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A Brick Wall - Which test to get thru it?

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  • A Brick Wall - Which test to get thru it?

    I have a long-standing brick wall on my maternal grandmother's side. My grandmother was left at the NY Foundling Home at 2 wks of age ( in the late 1800's) by the birth mother "Carter"- no first name. There is no further info on the birth mother, even today from the NY Foundling Home. My grandmother was indentured to a couple in Minnesota in Jan. 1900, just before the census was taken so she does not appear - and again no additional info. She was given the name Carter, but we have no way of knowing if was her real birth mother's name. Family tales passed down say she was French, but I've not seen anything to prove this. Her only birth certificate was a delayed one, obtained some fifty years later, as a Carter.

    I know the mtDNA and Family Finder tests are available to me for testing. I would like to find out if "Carter" is indeed a family line and if possible, who my great grandparents are/where they are from. I'm thinking the mtDNA test is my best shot....is this so..or? When I have the results is it best for me to join an adoption project since I'm unsure of a surname? No males in this family line to test ... that I know of.

    any advice appreciated!

  • #2
    Sounds like your grandmother was on the orphan trains from NY. In general I know there are groups on this subject and they have a page on genforum specifically on this subject. Full Gnome MT-DNA and Family Finder would be the best way to go in your situation. MT-DNA can still be very far away from the living and you wont know who you will match until you get your test results or if you will match anyone. Not everyone tests full gnome but in your situation I would. Combining MT-DNA and Family Finder results will give you a better chance at locating your family if they have also tested. There is also an adoption DNA project here that you can join

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    • #3
      Yaffa gives good advice. But it may be that you have limited funds you're willing to commit to breaking down this brick wall.

      Following Yaffa's suggestion - full mtDNA genome and Family Finder - will cost you $559. DNA Day is April 25 and FTDNA will probably have a sale around that time, which would probably discount both tests.

      If you're not willing to spend that much money, the more important test would be Family Finder, which costs $289. Frankly, mtDNA mutates so slowly that any matches you get, even at the full sequence level, could easily be several hundred years back to the common ancestor. That doesn't help much in breaking down a brick wall.

      Family Finder can find cousins in the database with whom you share common ancestors within the last several generations, probably the last 200 or 300 years. However, it will not tell you in which line the common ancestor will be found.

      With each generation, recombination will tend to break up large segments (the basis of finding cousins) that your grandmother received from her birth parents. Your best bet with Family Finder is to test a relative from the oldest generation still alive. If your grandmother is still alive test her. If not, then test one or more of her children.

      Another option is to test at 23andMe. They have Relative Finder, similar to Family Finder, but a bigger database. They will also give you an accurate mtDNA haplogroup, although not as comprehensive as the full sequence at FTDNA, and, if you're male, your yDNA haplogroup. That costs only $99. Then you can upload your 23andMe raw data into FTDNA's database for $89 and get the benefit of being in two databases. That approach would cost you only $188.

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      • #4
        Thanks Mike, I keep forgetting about the $99 deal at 23andme since I did not test there and tested at FTNDA a few years back already.

        Follow Mike's advice, get your MT DNA Full Gnome and like Family Finder test at 23andme for $99 than have your results transferred to Family Tree DNA for $89. This way you will get cousins DNA matches at both 23andme and Family Tree and this is the cheapest way to go at the moment.

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        • #5
          Thank you both for the advice I needed. Prior to the possibility of DNA testing, this has been a total brick wall for years. I have the original indenture papers, signed in NY,between the foundling home and the couple who indentured/adopted her at the age of 5. If it were not for that I too would think she arrived on an orphan train from NY.
          Both my grandmother and mother, as well as aunts and uncles to test, are no longer here....leaving me (female) and female cousins to do the testing. I would like to be able to honor her by finding her/my heritage... as all the family trees including her that I've found... have her as a daughter (by blood) of the family she was placed with.
          Lots to ponder, but good advice - Thanks again.

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          • #6
            I think it's going to be tricky given that neither grandmother nor next generation down are available to test, but if you go into it knowing that results may not get you anywhere or that it might take a long time before you find relatives--in other words do this with your eyes open and no over-optimism--it is worth a go.

            You'll have to do at least several autosomal tests (of different family members) in order to weed out DNA inherited from your father and grandfather. Test siblings and cousins. It'll be an expensive project (I would do the tests gradually to keep the cost bearable). If you haven't already, read what people say about phasing and triangulation of results, so that you can work effectively with whatever the results are.

            Here's hoping that your grandmother has passed down something a little unusual--but not insanely rare--that will make her easier to track!

