Mitochondrial DNA Build 17 Update at Family Tree DNA

I knew the mitochondrial DNA update at Family Tree DNA was coming, I just didn’t know when. The “when” was earlier this week.

Take a look at your mitochondrial DNA haplogroup – it maybe different!

Today, this announcement arrived from Family Tree DNA.

We’re excited to announce the release of mtDNA Build 17, the most up-to-date scientific understanding of the human genome, haplogroups and branches of the mitochondrial DNA haplotree.

As a result of these updates and enhancements—the most advanced available for tracing your direct maternal lineage—some customers may see a change to their existing mtDNA haplogroup. This simply means that in applying the latest research, we are able to further refine your mtDNA haplogroup designation, giving you even more anthropological insight into your maternal genetic ancestry.

With the world’s largest mtDNA database, your mitochondrial DNA is of great value in expanding the overall knowledge of each maternal branch’s history and origins. So take your maternal genetic ancestry a step further—sign in to your account now and discover what’s new in your mtDNA!

This is great news. It means that your haplogroup designation is the most up to date according to Phylotree.

I’d like to take this opportunity to answer a few questions that you might have.

What is Phylotree?

Phylotree is, in essence, the mitochondrial tree of humanity. It tracks the mutations that formed the various mutations from “Mitochondrial Eve,” the original ancestor of all females living today, forward in time…to you.

You can view the Phylotree here.

For example, if your haplogroup is J1c2f, for example, on Phylotree, you would click on haplogroup JT, which includes J. You would then scroll down through all the subgroups to find J1c2f. But that’s after your haplgroup is already determined. Phylotree is the reference source that testing companies use to identify the mutations that define haplogroups in order to assign your haplogroup to you.

It’s All About Mutations

For example, J1c2f has the following mutations at each level, meaning that each mutation(s) further defines a subgroup of haplogroup J.

As you can see, each mutation(s) further refines the haplogroup from J through J1c2f. In other words, if the person didn’t have the mutation G9055A, they would not be J1c2f, but would only be J1c2. If new clusters are discovered in future versions of Phylotree, then someday this person might be J1c2f3z.

Family Tree DNA provides an easy reference mutations chart here.

What is Build 17?

Research in mitochondrial DNA is ongoing. As additional people test, it becomes clear that new subgroups need to be identified, and in some cases, entire groups are moved to different branches of the tree. For example, if you were previously haplogroup A4a, you are now A1, and if you were previously A4a1 you are now A1a.

Build 17 was released in February of 2016. The previous version, Build 16, was released in February 2014 and Build 15 in September of 2012. Prior to that, there were often multiple releases per year, beginning in 2008.

Vendors and Haplogroups

Unfortunately, because some haplogroups are split, meaning they were previously a single haplogroup that now has multiple branches, a haplogroup update is not simply changing the name of the haplogroup. Some people that were previously all one haplogroup are now members of three different descendant haplogroups. I’m using haplogroup Z6 as an example, because it doesn’t exist, and I don’t want to confuse anyone.

Obviously, the vendors can’t just change Z6 to Z6a, because people that were previously Z6 might still be Z6 or might be Z6a, Z6b or Z6c.

Each vendor that provides haplogroups to clients has to rerun their entire data base, so a mitochondrial DNA haplogroup update is not a trivial undertaking and requires a lot of planning.

For those of you who also work with Y DNA, this is exactly why the Y haplotree went from haplogroup names like R1b1c to R-M269, where the terminal SNP, or mutation furthest down the tree (that the participant has tested for) is what defines the haplogroup.

If that same approach were applied to mitochondrial DNA, then J1c2f would be known as J-G9055A or maybe J-9055.

Why Version Matters

When comparing haplogroups between people who tested at various vendors, it’s important to understand that they may not be the same. For example, 23andMe, who reports a haplogroup prediction based not on full sequence testing, but on a group of probes, is still using Phylotree Build 12 from 2011.

Probe based vendors can update their client’s haplogroup to some extent, based on the probes they use which test only specific locations, but they cannot fully refine a haplogroup based on new locations, because their probes never tested those locations. They weren’t known to be haplogroup defining at the time their probes were designed. Even if they redefine their probes, they would have to rerun the actual tests of all of their clients on the new test platform with the new probes.

Full sequence testing at Family Tree DNA eliminates that problem, because they test the entire mitochondria at every location.

Therefore, it’s important to be familiar with your haplogroup, because you might match someone it doesn’t appear that you match. For example, our haplogroup A4a=A1 example. At 23andMe the person would still be A4a but at Family Tree DNA they would be A1.

If you utilize MitoSearch or if you are looking at mtDNA haplogroups recorded in GedMatch, for example, be aware of the source of the information. If you are utilizing other vendors who provide haplogroup estimates, ask which Phylotree build they are using so you know what to expect and how to compare.

Knowing the history of your haplogroup’s naming will allow you to better evaluate haplogroups found outside of Family Tree DNA matchs.

Build History

You can view the Phylotree Update History at this link, but Built 17 information is not yet available. However, since Family Tree DNA went from Built 14 to Build 17, and other vendors are further behind, the information here is still quite relevant.

Growth

If you’re wondering how much the tree grew, Build 14 defined 3550 haplogroups and Built 17 identified 5437. Build 14 utilized and analyzed 8,216 modern mitochondrial sequences, reflected in the 2012 Copernicus paper by Behar et al. Build 17 utilized 24,275 mitochondrial sequences. I certainly hope that the authors will update the Copernicus paper to reflect Build 17. Individuals utilizing the Copernicus paper for haplogroup aging today will have to be cognizant of the difference in haplogroup names.

Matching

If your haplogroup changed, or the haplogroup of any of your matches, your matches may change. Family Tree DNA utilizes something called SmartMatching which means that they will not show you as a match to someone who has taken the full sequence test and is not a member of your exact haplogroup. In other words, they will not show a haplogroup J1c2 as a match to a J1c2f, because their common ancestors are separated by thousands of years.

However, if someone has only tested at the HVR1 or HVR1+HVR2 (current mtDNA Plus test) levels and is predicted to be haplogroup J or J1, and they match you exactly on the locations in the regions where you both tested, then you will be shown as a match. If they upgrade and are discovered to be a different haplogroup, then you will no longer be shown as a match at any level.

Genographic Project

If you tested with the Genographic Project prior to November of 2016, your haplogroup may be different than the Family Tree DNA haplogroup. Family Tree DNA provided the following information:

The differences can be caused by the level of testing done, which phase of the Genographic project that you tested, and when.

  • Geno 1 tested all of HVR1.
  • Geno 2 tested a selection of SNPs across the mitochondrial genome to give a more refined haplogroup using Build 14.
  • Geno 2+ used an updated selection of SNPs across the mitochondrial genome using Build 16.

If you have HVR1 either transferred from the Genographic Project or from the FTDNA product mtDNA, you will have a basic, upper-level haplogroup.

If you tested mtDNA Plus with FTDNA, which is HVR1 + HVR2, you will have a basic, upper-level haplogroup.

If you tested the Full Mitochondrial Sequence with Family Tree DNA, your haplogroup will reflect the full Build 17 haplogroup, which may be different from either the Geno 2 or Geno 2+ haplogroup because of the number and selection of SNPs tested in the Genographic Project, or because of the build difference between Geno 2+ and FTDNA.

Thank You

I want to say a special thank you to Family Tree DNA.

I know that there is a lot of chatter about the cost of mitochondrial DNA testing as compared to autosomal, which is probe testing. It’s difficult for a vendor to maintain a higher quality, more refined product when competing against a lower cost competitor that appears, at first glance, to give the same thing for less money. The key of course is that it’s not really the same thing.

The higher cost is reflective of the fact that the full sequence mitochondrial test uses different technology to test all of the 16,569 mitochondrial DNA locations individually to determine whether the expected reference value is found, a mutation, a deletion or an insertion of other DNA.

Because Family Tree DNA tests every location individually, when new haplogroups are defined, your mitochondrial DNA haplogroup can be updated to reflect any new haplogroup definition, based on any of those 16,569 locations, or combinations of locations. Probe testing in conjunction with autosomal DNA testing can’t do this because the nature of probe testing is to test only specific locations for a value, meaning that probe tests test only known haplogroup defining locations at the time the probe test was designed.

So, thank you, Family Tree DNA, for continuing to test the full mitochondrial sequence, thank you for the updated Build 17 for refined haplogroups, and thank you for answering additional questions about the update.

Testing

If you haven’t yet tested your mitochondrial DNA at the full sequence level, now’s a great time!

If you have tested at the HVR1 or the HVR1+HVR2 levels, you can upgrade to the full sequence test directly from your account. For the next week, upgrades are only $99.

There are two mtDNA tests available today, the mtPlus which only tests through the HVR1+HVR2 level, or about 7% of your mitochondrial DNA locations, or the mtFull Sequence that tests your entire mitochondria, all 16,569 locations.

Click here to order or upgrade.

A Career in Genetic Genealogy

One of the questions I’m asked regularly is how one might prepare for a career in genetic genealogy.  I can’t really answer that question very effectively, because there is no official path or course of study for this career.  My own entry point was through a strong science and computer background, although my degrees are “legacy” by today’s standards, combined with a 35+ year obsession with genealogy and what I thought was an early retirement from my first career.  Little did I know I’d be busier than ever.

In November 2016, I met Jessica Taylor and Paul Woodbury at the International Conference on Genetic Genealogy sponsored by Family Tree DNA and held annually in Houston, Texas.  I had corresponded with Paul several times previously, before he went to work with Legacy Tree Genealogists, owned and founded by Jessica Taylor.

It was wonderful to meet Paul in person, one of the benefits of attending conferences. As you can see, we were having a great time on a lab tour at Gene by Gene.

Paul is the first (and only, so far) person that I’ve met that actually proactively decided to become a genetic genealogist.  Everyone else gravitated to this field from elsewhere or fell into it one way or another.  That really isn’t surprising given that genetic genealogy is only 17 years old, and that there wasn’t enough interest, testing or tests to constitute a career or even a specialty in genetic genealogy for the first several years.

I began writing the Personalized DNA Reports, available through Family Tree DNA and my website, in about 2004.  At that time, autosomal DNA testing for genealogy didn’t yet exist and wouldn’t for several more years.

The advent of autosomal testing with cousin matching and ethnicity estimates has really brought genetics into the forefront of genealogy research.  So the question of how one becomes a genetic genealogist, whether by plan from the beginning or by reinventing or adding to an existing career is a question we’re going to hear more and more.

I’ve asked Paul to write a guest column about the career path to becoming a genetic genealogist.  I would like to thank Paul for this article and Legacy Tree Genealogists for the coupon for readers who might benefit from genealogy research (at the end of the article), and with that, I’ll turn it over to Paul.

Pursuing a Career in Genetic Genealogy by Paul Woodbury

Person I just met: “What do you do for work?”

Me: I’m a genetic genealogist.”

Person I just met: “Wow! I didn’t even know that job existed. How did you get into that?”

I probably have this same conversation or variations on the theme every other day. Since I was sixteen, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in genetic genealogy. My fascination with genealogy began when I was still very young. I can trace my interest to the family history binder I got from my grandparents on my eighth birthday. But, in 2006 during the Winter Olympics, a television special entitled “African American Lives” aired on PBS and it introduced me to my chosen career. In the show, they shared stories regarding the ancestry and origins of African American celebrities. They used traditional genealogical research but brought in DNA as part of their exploration. I decided then and there that I wanted to be a genetic genealogist. Along those lines, I attended Brigham Young University where I majored in genetics and minored in Family History. If I could do it over again, I might have switched my focus.

Throughout my undergraduate education, my professors had no idea what to do with me. Most of my peers were preparing for medical school or for work in research labs. Many of our professors had emphases in plant genetics. Since I had a very different aim, I struggled in my classes which had limited application to the field of genetics. When I approached my professors requesting advice or references, they were at a loss of where to direct me. While my genetics education provides a strong framework for understanding genetic inheritance and biological concepts, most of the skills I use as a genetic genealogist I learned through informal and on-the-job education.

Most of my education relating specifically to genetic genealogy came through attending conferences, networking with leaders in the field, reading blogs, online forums, and books dedicated to the topic and working under the guidance of skilled mentors. Because genetic genealogy is a fairly new field, I have also found that much of my genetic genealogy education comes through hands-on experience dealing with real situations. I learn most as I apply my knowledge towards the resolution of a research goal, and as I search for novel approaches to solve more advanced research problems.

When I first began attending conferences, I would ask those offering classes on genetic genealogy topics what they recommended for those preparing to enter the field. Every one of them told me that I should pursue a masters or Ph.D. in Genetics or Bioinformatics. I ignored their advice. While there is certainly a demand for expertise in those areas, I saw a need (and still see a need) for genealogists who are well-versed in applying genetics to traditional research rather than vice-versa. As discussed previously, most of what I use daily as a genetic genealogist, I learned outside of my genetics classes. To be a good genetic genealogist, you do not necessarily need to be a geneticist. Nevertheless, to be a good genetic genealogist, you do need to be a good genealogist.

Genetic testing is increasingly becoming part of reasonably exhaustive research as mandated by the genealogical proof standard. As DNA takes its place as one record among many, good genetic genealogists will need to be well-versed in at least the basics of traditional research, and traditional researchers will need to be well-versed in at least the basics of DNA evidence. Certainly there are specialists in different localities, languages or types of record, but they exist in relation to larger genealogical practice, evidence analysis and problem solving. Specialty in genetic genealogy is not a stand-alone emphasis. For any individual planning to pursue genetic genealogy research as a career, I recommend specializing in other traditional research fields as well. Personally, I specialize in French, Spanish and Scandinavian research in addition to my emphasis on genetic genealogy.

