Category Archives: DNA

Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroup

We learned about mitochondrial DNA the other day at the DNA Sig. 23andMe provides a data file that can be downloaded that contains most of your important mitochondrial SNPs (up to 19% of the total). That file can be uploaded to a site run by James Lick that will provide your maternal haplogroup. (Upload the text file from within the Zip file.) This service is quick and easy and free! Go to the site here:

Once you have your haplogroup, then you can start tracing your longitudinal maternal tree from “Eve” forward in time to some thousand years before present.  We were told about a site in the UK run by Ian Logan at but I’ll be honest, I couldn’t figure out much from that site.

So I used Google to find a mtDNA tree located at

I found my branch in this tree, and for me, er, that is my mother’s mother’s mother (etc), I found that we came from Denmark and Ireland. This is good news because I have a “brick wall” along my maternal lines that is located in Ireland. My 2nd great grandmother on my mother’s side, Margaret White, came from Ireland. Her husband, James Mitchell, died on the trip to the USA. Since the people in the UK moved around alot, and since I have not been able to confirm the Mitchells and Whites in Ireland, I have never been sure….

Now I figure that my DNA is telling me that yes, I am really partially Irish and that part came from Danish immigrants to Ireland.

My maternal haplogroup, from James Lick’s site, is H1e1a3. Coincidentally, the National Genographic Geno-2 test also gave me that same value. FTDNA only gave me H1e1a.

Of course, the ethnicity reports I have received from the big sites all show some Irish: 23andMe (41% Britain/Ireland), Ancestry (20% Ireland) and National Genographic (30% Britain/Ireland). But these reports are from all my DNA. The tricks we learned in the DNA Sig were from my maternally passed mitochondrial DNA. That is, they showed me a snapshot into the ancestry of my 2nd great grandma Margaret! This has been a good “mother’s day” for me!

If there are any H1e1a3 folks out there, give a shout. perhaps our DNA will match somewhere.

“I used to have a lot of free time… then I discovered genealogy.”

The Lisa Project

The Lisa Project was a roaring success! The team pulled together by Barbara Rae-Venter and the DNA Special Interest Group here was able to identify the missing child and in the process helped solve a serial killer’s rampage. The Lisa Project is finished, but the DNA Sig here at MoCoGenSo is still going strong, and the DNA Adoption site is still helping to discover the ancestry of adopted folks. Volunteers are still wanted.

Meanwhile, if you like a good mystery story, or would like to read about the results of the Lisa Project, the Boston Globe has just this morning published a great article about “Lisa” and the serial killer who abducted her. To find out the real birth name of Lisa, click the following link. (You can click Close in the upper left to not sign up for an account.)

Finding Lisa

The article is long, but interesting all the way to the end. Barbara, Junel Davidsen and the Monterey County Genealogy Society are all mentioned!

And remember, the DNA Sig that cracked this case meets at the FHC on the 2nd Saturday of most every month. (Always check here for the schedule.) Perhaps Barbara will let you help solve the next mystery! (Which might be your own brick wall.)

Congratulations to Barbara. Without her gumption and persistence, this puzzle would have never been solved.

Character is doing the right thing when nobody is looking. — J.C. Watts

DNA Sig Meets May 13

This is a reminder for the MoCoGenSo DNA SIG meeting on Saturday May 13, 2017 at 10 am at the Family History Center in Seaside.  The Meeting will be in the room across the hall from the FHC office.

Topic: mitochondrial DNA

Definition of mitochondrial DNA. : an extranuclear double-stranded DNA found exclusively in mitochondria that in most eukaryotes is a circular molecule and is maternally inherited —abbreviation mtDNA.


Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is genetic material found in mitochondria. It is passed down from mothers to both sons and daughters, but sons cannot pass along their mothers’ mtDNA to their children. This is because mtDNA is transmitted through the female egg. … You inherited your mtDNA exclusively from your mother.

Great topic for Mother’s Day – 1

The Journal of Genetic Genealogy

The Journal of Genetic Genealogy (JoGG) is being resurrected. JoGG is a free open access peer reviewed journal which provides a platform for publication of articles on all aspects of genetic genealogy. This first issue (Volume 8 Number 1) of the newly relaunched “journal” is now available online at

The chapters/articles are separate PDF files that can be viewed or downloaded. Some of the articles were published online as preprints toward the end of last year but this is now the complete issue.

Hopefully this online journal will continue — it is fully supported by volunteers.

Every teacher who used to use the tired old line “You won’t be walking around with a calculator in your pocket, so you better know how to do it by hand.” must feel like a complete idiot now. — Reddit

23andMe can resume some health risk reports!

The FDA has today authorized 23andMe to again offer genetic health risk reports to consumers.  This is a big deal to the genetic testing world!  Not all test will be available, only certain ones.  One often requested report, the BRCA test, will not be available.  But things like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and eight others have been OK’d.

I have no idea how this will change general reports or prices, but the very fact that the FDA has approved 23andMe is great.

For more details, go to the 23andMe’s own blog.


The founder and leader of our DNA Sig has been quite sick of late, and just had open-heart surgery.  She would hate having lots of attention, but I figured her friends would like a status report.

She is recovering well, as of 3/25, and hopes to be checking out of the hospital soon.

For those who asked about her mailing address, please send all communications to:

Barbara Rae-Venter
P.O. Box 5566
Carmel, CA 93921

Please continue to send her those positive thoughts so she will be back with our group soon.

Monthly Meeting – March 2, 2017: “The Law of Unintended Consequences”, by Barbara Rae-Venter

Join Barbara Rae-Venter as she tells the full story about how her efforts helped one person discover her identify and, in the process, solve multiple murders too.

Topic: The Law of Unintended Consequences

When you come to a fork in the road, take it. (Attributed to Yogi Berra)

Summary: “A fork in my road that I took in March, 2015 was to volunteer my time to help a young woman, Lisa Jensen, find her birth family.” Lisa was abducted when less than a year old and did not know who she is or where she was from.

The fork Barbara took did lead to identification of Lisa’s mother and identifying her father as one of five brothers. A video on the technique used to accomplish this, DNA triangulation, is available for purchase as Lecture 9 at

The presentation will cover some of the highly unexpected, but serendipitous, consequences that have resulted from solving who Lisa is. They include enabling law enforcement to solve several cold case murders. Some details are still confidential at this time, but public disclosure in a press release was made in late January.

Who knew that choosing to help someone find out who she is would help solve a series of murders that have stumped detectives for decades?

Barbara is a volunteer at the Monterey Family History Center and founded and leads the DNA Sig for MoCoGenSo. She uses primarily online research tools and has made extensive use of genetic testing of herself and multiple family members to supplement her research into her own family. Barbara earned a B.A. in Psychology and Biochemistry and a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of California at San Diego, and a J .D. from the University of Texas at Austin Law School. Now retired from teaching and private legal practice, Barbara is helping those interested with their genetic genealogy efforts. To see her full biography Click Here. We are lucky to have her in our community.

Doors open at 6:15 pm, the meeting starts at 7:00 pm. We’ll see you at the Family History Center, 1024 Noche Buena, Seaside, CA., left rear of building.