Mitochondrial DNA

Mitochondrial DNA Resources

Welcome to the mitochondrial DNA resource page where you’ll find everything you need to know – start to finish – including:

  • Step-by-step guides about how to utilize mitochondrial DNA for your genealogy
  • Educational articles and links to the latest webinars
  • Articles about the science behind mitochondrial DNA
  • Ancient DNA
  • Success stories

I’ve assembled several articles in one place for your convenience, and I’ll add any new articles right here as soon as they are published.

Please feel free to share this resource or any of the links to individual articles with friends, genealogy groups, or on social media.

If you haven’t already taken a full sequence mitochondrial DNA test, you can order one here. If you also purchase the Family Finder, autosomal test, those results can be used to search together.

What is Mitochondrial DNA?

Mitochondrial DNA is inherited directly from your matrilineal line, only, meaning your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother – on up your family tree until you run out of direct line mothers that you’ve identified. The great news is even if you don’t know the identities of those ancestors in your tree, you carry their mitochondrial DNA which can help identify them.

In this example:

  • The daughter and son both inherited the yellow mitochondrial DNA of their mother, and her mother and her mother.
  • You can also see that the mustard-colored paternal great-grandmother gave her mitochondrial DNA to the paternal grandfather.
  • The magenta-colored paternal great-grandmother gave her mitochondrial DNA to her daughter who gave it to the father.
  • The rose-colored maternal great-grandmother gave her mitochondrial DNA to the maternal grandfather.

The son and daughter can both test for their mother’s mitochondrial DNA.

Any other ancestors in the tree whose mitochondrial DNA you want to test needs to be represented by someone descended through all females to the current generation, which can be male or female.

Here’s a short article about the different kinds of DNA that can be used for genealogy.

Why Mitochondrial DNA?

Let’s start out with why someone might want to test their mitochondrial DNA.

After you purchase a DNA test, swab, return the kit and when the lab finishes processing your test, you’ll receive your results on your personal page at FamilyTreeDNA, the only company that tests mitochondrial DNA at the full sequence level and provides matching with tens of thousands of other testers.

Have you ever thought that you’d like to have an ancestor-specific ethnicity test? Something that points directly at one particular ancestor and tells you their ethnicity? Here’s the deal – mitochondrial DNA – that’s exactly how it works.

Step-by-Step: Understanding Your Results

People want to understand how to use all of the different information provided to testers. These articles provide a step-by-step primer.

Mitochondrial DNA personal page update

Sign in to your Family Tree DNA account and use these articles as a guideline to step through your results on your personal page.

We begin with an overview. What is mitochondrial DNA, how it is inherited and why is it useful for genealogy?

Next, we look at your results and decode what all the numbers mean. It’s easy, really!

Our ancestors lived in clans, and our mitochondrial DNA has its own versions of clans too – called haplogroups. Your full haplogroup can be very informative.

The article, Haplogroup Matching: What It Does (and Doesn’t) Tell You explains more about haplogroups, and what it means if the haplogroup doesn’t match, or doesn’t match exactly.

Sometimes there’s more than meets the eye. Here are my own tips and techniques for more than doubling the usefulness of your matches.

You’ll want to wring every possible advantage out of your tests, so be sure to join relevant projects and use them to their fullest extent.

Four ways to jump-start your mitochondrial DNA research.

You can view the location of the Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA ancestors of people whose ethnicity you match.

Do you know how to utilize advanced matching? It’s a very powerful tool. If not, you will after these articles.

Mitochondrial DNA Information for Everyone

FamilyTreeDNA maintains an extensive public mitochondrial DNA tree, complete with countries of origin for all branches. You don’t need to have tested to enjoy the public tree.

However, if you have tested, take a look to see where the earliest known ancestors of your haplogroup matches are located based on the country flags.

Mitochondrial resources haplotree

These are mine. Where are yours?

What Can Mitochondrial DNA Do for You?

One of the most common mitochondrial DNA questions is “Where did my haplogroup come from?” There’s so much to learn from our haplogroups, even partial haplogroups obtained through autosomal testing. I’ve written step-by-step instructions, both for people who have taken a full sequence test at FamilyTreeDNA and those who have not. Many of these resources are publicly available. 

Some people mistakenly think that mitochondrial DNA isn’t useful for genealogy. I’m here to testify that it’s not only useful, it’s amazing! Here are three stories from my own genealogy about how I’ve used mitochondrial DNA to learn more about my ancestors and in some cases, break right through brick walls.

This amazing research made this breakthrough by working with the trees of mitochondrial DNA matches.

Mitochondrial and autosomal tools, together, are amazing.

A new mystery. What do you think this means?

It’s not only your own mitochondrial DNA that’s important, but other family members too. I couldn’t have made these breakthroughs if someone ELSE hadn’t tested.

You just never know what surprises await.

My cousin tested her mitochondrial DNA to discover that her direct matrilineal ancestor was Native American, much to her surprise. The great news is that her ancestor is my ancestor too!

Since every tester at 23andMe has at least a partial mitochondrial haplogroup, there’s lots of potential. I was able to identify my ancestor’s haplogroup and several cousins too. There are multiple ways to approach this. I used them all and documented the process. It’s easy. Take a look. What’s hidden there waiting for you?

Searching for Native American Ancestors?

If you’re searching for Native American or particular ancestors, mitochondrial DNA can tell you specifically if your mitochondrial DNA, or that of your ancestors (if you test a direct matrilineal descendant,) is Native, African, European, Jewish or Asian. Furthermore, your matches provide clues as to what country your ancestor might be from and sometimes which regions too.

Did you know that people from different parts of the world have distinctive haplogroups?

You can discover your ancestors’ origins through their mitochondrial DNA.

You can even utilize autosomal segment information to track back in time to the ancestor you seek. Then you can obtain that ancestor’s mitochondrial DNA by selectively testing their descendants or finding people who have already tested that descend from that ancestor. Here’s how.

Science Meets Genealogy – Including Ancient DNA

RSRS versus rCRS – what does all that mean?

How citizen science shaped mitochondrial DNA research

Mitochondrial DNA decoded.

And why are they useful?

Compare your own DNA to Vikings!

Twenty-seven Viking skeletons tell a very interesting story – Y and mitochondrial DNA both.

Irish ancestors? Check your DNA and see if you match.

Ancestors from Hungary or Italy? Take a look. These remains have matches to people in various places throughout Europe and include both Y and mitochondrial DNA.

Science Needs You!

  • The Million Mito Project

You can participate in this exciting project that will update the tree of womankind. All you need to do is to purchase a full sequence mitochondrial DNA test at FamilyTreeDNA, or purchase an upgrade for an existing kit, here.

Meet the team and take a look at what we have been doing as we rewrite the tree of womankind. Science is just so interesting.

Social Media

What About YOU???

You never know what you’re going to discover when you test your mitochondrial DNA. I discovered that although my earliest known matrilineal ancestor is found in Germany, her ancestors were from Scandinavia. My cousin discovered that our common ancestor is Mi’kmaq.

What secrets will your mitochondrial DNA reveal?

You can test or upgrade your mitochondrial DNA by clicking here.



I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Genealogy Books

My Book