Even now, genetic genealogy education is mostly offered through conferences and institutes. Some conferences and institutes which I have attended and which regularly offer in-depth courses on genetic genealogy include the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree and DNA Day (SCGS), RootsTech, Institute for Genetic Genealogy (I4GG), and the Family Tree DNA Group Administrators Conference. A host of other conferences, institutes, workshops and seminars also provide instruction on genetic genealogy including national conferences like NGS and FGS and local society conferences. Online offerings are also on the rise and one fairly new resource is a 15-week online course dedicated to Genetic Genealogy at Excelsior College. (https://genealogy.excelsior.edu/genealogy/genetic-genealogy/)

Conferences are not only valuable for the classes and sessions they provide dedicated to genetic genealogy topics, but also for the opportunities they provide to network with other genealogists and genetic genealogy researchers. By attending RootsTech and other conferences while still a college student, I was able to collaborate and network with leaders in the field of genetic genealogy. Through my correspondence and collaboration with these individuals, I have benefited from wonderful relationships and important mentorship opportunities.

Even if you do not have the opportunity to participate in genealogy conferences and network with other professionals, you can still benefit from online communities, forums and blogs which provide in depth education regarding genetic genealogy:

Books I recommend for genetic genealogy education:

  • Genetic Genealogy in Practice by Blaine T. Bettinger and Debbie Parker Wayne
  • NextGen Genealogy: The DNA Connection by David Dowell
  • The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blaine T. Bettinger

Perhaps the most important challenge for preparing to enter the field of genetic genealogy is gaining experience in the field. As you work with prospective employers and clients it is important to have a portfolio of professional level reports and materials to help increase confidence in your ability. Consider starting work on your own family history. As you compile evidence and proof arguments, be sure to abide by standards of genealogical proof and the genetic genealogy standards. When collaborating with other genetic cousins and relatives, consider pursuing some pro-bono work in helping them with their research problems. When you share your portfolio with clients or prospective employers, don’t be shy. This is your opportunity to show off the full range of your ability, so don’t feel bad about sharing a 30 page report. Since there are currently no organizations offering credentials in genetic genealogy specialty, clients and employers have to depend upon your previous experience in the area. For any research you do, make sure to write it up in a clearly written report.

Even if you are a very good researcher, you cannot be a successful professional genealogist without strong writing and communication skills as well. Even the most brilliant research breakthroughs go unnoticed when they are not effectively communicated. In addition to improving your research skills, work on developing your time management, report writing, and communication skills.

As genealogy becomes a more popular field of inquiry and as more people participate in genetic genealogy testing, demand for DNA interpretation and genetic genealogy research will only increase. Demand for genetic genealogy research services is already high and is rapidly increasing. In my view, demand for genealogy research is driven by disconnect and displacement from cultural roots. Current trends in migration and family structures lend themselves to more frequent disconnect and displacement between families and communities. In many cases, the cultural and familial ties being broken today through refugee crises, adoption, and misattributed parentage have sparse record trails on which we can rely for future genealogy research. As a result, genetic genealogy will play an increasingly important role in genealogy research in the future. It is an exciting time to be involved in the field of genetic genealogy and a great many opportunities are on the horizon. If you plan to join the field, make sure to arm yourself with the education and experience you will need to succeed.

Paul Woodbury is a Senior Genealogist with Legacy Tree Genealogists, a genealogy research firm with extensive expertise in genetic genealogy and DNA analysis. To learn more about Legacy Tree services and its research team, visit the Legacy Tree website at https://www.legacytree.com 

Exclusive Offer for DNAexplain readers:

Receive $100 off a 20-hour research project from Legacy Tree Genealogists using code SAVE100. Valid through March 24th, 2017.  Click here for more information, or to redeem coupon.

Concepts – The Faces of Endogamy

Recently, while checking Facebook, I saw this posting from my friend who researches in the same Native admixed group of families in North Carolina and Virginia that I do. Researchers have been trying for years to sort through these interrelated families. As I read Justin’s post, I realized, this is a great example of endogamy and often how it presents itself to genealogists.

I match a lot of people from the Indian Woods [Bertie County, NC] area via DNA, with names like Bunch, Butler, Mitchell, Bazemore, Castellow, and, of course, Collins. While it’s hard to narrow in on which family these matching segments come from, I can find ‘neighborhoods’ that fit the bill genetically. This [census entry] is from near Quitsna in 1860. You see Bunch, Collins, Castellow, Carter, and Mitchell in neighboring households.

Which begs the question, what is endogamy, do you have it and how can you tell?

Definition

Endogamy is the practice or custom or marrying within a specific group, population, geography or tribe.

Examples that come to mind are Ashkenazi Jews, Native Americans (before European and African admixture), Amish, Acadians and Mennonite communities.

Some groups marry within their own ranks due to religious practices. Jewish, Amish and Mennonite would fall under this umbrella. Some intermarry due to cultural practices, such as Acadians, although their endogamy could also partly be attributed to their staunch Catholic beliefs in a primarily non-Catholic region. Some people practice endogamy due to lack of other eligible partners such as Native Americans before contact with Europeans and Africans.  People who live on  islands or in villages whose populations were restricted geographically are prime candidates for endogamy.

In the case of Justin’s group of families who were probably admixed with Native, European and African ancestors, they intermarried because there were socially no other reasonable local options. In Virginia during that timeframe, mixed race marriages were illegal. Not only that, but you married who lived close by and who you knew – in essence the neighbors who were also your relatives.

Endogamy and Genetic Genealogy

In some cases, endogamy is good news for the genealogist. For example, if you’re working with Acadian records and know which Catholic church your ancestors attended. Assuming those church records still exist, you’re practically guaranteed that you’ll find the entire family because Acadians nearly always married within the Acadian community, and the entire Acadian community was Catholic. Catholics kept wonderful records. Even when the Acadians married a Native person, the Native spouse is almost always baptized and recorded with a non-Native name in the Catholic church records, which paved the way for a Catholic marriage.

In other cases, such as Justin’s admixed group, the Brethren who notoriously kept no church records or the Jewish people whose records were largely destroyed during the Holocaust, endogamy has the opposite effect – meaning that actual records are often beyond the reach of genealogists – but the DNA is not.

It’s in cases like this that people reach for DNA to help them find their families and connections.

What Does Endogamy Look Like?

If you know nothing about your heritage, how would you know whether you are endogamous or not? What does it look like? How do you recognize it?

The answer is…it depends. Unfortunately, there’s no endogamy button that lights up on your DNA results, but there are a range of substantial clues.  Let’s divide up the question into pieces that make sense and look at a variety of useful tools.

Full or Part?

First of all, fully and partly endogamous ancestry, and endogamy from different sources, has different signs and symptoms, so to speak.

A fully endogamous person, depending on their endogamy group, may have either strikingly more than average autosomal DNA matches, or very few.

Another factor will be geography, where you live, which serves to rule out some groups entirely. If you live in Australia, your ancestors may be European but they aren’t going to be Native American.

How many people in your endogamous group that have DNA tested is another factor that weighs very heavily in terms of what endogamy looks like, as is the age of the group. The older the group, generally the more descendants available to test although that’s not always the case. For example warfare, cultural genocide and disease wiped out many or most of the Native population in the United States, especially east of the Mississippi and particularly in the easternmost seaboard regions.

Because of the genocide perpetrated upon the Jewish people, followed by the scattering of survivors, Jewish descendants are inclined to test to find family connections. Jewish surnames may have been changed or not adopted in some cases until late, in the 1800s, and finding family after displacement was impossible in the 1940s for those who survived.

Let’s look at autosomal DNA matches for fully and partly endogamous individuals.

Jewish people, in particular Ashkenazi, generally have roughly three times as many matches as non-endogamous individuals.

Conversely, because very few Native people have tested, Native testers, especially non-admixed Native individuals, may have very few matches.

It’s ironic that my mother, the last person listed, with two endogamous lines, still has fewer matches than I do, the first person listed.  This is because my father has deep colonial roots with lots of descendants to test, and my mother has recent immigration in her family line – even though a quarter of her ancestry is endogamous.

To determine whether we are looking at endogamy, sometimes we need to look for other clues.

There are lots of ways to discover additional clues.

Surnames

Is there a trend among the surnames of your matches?

At the top of your Family Finder match page your three most common surnames are displayed.

A fully endogamous Jewish individual’s most common surnames are shown above. If you see Cohen among your most common surnames, you are probably Jewish, given that the Kohanim have special religious responsibilities within the Jewish faith.

Of course, especially with autosomal DNA, the person’s current surname may not be indicative, but there tends to be a discernable pattern with someone who is highly endogamous. When someone who is fully endogamous, such as the Jewish population, intermarries with other Jewish people, the surnames will likely still be recognizably Jewish.

Our Jewish individual’s first matching page, meaning his closest matches, includes the following surnames:

  • Cohen
  • Levi
  • Bernstein
  • Kohn
  • Goldstein

The Sioux individual only has 137 matches, but his first page of matches includes the following surnames:

  • Sunbear
  • Deer With Horns
  • Eagleman
  • Yelloweyes
  • Long Turkey
  • Fire
  • Bad Wound
  • Growing Thunder

These surnames are very suggestive of Native American ancestry in a tribe that did not adopt European surnames early in their history. In other words, not east of the Mississippi.

At Family Tree DNA, every person has the opportunity to list their family surnames and locations, so don’t just look at the tester’s surname, but at their family surnames and locations too. The Ancestral Surname column is located to the far right on the Family Finder matches page. If you can’t see all of the surnames, click on the person’s profile picture to see their entire profile and all of the surnames they have listed.

Please note that you can click to enlarge all graphics.

If you haven’t listed your family surnames, now would be a good time. You can do this by clicking on the orange “Manage Personal Information” link near your profile picture on the left of your personal page.

The orange link takes you to the account settings page. Click on the Genealogy tab, then on surnames. Be sure to click the orange “save” when you are finished.

Partial Endogamy

Let’s take a look at a case study of someone who is partially endogamous, meaning that they have endogamous lines, but aren’t fully endogamous. My mother, who is the partially endogamous individual with 1231 matches is a good example.

Mother is a conglomeration of immigrants. Her 8 great-grandparents break down as follows:

In mother’s case, a few different forces are working against each other. Let’s take a look.

The case of recent immigration from the Netherlands, in the 1850s, would serve to reduce mother’s matches because there has been little time in the US for descendants to accrue and test. Because people in the Netherlands tend to be very reluctant about DNA testing, very few have tested, also having the effect of reducing her number of matches.

Mother’s Dutch ancestors were Mennonites, an endogamous group within the Netherlands, which would further reduce her possibilities of having matches on these lines since she would be less likely to match the general population and more likely to match individuals within the endogamous group. If people from the Mennonite group tested, she would likely match many within that group. In other words, for her to find Dutch matches, people descended from the endogamous Dutch Mennonite population would need to test. At Family Tree DNA, there is a Low Mennonite Y DNA and Anabaptist autosomal DNA project both, but these groups tend to attract the Mennonites that migrated to Russia and Poland, not the group that stayed in the Netherlands. Another issue, at least in mother’s case, is that her Mennonite relatives “seem” to have been later converts, not part of the original Mennonite group – although it’s difficult to tell for sure in the records that exist.

Mother’s Kirsch and Drechsel ancestors were also recent immigrants in the 1850s, from Germany, with very few descendants in the US today. The villages from where her Kirsch ancestors immigrated, based on the church records, did tend to be rather endogamous.  However, that endogamy would only have reached back about 200 years, as far as the 30 Years’ War when that region was almost entirely, if not entirely, depopulated. So while there was recent endogamy, there (probably) wasn’t deep endogamy. Of course, it would require someone from those villages to test so mother could have matches before endogamy can relevant. DNA testing is not popular in Germany either.

Because of recent immigration, altogether one half of mother’s heritage would reduce her number of matches significantly. Recent immigrants simply have fewer descendants to test.

On the other hand, mother’s English line has been in the US for a long time, some since the Mayflower, so she could expect many matches from that line, although they are not endogamous. If you’re thinking to yourself that deep colonial ancestry can sometime mimic endogamy in terms of lots of matches, you’re right – but still not nearly to the level of a fully endogamous Jewish person.

Mother’s Acadian line has been settled in North America in Nova Scotia since the early 1600s, marrying within their own community, mixing with the Native people and then scattering in different directions after 1755 when they were forcibly removed. Acadians, however, tended to remain in their cultural groups, even after relocation. Many Acadian descendants DNA test and all Acadians descend from a limited and relatively well documented original population. That level of documentation is very unusual for endogamous groups. Acadian surnames are well known and are French. The best Acadian genealogical resource in is Karen Theriot’s comprehensive tree on Rootsweb in combination with the Mothers of Acadia DNA project at Family Tree DNA. I wish there was a similar Fathers of Acadia project.

Mother’s Brethren line is much less well documented due to a lack of church records. The Brethren community immigrated in the early 1700s from primarily Switzerland and Germany, was initially relatively small, lived in clusters in specific areas, traveled together and did not marry outside the Brethren faith. Therefore, Brethren heritage and names also tend to be rather specific, but not as recognizable as Acadian names. After all, the Brethren were German/Swiss and in mother’s case, she also has another 1/4th of her heritage that are recently immigrated Germans – so differentiating one German group from the other can be tricky. The only way to tell Brethren matches from other German matches is that the Brethren also tend to match each other.

In Common With

If you notice a group of similar appearing surnames, use the ICW (in common with) tool at Family Tree DNA to see who you match in common with those individuals. If you find that you match a whole group of people with similar surnames or geography, contact your matches and ask if they know any of the other matches and how they might be related. I always recommend beginning with your closest matches because your common ancestor is likely to be closer in time than people who match you more distantly.

In the ICW match example below, all of the matches who do show ancestral surnames include Acadian surnames and/or locations.

Acadians, of course, became Cajuns in Louisiana where one group settled after their displacement in Nova Scotia. The bolded surnames match surnames on the tester’s surname list.

The ICW tools work particular well if you know of or can identify one person who matches you within a group, or simply on one side of your family.

Don Worth’s Autosomal DNA Segment Analyzer is an excellent tool to genetically group your matches by chromosome. It’s then easy to use the chromosome browser at Family Tree DNA to see which of these people match you on the same segments. These tools work wonderfully together.

The group above is an Acadian match group. By hovering over the match names, you can see their ancestral surnames which make the Acadian connection immediately evident.

