Ah, the blessings of cousins.
The Y and mitochondrial DNA of our ancestors can provide us with a smorgasbord of information. Unfortunately, we only carry the Y and mitochondrial DNA of one or two lines. If you’re a female, you carry the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of your matrilineal line only, and if you’re a male, you carry the paternal (patrilineal meaning surname) Y DNA line (blue squares) in addition to your mother’s matrilineal line (red circles.) You can read about the difference between maternal versus matrilineal and paternal versus patrilineal here.
Therefore, to collect the rest of the haplogroups and match information about our ancestral lines, meaning those with no color above, we must depend on cousins who descend from those ancestors in such a way that they carry the desired Y or mtDNA.
For men, their surname is generally reflective of the Y DNA inheritance path, presuming that neither the surname nor the Y DNA was changed, intentionally or otherwise – meaning adoption or name changes, for example.
Women contribute their mitochondrial DNA to both genders of their children, but only females pass it on to the next generation.
This inheritance path assures that neither the Y nor mitochondrial DNA is admixed with the DNA of the other parent, meaning the DNA changes little if at all generation to generation and we can see back a very long distance into the past by following the stair-step mutations that have accumulated over hundreds and thousands of years.
Think of it as your genetic periscope!
Recently a press article reported that in very limited cases with a medically co-presenting mitochondrial disease, the father’s mitochondrial DNA is found in children. Blaine Bettinger explained further here. It’s actually not new news and you really don’t need to worry about this in regard to genealogy.
When I originally wrote Mary Younger’s 52 Ancestors article, I didn’t know anything about her mitochondrial DNA because no one from that line had yet tested.
In that article, I detailed her descendants as best I could, and of those descendants, who would carry Mary’s mitochondrial DNA.
A cousin, Lynn, read the article and replied that indeed, she descends from Mary through all females – and was willing to DNA test. Thank you Lynn!!!
Mary’s mtDNA Dispells a Myth
Lynn’s results came back and told us that Mary Younger’s mitochondrial DNA is haplogroup H1a3a.
Often in early genealogy research, when a colonial lineage brick wall was encountered, the comment that “maybe she was Indian,” was made. Sometimes those comments fanned the flames of myths that took hold like wildfire and are reflected today in many online trees. The “maybe” became quickly omitted and the comment was elevated from the realm of speculation to gospel.
Mary Younger was born about 1766, probably in either Essex or King and Queen County to Marcus Younger and his wife, Susannah whose surname we don’t know. Therefore, Susannah would have been born between 1720 and 1746.
There’s a persistent rumor that Susannah’s surname was Hart and there is some reason to suspect that it may have been, but the bottom line is that we don’t know.
If Susannah’s surname IS Hart, we don’t know which Hart individual was her father, although Anthony Hart (1755-1832) and Marcus Younger were both associated with one Robert Hart, believed to be Anthony’s father, but that too is unproven. The King and Queen County courthouse burned and that’s where the Hart land was located, so most records are gone. Bummer.
There is some amount of suspicion that Anthony Hart and Susannah that married Marcus Younger were siblings. To make matters even worse, Marcus and Susannah Younger’s son, John Younger married Lucy Hart – so autosomal DNA from that line will match the Hart line and not (necessarily) because of Susannah. Therefore, John Younger’s line can’t be used for comparisons to the Hart line for either mitochondrial or autosomal. However, cousin Lynn’s DNA as Mary Younger’s direct matrilineal descendant can be utilized for both mitochondrial and autosomal comparisons.
What we do know, from Mary Younger’s mitochondrial DNA alone is that Susannah through her matrilineal line was NOT Native American. Haplogroup H1a3a is European, unquestionably European.
We can dispel that Native American myth forever, at least about this particular line.
Lynn’s H1a3a Matches
What can we tell about haplogroup H1a3a and in particular, Lynn’s matches?
None of Lynn’s three exact matches have completed their geographical information for their most distant known ancestor. These match maps are such powerful tools if people would only complete the information.
Other than the three with no information, so aren’t shown on the map – the matches on the map in the US aren’t terribly relevant unless specific clusters suggest a particular migration path. In this case, nothing of note, although those 3 Canadian maritime matches are curious. I don’t know if there is any useful information there or not.
However, Europe is different, because those matches are fairly tightly clustered.
All of Lynn’s matches are either in the British Isles or in Scandinavia. This could suggest either that descendants of her ancestors, hundreds or thousands of years ago migrated to both locations, or it could mean that the English locations are perhaps showing a Viking influence.
