Daughtered Out – Holding the Torch

Daughtered out – this is a term used early on in genetic genealogy and I haven’t heard it for some time now.

What it means is when you can’t find a descendant of a female ancestor who carries their mitochondrial DNA because there aren’t any to find.  Of course, to carry the mitochondrial DNA of an ancestor, you must have descended from that ancestor through all women between them and you, shown by the red circles below.

yline mtdna

You, yourself, can be a male, like the brother above.  That part doesn’t matter, because both genders of children inherit the red mitochondrial DNA of the mother, but only females pass it on.

Where there are no daughters, or no daughters have children, and in particular female children, the mitochondrial line dies out – it can no longer be passed on – and in that line of the family it exists no more.

In other words, the line has daughtered out – there are no daughters.

But I never thought about this in a personal way before – until today.

Today, I was pondering making a mitochondrial DNA quilt.  Yes, I’m a quiltmaker too – although I don’t have a lot of time to make quilts anymore.  And then I got to thinking about what would happen to the quilt after I’m gone.  My kids “reserve” quilts I make for ultimate ownership “someday.”  I’m glad to know they like them so much.  I try not to think of it as morbid.

I thought to myself, it should go to someone who carries that mitochondrial DNA.  But all of my children carry it.  And then, it struck me, kind of like a ton of bricks, there isn’t anyone in my family line that will carry it into the future.

I realized that I don’t have any grandchildren who carry my mitochondrial DNA.  Then I realized that I’m the only possibility for my generation to pass on mitochondrial DNA, because I don’t have any female siblings on my mother’s side.

Now, suddenly obsessed with knowing who carries my mitochondrial DNA, I began climbing back up my tree on the maternal line, and I discovered that between Elisabetha Mehlheimer, my oldest known ancestor, born about 1800 probably in Goppsmannbuhl (based on her daughter’s birth), Germany and me, that not one person has passed on their mitochondrial DNA to an offspring who has passed it to someone living today.

There are two possible exceptions in the lineage.

  • Elisabetha Mehlheimer – this is her maiden name – born about 1800, she was an unmarried servant when she gave birth to daughter Barbara in 1823 – almost nothing is known about Elisabetha except that she was dead before 1851.
  • Barbara Mehlheimer was born in 1823 in Goppsmannbuhl, Germany, the only known child of Elisabetha Mehlheimer and married George Drechsel (Drexler), immigrating to Aurora, Dearborn Co., Indiana.
  • Barbara had 5 daughters.  One was my ancestor, Barbara, born in 1848 who married Jacob Kirsch, both shown below.  Two other daughters either never married or had males or female children who didn’t marry.  Two daughters are “lost” after moving to Cincinnati, Ohio, living with their married sister after 1881.  Those two daughters are Teresa Maria “Mary” Drechsel (Drexler) and Caroline “Lina” Drechsel (Drexler).  If these two women married and had children, it’s possible that this mitochondrial line is not dead, but if they did not, then the line becomes extinct with me and my children.

kirsch family

  • Barbara Drechsel Kirsch (above, seated at right with black skirt, Jacob behind her) had 4 daughters and only one, Ellenore “Nora” Kirsch born in 1866 who married Curtis Benjamin Lore (couple at left, above), the oil-field playboy, had any children.

lore sisters motorcycle

  • Nora (above, with white hair) had 4 daughters, one of which died as a teenager after contracting tuberculosis from her father while caring for him.  Of the other three (above), aside from my grandmother, Edith (second from left), only one had children and she had all boys.

edith and mom croped

  • My grandmother Edith was born in 1888 Indianapolis, Indiana, married John Ferverda and moved to Silver Lake, Indiana.  She had two children, one boy and one girl, my mother, shown above.  My mother had only one daughter, me, below.

mom and me matching dresses

So this is where it ends – with me.  The end of a very long line of J1c2f women.  I am the end of the road.  I can’t help but feel sad.  I hope that someplace, maybe in or near Goppmannsbuhl, Germany, there is another woman someplace, my distant cousin, who is passing on our particular version of J1c2f – that maybe our line is not truly dead.  The fact that I actually do have full sequence near-matches suggests that it has survived someplace.  Suddenly those matches, even though I can’t genealogically connect to them, are much more important to me.  They represent hope.