The Matrix

In addition to seeing the people you match in common with your matches by utilizing the ICW tool at Family Tree DNA, you can also utilize the Matrix tool to see if your matches also match each other. While this isn’t the same as triangulation, because it doesn’t tell you if they match each other on the same exact segment, it’s a wonderful tool, because in the absence of cooperation or communication from your matches to determine triangulation between multiple people, the Matrix is a very good secondary approach and often predicts triangulation accurately.

In the Matrix, above, the blue boxes indicates that these individuals (from your match list) also match each other.

For additional information on various autosomal tools available for your use, click here to read the article, Nine Autosomal Tools at Family Tree DNA.

MyOrigins

Everyone who takes the Family Finder test also receives their ethnicity estimates on the MyOrigins tab.

In the case of our Jewish friend, above, his MyOrigins map clearly shows his endogamous heritage. He does have some Middle Eastern region admixture, but I’ve seen Ashkenazi Jewish results that are 100% Ashkenazi Jewish.

The same situation exists with our Sioux individual, above. Heavily Native, removing any doubt about his ancestry.

However, mother’s European admixture blends her MyOrigins results into a colorful but unhelpful European map, at least in terms of determining whether she is endogamous or has endogamous lines.

European endogamous admixture, except for Jewish heritage, tends to not be remarkable enough to stand out as anything except European heritage utilizing ethnicity tools. In addition, keep in mind that DNA testing in France for genealogy is illegal, so often there is a distinct absence in that region that is a function of the lack of testing candidates. Acadians may not show up as French.

Ethnicity testing tends to be excellent at determining majority ethnicity, and determining differences between continental level ethnicity, but less helpful otherwise. In terms of endogamy, Jewish and Native American tend to be the two largest endogamous groups that are revealed by ethnicity testing – and for that purpose, ethnicity testing is wonderful.

Y and Mitochondrial DNA and Endogamy

Autosomal tools aren’t the only tools available to the genetic genealogist. In fact, if someone is 100% endogamous, or even half endogamous, chances are very good that either the Y DNA for males on the direct paternal line, or the mitochondrial DNA for males and females on the direct matrilineal line will be very informative.

On the pedigree chart above, the blue squares represent the Y DNA that the father contributes to only his sons and the red circles represent the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) that mothers contribute to both genders of their children, but is only passed on by the females.

By utilizing Y and mtDNA testing, you can obtain a direct periscope view back in time many generations, because the Y and mitochondrial DNA is preserved intact, except for an occasional mutation. Unlike autosomal DNA, the DNA of the other parent is not admixed with the Y or mitochondrial DNA. Therefore, the DNA that you’re looking at is the DNA of your ancestors, generations back in time, as opposed to autosomal DNA which can only reliably reach back 5 or 6 generations in terms of ethnicity because it gets halved in every generation and mixed with the DNA of the other parent.

With autosomal DNA, we can see THAT it exists, but not who it came from.  With Y and mtDNA DNA, we know exactly who in your tree that specific DNA came from

We do depend on occasional Y and mtDNA mutations to allow our lines to accrue enough mutations to differentiate us from others who aren’t related, but those mutations accrue very slowly over hundreds to thousands of years.

Our “clans,” over time, are defined by haplogroups and both our individual matches and our haplogroup or clan designation can be very useful. Your haplogroup will indicate whether you are European, Jewish, Asian, Native American or African on the Y and/or mtDNA line.

In cases of endogamous groups where the members are known to marry only within the group, Y and mtDNA can be especially helpful in identifying potential families of origin.  This is evident in the Mothers of Acadia DNA project as well a particular brick wall I’m working on in mother’s Brethren line. Success, of course, hinges on members of that population testing their Y or mtDNA and being available for comparison.

Always test your Y (males only) and mitochondrial DNA (males and females.) You don’t know what you don’t know, and sometimes those lines may just hold the key you’re looking for. It would be a shame to neglect the test with the answer, or at least a reasonably good hint! Stories of people discovering their ethnic heritage, at least for that line, by taking a Y or mtDNA test are legendary.

Jewish Y and Mitochondrial DNA

Fortunately, for genetic genealogists, Jewish people carry specific sub-haplogroups that are readily identified as Jewish, although carrying these subgroups don’t always mean you’re Jewish. “Jewish” is a religion as well as a culture that has been in existence as an endogamous group long enough in isolation in the diaspora areas to develop specific mutations that identify group members. Furthermore, the Jewish people originated in the Near East and are therefore relatively easy, relative to Y and mtDNA, to differentiate from the people native to the regions outside of the Near East where groups of Jewish people settled.

The first place to look for hints of your heritage is your main page at Family Tree DNA. First, note your haplogroups and any badges you may have in the upper right hand corner of your results page.

In this man’s case, the Cohen badge is this man’s first clue that he matches or closely matches the known DNA signature for Jewish Cohen men.

Both Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA results have multiple tabs that hold important information.

Two tabs, Haplogroup Origins and Ancestral Origins are especially important for participants to review.

The Haplogroup Origins tab shows a combination of academic research results identifying your haplogroup with locations, as well as some Ancestral Origins mixed in.

A Jewish Y DNA Haplogroup Origins page is shown above.

The Ancestral Origins page, below, reflects the location where your matches SAY their most distant direct matrilineal (for mtDNA) or patrilineal (for Y DNA) ancestors were found. Clearly, this information can be open to incorrect interpretation, and sometimes is. For example, people often don’t understand that “most distant maternal ancestor” means the direct line female on your mother’s mother’s mother’s side.  However, you’re not looking at any one entry. You are looking instead for trends.

The Ancestral Origins page for a Jewish man’s Y DNA is shown above.

The Haplogroup Origins page for Jewish mitochondrial DNA, below, looks much the same, with lots of Ashkenazi entries.

The mitochindrial Ancestral Origins results, below, generally become more granular and specific with the higher test levels. That’s because the more general results get weeded out a higher levels. Your closest matches at the highest level of testing are the most relevant to you, although sometimes people who tested at lower levels would be relevant, if they upgraded their tests.

Native American Y and Mitochondrial DNA

Native Americans, like Jewish people, are very fortunate in that they carry very specific sub-haplogroups for Y and mitochondrial DNA. The Native people had a very limited number of founders in the Americas when they originally arrived, between roughly 10,000 and 25,000 years ago, depending on which model you prefer to use. Descendants had no choice but to intermarry with each other for thousands of years before European and African contact brought new genes to the Native people.

Fortunately, because Y and mtDNA don’t mix with the other parents’ DNA, no matter how admixed the individual today, testers’ Y and mtDNA still shows exactly the origins of that lineage.

Native American Y DNA shows up as such on the Haplogroup Origins and Ancestral Origins tabs, as illustrated below.

The haplogroup assigned is shown along with a designation as Native on the Haplogroup Origins and Ancestral Origins pages. The haplogroup is assigned through DNA testing, but the Native designation and location is entered by the tester. Do be aware that some people record the fact that their “mother’s side” or “father’s side” is reported to have a Native ancestor, which is not (necessarily) the same as the matrilineal or patrilineal line. Their “mother’s side” and “father’s side” can have any number of both male and female ancestors.

If the tester’s haplogroup comes back as non-Native, the erroneous Native designation shows up in their matches Ancestral Origins page as “Native,” because that is what the tester initially entered.  I wrote about this situation here, but there isn’t much that can be done about this unless the tester either realizes their error or thinks to go back and change their designation from Native American when they realize the DNA does not support the family story, at least not on this particular line line. Erroneous labeling applies to both Y and mtDNA.

Native Y DNA falls within a subset of haplogroups C and Q. However, most subgroups of C and Q are NOT Native, but are European or Asian or in one case, a subgroup of haplogroup Q is Jewish. This does NOT means that the Jewish people and the Native people are related within many thousands of years. It means they had a common ancestor in Asia thousands of years ago that gave birth to both groups. In essence, one group of the original Q moved east and eventually into the Americas, and one moved west, winding up in Europe. Today, mutations (SNPs) have accrued to each group that very successfully differentiate them from one another. In order to determine whether your branch of C or Q is Native, you must take additional SNP tests which further identify your haplogroup – meaning which branch of haplogroup C or Q that you belong to.

Native Americans Y-DNA, to date, must fall into a subset of haplogroup C-P39, a subgroup of C-M217 or Q-M3, Q-M971/Z780 or possibly Q-B143 (ancient Saqquq in Greenland), according to The study of human Y chromosome variation through ancient DNA. Each of these branches also has sub-branches except for Q-B143 which may be extinct. This isn’t to say additional haplogroups or sub-haplogroups won’t be discovered in the future. In fact, haplogroup O is a very good candidate, but enough evidence doesn’t yet exist today to definitively state that haplogroup O is also Native.

STR marker testing, meaning panels of markers from 12-111, provides all participants with a major haplogroup estimate, such as C or Q. However, to confirm the Y DNA haplogroup subgroup further down the tree, one must take additional SNP testing. I wrote an article about the differences between STR markers and SNPs, if you’d like to read it, here and why you might want to SNP test, here.

Testers can purchase individual SNPs, such as the proven Native SNPs, which will prove or disprove Native ancestry, a panel of SNPs which have been combined to be cost efficient (for most haplogroups), or the Big Y test which scans the entire Y chromosome and provides additional matching.

When financially possible, the Big Y is always recommended. The Big Y results for the Sioux man showed 61 previously unknown SNPs. The Big Y test is a test of discovery, and is how we learn about new branches of the Y haplotree. You can see the most current version of the haplogroup C and Q trees on your Family Tree DNA results page or on the ISOGG tree.

Native mitochondrial DNA can be determined by full sequence testing the mitochondrial DNA. The mtPlus test only tests a smaller subset of the mtDNA and assigns a base haplogroup such as A. To confirm Native ancestry, one needs to take the full sequence mitochondrial test to obtain their full haplogroup designation which can only be determined by testing the full mitochondrial sequence.

Native mitochondrial haplogroups fall into base haplogroups A, B, C, D, X and M, with F as a possibility. The most recent paper on Native Mitochondrial DNA Discoveries can be found here and a site containing all known Native American mitochondrial DNA haplogroups is here.

Not Native or Jewish

Unfortunately, other endogamous groups aren’t as fortunate as Jewish and Native people, because they don’t have haplogroups or subgroups associated with their endogamy group. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few other tools that can be useful.

Don’t forget about your Matches Maps. While your haplogroup may not be specific enough to identify your heritage, your matches may hold clues. Each individual tester is encouraged to enter the identity of their most distant ancestor in both their Y (if male) and mtDNA lines. Additionally, on the bottom of the Matches Map, testers can enter the location where that most distant ancestor is found. If you haven’t done that yet, this is a good time to do that too!

When looking at your Matches Map, clusters and distribution of your matches most distant ancestor locations are important.

This person’s matches, above, suggest that they might look at the history of Nova Scotia and French immigrants – and the history of Nova Scotia is synonymous with the Acadians but the waterway distribution can also signal French, but not Acadian. Native people are also associated with Nova Scotia and river travel. The person’s haplogroup would add to this story and focus on or eliminate some options.

This second example above, suggests the person look to the history of Norway and Sweden, although their ancestor, indicated by the white balloon, is from Germany. If the tester’s genealogy is stuck in the US, this grouping could be a significant clue relative to either recent or deeper history. Do they live in a region where Scandinavian people settled? What history connects the region where the ancestor is found with Scandinavia?

This third example, above, strongly suggests Acadian, given the matches restricted to Nova Scotia, and, as it turns out, this individual does have strong Acadian heritage. Again, their haplogroup is additionally informative and points directly to the European or Native side of the Acadian heritage for this particular line.

In Summary

Sometimes endogamy is up front and in your face, evident from the minute your DNA results are returned. Other times, endogamous lines in ethnically mixed individuals reveal themselves more subtly, like with my friend Justin. Fortunately, the different types of DNA tests and the different tools at our disposal each contain the potential for a different puzzle piece to be revealed. Many times, our DNA results need to be interpreted with some amount of historical context to reveal the story of our ancestors.

When I first discovered that my mother’s line was Acadian, my newly found cousin said to me, “If you’re related to one Acadian, you’re related to all Acadians.” He wasn’t kidding. For that very reason, endogamous genetic genealogy is tricky at best and frustrating at worst.

When possible, Y and mtDNA is the most definitive answer, because the centuries or millennia or intermarriage don’t affect Y and mtDNA. If you are Jewish or Native on the appropriate lines for testing, Y and mtDNA is very definitive. If you’re not Jewish or Native on your Y or mtDNA lines, check your matches for clues, including surnames, Haplogroup and Ancestral Origins, and your Matches Map.

Consider building a DNA pedigree chart that documents each of your ancestors’ Y and mtDNA for lines that aren’t revealed in your own test. The story of Y and mtDNA is not confused or watered down by admixture and is one of the most powerful, and overlooked, tools in the genealogist’s toolbox.

Autosomal DNA when dealing with endogamy can be quite challenging, even when working with well-documented Acadian genealogy – because you truly are related to everyone.  Trying to figure out which DNA segments go with, or descend from, which ancestors reaching back several generations is the ultimate jigsaw puzzle. Often, I work with a specific segment and see how far back I can track that segment in the ancestral line of me and my matches. On good days, we arrive at one common ancestor. On other days, we arrive at dead ends that are not a common ancestor – which means of course that we keep searching genealogically – or pick a different segment to work with.

When working with autosomal DNA of endogamous individuals (or endogamous lines of partially endogamous individuals,) I generally use a larger matching threshold than with non-endogamous, because we already know that these people will have segments that match because they descend from the same populations. In general, I ignore anything below 10cM and often below 15cM if I’m looking for a genealogical connection in the past few generations. If I’m simply mapping DNA to ancestors, then I use the smaller segments, down to either 7 or 5cM. If you want to read more about segments that are identical by chance (also known as false matches,) identical by population and identical by descent (genealogically relevant matches,) click here.

The good news about endogamy is that its evidence persists in the DNA of the population, literally almost forever, as long as that “population” exists in descendants – meaning you can find it!  In my case, my Acadian brick wall would have fallen much sooner had I know what endogamy looked like and what I was seeing actually meant.