Lynn’s matches themselves are unremarkable other than the fact that her only rare mutation occurs in the coding region, which means that we really do need the full sequence test to make use of this information. She has 107 full sequence matches, of which three are exact, providing the following most distant ancestor information.
- Martha Patsy Terry was born in 1805 in North Carolina and died after 1865 in Alabama
- Sarah Emma Doyle was born in 1824 in Fayette County, TN and died in 1890 in Cass Co., Texas.
- The third match says “information needed.” Well, me too😊
The only person with one mutation difference shows their most distant ancestor with a name and birth of 1534. They apparently misunderstood what was being asked, because if you look at their tree, their most distant matrilineal ancestor is Margaret Moore born in NC, died in Texas, and who had daughter Dicie Moore in 1830 in Tennessee.
Unfortunately, these matches aren’t terribly helpful either, at least not today.
Two of the three exact matches have trees which I checked for the surname of Hart and Younger and looked for geographic proximity.
Checking advanced matches by selecting both Family Finder and the Full Sequence mitochondrial matches shows no individual who matches on both tests.
If Lynn’s mtDNA matches aren’t being productive, what can I tell about haplogroup H1a3a itself?
Doron Behar in his 2012 paper placed the age of H1a3a at 3859 years, give or take 1621 years, so therefore haplogroup H1a3a was born between 1238 and 6480 years ago. An exact match with no additional mutations could be from long ago. Fortunately, Lynn does have a few additional mutations, so her exact matches share mutations since the birth of haplogroup H1a3a.
Using the Family Tree DNA mitochondrial tree and searching for H1a3a, we discover the following information.
Haplogroup H1a3a is found in a total of 21 countries. The most common location is Germany, which isn’t reflected in Lynn’s matches.
This is especially interesting, because it suggests that the haplogroup itself may have spread from the Germanic region of Europe into both England and Sweden. Lynn’s matches are only found in those diaspora regions, not in Germany itself. To me, this also suggests that the people still in Germany have accrued several mutations as compared to Mary Younger’s DNA. They are no longer considered a match since their common ancestor is far enough back in time that they have accumulated several mutations difference from cousin Lynn today. Conversely, the people closer in time that share some of those mutations do qualify as matches.
And no, haplogroup H1a3a is not Native American, in spite of the one person who had indicated such (the feather icon.) Many people record “American” or “Native American” because they believe, before testing, that they have Native American on “that side,” as opposed in that specific line. Of course, the maternal side could mean any one of many ancestors – as opposed to the matrilineal line which is directly your mother’s mother’s mother’s line until you run out of direct line mothers in your tree.
What we know now is that sometime between 1200 and 6500 years ago, the haplogroup defining mutations between H1a3 and H1a3a occurred, probably someplace in Germanic Europe. From there, people migrated to both the British Isles and portions of Scandinavia.
Given that we find Susannah in the early 1700s in King and Queen County, Virginia, it would be a reasonable working hypothesis that she was English (or at least from the British Isles) and not Scandinavian. Alexander Younger, the grandfather of Marcus Younger was from Scotland and many of the early era colonial settlers in that region were English.
Hopefully, time and more DNA testers will eventually tell more of Susannah’s tale – either through mitochondrial or autosomal DNA matches, or both.
What About You?
If you haven’t yet tested your mitochondrial DNA, now would be a great time. In fact, you can click here to order the mtFull test. Who knows what you might learn. Are there specific questions you’d like to answer about dead end female lines? Mitochondrial DNA is one way to circumvent a surname/genealogical blockade – at least partially.
If you don’t carry the mitochondrial DNA line that you need, sponsor a test for a cousin. You’ll get to meet a really cool person to share information with, like Lynn, and learn about your common genealogical bond as well as your ancestor’s DNA.
I receive a small contribution when you click on some (but not all) of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.
Thank you so much.
DNA Purchases and Free Transfers
- Family Tree DNA
- MyHeritage DNA only
- MyHeritage DNA plus Health
- MyHeritage FREE DNA file upload
- 23andMe Ancestry
- 23andMe Ancestry Plus Health
- Legacy Tree Genealogists for genealogy research
Yet another piece in the puzzle!
If I don’t have a male to Y test, is there any reason for me to mt test? My mother’s grandfather is our dead end. My mother is not living.
MtDNA won’t solve that mystery. At least not your mtDNA. But if you don’t test, you’ll never know what you don’t know.
Thanks for all your mtDNA articles, very informative.
I am H1a3a too 🙂 But it seems, my maternal ancestors stayed in the middle of Europe. Or returned to. They were from the 17th century in the eastern Bohemia and, I guess, long time before too.