X Matching and Mitochondrial DNA is Not the Same Thing

Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of confusion surrounding X DNA matching and mitochondrial DNA. Some folks think they are the same thing, but they aren’t at all.

It’s easy to become confused by the different types of DNA that we can use for genealogy, so I’ll try to explain these differences two or three different ways – and hopefully one of them will be just the ticket for you.

Both Associated with Females

I suspect the confusion has to do with the fact that mitochondrial DNA and the X chromosome are both associated in some manner with female inheritance. However, that isn’t always true in the strictest sense, as women also inherit an X chromosome from their father.

Males Inherit:

  • An X chromosome from their mother
  • Mitochondrial DNA from their mother

Females Inherit:

  • An X chromosome from their mother
  • An X chromosome from their father
  • Mitochondrial DNA from their mother

The difference, as you can quickly see, is that females inherit an X chromosome from both parents, while males only inherit the X from their mothers. That’s because males inherit the Y chromosome from their father instead – which is what makes males male.

As a quick overview about inheritance works, you might want to read the article, 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy.

The good news is that both mitochondrial DNA and the X chromosome have very specific inheritance paths that can be very useful to genealogy, once you understand how they work.

Who Gets What?

Mitochondrial DNA Inheritance

Mitochondrial DNA is inherited by both genders of children from their mothers. Mitochondrial DNA is NEVER recombined with the mitochondrial DNA of the father – so it’s passed intact. That’s why both males and females can test for their direct matrilineal line through their mitochondrial DNA.

In the pedigree chart above, you can see that mtDNA (red circles) is passed directly down the matrilineal line, while Y DNA is passed directly down the patrilineal (surname) line (blue squares.)

I’ve written an in-depth article titled, Mitochondrial DNA – Your Mom’s Story that might be useful to read, as well as Working with Y DNA – Your Dad’s Story.

The X Chromosome

The X Chromosome is autosomal, meaning that it recombines in every generation. If you are a female, the X recombines just like any other autosome, meaning chromosomes 1-22. You receive a copy from each parent.

The 23rd pair of chromosomes is the X and Y chromosomes which convey gender. Males receive an X from their mother and Y from their father. The Y chromosome makes males male. Females receive an X chromosome from both parents, just like the rest of chromosomes 1-22.

Inheritance Pathways

If you are a male, the inheritance path of the X chromosome is a bit different from that of a female, because you inherit your X only from your mother.

Females inherit their father’s ONLY X chromosome intact, which he inherited from his mother. Females inherit their X chromosome from their mother in the normal autosomal way. A mother has two X chromosomes, so the mother can give a child either chromosome entirely or parts of both of her X chromosomes.

Because of the different ways that males and females inherit the X chromosome, the inheritance path is different than chromosomes 1-22, portions of which you can inherit from any of your ancestors. Conversely, you can only inherit portions of your X chromosome from certain ancestors. You can read about more about this in the article, X Marks the Spot.

Female X inheritance chart. For male distribution, look at my father’s side of the tree.

My own colorized X chromosome chart is shown above, produced from my genealogy software and Charting Companion. An X match MUST COME from one of the ancestors in the pink and blue colored quadrants. It’s very unlikely that I would inherit parts of my X chromosome from all of these ancestors, but these ancestors are the only candidates from whom my X originated. In other words, genealogically, these are the only ancestors for me to investigate when I have an X DNA match with someone.

Because of this unbalanced distribution of the X chromosome, if you are a male and you match someone on the X chromosome, assuming it’s a legitimate match and not a match by chance, then you know the match MUST come from your mother’s side of the family, and only from her pink and blue colored ancestors – looking at my father’s half of the tree as an example.

If you are a female the match can come from either side, but only from a restricted number of individuals – those colored pink or blue, as shown above.

X chart with Y line included in purple, for males, and mitochondrial line in green.

My mitochondrial line, shown on the X chart would consist of only the women on the bottom row, extending to the right from me, colored in green above. My father’s Y DNA line would be the purple region, extending along the bottom at left. Of course, I don’t have a Y chromosome, because I’m female.

Of the individuals carrying the purple Y DNA, the only one with an X chromosome that a female could inherit would be the father. A female would inherit both the mtDNA of all of the green women, plus could also inherit an X chromosome (or part of an X) from them too.

For males, looking at my father’s half of the chart. He can inherit no X chromosome from any of the purple Y DNA portion, because those men gave him their Y chromosome. My father would inherit his mitochondrial DNA from his direct matrilineal line, shown in yellow, below.

X chart with mitochondrial inheritance line for mother (and child) shown in green, for father shown in yellow.  Both yellow and green lines can contribute to the X chromosome for males and females.

In my father’s case, the females in his tree that he can inherit an X chromosome from are quite limited, but people who have the opportunity to pass their X chromosome to my father are never restricted to only the people that pass his mitochondrial DNA to him. However, the X chromosome contributors always include the mitochondrial DNA contributors for both males and females.

In my father’s case, above, he inherits his X chromosome from his mother, who can only inherit her X from the people on his side of the chart shown in yellow, blue or pink. In essence, the people in yellow or to the left of the yellow with any color.

As his daughter, I can inherit from any of those ancestors as well, since he gives me his only X, who he inherited from his mother. I also inherit an X from my mother from anyone who is green, pink or blue on her side of my chart.

As you can see, my X can come from many fewer ancestors on my father’s side than on my mother’s side.

It just happens that ancestors in the mitochondrial line also are able to contribute an X chromosome and either gender can inherit parts of their X chromosome from any female upstream of their mother in the direct matrilineal line. However, only the direct matrilineal line (yellow for your father and green for your mother) contributes mitochondrial DNA. None of the other ancestors contribute mtDNA to this male or female, although females contribute their mtDNA to other individuals in the tree. For a more detailed discussion on inheritance, please read the article, “Concepts – ‘Who to Test Series”.

Special Treatment for X Matches

While the generally accepted threshold for autosomal DNA is about 7cM, for X DNA, there appears to be a much higher incidence of false matches at higher levels than the rest of the chromosomes, as documented by Philip Gammon as in his Match-Maker-Breaker tool.  This appears to have to do with SNP density.