A perfect example of persistent endogamy is that our Sioux male today, along with other nearly fully Native people, including people from South America, matches the ancient DNA of the Anzick child who died and was buried in Montana 12,500 years ago.

These people don’t just match on small segments, but at contemporary matching levels at Family Tree DNA and GedMatch, both.  One individual shows a match of 109 total cM and a single largest segment of DNA at 20.7 cM, a match that would indicate a contemporary relationship of between 3.5 and 4 generations distant – meaning 2nd to 3rd cousins. Clearly, that isn’t possible, but the DNA shared by Anzick Child and that individual today has been intact in the Native population for more than 12,500 years.

The DNA that Anzick Child carried is the same DNA that the Sioux people carry today – because there was no DNA from outside the founder population, no DNA to wash out the DNA carried by Anzick Child’s ancestors – the same exact ancestors of the Sioux and other Native or Native admixed people today.

While endogamy can sometimes be frustrating, the great news is that you will have found an entire population of relatives, a new “clan,” so to speak.  You’ll understand a lot more about your family history and you’ll have lots of new cousins!

Endogamy is both the blessing and the curse of genetic genealogy!

New Native American Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroups

At the November 2016 Family Tree DNA International Conference on Genetic Genealogy, I was invited to give a presentation about my Native American research findings utilizing the Genographic Project data base in addition to other resources. I was very pleased to be offered the opportunity, especially given that the 2016 conference marked the one year anniversary of the Genographic Project Affiliate Researcher program.

The results of this collaborative research effort have produced an amazing number of newly identified Native American mitochondrial haplogroups. Previously, 145 Native American mitochondrial haplogroups had been identified. This research project increased that number by 79% added another 114 haplogroups, raising the total to 259 Native American haplogroups.

Guilt by Genetic Association

Bennett Greenspan, President of Family Tree DNA, gave a presentation several years ago wherein he described genetic genealogy as “guilt by genetic association.” This description of genetic genealogy is one of the best I have ever heard, especially as it pertains to the identification of ancestral populations by Y and mitochondrial DNA.

As DNA testing has become more mainstream, many people want to see if they have Native ancestry. While autosomal DNA can only measure back in time relative to ethnicity reliably about 5 or 6 generations, Y and mitochondrial DNA due to their unique inheritance paths and the fact that they do not mix with the other parent’s DNA can peer directly back in time thousands of years.

Native American Mitochondrial DNA

Native American mitochondrial DNA consists of five base haplogroups, A, B, C, D and X. Within those five major haplogroups are found many Native as well as non-Native sub-haplogroups. Over the last 15 years, researchers have been documenting haplogroups found within the Native community although progress has been slow for various reasons, including but not limited to the lack of participants with proven Native heritage on the relevant matrilineal genealogical line.

In the paper, “Large scale mitochondrial sequencing in Mexican Americans suggests a reappraisal of Native American origins,” published in 2011, Kumar et al state the following:

For mtDNA variation, some studies have measured Native American, European and African contributions to Mexican and Mexican American populations, revealing 85 to 90% of mtDNA lineages are of Native American origin, with the remainder having European (5-7%) or African ancestry (3-5%). Thus the observed frequency of Native American mtDNA in Mexican/Mexican Americans is higher than was expected on the basis of autosomal estimates of Native American admixture for these populations i.e. ~ 30-46%. The difference is indicative of directional mating involving preferentially immigrant men and Native American women.

The actual Native mtDNA rate in their study of 384 completely sequenced Mexican genomes was 83.3% with 3.1% being African and 13.6% European.

This means that Mexican Americans and those south of the US in Mesoamerica provide a virtually untapped resource for Native American mitochondrial DNA.

The Genographic Project Affiliate Researcher Program

At the Family Tree DNA International Conference in November 2015, Dr. Miguel Vilar announced that the Genographic Project data base would be made available for qualified affiliate researchers outside of academia. There is, of course, an application process and aspiring affiliate researchers are required to submit a research project plan for consideration.

I don’t know if I was the first applicant, but if not, I was certainly one of the first because I wasted absolutely no time in submitting my application. In fact, my proposal likely arrived in Washington DC before Dr. Vilar did!

One of my original personal goals for genetic genealogy was to identify my Native American ancestors. It didn’t take long before I realized that one of the aspects of genetic genealogy where we desperately needed additional research was relative to Native people, specifically within Native language groups or tribes and from individuals who unquestionably know their ancestry and can document that their direct Y or mtDNA ancestors were Native.

Additionally, we needed DNA from pre-European-contact burials to ascertain whether haplogroups found in Europe and Africa were introduced into the Native population post-contact or existed within the Native population as a result of a previously unknown/undocumented contact. Some of both of these types of research has occurred, but not enough.

Slowly, over the years, additional sub-haplogroups have been added for both the Y and mitochondrial Native DNA. In 2007, Tamm et al published the first comprehensive paper providing an overview of the migration pathways and haplogroups in their landmark paper, “Beringian Standstill and the Spread of Native American Founders.” Other research papers have added to that baseline over the years.

beringia map

“Beringian Standstill and the Spread of Native American Founders” by Tamm et al

In essence, whether you are an advocate of one migration or multiple migration waves, the dates of 10,000 to 25,000 years ago are a safe range for migration from Asia, across the then-present land-mass, Beringia, into the Americas. Recently another alternative suggesting that the migration may have occurred by water, in multiple waves, following coastlines, has been proposed as well – but following the same basic pathway. It makes little difference whether the transportation method was foot or kayak, or both, or one or more migration events. Our interest lies in identifying which haplogroups arrived with the Asians who became the indigenous people of the Americas.

Haplogroups

To date, proven base Native haplogroups are:

Y DNA:

  • Q
  • C

Mitochondrial DNA

  • A
  • B
  • C
  • D
  • X

Given that the Native, First Nations or aboriginal people, by whatever name you call them, descended from Asia, across the Beringian land bridge sometime between roughly 10,000 and 25,000 years ago, depending on which academic model you choose to embrace, none of the base haplogroups shown above are entirely Native. Only portions, meaning specific subgroups, are known to be Native, while other subgroups are Asian and often European as well. The descendants of the base haplogroups, all born in Asia, expanded North, South, East and West across the globe. Therefore, today, it’s imperative to test mitochondrial DNA to the full sequence level and undergo SNP testing for Y DNA to determine subgroups in order to be able to determine with certainty if your Y or mtDNA ancestor was Native.

And herein lies the rub.

Certainty is relative, pardon the pun.

We know unquestionably that some haplogroups, as defined by Y SNPs and mtDNA full sequence testing, ARE Native, and we know that some haplogroups have never (to date) been found in a Native population, but there are other haplogroup subgroups that are ambiguous and are either found in both Asia/Europe and the Americas, or their origin is uncertain. One by one, as more people test and we obtain additional data, we solve these mysteries.

Let’s look at a recent example.

Haplogroup X2b4

Haplogroup X2b4 was found in the descendants of Radegonde Lambert, an Acadian woman born sometime in the 1620s and found in Acadia (present day Nova Scotia) married to Jean Blanchard as an adult. It was widely believed that she was the daughter of Jean Lambert and his Native wife. However, some years later, a conflicting record arose in which the husband of Radegonde’s great-granddaughter gave a deposition in which he stated that Radegonde came from France with her husband.

Which scenario was true? For years, no one else tested with haplogroup X2b4 that had any information as to the genesis of their ancestors, although several participants tested who descended from Radegonde.

Finally, in 2016, we were able to solve this mystery once and for all. I had formed the X2b4 project with Marie Rundquist and Tom Glad, hoping to attract people with haplogroup X2b4. Two pivotal events happened.

  • Additional people tested at Family Tree DNA and joined the X2b4 project.
  • Genographic Project records became available to me as an affiliate researcher.

At Family Tree DNA, we found other occurrences of X2b4 in:

  • The Czech Republic
  • Devon in the UK
  • Birmingham in the UK

Was it possible that X2b4 could be both European and Native, meaning that some descendants had migrated east and crossed the Beringia land bridge, and some has migrated westward into Europe?

Dr. Doron Behar in the supplement to his publication, “A Copernican” Reassessment of the Human Mitochondrial DNA Tree from its Root” provides the creation dates for haplogroup X through X2b4 as follows:

native-mt-x2b4

These dates would read 31,718 years ago plus or minus 11,709 (eliminating the numbers after the decimal point) which would give us a range for the birth of haplogroup X from 43,427 years ago to 20,009 years ago, with 31,718 being the most likely date.

Given that X2b4 was “born” between 2,992 and 8,186 years ago, the answer has to be no, X2b4 cannot be found both in the Native population and European population since at the oldest date, 8,100 years ago, the Native people had already been in the Americas between 2,000 and 18,000 years.

Of course, all kinds of speculation could be (and has been) offered, about Native people being taken to Europe, although that speculation is a tad bit difficult to rationalize in the Czech Republic.

The next logical question is if there are documented instances of X2b4 in the Native population in the Americas?

I turned to the Genographic Project where I found no instances of X2b4 in the Native population and the following instances of X2b4 in Europe.

  • Ireland
  • Czech
  • Serbia
  • Germany (6)
  • France (2)
  • Denmark
  • Switzerland
  • Russia
  • Warsaw, Poland
  • Norway
  • Romania
  • England (2)
  • Slovakia
  • Scotland (2)

The conclusion relative to X2b4 is clearly that X2b4 is European, and not aboriginally Native.

The Genographic Project Data Base

As a researcher, I was absolutely thrilled to have access to another 700,000+ results, over 475,000 of which are mitochondrial.

The Genographic Project tests people whose identity remains anonymous. One of the benefits to researchers is that individuals in the public participation portion of the project can contribute their own information anonymously for research by answering a series of questions.

I was very pleased to see that one of the questions asked is the location of the birth of the participant’s most distant matrilineal ancestor.

Tabulation and analysis should be a piece of cake, right? Just look at that “most distant ancestor” response, or better yet, utilize the Genographic data base search features, sort, count, and there you go…

Well, guess again, because one trait that is universal, apparently, between people is that they don’t follow instructions well, if at all.

The Genographic Project, whether by design or happy accident, has safeguards built in, to some extent, because they ask respondents for the same or similar information in a number of ways. In any case, this technique provides researchers multiple opportunities to either obtain the answer directly or to put 2+2 together in order to obtain the answer indirectly.

Individuals are identified in the data base by an assigned numeric ID. Fields that provide information that could be relevant to ascertaining mitochondrial ethnicity and ancestral location are:

native-mt-geno-categories

I utilized these fields in reverse order, giving preference to the earliest maternal ancestor (green) fields first, then maternal grandmother (teal), then mother (yellow), then the tester’s place of birth (grey) supplemented by their location, language and ethnicity if applicable.

Since I was looking for very specific information, such as information that would tell me directly or suggest that the participant was or could be Native, versus someone who very clearly wasn’t, this approach was quite useful.

It also allowed me to compare answers to make sure they made sense. In some cases, people obviously confused answers or didn’t understand the questions, because the three earliest ancestor answers cannot contain information that directly contradict each other. For example, the earliest ancestor place of birth cannot be Ireland and the language be German and the ethnicity be Cherokee. In situations like this, I omitted the entire record from the results because there was no reliable way to resolve the conflicting information.

In other cases, it was obvious that if the maternal grandmother and mother and tester were all born in China, that their earliest maternal ancestor was not very likely to be Native American, so I counted that answer as “China” even though the respondent did not directly answer the earliest maternal ancestor questions.

Unfortunately, that means that every response had to be individually evaluated and tabulated. There was no sort and go! The analysis took several weeks in the fall of 2016.

By Haplogroup – Master and Summary Tables

For each sub-haplogroup, I compiled, minimally, the following information shown as an example for haplogroup A with no subgroup:

native-mt-master-chart

The “Previously Proven Native” link is to my article titled Native American Mitochondrial Haplogroups where I maintain an updated list of haplogroups proven or suspected Native, along with the source(s), generally academic papers, for that information.

In some cases, to resolve ambiguity if any remained, I also referenced Phylotree, mtDNA Community and/or GenBank.

For each haplogroup or subgroup within haplogroup, I evaluated and listed the locations for the Genographic “earliest maternal ancestor place of birth” locations, but in the case of the haplogroup A example above, with 4198 responses, the results did not fit into the field so I added the information as supplemental.

By analyzing this information after completing a master tablet for each major haplogroup and subgroups, meaning A, B, C, D and X, I created summary tables provided in the haplogroup sections in this paper.

Family Tree DNA Projects

Another source of haplogroup information is the various mitochondrial DNA projects at Family Tree DNA.

Each project is managed differently, by volunteers, and displays or includes different information publicly. While different information displayed and lack of standardization does present challenges, there is still valuable information available from the public webpages for each mitochondrial haplogroup referenced.

Challenges

The first challenge is haplogroup naming. For those “old enough” to remember when Y DNA haplogroups used to be called by names such as R1b1c and then R1b1a2, as opposed to the current R-M269 – mitochondrial DNA is having the same issue. In other words, when a new branch needs to be added to the tree, or an entire branch needs to be moved someplace else, the haplogroup names can and do change.

In October and November 2016 when I extracted Genographic project data, Family Tree DNA was on Phylotree version 14 and the Genographic Project was on version 16. The information provided in various academic papers often references earlier versions of the phylotree, and the papers seldom indicate which phylotree version they are using. Phylotree is the official name for the mitochondrial DNA haplogroup tree.

Generally, between Phylotree versions, the haplogroup versions, meaning names, such as A1a, remain fairly consistent and the majority of the changes are refinements in haplogroup names where subgroups are added and all or part of A1a becomes A1a1 or A1a2, for example. However, that’s not always true. When new versions are released, some haplogroup names remain entirely unchanged (A1a), some people fall into updated haplogroups as in the example above, and some find themselves in entirely different haplogroups, generally within the same main haplogroup. For example, in Phylotree version 17, all of haplogroup A4 is obsoleted, renamed and shifted elsewhere in the haplogroup A tree.

The good news is that both Family Tree DNA and the Genographic project plan to update to Phylotree V17 in 2017. After that occurs, I plan to “equalize” the results, hopefully “upgrading” the information from academic papers to current haplogroup terminology as well if the authors provided us with the information as to the haplogroup defining mutations that they utilized at publication along with the entire list of sample mutations.

