Mitochondrial DNA: Part 1 – Overview

This is Part 1 of a series about mitochondrial DNA, abbreviated as mtDNA, and how to use it successfully for genealogy.

What is Mitochondrial DNA and Why Do I Care?

Mitochondrial DNA.jpg

Mitochondrial DNA is different from nuclear, or autosomal, DNA. Nuclear DNA resides within the nucleus of a cell, while mitochondrial DNA resides outside the nucleus.

Mitochondrial DNA nucleus.png

Every cell has thousands of mitochondria while it only has one nucleus.

Mitochondrial DNA is a circular ring with 16,569 base pair locations. The biological purpose of mitochondria is to power the organism, converting chemical energy into a form that the cells can utilize.

Mitochondrial DNA is also different from autosomal DNA in how it is passed to offspring.

Inheritance Path

Mitochondrial DNA is unique because all people, males and females, inherit their mitochondrial DNA from their mothers, but only females pass it on to their children.

Y and mtDNA inheritance

The chart above illustrates which individuals in your tree inherit their mitochondrial DNA from whom.

Mitochondrial DNA inheritance.png

The daughter and son both inherit their mitochondrial DNA from their mother, who inherits hers from her mother, and so forth – on up the direct matrilineal line. You can read about the difference between matrilineal and maternal lines, here. In essence, maternal can be referring to anyone on your mother’s side of your tree, while matrilineal is your mother’s mother’s mother’s line ad infinitum.

However, every person in this tree carries mitochondrial DNA of specific ancestors.

Mitochondrial DNA inheritance 2.png

The red arrows show the inheritance path of mitochondrial DNA for individuals whose contributors are also in the tree.

The father of the children inherited his mitochondrial DNA from his magenta mother’s matrilineal line.

His father inherited his mitochondrial DNA from his lavender mother’s line.

The maternal grandfather in dark blue inherited his mitochondrial DNA from his red mother’s line.

Mitochondrial DNA inheritance 3.png

The gold arrows show that the contributors of these individuals are not shown on this tree, but they all inherited their mitochondrial DNA from their matrilineal lines as well.

When discussing mitochondrial DNA, we generally think in terms of ourselves, but the application of mitochondrial DNA to genealogy is as far reaching as all of our ancestors.

Each line has its own unique story for us to harvest – assuming we can find an appropriate candidate for testing or find someone who has already tested.

Why Mitochondrial DNA Works

Mitochondrial DNA is inherited from our matrilineal line directly, with no genetic contribution from any males. This inheritance path allows us to use mitochondrial DNA for matching to others reaching back generations as well as providing a way to view beyond the line-in-the-sand of surnames.

In other words, because mitochondrial DNA is not mixed with DNA from the fathers, it’s very nearly identical to our matrilineal ancestors’ mitochondrial DNA many generations ago.

In fact, by tracing a series of mutations, we can track our ancestor over time from mitochondrial Eve, born in Africa tens of thousands of years ago to where we are today.

Mutations Happen

If mutations never occurred, the mitochondrial DNA of all people would be identical and therefore not useful for us to use for genealogy or to peer back in time beyond the advent of surnames.

Mutations do occur, just not on any schedule. This means that it’s difficult to predict how long ago we shared a common ancestor with someone else based solely on mitochondrial DNA mutations.

There might be a mutation between us and our mother, or there might be no mutations for hundreds or even, potentially, thousands of years.

Part of the success of matching genealogically with mitochondrial DNA testing has to do with the regions tested.

Testing fewer locations results in matches that are much less relevant.

The Regions

Mitochondrial DNA is divided into 4 regions used for genealogy.

  • HVR1 – Hypervariable Region 1 – locations 16021-16569 (548 total locations)
  • HVR2 – Hypervariable Region 2 – locations 1-437 (437 locations)
  • HVR3 – Hypervariable Region 3 – locations 438-576 (138 locations)
  • Coding Region – the balance of the mitochondria (15,445 locations)

If you think of mitochondrial DNA as a clock face, the hypervariable regions span the time from approximately 11-1. The Coding Region is the balance.

Mitochondrial DNA loop.png

Family Tree DNA bundles the HVR3 region with the HVR2 region in their results. They test the entire D Loop, meaning a total of 1124 locations in their mtPlus product.

Matching at the HVR1 or HVR1 plus HVR2/3 levels alone can reach back thousands of years in time. I strongly encourage testers to test at the higher full sequence level with the mtFull product, allowing much more granular matching.

The HVR1, 2 and 3 regions are exactly as their name suggests – hypervariable – meaning that they mutate faster than the coding region.

The mtFull or full sequence test tests the entire mitochondria – all 16,569 locations.

Genealogists need a full sequence test in order to do two things:

  • Match with other testers reliably
  • Obtain a full haplogroup which acts as a periscope in time, allowing us to look much further back in time than autosomal and on one specific line. There’s no confusion as to which line the results came from with mitochondrial DNA.

If you’ve only taken the mtPlus test, don’t worry, you can sign on here and upgrade at any time to the mtFull.

Medical Information

The coding region carries most of the potentially medically relevant locations. Medical data is not provided in the results of the testing – only genealogically relevant information.

Family Tree DNA does provide for HVR1 and HVR2/3 results to be shown in projects that testers join, if testers so choose. Coding region results are never shared anyplace unless individual testers share them individually with each other.

I’m personally not concerned about this, but mitochondrial DNA testing has been occurring for 20+ years now and it was uncertain at that early date what medical information might be discovered in the coding region, so the decision to not share was made by Family Tree DNA at that time and remains in effect today.

Today, Family Tree DNA is the only vendor to test your full sequence mitochondrial DNA and provide matching. Therefore, all examples in this series utilize results and tools at Family Tree DNA.

So, what can people see of your actual results?

What Matches See

Mitochondrial DNA match view

You can click this image to enlarge.

People whom you match can see that you do match, but they can’t see any differences or mutations. They see the name you’ve entered, your earliest known ancestor and can send e-mail to you. Aside from that, they can’t see your results or mutations unless you’ve joined a project.

Within projects, participant names are never listed publicly. In other words, your matches can’t tell that it’s you unless they recognize your earliest known ancestor on the project list and you are the only person with that ancestor.

Don’t worry though, because only your HVR1 and HVR2 region results are listed in projects, as shown in the next section.

Benefits of Joining Projects

The great news is that even if you’ve just ordered your test and are waiting for results, you can research and join projects now.

Projects at Family Tree DNA provide testers with access to volunteer administrators to help as well as clustering users in projects that are meaningful to their research.

Mitochondrial DNA hap A project.png

The haplogroup A project is shown above with maternal earliest known ancestor (EKA) names as provided by testers.

Another important project feature is the project map function, allowing testers in a specific haplogroup to view the locations of the earliest known ancestors of other members of the same haplogroup – whether they match each other or not. Your ancestors traveled with theirs and descended from a common ancestor. Cool, huh!

Mitochondrial DNA hap A10 map.png

For example, here’s the haplogroup A10 cluster around Montreal. What’s the story associated with that distribution? Whatever it is, it’s probably important genealogically.

Mitochondrial DNA hap A5a1a1 map.png

Here’s haplogroup A5a1a1 in Japan.

Do you have clusters? You can see if you join relevant projects.

Another type of project to join is a geographical or interest group.

The Acadian AmerIndian Project welcomes descendants who have tested the Y, autosomal and/or mitochondrial DNA of the various Acadian families which includes French and English settlers along with First Nations indigenous ancestors.

Mitochondrial DNA Acadian Amerindian project.png

The map shows the distribution of the haplogroup A2f1a ancestors of various Acadian testers.

Mitochondrial DNA Acadian hap A2f1a map.png

Projects such as the Acadian AmerIndian Project facilitate genealogists discovering the haplogroup and information about their direct line ancestor without testing.

For example, if Anne Marie Rimbault, shown above, is my ancestor, by viewing and hopefully joining this project, I can harvest this information about my ancestor. I can’t personally test for her mitochondrial DNA myself, but thankfully, others who do descend matrilineally from Anne Marie have been generous enough to test and share.

Furthermore, I’ve contacted the tester through the project and gained a great cousin with LOTS of information.

Just think how useful mitochondrial DNA would be to genealogists if everyone tested!

Finding Projects to Join

I encourage all testers to join appropriate haplogroup projects. There may be more than one. For mitochondrial haplogroup J, there is only one project, but for those who carry haplogroup H, there is a haplogroup H project and many additional subgroup projects.

I also encourage you to browse the selections and join other interest projects. For example, there are projects such as Cumberland Gap which is regional, the American Indian project for people researching Native ancestry, in addition to your relevant haplogroup project(s).

When deciding which projects to join, don’t neglect your mitochondrial DNA. Your selection may be a huge benefit to someone else as well as to your own research.

How to Join Projects

Sign on to your personal page at Family Tree DNA and click on myProjects at the top, then on “Join A Project.”

mitochondrial dna project join.png

Next, you’ll see a list of projects in which your surname appears. These may or may not be relevant for you.

Mitochondrial project list

You can click to enlarge this image.

You can search by surname.

Mitochondrial project search.png

More importantly, you can browse in any number of sections.

Mitochondrial project browse.png

For mitochondrial DNA, I would suggest specifically mtDNA haplogroups, of course, along with mtDNA Geographical Projects, Dual Geographical Projects, and mtDNA lineage projects.

Surname projects are more challenging for mitochondrial DNA since the surname changes every generation.

When you find a project of interest, click to read the description written by the volunteer administrators to see if it’s a good fit for you, then click through to join.

Next Article in the Series

Of course, you’re probably wondering what all of those numbers in your results and shown in projects mean. The next article in about a week will address exactly that question.

Reference Articles

These articles may be of interest.

Mitochondrial DNA is often confused with X DNA, and they are not at all the same.

Mitochondrial DNA can quickly confirm or put to rest that Native American ancestor family story.

A great example of using mitochondrial DNA to break through a brick wall that would never have fallen otherwise!

If you haven’t yet tested, your can order your mtFull Sequence test today!

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the 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

 

Mother’s Day, Mitochondrial DNA and New Series

Mother's Day 2019 sale

What better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than by testing your (or your Mom’s) mitochondrial DNA?

Everyone, males and females both receive their mitochondrial DNA from their mothers, but only females pass it on to both genders of their children.

yline mtdna

This means that your mitochondrial DNA tracks your direct matrilineal line, shown above with the red circles. This is your mother’s mother’s mother’s line – back in time until you run out of mothers that you can identify.

However, your DNA doesn’t stop there and provides you with the story of your ancestors before they have names and are present in your tree.

In other words, mitochondrial DNA can peer behind that veil of time into history plus match you to current people.

Mitochondrial DNA can also break down brick walls. Here’s just one example.

But I Don’t Understand Mitochondrial DNA…

I’m at a genealogy conference this week, as I write this article, and people have mentioned that they don’t understand mitochondrial DNA, how it works, or how to use it.

So, drum roll….I’ll be writing a short series, as follows:

  • Decoding Mitochondrial DNA – how it works, why it works, and what those numbers mean
  • Using Mitochondrial DNA for Genealogy – how to utilize the various tools on your Family Tree DNA personal page
  • Breaking Down Brick Walls with Mitochondrial DNA – taking mitochondrial DNA one step further

So, here’s the deal.

