Haplogroup A4 Unpeeled – European, Jewish, Asian and Native American

Mitochondrial DNA provides us with a unique periscope back in time to view our most distant ancestors, and the path that they took through time and place to become us, here, today.  Because mitochondrial DNA is passed from generation to generation through an all-female line, un-admixed with the DNA from the father, the mitochondrial DNA we carry today is essentially the same as that carried by our ancestors hundreds or even thousands of years ago, with the exception of an occasional mutation.

Y and mito

You can see in the pedigree chart above that the red mitochondrial DNA is passed directly down the matrilineal line.  Women contribute their mitochondrial DNA to all of their children, of both genders, but only the females pass it on.

Because this DNA is preserved in descendants, relatively unchanged, for thousands of years, we can equate haplogroups, or clans, to specific regions of the world where that particular haplogroup was born by virtue of a specific mutation.  All descendants carry that mutation from that time forward, so they are members of that new haplogroup.

For example, here we see the migration path of haplogroup A, after being born in the Middle East, spreading across Eurasia into the Americas, courtesy of Family Tree DNA.

Hap A map crop

This pie chart indicates the frequency level at which haplogroup A is found in the Americas as compared to haplogroups B, C, D and X.

Hap A distribution

However, not all of haplogroup A arrived in the Americas.  Some subgroups are found along the path in Asia, and some made their way into Europe.  There are currently 48 sub-haplogroups of haplogroup A defined, with most of them being found in Asia.  Every new haplogroup and sub-haplogroup is defined by a new mutation that occurs in that line.  I wrote about how this works recently in the article, Haplogroups and The Three Brothers.

In the Americas, Native American mitochondrial haplogroups are identified by being subgroups of haplogroup A, B, C, D and X, as shown in the chart below.

beringia map

In the paper, Beringian Standstill and Spread of Native American Founders, by Tamm et al (2007), haplogroup A2 was the only haplogroup A subgroup identified as being Native American.

As of that time, no other sub-haplogroups of A had been found in either confirmed Native American people or burials.

In June, 2013, I realized that a subgroup of mitochondrial haplogroup A4 might, indeed, be Native American.

The haplogroup A4 project was formed as a research project with Marie Rundquist as a co-administrator and we proceeded to recruit people to join who either were haplogroup A4 or a derivative at Family Tree DNA, or had tested at Ancestry.com and appeared to be haplogroup A4 based on a specific mutation at location 16249 in the HVR1 region.  As it turns out, location 16249 is a haplogroup defining marker for haplogroup A4a1.

There weren’t many of these Ancestry people – maybe 20 in total at that time.  Ancestry has since discontinued their mitochondrial and Y DNA testing and has destroyed the data base, so it’s a good thing I checked when I did.  That resource is gone today.

Family Tree DNA has always been extremely supportive of scientific studies, whether through traditional academic channels or via citizen science, and they were kind enough to subsidize our testing efforts by offering reduced prices for mitochondrial testing to project members.  I want to thank them for their support.

Other haplogroup administrators have also been supportive.  I contacted the haplogroup A administrator and she was kind enough to send e-mails to her project members who were qualified to join the A4 project.  Supportive collaboration is critically important.

I wrote an article about the possibility that A4 might be Native, and through that article, raised money to enable people to test at Family Tree DNA or upgrade to the full sequence test.  Full sequence testing is critical to obtaining a full haplogroup designation.  Many of these people were only, at that time, defined by HVR1 or HVR1+HVR2 testing as haplogroup A.  Haplogroup A is, indeed, a Native American haplogroup, but it’s also an Asian haplogroup and we see it in Europe from time to time as well.  The only way to tell the difference between these groups is through full sequence testing.  Haplogroup A was born in Asia, about 30,000 years ago and has many subgroups.

What Do We Know About Haplogroup A4?

Haplogroup A4 has been identified as a subgroup of the parent haplogroup A and is the parent haplogroup of A2.  In essence, haplogroup A gave birth (through a mutation) to subgroup A4 who gave birth through a mutation to subgroup A2.

To date, before this research, all confirmed Native American haplogroups were subgroups of haplogroup A2.

In the Kumar et al 2011 paper, Schematic representation of mtDNA phylogenetic tree of Native American haplogroups A2 and B2 and immediate Siberian-Asian sister clades (A2a, A2b, A4a, A4b and A4c), no A4 was reported in the Americas, although A4 is clearly shown as the parent haplogroup of A2, which is found in the Americas.