A second challenge is that not all haplogroup projects are created equal. In fact, some are entirely closed to the public, although I have no idea why a haplogroup project would be closed. Other projects show only the map. Some show surnames but not the oldest ancestor or location. There was no consistency between projects, so the project information is clearly incomplete, although I utilized both the public project pages and maps together to compile as much information as possible.

A third challenge is that not every participant enters their most distant ancestor (correctly) nor their ancestral location, which reduces the relevance of results, whether inside of projects, meaning matches to individual testers, or outside of projects.

A fourth challenge is that not every participant enables public project sharing nor do they allow the project administrators to view their coding region results, which makes participant classification within projects difficult and often impossible.

A fifth challenge is that in Family Tree DNA mitochondrial projects, not everyone has tested to the full sequence level, so some people who are noted as base haplogroup “A,” for example, would have a more fully defined haplogroup is they tested further. On the other hand, for some people, haplogroup A is their complete haplogroup designation, so not all designations of haplogroup A are created equal.

A sixth challenge is that in the Genographic Project, everyone has been tested via probes, meaning that haplogroup defining mutation locations are tested to determine full haplogroups, but not all mitochondrial locations are not tested. This removes the possibility of defining additional haplogroups by grouping participants by common mutations outside of haplogroup defining mutations.

A seventh challenge is that some resources for mitochondrial DNA list haplogroup mutations utilizing the CRS (Cambridge Reference Sequence) model and some utilize the RSRS (Reconstructed Sapiens Reference Sequence) model, meaning that the information needs to be converted to be useful.

Resources

Let’s look at the resources available for each resource type utilized to gather information.

native-mt-resources

The table above summarizes the differences between the various sources of information regarding mitochondrial haplogroups.

Before we look at each Native American haplogroup, let’s look at common myths, family stories and what constitutes proof of Native ancestry.

Family Stories

In the US, especially in families with roots in Appalachia, many families have the “Cherokee” or “Indian Princess” story. The oral history is often that “grandma” was an “Indian princess” and most often, Cherokee as well. That was universally the story in my family, and although it wasn’t grandma, it was great-grandma and every single line of the family carried this same story. The trouble was, it proved to be untrue.

Not only did the mitochondrial DNA disprove this story, the genealogy also disproved it, once I stopped looking frantically for any hint of this family line on the Cherokee rolls and started following where the genealogy research indicated. Now, of course this isn’t to say there is no Native IN that line, but it is to say that great-grandma’s direct matrilineal (mitochondrial) line is NOT Native as the family story suggests. Of course family stories can be misconstrued, mis-repeated and embellished, intentionally or otherwise with retelling.

Family stories and myths are often cherished, having been handed down for generations, and die hard.

In fact, today, some unscrupulous individuals attempt to utilize the family myths of those who “self-identify” their ancestor as “Cherokee” and present the myths and resulting non-Native DNA haplogrouip results as evidence that European and African haplogroups are Native American. Utilizing this methodology, they confirm, of course, that everyone with a myth and a European/African haplogroup is really Native after all!

As the project administrator of several projects including the American Indian and Cherokee projects, I can tell you that I have yet to find anyone who has a documented, as in proven lineage, to a Native tribe on a matrilineal line that does not have a Native American haplogroup. However, it’s going to happen one day, because adoptions of females into tribes did occur, and those adopted females were considered to be full tribal members. In this circumstance, your ancestor would be considered a tribal member, even if their DNA was not Native.

Given the Native tribal adoption culture, tribal membership of an individual who has a non-Native haplogroup would not be proof that the haplogroup itself was aboriginally Native – meaning came from Asia with the other Native people and not from Europe or Africa with post-Columbus contact. However, documenting tribal membership and generational connectivity via proven documentation for every generation between that tribally enrolled ancestor and the tester would be a first step in consideration of other haplogroups as potentially Native.

In Canada, the typical story is French-Canadian or metis, although that’s often not a myth and can often be proven true. We rely on the mtDNA in conjunction with other records to indicate whether or not the direct matrilineal ancestor was French/European or aboriginal Canadian.

In Mexico, the Caribbean and points south, “Spain” in the prevalent family story, probably because the surnames are predominantly Spanish, even when the mtDNA very clearly says “Native.” Many family legends also include the Canary Islands, a stopping point in the journey from Europe to the Caribbean.

Cultural Pressures

It’s worth noting that culturally there were benefits in the US to being Native (as opposed to mixed blood African) and sometimes as opposed to entirely white. Specifically, the Native people received head-right land payments in the 1890s and early 1900s if they could prove tribal descent by blood. Tribal lands, specifically those in Oklahoma owned by the 5 Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole) which had been previously held by the tribe were to be divided and allotted to individual tribal members and could then be sold. Suddenly, many families “remembered” that they were of Native descent, whether they were or not.

Culturally and socially, there may have been benefits to being Spanish over Native in some areas as well.

It’s also easy to see how one could assume that Spain was the genesis of the family if Spanish was the spoken language – so care had to be exercised when interpreting some Genographic answers. Chinese can be interpreted to mean “China” or at least Asia, meaning, in this case, “not Native,” but Spanish in Mexico or south of the US cannot be interpreted to mean Spain without other correlating information.

Language does not (always) equal origins. Speaking English does not mean your ancestors came from England, speaking Spanish does not mean your ancestors came from Spain and speaking French does not mean your ancestors came from France.

However, if your ancestors lived in a country where the predominant language was English, Spanish or French, and your ancestor lived in a location with other Native people and spoke a Native language or dialect, that’s a very compelling piece of evidence – especially in conjunction with a Native DNA haplogroup.

What Constitutes Proof?

What academic papers use as “proof” of Native ancestry varies widely. In many cases, the researchers don’t make a case for what they use as proof, they simply state that they had one instance of A2x from Mexico, for example. In other cases, they include tribal information, if known. When stated in the papers, I’ve included that information on the Native American Mitochondrial Haplogroups page.

Methodology

I have adopted a similar methodology, tempered by the “guilt by genetic association” guideline, keeping in mind that both FTDNA projects and Genographic project public participants all provide their own genealogy and self-identify. In other words, no researcher traveled to Guatemala and took a cheek swab or blood sample. The academic samples and samples taken by the Genographic Project in the field are not included in the Genographic public data base available to researchers.

However, if the participant and their ancestors noted were all born in Guatemala, there is no reason to doubt that their ancestors were also found in the Guatemala region.

Unfortunately, not everything was that straightforward.

Examples:

  • If there were multiple data base results as subsets of base haplogroups previously known to be Native from Mexico and none from anyplace else in the world, I’m comfortable calling the results “Native.”
  • If there are 3 results from Mexico, and 10 from Europe, especially if the European results are NOT from Spain or Portugal, I’m NOT comfortable identifying that haplogroup as Native. I would identify it as European so long as the oldest date in the date ranges identifying when the haplogroup was born is AFTER the youngest migration date. For example, if the haplogroup was born 5,000 years ago and the last known Beringia migration date is 10,000 years ago, people with the same haplogroup cannot be found both in Europe and the Americas indigenously. If the haplogroup birth date is 20,000 years ago and the migration date is 10,000 years ago, clearly the haplogroup CAN potentially be found on both continents as indigenous.
  • In some cases, we have the reverse situation where the majority of results are from south of the US border, but one or two claim Spanish or Portuguese ancestry, which I suspect is incorrect. In this case, I will call the results Native so long as there are a significant number of results that do NOT claim Spanish or Portuguese ancestry AND none of the actual testers were born in Spain or Portugal.
  • In a few cases, the FTDNA project and/or Genographic data refute or at least challenge previous data from academic papers. Future information may do the same with this information today, especially where the data sample is small.

Because of ambiguity, in the master data table (not provided in this paper) for each base haplogroup, I have listed every one of the sub-haplogroups and all the locations for the oldest ancestors, plus any other information provided when relevant in the actual extracted data.

When in doubt, I have NOT counted a result as Native. When the data itself is questionable or unreliable, I removed the result from the data and count entirely.

I intentionally included all of the information, Native and non-Native, in my master extracted data tables so that others can judge for themselves, although I am only providing summary tables here. Detailed information will be provided in a series of articles or in an academic paper after both the Family Tree DNA data base and the Genographic data base are upgraded to Phylotree V17.

The Haplogroup Summary Table

The summary table format used for each haplogroup includes the following columns and labels:

  • Hap = Haplogroup as listed at Family Tree DNA, in academic papers and in the Genographic project.
  • Previous Academic Proven = Previously proven or cited as Native American, generally in Academic papers. A list of these haplogroups and papers is provided in the article, Native American Mitochondrial Haplogroups.
  • Academic Confirmed = Academic paper haplogroup assignments confirmed by the Genographic Project and/or Family Tree DNA Projects.
  • Previous Suspected = Not academically proven or cited at Native, but suspected through any number of sources. The reasons each haplogroup is suspected is also noted in the article, Native American Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroups.
  • Suspected Confirmed = Suspected Native haplogroups confirmed as Native.
  • FTDNA Project Proven = Mitochondrial haplogroup proven or confirmed through FTDNA project(s).
  • Geno Confirmed = Mitochondrial haplogroup proven or confirmed through the Genographic Project data base.

Color Legend:

native-mt-color-legend

Additional Information:

  • Possibly, probably or uncertain indicates that the data is not clear on whether the haplogroup is Native and additional results are needed before a definitive assignment is made.
  • No data means that there was no data for this haplogroup through this source.
  • Hap not listed means that the original haplogroup is not listed in the Genographic data base indicating the original haplogroup has been obsoleted and the haplogroup has been renamed.

The following table shows only the A haplogroups that have now been proven Native, omitting haplogroups proven not to be Native through this process, although the original master data table (not included here) includes all information extracted including for haplogroups that are not Native. Summary tables show only Native or potentially Native results.

Let’s look at the summary results grouped by major haplogroup.

Haplogroup A

Haplogroup A is the largest Native American haplogroup.

native-mt-hap-a-pie

More than 43% of the individuals who carry Native American mitochondrial DNA fall into a subgroup of A.

Like the other Native American haplogroups, the base haplogroup was formed in Asia.

Family Tree DNA individual participant pages provide participants with both a Haplogroup Frequency Map, shown above, and a Haplogroup Migration Map, shown below.

native-mt-migration

The Genographic project provides heat maps showing the distribution of major haplogroups on a continental level. You can see that, according to this heat map from when the Genographic Project was created, the majority of haplogroup A is found in the northern portion of the Americas.

native-mt-hap-a-heat

Additionally, the Genographic Project data base also provides a nice tree structure for each haplogroup, beginning with Mitochondrial Eve, in Africa, noted as the root, and progressing to the current day haplogroups.

native-mt-hap-a-tree-root

native-mt-hap-a-tree

Haplogroup A Projects

I enjoy the added benefit of being one of the administrators, along with Marie Rundquist, of the haplogroup A project at Family Tree DNA, as well as the A10, A2 and A4 projects. However, in this paper, I only included information available on the projects’ public pages and not information participants sent to the administrators privately.

The Haplogroup A Project at Family Tree DNA is a public project, meaning available for anyone with haplogroup A to join, and fully publicly viewable with the exception of the participant’s surname, since that is meaningless when the surname traditionally changes with every generation. However, both the results, complete with the Maternal Ancestor Name, and the map, are visible. HVR1 and HVR2 results are displayed, but coding region results are never available to be shown in projects, by design.

native-mt-hap-a-project

The map below shows all participants for the entire project who have entered a geographic location. The three markers in the Middle East appear to be mis-located, a result of erroneous user geographic location input. The geographic locations are selected by participants indicating the location of their most distant mitochondrial ancestor. All 3 are Spanish surnames and one is supposed to be in Mexico. Please disregard those 3 Middle Eastern pins on the map below.

native-mt-hap-a-project-map

Haplogroup A Summary Table

The subgroups of haplogroup A and the resulting summary data are shown in the table below.

native-mt-hap-a-chart-1

native-mt-hap-a-chart-2

native-mt-hap-a-chart-3

  • Total haplogroups Native – 75
  • Total haplogroups uncertain – 1
  • Total haplogroups probable – 1
  • Total new Native haplogroups – 38, 1 probable.
  • Total new Native haplogroups proven by FTDNA Projects – 9, 1 possibly
  • Total new Native haplogroups proven by Genographic Project – 35, 1 probable

Haplogroup B

Haplogroup B is the second largest Native American haplogroup, with 23.53% of Native participants falling into this haplogroup.

native-mt-hap-b-pie

The Genographic project provides the following heat map for haplogroup B4, which includes B2, the primary Native subgroup.

native-mt-hap-b-heat

The haplogroup B tree looks like this:

native-mt-hap-b-tree-root

native-mt-hap-b-tree

native-mt-hap-b-tree-2

B4 and B5 are main branches.

You will note below that B2 falls underneath B4b.

native-mt-hap-b-tree-3

Haplogroup B Projects

At Family Tree DNA, there is no haplogroup B project, but there is a haplogroup B2 project, which is where the majority of the Native results fall. Haplogroup B Project administrators have included a full project display, along with a map. All of the project participants are shown on the map below.

native-mt-hap-b-project-map

Please note that the pins colored other than violet (haplogroup B) should not be shown in this project. Only haplogroup B pins are violet.

Haplogroup B Summary Table

native-mt-hap-b-chart-1

native-mt-hap-b-chart-2

  • Total haplogroups Native – 63
  • Total haplogroups refuted – 1
  • Total new Native haplogroups – 43
  • Total new Native haplogroups proven by Family Tree DNA projects – 12
  • Total new Native haplogroups proven by Genographic Project – 41

Haplogroup C

Haplogroup C is the third largest Native haplogroup with 22.99% of the Native population falling into this haplogroup.

native-mt-hap-c-pie

Haplogroup C is primarily found in Asia per the Genographic heat map.

native-mt-hap-c-heat

The haplogroup C tree is as follows:

native-mt-hap-c-root

native-mt-hap-c-tree-1

native-mt-hap-c-tree-2

Haplogroup C Project

Unfortunately, at Family Tree DNA, the haplogroup C project has not enabled their project pages, even for project members.