I would encourage genetic genealogists to consider someplace between 10 and 15 cM as an acceptable threshold for an X chromosome match. This of course does not mean that smaller segment matching can’t be relevant, it’s just that X matches are less likely to be relevant at levels below 10-15 cM than the rest of the chromosomes.

Summary

As you can see, the mitochondrial DNA is passed from one line only – the direct matrilineal line – green to my mother and then me, yellow to my father. The mitochondrial DNA has absolutely NOTHING to do with the X chromosome, as they are entirely different kinds of DNA. It just so happens that the individuals who contribute mitochondrial DNA are also some of the ancestors who can contribute an X chromosome to either males or females.

The yellow and green ancestors always contribute mitochondrial DNA, but the pink and blue NEVER contribute mitochondrial DNA to the father and mother in our chart.

The X chromosome has a very distinctive inheritance path, shown in the first fan chart, that will help identify potential ancestors who may have contributed your X chromosome – which is wonderful for genealogists. If your ancestor is not colored pink or blue, in the first chart, they did not contribute anything to your X chromosome – so an X match MUST come from a pink or blue ancestor (which includes yellow and green in the later charts.)

By color, the people in the fan chart provide the following:

  • Purple – Y chromosome to father only.  Y is passed on to a male child, but not to females.
  • Yellow – Mitochondrial always to father. X always from mother to males but X can come from either yellow or pink and blue ancestors upstream.
  • Green – Mitochondrial always to the mother.  Females receive an X chromosome from their green mother and also from their father, who received his X chromosome from his yellow mother.
  • PInk and blue on father’s side – contribute to the father’s X chromosome, in addition to yellow.
  • Pink and blue on mother’s side – contribute to the mother’s X chromosome, in addition to green.

 

If you are a male and see an X match on your father’s side of the tree, you know that match is either actually coming from your mother’s side of the tree, or the match is false, meaning identical by chance.

The great news is that X matching is another tool with special attributes in the genealogist’s toolbox, along with both mitochondrial and Y DNA.

Your X chromosome test is included as part of the Family Finder test. You can order the Family Finder or the mitochondrial DNA tests here.

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Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure will now appear at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

Enforced Bastardry in Colonial America – A DNA Monkey Wrench

Sometimes when men Y DNA test, their results are returned with matches to different surnames, meaning surnames other than their own. In fact, it’s not unusual, but hopefully, they will also match several men who carry their own surname with the idea that those matches will help the tester further their genealogy by being able to connect to ancestors further back in time.

Best case, to identify the actual ancestor.

Worst case, to find hints to lead to their own ancestor through the matching DNA of others.

The Holy Grail

The Holy Grail, for many genealogists, is to find a Y DNA surname match overseas, in a small village, where the local church still has records. That’s what we did in both the Estes and Speak Y DNA projects. The DNA matches confirmed where those lines originated and the church and other traditional genealogical records confirmed we had discovered the origin location of the actual immigrant ancestor.

You can read one of several articles about the trip back to Lancashire for the Speak line here and to Kent for the Estes line here. DNA made confirming the connection between the American/New Zealand lines and the British lines possible.

However, for some, that overseas match never arrives. I’m here to tell you, 16 years and waiting on my Moore line and we still have only a few matches, and only from the brickwall ancestor in Virginia to current – nothing before and no matches with any other Moore line.

Patience may be a virtue, but it isn’t one of mine!

In some cases, like my Moore line, the surname in question only matches people downstream from the known ancestor.

Talk about frustrating.

Surname Matching Issues and Indentured Servitude

One of the reasons surname matching issues can occur, but that we seldom think of, is the situation in colonial American where indentured servants, those who sold away from 5 to 9 years of their life in exchange for for passage to America, were forbidden to marry.  Therefore, if a female became pregnant, she was forced to have the child outside of marriage – meaning the child took her surname.

If a male indentured servant impregnated someone, he too was forbidden to marry – so the child took the mother’s surname and life went on.

Based on the court notes from Richmond County, Virginia, beginning in 1692, and from Rappahannock County, before that, this was a lot more common that one would think.

Now, fast forward 300 years – the surname and the Y DNA don’t match. Better stated, the person carrying a particular surname today doesn’t match any or many people of the same surname.

Making matters worse, according to the records in North Farnham Parish, in Virginia, beginning in 1600s when the area was Old Rappahannock County and reaching through the 1800s when it was Richmond County, “bastard” children don’t appear in the baptismal records. Having said that, the records are known to be incomplete, even for children born to married parents, but given the number of illegitimate births, it’s difficult to believe that somehow all of those records just happen coincidentally to be missing.

Richmond County is lucky to have any church records. Many locations don’t.

So, if your ancestor was one of the illegitimate children born, there is:

  • Generally no record of their name in the court record.
  • No record of their name in the baptismal records.
  • Often no record of their father’s name.
  • No record of the gender of the child born to the mother.
  • Generally, no record of what happened to them.

If you’re lucky, a court record will exist where the mother was brought before the court and prosecuted for “the sin of fornication” and with having a “bastard child.” Generally, that’s not the kind of record a genealogist is looking for. They are looking for males with their specific surname in wills and deeds, not court cases involving female indentured servants bearing children out of wedlock.

As punishment, the woman’s indenture was extended, from a year in early cases, as seen in the examples below, to 5 years in a later case in Halifax County, Virginia.

Sometimes in these cases, the pregnancy causes the woman to fall into perpetual indentured servitude, as we can see in the Thatchill case.

The father? What happened to him?

Sometimes he had to pay a fee of tobacco to the church to assure that the church would not end up paying to raise the child – because an unwed mother was generally condemned to a life of misery and poverty – unable to support her child after her indenture was over.

Furthermore, many indentured servants didn’t survive. While working a slave to death was counterproductive, because the owner wanted the slave to live long and reproduce for the economic benefit to the owner, indentured servants only served for a number of years, so masters often worked these people relentlessly and maintained them in the poorest of conditions.

Enforced Bastardry

While researching my ancestors in Richmond County, Virginia, I stumbled across the three following cases of what I’m terming “enforced bastardry.” I find it somehow ironic that the very men, court and church that condemned these women for “fornicating” had arranged and condoned the very system that forced them to remain unmarried – in essence forcing them to bear those “bastard” children.