Mitochondrial DNA is on sale at Family Tree DNA for Mother’s Day. They are the only DNA testing company to offer the full sequence test and matching which is the combination you need for genealogy.

If you’ve tested elsewhere and obtained your haplogroup – that’s not enough. You need the mtFull, full sequence test.

A haplogroup test tests a few mitochondrial locations – just enough to assign a base haplogroup.

The mtPlus test at Family Tree DNA is the “toe in the water test” and tests about 2000 locations – enough for basic matching plus a basic haplogroup assignment.

The mtFull test tests all 16,569 locations in the mitochondria. This is the test needed for genealogical matching and for your full haplogroup assignment.

Sale

The Family Tree DNA Mother’s Day sale is in effect now offering 25% off of the mitochondrial DNA, autosomal Family Finder and bundled tests through May 13th.

Mother's Day 2019 sale prices

If you haven’t purchased a mitochondrial DNA test, click here to purchase the mtFull sequence test.

If you have taken the mtPlus test, click here to sign on to your account and upgrade to the mtFull.

I suggest ordering the autosomal Family Finder if you haven’t taken that test or transferred your raw data file to Family Tree DNA from elsewhere.

Using the Family Tree DNA advanced matching tool to compare Family Finder in conjunction with the mtDNA test matches is one of the steps in utilizing the mitochondrial DNA test for genealogy. I strongly suggest that you have the results of both tests available.

Fortunately, Family Tree DNA is offering a bundled package savings for both tests for $198, normally $278. The regular price of the mtFull alone is $199 – so in essence the Family Finder is free when you buy the bundle. That’s a GREAT DEAL!

Be Ready for the Series

I’ll begin the series of articles soon – so by the time your results are ready, you’ll have a roadmap available.

We’re going to have a lot of fun. Who knows what you might discover!

PS – Don’t forget to test your Dad too, or his siblings if he’s not available to test – because you didn’t receive your Dad’s mitochondrial DNA and it holds genealogical secrets of his mother’s line!

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the 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.

Family Tree DNA Sale Prices Including Big Y-700 Upgrade

I was attempting to finish an article about the Family Tree DNA conference this past weekend and include special conference sale price information, but it looks like that article just isn’t going to happen right now.

Typically, the conference is held in November, so the Holiday Sale begins the last day of the conference. That’s not the case this year, so Bennett announced a special sale just for conference attendees, project members, and through me, you too! Read on, because these sale prices are NOT available to the general public although you can certainly share with your families.

Thank you Bennett!!!

The good news is that while I realize I just can’t get that article written right now, I’m providing the sale price information which is only valid through month end. These are really good prices.

  • $30 off Family Finder ($49) – Use Code: GGC19FF
  • $50 off Y-37 ($119) – Use Code: GGC19Y37
  • $70 off Y-67 ($198) – Use Code: GGC19Y67
  • $70 off Y-111 ($289) – Use Code: GGC19Y111
  • $200 off Big Y-700 meaning have never taken any Y DNA test ($449) – Use Code: GGC19BIGY
  • $50 off MtFull Sequence ($149) – Use Code: GGC19MTFULL

If have taken one of the Y DNA STR tests, have never taken the Big Y-500 but want to upgrade from an existing 12, 25, 37, 67 or 111 marker STR test to the Big Y-700, here are the upgrade codes:

Upgrade Regular Price Final Price Code
Y12 to Big Y-700 $629 $449 GCC19122BY
Y25 to Big Y-700 $599 $449 GCC19252BY
Y37 to Big Y-700 $569 $449 GCC19372BY
Y67 to Big Y-700 $499 $399 GCC19BYUP
Y111 to Big Y-700 $449 $349 GCC19BYUP

All coupons codes expire March 31, 2019 and may not be used in conjunction with other promocodes, discounts, or offers.

Big Y-700 Upgrade – $179

The greatly anticipated Big Y-700 upgrade is now available.

In addition to the above sale prices for purchases, Bennett is offering the introductory upgrade price to move from the Y-500 to the Y-700 at just $179 through the end of the month. I was actually very surprised to see the price this low since it’s an actual rerun.

Family Tree DNA reviews each order to assure that enough DNA remains for the test. If not, they will reach out to you before processing begins to request another vial. If the tester is deceased, meaning they can’t provide an additional sample, please notify Family Tree DNA so that they can flag the sample for special handling in the lab, if necessary.

I wrote about the Big Y-700 here. If you want to read the scientific nitty-gritty, the Big Y-700 white paper is here. The white paper refers to the Big Y and compared to the Big Y-700. The Big Y is the same test as the Big Y-500, the difference being that Family Tree DNA added the additional STR markers for free (totaling 500) for all testers who had taken the Big Y and renamed the test at that time to Big Y-500.

To recap the benefits of a Big Y-700 as compared to the Big Y-500:

  • Big Y-700 provides 50% increase in quality SNPs over Big Y-500
  • Provides quality reads of Y chromosome regions not previously available
  • An additional 200 STR markers bringing the total from at least 500 to at least 700
  • Better coverage meaning fewer no-reads

Note that with the improved sequencing technology, it’s possible that men run on the Big Y-700 platform may not exactly match men run on the earlier Big Y-500 platform. If you’re working with a group of men who you “need” to be on the exact same platform in order to derive family lineages, then you’ll want all of the men on the same platform so you are comparing apples to apples. In the case of the Estes project, I’m hoping that the new technology will further divide my roughly 10 Big-Y men into distinct lineages in order to provide increased granularity.

I know that the price will increase after month-end and I don’t want anyone left behind. With my luck, the man I don’t upgrade will of course be the one with a newly-to-be-discovered mutation that I need.

If you are interested in upgrading from an existing Big Y-500 to a Big Y-700, there is no code needed. Click here to sign in to your account and then click on the upgrade button on your Y-DNA section of your personal page.

Y DNA Upgrade

You’ll then see the Big Y-700 upgrade, but only at this price for a few more days.

Big Y-700 upgrade

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this great 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.

RootsTech 2019 – I’m Speaking and DNAexplain Meetup!

“May you live in interesting times.”

That Chinese proverb that no one is sure whether is a blessing or a curse.

I’m pleased to announce that I’m speaking at RootsTech, quite by accident😊

RootsTech 2019 speaker badge

Fate, synchronicity, call it what you will.

If you’re chuckling, so am I.

I’ll be presenting a total of 3 sessions – one regular RootsTech session and 2 minis plus a DNAexplain blog follower (that’s YOU) meetup.

Schedule at a Glance

Here’s a quick overview schedule, including 2 giveaways, with details following below:

  • Wednesday, February 27 – 6:15 – Family Tree DNA booth #1107 – Family Finder Search Tips – Quick tips for how to perform surname and ancestral searches successfully!
  • Wednesday, February 27 – 6:45 – Family Tree DNA giveaway drawing
  • Wednesday, February 27 – 6:45 – DNAexplain Blog meetup in the Family Tree DNA booth presentation center
  • Wednesday, February 27 – 7:15 – Family Tree DNA booth – Family Finder Bucketing – Connecting your matches to your tree so that Family Tree DNA can assign your matches to your maternal or paternal side – even without having your parents tested!
  • Wednesday, February 27 – 7:45 – Family Tree DNA giveaway drawing
  • Friday, March 1, Ballroom B – 3 PM – Beyond Pie Charts: Using Y and Mitochondrial DNA Testing to Solve Genealogical Puzzles

DNAexplain Blog Follower Meetup – Wednesday Evening –  6:15

The DNAexplain blog follower meetup which includes 2 free mini-sessions (and two giveaways) will be Wednesday evening from 6:15-7:45, right after the expo hall opens, in the Family Tree DNA booth, #1017, boxed in red on the map below. It looks like if you walk between LivingDNA and 23andMe, you’ll run smack dab into the Family Tree DNA booth.

Family Tree DNA has a new booth this year with a presentation center right in the booth, so we will be the first to use the new facility.

Rootstech 2019 Expo floor

I’ll be in the booth from 6-8 PM and have prepared special two mini-sessions for my blog followers and anyone else who would like to attend.

You don’t have to stay for the whole time of course!

Please stop by and say hello. I’d love to see you.

Thank you to Family Tree DNA for graciously allowing us to meet in their new presentation center.

Beyond Pie Charts: Using Y and Mitochondrial DNA Testing to Solve Genealogical Puzzles – Friday – 3 PM – Ballroom B

Jim Brewster was originally presenting the session, “Beyond Pie Charts: Using Y and Mitochondrial DNA Testing to Solve Genealogical Puzzles” at 3 PM on Friday.

Unfortunately, Jim is unable to attend and late last week – yes – as in 4 or 5 days ago, I agreed to present this session.

Now, the good news is that I’ve been working with Y and mitochondrial DNA 19 years, long enough to have some really good examples to include. You’ll laugh, I promise, and maybe even shed a tear or two. DNA and families are anything but boring!

Rootstech 2019 Roberta Estes session

Please, come and see the presentation at 3 on Friday afternoon in Ballroom B, on the map below.

Rootstech 2019 Ballroom B location

I promise you’ll be entertained and learn something too!

For those who can’t attend, several sessions are going to be LiveStreamed, 12 recorded and available later for free, and 18 more will be available with the purchase of a Virtual Pass. My session is not being recorded, so you’ll have to come and see it live!

LiveStream Schedule

Several people have asked about the LiveStream schedule, which you can find here. I believe this is also the link to view the LiveStreamed sessions.

An additional 12 sessions will be recorded and available for free viewing later.

  • Blending Family History and Technology with the Art of Storytelling
  • Descendancy Research: Another Pathway to Genealogy
  • Making Memories of You
  • New York Research Essentials
  • You Can Do DNA
  • How to Write Your Life Story in Five Pages or Less
  • Heirloom, Documentation or Junk: What to Keep or Toss
  • S.O.S. (Save Our Stuff): Stories and Heirlooms
  • Families Discovering Family History Together
  • Writing and Publishing a Family History: Ten Steps
  • Artificial Intelligence in Photo Management (and How It Can Boost Metadata)
  • Breaking through Brick Walls in Scottish Research

Virtual Pass Classes

A Virtual Pass is available for $129 (or $79 if you have already registered for RootsTech) which entitles you to the following recorded sessions as well.