When I first began compiling this data, the Haplogroup C project map was viewable.

native-mt-hap-c-project-map-world

Haplogroup C Summary Table

native-mt-hap-c-chart-1

native-mt-hap-c-chart-2

  • Total haplogroups Native – 61
  • Total haplogroups refuted – 2
  • Total haplogroups possible – 1
  • Total haplogroups probable – 1
  • Total new Native haplogroups – 8
  • Total new Native haplogroups proven by Family Tree DNA projects – 6
  • Total new Native haplogroups proven by Genographic Project – 5, 1 possible, 1 probable

Haplogroup D

Haplogroup D is the 4th largest, or 2nd smallest Native haplogroup, depending on your point of view, with 6.38% of Native participants falling into this haplogroup.

native-mt-hap-d-pie

Haplogroup D is found throughout Asia, into Europe and throughout the Americas.

native-mt-hap-d-heat

Haplogroups D1 and D2 are the two subgroups primarily found in the New World.

native-mt-hap-d-heat-d1

The haplogroup D1 heat map is shown above and D2 is shown below.

native-mt-hap-d-heat-d2

The Tree for haplogroup D is a subset of M.

native-mt-hap-d-tree-root

Haplogroup D begins as a subhaplogroup of M80..

native-mt-hap-d-tree-2

Haplogroup D Projects

D is publicly viewable, but shows testers last name, no ancestor information and no location, so I utilized maps once again.

native-mt-hap-d-project-map

Haplogroup D Summary Table

native-hap-d-chart-1

native-hap-d-chart-2

  • Total haplogroups Native – 50
  • Total haplogroups possibly both – 3
  • Total haplogroups uncertain – 2
  • Total haplogroups probable – 1
  • Total haplogroups refuted – 3
  • Total new Native Haplogroups – 25
  • Total new Native haplogroups proven by Family Tree DNA projects – 2
  • Total new Native haplogroups proven by Genographic Project – 22, 1 probably

Haplogroup X

Haplogroup X is the smallest of the known Native base haplogroups.

native-mt-hap-x-pie

Just over 3% of the Native population falls into haplogroup X.

The heat map for haplogroup X looks very different than haplogroups A-D.

native-mt-hap-x-heat

The tree for haplogroup X shows that it too is also a subgroup of M and N.

native-mt-hap-x-root

native-mt-hap-x-tree

Haplogroup X Project

At Family Tree DNA, the Haplogroup X project is visible, but with no ancestral locations displayed. I utilized the map, which was visible.

native-mt-hap-x-project-map

This map of the entire haplogroup X project tells you immediately that the migration route for Native X was not primarily southward, but east. Haplogroup X is found primarily in the US and in the eastern half of Canada.

Haplogroup X Summary Table

native-mt-hap-x-chart

  • Total haplogroups Native – 10
  • Total haplogroups uncertain, possible or possible both Native and other – 8
  • Total New Native haplogroups – 0

Haplogroup M

Haplogroup M, a very large, old haplogroup with many subgroups, is not typically considered a Native haplogroup.

The Genographic project shows the following heat map for haplogroup M.

native-mt-hap-m-heat

The heat map for haplogroup M includes both North and South America, but according to Dr. Miguel Vilar, Science Manager for the Genographic Project, this is because both haplogroups C and D are subsets of M.

native-mt-hap-m-migration

The haplogroup M migration map from the Genographic Project shows haplogroup M expanding across southern Asia.

native-mt-hap-m-root

The tree for haplogroup M, above, is abbreviated, without the various subgroups being expanded.

native-mt-hap-m1-tree

The M1 and M1a1e haplogroups shown above are discussed in the following section, as is M18b, below.

native-mt-hap-m18b-tree

The Haplogroup M Project

The haplogroup M project at Family Tree DNA shows the worldwide presence of haplogroup M and subgroups.

native-mt-hap-m-project-map

Native Presence

Haplogroup M was originally reported in two Native burials in the Americas. Dr. Ripan Malhi reported haplogroup M (excluding M7, M8 and M9) from two separate skeletons from the same burial in China Lake, British Columbia, Canada, about 150 miles north of the Washington State border, dating from about 5000 years ago. Both skeletons were sequenced separately in 2007, with identical results and are believed to be related.

While some researchers are suspicious of these findings as being incomplete, a subsequent paper in 2013, Ancient DNA-Analysis of Mid-Holocene Individuals from the Northwest Coast of North America Reveals Different Evolutionary Paths for Mitogenomes, which included Mahli as a co-author states the following:

Two individuals from China Lake, British Columbia, found in the same burial with a radiocarbon date of 4950+/−170 years BP were determined to belong to a form of macrohaplogroup M that has yet to be identified in any extant Native American population [24], [26]. The China Lake study suggests that individuals in the early to mid-Holocene may exhibit mitogenomes that have since gone extinct in a specific geographic region or in all of the Americas.

Haplogroup M Summary Table

native-mt-hap-m-chart

One additional source for haplogroup M was found in GenBank noted as M1a1e “USA”, but there were also several Eurasian submissions for M1a1e as well. However, Doron Behar’s dates for M1a1e indicate that the haplogroup was born about 9,813 years ago, plus or minus 4,022 years, giving it a range of 5,971 to 13,835 years ago, meaning that M1a1e could reasonably be found in both Asia and the Americas. There were no Genographic results for M1a1e. At this point, M1a1e cannot be classified as Native, but remains on the radar.

Hapologroup M1 was founded 23,679 years ago +-4377 years. It is found in the Genographic Project in Cuba, Venezuela and is noted as Native in the Midwest US. M1 is also found in Colorado and Missouri in the haplogroup M project at Family Tree DNA, but the individuals did not have full sequence tests nor was additional family information available in the public project.

The following information is from the master data table for haplogroup M potentially Native haplogroups.

Haplogroup M Master Data Table for Potentially Native Haplogroups

The complete master data tables includes all subhaplogroups of M, the partial table below show only the Native haplogroups.

native-mt-hap-m-chart-1

native-mt-hap-m-master-data-chart-2

Haplogroup M18b is somewhat different in that two individuals with this haplogroup at Family Tree DNA have no other matches.  They both have a proven connection to Native families from interrelated regions in North Carolina.

I initiated communications with both individuals who tested at Family Tree DNA who subsequently provided their genealogical information. Both family histories reach back into the late 1700s, one in the location where the Waccamaw were shown on maps in in the early 1700s, and one near the border of Virginia and NC. One participant is a member of the Waccamaw tribe today. A family migration pattern exists between the NC/VA border region and families to the Waccamaw region as well. An affidavit exists wherein the family of the individual from the NC/VA border region is sworn to be “mixed” but with no negro blood.

In summary:

  • Haplogroups M and M1 could easily be both Native as well as Asian/European, given the birth age of the haplogroup.
  • Haplogroup M1a1e needs additional results.
  • Haplogroup M18b appears to be Native, but could also be found elsewhere given the range of the haplogroup birth age. Additional proven Native results could bolster this evidence.
  • In addition to the two individuals with ancestors from North Carolina, M18b is also reported in a Sioux individuals with mixed race ethnicity

The Dark Horse Late Arrival – Haplogroup F

I debated whether I should include this information, because it’s tenuous at best.

The American Indian project at Family Tree DNA includes a sample of F1a1 full sequence result whose most distant matrilineal ancestor is found in Mexico.

Haplogroup F is an Asian haplogroup, not found in Europe or in the Americas.

native-mt-hap-f-heat

native-mt-hap-f-migration

Haplogroup F, according to the Genographic Project, expands across central and southern Asia.

native-mt-hap-f-root

native-mt-hap-f1a1-tree

According to Doron Behar, F1a1 was born about 10,863 years ago +- 2990 years, giving it a range of 7,873 – 13,853.

Is this Mexican F1a1 family Native? If not, how did F1a1 arrive in Mexico, and when? F1a1 is not found in either Europe or Africa.

In August, 2015, an article published in Science, Genomic evidence for the Pleistocene and recent population history of Native Americans by Raghaven et al suggested that a secondary migration occurred from further south in Asia, specifically the Australo-Melanesians, as shown in the diagram below from the paper. If accurate, this East Asian migration originating further south could explain both the haplogroup M and F results.

native-mt-nature-map

A second paper, published in Nature in September 2015 titled Genetic evidence for two founding populations of the Americas by Skoglund et al says that South Americans share ancestry with Australasian populations that is not seen in Mesoamericans or North Americans.

The Genographic project has no results for F1a1 outside of Asia.

I have not yet extracted the balance of haplogroup F in the Genographic project to look for other indications of haplogroups that could potentially be Native.

Haplogroup F Project

The haplogroup F project at Family Tree DNA shows no participants in the Americas, but several in Asia, as far south as Indonesia and also into southern Europe and Russia.

native-mt-hap-f-project-map

Haplogroup F Summary Table

native-mt-hap-f-chart

Haplogroup F1a1 deserves additional attention as more people test and additional samples become available.

Native Mitochondrial Haplogroup Summary

Research in partnership with the Genographic Project as well as the publicly available portions of the projects at Family Tree DNA has been very productive. In total, we now have 259 proven Native haplogroups. This research project has identified 114 new Native haplogroups, or 44% of the total known haplogroups being newly discovered within the Genographic Project and the Family Tree DNA projects.

native-mt-hap-summary

Acknowledgements

MyHeritage – Broken Promises and Matching Issues

My Heritage, now nine months into their DNA foray, so far has proven to be a disappointment. The problems are twofold.

  • MyHeritage has matching issues, combined with absolutely no tools to be able to work with results. Their product certainly doesn’t seem to be ready for prime time.
  • Worse yet, MyHeritage has reneged on a promise made to early uploaders that Ethnicity Reports would be free. MyHeritage used the DNA of the early uploaders to build their matching data base, then changed their mind about providing the promised free ethnicity reports.

In May 2016, MyHeritage began encouraging people to upload their DNA kits from other vendors, specifically those who tested at 23andMe, Ancestry and Family Tree DNA and announced that they would provide a free matching service.

Here is what MyHeritage said about ethnicity reports in that announcement:

myheritage-may-2016

Initially, I saw no matching benefit to uploading, since I’ve already tested at all 3 vendors and there were no additional possible matches, because everyone that uploaded to MyHeritage would also be in the vendor’s data bases where they had tested, not to mention avid genetic genealogists also upload to GedMatch.

Three months later, in September 2016, when MyHeritage actually began DNA matching, they said this about ethnicity testing:

myheritage-sept-2016

An “amazing ethnicity report” for free. Ok, I’m sold. I’ll upload so I’m in line for the “amazing ethnicity report.”

Matching Utilizing Imputation

MyHeritage started DNA matching in September, 2016 and frankly, they had a mess, some of which was sorted out by November when they started selling their own DNA tests, but much of which remains today.

MyHeritage facilitates matching between vendors who test on only a small number of overlapping autosomal locations by utilizing a process called imputation. In a nutshell, imputation is the process of an “educated guess” as to what your DNA would look like at locations where you haven’t tested. So, yes, MyHeritage fills in your blanks by estimating what your DNA would look like based on population models.

Here’s what MyHeritage says about imputation.

MyHeritage has created and refined the capability to read the DNA data files that you can export from all main vendors and bring them to the same common ground, a process that is called imputation. Thanks to this capability — which is accomplished with very high accuracy —MyHeritage can, for example, successfully match the DNA of an Ancestry customer (utilizing the recent version 2 chip) with the DNA of a 23andMe customer utilizing 23andMe’s current chip, which is their version 4. We can also match either one of them to any Family Tree DNA customer, or match any customers who have used earlier versions of those chips.

Needless to say, when you’re doing matching to other people – you’re looking for mutations that have occurred in the past few generations, which is after all, what defines genetic cousins. Adding in segments of generic DNA results found in populations is not only incorrect, because it’s not your DNA, it also produces erroneous matches, because it’s not your DNA. Additionally, it can’t report real genealogical mutations in those regions that do match, because it’s not your DNA.

Let’s look at a quick example. Let’s say you and another person are both from a common population, say, Caucasian European. Your values at locations 1-100 are imputed to be all As because you’re a member of the Caucasian European population. The next person, to whom you are NOT related, is also a Caucasian European. Because imputation is being used, their values in locations 1-100 are also imputed to be all As. Voila! A match. Except, it’s not real because it’s based on imputed data.

Selling Their Own DNA Tests

In November, MyHeritage announced that they are selling their own DNA tests and that they were “now out of beta” for DNA matching. The processing lab is Family Tree DNA, so they are testing the same markers, but MyHeritage is providing the analysis and matching. This means that the results you see, as a customer, have nothing in common with the results at Family Tree DNA. The only common factor is the processing lab for the raw DNA data.

Because MyHeritage is a subscription genealogy company that is not America-centric, they have the potential to appeal to testers in Europe that don’t subscribe to Ancestry and perhaps wouldn’t consider DNA testing at all if it wasn’t tied to the company they research through.

Clearly, without the autosomal DNA files of people who uploaded from May to November 2016, MyHeritage would have had no data base to compare their own tests to. Without a matching data base, DNA testing is pointless and useless.

In essence, those of us who uploaded our data files allowed MyHeritage to use our files to build their data base, so they could profitably sell kits with something to compare results to – in exchange for that promised “amazing ethnicity report.” At that time, there was no other draw for uploaders.

We didn’t know, before November, when MyHeritage began selling their own tests, that there would ever be any possibility of matching someone who had not tested at the Big 3. So for early uploaders, the draw wasn’t matching, because that could clearly be done elsewhere, without imputation. The draw was that “amazing ethnicity report” for free.

No Free Ethnicity Reports

In November, when MyHeritage announced that they were selling their own kits, they appeared to be backpedaling on the free ethnicity report for early uploaders and said the following:

myheritage-nov-2016

Sure enough, today, even for early uploaders who were promised the ethnicity report for free, in order to receive ethnicity estimates, you must purchase a new test. And by the way, I’m a MyHeritage subscriber to the tune of $99.94 in 2016 for a Premium Plus Membership, so it’s not like they aren’t getting anything from me. Irrespective of that, a promise is a promise.

