A Little Peek Over The Wall?

Recently I watched a presentation by Roberta Estes, (she’s a genetic genealogist guru), on analyzing mtDNA to help find the origin of your female line, genetically speaking. The presentation helped me to understand how important the matches map is at FamilyTreeDNA.

mtDNA is the DNA that is inherited through your mother’s line all the way back to the first. Only women can pass it down, although both males and females inherit mtDNA. Which means that my sister, brother and myself only inherited our mother’s mtDNA, not our father’s, and only my sister and I can pass it on to any children we might have. Below are the maps showing matches in the HVR-1 range, HVR-2 range and Full Sequence, which is the most important match map.

HVR 1 matches –exact.
HVR 2 matches –exact.
Full Sequence of all regions.

The matches we have at the full sequence range are 2-3 steps off, no exact matches. The ones of most interest are the closest matches, so those that are 2 steps off in this case. You can see on the map that they are clustered in the areas of Finland and Germany, (the yellow pins).

This is interesting. Our maternal line back on my mother’s side as far back as we can go, is Almyra Johnson’s mother Catherine, last name unknown. She is said to have married Samuel Johnson. (Johnson could very well be a Nordic last name.) This cluster information helps us to think about Almyra’s mother’s line being of possible German or Nordic origin. Which is actually helpful in further research, we have a hint of where her family might have come from, and her marrying a man of possible Nordic descent is of interest too.

This is more information than I have ever had about Almyra’s mother. Hopefully it will be of use in finding her family. I am also using this information on my maternal grandfather’s mtDNA, which goes back to Sarah Asher in Virginia or Maryland in the 1780s, she was likely English.

Interestingly, the exact, and one and two step-off matches with my father’s mother’s mtDNA are all in Sweden, not Norway as I would expect. The white pin is my dad.

Full mtDNA sequence matches with Myrtle Hamm’s mother’s line.

Persistent DNA results

This is a DNA map of my maternal grandfather from FamilyTreeDNA. And the DNA that always has me scratching my head in puzzlement is the Spain/Italy/Turkey colored bits. Here are the percentages (about 6% total):

Here is his DNA breakdown from MyHeritage:

“Iberian” pertains to Portugal and surrounding countries and on this map it is 11%.

Now, we should take these percentages with a grain of salt, and I do, but the Portuguese/Spain locals have been persistent with my grandfather’s DNA since I first had it tested about 10-15 years ago. And, as far as I have been able to tell any DNA from that part of the world in my grandfather, would likely be several hundred years further back in time, so not likely to show up. Needless to say, I have always been curious about why these DNA locals keeps showing up on his maps.

Then I saw this interesting entry from a book while researching Sarah Asher’s possible father, Anthony Asher. (Sarah is the source of my grandfather’s mtDNA.)

Torrence, Clayton,. Old Somerset on the Eastern Shore of Maryland : a study in foundations and founders. Richmond, Va.: Whittet & Shepperson, 1935.

The “Anthony Machaee, Portuguese, of the Island of Tersara (alisa Asher)”, mentioned in this book, is a possible ancestor for our Sarah Asher. Her father is believed to be Anthony Asher who was living in Greene County, PA in the latter 1700s and early 1800s, and moved to Monongalia County, WV where his daughter Sarah (Asher) Headlee’s family had also moved about the same time. This Anthony would possibly be a grandson of the Anthony mentioned in this book. (I don’t have good dates for Anthony, so can only guess about when he was born. Right now I think it was the 1750s.)

I have to say this possible line of descent does make an intriguing argument for, and explanation to the origins of the DNA that keeps showing up as from Portugal and Spain in my Grandfather’s results. It would be the perfect answer to the question. But, we need more proof.

I really hope that I am able to prove that this connection is a correct one. It would be pretty cool to have some Portuguese or Spanish ancestors waiting to be added to our family tree.


I mentioned a few months ago that I was doing an upgrade to Dad’s DNA tests, as FamilyTreeDNA was having a sale. Well I finally got the results last weekend. I waited until Labor Day weekend to share them with Dad as we were going to be there for a visit.

The upgraded tests were for his mtDNA, being Myrtle’s female line, and the Family Finder test. The Family Finder test finds cousins in the FamilyTreeDNA database and your percentage of ethnicity. In mine and grandpa Shepard’s Family Finder results we carry the DNA that shows us to be 100% European. Imagine my surprise, when Dad’s showed up with 5% Palestinian, Jewish, Druze, and Bedouin. I should correct that to be surprised, but not surprised. I imagine that the JOHN DNA is what carries these characteristics, as the ancient  JOHN yDNA has its origins in the Middle East glancing into Asia.

The reason none of this DNA showed up in me is all about chaos. My burning question now is which side do I choose?