Mitochondrial DNA

I have taken two autosomal DNA tests, through Ancestry and 23andme. There are three kinds of tests: (1) autosomal tests look at chromosomes 1-22 and X. The autosomes (chrom 1-22) are inherited from both parents and all recent ancestors. (2) Y-DNA tests look at only the Y-chromosome, which is inherited father to son, and can only be taken by males to explore their direct paternal line. (3) MtDNA tests look at the mitochondria, which is inherited from mother to child and can be used to explore the direct maternal line.

On a whim in early January, I decided to take an mtDNA test through FamilyTreeDNA. This focuses on the line of my mother, and her mother, and her mother’s mother, and so forth, up the maternal line. Sons can inherit that DNA as well, but cannot pass it, only daughters can pass it. The farthest on my mother’s direct line I have gotten on paper is five generations to Anna Isbrandt. I know about her and her husband and where their children were born, baptized and married, but not where Anna and her husband were born, birth dates, their families, nothing at all.

My results came in last week, and I have two “exact” matches with 0 genetic distance. A “0” genetic distance means that I have a 50% chance of sharing a common maternal ancestor within the last 5 generations (about 125 years). I have a 90% chance that the common maternal ancestor is within 22 generations (!!!). So I knew the test may not be super helpful. My two matches with the 0 genetic distance have listed their earliest known ancestor about five generations back and I’ve never heard of them but will contact them anyway and see what we can work on.

So of course I decided to do more testing, the autosomal test from FamilyTreeDNA, because it will detect relatives out to third and maybe fourth cousins.  Unfortunately it will not be isolated to just my mother’s line, the matches will be both maternal and paternal so it will be more work. I haven’t really been putting enough time into DNA genealogy lately, but part of it is my lack of complete understanding on the subject. However! I just started my Monday night zoom classes on genetic genealogy using the book Genetic Genealogy in Practice, and have a great instructor who is walking us through step by step, so I’m counting on him to help me. Separate chapters and practice problems are devoted to each type of DNA test, so I’m really looking forward to it.

A couple of other matches are not exact but I recognized a name in their earliest common ancestor – Larsdotter, a very Swedish name meaning the daughter of Lars. I have a ton of cousin matches in my Ancestry DNA that have this name in their trees as well but haven’t found the connection, but maybe my Swedish DNA comes from my mother’s direct line. For matches that are not exact like this and who have a genetic distance of 2, there is a 50% probability the common ancestor will be in the last 18 generations, a 75% probability in the last 26 generations, and a 90% probability in the last 35 generations. You can see how difficult it is. Yikes!

It is not the type of test that is really recommended unless someone is a very serious researcher and wants to try to answer a specific question. The autosomal tests are really the best for most.

The mtDNA results did show a clearer picture of my mother’s haplogroup. Haplogroups are individual branches, or closely related groups of branches, on the genetic family tree of all humans. 23andme detected that mine is H, which stems from HV, and it is a very common and diverse mitochondrial lineage among populations in Europe, the Near East and the Caucasus region. The lineage is likely to have evolved around 25,000 years ago in West Asia, before being transported into Europe.

My mtDNA test results actually show more and that the exact haplogroup is H49b, a subclade of H. H49 is found essentially in Germanic countries, and also in Azerbaijan. It goes many centuries back but it is very interesting to learn the migration pattern!

Thanks for reading!

2 thoughts on “Mitochondrial DNA

    1. Hi Ally, that is very cool! Thank you for the nice compliment! I would like to try to see how we are connected and will email you when I am a little better. Thanks again!!


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