  • Chromosome Mapping for Absolute Beginners—Jonny Perl
  • Must-Use U.S. Records at Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, findmypast, and MyHeritage—Sunny Morton
  • A Deep Dive into Understanding Your DNA Results—Blaine Bettinger, Angie Bush, Jonny Perl
  • The Surname Is Key: History of Surnames and Conducting Surname Research in Germany—Dirk Weissleder
  • One Touch Genealogy Research: Handle a Record Once—Thomas MacEntee
  • You Need Both! Uniting DNA and Traditional Research—Angie Bush and D. Joshua Taylor
  • Chromosome Mapping Tips and Techniques—Blaine Bettinger
  • Deeper Analysis: Techniques for Successful Problem-Solving—Elissa Scalise Powell
  • The Magic of German Church Records—Katherine Schober
  • My Ancestors Are from Germany, and I Don’t Speak German—Tamra Stansfield
  • When Details Disagree: 8 Ways to Resolve Conflicts—D. Joshua Taylor
  • 20 Hacks for Interviewing Almost Anyone, and Getting a Good Story—Joanna Liddell and Karen Morgan
  • Going Dutch: Finding Families in Online Records of the Netherlands—Daniel Jones
  • Beyond the Mists of Time: Sources for British Medieval and Early Modern Genealogy—Nick Barratt
  • The Combined Power of DNA, Records, and Family Trees—Jen Baldwin, David Nicholson, Diahan Southard
  • The Genealogist’s Google Search Methodology—Lisa Louise Cooke
  • Jewish Genealogy: How to Start, Where to Look, What’s Available—Lara Diamond
  • Slave Traders, Speculators, and the Domestic Slave Trade—Kenyatta Berry

Your Imbedded Reporter😊

I bought an Ultimate Pass this year, which means I’ll be able to have up-front seating which facilitates good photos for blog articles. I have also arranged to attend many of the vendor lunches and several of the vendor sessions so that I’ll be able to report back to you about new announcements and what’s coming, of course with a focus on DNA.

I hope to publish articles daily while I’m there, although I’m not promising given the hectic nature of my ever-evolving schedule. Rest assured I’ll let be writing as soon as I can. My ability to publish is sometimes constrained by poor Wi-Fi which makes it impossible to upload photos and articles.

My regular article publication schedule will be disrupted while I’m gone, so those ancestors will just have to wait!

For me, the best part of RootsTech last year was meeting people in person. I look forward to seeing you there, so please come to the meetup Wednesday evening or my regular session Friday at 3 and be sure to say hi.

I’m easy to recognize – l’ll be wearing something “DNA.”

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the 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.

Mitochondrial DNA Bulldozes Brick Wall

I’m doing that happy dance today – leaping for joy – and am I EVER glad I’ve sponsored so many mitochondrial DNA tests. Today, I’m incredibly thankful for one particular DNA test.

Think mitochondrial DNA doesn’t work or isn’t effective for genealogy?

Think again.

Often, when people ask on social media if they should test mitochondrial DNA, there is a chorus of Negative Nellie’s chanting, “No, don’t bother with that test, mitochondrial DNA is useless.” That’s terribly discouraging, depriving people of knowledge they can’t obtain any other way.

When people heed that advice, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When people don’t test and don’t provide genealogical information that would go along with a mitochondrial DNA test, mitochondrial DNA is much less useful than it could be if people actually tested their full sequence mitochondrial DNA at Family Tree DNA, not just for their haplogroup at 23andMe or Living DNA. There’s a huge difference.

Family Tree DNA tests the full mitochondria and provides matching to other testers which is critical for genealogical purposes. In fact, Elizabeth Shown Mills wrote about using this exact same technique here.

mtDNA not useless

And by the way, this is not an isolated outlier case either. In fact, mitochondrial DNA from this same line was used previously to prove who Phoebe Crumley’s mother was.

If people hadn’t tested, then these walls would not have fallen. Every person who doesn’t take a mitochondrial DNA test is depriving themselves, and others, of critical historical information and clues.

It’s all about CLUES and sometimes that big brick-wall-breaking boulder falls into your lap out of the blue one day.

Today was that day!

Phoebe’s Family Found

I’ll be writing a more detailed article about my ancestor, Phoebe, shortly, but for now, I’d like to share exactly how mitochondrial DNA broke through this brick wall that I truly believed was permanent. I’ll walk you through the various steps so you can follow the same path. Do you have female ancestors without families in your tree? Start thinking about the possibilities!

DNA Pedigree Chart

Let’s start with my DNA Pedigree Chart.

I know many people look at my DNA Pedigree Chart and think it’s a bit over the edge, but identifying the family of Jotham Brown’s wife, Phoebe, would absolutely NOT have been possible without this valuable tool and the fact that I’ve been “collecting” my ancestors’ DNA.

As you can see, any time I find the opportunity to test either the Y DNA line, or the mitochondrial line of any of my ancestors, I do. I’ve been quite successful in that quest over the years thanks to many cousins.

The brick wall that fell is an ancestor of Elizabeth Vannoy and her mother, Phoebe Crumley, shown on my DNA Pedigree Chart, boxed in red, with their haplogroup, J1c2c.

A Proxy Tester

Elizabeth Vannoy, being my great-grandmother on my father’s side, doesn’t’ share her mitochondrial DNA with me, so I had to find a proxy tester.

My cousin Debbie knew another cousin, David, whose mother was Lucy, granddaughter of Elizabeth Vannoy. David agreed to test, back in…are you ready for this…2006. Yes, almost 13 years ago. Sometimes DNA is a waiting game.

Cherokee?

At that time, the family rumor was that Elizabeth Vannoy was “Cherokee.” Yea, I know, everyone with ancestors who lived east of the Mississippi has that same rumor – but the best way to actually find out if this is true is to test the relevant family line members’ Y and mitochondrial DNA. Native American haplogroups are definitive and haplogroup J1c2c is unquestionably not Native, so that myth was immediately put to death. (You can read about Native American haplogroups here.)

However, Elizabeth’ Vannoy’s mitochondrial DNA has patiently remained in the Family Tree DNA database, accumulating matches. Truthfully, I’ve been focused elsewhere, and since we had a brick wall with Jotham Brown’s wife, Phoebe (c1750-c1803), which had not yielded to traditional genealogy research, I had moved on and checked cousin David’s matches from time to time to see if anything interesting had turned up.

I thought there was nothing new…but there was! However, it would take my cousins to serve as a catalyst.

Cousin Rita

On New Year’s Eve of 2016, I received an e-mail from a previously unknown cousin, Rita, who was also descended from Jotham Brown and Phoebe. Rita was born a Brown and over the next two years, not only tested her Brown line’s Y DNA which matched Jotham Brown’s line, but also connected her family via paper trail once she knew where to look. She’s a wonderful researcher.

Cousin Stevie

Another researcher who lives in Greene County, Tennessee has doggedly researched the Brown, Crumley, Cooper and associated Johnson lines. It was rumored and pretty much believed for years, because of the very close family associations and migration routes that Phoebe was Zopher Johnson’s daughter. I worked through this mountain of information in late 2015, reaching the conclusion that I really didn’t think Phoebe was Zopher’s daughter, but since there were no known daughters and Zopher’s wife’s surname was unknown, there was no way of finding matrilineal descendants to test. That door was slammed shut. I thought permanently.

However, Stevie had previously recruited two men from the proven Jotham Brown line to Y DNA test who matched a third Brown man whose line descended from the Long Island, Sylvanus Brown family.  Wow, Long Island is a long way from Greene County, TN. Adding to the evidence, our Jotham Brown named one of his sons Sylvanus, a rather unusual name.

This revelation allowed us to track the Brown line forward in time from the Sylvanus on Long Island, providing significant pieces of evidence that Jotham indeed descended from this line.

At that point, we all congratulated ourselves on at least finding an earlier location to work with and went on about solving other mysteries.

Rita’s Theory

I think Rita must be on vacation between Christmas and New Years every year, because I heard from her again on December 28th this year. It took me a few days to reply, due to the Holiday Crud being gifted to me, but am I EVER glad that I did.

Rita, it seems, has spent the last several months sifting through records and looking for migration patterns of families from Long Island. Can you say “desperate genealogist.” I’m not going to steal her thunder, because this part of the journey is hers and hers alone, but suffice it to say she wrote me with a theory.

Joseph Cole was found in Botetourt County, VA along with many of the families that eventually settled in Frederick County, VA and then migrated on together to Greene County, TN. In other words, she’s using the Elizabeth Shown Mills FAN (friends and neighbors) concept to spread the net wider and look for people that might be somehow connected. I took this same approach in Halifax County, VA several years ago with my Estes line very successfully.

Rita discovered that Joseph’s father John Cole also migrated from Long Island through New Jersey into Virginia and settled with this same group. Hmmm, Long Island, same place as Sylvanus Brown. Interesting…

John Cole, it turns out, had a daughter Phebe, who married a Jotham Bart, according to a Presbyterian church book in New Jersey where they settled for a short time in their migration journey. The church records referenced are transcribed, not original.

Jotham Brown, who is known to connect to the Brown family found on Long Island, is found migrating with this same group, and Rita wondered if indeed, Jotham Bart was really Jotham Brown and Phoebe was actually the daughter of John Cole and wife, Mary Mercy Kent.

Still being in the grips of the Holiday Crud, I asked Rita if John Cole and his wife had any proven daughters who would be candidates to have descendants mitochondrial DNA test.

Lydia Cole

While Rita was searching for daughters of Mary Mercy Kent and John Cole, I had sufficiently escaped the grim reaper to check cousin David’s mitochondrial DNA matches, just on the off chance that some useful gem of information was buried there.

David has 16 full sequence matches, of which 7 are exact matches, meaning a genetic distance of 0, a perfect match. Keep in mind that a perfect match can still be hundreds of years in the past, but it can also be much closer in time. Just because it can be further in the past doesn’t mean that it is. You match your mother, her sisters and their children, and that’s clearly very recent.

What was waiting was shocking. Holy chimloda!

Phoebe's sister, Lydia Cole

The Earliest Known Ancestor of one of David’s exact matches is Lydia Cole, born in 1781 in Virginia and died in 1864 in Ohio. The tester, Pete (not his real name,) had a tree. Thank you, thank you!!

Pete was stuck at Lydia Cole, obviously, but his tree provided me with Lydia’s husband’s name.

Oh, and by the way, guess what our Phoebe, born about 1750, named her daughter? Yep, Lydia.

Should I have noticed this hint sooner and dug deeper. Yes, I surely should have – Pete’s test was taken in 2012 so this information was there waiting for 6 years.

Is Lydia Cole too good to be true? Perhaps. Is she related? Of course the first thing good genealogists do is try to poke holes in the story. Better me than someone else. Let’s see what we can find.

Ancestry

Desperate to find out more about Lydia Cole, I checked Ancestry’s trees, understanding just how flakey these can be. Regardless, they are great clues and some are well sourced. Other people’s trees are at least a place to start looking.

Phoebe's sister, Lydia Cole at ancestry

There was Lydia with her father, John Cole and Mary Mercy Kent, the exact same couple Rita had hypothesized as Phoebe’s parents!

Lydia’s marriage was sourced and sure enough she married William Powell Simmons in Frederick County, VA in 1801, where Jotham Brown and Phoebe, his wife lived. It appears, according to Rita, that John Cole and his entire family settled there.

What a nice little bow on this package – at least for now. Am I done? Heck no…this journey is just beginning. You know how genealogy works – when you solve one mystery, you just add two more! Plus, there’s that little issue of verification, finding the relevant documents, etc. I know, details, right?

Is it possible that Lydia Cole isn’t really Phoebe’s sister? Yes, it’s possible. There is a roughly 30 year birth difference – although we all know how fluid these early dates can be.

