DNA & Discovering my mtdna – Scottish Irish or Viking ? Part Two

Autosomal (atDNA) DNA testing – Discovering McKenzie/MacKenzie Connections

In early 2017 I undertook autosomal (atDNA) DNA testing with Ancestry.com. Since then I have found so many matches and connections across all of my ancestral lines, including for the McKenzie/MacKenzie line from the Isle of Skye and the Hebrides in the Scottish Highlands. At that stage I was not interested in pursuing mtdna to explore my direct maternal line. However several years later I began to reconsider that position.

And so in 2019 began my exploration of using mtdna for my Isle of Skye Hebrides MacLean – McKenzie ancestors – which can be found at an earlier post: Discovering my mtdna – Scottish Irish or Viking ? Part One.

But firstly, before moving onto mtdna issues – there had been a decades long debate as to whether my 3 x great grandfather Alexander McKenzie Junior was indeed the brother of Alexander MacKenzie Senior, Neil McKenzie and Mary McKinnon nee McKenzie. Note – although not common, traditional Scottish naming systems could theoretically allow for two siblings to share the same first name. They had all travelled together with their families on the “William Nicol” from the Isle of Skye to Australia in 1837. Subsequently they had all settled in the Illawarra after arriving in the NSW Colony. Some were employed under CC Innes, on the Hearn Farm Estate, and/or on the Berkeley Five Islands Estate of the Jenkins Family, of one of the first five European land grantees in 1816.

Some like Ted Finn, descended from Alexander Junior, believed that Alexander Junior was a sibling of Alexander Senior, Neil and Mary. Others like Don MacKenzie, descended from Alexander Senior, were doubtful. However Don left it for others to explore in the future.

Ted Finn, descendant of Alexander McKenzie Junior

The outcomes of the autosomal (atdna) DNA testing done by descendants of Alexander Senior, Alexander Junior, Neil and Mary very much support that they were indeed siblings. And along the way, we have helped another descendant of Alexander Senior find where she fitted into the McKenzie/MacKenzie family tree.

How amazing might it have been if Don MacKenzie had lived long enough to participate in DNA testing?

Another aspect that intrigued me was that my siblings and I all had not only significant Scottish ethnicity at Ancestry.com, as expected, but interestingly we also each had Swedish ethnicity, though only my sister and I had Norwegian ethnicity, as shown below.

Ethnicities that I share with my Brother:

Match with brother

Ethnicities that I share with my Sister:

Match with sister

Along the way, I’ve also written a few articles on DNA for the South Coast Chapter of the Fellowship of First Fleeters – see SCC DNA webpage. These followed some presentations that I have given to U3A and Probus groups, as well as to various Chapters of the Fellowship of First Fleeters. Since then I have also done some on-line workshops via Zoom during the 2020 and 2021 Covid-19 Pandemic Lockdowns. I have also been able to help adoptees and children of adoptees to find their biological families using DNA testing.

However finding the ancestors of my 3 x great grandmother Ann McKenzie nee MacLean was one of my own personal brick walls. I was accumulating information for many of my other ancestors, including her husband Alexander McKenzie Junior, so I really wanted to find more about her. And increasingly I began to review the possible benefits of undertaking ydna and mtdna testing to “attack” some of these brick walls that remained across our family lines, including using mtdna to look into Ann McKenzie nee McLean’s ancestral origins.

yDNA Testing

Looking at the direct paternal line from father to son, offered possible insights into my own Barden line. Subsequently I arranged for my brother and husband to do ydna testing to explore their paternal Barden and Tiearney lines respectively. These met with success – better than some others find. However I was still hesitant to undertake mtdna testing of my own direct maternal line.

mtDNA Testing

Mtdna is passed down along the direct female line from a mother to her children, but only daughters pass it along to their own children, whereas their sons do not. So Ann McKenzie nee MacLean had passed her mtdna to her daughter Mary Ann Hicks nee McKenzie, my 2 x great grandmother, and from there it was passed to my great grandmother Edith Florence Joy nee Hicks, then to my maternal grandmother Mary Constance Callcott nee Joy, onto my mother Joan Lois Adams nee Callcott and then to myself.

