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Help interpreting mtDNA Ancestral Origins

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  • Help interpreting mtDNA Ancestral Origins

    My father has circa 500 GD0 mtDNA FullSequence matches (HVR1, HVR2 and Coding Regions). My paper trail locates his Earliest Known Direct Maternal Ancestor in a small town near Warsaw, Poland, circa 1813.

    I'm not sure how to properly interpret the "mtDNA - Ancestral Origins" page. The percentages provided for HVR1 matches and HVR1 and HVR2 matches tend to be higher (e.g. 2 - 4%) for nearby countries such as Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus, higher than for Poland. What should I inferr from that?

    What also baffles me is that the same "mtDNA - Ancestral Origins" page indicates at the bottom "No Matches Found" for the CR (Coding Region). I must be missing something as his mtDNA matches page brings circa 500 matches at HVR1, HVR2 and Coding Regions level.

  • #2
    That Ancestral Origins page, from what I gather, is taken from various data sources outside of FTDNA. In my case, even my HVR1 is rare enough to narrow it down. Although most of my HVR1 results (U5b2) are from Ireland, UK, Norway, etc., I have 3 from Hungary, 3 from Germany, one each from Czech Republic and Slovakia. Then in the coding region, my sole match claims Native American. Also only one match for HVR1 + HVR2. In a possible direct maternal line, it goes temporarily back to a county in (West) Virginia. When I looked up that county history, it had Moravians as an outpost during the French and Indian War. The marriage is claimed to have taken place in 1764, immediately after the end of that war. Hmm... A tidewater Virginian bought land there or otherwise ensconced himself there. Although all or most of other trees claim his (underage) wife was from tidewater Virginia, a case could be made for him marrying a "daughter of the country". But my autosomal DNA origins, either at Ancestry or FTDNA, do not show any measurable East Europe other than <1%. So maybe that hypothesis is not valid.
    Last edited by PDHOTLEN; 10th August 2018, 08:02 PM.

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    • #3
      Well, as imaginative as my little hypothesis was (above^), it didn't hold up on paper (genealogy). I had a breakthrough of sorts with my direct maternal line back there, and it took me back to Norfolk, England. But I'm still not entirely certain that that whole branch is correct. Anyway, what held me up was the reported last name being the same as her husband (Settle vs. Settles). It was a cousin marriage. Maybe that's where I get my feeblemindedness from, ha ha.

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      • #4
        The short answer for why the percentages are higher for nearby countries is that mtDNA haplogroups can go very very far back in time. You may share the same haplogroup with your matches, but in the past, the early people with that haplogroup lived in different places (see the FAQ excerpt below).

        Secondly, it seems unusual for your father to have 500 matches at genetic distance of 0. You didn't mention the actual haplogroup, but so many exact matches would seem to indicate it is a very prevalent mtDNA haplogroup in Europe, and thus has had many people tested, proportionately more than other haplogroups. My father's mtDNA haplogroup is a sub-branch of H; "H" in general is very common in Europe. But his earliest direct maternal ancestor was from Germany, and his three Exact matches are from England and Ireland. Germany shows high "Match Totals" in his genetic distance 1, 2 and 3 categories.

        As to why the Ancestral Origins page shows "No Matches Found" for the "HVR1, HVR2, AND CODING REGION MATCHES" (when you see that all the 500 are at 0 genetic distance), I don't have an explanation for that. If you go to your father's account settings, under "Privacy & Sharing," to what level is the mtDNA Matching set? If you can see them in your match list, they should show up in the Ancestral Origins 0 genetic distance list. You may need to submit a Customer Support request to see if they can answer your question.

        The percentage column on the Ancestral Origins page is explained by FTDNA in the Learning Center on the "mtDNA - Ancestral Origins page":
        Percentage – This is the percentage from the country of origin compared to the total number from that country in the database, i.e., the Match Total column divided by the Country Total column.
        I'm really not sure how helpful that particular statistic is.

        There is another page in the Learning Center which asks the question: "I am looking at my mtDNA – Ancestral Origins page. Why are so many different countries listed?" Unfortunately, the link to the actual page doesn't seem to be working. But, we do have the "Wayback Machine," aka www.webarchive.org, where we can find the same question and its answer in the old FAQ format:
        The mtDNA - Ancestral Origins page lists the country of origin reported to us by the people that you match. This country of origin is meant to be the country their maternal ancestor came from before any migrations to the Americas. However, some people instead enter the country of birth for themselves, their parents, or their most distant known ancestor. You should treat these entries as "Unknown Origin" unless your mtDNA test result indicates Native American ancestry on your maternal line.

        I am looking at my mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) Ancestral Origins page. Why are so many different countries listed? faq id: 494
        If you show many different locations for your HVR1 and/or HVR1&2 results on the mtDNA - Ancestral Origins page of your myFTDNA account then you likely have one of the more common result haplotypes for your haplogroup. The same hypervariable region (HVR) haplotypes within a haplogroup tend to be found in a range of countries in an area. This is influenced by political boundary changes and local marriage patterns. In cultures where women often leave their family and move to another village or tribal group, a wide geographic dispersal is expected. Some results are found often enough that they have spread out throughout a large region or a continent. If, for example, you match people from countries located throughout Europe, then you happen to have a DNA result which is found in all of these places.

        Moving to a higher resolution test, the Mitochondrial DNA Full Genomic Sequence test, will reduce the time to a common ancestor with your matches and reduce the number of potential places of origin.
        (my emphasis in color)
        Last edited by KATM; 11th August 2018, 01:57 PM.

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