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DNA testing advice for adopted maternal ancestor

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DNA testing advice for adopted maternal ancestor

Postby JET » Thu May 11, 2017 4:12 pm

My husband's mother's mother was adopted. We have tried many different ways to track down her biological parentage with no success. We have what we believe to be her birth certificate, which does not name a father (surprise!), but her mother's parentage has been impossible to trace too. We are assuming there has been some "adjustment" of names, possibly to imply the father or to conceal her own true identity (the birth was registered by the Master of the Workhouse).

I have been wondering whether a DNA test might help. It is really the mitochondrial DNA that we are most interested in, but most tests seem to look at the autosomal DNA. My husband would be happy to have a DNA test. His mother is still alive but I suspect she might not know what we were asking and I wouldn't want to ask her to do something she doesn't understand.

Does anyone have any advice which would be the best DNA test to go for. A quick browse of the web seems to suggest that AncestryDNA would be a good start, but FamilyTreeDNA also looks interesting.

Many thanks.


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Re: DNA testing advice for adopted maternal ancestor

Postby AdrianB38 » Thu May 11, 2017 7:06 pm

Looking at the WDYTYA Magazine for May 2017, Family Tree DNA seem to be the only ones to do matching of mtDNA. A couple of the others do mtDNA haplogroup testing but I believe that is just an overall classification.

Remember, mtDNA comes down through the wholly female line but your husband can test for it - because he inherits his mother's mtDNA. I suspect that you know this but just in case.

I'm no expert in DNA so if I'm wrong someone please shout!

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Re: DNA testing advice for adopted maternal ancestor

Postby JET » Thu May 11, 2017 7:45 pm

Thanks for the swift reply. I have the magazine (somewhere!) so will read what they have to say. I'm wondering whether it would be worth having other tests done alongside the mitochondrial one - need to think a bit more about that.

I only recently made the logical deduction that my husband would have his mother's mitochondrial DNA so we didn't need to try to persuade either his Mum or his sister to have a test, which is why we're now thinking seriously about it.

I know it's probably a long shot, but if it did produce some info that led to the identity of the biological mother, it would solve a mystery that we have been working on for many years.

Thanks again.



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Re: DNA testing advice for adopted maternal ancestor

Postby Sylcec » Fri May 12, 2017 12:11 am

I back up what Adrian says. Your husband will definitely have inherited his mother's MtDNA. And FTDNA is the company to go with. At the moment they have a "mother's day" special on Family Finder which is their autosomal test, for only $69, a discount of $10 from the usual.

If it all seems too costly to do all tests that you want, you can just do one and order the extras later. Once they have your sample, then additional tests can be run on it.

Having had the test done, the big challenge then, is to be able to interpret the results! The science and data is complex. My friend Kerry Farmer has written a lot about DNA testing and you can read some of her stuff on her website http://familyhistoryresearch.com.au/
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Re: DNA testing advice for adopted maternal ancestor

Postby kayy » Sat May 13, 2017 8:54 am

I am not sure if this is any help but I used with 23andme for my DNA and it has been quite helpful
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Re: DNA testing advice for adopted maternal ancestor

Postby vito74 » Sat May 13, 2017 5:21 pm

I have done tests with family tree, living and ancestry. Family tree would give you your subtype eg j1c3f for example on mtdna. But you would have to wait on someone who near enough matched your subtype and no genetic distance. Living is doing no matches at the moment but does all three tests. Ancestry on its big database, might match you better. I have three matches that match my tree. People I did not know matched me until pieces of the puzzle came together. You have to hope someone has similar dna to you to be able to follow your route. Autosomal would give you closer ancestors.


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Re: DNA testing advice for adopted maternal ancestor

Postby AdrianB38 » Sat May 13, 2017 7:49 pm

Yes you have to wait, and you may have to wait longer for a match on FT-DNA mtDNA compared to Ancestry Autosomal DNA, but I would have thought that given what we're trying to find, a match on a 4th cousin through Autosomal DNA is probably not that helpful? If it is through the husband's father, for instance (50% chance of that), it's unhelpful to the question.

Of course, if expense were no object, test for mtDNA through FT-DNA and then Autosomal DNA as well - and transfer to AncestryDNA - is that possible????

mtDNA gives a precise answer (which may or may not be a helpful answer!) while Autosomal DNA is, it seems to me, a bit of a hand-waving, somewhere over here, type of response - useful when you have a small pool of relatives and a decent paper trail to start with????
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Re: DNA testing advice for adopted maternal ancestor

Postby JET » Sun May 14, 2017 11:59 am

Thanks for all these answers - they've helped me to understand the pros and cons of each test.

I've decided to definitely go for the FamilyTreeDNA mitochondrial test and hope that we may be lucky with a match. Ideally, I would have chosen to also have the autosomal one done at the same time and transfer the results to Ancestry, but it appears that Ancestry won't accept transfers from other tests, so that will need a separate test done on Ancestry. I think we will probably go for that as well (blow the expense!) as it may help us with the female line and even if we find matches from my husband's father's line it may reveal something we don't already know (husband's surname is Jackson, so it may help to narrow down possible candidates from the Parish Registers).

Thanks again for your help.


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Re: DNA testing advice for adopted maternal ancestor

Postby meekhcs » Sun May 14, 2017 1:21 pm

I may be wrong, as it's a long time since we used FTDNA, but they used to have the better system and a fuller range of tests and a larger database. By comparison Ancestry are newer to DNA and whilst their tests would determine which part of the world people hailed from and the likely %s of different people types in their makeup, Ancestry did not test male and female lines and produce matchups. Therefore I would do both the tests on FTDNA. Having said that the chance of the Family members you are searching for being on the database is going to be slim.

No doubt if testing has moved on in Ancestry then someone will correct me.

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Re: DNA testing advice for adopted maternal ancestor

Postby Sylcec » Mon May 15, 2017 3:19 am

Suggest that you also have "Family Finder" done which is FTDNA's autosomal test (rather than the Ancestry one). They often have special deals, unfortunately you have just missed the "Mother's Day Special". Although they now have a smaller database (due to Ancestry's massive advertising), you can transfer the findings to GEDMATCH; Ancestry's results can also be transferred there (though I wonder how many people actually bother).

Incidentally, the ethnic percentages that are reported in the autosomal results from any company are not entirely reliable; essentially because you (and they) don't know which bit of DNA is passed down from which ancestral line, going back. Even so, the range of reported ethnic origins should be correct providing they have others in their databases with similar origins. (Some indigenous races and folk descended from small island races may not not picked up.)
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