On the graph below, from the paper, you can see the color coded “tabs” to the right of the haplogroup A designations that indicate where this haplogroup is found.  As you can see, A4 and subgroups is found only in Siberia and Asia, not in the Americas, which is indicated by yellow.

Hap A and B genesis

Schematic representation of mtDNA phylogenetic tree of Native American haplogroups A2 and B2 and immediate Siberian-Asian sister clades (A2a, A2b, A4a, A4b and A4c). Coalescent age calculated in thousand years (ky) as per the slow mutation rate of Mishmar et al. [58] and as per calibrated mutation rate of Soares et al. [59] are indicated in blue and red color respectively. The founder age wherever calculated are italicized. The geographical locations of the samples are identified with colors. For more details see complete phylogenetic reconstruction in additional file 2 (panels A-B) and additional file 3. Kumar et al. BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011 11:293 doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-293

I then checked both GenBank and www.mtdnacommunity.org for haplogroup A4 submissions.  Ian Logan’s checker program makes it easy to check submissions by haplogroup.

MtDNACommunity reflected one A4 submission from Mexico and from the United States, which does not necessarily mean that the United States submission is indigenous – simply that is where the submission originated.  The balance of the submissions are from either academic papers or from Asia.

During this process, I utilized PhyloTree, Build 15, shown below, as my reference tree.  Build 16 was introduced as of February 2014.  It renames the A4 haplogroups.  In order to avoid confusion, I am utilizing the Build 15 nomenclature.  These are the haplogroup names currently in use by the vendors and utilized in academic papers.

Hap A tree

I am also utilizing the CRS version, not the RSRS version of mutations.  Again, these are the mutations referenced by academic papers and the version generally used among genealogists.

Family Tree DNA provides an easy reference chart of which mutations are haplogroup defining.  For haplogroup A4, we find the following progression.

A4 T16362C
A4a G1442A
A4a1 G9713A, T16249C
A4a1a T4928C

This means that everyone who falls in haplogroup A4 carries this specific mutation at location 16362.  The original value at that location was a T and in haplogroup A, that T has mutated to a C.  This defines haplogroup A4.  So, if you don’t have this mutation, you definitely aren’t in haplogroup A4.  Everyone in haplogroup A4 carries this mutation (unless you’ve had a back mutation, a very rare occurrence.)

This is actually a wonderful turn of events, because it means that the defining mutation for A4 is in the HVR1 region, which further means that regardless of how the haplogroup A individual is classified, I can tell with a quick glance if they are A4 or not.

In addition, subgroups are defined by other mutations as well, shown above.  For example, haplogroup A4a carries the A4 mutation of T16362C plus the additional mutation of G1442A that defines subclade A4a.

Full sequence testing showed that there was actually quite a variety of subhaplogroups in the project participants.

What Did We Find?

In the haplogroup A4 project, we now have 55 participants who fell into 11 different haplogroups when full sequence tested.

A4 project distribution crop

I have removed all haplogroup A2 individuals from further discussion, as we already know A2 is Native.  We have established a haplogroup A2 project for them, as well.


We found two haplogroup A4b individuals.  The most distant known ancestor of one is found in Tennessee, but the most distant ancestor of the other is found in England.  These two individuals have 19 HVR1 matches, of which many are to other A4b individuals.  There is no evidence of Native American ancestry in this group.


This unusual haplogroup name indicates that this is a subgroup of haplogroup A4, defined by a mutation at location 200 that has changed from A to G.  The new subgroup is waiting to be named.  So eventually A4-A200G will be replaced with something like A4z, just as an example.

This individual is from Asia, so this haplogroup is not Native.


One individual, upon full sequence testing, was found to carry haplogroup A10, which is not a subgroup of A4.  This is quite interesting, because the most distant ancestor is Catherine Pillard, originally believe to be one of the “Kings Daughters,” meaning French.  This article explains the situation and the question at hand.

All five of her full sequence matches are either to other descendants of Catherine Pillard, or designated as French Canadian.

One of this woman’s ten HVR2 matches shows her ancestor, Annenghton Annenghto, as born at the Ossosane Mission, Huronia, La Rochelle, Ontario, Canada and died in 1657 in Canada.  If this is correct and can be confirmed, haplogroup A10 could be Native, not French.  Her daughter, Marie Catherine Platt has a baptismal record dated March 30, 1651, was also born at the mission, and is believe to be Huron.

This article more fully explains the research and documents relevant to Catherine Pillard’s ancestry.

