Using mtDNA for Genealogy: A Case Study – Conclusion


This is the final post of this series. Here’s what we’ve covered so far:

  • Part 1 – Introduction:  I introduced my 5th great grandmother, Charlotte Richardson and the two competing theories as to who her parents were.
  • Part 2 – Identifying possible matches: I outlined the process I followed to identify possible matches, in order to test the two theories.
  • Part 3 – Contacting and testing possible matches:  I contacted female-line descendants and found one from each line who agreed to take the mtDNA test.
  • Part 4 – Comparing results: I compared my test results to those of the two testers and found a match between me and the descendant of Barbara Richardson.
  • Part 5 – Conclusion: this post

tree question.jpg

Now that we know that Charlotte and Barbara were sisters, this opens up new avenues to pursue to determine who their parents were. So what are the possibilities?

Well, first up, there’s the story that Charlotte’s father was a British Army Officer whose regiment was stationed in Charlottetown, PEI. Well, it turns out that the earliest British Regiment on Prince Edward Island was established in 1783, 7 years after Charlotte’s birth and one year after Barbara’s. However, there was a militia called “Callbeck’s Provincial Company” from 1776 to 1783. So it could be that Charlotte’s father was a local resident who was part of the militia. Unfortunately, we’ve yet to locate a listing of militia officers to confirm this.

Early British records from Prince Edward Island show that there were three Richardsons on the Island in the late 1700s, all in Charlottetown – James, George and Alexander.

James George Alexander

Many people have Barbara Richardson’s parents as Alexander Richardson and Ann Whittingham. They were married in England in 1779 and arrived in Charlottetown in 1780, two years before Barbara’s birth in 1782. However, if Charlotte and Barbara were sisters, we can rule them out as their parents, since Charlotte was born in 1776 on PEI, a full four years before Alexander and Ann arrived.

So that leaves James or George. While we don’t yet have conclusive evidence, James seems to be the more likely candidate. For one thing, the earliest Island record for George Richardson is a land grant in 1779, whereas there are records for James as early as 1770, including a land grant in 1771.

 And there are a couple of other facts that, while circumstantial, are consistent with James and Hannah being the parents of Charlotte and Barbara:

  • Both Charlotte and Barbara had daughters named Hannah.
  • James Richardson died in 1782 or 1783. Hannah then married David Dobson.  David Dobson was the older brother of Richard Dobson. At the time of David and Hannah’s marriage, Richard was 15 and Charlotte was 8. It is not at all inconceivable that Richard and Charlotte met as youth, when Richard’s brother married Charlotte’s mother, and that they would marry 10 years later, when Charlotte was 18.


If indeed James and Hannah were Charlotte’s parents, we still don’t know where they were born or who their parents were. But we now have some avenues to explore that we didn’t have before. Could Hannah be from West Sussex, where my perfect match’s ancestor was born? It’s certainly a possibility. As for James, there’s evidence to suggest that James, George and Alexander Richardson were closely connected – maybe they were brothers? We’re still working on this.


In the first post of this series, I talked about DNA testing as fishing trips and hunting trips. mtDNA is not the ideal tool for a fishing trip. Even if you have perfect matches in the database, your common ancestor may well be too far back to be identified. But don’t discount mtDNA for genealogy! As I hope you’ve seen from this example, given the right conditions, mtDNA can be a very useful tool.



  1. You have to be dealing with an all-female line. If there are any men between you and the person you’re interested in, your mitochondrial DNA is not going to help you. You’ll need to find a female-line descendant of that ancestor to test.
  2. You have to have a theory to test. If all you know about your ancestor is her first name, mitochondrial DNA is not going to be very useful. You might get lucky and have a match that provides a clue, but it’s a longshot.
  3. You need to be able to find female line descendants to compare to.  Ideally, I’d love to test a descendant from Hannah’s second marriage to David Dobson in order to confirm that Hannah was Charlotte’s mother, but unfortunately, they are only known to have had sons. Without a daughter whose line I could follow, there’s nobody to compare to. That is, until we determine her last name – maybe we’ll get lucky and discover a sister with some living descendants.

Overall, I think it’s pretty exciting that we’ve been able to use DNA to discover information about people who lived over 200 years ago. And while we haven’t definitively answered the question of who Charlotte Richardson’s parents were, we’re a lot closer than we were, thanks to mitochondrial DNA.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this case study. I hope it was helpful!

If you would like to share this, I have created a blog page that provides links to all of the related posts. You can find that page here:


8 thoughts on “Using mtDNA for Genealogy: A Case Study – Conclusion”

  1. Leanne:
    Another thought . . . . isn’t it possible that if James, George and/or Alexander Richardson were brothers or even cousins that IF they had married sisters then Charlotte and Barbara could have been cousins and not sisters?


    1. Definitely a possibility. It seems most likely that James and Hannah are Charlotte’s parents, but yes, Charlotte and Barbara could also also be maternal cousins. I’ve looked for anything to link Hannah to Ann Wittingham, but so far with no success. The search continues… There were a few other Richardson girls around that time, but we’ve not yet been able to ascertain who’s connected to whom, and we’ve not found any daughters to trace.


  2. Hi Leanne, I just wanted to say how much I’ve enjoyed reading about your research and the methodologies you used, this is a great piece of research you’ve done. I must admit, as a Brit, I’d never ever heard of the Chignecto Isthmus, and the Yorkshire Immigrants who settled there, until I was doing some research on some of my DNA matches in Canada and discovered that some of my ancestor’s sibling were among the Yorkshire Immigrants that you mention (


    1. Well hello there, cousin! I too am a descendant of William Chapman, via daughter Mary. He was my 6th great grandfather (on my father’s side – the Richardsons and Dobsons were on my mother’s side). Thanks for the great article on the Chapmans – very informative and interesting.

      And thanks for the lovely comment on my mtDNA series. Much appreciated!


  3. Hi Leanne, I’ve really enjoyed read how you resolved this case. I’ve learned a lot. Like you, I’m amaze when I think that we can find in living people information about distant ancestors trhough DNA. I got here through a DNA class of BYU-Idaho. I’m learning about Y-DNA and mtDNA. After read that Y-DNA and myDNA almost don’t change over generations I’ve checked my tree to see if there are any branch of living direct male descendants from my more distant ancestor, Juan de Aponte, who arrived to Paraguay in 1600. I’ve found just two branches with men whose have the requisites, one of them living in Buenos Aires, near to my home. Now I’m trying to contact them in order to ask them to take a DNA test! I want to know what is the haplogroup of Juan de Aponte.


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