DNA alone this far in the past can’t prove anything without additional evidence. It’s theoretically possible that Lydia’s mother was another close relative of Phoebe’s mother, somehow – explaining why Lydia and Phoebe would match so closely on such rare mitochondrial DNA. It’s possible, but not terribly likely.

Preliminary autosomal research also shows connections to the Cole family through other descendants of John Cole – so the evidence is mounting.

There’s a lot more research to do – verifying records, discovering more about Phoebe and John Cole and Mary Mercy Kent. I think Rita is already in the car on the way to Virginia😊

We can now follow Phoebe’s family’s migration from Long Island through New Jersey to Virginia. We now know the identity, pending confirmation, of both of Phoebe’s parents and can track those lines back in time. We know roughly when and where Phoebe was born. We can put the Brown and Cole families in the same place and time on Long Island.

All, thanks to mitochondrial DNA tests at Family Tree DNA confirming Rita’s hypothesis.

What a glorious day!!!

What Can Mitochondrial DNA Do For You?

Mitochondrial DNA is anything but useless. If you’re thinking, “yes, but David only had 16 matches total, and the only possible useful ones were the 7 exact matches because the rest are too far back,” – you’d be mistaken.

One of David’s matches is a distance of 2, meaning two mutations, and that’s the match that confirmed that Clarissa Marinda Crumley was the sister of our Phoebe Crumley, proving that Lydia Brown was indeed Phoebe’s mother, NOT Elizabeth Johnson who apparently married a different William Crumley just a few months before Phoebe’s birth. I wrote about unraveling that mystery here.

If you haven’t mitochondrial DNA tested, what critical information are you missing? You don’t know what you don’t know. If everyone would test, just think how many brick walls would fall.

If you haven’t tested, please do so today. Here’s a summary of what you can learn – as if you needed any more encouragement after Phoebe’s story.

  • Matching to other testers – you can’t solve genealogical puzzles like this without matching – which is the primary and incredibly important difference between “haplogroup only” tests elsewhere and Family Tree DNA’s full sequence test.
  • Lineage identification – Native American, African, European, Asian through haplogroup assignment and matching
  • Haplogroup Origins – countries where other people’s ancestors with your haplogroup are found, much more granular than the haplogroup lineage identification
  • Migration Path – in deeper history, where your ancestor came from
  • Settlement Path – more recent history by looking at where your matches ancestors were from
  • Ancestral Matches Map – your matches Earliest Known Ancestor’s locations
  • Ancestral Origins – locations of your matches earliest known matrilineal ancestor, which is how I discovered my own matrilineal ancestors are Scandinavian even though my earliest known ancestor is found in Germany
  • Combined matching with autosomal test results through Advanced Matching

I want to thank my cousins and wonderful collaborators, Debbie, Rita, Stevie and in particular, David for testing – along with Pete, Lydia Cole’s descendant.

Sometimes it does take a village! Test those cousins.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the 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.

Connect With Your Inner Viking

Let’s take a walking heritage tour of Oslo, Norway. We’ll see the city of Olso, the harbor and waterfront, excavated Viking ships, historic Norwegian villages, the Sami people and the Museum of Cultural History. Yes, Oslo has all that…and more.

But first, let’s talk about the Vikings, their history and why you might just care – as in personally.

The Vikings and You

Might you have a bit of Viking blood? If your ancestors came from, well, almost anyplace in coastal or riverine Europe, you might. The Vikings tended to follow the waterways, both sea and river.

Earth map by NASA; Data based on w:File:Viking Age.png (now: File:Vikingen tijd.png), which is in turn based on http://home.online.no/~anlun/tipi/vrout.jpg and other maps.

If your ancestors came from Scandinavia, Normandy, Ireland or England, you probably do have a Viking someplace in your past whether they show up in your DNA or not.

Max Naylor – Own work

However, you may find hints in your DNA.

I’m still complete fascinated by the fact that my mitochondrial DNA originated in Scandinavia even though my most distant known matrilineal ancestor is found in Germany. My Scandinavian matches are shown clustered below.

My mitochondrial match list at Family Tree DNA is full of surnames like Jonsdotter, Nilsdotter, Jansdotter, Larsdotter, Martensdotter, Persdotter, Olsdotter, Pedersdotter, Karldatter, Johnson, Palsdatter, Olausdotter and so forth. There’s no question about where this line originated. The only question is how, when and why Elizabeth Wenig’s matrilineal ancestors traveled to Germany where she was married to Hans Schlicht and gave birth to Elizabeth Schlicht in 1698. Elizabeth married in Wirbenz, Germany, far from Scandinavia.

That white pin shows where my most distant ancestor, Elizabeth Wenig lived. My best guess, and that’s what it is now, is that her arrival may have been connected with the Swedish involvement in the 30 Years War.

Regardless, Scandinavia is my mitochondrial heritage and I loved it in Oslo. I was quite surprised, because I never thought I’d fall in love with a “cold” country – but I did.

My paper trail genealogy suggests that I also descend from Rollo, the Viking warrior best known for having besieged Paris and ruled Normandy. Of course, given that Rollo was born about 860 and died about 930, there’s no genetic proof. It’s a fun story, but my own mitochondrial DNA holds proof of my Scandinavian heritage.

Is there a bit of Viking in you too? Join me in exploring the cultural heritage of Oslo and Norway. I’d love to share this beautiful city with you and your inner Viking. Come along!

Oslo

Welcome to Oslo, a beautiful city located on a fjord, full of history and Scandinavian charm. This was my first glimpse through the clouds. Even sleep deprivation of the red eye trip couldn’t mute my excitement.

One of the things I noticed is that dusk falls early, beginning about 2:30 in early November.

I didn’t realize until the second day that this really was dusk, not just a cloudy sky. The latitude is about the same as Anchorage, Alaska.

The Scandinavians have adapted art to dark.

This beautiful fountain in front of the University of Oslo along the main street, Karl Johann’s Gate, changes from pink to red to white to aqua to apple green to teal to magenta to red to dark purple to royal blue to kind of a frosty blue – and back again. This isn’t night, it’s late afternoon and the city center is full of people.

Bordering the public fountain area on one side we find the National Theater.

Ulven, which I think is a rock musical is playing, but we didn’t attend.

Standing between these stately columns of the Oslo University building, looking across the beautiful cobblestones, you see the National Theater. The fountain is between these two buildings, to the right slightly, just outside this photo.

I just love this design. Even art-inspired cobblestones.

We strolled through the Oslo University campus, enjoying every minute. Trash on the streets and ground is almost non-existent. The Natural History Museum is visible in the distance.

Statues grace the streets and parks. Some older and some contemporary.

Historic buildings are around every corner.

Experiences are made of people. Dr. Penny Walters (England), Martin McDowell (Northern Ireland) and me were the dynamic trio for two days, immersed in as much culture as we could cram in, including our own version of a haunted troll bridge.

This blue structure was designed to keep pedestrians safe in a construction area, but when you stepped on the end, something back in the middle, behind you, clunked disconcertingly. We joked and laughed, a bit uneasily perhaps, about having our own Norwegian troll, because it happened every single time😊

Trolls are part of the cultural heritage of Norway, a legend of Norse mythology.

Here’s the front of Oslo City Hall. The other side is the waterfront area.

This contemporary art is found along the waterfront with the masts of the tall ships showing at right, above the sign, in front of the Nobel Peace Center and Museum.

The entire waterfront area is cultural, with performers and ever-present activities.

I’m not exactly sure what this is, other than interesting. Coffee shops abound, and don’t bother asking for decaf, or Starbucks.

The waterfront is both lovely and historic.

The Nobel Peace Center and Museum faces the harbor.

The old fort still stands sentry in the distance above the harbor.

Viking Ship Museum

We caught tram number 30 on the waterfront and rode some distance to the Viking Ship Museum.

This incredible museum was literally built around and for salvaged Viking ships that had been pulled out of the sea and used for burials of high-status Vikings, probably chieftains or warriors, or perhaps individuals who were both.

In addition to the ships, this museum holds the remains of burial mounds, skeletons (I want their DNA), artifacts, a beautifully carved cart and more – much more.

This is the welcome that greets visitors. Utterly breathtaking.

I particularly love the shadows of the ships on the walls. Graceful elegance – perhaps this design needs to work itself into my future quilts.

These ships were incredibly crafted and are amazingly well preserved.

Is this the Viking version of a sea serpent? A creature from mythology? Dragon ships, called Drakkar from Norse mythology carried dragons and snakes on their prow. No actual dragon ship has ever been discovered, but these prow creatures might serve a similar function.

The grace and artistry on these longships is absolutely amazing. They were huge, more than 70 feet long and 16 feet wide.

When sailed, they could travel more than 11 MPH and they traversed the open sea – to Iceland, Greenland and eventually, as far as L’Anse aux Meadows in Canada, called Vinland.

These ships could also be rowed. Notice the oar holes on the sides and the brackets on the top of the sides to hold the oars.

The fact that these people were willing to sacrifice something so valuable and beautiful to become a virtual casket says something profound about the person being buried.

This museum was created to house these priceless relics. Each burial was accompanied by a burial hut, with a mound on top. The ship was buried first, followed by the hut on top with the mast sticking through. Then the entire ship and hut were covered with an earthen mount. The top of the mast was left protruding through the top of the mound.

The museum created an amazing 3D experience projected on the walls and ceiling around the ship in one of the four rooms housing the ships and artifacts, representing what the burial process must have been like – as historically accurate as possible, reconstructed from the archaeology. It’s almost like reaching back in time and standing right there as the burial occurred. I took this short 5 minute video and it’s incredible!

If you can’t get in touch with your inner Viking here, you can’t get in touch with your inner Viking!

Viking Grave Goods

This carved cart was excavated from one of the burials. The Vikings clearly sent their dead to the afterlife with the finest they had to offer.

Those wheels! Notice the human face above the wheel.

Every ship had a different carved creature on the prow. Was this a good luck charm of sorts, a protecting amulet or perhaps meant to frighten anyone who might come into contact with the ship or its inhabitants?

I so wonder what these were meant to portray. Good luck? Fear? A deity? Confer protection?

These designs remind me of later Celtic work. I have to wonder which came first – chicken or egg?

I wonder if these are mythical creatures, each with a long-lost story. Imagine sitting by the fires at night, or sailing in the ships themselves as they rocked on the waves, listening to stories about the Norse Gods that had been handed down in the same way for millennia.

Viking shoes laced up the center and then the laces were tied around the ankles. The people’s feet were small compared to ours today.

A carved sled, one of two on display.

These artifacts are pieces of art.

I wonder if these items were actually used or were ceremonial in nature, given their intricate carving.

Norwegian Museum of Cultural History

Next door to the Viking Ship Museum is the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, called the Norsk Folkenmuseum. It’s an outdoor “folk museum.”

We are actually moving forward in time, from the Viking era to early Norwegian villages scattered along the coastlines and protected from the open sea inside fjords. Of course, many of these villages probably began as Viking encampments and evolved into farming and agricultural hamlets.

We walked along the sidewalk and the thickly vine-covered wall. .

This coffee-shop was just too inviting and as it so happened, the gateway to the folk museum – a series of “villages” designed to represent various historical regions of Norway.