In the following cases, the word “master” does not denote a master/slave relationship in the sense of an African or Native American slave who was a slave for life. These were white European immigrant women who were indentured for a set period of time, to be freed after their indenture was served, assuming they survived, not permanently enslaved.

Permanent slaves never officially “married” within the law, and were not prosecuted for “fornication.” In fact, their owners wanted them to reproduce because children of slaves were born into the status of the mother. If the mother was a slave, so were the children.

This was a very profitable arrangement for the slave owner, because slaves that had to be purchased were expensive and in early America, often in short supply. Very occasionally, slave children were baptized, but when so, they were listed under the master’s name, generally not the name of the child and never the name of the parent or parents.

Case 1 – Katherine Thatchill and Catherine Perry, servants to Abraham Marshall

Richmond County Court Order Book, July 2, 1701 – Katherine Thatchill servant to Abraham Marshall by and with her own consent is ordered to serve her master or his assignes the full terms of one years after her time by indenture custome or otherwise be fully expired being for the payment of her fine for committing the sin of fornication.

This day Abraham Marshall confesed judgement to the churchwarden of Farnham Parish for the use of the parish for 500 pounds good tobacco in cask which this court have ordered to be paid with costs of suit. Exo. Being the fine due from Katherine Thatchill for committing the sin of fornication.

Ordered that Katherine Thatchill do serve Abraham Marshall her present master according to act for the care and trouble of her childbirth of a bastard child.

It being evidently made appear to the court that Catharine Parry, servant to Abraham Marshall did fugitively absent herself from her said master’ service the space of 15 days and that her said master hath expended 300 pounds of tobacco for percuring her againe, the court have ordered that the said Katherine do serve her said master or his assignes the full terms of one years after her time and be fully expired being for the payment of her fine for committing the sin of fornication.

These items appeared in consecutive order on the same court order page on the same day. Given the fourth paragraph, it appears that indeed, there were two women, one Katherine Thatchill and one Catharine Perry.

Amazingly, Catharine Perry only “missed” 15 days of “work” but she paid for it with another year of her life, because her master paid her fine.

Court Order Book May 6, 1702 – Capt. John Tarpley one of the churchwardens of the parish of North Farnham certifying to this court that Thomas Tatchall being a parish charge and Abraham Marshall being willing to discharge the said parish of ye said Thomas, the court have ordered that the said Thomas Tatchall do serve the said Abraham Marshall and Thomazin his wife their heires and assignes until he shall attaine to the full age of 21 years.

Apparently, Katherine Thatchill’s child lived and is now also indentured until he is 21. The only way Katherine can be with her child it to remain on Abraham Marshall’s plantation, assuming she is still alive. In essence, Abraham Marshall has now obtained two indentured servants for the next 21 years.  By that time, where is Katherine Thatchill going to go and how will she survive?  She will probably remain a servant for her entire life, in exchange for food and shelter.  Perhaps her son will do better.

Case 2 – Elinor Hughes, servant to James Gilbert

Richmond County, Virginia Court Order Book, Nov. 4, 1702 – Appearing to this court that Elinor Hughes has by her own confession fugitively absented herself out of the service of her master, James Gilbert, the space of 23 days, the court have ordered that she serve her said master or his assignes the space of 46 days after her time by indenture custome or otherwise be fully expired.

Elinor Hughes, servant to Gilbert Jones being presented to this court for having a bastard child, the court have ordered that she serve her said master or his assignes according to act in consideration for the trouble of his house during the time of her childbirth.

This day James Gilbert confessed judgement to the church wardens of North Farnham Parish for the use of the parish for 500 pounds tobacco it being the fine of Elinor Hughes for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child to be paid with costs also.

Ordered that Elinor Hughes servant to James Gilbert by and wither own consent do serve her said master of his assignes the space of one whole yeare after her time by indenture custome or otherwise be fully expired in satisfaction for his paying her fine for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child.

It’s appears that Elinor had to “pay” double the time she missed for “troubling” her master with her pregnancy, and a year for the fine he paid.  These laws and customs never benefitted the servant, always the master.

Case 3 – Ann Kelly, Servant to Thomas Durham

The drama involving Ann Kelly didn’t begin as anything unusual. Ann Kelly’s indenture to Thomas Durham begins like normal in 1699 when she was determined to be 14 years old. The court determined Ann’s age so that the length of her indenture could be determined and so that she could be taxed appropriately. Indentures of children not only involved a certain number of years, but lasted until they attained a specific age, minimally.

In 1704, in a deposition, Ann gave her age to be 20, which would have put her birth in 1684. If she were 14 in 1699, then she would have been born in 1685, so this fits.

Court Order Book Page 406, June 7, 1699 – Ann Kelly servant to Thomas Durham being presented to this court to have inspection into her age is adjudged 14 years old and ordered to serve her master or his assigns according to act.

However, by 1708, nine years later, Anne was 23 and circumstances had changed.

Court Order Book Page 372, July 7, 1708 – Anne Kelly, servant to Thomas Durham, being brought before the court by her master for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child and said Anne refusing to confess who was the father of the child, the court have ordered she be committed to the county goale there to remaine until such time as she shall confess who is the true father of her child and it is also ordered that she serve her master or his assignes after her time by indenture custome or otherwise shall be fully expired according to law in compensation for the trouble of his house during the time of her childbirth.

Imagine how intimidating this must have been for Ann. Not only did all those men, dressed in their finery and powdered wigs “know what she had done,” they were pressuring her for the name of the child’s father. Ann, a servant with nothing of her own, not even the right to direct her own body, stood firm, even when sentenced to jail.

Having none of this, Dorothy Durham, Thomas’s wife, steps in.

Court Order Book Page 372, July 7, 1708 – This day Dorothy Durham for on the behalf of her husband Thomas Durham confessed judgement to the church wardens of Northfarnham parish to the use of the parish for 500 pounds tobacco the same being the fine of Anne Kelly for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child which is ordered to be paid with costs.

