Recently, I wrote a multi-part series about mitochondrial DNA – start to finish – everything you need to know.
I’ve assembled several articles in one place, and I’ll add any new articles here as well.
Please feel free to share this resource or any of the links to individual articles with friends, genealogy groups or on social media.
What the Difference Between Mitochondrial and Other Types of DNA?
Mitochondrial DNA is inherited directly from your matrilineal line, only, meaning your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother – on up your family tree until you run out of direct line mothers that you’ve identified. The great news is even if you don’t know the identities of those people in your tree, you carry their mitochondrial DNA which can help identify them.
Here’s a short article about the different kinds of DNA that can be used for genealogy.
Why Mitochondrial DNA?
Let’s start out with why someone might want to test their mitochondrial DNA.
After you purchase a DNA test, swab, return the kit and when the lab finishes processing your test, you’ll receive your results on your personal page at FamilyTreeDNA, the only company that tests mitochondrial DNA at the full sequence level and provides matching with tens of thousands of other testers.
What About Those Results?
People want to understand how to use all of the different information provided to testers. These articles provide a step-by-step primer.
Sign in to your Family Tree DNA account and use these articles as a guideline to step through your results on your personal page.
We begin with an overview. What is mitochondrial DNA, how it is inherited and why is it useful for genealogy?
Next, we look at your results and decode what all the numbers mean. It’s easy, really!
Our ancestors lived in clans, and our mitochondrial DNA has its own versions of clans too – called haplogroups. Your full haplogroup can be very informative.
Sometimes there’s more than meets the eye. Here are my own tips and techniques for more than doubling the usefulness of your matches.
You’ll want to wring every possible advantage out of your tests, so be sure to join relevant projects and use them to their fullest extent.
Do you know how to utilize advanced matching? It’s a very powerful tool. If not, you will after these articles.
Mitochondrial DNA Information for Everyone
FamilyTreeDNA maintains an extensive public mitochondrial DNA tree, complete with countries of origin for all branches. You don’t need to have tested to enjoy the public tree.
However, if you have tested, take a look to see where the earliest known ancestors of your haplogroup matches are located based on the country flags.
These are mine. Where are yours?
What Can Mitochondrial DNA Do for You?
Some people mistakenly think that mitochondrial DNA isn’t useful for genealogy. I’m here to testify that it’s not only useful, it’s amazing! Here are three stories from my own genealogy about how I’ve used mitochondrial DNA to learn more about my ancestors and in some cases, break right through brick walls.
- Mitochondrial DNA Bulldozes Brick Wall
- Lydia Brown’s 3 Daughters: Or Were They? Mitochondrial and Autosomal DNA to the Rescue
- Elisabetha Mehlheimer (c1800-c1851) and her Scandinavian Mito-Cousins
It’s not only your own mitochondrial DNA that’s important, but other family members too.
My cousin tested her mitochondrial DNA to discover that her direct matrilineal ancestor was Native American, much to her surprise. The great news is that her ancestor is my ancestor too!
Searching for Native American Ancestors?
If you’re searching for Native American or particular ancestors, mitochondrial DNA can tell you specifically if your mitochondrial DNA, or that of your ancestors (if you test a direct matrilineal descendant,) is Native, African, European, Jewish or Asian. Furthermore, your matches provide clues as to what country your ancestor might be from and sometimes which regions too.
Did you know that people from different parts of the world have distinctive haplogroups?
You can discover your ancestors’ origins through their mitochondrial DNA.
You can even utilize autosomal segment information to track back in time to the ancestor you seek. Then you can obtain that ancestor’s mitochondrial DNA by selectively testing their descendants or finding people who have already tested that descend from that ancestor. Here’s how.
You never know what you’re going to discover when you test your mitochondrial DNA. I discovered that although my earliest known matrilineal ancestor is found in Germany, her ancestors were from Scandinavia. My cousin discovered that our common ancestor is Mi’kmaq.
What secrets will your mitochondrial DNA reveal?
You can test or upgrade your mitochondrial DNA by clicking here.
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