Based on these several articles, it seems that an assumption had originally been made that because the individual fell into haplogroup A, and haplogroup A was Asian and Native, that this individual would be Native as well.

This determination was made in 2007, based on only the HVR1 and HVR2 regions of the mitochondrial DNA, and on the fact that the DNA results fell within haplogroup A, as documented here.  The HVR1 and HVR2 regions do not include the haplogroup defining mutations for haplogroup A10, so until full sequence testing became available, this sequence could not be defined as A10.  The conclusion that haplogroup A equated to Native American was not a scientific certainty, only one of multiple possibilities, and may have been premature.

I contacted several French-Canadian scholars regarding the documents for Catherine Pillard and there is no consensus as to whether she was Native or European, based on the available documentation.  In fact, there are two very distinct and very different opinions.  There is also a possibility that there are two women whose records are confused or intermixed.

So it seems that both Catherine Pillard’s DNA and supporting documents are ambiguous at this point in time.

One of the ways we determine mitochondrial ethnicity in situations like this is “guilt by genetic association,” to quote Bennett Greenspan.  In other words, if you have exactly the same DNA and mutations as several other people, and they and their ancestors are proven to live in Scotland, or Paris, or Greece, you’re not Native American.  This works the other way too, as we’ll see in Kit 11 of the haplogroup A4 outliers group.

Looking at other resources, MtDNA Community shows two references to A10, one submitted from Family Tree DNA and one from the below referenced article.

Haplogroup A10 has one reference in Mitogenomic Diversity in Tatars from the Volga-Ural Region of Russia by Malyarchuk et al, (201 Molecular Biological Evolution) but has since been reassigned as haplogroup A8, as follows:

However, some of the singular haplotypes appear to be informative for further development of mtDNA classification. Sample 23_Tm could be assigned to A10 according to nomenclature suggested by van Oven and Kayser (2009). However, phylogenetic analysis of complete mtDNAs (fig. 1) reveals that this sample belongs to haplogroup A8, which is defined now by transition at np 64 and consists of two related groups of lineages—A8a, with control region motif 146-16242 (previously defined as A8 by Derenko et al. [2007]), and A8b, with motif 16227C-16230 (supplementary table S3, Supplementary Material online). Analysis of HVS I and II sequences in populations indicates that transition at np 64 appears to be a reliable marker of haplogroup A8 (supplementary table S3, Supplementary Material online). The only exception, the probable back mutations at nps 64 and 146, has been described in Koryak haplotype EU482363 by Volodko et al. (2008). Therefore, parallel transitions at np 64 define not only Native American clusters of haplogroup A2, that is, its node A2c’d’e’f’g’h’i’j’k’n’p (Achilli et al. 2008; van Oven and Kayser 2009), but also northern Eurasian haplogroup A8. Both A8 and subhaplogroups are spread at relatively low frequencies in populations of central and western Siberia and in the Volga-Ural region. A8a is present even in Transylvania at frequency of 1.1% among Romanians, thus indicating that the presence of such mtDNA lineages in Europe may be mostly a consequence of medieval migrations of nomadic tribes from Siberia and the Volga-Ural region to Central Europe (Malyarchuk et al. 2006; Malyarchuk, Derenko, et al. 2008).

On Phylotree build 15, A10 is defined as T5393C, C7468T, C9948A, C10094T A16227c, T16311C! and the submissions are noted as the Malyarchuk 2010b paper noting it as “A8b”and a Family Tree DNA submission.

At this point, haplogroup A10 is indeterminate and could be either Native or European.  We won’t know until we have confirmed test results combined with confirmed genealogy or location for another A10 individual.


Haplogroup A4 itself is not the haplogroup I originally suspected was Native.  When this project first began, we had few A4s, and I suspected that they would become A4a1 when full sequence tested.  I expected A4a1 would be Native American.

Subsequent testing has shown that haplogroup A4 very clearly falls into major subgroups, as defined by different mutations.

A4 European

The European A4 group is comprised of three participants.  Of those three, two are matches to each other and the third is quite distant with no matches.  I suspect that we are dealing with two different European sub-haplogroups of A4.

Two project participants, one from Romania and one from Poland match each other and both match one additional individual from Hungary who is not a project member.  This group is eastern European.

The Romanian and Polish kits that match each other both carry mutations at locations 16182C, 16183C, 16189C, 150T, 204C, 3213G, 3801C and 14025C.  The third person that they match, who is not a project member, from Hungary, matches one of those kits exactly, so that gives us three kits carrying this same series of mutations.  These mutations do not match any other individuals carrying haplogroup A4.  This group appears to be Jewish, as all three of the participants are of the Jewish faith.

