I recently received this query. It made me smile. I receive a lot of e-mails similar to this.
“I always thought I was an intelligent woman but I am absolutely stymied on how to proceed with the DNA results from Family Tree DNA.
My mtDNA has 65 pages of HVR1 and HVR2 matches. What does this mean? Is there somewhere I can find a step by step procedural on how to proceed after getting DNA testing and how to apply it to genealogical research? What should I do first?”
These are all good questions. Unfortunately, mitochondrial DNA is more difficult to use genealogically because of the name changes in every generation. What we really need is a big centralized data base someplace where we an enter our mitochondrial line names to see if anyone in that line has tested, but that data base doesn’t exist. That data base would provide the same type of function for mitochondrial DNA that surname projects do for paternal lines. If you want to know if your Johnson Y-line has tested, you just go and look in the Johnson project. You can’t do that with mitochondrial DNA, so it’s everyone for themselves. This means we need to be sure we do everything we can to help ourselves which gives us the best odds for success. My Dad used to say that luck was 99% elbow grease!
What this lady didn’t say was whether or not she had tested to the full sequence level or just to the HVR1+HVR2 level. From what she did say, I’m betting that she is haplogroup H, the most common haplogroup in Europe, carried by about 50% of the people, and that she did not get her full sequence tested. If you are haplogroup H, and you have any HVR2 matches at all, the only reasonable way to sort out who is related in a genealogical timeframe is to take the full sequence test. Otherwise, trying to work with 65 pages of matches is kind of like swatting at flies.
However, not everyone is reasonable, and maybe few of the people you match have taken the full sequence test. Even if you have taken the full sequence test, there is nothing you can do about those who haven’t and you’d like to be able to use the results you have to see if anyone is a genealogical match to you.
In my experience, a short, less than one page, e-mail sent to your matches with some very specific information is the best way to garner a response. No one wants to have to sort through a rambling e-mail, so organize it concisely so that the person receiving the e-mail can immediately see the relevant information. What you’re hoping is that they will take a look and say “Hey, I know that ancestor,” or maybe “My ancestor is from that location too.”
In my case, I have 222 HVR1+HVR2 matches, but no full sequence matches. Many of my HVR1+HVR2 matches have taken the full sequence test, and I know they are NOT matches to me at the full sequence level, so I don’t need to send them the e-mail. They’ve been eliminated.
On the list above, there are only 4 people are showing as matches who did not take the full sequence (FMS) test, so they will receive the following e-mail message with relevant information about each generational ancestor, including name, birth and death years and locations, spouses name and where they lived if it wasn’t where they were born or died:
Hello <their name>,
At Family Tree DNA, you and I show as mitochondrial DNA matches at the HVR1+HVR2 level. This means that someplace back in time, we shared a common ancestor. I have tested at the full sequence level as well, so if you were to upgrade we could confirm that we continue to match, and in a genealogically relevant timeframe, or we would know that we don’t, and we can discontinue our search because our common ancestor was hundreds to thousands of years ago.
I’m hopeful that perhaps we can identify our common ancestor, or perhaps just a common location.
My ancestors on my maternal, mitochondrial line, are as follows:
- My mother
- My mother’s mother – Edith Barbara Lore born 1888 Indianapolis, Indiana, died 1960 Rochester, Indiana, married to John Ferverda, lived in Silver Lake, Indiana
- Edith’s mother – Nora Kirsch born 1866 Dearborn County, Indiana died 1949 Lockport, NY, married Curtis Benjamin Lore, lived in Rushville and Wabash, Indiana
- Nora’s mother – Barbara Drechsel (also spelled Drexler) born 1848 Goppmannsbuhl, Bayern, Germany, died 1930 Wabash, Indiana, married Jacob Kirsch, lived in Aurora, Indiana
- Barbara’s mother – Barbara Mehlheimer born 1823 Goppsmannbuhl, Bayern, Germany, died 1906 Aurora, Dearborn County, Indiana, married George Drechsel
- Barbara’s mother – Elisabetha Mehlheimer, born about 1800 probably in Goppmannsbuhl, Germany, died before 1851
Goppmannsbuhl is a small village outside Speichersdorf, close to Bayreuth and the Czech border, not too far from Nuremburg in Germany. You can see the location on the Google map below.
Do any of these families or locations look familiar to you? Sometimes even if we can’t find a common ancestor, we discover that our ancestors were from the same general area. Where does your mitochondrial DNA line come from?
You’ll note that I did three things here. I mentioned major landmarks nearby that might be familiar to people, including the Czech border. At least one of my matches is from Czech Republic and if I don’t mention how close my ancestors lived to that border, people from there will see Germany and dismiss any possible match. I also included a map that people can click on. Sometimes that helps. Lastly, I clearly show the mitochondrial path so that if they don’t understand how that works, they can use my example – me to mother to her mother, etc. You’d be amazed at how many people are unclear about this.
Oh, and one last thing, I don’t include the information about my mother. She is deceased, but they just don’t need that.
While we are waiting for replies, we can upload our information to Mitosearch and continue our search there. You can do that by clicking on the “upload to Mitosearch” link on the bottom of your Matches page at Family Tree DNA, or you can enter your results manually if you tested elsewhere. We can also upload our GEDCOM files to both locations. That makes it easier for potential matches to see if there is anything relevant.
For the most part, you’ll find the same people at Mitosearch that you’ll find at Family Tree DNA. There are a few exceptions, but generally, people who test elsewhere either don’t know about Mitosearch or aren’t motivated to add their information there. In some cases, I think people get discouraged and don’t do what they can to find out about their matches. Case in point is that I seldom receive query e-mails about potential matches, and no, it’s not because I send them an e-mail immediately. You know, the cobblers kids and no shoes:)
The great thing about Mitosearch is that you can click on the User ID to see information provided by your matches when they were uploading or entering their information. There are various search criteria. I always select the option to compare me only to those who have tested both the HVR1 and HVR2 regions, and only show me people who match in both.
Here’s my entry.
Unfortunately, in Y-search, Mitosearch’s companion data base, you can search by surname, but Mitosearch doesn’t contain that feature. Not only does YSearch give you matches, but it also provides you with a list of pedigree charts that the name appears in. For names like Smith, this probably isn’t terribly useful, but for Mehlheimer, one match would be a goldmine.
I click through the User Ids of all my exact matches. An exact match is when both “differences” columns equal zero.
There are two other alternatives as well to find matches, although neither is wonderful.
One is the Sorenson data base, www.smgf.org. The problem with this data base is that you can’t contact any of the matches, so aside from the genealogy that they provided and is shown with their DNA information, you’re dead in the water. Recently, since being acquired by Ancestry, this data base has been experiencing a significant amount of down time when it is unavailable.
The other alternative is Ancestry.com. You can enter your results there and compare to their data base. However, before you do, read this blog about what to expect and the problems with Ancestry mitochondrial matches. Ironically, they provide no genealogical information unless the participant has connected their tree. Furthermore, you must contact your matches there though Ancestry’s message system and very few people reply.
If you want to know more about your mitochondrial DNA and the secrets it holds for you, you can purchase the Personalized DNA Report on your personal page at Family Tree DNA under the orange “Order an Upgrade” button or on my webpage at http://www.dnaxplain.com/shop/features.aspx. I write these reports regardless of whether you purchase through Family Tree DNA or my website, and it’s the same report in either case.
Hopefully, by now, your matches that you sent e-mails to will be replying! Happy mito hunting.