discovered, ultimately, that her parents had, in their mutual desire for a baby, conceived her with fertility treatments that included donated sperm; she has since written a book about her experience. Additionally, some NPE’s are incorrectly perceived as indicating that the known father is not the biological father, when, in fact, the known father IS the biological father but his parents weren’t his biological parents. He may have been secretly adopted, or even trafficked by the likes of Georgia Tann or Dr. Thomas Hicks. It’s also possible he may have taken on someone else’s identity at some point. I have an ancestor who was born in Canada and immigrated to the US as a young man, and, 20-30 years later, he began using the birth date and place of a man born in the US with the same first and last name because, I believe, it was easier to get proof of the local birth of the other man than it was to get proof of his actual birth in a different country.

    I think it’s wise that we have our eyes open to various possibilities that exist that could explain something and not just assume an NPE points to one thing and one thing only.

  39. Wanda Dietel 10 August 2019 / 4:40 pm

    I’m the middle child and I have recently found out by DNA testing that birth certificate father is not my father. Both my sisters are his.
    I’m 69 and will probably never know the situation that caused my mother to become pregnant by whoever my father was but I had assumed until I read your article that it was consensual but thinking about how my mother and the time period it was it might not have been.
    They both took it to their graves even though he knew and said so in several outburst when I was really young. But she never admitted to it to him or me and that doesn’t mean something bad had not happened her and she knew he would not accept it being the kind of person he was.

  40. Leslie Katzenmeier. 29 October 2019 / 4:45 pm

    Yup and I am someone who took 23 n me test and found out my dad wasn’t bio dad… have met now my bio dads only son and he and I are now researching our family trees and looking for difficult to find info on our dad

  41. Norma O'Malley 2 November 2019 / 7:22 pm

    Thank you Blaine for this post. I have heard the joke many times and laughed myself reflexively. I agree its time to retire it. I am aware of non-consensual sex resulting in the birth of relatives of mine I will not name for privacy reasons. You have to be very naive to think that it is a rare circumstance in any generation. I can’t tell you how many distant cousins have written to me on 23andme and ancestry trying to figure out their parentage because it is not the person who raised them. Most were born in the era before abortion was legal and were adopted. I feel their pain and wish I could help. Fortunately there are websites and resources online now that can help them in their search and some laws are changing to make their search a little bit easier.

  42. Antonio 11 December 2019 / 7:14 pm

    My mother passed away in 2012. In her last moment, She told us that our grandfather (her father) was not biologically related to us. When She was a child She felt rejection of her paternal family. I took a DNA test on 2017 and I found out that I’m related very close to people totally unknown to me. My grandmother was a very humble and poor coloured person and my new relatives are very rich and white people here in my country. At first, I criticised my grandmother in my mind, How can it be possible? But you are right, I was not here, I don’t know if She was forced for that evil man who never took care of my mother. Thank you for your words, excuse my English. I’m not native speaker.

  43. Sharon Gerber 21 January 2020 / 7:27 pm

    Noticing your last name Bettinger. One of my 3rd cousin’s wife’s maiden name is Bettinger & they live close by. How might I get her in contact with you? I’ve never discussed DNA or much family history with her, so am not sure their family have an online tree or if any of them have taken DNA tests.

  44. Donna 31 January 2020 / 7:04 pm

    Thank you Blaine for laying the groundwork in this long overdue and important conversation.

    Misattributed paternity of late has become a resounding theme in my family. The more I research the more I find. Without going fully into the minutiae, suffice to say I tripped, stumbled then fell into the truth re my paternal grandmother’s eldest son’s paternity. Through the years there was speculation that this paternal uncle was not my grandfather’s bio son, but the bio son of his brother. The family gossip advanced the scenario that my grandfather pursued my grandmother knowing that my grandmother was in love and impregnated out of wedlock by his brother. The story goes that his brother refused to marry her…so my grandfather made her an honest woman by marrying her while she was pregnant. The truth: my grandmother and her sister were placed in an orphanage in TN after their father was shot and killed in the line of police duty. It was there that my grandmother, a young teenager, was impregnated. How she found her way to meet my grandfather from there is a matter of rumour and speculation. Based upon her notes (“lovers forever”) on a photograph of her with my grandfather’s brother, it was him with whom she fell in love. Then why didn’t she marry my grandfather’s brother instead? Not sure. Perhaps he wasn’t willing to marry a teenager pregnant by another man. In any case, at some point during or after her pregnancy she found herself in love with her husband’s brother. The takeaway is that we long assumed that she had been consensually sexually active before she married my grandfather. The truth was much more complicated. Since she was a minor while a resident in the orphanage, by definition she was not impregnated through consensual sex. Whether it was a violent encounter has thus far not been uncovered.

    How I ascertained the facts, at least as many that are possible to presently know, was the outgrowth of the discovery of my half cousin who is the bio son of my grandmother’s aforementioned son. Initially it was assumed that my new cousin and I shared the same grandfather, or as the rumors had circulated around my family at the very least his paternal grandfather was my great uncle and also my grandfather’s brother.

    My half cousin had been searching for his bio father for over 20 years. He was born out of wedlock and placed for adoption at birth. There was not a father listed on his birth certificate and the records were sealed until my half cousin petitioned and succeeded getting them released. Unfortunately, he was never afforded the opportunity to meet either of his bio parents since they were both deceased when he discovered them. But at long last, with my help, he was able to determine the identity of his bio father through dna matches along with the revelation that his paternal grandfather remains unknown.

