14 August 2015

mtDNA or Who’s Your Mommy? Part 2 by Emily D. Aulicino

Longleat Maze by Niki Odolphie [CC-BY-2.0]
via Wikimedia Commons.
Are you adopted and searching for your ancestors? Are you are trying to find an adopted mother’s bio­logical family line?

If you have one of these problems an mtDNA test may help. Although there are no guarantees of success, this is the most logical path to try.

Finding an adopted female’s ancestors using mtDNA can be difficult given the problem with the mitochondria mutating so slowly. The first approach should be to get any birth records or adoption records if at all possible. Admittedly, this is not easy, as the information each state obtains varies, as does the information they will share. There are a few websites that may be of help.

Google the term “Adoption Search Angels.” You will find many sites including About.com which will guide you through some of the resources avail­able. Volunteer search angels can help you get started.

Facebook has Adoption Free Search Angels at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Adoption-Free-Search-Angels/156749834387458 which may provide some additional information.

Yahoo has the group, Adoption-Search- Angels, at https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Adoption-Search-Angels/info. Also on Yahoo is DNA­Adoption at https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/DNAAdoption/info. Consider joining one or both of these groups.

Richard Hill’s site, dna Testing Adviser has a wonderful section on adoption. See: http://www. dna-testing-adviser.com/AdoptionSearch.html

Locating a female on your all-female line as a candidate to test is a challenge. First, determine in what area or county your last proven ancestor lived. You may need to check all the available records, not just the usual ones, to see if there are any clues that indicate possible parents. Sometimes there is oral history in the family which may lead you to a possible connection. If you can locate enough circumstantial evidence to suggest the parents, you then need to bring down an all-female line to present day and test that person. If the result matches you, your brother who shares your same mother, or some direct-line female you know is related to you on your all-female line, you have found your relatives!

mtDNA testing works best in genealogy if you have a specific problem to solve and can find viable candidates to test.

Following are some mtDNA success stories, originally posted on the International Society of Genetic Genealogy website, http://www.isogg.org/ reprinted with permission.

“A woman wanting to prove her fifth great-grandmother in her maternal line could not document the link between the sixth and seventh generations in the pedigree. mtDNA appeared to be the only answer. After much researching, a female line descendant from a proven daughter of the seventh generation ‘grandmother’ was found and mtDNA testing for both descendants proved that they were descended from the same seventh generation female.” — Posted on 16 Apr 2005

“Emma’s mother was unwed and barely 18 years old. When Emma was born, an old preacher abducted her and raised her as his own. He probably thought he was doing the right thing, and later he claimed to have le­gally adopted her (e.g. 1930 census). Emma was raised with the preacher’s surname and she never knew her biological mother’s name.

Emma’s daughter recently started to add some genealogical evidence to the family stories so she could present an iron-clad story of her ancestry to Emma before she died. Despite the daughter’s best efforts, there was always some doubt that she had the right family. Emma’s daughter did some research on the web and discovered that mtDNA might offer a tool to solve this puzzle once and for all.

Using her own mtDNA and mtDNA from Emma’s presumed Aunt Oleta HVR1 & HVR2, she found an exact match, thus confirming the paper trail!”— Posted on 27 Nov 2006

“I started to seriously research my heritage about 12 years ago. I purchased an early version of Family Tree Maker (FTM) and admittedly, the box sat on the shelf for a while as I gathered up what I knew personally about my ancestors. I made inquiries to my father who, though I hadn’t had much contact with him since I was quite young, was willing to send me reams of papers and copies of documents such as family bibles. On my mother’s side I was fortunate, as well.

Apparently, an aunt, who had recently passed, had begun to document my maternal side. Her research went to another aunt with whom I was very close. As my mother was explaining what I was doing, over the phone and in French, my aunt told my mother that I could expect the papers soon.

I knew my mother was French; it was “her first language,” she tells me. And just looking at my uncles, aunts, cousins, and pictures of my grandparents, well, you can tell. Along with the materials forwarded to me, and the information I gleaned from oral histories given by living relatives, I was able to document my direct maternal line back seven generations, though many other marital offshoots led even further back. According to what I had on hand, my furthest known direct maternal-line ancestor was Clothilde Quinter and the spelling was questionable.

