Using mtDNA for Genealogy: A Case Study – Identifying possible matches

In the first post of this series, I introduced my 5th great grandmother, Charlotte Richardson and the two competing theories as to who her parents were. In order to test those theories, I first had to identify some possible matches.

Follow the daughters

In order to find people who carry the mtDNA of Mary Flintoff and Barbara Richardson, I followed as many lines as I could in order to increase my chances of finding some living descendants who would agree to be tested.

Theory 1 - daughters

Mary Flintoff had one known daughter, Elizabeth. She had one daughter, who had two daughters. I pursued this line, but since there was only one line to follow and I didn’t want to put all my eggs in one basket, I also looked at Mary Flintoff’s sister, Jane, who would carry the same mitochondrial DNA (assuming, of course, they had the same mother). Jane had 2 daughters, who between them had 8 daughters. One of Jane’s daughters, Elizabeth Humphrey, married Charles Dixon Jr. They left Sackville, New Brunswick in September 1837 with their 7 youngest children for Kirtland, Ohio where they joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This would prove to be the easiest line to follow, due to the excellent genealogical record-keeping of the Mormons.

Theory 2 - daughters

For Theory 2, Barbara Richardson had 5 daughters, who had 16 daughters among them. There were lots of choices of lines to pursue there, so when one line would fizzle out, there were others to try.

For each daughter, I looked for the following:

  • marriage record or wedding announcement to identify married name
  • all censuses following marriage to identify children
  • birth records of each daughter to confirm mother’s maiden name
  • marriage record or wedding announcement of each daughter to identify married name
  • death record and/or obituary

I worked systematically through each daughter and each daughter’s daughter until I got as far as I could go, then I’d go back a generation and start again with the next one.

Use online sources

While following the lines to present day, I used readily-available online sources. I used some Ancestry trees for hints, but I didn’t want to end up testing someone who wasn’t actually a descendant due to shaky trees. I started with the easy-to-access sources and figured I would dig deeper if I got stuck. Fortunately, I was able to get to present day on several lines using only online sources, through Family Search, Ancestry, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick Archives online, Find a Grave and Google searches, which were especially useful for recent obituaries.

Doing this, I discovered that it’s much easier to get to living descendants on lines that went to the US than on those that stayed in Canada. That 1940 census is very helpful when you’re trying to get to present day!

Document everything

Throughout the process, I documented everything, including the sources I used. I created WikiTree profiles for each person, for a few reasons – First off, WikiTree is what I use for my own family research, so I’m used to it and I believe in the mandate of a collaborative family tree.  I figured I may as well make this research available for others to benefit from and add to.  As well, there was always the possibility that I would connect to trees already on WikiTree, which would save me some research. I did connect a few times to existing trees, but not on the lines I was interested in.  But most importantly, WikiTree is great cousin bait. Since each profile is its own web page, when you search for a name in Google, the WikiTree profile will show up as a hit. And as you’ll see later, this would prove to come in very handy.

WikiTree screenshot

Keep track

In addition to documenting on WikiTree, I also kept a running list in Evernote of where I was, who I had reviewed, and which lines had ended.

Tracking screenshot

Lines ended for a few reasons:

  1. On some, sources I checked had conflicting evidence. I didn’t want to spend a whole lot of time going down the line of someone who might not even be related.
  2. Some people had no children, so their line ended
  3. Others only had sons. Since only women pass on their mitochondrial DNA, men were not going to be much help (except for living men, as they have their mother’s mitochondrial DNA)
  4. Some people I lost track of. I had several avenues to pursue, so I didn’t waste time trying to find people who couldn’t easily be found, but I knew I could always go back to them if I needed to.
  5. When I came upon a possible contact, I added a checkbox beside their name. Once I had contacted them, I checked the box.

One I worked through the lines, I had about 10 possible living female-line descendants identified. Next came the fun part – making contact and asking people to give a cheek swab for a total stranger! I’ll cover that in the next post.

2 thoughts on “Using mtDNA for Genealogy: A Case Study – Identifying possible matches”

  1. I’d like to hear what your responses are. I’d be wary of someone asking for my DNA because how do I know that you are on the up-and-up and not trying to incriminate me in some way.

    Like

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