Friday, May 22, 2015

More DNA - "The Abigail DNA Project"

A previous blog discussed the Y-DNA signature of a common male ancestor shared by all paternal descendants of Joel Campbell.  Joel was born in about 1735 and is the grandson of Robert Campbell who was banished from Scotland to New Jersey in 1685.

I also wrote about the use of Y-DNA to identify other Campbell lines with whom we share "recent common ancestors."

What about our maternal line?  Just imagine what your last name would be if ten generations ago everyone decided that offspring would assume the family name of the mother.  This is sometimes called the "matriname" or "matrilineal surname."
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Personally, I can only trace my matriname five generations.   [First name and country of birth is known for six generations.] I have no clue what my matriname would be at 10 generations, except that it was very likely Scottish as my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th maternal ggmothers were all born in Scotland.

But let's get back to Joel as he is my current obsession and the namesake of this blog.  His wives and the mother(s) of his children are still a source of genealogical confusion.  What were their names?  Rebecca, Nancy, Abigail, or all of the above?  Did he have two?  or was it three?  What were their maiden names?  What were their origins?  When and where did they die?  I could write several pages on all of those questions, but today I am proposing a different approach.  I am calling it "The Abigail DNA Project."

"The Abigail DNA Project" will award $500 to the person who can identify a living maternal descendant of the mother of Joel's children and convince that person to submit a sample for mtDNA testing.

I am calling it "The Abigail DNA Project" because "Abigail" is the only wife of Joel whose name is confirmed.  She may not be the mother of his children, but I needed a name and did not want to call it the "Wife of Joel Campbell DNA Project."   I did think about using "The Mother of Jemima Campbell DNA Project," but it did not sound right to me, although probably more accurate.

So here is the deal.  Joel and his wife had a daughter named Jemima (presumably the only daughter?). Jemima had several named Rebecca.  Rebecca had several named Roxy.  Roxy had a daughter named Ella.....and so on.  You must document a maternal line until you reach a living son (sons carry the mtDNA, but they don't pass it on)  or daughter of a direct maternal ancestor of Jemima.  You must contact that person and convince them to submit a mtDNA test and share the results.

Why do I want to do this?  The jackpot would be if we had a complete match with a family name in Newark in the 1700s.  Such a match would suggest a finite possibility that Joel's wife was one of that family's daughters or granddaughters.  I don't expect that to happen.  More likely we will get matches that indicate heritage (Scottish, Irish, etc) or a haplogroup that confirms or disproves European origins.

At the least we will know a little more about the woman from whom we all have a small piece of DNA.  In fact, it is just as likely that we are genetically closer to her than to Joel even though many of us carry his patriname.

Someone should be able to crack this one quickly!  Good luck!


Maternal lineage is the line that follows mother to daughter.  It consists entirely of women.

mtDNA or mitochondrial DNA is passed from a mother to her offspring.  It is passed largely intact.  Mutations occur randomly at a low enough frequency that people with a recent common maternal ancestor usually have identical mtDNA signatures.

Hence your mtDNA links your mother, her mother, her mother’s mother, and so forth, and offers a clear path from you to a maternal ancestor who is the origin your unique mtDNA signature.

A complete match between two participants using FamilyTreeDNA's mtFullSequence gives a 50% chance of a common ancestor in the last 5 generations.  The probability goes up to 95% that a common ancestor exists in the last 22 generations (about 550 years).

Suppose your maternal ancestor 22 generations ago (your 20th greatgrandmother) had 2 daughters and they each had two daughters, and so on for 22 generations.  How many is that?  It is over four million.  We could possibly have matches with four million people most of whom probably can only only trace their maternal line back 4 or 5 generations, which is not a big help from a genealogical standpoint.  Hopefully the "Abigail mtDNA signature" is only about 10 generations old (not 22) and one of the matching participants can trace their maternal line back that far.

Jemima's maternal ancestors passed down their mtDNA generation after generation. The line began with a common maternal ancestor in Africa until it ultimately reached Jemima (albeit with unique mutations that occurred about every 10-20 generations).  mtDNA marks the path from our maternal ancestors in Africa to their locations in historic times.  Because maternal descendants of Jemima carry the record of  the path of this journey, their DNA tells of something about the origins of Jemima even if we don't find any matches.

As more people are tested that path should become more detailed.  At this point, the most it can tell us is whether the maternal line took the migration path of the native americans, europeans, or africans.  It currently cannot distinguish more "recent" migrations such as migrations from the european continent to the UK after the last ice age.

You can read more about mtDNA at this link

Another good source is The Seven Daughters of Eve, Bryan Sykes.

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