The outdoor museum was constructed as groups of structures, clustered in villages from various parts of Norway. Instead of destroying these old structures, they were disassembled piece by piece and brought here to be conserved and preserved.

Let’s go inside for a walk – or as it turned out, a hike.

Notice the sod roofs.

The roof was layered with grass, sod, wood or rock edges and birch bark.

We couldn’t tell if the rocks simply lined the edge or were a base layer. This would seem awfully heavy.

Some roofs were shimmed.

The doors were small, probably to conserve heat.

Many buildings were elevated to keep rodents out.

Buildings clustered around a plowed field.

Look at this incredible decorative carving. Each structure had the owners initials and the year of construction incised above the door. (You can click to enlarge the images.)

Around a curve, we discovered a Sami family homestead.

A barn or animal enclosure.

Some of the Sami structures, called lavvu, look like teepees of the Native Americans in North America, but genetically, they don’t seem to be related. The Sami are, however, related genetically to the Russian people of the Uralic region.

The Sami people of the north are nomads, traditionally living a subsistence culture centered around the reindeer.

Their bone carvings and weaving are stunning.

Nothing goes to waste.

We should have known we were in trouble when we noticed mile markers. How many were there? A lot!

Notice the roofs in the background. The museum is quite hilly.

In some places, outright steep. Notice those stacked rocks beside the path.

Maybe a barn in an odd shape?

One of the museum highlights was the incredible stave church.

The church, from the 12th century, saved by the very visionary King of Norway in 1881 is undergoing repair but was open to visitors.

The King with the church.

Interior door. The carving on this doorway is very similar to the carving on the Viking prows – so you can see that the Norwegian culture evolved from the Vikings to contemporary residents. The Vikings didn’t “go” anyplace and live on today.

The church interior Last Supper painting after the Norwegians were converted to Christianity from Paganism.

The carved doors are amazing. Notice how worn the thresholds are from millions of footsteps.

What a beautiful, peaceful, view.

Ornate church roof structures.

So, how many genealogists does it take to decipher the roman numerals on the front of this church?

The answer: III

The construction of some of these buildings is amazing.

These were built to last!

Saying goodbye to the church, we found ourselves overlooking another village.

The sod roof is also being repaired (replaced?) on one of the structures.

Another milestone.

Do you see the face? Is this a troll?

Buildings from another region with rounded and taller arches over doorways.

I love this fence.

Walking down this hillside feels like we are arriving from the country into the village. This village has its own sauna drying laundry facility.

Complete with scented herbs.

This barn smells with the sweet scent of hay. Reminds me of home.

Regional differences in architecture are quite visible.

Each door and post is carved.

Love these ornate doors but mind your head.

I think we found the jail.

These structures had one room that functioned for everything for the entire family. No such thing as privacy.

Smoke exited, light entered. These were carved in the wall, not the roof.

For the most part, windows didn’t exist. We did not notice vent holes on the top or in the roofs of most structures.

Although some had chimneys with metal tops to keep the birds out, weighted down by rocks to keep the tops from blowing away.

This larger home was ornate and 2 story.

Built in bird houses.

Martin pondering Norwegian heritage.

I just love these different fence styles – many of which I’ve never seen before. You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.

Just humor me and my fence infatuation.

Two styles of fences along with two styles of rock walls – all in one picture.

Yet another fence type in another region.

In Hardanger, a few buildings had slate roofs.

This building’s cornerstones look like they might break under the weight.

Snuck another fence in on you😊

It was getting dark by the time we finished our tour of Norway’s little villages, so we caught the tram back into Oslo. The next morning, we visited the Museum of Cultural History.

Museum of Cultural History

The ticket for the Viking Ship Museum included a free pass for Museum of Cultural History, visible from my hotel room, a block or so from the hotel. The outside is getting a facelift and inside, new exhibits, so only portions were open – but they were well worth the visit.

While this museum held several fascinating exhibits, the ones I enjoyed the most were the ones related to Scandinavian history.

I can see myself drinking out of this beautiful Viking drinking horn. Mead perhaps?

The Vikings were clean people, combing their hair regularly and the manes of their horses as well.

The Vikings and Scandinavians were incredible craftsmen.

That Stave Church again with life-size carved religious statues.

A runestone from Tune, 400 AD, that discussed three daughters and an inheritance.

Oldest Sami drum in existence, confiscated in 1691 by the Norwegian authorities. The Sami were very resistance to acculturation. It’s somehow ironic that the only reason this artifact still exists is that it was taken away from the Sami people.

Sami medicine man robe. For every vision or trance, he tied another piece of fabric onto his robe.

The back. I was curious what happened to these robes when the medicine man died. Obviously, this one came to live at the museum.

As we exited the Sami exhibit, we found ourselves on a different continent entirely.

How About Egypt Next?

Although these Egyptian mummies are clearly not Norwegian, I can’t resist including them because I’ve never seen mummies in this condition. These are amazing, ornate and beautiful.

Penny Walters who has spent a significant amount of time in Egypt was thrilled with this part of the exhibit. We learned a great deal from her as well.

I think the pyramids might officially be on my bucket list now.

I so want to sequence the mummy’s DNA.

The walls of the tomb where this mummy was found were painted with these stars. The sign below provides information about the mummy above.

Thankfully, some of the signage includes an English version for us language-challenged visitors.

These colors are incredibly vibrant, even today.

I love these hands.

Notice her breasts too. I had to wonder if this is the first known depiction of a bra.

We exited the Egyptian gallery to find ourselves celebrating the Day of the Dead. That’s a pretty dramatic cultural shift!

Day of the Dead

The Latino Day of the Dead roughly corresponds to Halloween in the US, but it’s a wonderful cultural celebration of ancestors – those who have gone on.

This lovely celebratory “Day of the Dead” weekend includes food, the honoring of ancestors by creating altars and inviting them back with their favorite foods, and festively decorating graves.

This exhibit was colorful, cultural and fun. After all, it is the Museum of Cultural History – and not just Scandinavian culture.

Day of the Dead altar and skeletons of course.

This beaded skull is stunning. Click on this picture for a close-up.

Good thing they didn’t have one of these in the gift shop. It would have been named and on its way home with me.

The Pub

How can I possibly develop “favorite places” in just a few days? I seem to do this wherever I go and often, they are pubs.

Many restaurants in Oslo aren’t open until evening which makes lunch challenging.

Fortunately, right across the street from the hotel was a wonderful pub. The best thing about pubs is often the laid-back and welcoming atmosphere.

By the last day, I was exhausted. A combination of the excitement before the trip, the overnight flight itself, followed by three jet-lagged conference days, then two days of cultural absorption. I was running on adrenaline alone, because I certainly wasn’t sleeping well.

On the final day, Penny left for the airport around noon. Martin and I went back to the pub for lunch after discovering two other choices were closed. We had originally decided to walk to the fort on the waterfront after lunch, but lunch led to coffee which led to more conversation and another coffee and let’s just say when it started getting dark, we decided to simply go back to the hotel and pack. I took my leftovers and had them for dinner.

Our pub afternoon was lovely, sipping coffee (Martin) and Ginger Joe (me.) We caught up on what had happened since our last adventure outside Belfast, Ireland last year.

The Summit

But before we began packing, we had one more stop to make – a visit to the summit bar of the Radisson Blu hotel which is the highest location in the city.

The Cultural Museum (with the Egyptian and Day of the Dead exhibits) is the white building in the left lower corner.

On the other side of the hotel, the palace is illuminated at center left.

There was too much glare for me to take good pictures, but you can see the hotel’s gallery here and some beautiful photos here.

I loved Oslo. I made fond forever memories with both old and new friends. But alas, it was time to leave.

You can read about my incredible 5 AM ride to the airport – and yes, it really was amazing: Norwegian Cultural Gems – Burial Practices, Cemeteries, Heritage Clothing and Family Traditions

One Final Treat – Greenland

On my way home, winging through the air at over 500 miles per hour as compared to those Viking ships clipping right along at 11, I was treated to an incredibly stunning view of Greenland.

Glaciers, fjords, the sea and sunset. How does it get better than this?

The Vikings wouldn’t have believed their eyes.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our trip to Norway and the wonderful culture this country has to offer. If you’d like to learn more, please check out my earlier articles:

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the 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.

Finding Mary Younger’s Mitochondrial DNA – 52 Ancestors #219

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.

Y and mito

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.

Mary Younger

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?

Mary Younger matches map

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.

Haplogroup H1a3a

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.

Mary Younger H1a3a

Haplogroup H1a3a is found in a total of 21 countries. The most common location is Germany, which isn’t reflected in Lynn’s matches.

Mary Younger mtDNA countries

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.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the 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.

Concepts – Paternal vs Patrilineal and Maternal vs Matrilineal

Sometimes a single word – and its interpretation – makes a world of difference.

For example, maternal versus matrilineal and paternal versus patrilineal.

What’s the difference and why does it matter?

In genetic genealogy, it’s very important.

Y and Mitochondrial DNA Lineage

When we explain the differences between Y, mitochondrial and autosomal DNA, we used to tell people that Y was your paternal line and mitochondrial (mtDNA) was your maternal line.

People became confused.

Y and mito

Here’s the pedigree chart generally used to explain the people in your tree represented by Y (blue boxes) and mtDNA (red circles) testing. Unlike autosomal, Y and mitochondrial only tests one line, but tests that one line VERY deeply, providing information not available through autosomal testing.

Y DNA tests only the Y DNA of the line shown with the blue boxes, NOT everyone on your paternal side.

Mitochondrial DNA tests only the line shown in red circles, NOT everyone on your maternal side.

That’s a good thing, not a bad thing, because this type of testing reveals information and matching opportunities not available through autosomal testing.

Maternal Versus Matrilineal, Paternal Versus Patrilineal

When we say maternal and paternal, the meaning can easily be confused.

Paternal and maternal

Anyone on the father’s entire side of the tree literally is paternal, and anyone on the mother’s side literally is maternal. The line is drawn straight down the middle, with half of your ancestors on each side.

Paternal and Maternal sides

What we really mean when we discuss Y and mtDNA testing is patrilineal and matrilineal. Those words mean the direct paternal line only, and the direct maternal line only, shown below.

patrilineal vs matrilineal

There doesn’t seem to be as much confusion with understanding that the Y chromosome follows the patrilineal line – probably because we’re used to this concept as the surname follows the same Y DNA path.

Matrilineal means the same thing on the maternal side, but there isn’t any key anchor concept, such as surname to go along with it. Therefore, when I’m discussing mitochondrial DNA testing, I say, “matrilineal, meaning your mother’s mother’s mother’s line, on up the tree until you run out of mothers.”

Why is this So Important?

Aside from the fact that expectations can easily be mis-set resulting in misinterpreted results, the concept of patrilineal and matrilineal are important because this confusion results in the confused person in advertently confusing others.

For example, when people want to take a mitochondrial DNA test to see if their Native American ancestor is on their mother’s side, what they are really testing is their matrilineal line, not everyone on their mother’s side of the tree.

Native American mitochondrial haplogroups are known to be subsets of haplogroups A, B, C, D and X. If the matrilineal line is Native, the mitochondrial results will fall into the proper Native subgroup. If not, they won’t.

