I Finally Tested My mtDNA

Graphic: Jack Moreh

The other day I got an email that I’ve been waiting for. In April this year, I’d purchased an upgrade to my Family Tree DNA to add a mtFull Sequence. I was surprised when I received a kit in the mail several weeks ago that said that when they tried to process my swab, that was stored, but that there wasn’t enough DNA to do the full sequence. Apparently, a mtFull Sequence requires quite a few DNA cells, and my old sample just didn’t have enough. So I made sure I did an extensive job on this sample.

Before we get to the results, let me tell you why I decided to do this test. You receive your mtDNA or Mitochondrial DNA from your mother, and both males and females have it, but only females can pass it on to the next generation. So I got my mtDNA from my mom, and she got it from her mom, and so on. Because I can trace my family back to Germany and the Netherlands, I thought it would be interesting to see what my mtDNA would say.

So Tuesday was the big day. I got my results.

The first thing I learned is that my haplogroup was H27. So I was off to the internet to find out what that might mean.

Wikipedia says, “a human mitochondrial DNA haplogroup is a haplogroup defined by differences in human mitochondrial DNA.”1

But I wanted to learn more about H27. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much information specifically about H27, but I learned that Haplogroup H is the most common mtDNA clade in Europe. It is found in approximately 41% of native Europeans.2

Below are the things that I can explore in my results at Family Tree DNA (FTDNA).

I have 108 matches when I look at the full sequence; I was a bit disappointed because the closest match I have is a genetic distance of 3, and in fact, all of my matches are a genetic distance of 3. I know that for mtDNA that I would want to have a genetic distance of 0. This means that all of my matches are not identical, and there are 3 mutations.

According to Blaine Bettinger’s book, The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing Genetic Genealogy.”

…it’s difficult to pinpoint how closely related two individuals with mtDNA matches are. Because mtDNA changes relatively slowly, individuals with identical mtDNA can be related either very recently or as much as several thousand years ago. …. This is one reason why it is better to sequence the entire mtDNA genome rather than just the HVR1/HVR2 regions; an exact full sequence match will likely be maternally related through a common ancestor who lived with the past five hundred years or so.3

Next, let’s look at the Migration Map.

On this page, they go into more detail about Haplogroup H, which I spoke about earlier.

Next, let’s look at my Match Map. The white pin represents my earliest known ancestor, and the green represents all of my match’s earliest known ancestors. I know that the one match that is quite close to my earliest known ancestor looks interesting because it is only 124 miles (200 km) away, but that person was born in 1926, and my ancestor was born in 1777 so not nearly the same timeframe. But perhaps the family has been in that location for a while, so I can check. But still, the genetic distance is quite a jump in time.

The final button to look at is the “see more” button, and it includes what’s shown below.

Haplogroup Origins primarily gives me a breakdown of the number of people in each country. With the majority being from the US. So pretty much what the match map is showing.

mtDNA Journey kept failing, so I’m not sure what’s up with that.

Ancestral Origins gives you your number of matches by comparing the total of people who have mtDNA Full Sequence tested in that country and then the total as a percent.

Mutations show you where exactly your DNA has a mutation in comparison to the reference sequence. (Cambridge Reference Sequence).

So, all in all, it doesn’t connect me to close cousins, and I knew that that would probably be the case when I decided to test. But somehow, I still found this interesting. Interesting because now I could put my 4x great grandmother, Anne Catherine Lemmens (1777 – 1822), on FTDNA as my most distant known ancestor. That was thanks to a WikiTree person who participated in my WikiTree Challenge in April. You can read my blog about that HERE. Or watch my reveal by the WikiTree Team on YouTube HERE.

Have you taken an mtDNA test? If so, what did you learn?

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_mitochondrial_DNA_haplogroup

2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_H_(mtDNA)

3see The Family Tree Guide Guide to DNA Testing Genetic Genealogy; Blaine Bettinger, 2016, 2019, Amazon.com

6 Comments

  • I did my MtDNA …but mine and my daughter s both came back as an ” ! ..we are throw backs…not a mutant sigh

  • canyongen says:

    I tested as H5A2 and I am also from Germany on Mom’s line. I did discover we are from Slavic tribes which was very interesting. I have two matches with a genetic distance of zero but I don’t know the relationship as it is still very distant. I may write this up in a family book as there are 9 of us who share this.

  • Melody Wilson says:

    Thank you for sharing. This was very interesting. I am a search angel and was considering asking for an mtDNA test from one of my ladies but now I see that it will probably not be helpful.

    • Melody, where the mtDNA test is helpful for genealogy is when you believe you have two females that are related on the maternal line. So somewhere along the mother’s, mother’s, mother line then this test would prove out if they were related.

  • peachy5 says:

    I had a MT DNA test done in 2018, and as of today I have zero matches. Much like your results there is very little information that I can find on my haplogroup. I don’t regret getting it done; I am just not finding it very useful at this point in my research.

    • Yes, mtDNA is probably the least useful for genealogy. As I mentioned in another comment it’s useful if you have a theory about how two females might be related. Then this can prove or disprove the theory.

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