    Sorry if I’ve lost you, but the lesson for me was that misappropriated paternity once solved can be found as perplexing and far more tragic beyond what was initially thought.

  45. Cheryl 28 May 2020 / 12:48 am

    As a little Girl I was asked if I was the Mailman’s or the Milkman’s baby as far back as I remember. In fact the truth I was the Factory Workers Baby. My Mother was married and had a consensual affair. She had six children and I was her fifth child. Hearing that as I child I didn’t understand it at the time. I didn’t look like my siblings and I also believe that my younger Brother has another Father. Personally I don’t understand how this has anything to do with a rape connection. I could understand if you made a joke about something in that realm. I always thought it meant that you don’t look like your Father or siblings. I belong to an NPE group and many Mothers at first do not want to admit to having an affair when they are married. My Mother denied it at first but finally admitted to me. Nowadays you have to be so politically correct about everything. People can’t even have a sense of humor anymore. It’s pretty sad when you have to think about everything and who you might offend. Signed the Curly towheaded Factory Worker baby!

    • Ryan Garrett Callahan 13 February 2022 / 8:08 am

      I’m going to laugh at any joke I have any inclination to funny, whether the joke is about the milk man or Ghengis Khan. I suggest you do the same. I’m calling you out for calling people out for making and laughing at jokes.

    • Ryan Garrett Callahan 13 February 2022 / 8:09 am

      Good for you! Thank you for posting this.

  46. Suzanne McClendon 23 October 2020 / 1:37 am

    Thank you for such a caring, compassionate post, Blaine.

    I was one with a DNA surprise and found that my daddy was not my biological father. Along the way, I have uncovered generations of sexual violence against the women in my family, my mother and aunts included. It was initially implied that my maternal grandfather was also my father. I have since been able to prove that wasn’t the case. My biological father was a sailor on leave, likely brought home by my sailor uncle when he visited my grandparents.

    I do not know whether the interlude with my mother and this sailor was consensual or not. Considering other events in my childhood, I am inclined to believe that it was consensual. I was told about her being raped by her father and his brother. When presented with the results of my DNA test and that Grandpa wasn’t my father, she denied there being any man other than the daddy who raised me. Then, she stopped speaking to me. I believe if the sailor had raped her, she would have said so since I was told about the other rapes. I believe she stopped talking to me because it was a consensual event between her and the sailor, but admitting that would be an admittance of infidelity. But, I will never know the truth.

    There’s so much more I could say on this subject, but even at 2 years post-discovery, it is still an incredibly emotional subject for me.

    Thank you for your good heart and compassionate spirit, and for all that you do for the genealogy community. May Heavenly Father bless you as you are a blessing to so many.

  47. James Morrison 3 January 2021 / 4:31 pm

    Well, there is no grammar police but you should write it right. This service https://homework-writer.com will help to check your grammar if you need to.

  48. Patricia Ann Howe 6 April 2021 / 4:21 pm

    Thank you for this article. I came to it while researching why the milkman “joke” exists. I am helping a cousin with her mysterious DNA, and believe it or not, the most likely suspect after all of the research is, literally, the milkman. In trying to imagine how a relationship (consensual or not) would happen between a young woman and a daily deliveryman, there must be some basis for the joke. Did the milkman chat up the clients? Did they enter the house? (in my childhood, the milk appeared on the porch, magically). Did they have time on their route for any kind of developing relationship? It’s a mystery, but the fact remains that we may have an actual case of the truth behind the “joke”. We are hoping this was a consensual thing, of course, but back in those days I doubt a young woman would have any recourse if it wasn’t.

  49. Jo TRESTON 2 May 2021 / 6:17 am

    Just the act of reading these posts has been an eye-opener for me and I have very much absorbed the points made by the various subscribers.
    Thank you once again, Blaine, for highlighting this point in the first place. Do keep up the good work!

  50. Shauna Williams 21 May 2021 / 11:35 pm

    A girl I know who is only 18 had reported rapes by her father (occurring since age 9) to the police when she was 15yrs old. She reported out of concern for her (6) younger siblings.

    A CPS case was opened – and resulted in a “lack of evidence”. Desperately, my friend had asked the CPS agent for advice on how she could obtain evidence.

    “By having a SANE kit performed” she was told, by her CPS agent.

    Well. Jump forward to 2020. She turned 18yrs old and… 6 SANE kits later… Guess what.

    “Inconclusive” the tests reported. Additionally, BECAUSE the tests were inconclusive – this sweet and caring young woman was arrested for “falsifying police reports”. As a victim myself I know for a fact she is not making this up. Either that or she truly deserves a real Emmy because I’m 35yrs old and not a soul alive has been able to empathize so incredibly when I am having a “trigger” episode. No one has been able to talk me down except for her.

    She is just one of those special people out there and it is truly infuriating that -based on inconclusive SANE kits with rape from her Father- she faced an insurmountable legal battle that ultimately ended in her caving because she was too suicidal to fight it.

    I want to help her in some way. They found male DNA, but “not enough to test”. Her case surrounds the SANE tests, which are attempts to differentiate her DNA from her birth Father’s. Do you have any input on such a situation – is there a way she can have her DNA analyzed against the Father?

    Concerned about her 6 younger siblings. Thanks.

  51. Ryan Garrett Callahan 13 February 2022 / 8:05 am

    I’m going to laugh at any joke I have any inclination to funny, whether the joke is about the milk man or Ghengis Khan. I suggest you do the same. I’m calling you out for calling people out for making and laughing at jokes.

Comments are closed.