Or maybe one of those 2 lost Drechsel (Drexler) sisters actually married and that line hasn’t daughtered out – but that’s doubtful because this family was close and I think documentation would have existed had they married.  My grandmother, Edith, attended “business college” in Cincinnati in the first decade of the 1900s, so she would have known any “great-aunts” living there, and indeed she did know the ones who are documented as having married and having children.

And while I find this turn of events disheartening, I also realize how important it is to document the information about my mitochondrial DNA in some public place or way where future descendants of these people can find the information if they so wish.  Even though they don’t carry her mitochondria, Elizabetha Mehlheimer is still the founding mother of that branch of our family and her mitochondria carries the story of her deep ancestry.  Since her mitochondrial DNA will no longer exist to be tested, documenting the test results and making them available for others is critically important.  In fact, it’s the last chance for this information not to be lost forever.  That would be a second death for Elizabetha.

At that point, for everyone’s line besides mine, Elizabetha Mehlheimer becomes one of those terribly frustrating lines on the pedigree chart where there is no prayer of finding someone to test – so the line sits there, blank, with no clan name, no haplogroup, no information about how that maternal line got to Europe, or America, from Africa and Asia.  Those secrets are held in the mitochondrial DNA that will no longer be available.

I have a couple of those frustratingly blank spots on my tree, below.  The grey Dodson, the green Herrell, the bright green DeJong, the yellow Lentz, the bright pink Hill, and the blue Kirsch, although that one is Yline.

DNA Pedigree

So what I’ll leave her future descendants, since there are no direct mitochondrial descendants, rather than a quilt, and much more important, the ultimate heirloom, will be her genetic code, etched someplace for posterity. I don’t want her to be someone’s blank spot.

Being the last of the line, a line that has daughtered out, carries a level of responsibility, of obligation, I never thought about before.  Maybe I need to look at some of my other lines with an eye out to see if the line is in the process of daughtering out as well.  If so, then it’s imperative to have the last of the line people tested, although how to make the results available at the right time to the right people in the future is another matter entirely.  Instead of passing the torch, as there is no one to pass it to, we need to find a way to hold it eternally.

By all means, test now.

Maybe we need a service called DNA-Vault.  It holds our DNA results until we die, and then they are made permanently, publicly available.

But back where I started, I still haven’t figured out who to leave the quilt to.



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21 thoughts on “Daughtered Out – Holding the Torch

  1. I though the term “daughtered out” referred to a male having all daughters and no sons an thus ending his Paternal line.

  2. I suppose it is just possible (if only you could find her) that Elisabetha Mehlheimer had a sister and even if she didn’t then perhaps her mother did? I too am “the end of the line” in our branch of the family but hope that by digging further back which is difficult I might be able to find somebody else.

  3. Roberta,

    In my case it’s yDNA. My father has over 40 descendants yet there are only 8 males who now bear his surname and only 2 who may carry that name on.


  4. Another excellent article Roberta! I’ve been searching dilligently for three years for a descendant of my ancestor Rebecca Moore b.1805, KY, d.1870s LA! It can be tough! I’ve only found three living descendants who would carry her mtDNA. Have had no luck with making contact which saddens me. 🙁 There is so much I would like to learn about Rebecca. You have spurred me to again try contacting these cousins in hopes someone will do the simple cheek swab test to allow Rebecca’s descendants to honor her by preserving her mtDNA and learning more about her ancestry! Hugs, Lisa

  5. This is a good awakener, Roberta. Thank you for reminding us to look for these occurrences.

    Off-topic, may I ask what software you use to create the trees you show in this post? It’s such a great way to show a lot of information. Perhaps it could be added to the ISOGG wiki?