For many years, and through several software updates, I continued to explore the various branches. A couple of years ago I came across an article in Time, I believe, relating DNA research conducted on a fossil found on a mountaintop in the Alps. After researching online, I signed up to have my own DNA tested, and my step-father, and his mother, to see if there would be anything productive to aid in my research. I had, by this time, become the so-called family genealogy “expert” and had worked on my wife’s family and that of several friends.

Of the three of us who submitted to testing, only my step-father benefited—until last week. I received an email from Lucie LeBlanc Consentino which began in a familiar way as I had received other inquiries that led, effectively, nowhere. Lucie inquired as to whether I was of Acadian descent, and whether I would be interested in participating in a project. I quickly replied, and we ex­changed several emails the very first day. In one of these I provided her with information about my maternal line, and she introduced me to the project; further offering to forward my information to noted [Acadian French heritage] researcher Stephen A. White.

How very pleased I was to relate to my mother, only two days following, that Mr. White had not only corrected a couple of errors in my information, but was able to provide detailed information about my direct maternal line which he had extended to twice its length. One of these “errors” might have been the stumbling block for my own research, yet by combining his knowledge of my mtDNA and his extensive research on Acadian heritages, he was able to double my maternal line to fourteen generations.

This was truly a success story for me and my family. My mother has already requested an updated poster to take to her next family reunion in Louisiana. Merci beaucoup Lucie and Stephen!” Troy D. A. Hammond

Mr. White adds:

“I am glad to learn that Mr. Hammond is so happy with the way I was able to complete his family tree. That I was able to do so is as much a result of his hav­ing had his mtDNA tested as anything else, because in the context of our early Acadian families his results suggested that he must be a descendant of Andre Guyon. Sorting through the problems in the documentation was thus quite rewarding, given that the end result con­firmed what the mtDNA had suggested. Sincerely yours, Stephen A. White” — Posted on 22 Apr 2008

Acadian French By Klaus Mueller CC-BY-SA-2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

“I have been doing some form of family his­tory research for over 30 years. During that time I traced my mother’s family on the male lineage back to France and was delighted with the results. In the meantime, a cousin on my father’s side took up that research, and I started on my husband’s European lines from Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France.

I have been a subscriber to Richard Eastman’s Genealogy Newsletter for a long time, and about two years ago I read an article he wrote about dna testing. I thought it sounded interesting, so I ordered the basic test, and then decided to go to the second level of testing. Because it is mtDNA and traces the direct maternal line, I went back and started researching that line, promptly running into a brick wall. Even though I had two major source books I could not find any information before the mid-1700s. I started a broader search and discovered that my mater­nal line may have immigrated to Acadia (Nova Scotia) in the mid-1600s. I was doing online research and thought that I had figured out my maternal lineage, but because I had no access to primary sources I could not be sure. I joined the French Heritage DNA Project during this time.

Very recently I received an invitation to join an mtDNA project and I accepted. I sent the information on my maternal lineage to Lucie LeBlanc Consentino who sent it to Stephen White for verification. After fewer corrections than I expected, I can now lay claim to being a sixteenth generation descendant from a daughter of Acadia, Jeanne Motin de Reux. I am fortunate to descend from such a distinguished line, because at sixteen generations it gives me the longest female-line lineage to date.

On my paternal line, my cousin had done all the research and we thought we knew which English Car­ter line we could claim as our ancestors, but one link was weak on documentation. We convinced our Carter male first cousin to have his DNA tested and submitted our lineage to the Carter Society. Through the DNA test comparisons we were able to determine which Carter settler of the New World we descended from.

I am delighted with all the new information that I have recently obtained. It has become my custom to print a small family history book with pictures for each new baby that is born in our family. As my nieces and nephews turn forty years old I make a family history book as a birthday present for them. The dna results will add an additional validation to some of the information.” — Posted on 1 May 2008

“mtDNA has just today proved useful to me for genealogical purposes. I had recently (last fall) done some historical research that extended my maternal line back for several more generations. I thought what I had looked good, but I wasn’t sure that it was airtight. I just got an HVR1 match at FTDNA who noticed my newly established most distant ancestor was hers as well. She wrote me and we found that we were descended from two sisters who were born in Virginia in the late eighteenth century. This was at least partial confirmation that the part of my research of which I was least sure was in fact correct! I hope others will have this pleasant experience too.” — Posted on 6 Feb 2009

Appeared in the GFO Bulletin, Volume 64, No. 1, September 2014.