I can’t even begin to explain how unusual this was. Not only did Dorothy appear at court, of her own volition, she clearly defied her husband to do so. Not only that, but Dorothy apparently controlled some financial aspects of the household, a very unusual situation for a woman in colonial Virginia. There seemed to be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Dorothy was capable and authorized to pay the 500 pounds of tobacco – even though Dorothy did say she was acting “on behalf of her husband.”

In every other similar case, some male community member steps forward and posts bail, or not, but no female ever steps forward like Dorothy did. I’m convinced that posting bail, in most cases, wasn’t so much to help the poor woman who had the child as it was to retain the services of the woman and not be inconvenienced. In Dorothy’s case, we’ll never know what motivated her to attend court alone, step up in place of her husband AND pay the fine for Anne Kelly. But she did!

Furthermore, in most cases, the female willingly named the child’s father. In this case, we do discover the name of the father the following March, and I wonder if Dorothy knew all along.

Court Order Book Page 4, March 2, 1708/9 – Anne Kelly came into court and made oath that Thomas Durham Jr. is the true father of 2 bastard children borne of her body in the time of her service with his father, Thomas Durham the elder. Upon motion of the Queen’s attorney ordered that Thomas Durham Jr. be summoned to next court to enter into bond with security for the indemnification of the parish and what charge may acrew to the parish for or by reason of the children aforesaid.

In March of 1708/09, Anne Kelly was dragged before the court a second time. This time, however, she named the father of the children – Thomas Durham Jr., the son of Dorothy and Thomas Durham Sr. While Thomas Jr. was summoned to post bond to the churchwardens so they would not incur future costs on behalf of the children, Thomas Jr. was not fined for fornication nor did he have to pay Anne Kelly’s fine for fornication and having a bastard child. Men were never fined. I guess those women managed to fornicate and get pregnant all by themselves!

This time, it wasn’t Dorothy who paid Anne Kelly’s fees, nor Thomas Durham Sr. or Jr., who should have by all rights paid her fines – but Thomas Dodson who was married to Mary Durham, Dorothy’s daughter. Anne Kelly, according to another court note, was assigned by Thomas Durham Sr. to Thomas Dodson, so was already serving at Thomas Dodson’s house, which adjoined the land of Thomas Durham Sr. In any event, after her original indenture, plus extra time for the first pregnancy, Anne was obligated to serve additional time working for Thomas Dodson because he paid her fine for the second pregnancy, caused by his brother-in-law.

Court Order Book Page 5 March 2, 1708/09 Anne Kelly servant to Thomas Dodson being this day brought before this court for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child the court have ordered Anne Kelly to serve Thomas Dodson or his assignes according to law after her time by indenture or otherwise is fully expired, in consideration of his paying her fine for committing the offence aforesaid.

Court Order Book Page 5 March 2 1708/09 Thomas Dodson confest judgement to the churchwardens of North Farnham parish for the use of the parish for 500 pounds tobacco being the fine of Anne Kelley for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child and it ordered that he pay the same with costs.

Anne Kelly arrived in June of 1699 at the age of 14. By 1709, she is still serving as an indentured servant, has had two illegitimate children, sired by her “master’s” son and still has at least two years left to serve on her indenture time, based on the court records. From this we know that Anne’s original indenture was at least for 9 years, because she was still a servant in July of 1708. A year later, in 1709, she is still serving, and has had 2 years added on to her time. This means that she will be serving until at least 1711 sometime, if not longer, and presuming she doesn’t get fined for fornicating again. This means that her indenture time beginning in 1699 when she was 14 is now extended to when she is minimally 26 years old, when she will be released with a suit of clothes to somehow make her way with two children.

And the greatest irony of all, Thomas Durham Jr. married the daughter of the neighbor planter in about 1710, beginning his “legitimate” family with her. So, while Anne Kelly is still paying with the days of her life for her crime of “sinning” with Thomas Durham Jr. on one farm, he has married the daughter of the neighbor and is setting up housekeeping – probably within view everyday of Anne Kelly.

No hard feelings there, I’m sure. I can’t help but wonder what happened to these women and their children.

Note that in  only one of these cases do we have any idea of the gender of the child and his name from a later record. In the rest of the cases, and normally, there are no names, and no birth dates, although we can at least surmise a year. We also don’t know if the children survived. There are no records in Richmond County in later years for any individual that appears to be the offspring of these women.

In colonial Virginia, the stigma of illegitimacy never washed away. The best way to remove it? Move. Far away. Preferably to the frontier where pioneers were far too busy clearing land and eking out a living to ask questions. Marry someone and start a life far distant from those damning court records and community knowledge.

If you think this scenario might fit your family situation, what do you do?

What To Do?

Unfortunately, these cases are very difficult, if not impossible, to crack.

Hints that enforced bastardry might be involved would include:

  • Few Y DNA matches to your surname
  • Significant close Y DNA matches to another surname
  • Y DNA matches to your surname only downstream of your brick wall ancestor, never at an earlier date and never overseas
  • Ancestor seems to appear out of no place in colonial America
  • No records. Bastard children were not recognized legally as the children of the father so there would be no inheritance.

Of course, the problem is that any of these circumstances mentioned above can be caused by other factors. Few Y DNA matches can be caused by few (or no) descendants or the fact that your line just hasn’t tested. No overseas matches can stem from the same thing, or the Y line has simply died out in the original location. If you’d like to read more, Concepts –  Undocumented Adoptions vs Untested Y Lines discussed more about this topic.

Matches to other surnames can result from a common ancestor before the advent of surnames or misattributed parentage, also known as NPEs or non-parental events, in other lines, as well as your own.

Ancestors who seem to appear out of no place can be a result of records destruction, or ancestors arriving as indentured servants or convicts, remaining poor and never owning land. A combination of these factors is particularly devastating for the genealogist, because it appears that our ancestor literally dropped out of the sky, arriving via the stork.

One approach I take is to look for common geography between my ancestor and the ancestors of other people with closely matching surnames. For example, in the case of Ann Kelly, we know that the father of her children was Thomas Durham, Jr. If the children were male, their surname would be Kelly, but their Y DNA would be Durham. Once you focus on a geography for the Y DNA line, you can turn to autosomal matching for that same surname to see if other people emerge as matches who are not directly descended from the paternal line.

