mtDNA testing: a mother and child reunion?

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…

Of all the DNA testing for genealogical purposes, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) tests are the least popular and for good reason.

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.

So, I began to wonder… would a mtDNA test help in busting down a long-standing brick wall?

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 also has 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, 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.

So far, I think 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).

Here’s hoping!

COPYRIGHT (C) 2017 BY JANA SHEA. ALL MATERIALS PROTECTED UNDER THE LAWS OF COPYRIGHT. DO NOT COPY OR REPRODUCE WITHOUT AUTHOR’S PERMISSION.

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The DNA plunge

I’ve always been a bit curious about geneatology – using DNA to trace family lines.

When the technology first appeared to be gaining some traction, I was living in the Netherlands an ocean away from my family and pretty damn broke to boot. It seemed an indulgence for another day.

Especially since back then Y-DNA was the hot new thing in genealogy and I am female.

Sure, I’m curious as to what Y-DNA could reveal about my most ancient male ancestors. But my real interest in DNA testing is in its use as a tool to bust brick walls in my own research.

Y-DNA testing was super spendy then and so was mitochondrial DNA testing (still are).

Autosomal DNA testing wasn’t available then and I only recently gained an understanding of what it is and why it is best to test the oldest generation.

Sadly, I learned that too late to test my Grandmom.

When the holidays came around this time, I had an urge to nab one of the discount offers out there. I did some research on the top three companies offering DNA testing for genealogical purposes and decided to take the plunge with FamilyTreeDNA.

I’ve tested myself and I hope also to get my Mom to test as well.

My hope is that I’m not too distant from at least two brick wall paternal ancestors for some kind of break-through revelation. I hope for the same on my maternal Jewish line.

I am also mildly curious about what the results will conclude about my ethnic makeup, though I’m not expecting any surprises there.

Waiting for the test to arrive and now the even longer build up for the results has me feeling a bit like a kid anticipating Christmas. It’s kind of like the excitement in visiting Santa to tell him your wishes then having to wait a few weeks to see what he brings!

In the meantime, I’ve been reading a lot of DNA-related stories and news items and I have to admit I’m seriously fascinated by the subject.

I’m particularly interested to know what effect endogamy will have on my DNA results, considering its prevalence in my family tree.

Time will tell…

Copyright (c) 2016 by Jana Shea. All materials protected under the laws of copyright. Do not copy or reproduce without author’s permission.