This leaves the third project participant from Poland who does not have any matches today, within or outside of the project.  This participant is clearly a different subclade of A4.  They match none of the defining markers of the group above. They do have unique mutations at locations not found in other A4 participants within the project.

This provides us with the following European haplogroup A4 results:

  • Eastern European –Jewish – 2 participants plus one exact full sequence match outside of project
  • Eastern European – does not match group above, has no matches today, five unique mutations including 4 in the coding region.

A4 Chinese

This A4 participant is from China.

This sequence is actually very interesting because of its relative age.  This individual has 109 matches at the HVR1 level.  This means, of course, that they are exact matches.  They match many people in varying locations such as people with Spanish surnames, participants from Michigan, Mexico and Asia which include people with extended haplogroups of A, A4 and A4-A200G haplogroup designations.

At first this appears confusing, until you realize two things.  First, the participant doesn’t continue those matches at the HVR2 level and second, this means that all of those people still carry the Haplogroup “A4 signature” HVR1 mitochondrial DNA, exactly.

This means that those matches stretch back in time thousands of years, until before the divergence of Native Americans and Asians, so at least 12,000 years, if not longer.  People who have incurred mutations in the HVR1 region don’t match, but those who have not, and today, there are only 109 in the Family Tree DNA data base, still match each other – reaching back to their common Asian ancestor many millennia ago.

This individual has developed two mutations in the HVR2 region at locations 156G and 159G.  The participant also does not carry the haplogroup A defining mutation at location 263G which means either that 263G actually defines a subgroup, or this participant has had a back mutation to the original state at this location.  This individual did not test at the full sequence level.

A4 Americas

This leaves a total of 14 haplogroup A4 individuals within the project.

In order to show a comparison, I have removed all private mutations where none of this group matches each other.  I have also removed the haplogroup defining mutations as well as 16519C and all insertions and deletions since those areas are considered to be unstable.  In other words, what I’m looking for are groups of mutations where this group matches each other and no one else.  These are very likely sub-haplogroup defining mutations.

In addition to all private mutations, deleted columns include: 16223, 16332, 16290, 16319, 16362, 16519, 73, 152, 235, 263, 309.1, 309.2, 315.1, 522, 523, 663, 750, 1438, 1736, 2706, 4248, 4769, 4824, 7028, 8794, 8860, 11719, 12705, 14766, 15326.

I then rearranged the remaining columns and color coded groups.  You can click on the chart to enlarge.

A4 mutations

Note: na means not available, indicating that the participant did not test at that level.  An x in the cell indicates that the mutation indicated in that column was present.

The purple and apricot groupings show different clusters of matches.  The light purple is the largest group, and within that group, we find both a dark purple group and an apricot group.  However, not everyone fits within the groups.

A4 – Virginia

The first thing that is immediately evident is that the first kit, Kit 1, is not a member of this purple grouping.  This person has three full sequence matches outside of the project, one whose ancestor was born in Texas.  This individual has three unique full sequence mutations.  This grouping may be Native, but lacks proof.

Additional genealogical research might establish a confirmed Native American connection. If Kit 1 is Native, this line diverged from this larger A4 group long ago, before any of these purple or apricot mutations developed.

This participant’s ancestor traces to Virginia.  Regardless of whether this haplotype is Native or not, it is most likely a sub-haplogroup of A4.

A4 – Colombia

The next least likely match is Kit 2.  This individual shares two of the common HVR2 markers, 146 and 153, but did not test at the full sequence level.  Given what I’m seeing here, I suspect that 146 might be a sub-haplogroup defining mutation for this light purple group.  In addition, 8027 and 12007 might be as well.  That includes everyone (who has tested at the relevant levels) except for Kit 1 and Kit 11.

Haplogroup A4 from Colombia is most likely Native.  Few people are in the public data bases are from Colombia.  One would expect several mutations to have occurred as groups migrated.  At the HVR1 level, this individual has 18 matches, most of which have Spanish surnames.  This participant has no HVR2 matches.

A4 – California Group

The next group is the apricot group which I’ve nicknamed the California group.  Both of these participants, Kit 3 and Kit 4, find their ancestors in either southern California or Baja California, into Mexico.  Finding these haplogroups among the Mexican, Central and South American populations is an indicator of Native heritage, as between 85% and 90% of Mexicans carry Native American matrilineal lineage.

