Sunday, April 26, 2015

mtDNA: What's my origin?

My “most distant ancestor” I know of is Gertrude Schmidt, born about 1801 in Darmstadt [Now part of 1871 unified Germany]. My German family research has basically just begun. I have not researched or verified further back in my mitochondrial lineage. I'm still working on the Chicago Germanic connection. 

It would be nice to know what my ethnic origins are. I chose Family Tree DNA for my cheek swabbing test and had my brother do the Y DNA test through FTDNA, also. I recently upgraded my mitochondrial (mtDNA) test to a "full sequence,” and the results are in.

My haplogroup is H13a1a1b. Even though our last BIGWILL meeting's speaker was a geneticist who explained DNA results in layman’s terms, I have no clue to what all those numbers and letters mean. So I poked around my Family Tree DNA account to find out. [BIGWILL stands for British Interest Group of Wisconsin and Illinois.]

I found this image under the My Origins tab. I think it's pretty cool. My mother had said her mother was from German stock. My 60 percent Western and Central Europe ethnic makeup confirms what she said. And the other colors follow the other two routes of my haplogroup's migration as you can see in the next image.
Family Tree DNA - from my test results.
Evidently the haplogroup H means I'm mostly European with origins coming from the northern Near East and the southern Caucasus many thousands of years ago and even before that it started somewhere in Africa. Eventually this original group migrated to Iberia and later on it landed in Europe proper as we know it today. The dark blue lines are H's migration path. It also includes R0, HV, and V. I believe the dark red box "EVE" is the absolute beginning.
Family Tree DNA - from my test results.
"Iberia" isn’t the Iberian Peninsula which includes Spain, Portugal, Andorra and Gibraltar, rather it is located in the Southern Caucasus – the country Eastern Georgia. (Wikipedia <>) H13 branch seems to date before the “LGM” or last glacial maximum. Now all this confuses me, but they have charts to compare differences between my results and the RSRS*. 

I have no clue what that has to do with me either, so I moved on. The Family Tree DNA site has changed somewhat since my brother swabbed his cheeks several years ago. My account is more user friendly and now there is a whole section of tabs for My mtDNA along with Family Finder matches and origins, etc. I can also start a family tree. I haven’t decided to do that yet, but will consider it soon.

One of the tab selections I made was under mtDNA called Matches. I was shown four matches under the HVR1, HVR2, Coding region. One is a 2 and the others are 3s. At first I thought it could mean cousin level. No, it is the Genetic Distance. Each one of these people have the exact Haplogroup as I do. My #2 country is England <0.1%, the #3s respectively - Germany <0.1%, Russian Federation 0.1%, Slovakia 0.6%. My, my, I thought I was mostly German with some Bohemian.

I clicked on one of the #3 surnames and saw his profile. Every one of his ancestors come from Slovakia or Czech Republic. That’s interesting because mom did say we had a little Bohemian blood…how true? Well this might tell the tale. And her dumplings were similar to those I’ve eaten in Prague. I do enjoy a Pilsner beer once in a while, too, but let's not forget roast duck. When I was in Prague, I ordered duck for lunch and supper...if it were on the menu at breakfast, I'd eat it then, too. The Czechs sure know how to prepare duck.

Another profile I checked was someone whose family was from the western part of Germany, Ireland, and Lorraine besides U.S.A. I don’t know yet where my great-great grandmother was from, but family stories have her born in Alsace-Lorraine. How true is that? It's anyone’s guess. And then again, I felt very comfortable while in Alsace and eating the food. There was a familiarity about it, too. Hmmm....somewhat like German cuisine, but a little French, too. Does his Irish part also account for me liking soda bread?

The one #2’s profile didn’t give me any information although results showed less than 0.1 percent English. I do like peas and rashers of bacon. 

The last of the #3s ancestral surnames were all from Russia or Ukraine — Russia is a big country. I wouldn’t know where to start looking for any of her ancestral surnames. I have an unopened bottle of USSR vodka in our liquor cabinet. That has to mean something.

On to another tab…Matches Maps. I can’t reproduce this map, but it looks like I have a few exact matches with red markers placed from Louisiana to Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and around the eastern part of U.S.A.; there is a marker in Scotland, and two in Italy along with my white marker centered in Germany. I guess my mtDNA HVR1 Matches 11. Heck if I can figure it out. None of those lines ended up in the Midwest where I live and where grandmother's parents decided to settle.

I’m still confused as to what this all is supposed to tell me. Great-great grandmother Gertrude comes from somewhere in the "blue" area — my 60 percent. Now I'm very curios to pinpoint where her origins really are. I love jägerschnitzel, spätzle, kugelhopf, gherkins, and schnapps! 

What have I learned about my origin? I'm 60 percent Western and Central European, 32 percent Scandinavian, and seven percent Southern European which totals 99 percent. I don't know what the last one percent could be. Gee I wonder since I like Chinese and Thai food...does that qualify for the one percent?

Question: do you think my love for certain European ethnic foods has any meaning to where my maternal roots originated? I do and I hope mom's dumplings will point the way!

*RSRS = Reconstructed Sapiens Reference Sequence which is a reference sequence that uses global samplings of modern human and ancient hominids samples. It is based on the likely modal haplotype of a common ancestor to modern humans and ancient groups like Neanderthals, it is supposed to show an "unbiased path" from the modern mtDNA sequence to a distant common maternal ancestor.

Source: Behar, D. M., van Oven, M., Rosset, S., Metspalu, M., Loogväli, E.-L., Silva, N. M., Kivisild, T., Torroni, A., and Villems, R. (2012). A ” copernican” reassessment of the human mitochondrial DNA tree from its root. The American Journal of Human Genetics, 90(4):675-684.

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