However, a maternal Native American ancestor could well exist in any other ancestor or ancestors whose circles and squares aren’t colored at all – shown below by haplogroup B2a.

Native nonpatrilineal nonmatrilineal

Conversely, a male Native American ancestor could exist in any of those other lines as well, shown above by C-M217. The only way to discover that information is to DNA test someone who carries the Y or mitochondrial DNA of each of your ancestral lines.

At Family Tree DNA

At Family Tree DNA, the only vendor that does full Y and mitochondrial testing and matching, one of the information fields that testers are asked to provide is titled “Earliest Known Ancestors.”

FTDNA earliest known ancestor

Although this field says specifically how to determine the relevant ancestor they are asking about, many people either don’t read this, or don’t understand, or they enter the information before their results come back and never think to update this field when they discover that this isn’t their Native line after all.

On the Matches Map tab, where this information can also be entered, there is no explanation for which ancestor they are asking for. Often, I see males names have been entered in the direct maternal field, so the person interpreted this as their OLDEST person on their mother’s side – which of course is inaccurate – instead of their most distant matrilineal ancestor.

The problem is that if the tester enters a person who was born in Germany, and the matrilineal ancestor is a Native American female (or vice versa), this provides incorrect information to the system which then uses that compiled information to populate Haplogroup Origins, Ancestral Origins and the locations on the Family Tree DNA universal Y haplotree and mitochondrial public haplotree for other people. This is why you often see people in European haplogroups shown as “Native American.” Other testers’ information is part of what is provided on those pages. Collaboration is the underpinning foundation of genetic genealogy, but it also carries with it the opportunity for error.

Family Tree DNA provides a lot of information to customers, but some of it relies on information from other testers, so please test, and please be sure that your information is accurately reflected in these fields. Now might be a good time to check.

What About My Other Lines?

You can’t test for lines other than your patrilineal (males only) and your matrilineal (both genders) personally, BUT, other family members can – and you can surely gift them with tests. I look at it this way; they are testing for me, and if I could, I’d test for that line in a heartbeat – so I’m more than willing to provide a scholarship for their testing.

In the situation above, your mother’s father carries the mitochondrial DNA that you seek, shown as Native American B2a. If he’s not living, his siblings carry that same mitochondrial DNA. If he has sisters, their children, both male and female carry his mother’s mitochondrial DNA too. You need to follow the lineage through all females to a living relative who’s willing to test.

To obtain the DNA of the Native male, shown above as C-M217, you’d need to test your father’s mother’s father, or her brothers, or their sons. Follow this line up and down in the tree to find a male who carries that surname who is not adopted into the family.

I wrote about determining who to test in this article, along with a more detailed article about who to test for your father’s Y and mtDNA DNA, here.

DNA Haplogroup Pedigree Tree

I’ve been gathering my own ancestors’ Y and mtDNA information, because only Y and mtDNA provides a periscope view directly down a single line without admixture from the other parent.

DNA 8 grandparent

There’s just so much to learn! Where they originated, the history of their lineage, who you match and more. Y and mtDNA reaches back before surnames.

What can you learn about your family lines, and who can you ask to test?

What About You?

You can order the Y DNA for males and the mtFull test for either males or females at Family Tree DNA. When I ask a family member to test, I always offer to also purchase a Family Finder test at the same time so we can utilize their autosomal DNA as well, which is inherited from all of their lines. The cousin and I both get to know our ancestors better and advanced matching feature allows combined matching between all kinds of tests.

The Family Finder test can then be leveraged by uploading the autosomal DNA files to other free databases such as GedMatch and MyHeritage to obtain even more matches.

Your cousins and family members are goldmines containing the DNA nuggets of your ancestors just waiting to be found!

Ready for More?

If you have enjoyed this concepts article, you may enjoy other articles in our concepts series.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the 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.

Lydia Brown’s 3 Daughters: Or Were They? Mitochondrial and Autosomal DNA to the Rescue – 52 Ancestors #218

There has long been speculation about what happened to Lydia Brown, the wife of William Crumley III, and when.

It doesn’t help a bit that William Crumley, her husband, was actually William Crumley the third, being named for both his father and grandfather.

William Crumley the second was born in 1767 or 1768 in Frederick County, Virginia. He married, but his wife’s name is unknown. We do, however, know that her mitochondrial DNA haplogroup is H2a1. Without any other moniker, H2a1 has in effect become her name, because I have nothing else to call her that identifies her individually.

We don’t know much about H2a1, only that she was having children by about 1786 and had her last child, Catherine Crumley was born in 1805, suggesting that H2a1 herself was born about 1766.

It was Catherine Crumley’s descendant who took the mitochondrial DNA test that provided us with H2a1. Ironic that we have her mitochondrial DNA and know her haplogroup, but not her name. Of course, we are presuming that indeed, she was William II’s only wife, meaning that her haplogroup applied to her eldest child, Susannah Crumley born about 1786 and the other 8 children born between Susannah and Catherine.

H2a1’s son, William Crumley III was born between 1785 and 1789. William would have inherited his mother’s mitochondrial DNA, H2a1, but he would not have passed it on to his children. Mitochondrial DNA is only passed on by females. William’s children would have inherited their mitochondrial DNA from his wife, their mother.

William III married Lydia Brown on October 1, 1807 in Greene County, Tennessee, where the family had moved by 1793. Lydia was the daughter of Jotham Brown and his wife Phoebe, whose surname is unknown, neighbors who lived close by.

As couples do, William III and Lydia set about starting a family right away, having their first child, the Reverend John Crumley in 1808 or 1809. John was followed by William Crumley the fourth in 1811 and Jotham Crumley in 1813. Sarah may have been a twin to Jotham, born in 1813 or she may have been born in 1815. Of course, there were no birth or death certificates back then.

In 1817, daughter Clarissa was born on April 10th.

That’s where the confusion starts.

Enter Elizabeth Johnson

Enter Elizabeth, known as Betsey, Johnson who married William Crumley in Greene County, TN on October 20, 1817.

Which William Crumley, you ask? Well, so have we, for years. In fact, it’s discussed at length, here.

Given Elizabeth’s age of approximately 17 years when she married (assuming she is who we think she is,) and the fact she was remembered as the cousin of Lydia Brown, we presumed that she married William Crumley III. William III at approximately age 35-40 was closer to her age than William II at approximate age 55 – and Lydia Brown was the wife of William III so it stood to reason that they family would know her cousins.

Seems logical, right?

Except, the next child born to William III and his wife, Lydia or Elizabeth, my ancestor, Phoebe Crumley was born on March 24th, 1818, not even 50 weeks after her sister, Clarissa had been born. Furthermore, Phoebe had been born in Claiborne County, Tennessee, near the border with Lee County, Virginia, not in Greene County where earlier children were born. Also of note, Lydia’s mother, Jotham Brown’s wife was named Phoebe.

It’s certainly possible that William Crumley III’s first wife, Lydia Brown had died and he had remarried quickly to Elizabeth Johnson, then moved to Claiborne County. Except, the dates don’t work well.

We know that Lydia Brown Crumley was alive on April 10, 1817 when Clarissa was born.

Phoebe’s mother, whoever she was, got pregnant in June of 1817, 4 months before Elizabeth Johnson married William Crumley.

Pregnancy as a motivator for marriage happens, but it seemed odd that a 34 year old man with a 2 month old child, whose wife had just died was impregnating a 17 year old girl.

I discussed all the pros and cons of the situation in the articles about Lydia Brown and Phoebe Crumley, but the only other alternative is that Elizabeth Johnson had married the elder William Crumley II. It seems even odder that a man of 50+ would be marrying a girl of 17. But that too happened. Or, maybe Elizabeth was actually older than we thought.

Furthermore, William Crumley II had no additional children after 1817, at least none that we know of, but William III did. Yes, it looked quite probable that Elizabeth Johnson married William Crumley III. Young wives tended to have children, regardless of the age of their husband – so the preponderance of circumstantial evidence pointed to Elizabeth marrying William Crumley III, or Jr. as he was called in Greene County. William Crumley II was referred to as William Sr.

This seemed like the most reasonable (at least tentative) conclusion, based on the evidence at hand.

The problem is that it was wrong.

DNA Upsets the Apple Cart

One of my cousins who descends from Clarissa (born in April 1817) through all females kindly tested her mitochondrial DNA years ago. My line, through Phoebe, the younger sister of Clarissa had tested too, and they matched exactly at the full sequence level. Furthermore, both of those women also matched a descendant of a daughter of Jotham Brown, confirming that those three women had a common ancestor.

This tells us that very likely Clarissa and Phoebe are full siblings. However, dates weren’t always recorded correctly and people simply forgot. Were those two girls’ births recorded in the correct order with the correct years?

I really wanted to test a descendant of the daughter, Melinda, born April 1, 1820. That child was unquestionably born after the 1817 marriage to the second wife, if she was a second wife.

Not long ago, as a result of the article about Lydia, a descendant of Melinda came forth and volunteered to test.

Believe me, those weeks spent waiting for DNA results seemed like an eternity.

Finally, the results were ready, and sure enough, Melinda’s descendant matches Clarissa’s descendant and Phoebe’s descendant at the full sequence level, exactly.

The proof doesn’t get any better than this.

Except…

One Final Hitch

I’d feel a lot better if there wasn’t one last rumor to contend with. The rumor that Elizabeth Johnson was Lydia Brown’s cousin.

Elizabeth Johnson had to be either the daughter of Zopher Johnson, or the daughter of Moses Johnson, both of Greene County, TN. Moses was either the brother or the son of Zopher Johnson. Those are the only candidate fathers for Elizabeth.

Let’s look at the various possible relationships.

Possibility #1 – Jotham Brown’s wife, Phoebe, is Zopher Johnson’s Daughter as is Elizabeth Johnson

I already discussed the possibility that Jotham Brown’s wife, Phoebe, was Zopher Johnson’s daughter, here.

In the scenario above, Elizabeth and Lydia would not have been cousins, but aunt/niece. Their mitochondrial DNA would have matched, but in the article about Jotham Brown’s wife, Phoebe, we dismissed the possibility that she was Zopher Johnson’s daughter, so Possibility #1 isn’t possible after all.

Possibility #2 – Jotham Brown’s Wife, Phoebe, is the Daughter of Zopher Johnson and Elizabeth is Zopher’s Granddaughter Through Son Moses

In the above scenario, if Moses was the son of Zopher, these women would be first cousins, but the mitochondrial DNA lineage would be broken at Moses, so their mitochondrial DNA wouldn’t match.

Additionally, we dismissed the possibility that Phoebe is Zopher’s daughter, so Possibility #2 is not, for 2 different reasons. It’s possible that we’re wrong about Phoebe being Zopher’s daughter, but it’s NOT possible that we’re wrong about the mitochondrial DNA not matching in this scenario.

Furthermore Moses is believed to be the brother of Zopher, not his son.

