Tag Archives: mtDNA

Down the DNA Rabbit Hole – Mitochondrial DNA

A few weeks ago, I wrote how the X-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA are different. Both have unique inheritance patterns but they are not the same thing, not by a long stretch. Many people are not familiar with mitochondrial DNA as it is not the most popular, or well known, of the DNA tests. However, everyone has mitochondrial DNA which they inherited from their mothers which makes this type of DNA a great tool for solving some DNA mysteries.

While yDNA is passed down from father to son, mitochondrial, or mtDNA, is passed down by a woman to all of her children. While male children inherit their mtDNA from their mothers, males cannot pass it down to their children. Only female children pass down mtDNA. Both yDNA and mtDNA are passed down for many generations without mutation unlike autosomal DNA which recombines with every new generation. These two types of DNA testing are great for ancient ancestry, going back hundreds of years.

The mitochondrial inheritance line through a child’s mother’s mother’s mother.

In my own research, I have only tested the mtDNA of one person, my father. I chose to do this test because I have a brick wall ancestor in his maternal line:

David, my father
Gladys (Foster) Yegerlehner, my grandmother
Emily “Emma” H. (Lawhead) Foster, my great grandmother
Margaret A. (Rea) Lawhead, my 2X great grandmother
Sarah A. (Jewell) Rea, my 3x great grandmother

Eventually I hope to use the information from my father’s mtDNA to discover (and confirm) who Sarah A. (Jewell) Rea’s female ancestors are.

Going down the tree from Sarah, there are only three living people in my immediate family who share this mtDNA – haplogroup H1g1 – my father, his first cousin, and her son. My grandmother only had male children with my father being the sole surviving child. My grandmother also had a sister, hence my father’s female first cousin and her son. Once they are gone, I will have no immediate family members who share this mtDNA. Margaret (my 2X great grandmother) had two daughters. However, her second daughter’s only child was a son; the mtDNA was not passed down beyond her grandson, Roscoe, on that line. Potentially, Sarah has living descendants with her mtDNA; she had two daughters, Margaret and Jane. Jane had four daughters, three of whom had daughters, and so on. Sarah’s direct female descendants will share the same mtDNA.

Potential mtDNA carriers from Sarah (Jewell) Rea

I currently have 234 mtDNA matches at FamilyTreeDNA; only four are perfect matches with zero (0) mutations. Since mtDNA mutates very slowly, even though I have four perfect matches, I have not been able to determine how these matches are connected to my family. Our most common recent ancestor (MCRA) likely lived hundreds of years ago.

To solve my brick wall, I can sit and wait for another “perfect” match to test their mtDNA and hope that we can find the connection, OR I can do some targeted testing. Even though I have no direct evidence of who Sarah’s parents were, I have a lot of indirect evidence. And if you have been following along, you KNOW I have already traced the collateral lines of Sarah’s potential siblings, especially her sisters. I might even have a direct female descendant (or two) that might be worth pursuing to see if they carry the same mtDNA.


Two of the best modern examples (and my personal favorites) of genetic genealogy forensics using mtDNA are the mysteries Richard III and the Romanov family:

Richard III
http://www.smithsonianchannel.com/videos/can-spit-prove-this-skeleton-is-king-richard-iii/21591

Romanov family
http://genetics.thetech.org/original_news/news108

©2017 Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2017/05/30/down-the-dna-rabbit-hole-mitochondrial-dna/

Progress – September 27th

Well, this update is not about the book because I am on book hiatus until the end of October. [Insert crying face emoticon here] I have too many other projects on the stove cooking at the moment to devote time to the book. I am frustrated by this lack of time. I want to be able to focus on the book completely instead of stealing a moment here or there. But the time just is not there at the moment, and I have to be realistic.

My main focus is writing my proof argument for my ProGen Study Group. The first draft was due September 25th which I turned in a few days early. After I wrote mine, I had to review the four papers of my group mates. We have such different writing styles and research problems. It is great to see what we are all working on. This next month we have to take the comments and suggestions of our group mates and polish up our first drafts into the final arguments.

I chose a research problem which I have been working on for 20 years, since I first starting working on Gladys’ family. One branch of her family has Quaker ancestry which stretches back to the early days of Pennsylvania and William Penn. Due to all the various migrations across the eastern part of the United States in the early years of the nineteenth century, some records are non-existent. The purpose of a proof argument is to gather indirect and direct evidence together in one place, and to write an argument “proving” whether or not events occurred. In my case, I have been searching for the parents of Alfred M. Dicks, Gladys’ great grandfather.

I believe I have a very solid argument. My first draft was 18 pages long, and over 6,000 words. I received some good feedback from some of my study group mates, and now I am beginning to make some corrections and additions. It is also my plan to publish the argument as an eBook when I am done in October.

In my genetic genealogy work, my father’s mtDNA results came in last week. I have two exact matches, but I think they are several generations too far away to help me at present. Mitochondrial DNA is the type of DNA which was used to prove that the bones buried under a parking lot in England belonged to Richard III. My goals are a little less lofty, but no less important to me. I am hoping to prove the connection between Sarah Ann (Jewell) Rea and her parents with mitochondrial DNA. The most plausible candidates are John P. Jewell and his wife Mary (Hoagland) Jewell. My father’s haplogroup is H1g1. This haplogroup appears to be more common in Germany and the Northern European countries. If Sarah’s mother was Mary Hoagland (who was of German ancestry), and I can find another of Mary’s descendants who matches, then I may have solved this mystery.

Last night, as I was searching for more information about Crawford and Clark counties (in Illinois) where Gladys’ family lived, I discovered that the Marshall Public library has begun digitizing the local county newspapers, back to the 1850s. This is AMAZING news! I have been stymied by the lack of records access in these two counties for the last two decades. I finally had to step away from the computer at midnight, but I could have gone on for hours more. The website says that they are still scanning and adding more newspapers, so patrons should check back often! [Can you see me doing Snoopy’s happy dance?] I was able to find the obituary of Gladys’ great grandmother, Belinda C. Foster, which previously I had only been able to find in a transcription, and many other little tidbits of gossip about my ancestors.

I will leave you with a small sample from the weekly news gossip column of West York, Illinois, from March 1896, announcing the marriage of Gladys’ parents.

Foster-Lawhead Marriage Announcement, 1896

Clark County Herald (Marshall, Illinois), 11 March 1896, p. 5, col. 2.

©2014 Deborah Sweeney.

Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2014/09/27/progess-september-27/