These participants also match a third individual who is not a project member whose ancestor is also found in Baja California.  This group’s defining mutations are likely 16209C, 5054T, 7604A, 7861C and 12513G.  Fortunately, these will be relatively easy to discern due to the HVR1 mutation at 16209.

A4 – Puerto Rico Group

The dark purple group, Kits 5-9, is the Puerto Rican group even though it includes one kit from Mexico and one from Cuba.  The Mexican kit, Kit 5, in teal, is only a partial match.  Kits 6-9 match each other plus several additional people not in the project whose most distant ancestors are found in Puerto Rico as well.  This group has several defining markers including 16083T, 16256T, 214G, 2836T, 6632C and possibly 16126C, although Kit 5 carries 16126C while Kit 9 does not.

The Puerto Rico DNA project has another 18 individuals classified as haplogroup A or A4 and they all carry 16083T, 16256T and those who have taken the HVR2 test (10) carry 214G as well.  Only one carries 16126C, so that would not be a defining mutation for this major group, but could be for a subgroup of the Puerto Rico group.

Given the history of Puerto Rico, this is probably a signature of the Taino or Carib people.

In 2003, 27 Taino DNA sequences were obtained from pre-Columbian remains and reported in this paper by Laluezo-Fox et al.  This was very early in DNA processing, especially of remains, and they were found to carry only haplogroups C and D.  These remains were not from the islands, but were from the La Caleta site in the Dominican Republic.

The Taino today are considered to be culturally extinct due to disease, enslavement and harsh treatment by the Spanish, but they maintained their presence into the 20th century and were a significant factor in the population of the West Indies, including Puerto Rico.  Their descendants would be expected to be found within the population today.  The Taino were the primary tribe found on Puerto Rico and were an Arawak indigenous people who arrived from South America.  The Taino were in conflict with the Caribs from the southern Lesser Antilles.

Carib women were sometimes taken as captives by the Taino.  The Caribs originated in South American near the Orinoco River and settled on the islands around 1200AD, after the Taino were already settled in the region.

It’s therefore possible that haplogroup A4 is a Carib signature.  In 2001, Martinez-Cruzaco et al published a paper titled Mitochondrial DNA analysis reveals substantial Native American ancestry in Puerto Rico in which they found that haplogroup A was absent in the Taino by testing the Yanomama whose territory was close to the Taino.  If this is the case, then haplogroup A must have arisen and admixed from another native culture, or, conversely, the Yanomama tested were an incomplete sampling or simply not adequately representative as a proxy for the Taino.  However, if haplogroup A4 is not found in the Taino, the most likely candidate would be the Caribs, assuming that the Martinez-Cruzaco paper conclusions are accurate, or the even older Ortoiroid, Saladoid culture or Arawak tribe who are believed to have assimilated with or were actually another name for the Taino.

A4 – Mexican/Puerto Rican Mutation 16126 Group

This group, Kits 5-8, is defined by mutation 16126C.  It’s quite interesting, because it includes Kit 5 that does not match the rest of the Puerto Rican markers.  Only some Puerto Rican samples carry 16126C.  Kits 5-8 in this the A4 project do carry this mutation, but 18 of the haplogroup A kits in the Puerto Rican project which do carry the dark purple signature mutations do not carry this mutation.  This mutation may be a later mutation in some of the people who settled on Puerto Rico and some of which remained on the mainland.  The most distant ancestor of Kit 5 is from Tangancícuaro de Arista, Michoacan de Ocampo, shown below.

Tangancícuaro de Arista, Michoacan de Ocampo

Kit 5 has five full sequence matches, all of which carry Spanish surnames.

A4 Outliers

This leaves only kits 10-14.  These kits don’t match each other but do fall, at least on some markers, within the light purple group.

Kit 12 is from Costa Rica and has no matches at the HVR1 level because of a mutation at location 16086C, but has not tested at the HVR2 or full sequence levels.   They might fit into a group easily with additional testing.

Kit 13 is from Mexico and has only two HVR1 matches who have not tested at a higher level.  This kit, like Kit 5, does not carry mutation 16111T which could indicate an early split from the main group or a back mutation.

Kit 10 is from Mexico, has 17 HVR1 matches, some of which indicate that their ancestors are from Texas and Mexico.  Kit 10 has no HVR2 or full sequence matches.

Kit 11 is from Honduras and interestingly, has 158 HVR1 matches to a wide variety of people including those from Costa Rica, Mexico, South Carolina, Oklahoma, a descendant of a Crow Tribal member, North Dakota, Guatemaula, the Cree/Chippewa, a descendant of an Arikawa and one person who indicated their oldest ancestor is from Aragon, in Spain.  This means that all of these people carry the light purple group defining 16111T mutation.