Another avenue, and don’t laugh, is to google the various terms together, such as “Durham, Kelly, 1700, Virginia.” I’ve often found the old Rootsweb and GenForum lists to be wonderful sources of earlier research that has never made it into print or into trees anyplace. – and they both show up in Google searches.

However, in the Kelly/Durham case, as irony would have it, Thomas Durham Sr. had only one surviving son.   Thomas Durham Jr.’s only son, John, had three sons. Just recently, a Durham male descendant of Thomas Jr. through grandson Charnel was discovered and Y DNA testing is currently underway.

It will be very interesting to see if our Durham tester matches any Kelly males.

 

Testing

In order to utilize Y DNA, you must find a male from your desired line who is descended from the ancestor in question through all males to take a Y DNA test. Typically, this means a male who carries the same surname, assuming no name changes or adoptions.

Today, the only vendor offering Y DNA testing and matching is Family Tree DNA. Fortunately, they also offer autosomal testing with the Family Finder test, and Advanced Tools so that you can see if a Y DNA match also matches you autosomally. Their Family Finder matching tool also allows you to search by both current and ancestral surnames.

Click here to order either test. You’ll need both a Y DNA test and the Family Finder test to do the combined search for people who match on both the Y DNA and autosomal results.

You may also want to read the short article, 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy, which explains about the different kinds of DNA that can be utilized for genealogy research.

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Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure will now appear at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

Concepts – Who To Test for Your Father’s DNA

If the first thing you thought when you read the title of this article was, “Well duh – test your father,” you would be right…unless your father is deceased.  Then, it’s not nearly as straightforward, because you have to find other family members who carry the same Y and mitochondrial DNA as your father.

These same concepts and techniques can be applied to testing for other men’s lines as well – so please read, even if Dad is sitting right beside you.

Before beginning this article, you might want to read “4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy” to understand the very basics of how different kinds of DNA are inherited, and how they can help you.

I was inspired to write this series of “Who to Test” articles to help people determine how to obtain the DNA they need to solve family mysteries from ancestors in their tree. For the most part, those ancestors are deceased, so one must understand how to obtain their DNA by testing living descendants descended in special ways.

Click to enlarge any graphic

In this series, we’ll be discussing how to test all of the individuals above for their mitochondrial DNA and males for their Y DNA.

Y DNA lineages are shown by blue lines and mitochondrial DNA lineages are shown by pink lines. In the charts below, different colored boxes and hearts showing the descent of blue male lines and pink(ish) mitochondrial lines.

In other words, the son at the bottom inherits his father’s light blue Y DNA, but his mother’s pink mitochondrial DNA that is the same as his sister’s and his mother’s mitochondrial line. Hence, his pink heart.

What Can Y and Mitochondrial DNA Tell You?

Both Y and mitochondrial DNA can tell you about your clan, meaning where your ancestors in that particular line were found. Many people have been surprised to find that these particular lines descended from Native American, Asian, Jewish, European or African ancestors. Some clan assignments, known as haplogroups, can be quite specific, but others are more general in nature.

You also receive matches and can communicate to find your common ancestor. Males can look for surnames the same or similar to their own.

You can read more about what mitochondrial DNA can do for you in the article, Mitochondrial DNA – Your Mom’s Story.

You can read more about what Y DNA can do for you in the article, Working with Y DNA – Your Dad’s Story.

Your Father’s DNA

Testing your father’s Y and mitochondrial DNA is easy, if your father is living. You can simply test your father.

As you can see in the chart above, your father inherited his Y DNA from the light blue line, from his father, which is typically the surname line.

Your father inherited his mitochondrial DNA from his direct matrilineal line, meaning the magenta line – your paternal grandmother and her direct maternal ancestors.

Your father did NOT pass his mitochondrial DNA to either of his children and he only passed his Y DNA to his son. His daughter has no Y DNA and her mother’s mitochondrial DNA.

You can test both your father’s Y DNA and mitochondrial by simply testing your father. However, testing becomes more challenging if your father is not available to test.

Your goal then becomes to find people who carry the same light blue Y DNA as your father, and the same magenta mitochondrial DNA that he carried as well. Let’s look at various ways to achieve that goal.

Testing Uncles and Siblings

If you are a male, meaning the son in the chart above, just test yourself for your father’s Y DNA.

Of course, you carry your mother’s mitochondrial DNA, shown by the pink heart that matches your sister, so you will have to find someone else who carries the same mitochondrial DNA as your father.

If you are a female, you can’t test for either your father’s Y or his mtDNA line. However, all is not lost.

If your father has any full male siblings, that’s your next best bet, because they will carry the same Y DNA and the same mitochondrial DNA as your father, because they share the same parents. You can test the same uncle for both Y and mitochondrial DNA. A brother and sister to your father have been added to the chart, below.

In the above chart, your father has two siblings, a male and a female. All three share the same mitochondrial DNA, but only the males share the Y DNA. Your father’s brother shares both. Your father’s sister shares his mitochondrial DNA, but not his Y DNA, shown above.

However, let’s say you’re the daughter and that your father and his brother are deceased. You can test your father’s sister for her mitochondrial DNA and you can test your own brother for your father’s Y DNA, shown below.

Don’t have a brother but your father’s brother had a son? No problem. Test the brother’s son who will carry his father’s Y DNA, which is the same as your father’s Y DNA, assuming nothing unknown.

You say your father’s sister is deceased too, but she had a child of either gender. No problem, you can test that child, whether they are a male or female for the sister’s mitochondrial DNA, which is the same as your father’s mitochondrial DNA.

In the chart above, all of the people with sky blue squares can test for your father’s Y DNA and all of the people with magenta squares or magenta hearts can test for your father’s mitochondrial DNA.

As you can see, you may well have lots of options.

Potential Testers

Father’s Y DNA Father’s mtDNA
Your Father Yes Yes
You Yes, if you are a male, No if you are a female No – you inherit your mtDNA from your mother
Your sibling Yes, if your sibling is a male, No if your sibling is a female No – your father does not pass his mtDNA to his children
Your father’s brother Yes Yes
Your father’s sister No – she didn’t inherit a Y chromosome from her father Yes
Your father’s brother’s children Yes, if male, No if female No – he didn’t pass his mitochondrial DNA to his children
Your father’s sister’s children No Yes – both genders

What Tests to Order

Family Tree DNA is the only testing vendor that offers Y and mitochondrial DNA testing that allows you to match to others. Additionally, they provide additional tools to understand the message Y and mtDNA carries for you.

