Last year when 23andme had a $99 sale for DNA Day I jumped on the deal (a $400 savings!) and ordered a test kit. Since my results came in I’ve found that while they eventually may present some clear answers, for now the results have mainly provided a path to follow. And the path takes a LOT of reading.

With the help of others in the 23andme community and some user-run projects I’ve learned quite a bit, but I’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to understanding all of the science and history.

As of now I’ve got about 350 genetic matches on their Relative Finder, (mostly 5th cousins and higher) and am sharing genomes with several dozen. But it is not always obvious which side of my tree those cousins are from – I’m half Czech and half Irish and I have matches in quite a few countries, with some small clusters toward Germany, Ukraine, Russia and Scandinavia.

I’m guessing these matches are from further back in the tree my Czech side, but that’s all they are for now – guesses. (It is possible the Scandinavian goes back through my Irish side with all of the Vikings that came down for a visit.)

So, as any good techno-geek would do, I’ve tried to put crunch the data in various ways to look for patterns that might offer further clues. My first run at this was a simple chart of the Haplogroups of my matches in 23andme’s Relative Finder. My own maternal haplogroup is U5b1 and my paternal haplogroup is R1b1b2a1a2f.

Interestingly, in my maternal haplogroup matches I do not have any matches in my own U5b1 haplogroup and only 3 out of 195 in nearby U subclades.

My maternal matches are in 97 different haplogroups, the majority with one match each. (My paternal matches only span 27 different haplogroups. Also, on my paternal haplogroup side the large majority of my matches are in my own R1b1b2a1a2f, R1b1b2a1a2f2 and other nearby subclades. I’ll follow up to this blog post with my paternal chart.)

Maternal Haplogroup Matches Chart

Click on the chart for a larger version.

When I first looked at my maternal haplogroup matches, I was just quizzical. Was there any reason for the higher matches in a small subset of groups? I posted the question on the 23andme community forum and some helpful members led me to the answer: The distribution of one’s  matches should mimic the general population of where your ancestors came from.

This could be helpful if you are person who does not yet know your origin – you could determine the haplogroup frequency of your 23andme matches and then compare them to the country by country distribution listed at Eupedia’s Distribution of European mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroups by region in percentage reference chart. (Say that 3 times fast.)

There is a caveat to this technique, though. The distribution of my own 23andme matches in several maternal haplogroups seems to be fairly close to Eupedia’s percentages for the Czech Republic and nearby countries. But, my matching percentages in my own U5b1 and the other U haplogroups is about half of the Eupedia numbers for those countries. If I didn’t have direct knowledge of my Czech ancestry that might lead me astray in my origin research.

For now I am assuming that it is the small sample size of my 23andme connections that is causing this difference, but will be interesting to watch as I get more data.

Next time: further up and further in!


  • avatar

    Comment by Rachel — September 15, 2014 @ 3:11 am

    Hey there, so I found your blog while looking up where U5b1 haplogroup comes from. I found that on my 23andme test as well but I am confused. It says that U5b1b1 descend from the Saami People (Northermost Indigenious People in Europe), but does that make me a descendant? I am completely confused and the more I read online, the more confused I become.

  • avatar

    Comment by John — September 15, 2014 @ 10:11 am

    Hello Rachel,

    I had the same misconception when I first received my 23andme results as well. What the U5b description is really telling us is that the Sammi have a fairly high incidence of being in that maternal haplogroup.

    However, it does not mean that those of us with U5b1 (and the subclades) are ancestral Sammi.

    If you follow the maternal line back to the start (some say about 50,000 years ago) there will be a common maternal ancestor, but that is true with any of the “Seven Daughters of Eve” maternal haplogroups. has this statement on their site:

    “Haplogroup U5 and its subclades U5a and U5b form the highest population concentrations in the far north, in Sami, Finns, and Estonians, but it is spread widely at lower levels throughout Europe.”

    So – being a U5b doesn’t make you Sammi, but if you are a Sammi, there’s a very good chance you are a U5b. You can find U5b across Europe.

    I have found maternal haplogroup results are only interesting in the VERY long look back at things – not really a help when it comes to genealogy.

    Hope that helps!

  • avatar

    Comment by Roland Ford — December 23, 2014 @ 6:44 pm

    My own maternal haplogroup is U5b1 and my paternal haplogroup is R1b1b2a1a2f* as tested by 23andme. Same as you.. and yet we do not match on 23andMe…on either side. Just one of those things, I guess.
    I am just learning about DNA (know the basics)and have an tree under Roland L Ford. My main goal is to find the name of paternal Ford that came over from Ireland, but looks like my ancestors have been in Maryland a long time, and Fords married Fords, so nowhere close yet. Hoped 23andMe would help, but so far do not know how to use it effectively.
    Enjoyed reading some of your posts.

  • avatar

    Comment by John — December 24, 2014 @ 11:07 am

    Hi Roland,

    After years of having my results, I’ve found that haplogroups are interesting to know, but don’t really get you anywhere with finding connections. The R1b… and subclade we share (and other close ones) is also held by the majority of Irish men, so doesn’t narrow things down for us on its own.

    Even more so with the maternal haplogroups, which tend to change much more slowly over time, so a haplogroup in common could mean a shared ancestors up to 50,000 years ago!

    I’ve got a few more generations to add to my tree to get to that point. 😉

    As for finding the Irish origin – I’m only 3 generations off with my Tierneys and McDonalds, have much of their info over here in NY and still haven’t gotten anywhere back to Ireland yet.

    Good luck with the Fords – I can say that perseverance pays off, so be sure to try every alternative resource you can think of. Census, BMD certificates, newspapers(!), Google books, probate, land records, … Something will show up with the info you need one day.

    Back to the DNA: be sure to upload your Ancestry data to – you can compare yourself to everyone there from all the big DNA testing companies (if they’ve uploaded too.)

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment