When discussing your family lineage or your extended family, the word paternal refers to anyone who is related to you on your father’s side of the family.
For example, your paternal grandmother would refer to your father’s mother, and your paternal uncle would be your father’s brother or brother-in-law.
When it comes to your mother’s side of the family, family members are referred to as maternal family. For example, your maternal grandfather would be your mother’s father.
Knowing what paternal means is particularly useful if you’re trying to create your family tree or track down members of your family. Family trees will include both living and deceased members of your family.
Paternal Lineage Tracing
Tracing a paternal lineage is only researching the direct ancestry of your father’s family line.
So, if you were researching your paternal line, you would be looking for information on your father, his parents (your paternal grandparents), his father’s parents (your paternal great-grandparents) and so forth.
It is a common misconception that when researching your paternal family line you only look at your male ancestors (similarly, you only look at your female ancestors when researching maternal family members or history), but that is not the case.
Paternal simply means anyone related to you through your father, which includes female members of your family.
Beginning Your Search
When starting a paternal family tree, or making the paternal branch of a larger work of genealogy, start with the most recent father. The best starting point for your paternal family tree would be your own father.
Following the Paternal Lineage
The most recent father (yours) will begin the branch of the family tree. Following him, you will include his parents, and so on. It’s worth noting that paternal family trees track the entire lineage, not just male ancestors.
Can You Start From Any Point?
A lot of genealogy searchers may begin a family tree with an ancestor from many generations ago and then work forwards towards the future.
This type of search is more common when a person is trying to search for their own connection to a particular person from history, or a member from the family’s ancestry.
Why Trace Your Ancestry
There may be a number of reasons why you would want to research your paternal family line. For most, the reason is that they’re curious about their family history as there’s a lot you can learn about yourself by looking at the past.
Most people are unaware of their ancestors’ history, and many people find out a lot of interesting facts about their family history.
Others look at their family history as they are seeking out information about a form of inheritance that may be only passed down through their father and mother, such as certain tribal or religious identities, or noble titles.
For others, researching their family history can be important if they don’t know who one or both of their birth parents are. For example, one of their parents may have been absent in their life or they may have been adopted.
Whatever your reason for researching your paternal (or maternal) line may be, taking a DNA test can certainly help and may even connect you with family members you never knew existed.
Different Types of DNA Tests
There are several different types of DNA tests that are commercially available today. The three most common types of tests are autosomal DNA, Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA).
An autosomal DNA test only examines autosomes. These are the chromosomes in your DNA that are not sex chromosomes. Instead, these chromosomes contain DNA which was inherited by both your mother and your father in random combinations.
An autosomal DNA test won’t necessarily tell you which parent passed on that particular DNA sequence, however, it covers a much wider range of DNA than other tests and is the only one that provides a comprehensive list of DNA that matches with both sides of your family.
A Y-DNA test will examine the genetic code located on the Y chromosome, which is only found in biological males.
As this chromosome is inherited only from the father, and never the mother, this test will only give you information which is exclusive to the paternal line of the family. This also means that only biologically male individuals can have Y-DNA tests.
A mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) test examines the genetic code which is located in the mitochondria. Most of our DNA is found in the nucleus (center) of a cell, but some of it is also found in a different part of the cell which is known as the mitochondria.
This part of the cell is almost exclusively passed from mother to child. This means an mtDNA test can provide information that is specific to only the maternal line of your family.
As Y-DNA test and mtDNA tests are limited to either maternal or paternal information, most commercial DNA test providers tend to offer autosomal DNA tests.
This is because these tests have wider results which provide information on both the paternal and maternal sides of the family and can be taken by anyone regardless of gender.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who Is My Paternal Grandfather?
Your paternal grandfather is your father’s father. Any family relation who has “paternal” in front of their relation name will be related to you through your father. For example, your paternal grandmother is your father’s mother, and your paternal uncle is your father’s brother.
What Are Paternal Twins?
Generally, there are two types of twins; fraternal and identical. Identical twins are often referred to as either paternal or maternal twins.
However, these are non-scientific terms which means that the identical twins either strongly resemble their mother (maternal) or father (paternal). Although twins are all born in the same womb, and conceived at the same time, they are formed differently.
Fraternal, or non-identical twins, develop when two separate egg cells are fertilised by two separate sperm cells. Because of this, fraternal twins have different physical features and characteristics as they do not share the same chromosomes.
Identical twins, however, start off as a single egg which is fertilized by a single sperm. The egg then splits in half to form two separate embryos. Identical twins often have very similar or identical physical features.
What Is Paternal Instinct?
Paternal instinct is pretty similar to maternal instinct. Just like mothers, fathers can feel a powerful need to protect their child, particularly from danger.
What Is Paternal Love?
Paternal love is used to describe any feelings that are typical for those of a father to have towards his child. It’s more commonly known as fatherly-love, and is the paternal equivalent of “motherly-love” (maternal love).