DNA testing, no matter what company you test with or what type of test you take, is not going to neatly serve your heritage and family tree up on a silver platter. Rather, DNA testing is only a single weapon in your arsenal, along with traditional research, family collaboration and perseverance.
My direct maternal, or mtDNA line has been one that I’ve banged my head against for decades. During most of those decades I only knew my maternal lineage as far back as my great-great grandmother Marie Haeger. Despite pestering family members, combing through records and making my tree public in order to connect with potential relatives, I had bupkis. After two decades of next to no progress, I accepted that I probably wouldn’t be learning much more.
Of course I tested my autosomal DNA, but given the mysterious nature of my maternal line, I considered the expense of mtDNA testing was also warranted. By that time, I had found a little more about Marie Haeger’s family, and managed to add an additional 3 generations to our maternal line, where I again stalled out. At that point, it seemed that if anything, I had been lucky to have learned as much as I had. I was content that finding any new tidbits on my maternal line would depend solely upon DNA breakthroughs.
When my mtDNA results came in, we fell into one of the unusual haplogroups: W3. By then I knew my maternal line had been living along the Baltic shore for centuries, and I found our haplogroup in keeping with our paper trail. It looked as though my female ancestral line had traveled from Pakistan through the Caucasus Mountains, and decided to stay put in North Eastern Pomerania, rather than travel on with the rest of the group that finally settled in Finland. When my grandmother’s Family Finder results came in, they supported that scenario.
As chance would have it, shortly after I tested my maternal grandmother at FTDNA, a previously unknown cousin happened across my entry at Genealogy.net. Cousin Peter is also an avid genealogist, lives in Germany and our 4th great grandmothers Dorothea and Wilhemine were sisters. He has been researching our family in the German records for years.
When we exchanged data I mentioned DNA testing, and shared my post covering my grandmother’s Family Finder and mtDNA results. Peter hasn’t done DNA testing, but the news sparked a lively exchange of information and turned a new cousin into a friend.
Although Peter had been unaware of our Eastern DNA, he said, “Of course you’re right, if the DNA points to Slavic roots. Slavs and Kashubians settled in the area many hundreds of years ago. Long before there were church books. The generation of your grandmother and generations before, felt safe as German, Prussia or Pomerania and not as Slavs. Many local and family names have still points to the Slavic or Kashubian roots.”
I was thrilled with both my new cousin and the new bits Peter had sent me. I hoped our DNA results gave him a little more insight into the distant ancestry of our family and added a little high tech flair to his traditional research. Once again, I was content that this time surely we really had exhausted the surviving records.
With my various year end commitments, it took longer than I had hoped to begin keying in the years of hard work Peter had so graciously shared with me. I picked the first PDF at random, which happened to be our direct maternal line, which ended with Sophia Friederike Schultz who had been born in 1771.
I’d already known Sophia’s father’s name, but cousin Peter also had the names of her brothers which were new to me. As soon I entered the names into my tree, an infamous Ancestry shaking leaf appeared. We all know that shaking leaves must be taken with a mountain of salt, but when I clicked on it I discovered it was a distant cousin with whom I was already familiar and one that was also in Germany and also used the Luessin and Dresow Church records as a primary source of documentation.
She had added new information to her tree since the last time I looked. She had the name of Dorothea and Wilhemine’s long-unknown mother, my 6th great grandmother Eleanora Marquardt. She had the church book entry connecting her as the mother of our Dorothea and Wilhemine.
I will be doing the traditional research rounds on my new great-grandma, and sharing the news with Cousin Peter. Maybe he will test his DNA. I will invite my other German cousin to test as well. Meanwhile, it will be a lot of work to check, translate and type in this new additional information and to update all of our Most Distant Maternal Ancestor entries at FTDNA to include Eleanora, but every key stroke will be worth it. We all had to work together to get to this point.