Kit 14 is from Honduras and has only two matches at the HVR1 level, one which is from El Salvador.  Both of the matches have only tested to the HVR1 level.  Kit 14 does carry the 16111T mutation as well as most of the other light purple mutations, but is missing mutation 164C which is present in the entire rest of the light purple group.  This could signify a back mutation.  In addition, Kit 14 matches on marker 16189T with kit 6 from Puerto Rico and on 16311C with Kit 1 from Virginia, but with no other participants on these markers.

These people and their matches and mutations could well represent additional subgroups of haplogroup A4


This leaves us with the A4a1 subgroup, which is where I started 18 months ago.

The haplogroup A4a1 group is very interesting, albeit not for the reasons I initially anticipated.  Again, the same columns were deleted as noted in A4, above, leaving only columns (mutations) unique to this group.  As with the other subgroups, these are likely sub-haplogroup defining mutations.

A4a1 mutations

Note:  na means not available, indicating that the participant did not test at that level

A4a1 Mexico

Kit 15, the pink individual did not take the HVR2 or full sequence test, but does not match any other participants at the HVR1 level.  This person’s maternal line is from Mexico.  Kit 15 could be Native and with additional testing could be a different subclade.

A4a1 European Group

The three yellow rows are positively confirmed from Europe.  Kits 1 and 2 do not match each other nor any other participants.

Kit 3 however, matches Kits 4-14.

Kits 3-14, all match each other at the HVR1 level.  One individual has not taken the HVR2 test and one has not taken the full sequence test, but otherwise, they also all match at the HVR2 and full sequence level.  Note that Kit 3 is also in the confirmed European group based on two sets of census documentation.

Within the group of participants comprising kits 3-14, several have oral history and some have circumstantial evidence suggesting Native ancestry, but not one has any documented proof, either in terms of their own ancestors being proven Native, their ancestor’s family members being proven Native, or the people they match being proven as Native.

Kit 3 states that their ancestor was born in England in 1838.  I verified that the 1880 census for New York City confirms that birth location of their ancestor.  The daughter’s mother’s birthplace is also noted to be England in the 1900 census.

Therefore, based on the fact that Kit 3 is proven to be English, according to the census, and this kit matches the rest of the group, Kits 4-14, at the HVR1, HVR2 and full sequence levels, it is very unlikely that this group is Native.

Kit 15, who does not match this group, but who has not tested above the HVR1 level, is the only likely exception and may be Native.  Full sequence testing would likely suggest a different or expanded subgroup of haplogroup A4a1.

Further documentation could add substantially to this information, but at this point, none has been forthcoming.

In Summary – The Layers of Haplogroup A4

Full sequence testing was absolutely essential in sorting through the various participant results.  As demonstrated, the full sequence results were not always what was expected.

When full sequence tested, one participant was determined to be Haplogroup A10, which is not a subgroup of A4.  Haplogroup A10 is indeterminate and could be Native but could also be European.  Additional A10 results will hopefully be forthcoming in the future which will resolve this question.

None of the haplogroup A4a1 participants provide any direct evidence of Native ancestry, with the possible exception of one A4a1 kit whose matrilineal ancestors are from Mexico and who has not tested at a higher level.  Three A4a1 participants have confirmed European ancestry and one of those participants matches most of the others.  A4a1, with possibly one exception, appears to be European.  The A4a1 participant whose ancestors are from Mexico does not match any of the other participants and could eventually be classified as a subhaplogroup.

Haplogroup A4 itself appears to be divided into multiple subgroups, several of which may eventually form new sub-haplogroups based on their clusters of mutations.

There is clearly a European and a Chinese A4 grouping.  The European group is broken into two subgroups, one of which is Jewish.

In the Americas, there are several A4 subgroups, including:

  • Virginia – indeterminate whether Native
  • Colombia – likely Native
  • California – likely Native
  • Puerto Rico (2 groups) – very likely Native

There are also 5 outliers who don’t match others within the group, hailing from:

  • Costa Rica – likely Native
  • Mexico (2) – likely Native
  • Honduras – matching several confirmed Native people in multiple tribes at the HVR1 level
  • Honduras – likely Native

A4 grid v2

Note: Undet, short for undetermined, means that the results could be Native or European but available evidence has not been able to differentiate between those alternatives today.