GFO is the Genealogical Forum of Oregon in Portland Oregon.  See their website:  www.gfo.org

For more information about DNA, read Emily’s book, Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond which can be purchased online at AuthorHouse.com, Amazon.com, and Barnes and Noble in paperback or as an e-book. The book can be ordered at any bookstore.

13 August 2015

mtDNA or Who’s Your Mommy? Part 1 by Emily Aulicino

An all-female line you are researching comes to a dead-end. An mtDNA test may help. Although there are no guarantees of success, this is the most logical path to try.

First let’s review what the mtDNA test can do and who can take it.

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is passed from moth­er to all her children since womankind began, but only the daughters can pass it to the next generation. For this reason, a living male can test his mtDNA, but the results will be only along his mother’s all-female line. All females can test their mtDNA for their all-maternal line.

Inheritance of Y-DNA & mtDNA

Courtesy of Family Tree DNA

The small chang­es (mutations) that can take place help determine the close­ness of a relationship and help place people into family groups. These mu­tations are random and can happen at any time, although with mtDNA that is less frequent than with Y-DNA. A mother passes the same mtDNA to all of her children, but it’s possible that one might receive it with a mutation while the other does not. Once a mutation occurs it is passed to the next generation of children from the mother who received it. Again, as with Y-DNA, the mutation is a change in one of the chemical bases, adenine, cytosine, guanine, or thymine.

Unlike Y-DNA the results are reported when the chemical base differs from the sequence to which it is compared. Currently there are two sequences being used, the rCRS (revised Cambridge Reference System) and the RSRS (Reconstructed Sapiens Reference System). In the 1980s the placenta from a woman who gave birth in Cambridge, England, was the first full mitochondria to be tested. She was from haplogroup H which is the most common haplogroup tested to date, and it tends to be in Western Europe. This was not the haplogroup of the first known wom­an, and recently, Doron Behar, in his mtDNA work pub­lished the RSRS.1 Family Tree DNA currently uses the RSRS, but, for now, has maintained the use of rCRS for comparing mtDNA testing. The RSRS com­pares your mtDNA with the oldest known sample of DNA (mitochon­drial Eve), thus, although your haplogroup re­mains the same, the mutation list will change.

Mitochondria results look different for both sequences. Note in the example that these happen to be the same marker lo­cation: 16399. It just happens that my mtDNA had this result for both the rCRS and for RSRS. The rCRS system (in the first example) is telling me that I have guanine (G) at this location. In the second example the RSRS tells me the same thing, but shows me that Mitochondrial Eve had adenine (A) at this location. 

Example: rCRS 16399G
Example: RSRS A16399G

I have 26 mutations when comparing rCRS for my full mitochondria. With RSRS, I have 56. The numbers will vary with other testers’ results. If someone has a perfect match with me, they will not only have the same number of differences, but they will be at the same loca­tions. Number of mutations and the locations depend upon how closely related that each tester is to the fetus in Cambridge for the rCRS or to Mitochondrial Eve for the RSRS.

The mtDNA is so very slow in mutating that any matches, even on the full mitochondria sequence (FMS), could mean that your matches were before genealogical time; that is, before written records. However, several things can be learned from this test, and it can be used to solve certain genealogical problems.

From mtDNA you can discover your twig on the world family tree, your haplogroup. Depending upon which haplogroup you have, you will learn the time frame when that group began and some of its activ­ities. For example, I am a U5a1a. From this I learned that the U5 group started about 50,000 years ago. They were hunters and gatherers and moved south from the Scandinavian and western European areas before the last Ice Age. After that, many moved back to the area. This means that the sub-group of U5, specifically my U5a1a, came later but still many thousands of years ago. Remember each subclade required that people tested positive for some new SNPs. (Remember that a subclade is formed by adding an additional number or letter to the root branch. U is the root; U5 is a subclade of U; U5a is a subclade of U5, etc. Letters and numbers cannot be added until many people test positive for additional SNPs.)

