Can DNA Help?
By Don Taylor
I’ve been unsuccessful in finding any information regarding my great-grandmother’s mother, Eliza Jane Fannin(g). I’m not 100% convinced that is her name. But, continuing my investigation, my next step is to look and see if DNA testing will help. In the past, I’ve found DNA test results opened up discovering my biological father and my sister’s biological father. Two DNA tests can be helpful—Autosomal and Mitochondrial.
I tested with Ancestry and 23 & Me during my efforts to determine my biological father. I also uploaded my results to FamilyTreeDNA and GEDMatch.
Ancestry provides a tool that allows you to group individuals that you share the same ancestor with. In my case, it is easy to divide the matches I have into four groups based on my grandparents. The problem with Ancestry DNA is that the relationships rely upon a person’s tree. So, if they have Eliza Fannin, she will show up as a common ancestor. If they have Sarah Garvin as the mother of Mary Brown, she’ll show up as the common ancestor. So basically, I can determine if Mary (Manning) Brown is a common ancestor but can’t discriminate between her mother being Eliza or anyone else.
In looking at my DNA Matches, I found one match, N231, with a tree that indicated Phoebe’s mother was Eliza Fannin, and her parents were James Garvin and Sophia Thompson.
|N231||Phoebe||John & Eliza (Fannin) Manning||James Garvin &
The match doesn’t help, but it is interesting to note (See Part 1 in this series – “Could it be Sarah Jane Garvin?”)
The bottom line is using Autosomal DNA test results won’t help in identifying the name of Mary (Manning) Brown’s mother because doing so relays upon other people’s trees which may be incorrect.
A mother passes on mitochondrial DNA to her children. So boys have their mother’s mtDNA, but only girls can pass the mtDNA on to their children. So, Mary and Phoebe Manning received their mtDNA from their mother, who received it from her mother, and so forth. That means that any direct female descendants and their children would carry the mtDNA.
Mary (Manning) Brown had 12 children, 5 were girls.[i]
Phoebe (Manning) Richmond had eight children; 2 were girls.
- Estella – had five daughters.
- Mahala – had four girls
- Estella – had five daughters.
It is possible that mtDNA test results could provide new insight into that line of ancestors. If you are the child of any of these people (or that person), you carry the mtDNA of Mary & Phoebe’s mother. I would love to hear if you have done an mtDNA test and what your test results and matches show. Genealogical mtDNA tests are only available from FamilyTreeDNA.[iv]
I don’t believe autosomal DNA testing can provide any clarity in determining the mother of Mary (Manning) Brown. It is unlikely that mtDNA tests will provide clarity in this identification, but I believe it is possible.
My next step in determining Mary (Manning) Brown’s mother is to do a “deep dive” into her life. Many new sources are available since I looked at her eight years ago that I should explore. So, I’ll begin further research by putting together a research plan using dates and locations.
[i] These names, numbers, and relationships are tentative. I have encountered the information as collateral information and have not researched these family lines personally.
[ii] Names with an initial and a underline are individuals who may be living (I have no death information for them). Note endnote i above.
[iii] FNU is an abbreviation for “First Name Unknown.” I have evidence that the individual exists but I do not have the persons first name.
[iv] I anticipate FamilyTreeDNA will have a sale on their mtDNA a little before Mother’s Day. Watch for it. DISCLAIMER: Several years ago, I was an affiliate in the Family Tree DNA advertising program. I am no longer an affiliate and will receive no reward for if you purchase any tests or services from FamilyTreeDNA.