For Y DNA testing, you can order either the 37, 67 or 111 marker test. I recommend that you purchase what the budget can afford. You can always upgrade later, but the cost of the original test plus an upgrade is somewhat more than just purchasing the larger test initially.  The greater the number of markers you purchase, the higher the level of specificity in the match results. The more closely you match someone, the more closely related you are to that person, and the closer in time your common ancestor lived. If you’re unsure what to purchase, 37 markers is a great place to begin.

For mitochondrial DNA testing, you can order the mtDNA Plus test, which is a subset of the mtFull Sequence test. In order to receive your full haplogroup designation, the entire mitochondrial DNA needs to be tested. I recommend the full sequence test be ordered.

For autosomal DNA testing, everyone can test, and as long as you’re placing an order, I’d suggest that you go ahead and order the Family Finder test. You can discover your ethnicity percentage estimates for several worldwide regions, including breakdowns of Europe, Africa and Asia as well as Native American and Jewish.

Additionally, while the Y and mitochondrial DNA tests reach back deep into time on those two specific lines, and only those two lines, the autosomal test tests the DNA of all of your ancestral lines, but may not reach back reliably in time for matches before the past 5 or 6 generations. Think of Y and mtDNA as viewing recent as well as very deep ancestors on just those lines, and Family Finder as broadly surveying all of your ancestors, but just in the past 7-10 generations.

The fun of autosomal DNA testing, aside from ethnicity estimates, is to discover which cousins you match and find your common ancestor.

In order for Family Tree DNA to be able to provide you with phased Family Finder matches, which indicates on which side of your tree (maternal or paternal) your match is found, helping to identify common ancestors – it’s critical for known relatives to test. The older the relative, generationally, the more helpful the testing is to you – so test those older family members immediately, while you still can.

You can order your tests and upgrades here.

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Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure will now appear at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

The Unexpected Bounty of DNA Testing – Friends and Family of Heart

Bill and Sandie Lakner, with me in the middle.

When I first started with genetic genealogy in the year 2000, I was interested in proving (or disproving) specific stories about my Estes ancestors as well as learning more about as many family lines as I could.

I hoped that I would meet new cousins that perhaps would have information that I don’t, and who would be willing to share.

What I never imagined, and I almost hate to admit this, is that I’d find a whole new group of friends.

I have always been a rather solitary researcher, in part because I don’t live anyplace near where my ancestors did. There are no records where I live for what I need to research, so the local genealogy societies hold little allure for me. In fact, in my state, I AM the immigrant, more or less. The ‘more or less” part of that comment will have to wait for another day and has to do with my father being stationed nearby in the military.

Several years ago, when autosomal DNA was added to the genetic genealogists menu, I began to hear from LOTS and LOTS of people. In fact, so many that one of the reasons I introduced my blog and began to write educational articles was as a form of self-defense. Between the blog and the projects I administer at Family Tree DNA, I found myself answering the same questions over and over again, so writing a nice article with graphics where I could refer people seemed like a great idea. Never did I imagine the blog would actually increase the amount of communications, but it did!

It’s hard for me to believe I’ve been doing this for 17 years now, almost half of my adult life. I’ve met people at conferences and many have become friends. There are people I’ve been fortunate to find that have my back when I need help or am in some kind of pickle. I know just who to refer to for what topic and I’ve been the beneficiary of MANY excellent researchers and kind souls. I’m grateful to and for every one.

Project administrators and those of us with specialty skills try to help everyone, but demand has been increasing like a tsunami. Now, that’s the good news, because an incredible number of people are testing, but it’s also the bad news because it necessitates brevity sometimes and a standard reply to many inquiries.

Somehow in the midst of this swirl, over the years, I have found new friends that stand apart from the rest and are truly near and dear to my heart. Some have specific interests that are similar to my own, but others, for some reason, have simply become friends, close friends, near and dear to my heart.

I’ve even adopted a new brother, John, not to be confused with my half-brother John. (Yes, I now have my brother John and my other brother John.)

It’s like we were all destined to meet and have been waiting for this moment all of our lives. Once we do finally meet, it’s like we’ve always known each other.

If you’re one of those people, you know who you are. You are my family of heart.

Family of heart becomes increasingly important as your family of blood becomes smaller and smaller and is geographically distant. In my case, exacerbating the situation, I moved away. I’m not alone though, because many other people are displaced too, becoming effectively an immigrant family of one in a new community someplace with no family nearby. Those people are much more likely, I think, to develop family of heart relationships.

E-mail, Facebook and other forms of communications have made distant friendships easier. It’s easier for family to keep current with each other as well.

Bill and Sandie Lakner

Enter Bill and Sandie Lakner, several years ago.

I would like to tell you that I remember the first communication from Sandie, but I don’t. I do know that what began as questions about DNA results years ago has evolved into shared genealogy hunts, finds, discussions about children, grandchildren, pets, movies, gardens and Hurricane Sandy – not to be confused with Sandie.

Our topics jump around like neighbors chatting over the fence.

We don’t “talk” daily, but often and usually electronically.  We keep in touch and have for years now, defying the odds of internet friendships and short attention spans. We check on each other when we know something difficult is happening in someone’s life or bad weather is bearing down.

Then, last week, I received an e-mail from Sandie telling me that she and Bill would be passing nearby while returning home from a visit to Minnesota in the next day or so.

Could they meet us for coffee?

Could they?

I was so excited and was hoping the schedule would allow more than coffee. As luck would have it, our time was limited, but we made the most of it.

The Quest

What fun we had!

We immediately began discussing Bill’s “secret quest,” or better stated, his quest to solve the family secret.

Bill was hoping his trip to Minnesota would yield information, and maybe, just maybe, a descendent of each of the male children of Joseph Lakner (1876-1926) who is willing to DNA test. Yes, we were discussing paternal ancestry and DNA.

More particularly, which of Joseph Lakner’s sons is Bill’s father?

By the way, if you are the child, either male or female, of one of Joseph Lakner’s male children and are willing to DNA test, please contact me (and I’ll put you in touch with Bill) or simply order a Family Finder test through this link at Family Tree DNA.

Social Faux Pas

Genetic genealogists sometimes forget that our topics aren’t entirely mainstream.

As we sat at our corner table in the local Big Boy, excitedly talking, I said to Bill, “You remember, that was my brother who wasn’t my brother…..”

About that time, the server who was entering orders into a computer turned around with a slack-jawed, rather incredulous, look on his face. I think he had to see just WHO was having this discussion, because…you know…”old people” don’t discuss those kinds of things. These kinds of “things” and resulting scandals were invented by the younger generation…said with tongue firmly in cheek.

The server was standing behind Bill, so Bill couldn’t see, but Sandie and I could. I fought laughter, immediately lowered my voice and attempted to do some amount of social recovery, but in the midst of the next sentence that had something to do with my father being married to both mothers at the same time, the server’s head came whipping around again, this time, with him staring over the top of his glassed to garner a better view.

I mean, who *are* these rowdy people anyway, and did they escape from the facility down the street? They are clearly demented. Should I call someone?

Sandie and I both saw this entire exchange and both began laughing uncontrollably, to the point that we couldn’t speak to explain. The look on Bill’s face only made it funnier, and then the server turned around once again and asked if we were laughing at his shock. Then he tried social recovery, but ran out of words and finally just muttered, “Hmmm….” and shook his head.

The entire exchange left everyone laughing to the point of tears. My poor husband was looking around, hoping no one recognized him.

It felt so good to be laughing together – friends who had been friends “forever” but had never met before.

Family of Heart

By the end of our very short hour or so, we were left wishing we were those neighbors who could visit over the fence. If we lived near each other, Sandie would know where everything in my kitchen is kept and vice versa and the guys would know how to start each other’s lawn mowers. Our kids would know each other, and our pets would greet each other like family. We had met our family of heart.

The field of genetic genealogy has truly blessed me in ways that I never expected and could never have imagined. Not only does DNA connect us across the world, literally, the topic of DNA connects us to one another as well.

Initially Bill’s search was to find his paternal family, specifically which Lakner male is his father. It’s a story to rival any soap opera, is still not solved and Bill would love to find the answer.

But never in our wildest dreams did we ever imagine that through this process, we would become family of choice. Sometimes it’s the human part of the connection that is the most important and not the genetics. Sometimes our family of choice is the best family of all!

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Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure will now appear at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

Quick Tip – How to Unjoin a Project at Family Tree DNA

Oops!  Did you accidentally join a project at Family Tree DNA in error, or just need to do some housekeeping?

Some folks think that only project administrators can remove people from projects, but people can unjoin themselves – and don’t have to wait on the administrator.

Removing yourself from a Family Tree DNA project is easy. Just click on the Projects tab, at the top right of your personal page, then on “Manage my projects.”

You will then see a list of the projects you have joined where you are currently a member. Click to enlarge the graphic below.

At the far right, you can click on “Leave Project” to unjoin yourself from the project.

The next screen you will see asks you to provide a reason for leaving.

Type something in the box, but please be nice – administrators are all volunteers – then click submit.

Understand that your reason is sent to the administrator, but they have no avenue to reply to you after you have left the project. So don’t expect to hear from them, because they can’t.  If you have a question for the admins or a discussion item, prior to leaving, just send them an e-mail.

Easy peasy!!

If you’re looking for how to select and join a project, you might enjoy How to Join a DNA Project.

______________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure will now appear at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

Summer Hiatus and October in Dublin

Remember summer vacation when you were a kid?

Summer vacation seemed like it would last FOREVER. The endless days of sunshine and the smell of freshly cut grass with the swimming hole or beach beckoning endlessly.

As adults, we get so caught up in work and family that we forget what those summer holidays were like. I haven’t even seen my hammock in years. Where is it anyway?

I’m trying to remember those summertimes of yesteryear, and I’m giving myself a kickstarter by taking some time off.

Well, OK, it’s not really “off.” I’m preparing for three trips that are genetic genealogy related, and I’ll be writing about those in the coming months.

Plus, I’m stuck on some of my 52 Ancestors articles, waiting for information to arrive which is arriving very slowly. I think the staff from those various locations must be on vacation too.

I’ve found that I can’t prepare to travel, create presentations, complete customer reports, create a class and then travel along with maintaining my current article production schedule, so I’m taking a bit of a hiatus – in particular from my 52 Ancestors articles.

I have several regular articles already scheduled, but unfortunately, those ancestors are just going to have to wait patiently.  Maybe they’ll relinquish some of their closely guarded secrets in the mean time!  You think?

Upcoming Event – Dublin, Ireland

I do want to share with you that one of the events on my schedule is an appearance where I’ll be giving two separate presentations, at Genetic Genealogy Ireland, sponsored by Family Tree DNA, which takes place on October 20-22 in Dublin, Ireland.

Needless to say, I’m very excited.

Most of my regular readers know that I’m mostly retired from speaking and traveling, but this is one exception I’m glad to make. Of course, it helps a lot that I have McDowell ancestors whose homelands are close by, along with my McNiel line thought to have descended from the Niall of the Nine Hostages lineage, which of course means I absolutely HAVE to visit Tara.

Let’s just say that it didn’t take a lot of arm-twisting to convince me to speak😊

So, I hope to see you in October in Dublin! Take a look at the list of incredibly exciting speakers here. I can hardly wait and hope to meet lots of you in person!

__________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure will now appear at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

Independence Day – Life and Death – Organ Donors, Angels and Wings

Today is Independence Day – the 4th of July – where we in the US celebrate the birth of our nation.  However, my cousin is celebrating a very different sort of victory today – a very personal Independence Day – his life.

This week, an epic life and death battle took place – in an operating room. The forces of good battling evil – in this case, the evil of a crippling genetic disease…and time. My cousin lost the genetic lottery, but this week…

Good won!

My cousin received a kidney transplant from a living donor after 18 months of not-so-patiently waiting. Thankfully, he didn’t have to wait any longer for a cadaver donor – a wait that was fruitless for my brother in 2012. My brother, Dave, died waiting. There aren’t enough donor angels who have earned their wings to go around.

My Brother

My brother needed a liver transplant. Because the liver can regenerate itself, live donors can donate part of their liver to recipients, and both will grow normal livers. Kidneys, on the other hand, don’t regenerate, but people can live with only one kidney, so living donors can contribute a kidney and live the rest of their life just fine.

However, in my brother’s case, he couldn’t have a living donor – even if someone was willing, and I was willing to be his donor. Why? Because when he became very ill and couldn’t work due to liver failure, he also didn’t have insurance. He was a long-haul truck driver and when you can’t work, you don’t have insurance – even if you had insurance originally. He worked his entire life, until he couldn’t anymore. Then, much to his chagrin, he had to enroll in Medicaid, the safety net to protect our vulnerable population. He didn’t like this one bit, but thank goodness Medicaid was available for him, because otherwise, he would have had no care at all.

But there was a catch – Medicaid only pays for cadaver donor transplants – not living donor transplants – because the cost of two patients is more than the cost of one patient. My insurance said that they don’t pay for voluntary surgeries of this type – and that the recipient’s insurance would have to pay. So – Catch 22.

My brother died.

There aren’t enough cadaver donors.

Let that soak in for a minute.

Dave died because someone who was already dead didn’t think ahead of time to donate their organs or perhaps didn’t know how much good they could still do after their death.

Eighteen People

Eighteen people die every single day in the US alone due to lack of an organ for transplant. Every one of those 18 people is someone’s loved one, a spouse, a sibling, a child, a parent – someone with a family that loves and needs them. Someone who didn’t need to die.

Like my brother who was also a husband and father.

Every donor can save at least 8 lives with vital organs and affect the lives of up to 50 more who need procedures like skin grafts or corneal transplants.

Eight. People. Will. Live.

Imagine giving the ultimate gift of life to eight humans, and joy to many more through saving their lives.

Just imagine.

If you could wave your magic wand and save those people if it cost you absolutely nothing – would you?

Everyone dies eventually, and many unexpectedly die every day. If you’re dead – YOU certainly don’t need and can’t use those organs anymore. But others can, and are dying, no pun, to get them. So please, PLEASE, consider becoming a donor. You can save the lives of many people, even as you earn your wings. Part of you can live on – providing life for others.

It’s a gift you can give with absolutely no cost to yourself or anyone you love.

There is no reason not to.

You have that magic wand!

Living Donors

And then there are the living donors. These people are true heroes in every sense of the word.

My cousin who had his transplant this week would surely have died waiting for a cadaver donor. He nearly died just waiting for his living donor to get through the qualification process and then be paired with another couple of people. The person willing to be my cousin’s donor didn’t match him, so they were paired with another recipient and donor who did match.

Pairing takes place when the person willing to be your donor doesn’t match you, so you can’t have their organ, but they match someone else whose donor matches you. So they swap.

In his case, my cousin and his donor were in Michigan, and their pair donor and recipient were in North Dakota.

The donor kidneys were removed first, beginning about 6 AM, then flown, one on Delta with the crew and one on a charter plane between Michigan and North Dakota, then helicoptered from the airports to the hospitals where the donor kidneys were checked out by the surgeons to assure they are undamaged after their flight.

You can see the temperature controlled organ transport case, below. It even got it’s own wheelchair!

After the kidneys were confirmed to be in good shape, the recipient surgeries began, late in the afternoon. It was almost 11 PM before the recipient surgeries were complete. An extremely long and emotion-filled 16-hour day to save the lives of two people where even so much as a sneeze would have meant that it didn’t happen at all.

My cousin who received the donor kidney is 41 years old, a single dad with two children. He has, in essence, received a second life – thanks to the two donors.

Living donors are heroes – angels long before they earn their heavenly wings. God bless those living donors who are willing to endure pain and sacrifice part of their body so another might live.

However, if we had enough cadaver donors, we wouldn’t need living donors.

Gift of Life Flag

In 2016, hospitals and transplant centers performing organ transplants began flying a Gift of Life flag when transplants are taking place.  Seeing this flag signifies to the community that someone has become a donor, meaning that either a family, in the case of a death, or a living donor, has made a very difficult and benevolent decision, giving their organ and with it, bestowing life on another.

The Gift of Life flag flying as seen from my cousin’s hospital room, honoring both the donor and recipient!

I believe that the donor family receives the flag.

It’s a beacon of light…

A flag of hope…

You can read more about the Gift of Life Flag tradition here.

How Can You Help?

We often don’t think about organ donation until it hits home. When it does, it’s because a loved one is desperately ill and needs a transplant. We may not be able to make a difference to them that day, but one day, each and every one of us can make that difference through after-life donation.

Please, PLEASE, become an organ donor after your death. With more cadaver donors, we wouldn’t need live donors. Desperately ill people wouldn’t have to wait so long for transplants – unable to work, jeopardizing their family’s financial circumstances. Many lose their homes while waiting for a donor.

My brother’s home went into foreclosure, until I bought it out of foreclosure, affording him the opportunity to live there until his death. It hurt his pride and damaged his dignity, but at least he wasn’t homeless too. I couldn’t give him part of my liver, but at least I could salvage his home.

Most importantly, with enough cadaver donors, people wouldn’t have to die waiting. Some people are so ill by the time that a donor is located that they are, in a horrible irony, too sick to have the surgery.

Signing up for organ donation is easy to do. On your driver’s license, you can indicate your donor status. Furthermore, be sure your family is aware of your wishes, as well as your medical team.

Once you don’t need your pieces and parts anymore, donating them to someone who will die otherwise is the greatest legacy of life, of love, you can leave.

You can begin by reading about organ donation, how it works, and signing up at:

https://www.dmv.org/organ-donor.php

Have concerns? They provide a page to answer questions too.

You can also read about organ donation here: https://www.organdonor.gov/register.html?gclid=CMST6prR5tQCFce3wAodZpQKGg

I’m a donor.  Are you?

It’s easy to be someone’s angel!