  6. This is interesting and sorry
    That it may look like it stops. I am Native America and for me not one of my family names came up and that goes for the white side ether which is a Mager downer. I thought FamilyTreeDNA would find some one ether side of my dads or moms side but even one person showed up and to me with all the money I put in it makes it a magger downer. I have noticed that maybe it’s not looked at that strong but I ended up with my dads side of the high blood pressure and my moms teeth and one of my daughters end up with some of the same fiscal ailments of my mom. So my main thing is finding relatives and maybe we could trak our ancestors by there fiscal ailments and the foods that we normal eat and compair that with what may have been in the area that are family’s ate or lived. Because most family’s eat the same food or breeth the same air or live at the same altitude causing that family to be different inside our body’s. natives ate different foods before the Europeans and took different medicines and the Europeans started to learn about the medicines Native American used. So we should look and compare what we eat, drink and which side of the family our ailments come from and compare this with ourDNA. Because it is nice to see your DNA but if you are haveing to many mutations found or subclans or not enuff. I am relly interested in in this DNA stuff but it needs a lot more work and it needs more opened minded people willing to listen and make a change. I have done a DNA test with two other companies and they are a little different but I noticed one thing and that is some family matches I think but not sure BUT I LOVE THIS BLOG, I think I said that right, this area taking space

  7. This is disturbing because as far as I can tell my sister and I are the last of our lines and there are no daughters. My mother was the only girl. My grandmother had sisters and at least 1 of them had a daughter but so far I haven’t been able to find anyone on that branch of the tree. Like you, we’re continents apart and in my case my grandmother kept in touch with at least one sister for a while after they emigrated from England to Australia but eventually that contact dwindled away. Two world wars intervened and the contact was lost.

  8. I know how frustrating it is to have a ‘dead’ line of genealogy. My sister is the only known carrier of my mother’s mitochondrial line who might still have children; the only other female decendant that I know of in the last 140 years is in her 60s and only has two sons.
    I love that we live in an age where it is possible to read and store this genealogical information; as you said, eventually, it would be great to have a long-term public database of the DNA.
    My great grandmother was orphaned as a child, and sent fron Britian to Canada as a home child. I’ve finally been able to find some documents that confirm her birth and her parents, but given that she only had sons, and her only sister died as a child, her mitochondrial DNA is no longer in the family. I’m hoping that as I found her mother’s siblings in the UK censuses, and there were two sisters, I might eventually find someone related through genealogical research.
    I don’t have any realistic hopes for the Y Chromosome DNA, though. I have her father’s name and a rough age, as well as her grandfather’s, but even so, the names are so common that I have several hundred potential results through regular genealogical research. My great grandmother believed her only brother had died on the voyage to Canada; I just found out that her brother came to Canada as well, on a different ship, and survived, but he has disappeared from records after the 1901 Census.
    In both cases, my strategy has been to just hope that Autosomal testing will eventually find a connection to my mother strong enough to help me find a carrier of the Y Chromosome or Mitochondrial DNA. Perhaps in the future, Autosomal testing will be sensitive enough to find an individual who still carries those lines.

  9. I had a different understanding of the meaning of the term “daughtered out”. I thought it meant that there were no more males in the line to be tested for y-dna. Is there another term that addresses that?

  10. I’d leave the quilt to anyone who can prove Mt DNA relationship to you, especially if they live in Goppsmannbuhl, Germany. Have you ever found out where this is? I tried, but none of the map sites knew where it was.

  11. I thought ‘daughtering out’ referred to a lineage in which male children had disappeared, leaving only daughters? At least, here in the UK it is.

  12. Roberta, I heard the term applied a little differently. I have been trying to find a male in my father’s line for a Y-DNA test. My dad was one of four sons, but the only one who survived infancy. My only brother died in a plane crash. My grandfather had 3 brothers. Only one of them had a son. He has passed away. He had a son, but i have no idea how to contact him. I’ve even hunted for him on the internet. He would be a senior citizen, now. The last i heard of him about 15 years ago, he had never married. I can go back two more generations and come down to my 4th cousins. Of those who are living, all are females. There are no males to test because the family has” daughtered out”. and thus the surname will die.

    Dorcas Aunger

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  15. I know this is a somewhat old post, but there is indeed an appropriate place where mtDNA sequences can be archived forever, the GenBank database, and a process for doing it, described on an ISOGG page ( http://isogg.org/wiki/GenBank ). I don’t know if the details are out of date, and it’s not simple. Ideally, the folks behind the http://www.mtdnacommunity.org/ website, who are mtDNA scientists, would also get behind helping people make such submissions to the database, and streamline the process.

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