Using mtDNA to solve genealogical problems can be a challenge, but is very rewarding if you are successful. Some have likened it to winning the lottery. The follow­ing scenario will guide you on what can be done and the work involved. Much hinges on how dedicated you are to finding a solution to your genealogical problem, whether you can locate viable candidates to test, and whether you can afford to pay for the needed test. If you are lucky, perhaps some of your candidates will share the cost.

My fourth great-grandmother is Frances (nee Watson) Ellis who was born in 1788 in Madison County, Kentucky. Her family was from Albemarle County, Virginia, and returned there when she was a year old, according to a brief newspaper article written when she was still living.

When she selected Dabney Ellis in 1808 as her guardian, the record states that she, listed as Franky, was the orphan of John Watson and that Dabney Ellis posted bond in this matter. After much research, five John Watsons were discovered in Albemarle County at this time, and every one had a daughter named Frances or Franky. None of them were my Frances.

Moving to Madison County, Kentucky records, I dis­covered that the only Watsons in the county between the late 1780s and 1790 were Watsons from Albemarle Coun­ty. In 1787 there was a Jesse Watson on the tax records, and no other Watsons until 1790 when Jesse appeared again with some others who were sons of one of the John Watsons of Albemarle County. Jesse left an oral will in June 1790 taken by two witnesses: Evan Thomas Watson and James Stephenson. Jesse was accidently shot by John Anderson when both were hunting deer. Both witnesses stated that Jesse gave all his possession to his wife, Milley Watson. James Stephenson said Jesse told him, “that he wisht me to see that his wife Milley and his Heir appear­ant should enjoy what he had, equally between them.”2

Milly and her child moved back to Albemarle Coun­ty, Virginia, soon after she lost her husband. However, her husband’s name was Jesse and the guardianship pa­pers state Frances’s father was John. At this point, one must look at rational possibilities. Could Jesse have been Jesse John or John Jesse and decided to not use John as there were so many? Could the clerk taking the guard­ianship bond have made an error as there were five Johns with five daughters named Frances, all marrying about the same time in this county? Could this be my family?

As I never found any siblings for Frances, I started researching Mildred (nee Ballard) Watson. She is the daughter of Philip Ballard and Nancy Ann Johnson. Milly first married Jesse Watson and in 1794 married David Craig. With David Craig, Milly had five sons. So far no daughters can be found, and the child belonging to Jesse cannot be located unless the child is my Frances. As there are no female lines from Milly, I must then trace an all-female line from either one of her sisters to the present and test that person. If that can’t be done, then I must trace a line from Milly’s mother’s sisters to the present. If the person I test matches me, then this is my line since the odds of a full mtDNA test matching under such circumstances is definitely like winning the lottery!

You can read about other success stories at the Inter­national Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) website: www.isogg.org . Click Success Stories on the left.

One last reminder: DNA testing does not have all the answers for you. Not every brick wall can be demolished; there will always be brick walls. Not every person you need to have tested can be found, and not everyone you find will be willing to test. Not every person you match will know as much as you. With luck, some will know more.

One last hope: DNA testing is the most accurate re­source we have as genealogists. By testing you will have an opportunity to learn more about your ancestry. More people are learning about DNA testing for genealogy daily. More people are testing, so in the future you may find the person and connection you need. Doing noth­ing gets you nowhere.
More on mtDNA in searching for all-female lines in the case of adoption and more success stories will be shared in the September issue of the Bulletin.

1.      1.  Behar DM, van Oven M, Rosset S, Metspalu M, Loogväli EL, et al. (2012) A “Copernican” reassessment of the human mitochondrial DNA tree from its root. Am J Hum Genet 90: 675–684.[PMC free article] [PubMed]
2.      2.  1790 Madison Co., KY - Will of Jesse WATSON - Will book A p. 11, dated 1 June 1790 - recorded 3 Aug 1790. Transcribed by Mark T. Watson.

Written for the GFO DNA Special Interest Group, February 2013 and appeared in the GFO Bulletin, Volume 63, No. 4, June 2014.

GFO is the Genealogical Forum of Oregon in Portland Oregon.  See their website:  www.gfo.org

For more information about DNA, see Emily’s book, Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond which can be purchased online at AuthorHouse.com, Amazon.com, and Barnes and Noble in paperback or as an e-book. The book can be ordered at any bookstore.