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            • #7
              Originally posted by murpheygen View Post
              Thank you both for the advice I needed. Prior to the possibility of DNA testing, this has been a total brick wall for years. I have the original indenture papers, signed in NY,between the foundling home and the couple who indentured/adopted her at the age of 5. If it were not for that I too would think she arrived on an orphan train from NY.
              Both my grandmother and mother, as well as aunts and uncles to test, are no longer here....leaving me (female) and female cousins to do the testing. I would like to be able to honor her by finding her/my heritage... as all the family trees including her that I've found... have her as a daughter (by blood) of the family she was placed with.
              Lots to ponder, but good advice - Thanks again.
              Your Welcome. I dont agree with what khuebner posted that you need to test several in your family right off the bat. Test yourself first. Since this is your direct mother line you carry your grandmother's mitochondrial, X Chromosome and autosomal DNA. 23andme not only does autosomal and mitochondrial DNA testing they also include X Chromosome matching which could be beneficial to you if closer cousins not known in your family have also tested you could get a close enough match to lead you in the right direction. If you have no luck in locating your family after you have tested, than consider asking others in your family to DNA test. Good luck!

              Comment


              • #8
                I didn't mean to suggest that there had to be a barrage of tests right from the start, just that this is a situation that very probably will require more than one or two.

                My family is taking the slow route on a similar set of problems (I have two unknown great-grandfathers). We began by testing my mother with Family Finder and full mitochondrial during the December sale. Now that those results are in, it's clear to me that more people need to be tested. For example, if I didn't know that the matrilineal line was from Norway and goes back hundreds of years there, I'd be stymied by the very widespread MtDNA T1a1. It would not lead me to Norway because it's found all over Europe and Asia. I might be able to get somewhere on one of the mystery men if I can YDNA-test one of a small number of cousins, but for the other mystery man I can only work with autosomal testing because his known son and grandson are long dead.

                With luck the original poster will get something useful with one or two tests, but it's wise not to assume that will do the trick.

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                • #9
                  @ khuebner, you at the moment are looking for two great grandfathers and I dont know where they lie on your tree ( paternal or maternal )as to whether or not you might carry some X Chromosome from your ancestors on top of autosomal. The OP is looking for her direct mother line which she not only carries MT-DNA but also autosomal and X Chrome. Being that for the OP this is a great grandparent and direct mother line the OP should carry a fairly decent amount of autosomal and X Chrome on top of MT-DNA from her direct mother line great grandmother. I still carry a fair amount of X chrome and autosomal from my direct mother line great grandparent.

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                  • #10
                    Yaffa, yes, agreed the OP should have inherited a decent amount of that DNA, but the OP will have to sort out which DNA came from the adopted ancestor and which came from other recent people. That almost certainly will require some phasing. My situation isn't exactly the same since I'm dealing with two males (my mother's grandfathers) instead of one female, but it's somewhat similar, which is why I mentioned it.

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                    • #11
                      khuebner, If you are female like the OP you should still be able to sort yours out with 2 of your mother's grandfathers. One should be your mother's mother's father which you would have inherited some X Chromosome not only autosomal. Your mother's father's father would not have passed any X Chromosome down to you so you should only share autosomal with this side.
                      Last edited by Yaffa; 15 April 2013, 08:59 AM.

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                      • #12
                        I would suggest the $99 test from 23&Me. It will give you a strong hint on mtDNA that can be followed up on by an FMS and enrollment in an appropriate project at FTDNA. You can also transfer your 23&Me autosomal results to FTDNA Family Finder for $89.

                        23&Me also does X, that FTDNA does not yet do, and their tools are better, but there is value in being in both matching databases.

                        Getting a genealogically significant match on mtDNA is a lottery win! But getting a good read on geography of origin of a particular mtDNA subclade is a reasonable expectation and helpful.
                        Last edited by tomcat; 15 April 2013, 09:24 AM.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by murpheygen View Post
                          I have a long-standing brick wall on my maternal grandmother's side. My grandmother was left at the NY Foundling Home at 2 wks of age ( in the late 1800's) by the birth mother "Carter"- no first name.
                          Noodling around on ancestry.com, I think your grandmother was named D. Carter and here are the details for her NYC birth certificate:

                          removed personal identifying information per OP request. Please send via PM

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                          • #14
                            "Getting a genealogically significant match on mtDNA is a lottery win! But getting a good read on geography of origin of a particular mtDNA subclade is a reasonable expectation and helpful." - Agree! Was trying to figure out what would get us at least a few answers and have whittled down my options- thanks to advice given.

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