*A4 needs to be further divided into additional haplogroup subgroups.


Obviously, a study of this complexity couldn’t be done without the many resources I’ve mentioned and probably some that I’ve forgotten.  I thank everyone who contributed and continues to contribute.  I also want to thank the people who contributed to the funding for participant testing.  We could not have done this without your contributions in combination with the discounts offered by Family Tree DNA.

However, the most important resource is the participants and their willingness to share – their DNA, their research and their family stories.  During this project, two of our participants have passed away.  I would like to take this opportunity to dedicate this research to them, and I hope they know that their DNA keeps on giving.  This is their legacy.


I would like to thank Ian Logan for his assistance with haplogroup designation, Family Tree DNA for testing support and discounts, my project co-administrator, Marie Rundquist, Bennett Greenspan, Dr. Michelle Fiedler and Dr. David Pike for paper review.

41 thoughts on “Haplogroup A4 Unpeeled – European, Jewish, Asian and Native American

  1. Is there any way to find out anything when a male is in the line.

    e.g., me > mother > grandfather > Grandmother.? I want to find out about my grandmother but my grandfather is in the way.

    Thanks, Florence Allen FTDNA #392204



  3. I tested at ancestry few years ago and uploaded to gedmatch as well as ftdna. How do I find my haplogroup?

  4. Thank you for the best explanation I’ve seen about how they determine haplogroups and their geography. I’ve looked at those lists of mutations in my own group and wondered I could possibly be in the same haplogroup as some of my cohorts. So now I know!, especially after I read it a few more times. But one thing I’ve wondered is how researchers verify the maternal ancestor’s reported location. I’ve noticed some mistakes in the “most distant ancestor” of FT and mitosearch users, two of which are people related to me. It looks like some might interpret the question as the individual farthest back in time on their mother’s or fathers side, not necessarily following the line.

    • A lot of people don’t understand that “most distant ancestor” doesn’t mean “on your mother’s side” but a direct matrilineal ancestor. I can’t tell you how many men’s names I see here – so I know they positively aren’t correct. You can’t assume what you are seeing is correct. The ones in the article I relied on, I wrote to the people and asked. If they told me “my grandmother lives in France” I accepted that they knew that. If they told me that “the family said she was from Spain<" that needs to be verified. In some cases, I verified the information myself through available records. So, bottom line, you can't always depend on what people enter for a variety of reasons.

  5. Pingback: New Native American Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroup, A4, Discovered | Native Heritage Project

  6. Pingback: Native American Mitochondrial Haplogroups | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  7. Pingback: Haplogroup A4 Unpeeled – European, Jewish, Asian and Native American | Mixed American Life

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  10. Thanks for your analysis. I’m trying to interpret the haplogroup results for my mother, who took the test late last year. For her, it indicates that she is A4a1, and the “ancestral origins” page shows exact matches for HVR1, HVR2, and CODING REGION for Germany (1), United States (1), and United States (Native American) (2), this last with comment “Cherokee (Oral Tradition) (1)”.

    The HVR1 matches alone shows 7 (!) matches for Native American and a variety of single/double matches for European countries. It was very confusing as we have no knowledge of any Native American ancestry on her side, but reading your post helped me to understand that our knowledge is still incomplete for some of these groups.

    Am I correct in assuming that European origins are more likely? If so, why would so many Native American matches pop up? Your analysis would seem to indicate no clear connection if I understand it correctly.


    • I have an article coming out shortly addressing the why of those “Native” matches popping up. In short, it’s because someone indicated that their ancestors were from the United States.

  11. So….I am adopted and really wanted to find out what my Ancestry is. I was tested and my Hapogroup is A4a. Just tested April 2015. Just curious. Thanks a Bunch.

  12. Pingback: Are You Native? – Native American Haplogroup Origins and Ancestral Origins | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  13. Pingback: Are You Native? – Native American Haplogroup Origins and Ancestral Origins | Native Heritage Project

  14. How can I join the Native DNA project. My family is from Mexico. Are you interested in the mtDNA from Mexico. I don’t know if my my most distant known relative is Native, but I can search the Catholic records and find out.


    • At Family Tree DNA, click on projects, then on join, then enter the search term “Indian,” then you will see the project that include that criteria. The American Indian project is one of those. Click on that link and follow to join.