Bait and Renege

When MyHeritage needed our kits to build their data base, they were very accommodating and promised an “amazing ethnicity report” for free. When they actually produced the ethnicity report as part of their product offering, they are requiring those same people whose kits they used to build their data base to purchase a brand new test, from them, for $79.

Frankly, this is unconscionable. It’s not only unethical, their change of direction takes advantage of the good will of the genetic genealogy community. Given that MyHeritage committed to ethnicity reports for transfers, they need to live up to that promise. I guarantee you, had I known the truth, I would never have uploaded my DNA results to allow them to build their data base only to have them rescind that promise after they built that data base. I feel like I’ve been fleeced.

As a basis of comparison, Family Tree DNA, who does NOT make anything off of subscriptions, only charges $19 to unlock ethnicity results for transfers, along with all of their other tools like a chromosome browser which MyHeritage also doesn’t currently have.

Ok, so let’s try to find the silk purse in this sows ear.

So, How’s the Imputed Matching?

I uploaded my Family Tree DNA autosomal file with about 700,000 SNP locations to MyHeritage.

Today, I have a total of 34 matches at MyHeritage, compared to around 2,200 at Family Tree DNA, 1,700 at 23andMe (not all of which share), and thousands at Ancestry. And no, 34 is not a typo. I had 28 matches in December, so matches are being gained at the rate of 3 per month. The MyHeritage data base size is still clearly very small.

MyHeritage has no tree matching and no tools like a chromosome browser today, so I can’t compare actual DNA segments at MyHeritage. There are promises that these types of tools are coming, but based on their track record of promises so far, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

However, I did recognize that my second closest match at MyHeritage is also a match at Ancestry.

My match tested at Ancestry, with about 382,000 common SNPs with a Family Tree DNA test, so MyHeritage would be imputing at least 300,000 SNPs for me – the SNPs that Ancestry tests and Family Tree DNA doesn’t, almost half of the SNPs needed to match to Ancestry files. MyHeritage has to be imputing about that many for my match’s file too, so that we have an equal number of SNPs for comparison. Combined, this would mean that my match and I are comparing 382,000 actual common SNPs that we both tested, and roughly 600,000 SNPs that we did not test and were imputed.

Here’s a rough diagram of how imputation between a Family Tree DNA file and an Ancestry V2 file would work to compare all of the locations in both files to each other.

myheritage-imputation

Please note that for purposes of concept illustration, I have shown all of the common locations, in blue, as contiguous. The common locations are not contiguous, but are scattered across the entire range that each vendor tests.

You can see that the number of imputed locations for matching between two people, shown in tan, is larger than the number of actual matching locations shown in blue. The amount of actual common data being compared is roughly 382,000 of 1,100,000 total locations, or 35%.

Let’s see how the actual matches compare.

2016-myheritage-second-match

Here’s the match at MyHeritage, above, and the same match at Ancestry, below.

2016-myheritage-at-ancestry

In the chart below, you can see the same information at both companies.

myheritage-ancestry

Clearly, there’s a significant difference in these results between the same two people at Ancestry and at MyHeritage. Ancestry shows only 13% of the total shared DNA that MyHeritage shows, and only 1 segment as compared to 7.

While I think Ancestry’s Timber strips out too much DNA, there is clearly a HUGE difference in the reported results. I suspect the majority of this issue likely lies with MyHeritage’s imputated DNA data and matching routines.

Regardless of why, and the “why” could be a combination of factors, the matching is not consistent and quite “off.”

Actual match names are used at MyHertiage (unless the user chooses a different display name), and with the exception of MyHeritage’s maddening usage of female married names, it’s easy to search at Family Tree DNA for the same person in your match list. I found three, who, as luck would have it, had also uploaded to GedMatch. Additionally, I also found two at Ancestry. Unfortunately, MyHeritage does not have any download capability, so this is an entirely manual process. Since I only have 34 matches, it’s not overwhelming today.

myheritage-multiple-vendors

*We don’t know the matching thresholds at MyHeritage. My smallest cM match at MyHeritage is 12.4 cM. At the other vendors, I have matches equivalent to the actual matching threshold, so I’m guessing that the MyHeritage threshold is someplace near that 12.4. Smaller matches are more plentiful, so I would not expect that it would be under 12cM. Unfortunately, MyHeritage has not provided us with this information.  Nor do we know how MyHeritage is counting their total cM, but I suspect it’s total cM over their matching threshold.

For comparison, at Family Tree DNA, I used the chromosome browser default of 5cM and 5cM at GedMatch. This means that if we could truly equalize the matching at 5cM, the MyHeritage totals and number of matching segments might well be higher. Using a 10cM threshold, Family Tree DNA loses Match 3 altogether and GedMatch loses one of the two Match 2 segments.

**I could not find a match for Match 1 at Ancestry, even though based on their kit type uploaded to GedMatch, it’s clear that they tested at Ancestry. Ancestry users often don’t use their name, just their user ID, which may not be readily discernable as their name. It’s also possible that Match 1 is not a match to me at Ancestry.

Summary

Any new vendor is going to have birthing pains. Genetic genealogists who have been around the block a couple of times will give the vendors a lot of space to self-correct, fix bugs, etc.

In the case of MyHeritage, I think their choice to use imputation is hindering accurate matching. Social media is reporting additional matching issues that I have not covered here.

I do understand why MyHeritage chose to utilize imputation as opposed to just matching the subset of common DNA for any two matches from disparate vendors. MyHeritage wanted to be able to provide more matches than just that overlapping subset of data would provide. When matching only half of the DNA, because the vendors don’t test the same locations, you’ll likely only have half the matches. Family Tree DNA now imports both the 23andMe V4 file and the Ancestry V2 file, who test just over half the same locations at Family Tree DNA, and Family Tree DNA provides transfer customers with their closest matches. For more distant or speculative matches, you need to test on the same platform.

However, if MyHeritage provides inaccurate matches due to imputation, that’s the worst possible scenario for everyone and could prove especially detrimental to the adoptee/parent search community.

Companies bear the responsibility to do beta testing in house before releasing a product. Once MyHeritage announced they were out of beta testing, the matching results should be reliable.  The genetic genealogy community should not be debugging MyHeritage matching on Facebook.  Minimally, testers should be informed that their results and matches should still be considered beta and they are part of an experiment. This isn’t a new feature to an existing product, it’s THE product.

I hope MyHeritage rethinks their approach. In the case of matching actual DNA to determine genealogical genetic relationships, quality is far, far more important than quantity. We absolutely must have accuracy. Triangulation and identifying common ancestors based on common matching segments requires that those matching segments be OUR OWN DNA, and the matches be accurate.

I view the matching issues as technical issues that (still) need to be resolved and have been complicated by the introduction of imputation.  However, the broken promise relative to ethnicity reports falls into another category entirely – that of willful deception – a choice, not a mistake or birthing pains. While I’m relatively tolerant of what I perceive to be (hopefully) transient matching issues, I’m not at all tolerant of being lied to, especially not with the intention of exploiting my DNA.

Relative to the “amazing ethnicity reports”, breaking promises, meaning bait and switch or simply bait and renege in this case, is completely unacceptable. This lapse of moral judgement will color the community’s perception of MyHeritage. Taking unfair advantage of people is never a good idea. Under these circumstances, I would never recommend MyHeritage.

I would hope that this is not the way MyHeritage plans to do business in the genetic genealogy arena and that they will see fit to reconsider and do right by the people whose uploaded tests they used as a foundation for their DNA business with a promise of a future “amazing ethnicity report.”

I don’t know if the ethnicity report is actually amazing, because I guarantee you, I won’t be paying $79, or any price, for something that was promised for free. It’s a matter of principle.

If MyHeritage does decide to reconsider, honor their promise and provide ethnicity reports to uploaders, I’ll be glad to share its relative amazingness with you.

Family Tree DNA Now Accepts All Ancestry Autosomal Transfers Plus 23andMe V3 and V4

Great news!

Family Tree DNA now accepts autosomal file transfers for all Ancestry tests (meaning both V1 and V2) along with 23andMe V3 and V4 files.

Before today, Family Tree DNA had only accepted Ancestry V1 and 23andMe V3 transfers, the files before Ancestry and 23andMe changed to proprietary chips. As of today, Family Tree DNA accepts all Ancestry files and all contemporary 23andMe files (since November 2013).

You’ll need to download your autosomal raw data file from either Ancestry or 23andMe, then upload it to Family Tree DNA. You’ll be able to do the actual transfer for free, and see your 20 top matches – but to utilize and access the rest of the tools including the chromosome browser, ethnicity estimates and the balance of your matches, you’ll need to pay the $19 unlock fee.

Previously, the unlock fee was $39, so this too is a great value. The cost of purchasing the autosomal Family Finder test at Family Tree DNA is $79, so the $19 unlock fee represents a substantial savings of $60 if you’ve already tested elsewhere.

To get started, click here and you’ll see the following “autosomal transfer” menu option in the upper left hand corner of the Family Tree DNA page:

ftdna-transfer

The process is now drag and drop, and includes instructions for how to download your files from both 23andMe and Ancestry.

ftdna-transfer-instructions

Please note that if you already have an autosomal test at Family Tree DNA, there is no benefit to adding a second test.  So if you have taken the Family Finder test or already transferred an Ancestry V1 or 23andMe V3 kit, you won’t be able to add a second autosomal test to the same account.  If you really want to transfer a second kit, you’ll need to set up a new account for the second autosomal kit, because every kit at Family Tree DNA needs to be able to have it’s own unique kit number – and if you already have an autosomal test on your account, you can’t add a second one.

What will you discover today? I hope you didn’t have anything else planned. Have fun!!!

Valentine’s Day – Can You Really Love Your Facebook Cousins and Friends?

In the new world of DNA testing, now combined with social media, the word cousin and its meaning have morphed a bit.

Classically, historically, your cousins were the children of your parents’ siblings. Often you were the same age and grew up with them as neighbors, especially in a rural, small town or farming community. Typically your cousins were your playmates and the people you got into trouble with when you were teenagers, and maybe who you married as an adult. You would likely be lifelong friends as well, attending the same church and social functions. Your kids knew each other too, and the pattern repeated itself generation after generation.  Your cousins were the people you saw every single day of your life, cradle to grave.

But often, that’s not the case anymore.

My Neighbor, My Cousin

A good example of a historical cousin relationship would be my grandfather, John, who lived across the street in the tiny town of Silver Lake from his brother, Roscoe. Their children, first cousins, grew up as neighbors. My mother’s first cousin is Cheryl.

cousins-pedigree-2

The stories of Cheryl and Mom are typical of small town America where there were no jobs. Mom moved away for a job and married. Mom visited her parents often, living an hour or so away, but after her parents died, Mom had no reason to go back to Silver Lake.  Mom did keep track of family members and exchanged letters and Christmas cards with many, updating addresses and phone numbers religiously in her address book. Phone calls, being “long distance” were expensive, reserved for Sunday evenings when the rates were lower, and often placed only in emergencies.

Mom’s brother, Lore, went to college and eventually moved out of state, living in several locations in his lifetime. After moving away, he seldom returned to Indiana. His daughter, Nancy, lived a couple hours away and was close to Mom, but his son, Mike, moved to Arizona and then on to China. A world apart.

Cheryl, Mom’s first cousin, the first woman in our family to graduate from college, moved about 40 miles away, also for employment. Cheryl’s degree was in education, and sadly, her incredible aptitude for science wasn’t realized, at least not in a professional setting.  Women of her generation simply weren’t encouraged or allowed to study science. Even when I was in school, a number of years later, I was told that a seat in an advanced placement science class wasn’t going to be” wasted on a girl” and was going to be “saved for a boy who would make something of himself.” Cheryl did amazingly well for herself, especially considering what she had to contend with throughout her career. She was indeed a woman on the frontier.

Cheryl’s brother Don, after serving in the military, still lives in Silver Lake near where he grew up. He’s the only one – everyone else is gone – scattered like dust in the wind.

I’m one generation removed, and I never met Cheryl until I was in my late 30s. I knew she existed, but really wasn’t sure how we were related. That all changed due to genealogy and in a very ironic twist of fate, Cheryl and I are much closer than Mom and Cheryl were, or than I am to any other family members in that line.

cousin-cheryl-holland

If Cheryl and I look like we’re having a wonderful time and maybe engaged in a bit of mischief, we were, I assure you. You’ll get to read about those stories when I write the articles about our Dutch ancestors and our visit to Holland.

Moving Away

Moving, across the state, the country or the world bifurcated families, especially before the days of the internet and Facebook. The family moved, and while that generation may have remained in touch through occasional letters, the next generation didn’t know each other, and the next generation didn’t even know OF each other, let alone know each other. You can see the perfect example in the pedigree chart of my own family, above. There was no family connection at all after a couple generations. I guarantee you, my children can’t recall the names of Lore’s children, let alone Nancy’s children who they’ve never met.

The past 20 years or so has dramatically changed the nature of moving away and distance. E-mail made communications easy and Facebook made it instantaneous. “Long distance” phone charges no longer apply and for the most part communicating with family has never been easier.

Bifurcated Families

This past week, the message about bifurcated families came home to roost.

My first cousin, Nancy, died….last July…and no one, not one person, notified me, or my sister-in-law, or Cheryl or Don. Nancy had a sibling and children and a spouse, all of whom we knew. Yet no one in this day of electronic media and incredible findability made a phone call or sent a note.

I knew Nancy my entire life. Nancy was beautiful and lovely and smart and talented – shown here with our shared grandmother.

cousin-nancy

Nancy’s father was my mother’s brother, and they visited the farm where I grew up. There was never a family issue or rift.

cousin-nancy-farm

Mother’s brother, Lore, and daughter Nancy at the table on the farm in 1977. Mom even used the “special occasion” plates and was always thrilled when family visited.

