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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.