“No I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
But the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away…” – Paul Simon
Of all the DNA testing for genealogical purposes, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) tests are the least popular and for good reason.
Still, I began to wonder… would a mtDNA test help in busting down a long-standing brick wall?
Because mtDNA changes very slowly over time, it often determines only deep maternal ancestry from thousands of years ago. This was especially true of older tests (HRV1 and HRV2). However, full sequence mtDNA testing is now available which, if enough people were to make use of it, could be quite promising.
With full sequence mtDNA testing assuring a 50 percent chance of locating the common matrilineal ancestor within five generations and a 95 percent chance within 22 generations, it would seem making a connection could be possible.
Taking another DNA plunge
Because this mystery ancestor is on my paternal grandmother’s matrilineal line, my aunt generously agreed to upgrade her original autosomal DNA test (atDNA) to include testing her mitochondrial DNA.
Her haplogroup subclade was identified as H5h. Though haplogroup H is common in Western Europe and the Caucus region, this particular subclade appears to be rare (or at least not widely tested).
My aunt right now has just eight exact matches at 0 genetic distance.
Thus far, only four of the eight matches have shared their matrilineal line with me.
Of these, three also have brick walls (but at least have a maiden name!) about two generations earlier than my own. These women are each from differing US states and the only thing in common is English/British derived surnames. It is obvious our shared ancestor is further back on the family tree.
The fourth match’s line goes back much further and I’ve already been able do a bit of quick research to take it back three more generations – to the earliest settlers of Elizabethtown, NJ in the 17th century. Again, colonial British origins seem to be prevalent.
This match’s line goes back 11 generations, which roughly puts us at around a 70 percent chance of locating a common ancestor.
Putting it to use
So far, I do believe this could be helpful in eliminating possibilities for my own brick wall ancestor. It seems that I can probably focus on families with a daughter named Sarah (b. 1852) in the region she married (Huntingdon/Mifflin Cos., PA) who seem to have British ancestry rather than Pennsylvania Dutch.
And if I can begin to figure out the “family segments” of my Grandmom’s maternal line, I just may be able to determine which autosomal DNA matches may be from my mystery Sarah’s line and see if there is any kind of connection with the mtDNA matches (surnames, regions, shared DNA).
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