After Dad died in1994 and Mom moved to town, she drove to Ohio to visit Nancy several times. I visited Nancy a few years ago, but Nancy did not reply to e-mails nor did she reply to letters. You cannot sustain a one-sided relationship. There didn’t seem to be any hard feelings, and we had a lovely visit, but apparently communicating wasn’t Nancy’s strong suite. Nancy also had a degenerative disease that I’m sure eventually took her life.

I discovered Nancy’s death by googling the surname for something genealogical in nature, when her obituary popped up. Imagine my surprise. And then the sorrow. And then realizing that we hadn’t been notified of her death.

What is Family?

I’ve thought about this a lot the past few days, and about the definition of family. I realize that I’m very close to several cousins who aren’t my first cousins and some who turned out not to be cousins at all. In fact, I met all of them (except one) as a result of either genealogy or DNA testing.

Before genealogy, DNA testing and Facebook, my world of cousins would have been a lot smaller.

Ironically, Cheryl isn’t on Facebook, but the rest are. I’m still working on Cheryl.

While I met these folks as a result of common ancestors, and genealogy was our introduction, I’ve become close friends with many.

Daryl

Daryl and I met through genealogy about 15 years ago now, when we met for lunch and coffee, and managed to consume the entire afternoon.  Since we virtually disappeared, and both of us were meeting someone we “met on the internet,” both husbands were nearly ready to call the police about our disappearance.  Fortunately, we went home in time to avert that phone call – but it was close! After that, we journeyed across the country on many genealogy adventures together.

In fact, our adventures are legendary. Daryl and I have the distinction of being cornered in a cemetery by a bull. We think he wanted to add us to his harem. We were held captive until Mr. Bull got bored with courting us – and then we ran like hell for the car. That would have been very comical to watch.

clarkson-cemetery-bull

Quite a handsome guy, wouldn’t you say???

Daryl and I have been through some really rough spots, including the death of both of our mothers. Now, Daryl’s son Brent desperately needs a kidney donor, and we are going through that together as well.

lovin daryl

Daryl and I wading in a cool creek one miserably hot summer day on a genealogy adventure.  Love you Daryl!

Dolores

My cousin Dolores and I used to write handwritten letters on stationery back in the 1980s, believe it or not.  I still have them. Now we communicate regularly through our Facebook feed and an occasional e-mail. I feel much more involved in her life. Before, I only knew her as a genealogist, and she is an incredible wealth of knowledge, but now, I know her on a much more personal level. We recently discovered, thanks to Facebook, that Dolores’s neighbor is my other cousin, Kay.  Small world!

In Dolores’ recent “Friend’s Day” video I noticed a quilt that I made for another cousin and presented when several of us were together for an event in Richmond, Virginia. Seeing that made me feel good and brought back such warm memories. Yes, I love Dolores.

cousin-dolores-friend

Lola-Margaret

And there’s Lola-Margaret, that “other cousin” mentioned above – bless Lola-Margaret. She and I share the same ancestor that Dolores and I do, Nicholas Speaks. Should I admit in public that I kinda sorta kidnapped Lola-Margaret and Dolores in Middlesboro, KY one time? Ummm…probably not. I don’t think the statute of limitations has yet expired.  However, they were willing victims, especially after they discovered that I had kidnapped them to see the newly rediscovered and restored cabin of our ancestor, Nicholas.

nicholas-speaks-cabin-winter

Lola-Margaret and I have been on several adventures together, the last one returning to the land of our ancestor in Maryland, with another dear cousin, Susan, between Lola-Margaret and me, below.

societies5

I met Lola-Margaret in the hazy past through the Speaks Family Association although I feel like she has been in my life forever. We are very different but have some undefinable bond that neither of us fully understands. I clearly love her, very much.

societies6

In the photo above, we three cousins are walking the land of our ancestor together in what can only be described as a spiritual adventure. That day was such an incredible blessing – especially given that Lola-Margaret traveled across the country just 10 days out of back surgery. To say Lola-Margaret is incredible would be an understatement.

Susan

Susan, another cousin who is near and dear to my heart arranged a trip to England after we discovered, through DNA testing, where our Speaks ancestor was from.

Speak Family at St Mary Whalley

Descendants of the Speak family, cousins from literally around the globe rendezvoused in England, many meeting for the first time. As I look at this photo, I think about how fortunate I am, in so many ways – and were it not for DNA testing, Susan and social media – none of this would have happened. I love Susan for her tenacity and wonderful ability to get things done.

I love this group photo, because I see Mary, another cousin that I love, and John, and Dolores is there too….you get the idea.

Mary

lovin mary

At the church where our ancestors worshipped, cousin Mary and I exchange hugs. Yep, I love Mary too! Bless her heart, she called me to see how I was doing this past week – when she herself has had so many challenges this past year.

These are all people, so far, that I’ve eventually met, but there are many I have never met in person.

Kathy

Looking at my Facebook feed, just today, I see my Estes line cousin Kathy who I love and supported through a health challenge that she thankfully overcame.  I felt incredibly powerless – all I could do was make her a quilt and say prayers.

kathy-amazing-grace-quilt

I’ve never met Kathy personally, but I now “know” her family, and her cat who is an honorary cousin to my cats. I always look forward to her posts and to seeing what she is doing.  Sometimes having someone to talk to who cares about you but that isn’t right in the middle of the emotional dilemma is a blessing. I also know that if I had a health crisis, she would be there for me too.

In the middle of her own health issue, she helped me post daily flower pictures for my brother John (when I had to be gone) to help him through a very rough spot in his journey. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but it meant the world to John during very dark days when that is literally all he had to look forward to, and Kathy’s help meant the world to me. Yes, I love Kathy and John too.

John

John, my “brother” who is neither my biological brother nor even a bio-cousin, but my adopted brother, as of a couple years ago.  John’s story and our bond are very unique. We met through an e-mail list about the Cumberland Gap region that I began as an offshoot of the Cumberland Gap DNA project. He offered to send me fabrics from Japan where he lived at the time to help with making quilts for a fund-raiser.

crane-quilt

John is an amazing example of bravery and triumph over tragedy and is incredibly inspiring after cheating the grim reaper, not once, but twice. In fact, John was the inspiration for this new blog, Victory Garden Day by Day with the hope that it will inspire others.

john-mcdonald-and-son

I love this picture of John and his son, because it shows his inner spirit of courage and joy.  Love you oceans, JT!!!

Los and Denise

There’s Los with his two lovely children. I would never have met Los or cousin Denise were it not for our naughty ancestor, William Harrell, with two wives. This all came to light with genealogy followed by DNA testing.

I love that ancestor story, but I love even more Carlos and what he has made of his life, what it represents, his intelligence, drive and conviction. Can I brag on Los for a minute?  He’s a double PhD teaching at a university and he’s an absolutely incredible father, driving across the country alone with 2 small children for the genealogy reunion in the photo below. He’s an amazing man. I love my cousin, Los and his wonderful babies, who aren’t exactly babies anymore. I’ve gotten to watch them grow up, thanks to Facebook. I would love to be their honorary grandma if we lived closer.

lovin los and denise

Here, me, Carlos, his daughter and our cousin Denise meet for the first (and so far, only) time. Denise has an amazing story of resilience and success of her own.  Denise found our cousin group, scattered across the country, through genealogy, drew us together, and the rest, as they say, is history. I’m so fortunate to have been found by these wonderful cousins and so proud to claim them as my own.

Denny

I love my amazing cousin, Denny, aka Santa. Denny’s Santa activities are focused on nursing homes, the elderly and often forgotten. Denny just dropped me a line to say that he is thinking about me. Sometimes it’s just nice to know that someone cares about you. Obviously, I’m not on Santa’s bad list – maybe it’s still too early in the year. Give me time!

Denny Santa

I made Denny’s acquaintance a dozen years ago by accident when someone at his high school reunion told him that some lady was looking for Lore family descendants from Warren County, PA on a rootsweb forum.  That woman was me, and Denny replied.

I met Denny and his lovely wife when I visited during a research trip the next summer. A few years later, we lamented on the phone that we wished were siblings. Denny’s research and knowledge of Warren County, PA were indispensable in understanding the life of Anthony Lore, our own personal adventurer, trader, pirate, whatever. I see his resilient spirit in Denny and recognize it, because I have it too.

Kathy and Mary

One last cousin story that falls in the “truth is stranger than fiction” category.

I was working at a client site about 16 or 17 years ago, when I became increasingly close to one particular woman, Kathy. We went to lunch often, and we just seemed to be on the same page repeatedly. She told me she was trying to finish a quilt, and I invited her to my house to “quilt day” with a few of my friends. I never, ever did this with clients, but Kathy was the exception and we got along so well.

One day, Kathy and I were the only two people on time for a meeting, and we were discussing technology in the conference room as we waited for the tardy attendees. I made a comment that my Brethren great-grandmother would roll over in her grave to know that her great-granddaughter not only drove a car (gasp), but embraced all things technology – you know – like electricity and telephones – not to mention computers. Kathy said that she had Brethren family as well.

The following conversation went something like this:

Me: “I didn’t know there were any Brethren communities in this area.”

Kathy: “My family was from northern Indiana.”

Me: “Where in Northern Indiana?”

Kathy: “Around Elkhart.”

Me: “My family too. What is their name?”

Kathy: “Miller.”

Me: “SERIOUSLY???? Mine too.”

Kathy: I’ll bring my genealogy file tomorrow.

I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that Kathy and I are cousins too through our ancestor, Daniel Miller, whose children settled in Elkhart County, Indiana.

Not only is Kathy my cousin, she is my very close friend, all these years later, and my quilt sister too.

kathy mary quilt

Here, Kathy, at left above, and I are presenting our other quilt sister, Mary, at right, in the photo below, with a memory quilt for her 50th wedding anniversary. Yes, Kathy and Mary and I all follow each other on Facebook and that’s how we keep track of each other and each other’s families – which are our families too!

me mary quilt

Do I love Kathy and Mary? You bet your britches I do. In fact, my husband and I have spent every Christmas Eve evening with Mary and her family since my mother passed away a decade ago. I do believe we have created a new tradition. Above, Mary and I are working on a care quilt together at her son’s house.

No, Mary and I aren’t biologically related – and yes, she tested her DNA just to be sure.

Kathy and Mary are family in every sense of the word – whether by blood or not. Which brings us full circle.

A New Definition of Family

Sometimes the family we were born into slips away, intentionally or otherwise. But family we choose, our family of heart is what sustains us. All of the people above are my family, in various ways and for differing reasons – but the common unifying fact is that they are family and live in my heart – along with many more people not mentioned.

Today, with the availability of Facebook and other electronic communications, we can follow families as they grow up and remain in touch outside of that yearly Christmas card. Those relationships we cultivate and nurture are the ones that survive. The rest starve to death and die of neglect.

In my case, this social evolution or maybe revolution has redefined what cousin means, as well as family. Aside from Cheryl and her brother, I can’t tell you how distantly or closely related I am to any of my cousins, at least not without cheating and looking at my genealogy software. But I know we are “cousins” and that’s really all I need to know.

Occasionally, “cousin” might just mean a close relationship with someone I “feel” is a cousin. In some cases, cousin refers to someone we thought was a cousin, only to discover they weren’t, genealogically or biologically, but they are still “cousins” of heart and referred to as such.

In the south, elder cousins (and sometimes elders that aren’t related) that you are close to and respect are referred to as “aunt” and “uncle,” as in Uncle Buster who was really my first cousin once removed.  So yes, the word cousin is now redefined a bit and has become more a term of affection or simply stating that one is related in some fashion rather than referring to a specific degree of relationship.  In a way, it harkens back to the southern word, “kin.”  “We’re kin” means “we’re somehow related but I’m not sure how.”

Social media is an incredibly powerful venue – as politicians have recently discovered. But for family, both close and distant, social media has the ability to help us forge relationships and nurture them, keeping them strong and allowing us to maintain a continuity never before available – an advantage our ancestors never had. Genealogy and DNA testing has allowed us to expand the size of our known family, and social media has facilitated easily becoming more inclusionary – encompassing and cultivating our ever-expanding family.

Don

As I was finishing this article, I received one of those phone calls no one wants to receive. It wasn’t about a cousin’s death, but that of a friend.  Yes, my cousins didn’t call, but my friend did.

Our mutual friend, Don, died unexpectedly this morning.  I didn’t always agree with Don, but I valued his friendship and always looked forward to his research and what he had to say.  We were warriors on a common path, seeking the truth.

We are all bonded and bound by the seeds we sew, those common causes that draw us together, and we are united by years on a collective journey.

I will miss Don.  He always sent me a Jackie Lawson card e-mail at various holidays and when I was feeling blue.  His e-mails, contentious or reflective, will no longer grace my inbox.  His journey is finished, but ours wasn’t, nor was his work complete. I am gravely saddened. I hope I enriched his life as much as he enriched mine.

However, Don’s death vividly points out that while I was related to Nancy, our only commonality was that we were born into the same family, while my common journey with my “Facebook cousins” and close friends is one of reciprocal caring, shared experiences and mutual interests – having walked side by side, step by step and sometimes hand in hand over the rocky road of life for many years.

Love

Fortunately, love is not like a pie that is divided into pieces and when it’s gone, it’s gone. It’s the only resource in our human arsenal that isn’t decreased when some is given away. Love is boundless and endless, a renewable and ever-expanding resource that enriches both the giver and receiver. The more you give, the more you receive. I am so very blessed to have many “cousins” and family members of heart. While I have only mentioned a few cousins and friends, I am unbelievably blessed to have a great many.  So if your name isn’t here, it’s not because I don’t love you.

Sometimes family isn’t who you are, or the relatives you are born to, but the family you make, woven into a whole from the strands and fibers of love from each individual, colorful and unique person. The most beautiful patchwork quilt imaginable.

We are all on a journey together – enriching each others lives. That enrichment is what we will be remembered for – and why we will be missed when it’s our turn to finish our earthly journey.

So yes, you can indeed love your Facebook cousins and friends! What a wonderful unintended consequence of genealogy and DNA testing!

Love, it’s a renewable resource – give it away! Tell your family and friends you love them.  You never know when it will be the last opportunity – don’t miss it.

Here’s wishing you a Happy Valentine’s Day and many wonderful cousins to love!!!

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