  15. I swear the more I read the more confused I become 😉 My family has an oral tradition of gggrandma being part Cherokee and the only picture I have see would support it. My father just got his mtDNA back and it is A4a1 with 19 matches at full sequencing. Some are Native American and some aren’t. I haven’t been able to find a paper trail to support it or disprove it.
    The other thing that seems off to me is the rest of the researchers in my line are looking at her father as being the source of her Native American heritage, haven’t proven that yet either. However, if he is then her A4a1 probably/maybe isn’t NA. Ugh, confused in Idaho.
    Love, love your blog! Oh and I did join the project.

  16. Pingback: DNAeXplain Archives – General Information Articles | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  17. I did my mother’s DNA test back in 2001, back then she was considered Eastern European. Her mother’s siblings almost died during WWII in Europe, now in 2015 because of her Haplotype she is considered Native American. After 2001, I noticed that Family Tree DNA changed her Haplotype several times including her sequence. They finally decided she was not A4, not even the so-called typical Native American A2, but mito Haplogroup A Native American. It seems there is not enough information about mito Haplogroup A, B, and X, but there’s plenty of information about the most common mito Haplogroups such as mito H.

    I have been studying this phenomena since 2001, and I have noticed that it seems that this female Haplotype has the same genetic history as the male Y-DNA Haplogroup Q. Male Haplogroup Q is divided into Native American, Asian, and European branches. i.e. Q1a2a1a1 (M3) the main subclade of Native Americans; Q1a2a (L53) found among the Mongols; and Q1a2a1a2a (L807) observed in Britain along with Q1a2a1a2 (L804) found in Germany, Scandinavia and Britain to mention just a few examples. Noted theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer belonged to haplogroup Q1b and his father Julius Oppenheimer had immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1888.

  18. Hi! I just received my mtDNA full sequence results from FTDNA. They indicate that I belong to haplogroup A10, and the most distant ancestor of three of my four exact matches is Catharine Pillard. My most distant ancestor is Eliza Mosou,who was born in Canada in 1804 and died in New York in 1902. Does a project exist for people in haplogroup A10? I couldn’t find one on the FTDNA website. Thanks.

  19. Coming in on this discussion very late but it’s worth remembering that 10,000 Native Americans a month were shipped out of Charleston North Carolina alone from 1710 to 1750. While many perished working in the cane fields of the West Indies, thousands ended up as domestic slaves in the households of Europe. For a few years they were seen as novelties, and some of the higher caste women even married into wealthy European households. My husband’s maternal family were Dutch nobility, and his matches on 23/Me include numerous 4th to distant cousins in Peru, Chile and Bolivia, and his admixtures are suggestive of distant Native Ancestry. His family emigrated from Europe when he was a boy, so any Amerind admixture had to be from New World back to Old. Movement is not always in one direction, and populations are rarely as static as we believe them to be in retrospect.

    • Native Americans didn’t have the immunities against European disease. And I doubt a European noble would have taken to wife a Native American slave girl. Another scenario would be that hundreds of Dutch colonists settling in Central and South America.

  20. Pingback: The Best and Worst of 2015 – Genetic Genealogy Year in Review | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  21. Great Blog!!

    I am fairly new at this DNA stuff, and am wondering if a quick consult or a Personalized DNA Analysis – Mitochondrial would be needed . While I was never expecting anything that would show Native American results in my history, the haplogroup results I received from the Geno 2 Project and FTDNA Full MTDNA results were A10. As best as I could do with Genealogy research I can verify the lineage to my gr,gr,gr,grandmother (1792-1873), and further research seems to point the rest of of the way to Catherine Pillard. Who knows if I have it right or not :). I am mostly interested in knowing if Native American descent is actually correct in my case. I have the MTDNA and Geno 2 results if you need them, as well as a My Heritage family tree.


  22. Hi, I have A4 from 23andme. But not sure what type of mutations I have my Raw Data. I am from St. Petersburg, Russia and my mom has Jewish ancestry. I would be grateful to know if my mtDNA match somebody else in A4 (from Europe or Asia). Thanks, Katerina

  23. Hi Roberta,

    I just came across your very interesting A4 post and would like to make you aware that I am a recent newly categorized Haplogroup A4, as determined by the full mitochondrial sequence test at FamilyTree. I may have been missed in your analysis.
    I can provide my details if this is of any interest.
    Thank you for your attention.
    Lisbeth Naurbol

  24. Further to my earlier post, I understood your above instructions and found the A4 group.
    I just do not know which one pertains to me. Any suggestions?


    • You would join the group that is the same as your mitochondrial haplogroup. If that is A4 has A4 in the first two “digits” then join A4. If not, join the appropriate haplogroup for you.

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