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.
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.
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
However, if you have tested, take a look to see where the earliest known ancestors of your haplogroup matches are located based on the country flags.
These are mine. Where are yours?
- Family Tree DNA’s Mitochondrial Haplotree
- New Countries of Origin Locations for Y and Mitochondrial Ancestors and Haplotrees at FamilyTreeDNA
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!
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.
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?
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
- FamilyTreeDNA – Y, mitochondrial and autosomal DNA testing
- MyHeritage DNA – autosomal DNA only
- MyHeritage FREE DNA file upload – transfer your results from other vendors free
- AncestryDNA – autosomal DNA only
- 23andMe Ancestry – autosomal DNA only, no Health
- 23andMe Ancestry Plus Health
Genealogy Products and Services
- MyHeritage FREE Tree Builder – genealogy software for your computer
- MyHeritage Subscription with Free Trial
- Legacy Family Tree Webinars – genealogy and DNA classes, subscription-based, some free
- Legacy Family Tree Software – genealogy software for your computer
- Charting Companion – Charts and Reports to use with your genealogy software or FamilySearch
- Legacy Tree Genealogists – Professional genealogy research
- Genealogical.com – Lots of wonderful genealogy research books