Possibility #3 – Phoebe is Zopher’s Daughter, Moses is Zopher’s Brother and Elizabeth is Moses’s Daughter

The possibilities really aren’t endless, they just seem that way! 😊

In this third scenario where Moses and Zopher are brothers, not father and son, Elizabeth and Lydia would be 1st cousins once removed, but they would not share mitochondrial DNA unless Zopher and Moses had married sisters or women who also shared the same exact mitochondrial DNA.

The only scenario in which the mitochondrial DNA would be shared with cousins, assuming that Elizabeth Johnson and Lydia Brown were indeed cousins, is Possibility 1 where Jotham’s wife is Zopher’s daughter.

The evidence suggests that Phoebe Brown is not the daughter of Zopher Johnson, eliminating Possibility 3 as well.

Possibility #4 – Zopher Johnson’s Wife and Jotham Brown’s Wife Were Sisters

I’m going to presume here that the individual who recorded that Elizabeth Johnson and Lydia Brown were cousins meant first cousins, although it’s possible that cousin means further back and possibly not in the direct matrilineal line.

For Elizabeth Johnson’s mitochondrial DNA to match that of Lydia Brown’s exactly, they must both descend from the same common female ancestor in the direct matrilineal line.

How might that work, assuming Jotham’s wife is not Zopher’s daughter?

If the child of both Elizabeth Johnson and Lydia Brown had matching mitochondrial DNA, then the cousin lineage had to be through their mother’s matrilineal side.

This means that the wives of Zopher Johnson and Jotham Brown would have been sisters, or possible matrilineal cousins with no interweaving male generations.

Zopher Johnson and Jotham Brown were both found in Frederick Co., VA by 1782 where the tax list tells us that Zopher had 2 people in his household, indicating that he had not been married long.

Jotham Brown and Phebe, his wife are having children by 1761 in Virginia according to the 1850 census record of their oldest child.

These couples are probably at least 20 years different in age.

Unfortunately, we know very little about where Jotham originated. We know that Zopher’s parents were living in Northampton Co., PA in 1761 about the time he was born.

In order for Jotham’s wife, Phoebe to be the sibling of Zopher Johnson’s wife, they would have had to be living in the same location in roughly 1780, which was probably Frederick Co., VA.

Is it possible that the reason that Clarissa, Phoebe and Melinda’s mitochondrial DNA matches is because they actually do have two separate mothers who were cousins? Yes, it is.

Is there any evidence of that? No, not today.

However, this is the only alternate possibility that works at all.

Of course, the most reasonable scenario is that Lydia Brown didn’t die, and Clarissa, Phoebe and Melinda are all 3 her daughters. This evidence is strengthened of course by the fact that Phoebe is named after Lydia Brown’s mother.

What Other Tools are Available?

Unfortunately, Jotham Brown is 6 generations back from me. If Phoebe’s mother was Elizabeth Johnson instead of Lydia Brown, Zopher Johnson would be the same number of generations back in my tree as Jotham Brown.

The absence of Johnson autosomal matches in and of itself at that distance wouldn’t be remarkable for any particular individual, but with as many people from this line who have tested, it’s increasingly unlikely that I would match no one from the Johnson line.

At Ancestry, I added Zopher Johnson in my tree, as Jotham Brown’s wife, Phoebe’s father, creating a “honey-pot” of sorts for matches. I have no one that shares Zopher except for people who also have Phoebe listed as Phoebe Johnson. In other words, no one who descends from Zopher through any other line.

I have 27 people who I match through Jotham Brown through his other children, which I wouldn’t have as matches unless Jotham Brown was my ancestor as well.

At MyHeritage, I also added Zopher Johnson, but I have not had SmartMatches there either. Like at Ancestry, I do have Jotham Brown matches.

Several people match at Ancestry who has no chromosome browser. I have a Jotham Brown Circle at Ancestry with 45 members, of which I match 16.

Not all my matches are from Ancestry. Other matches are found at Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage and GedMatch which allow me to paint their segments on my DNAPainter profile, triangulating with others.

Conclusion

We have multiple pieces of evidence including three matching mitochondrial DNA tests for the sisters, children of William Crumley III, on the following timeline:

Crumley birth timeline

  • We’ve proven that Clarissa, Phebe and Melinda all share the exact same mitochondrial DNA. These births occurred both before and after the marriage of Elizabeth Johnson to one of the William Crumleys in 1817.
  • I have more than 30 matches to several of Jotham Brown’s descendants through multiple children other than through Lydia Brown, the wife of William Crumley III.
  • I don’t have any matches to Zopher Johnson through anyone except people who list Jotham Brown’s wife, Phebe, as the daughter of Zopher Johnson in their trees.
  • Jotham Brown’s wife’s name was Phebe, a rather unusual name, certainly suggesting that Lydia Brown was the mother of Phebe Crumley born in 1818.

I believe the combination of these factors confirms beyond any reasonable doubt that the mother of Phoebe Crumley born in 1818, as well as the younger children born to William Crumley III and his wife were all born to Lydia Brown, the first and only known wife of William Crumley III.

I believe that Elizabeth Johnson married William Crumley II, not William Crumley III based on this as well as new research evidence to be discussed in a future article.

Based on the cumulative evidence, Elizabeth Johnson did not marry William Crumley III and Lydia Brown, William Crumley III’s first wife did not die before the birth of either Phebe or Melinda Crumley.

Based on the fact that I have no autosomal DNA matches to Zopher Johnson’s descendants, I believe we’ve removed the possibility that Jotham Brown’s wife, Phebe is the daughter of Zopher, or the child of Zopher’s brother, Moses. In other words, there is no hint of a biological connection between the Johnson and Brown families upstream of Jotham Brown and his wife, Phoebe whose surname remains unknown.

As far as I’m concerned, we can put this question to bed, forever.

Acknowledgements

Thank you to the descendants of Clarissa, Phoebe and Melinda Crumley for mitochondrial DNA testing. We could never have solved this without you.

Thank you for descendants of Jotham Brown and Zopher Johnson for autosomal DNA testing.

Thank you to Stevie Hughes for her extensive research on the Zopher Johnson line.

If You Want to Test

If you want to test your mitochondrial DNA, click here and order the mtFull test.

If you want to test your autosomal DNA, click here and order the Family Finder test, or click here and order the MyHeritage test.

You can also order a Family Finder test and then transfer free to MyHeritage.

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Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

I provide Personalized DNA Reports for Y and mitochondrial DNA results for people who have tested through Family Tree DNA. I provide Quick Consults for DNA questions for people who have tested with any vendor. I would welcome the opportunity to provide one of these services for you.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate.  If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase.  Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay.  This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 900 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

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When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received.  In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

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Whole Genome Sequencing – Is It Ready for Prime Time?

Dante Labs is offering a whole genomes test for $199 this week as an early Black Friday special.

Please note that just as I was getting ready to push the publish button on this article, Veritas Genetics also jumped on the whole sequencing bandwagon for $199 for the first 1000 testers Nov. 19 and 20th. In this article, I discuss the Dante Labs test. I have NOT reviewed Veritas, their test nor terms, so the same cautions discussed below apply to them and any other company offering whole genome sequencing. The Veritas link is here.

Update – Veritas provides the VCF file for an additional $99, but does not provide FASTQ or BAM files, per their Tweet to me.

I have no affiliation with either company.

$199 (US) is actually a great price for a whole genome test, but before you click and purchase, there are some things you need to know about whole genome sequencing (WGS) and what it can and can’t do for you. Or maybe better stated, what you’ll have to do with your own results before you can utilize the information for genealogical purposes.

The four questions you need to ask yourself are:

  • Why do you want to consider whole genome testing?
  • What question(s) are you trying to answer?
  • What information do you seek?
  • What is your testing goal?

I’m going to say this once now, and I’ll say it again at the end of the article.

Whole genome sequencing tests are NOT A REPLACEMENT FOR GENEALOGICAL DNA TESTS for mitochondrial, Y or autosomal testing. Whole genome sequencing is not a genealogy magic bullet.

There are both pros and cons of this type of purchase, as with most everything. Whole genome tests are for the most experienced and technically savvy genetic genealogists who understand both working with genetics and this field well, who have already taken the vendors’ genealogy tests and are already in the Y, mitochondrial and autosomal comparison data bases.

If that’s you or you’re interested in medical information, you might want to consider a whole genome test.

Let’s start with some basics.

What Is Whole Genome Sequencing?

Whole Genome Sequencing will sequence most of your genome. Keep in mind that humans are more than 99% identical, so the only portions that you’ll care about either medically or genealogically are the portions that differ or tend to mutate. Comparing regions where you match everyone else tells you exactly nothing at all.

Exome Sequencing – A Subset of Whole Genome

Exome sequencing, a subset of whole genome sequencing is utilized for medical testing. The Exome is the region identified as the portions most likely to mutate and that hold medically relevant information. You can read about the benefits and challenges of exome testing here.

I have had my Exome sequenced twice, once at Helix and once at Genos, now owned by NantOmics. Currently, NantOmics does not have a customer sign-in and has acquired my DNA sequence as part of the absorption of Genos. I’ll be writing about that separately. There is always some level of consumer risk in dealing with a startup.

I wrote about Helix here. Helix sequences your Exome (plus) so that you can order a variety of DNA based or personally themed products from their marketplace, although I’m not convinced about the utility of even the legitimacy of some of the available tests, such as the “Wine Explorer.”

On the other hand, the world-class The National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project now utilizes Helix for their testing, as does Spencer Well’s company, Insitome.

You can also pay to download your Exome sequence data separately for $499.

Autosomal Testing for Genealogy

Both whole genome and Exome testing are autosomal testing, meaning that they test chromosomes 1-22 (as opposed to Y and mitochondrial DNA) but the number of autosomal locations varies vastly between the various types of tests.

The locations selected by the genealogy testing companies are a subset of both the whole genome and the Exome. The different vendors that compare your DNA for genealogy generally utilize between 600,000 and 900,000 chip-specific locations that they have selected as being inclined to mutate – meaning that we can obtain genealogically relevant information from those mutations.

Some vendors (for example, 23andMe and Ancestry) also include some medical SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) on their chips, as both have formed medical research alliances with various companies.

Whole genome and Exome sequencing includes these same locations, BUT, the whole genome providers don’t compare the files to other testers nor reduce the files to the locations useful for genealogical comparisons. In other words, they don’t create upload files for you.

The following chart is not to scale, but is meant to convey the concept that the Exome is a subset of the whole genome, and the autosomal vendors’ selected SNPs, although not the same between the companies, are all subsets of the Exome and full genome.

I have not had my whole genome sequenced because I have seen no purpose for doing so, outside of curiosity.

This is NOT to imply that you shouldn’t. However, here are some things to think about.

Whole Genome Sequencing Questions

Coverage – Medical grade coverage is considered to be 30X, meaning an average of 30 scans of every targeted location in your genome. Some will have more and some will have less. This means that your DNA is scanned thirty different times to minimize errors. If a read error happens once or twice, it’s unlikely that the same error will happen several more times. You can read about coverage here and here.

Genomics Education Programme [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.

Here’s an example where the read length of Read 1 is 18, and the depth of the location shown in light blue is 4, meaning 4 actual reads were obtained. If the goal was 30X, then this result would be very poor. If the goal was 4X then this location is a high quality result for a 4X read.

In the above example, if the reference value, meaning the value at the light blue location for most people is T, then 4 instances of a T means you don’t have a mutation. On the other hand, if T is not the reference value, then 4 instances of T means that a mutation has occurred in that location.

Dante Labs coverage information is provided from their webpage as follows:

Other vendors coverage values will differ, but you should always know what you are purchasing.

Ownership – Who owns your data? What happens to your DNA itself (the sample) and results (the files) under normal circumstances and if the company is sold. Typically, the assets of the company, meaning your information, are included during any acquisition.

Does the company “share, lease or sell” your information as an additional revenue stream with other entities? If so, do they ask your permission each and every time? Do they perform internal medical research and then sell the results? What, if anything, is your DNA going to be used for other than the purpose for which you purchased the test? What control do you exercise over that usage?

Read the terms and conditions carefully for every vendor before purchasing.

File Delivery – Three types of files are generated during a whole genome test.

The VCF (Variant Call Format) which details your locations that are different from the reference file. A reference file is the “normal” value for humans.

A FASTQ file which includes the nucleotide sequence along with a corresponding quality score. Mutations in a messy area or that are not consistent may not be “real” and are considered false positives.

The BAM (Binary Alignment Map) file is used for Y DNA SNP alignment. The output from a BAM file is displayed in Family Tree DNA’s Big Y browser for their customers. Are these files delivered to you? If so, how? Family Tree DNA delivers their Big Y DNA BAM files as free downloads.

Typically whole genome data is too large for a download, so it is sent on a disc drive to you. Dante provides this disc for BAM and FASTQ files for 59 Euro ($69 US) plus shipping. VCF files are available free, but if you’re going to order this product, it would be a shame not to receive everything available.

Version – Discoveries are still being made to the human genome. If you thought we’re all done with that, we’re not. As new regions are mapped successfully, the addresses for the rest change, and a new genomic map is created. Think of this as street addresses and a new cluster of houses is now inserted between existing houses. All of the houses are periodically renumbered.

Today, typically results are delivered in either of two versions: hg19(GRVH37) or hg38(GRCH38). What happens when the next hg (human genome) version is released?

When you test with a vendor who uses your data for comparison as a part of a product they offer, they must realign your data so that the comparison will work for all of their customers (think Family Tree DNA and GedMatch, for example), but a vendor who only offers the testing service has no motivation to realign your output file for you. You only pay for sequencing, not for any after-the-fact services.

Platform – Multiple sequencing platforms are available, and not all platforms are entirely compatible with other competing platforms. For example, the Illumina platform and chips may or may not be compatible with the Affymetrix platform (now Thermo Fisher) and chips. Ask about chip compatibility if you have a specific usage in mind before you purchase.

Location – Where is your DNA actually being sequenced? Are you comfortable having your DNA sent to that geographic location for processing? I’m personally fine with anyplace in either the US, Canada or most of Europe, but other locations maybe not so much. I’d have to evaluate the privacy policies, applicable laws, non-citizen recourse and track record of those countries.

Last but perhaps most important, what do you want to DO with this file/information?

Utilization

What you receive from whole genome sequencing is files. What are you going to do with those files? How can you use them? What is your purpose or goal? How technically skilled are you, and how well do you understand what needs to be done to utilize those files?

A Specific Medical Question

If you have a particular question about a specific medical location, Dante allows you to ask the question as soon as you purchase, but you must know what question to ask as they note below.

You can click on their link to view their report on genetic diseases, but keep in mind, this is the disease you specifically ask about. You will very likely NOT be able to interpret this report without a genetic counselor or physician specializing in this field.

Take a look at both sample reports, here.

Health and Wellness in General

The Dante Labs Health and Wellness Report appears to be a collaborative effort with Sequencing.com and also appears to be included in the purchase price.

I uploaded both my Exome and my autosomal DNA results from the various testing companies (23andMe V3 and V4, Ancestry V1 and V2, Family Tree DNA, LivingDNA, DNA.Land) to Promethease for evaluation and there was very little difference between the health-related information returned based on my Exome data and the autosomal testing vendors. The difference is, of course, that the Exome coverage is much deeper (and therefore more reliable) because that test is a medical test, not a consumer genealogy test and more locations are covered. Whole genome testing would be more complete.

I wrote about Promethease here and here. Promethease does accept VCF files from various vendors who provide whole genome testing.

None of these tests are designed or meant for medical interpretation by non-professionals.

Medical Testing

If you plan to test with the idea that should your physician need a genetics test, you’re already ahead of the curve, don’t be so sure. It’s likely that your physician will want a genetics test using the latest technology, from their own lab, where they understand the quality measures in place as well as how the data is presented to them. They are unlikely to accept a test from any other source. I know, because I’ve already had this experience.

Genealogical Comparisons

The power of DNA testing for genealogy is comparing your data to others. Testing in isolation is not useful.

Mitochondrial DNA – I can’t tell for sure based on the sample reports, but it appears that you receive your full sequence haplogroup and probably your mutations as well from Dante. They don’t say which version of mitochondrial DNA they utilize.

However, without the ability to compare to other testers in a database, what genealogical benefit can you derive from this information?

Furthermore, mitochondrial DNA also has “versions,” and converting from an older to a newer version is anything but trivial. Haplogroups are renamed and branches sawed from one part of the mitochondrial haplotree and grafted onto another. A testing (only) vendor that does not provide comparisons has absolutely no reason to update your results and can’t be expected to do so. V17 is the current build, released in February 2016, with the earlier version history here.

Family Tree DNA is the only vendor who tests your full sequence mitochondrial DNA, compares it to other testers and updates your results when a new version is released. You can read more about this process, here and how to work with mtDNA results here.

Y DNA – Dante Labs provides BAM files, but other whole genome sequencers may not. Check before you purchase if you are interested in Y DNA. Again, you’ll need to be able to analyze the results and submit them for comparison. If you are not capable of doing that, you’ll need to pay a third party like either YFull or FGS (Full Genome Sequencing) or take the Big Y test at Family Tree DNA who has the largest Y Database worldwide and compares results.

Typically whole genome testers are looking for Y DNA SNPs, not STR values in BAM files. STR (short tandem repeat) values are the results that you receive when you purchase the 37, 67 or 111 tests at Family Tree DNA, as compared to the Big Y test which provides you with SNPs in order to resolve your haplogroup at the most granular level possible. You can read about the difference between SNPs and STRs here.

As with SNP data, you’ll need outside assistance to extract your STR information from the whole genome sequence information, none of which will be able to be compared with the testers in the Family Tree DNA data base. There is also an issue of copy-count standardization between vendors.

You can read about how to work with STR results and matches here and Big Y results here.

Autosomal DNA – None of the major providers that accept transfers (MyHeritage, Family Tree DNA, GedMatch) accept whole genome files. You would need to find a methodology of reducing the files from the whole genome to the autosomal SNPs accepted by the various vendors. If the vendors adopt the digital signature technology recently proposed in this paper by Yaniv Erlich et al to prevent “spoofed files,” modified files won’t be accepted by vendors.

Summary

Whole genome testing, in general, will and won’t provide you with the following:

Desired Feature Whole Genome Testing
Mitochondrial DNA Presumed full haplogroup and mutations provided, but no ability for comparison to other testers. Upload to Family Tree DNA, the only vendor doing comparisons not available.
Y DNA Presume Y chromosome mostly covered, but limited ability for comparison to other testers for either SNPs or STRs. Must utilize either YFull or FGS for SNP/STR analysis. Upload to Family Tree DNA, the vendor with the largest data base not available when testing elsewhere.
Autosomal DNA for genealogy Presume all SNPs covered, but file output needs to be reduced to SNPs offered/processed by vendors accepting transfers (Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage, GedMatch) and converted to their file formats. Modified files may not be accepted in the future.
Medical (consumer interest) Accuracy is a factor of targeted coverage rate and depth of actual reads. Whole genome vendors may or may not provide any analysis or reports. Dante does but for limited number of conditions. Promethease accepts VCF files from vendors and provides more.
Medical (physician accepted) Physician is likely to order a medical genetics test through their own institution. Physicians may not be willing to risk a misdiagnosis due to a factor outside of their control such as an incompatible human genome version.
Files VCF, FASTQ and BAM may or may not be included with results, and may or may not be free.
Coverage Coverage and depth may or may not be adequate. Multiple extractions (from multiple samples) may or may not be included with the initial purchase (if needed) or may be limited. Ask.
Updates Vendors who offer sequencing as a part of a products that include comparison to other testers will update your results version to the current reference version, such as hg38 and mitochondrial V17. Others do not, nor can they be expected to provide that service.
Version Inquire as to the human genome (hg) version or versions available to you, and which version(s) are acceptable to the third party vendors you wish to utilize. When the next version of the human genome is released, your file will no longer be compatible because WGS vendors are offering sequencing only, not results comparisons to databases for genealogy.
Ownership/Usage Who owns your sample? What will it be utilized for, other than the service you ordered, by whom and for what purposes? Will you we able to authorize or decline each usage?
Location Where geographically is your DNA actually being sequenced and stored? What happens to your actual DNA sample itself and the resulting files? This may not be the location where you return your swab kit.

The Question – Will I Order?

The bottom line is that if you are a genealogist, seeking genetic information for genealogical purposes, you’re much better off to test with the standard and well know genealogy vendors who offer compatibility and comparisons to other testers.

If you are a pioneer in this field, have the technical ability required to make use of a whole genome test and are willing to push the envelope, then perhaps whole genome sequencing is for you.

I am considering ordering the Dante Labs whole genome test out of simple curiosity and to upload to Promethease to determine if the whole genome test provides me with something potentially medically relevant (positive or negative) that autosomal and Exome testing did not.

I’m truly undecided. Somehow, I’m having trouble parting with the $199 plus $69 (hard drive delivery by request when ordering) plus shipping for this limited functionality. If I was a novice genetic genealogist or was not a technology expert, I would definitely NOT order this test for the reasons mentioned above.

A whole genome test is not in any way a genealogical replacement for a full sequence mitochondrial test, a Y STR test, a Y SNP test or an autosomal test along with respective comparison(s) in the data bases of vendors who don’t allow uploads for these various functions.

The simple fact that 30X whole genome testing is available for $199 plus $69 plus shipping is amazing, given that 15 years ago that same test cost 2.7 billion dollars. However, it’s still not the magic bullet for genealogy – at least, not yet.

Today, the necessary integration simply doesn’t exist. You pay the genealogy vendors not just for the basic sequencing, but for the additional matching and maintenance of their data bases, not to mention the upgrading of your sequence as needed over time.

If I had to choose between spending the money for the WGS test or taking the genealogy tests, hands down, I’d take the genealogy tests because of the comparisons available. Comparison and collaboration is absolutely crucial for genealogy. A raw data file buys me nothing genealogically.

If I had not previously taken an Exome test, I would order this test in order to obtain the free Dante Health and Wellness Report which provides limited reporting and to upload my raw data file to Promethease. The price is certainly right.

However, keep in mind that once you view health information, you cannot un-see it, so be sure you do really want to know.

What do you plan to do? Are you going to order a whole genome test?

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