Left – Mary Ann Hicks nee McKenzie, Centre – Edith Florence Joy with her mother Mary Ann Hicks nee McKenzie – Right Mary Constance Callcott nee Joy with her three older children Joan Lois Adams nee Callcott with siblings Enid and Ian.

Why Test for mtdna?

Finally, in 2019, as noted above, having hit a brickwall with my Scottish born great 3 x great grandmother Ann McKenzie nee MacLean, I finally decided to try FamilyTreeDNA’s mtdna mitochondrial DNA testing. I have no information on Ann’s parents.

Mostly, what I had long known, was that Ann was believed to be born in 1808 at Armadale or more likely Calligary on the Isle of Skye, in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. In 1837 Ann had emigrated on the “William Nicol” to Australia with her husband Alexander McKenzie and their four sons. In Australia, she bore another son and three daughters – I descend from Mary Ann, her eldest daughter born in 1839. Ann died in 1846 in the Illawarra area of NSW Australia. Such a short life and yet so many descendants.

I had learned of using “mind maps” for geneaology in a Future Learn On-Line Course in Researching Family History. As part of my research, and as part of the Future Learn Course, I had developed a “mind-map” of information to seek for Ann and her forbears – see below (note click on the image to see an enlarged view).

MtDNA aspects

To kick off the mtdna research, I had a First Edition of Blaine Bettinger’s The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy, (and the Second Edition since then). It was a good start for understanding the basis of mtdna and an introduction to Haplogroups. Though the book does not delve too deeply into all of the known Haplogroups and their subgroups (aka subclades). See also Haplogroup.org.

It can be rather complicated looking into mtdna with Haplogroups etc – mine was H1bb and as I explored the origins and spread of the H1bb Haplogroup, it seemed that there were probably some Viking connections in there. This was also consistent with my DNA ethnicity results from Ancestry.com DNA testing, as well as the DNA ethnicity results from my siblings, maternal aunt and maternal female first cousins/male half first cousin.

In late August 2021 I joined the mtdna H1bb group on Genie and initiated a discussion there on being mtdna H1bb, and that I was looking for possible Viking connections. Subsequently I received a reply from another person with mtdna H1bb who advised that she had uploaded her dna results to GenomeLink and obtained her Viking DNA report. This report advised that she had “Scandinavian Viking, Vikings of Britain, Finnish Vikings, Slavic Vikings dna it says my Viking Index is 68% & that I am in 90% percentile compared with all Genomelink users.” So I decided to give Genomelink a go and subsequently my own Viking report said: “1. Scandinavian Viking, 2. Vikings of Britain, 3. Finnish Vikings, 4. Slavic Vikings dna – my report says my Viking Index is 65% & that I am in 20% percentile compared with all Genomelink users“.

In Summary 

Well, I was a little disappointed that after undertaking the mtdna testing, that it is not clear precisely where Ann McKenzie nee McLean’s direct maternal line ancestry originated from. Also disappointingly, I had only a small number of mtDNA matches, though mtDNA testing is not as popular as autosomal atDNA (eg Ancestry.com) and yDNA. In 2019 there were only four mtdna matches and by August 2021, these had doubled, but still only eight. Half of these were at Genetic Distance of “0”. I found that most of my matches with whom I had contact, had less information on their direct maternal line than I had. So it was more a case of me helping the others, rather than being helped by their information.

Nevertheless, with analysis of all the information from the Ancestry DNA and MyHeritage DNA testing, combined with the FamilyTreeDNA mtdna testing, I suspect that along with the Scottish origins, that, as stated above, quite possibly there is a Scandinavian – Viking connection into the Scottish Highlands and Hebrides in Ann McKenzie nee McLean’s direct maternal line ancestry.

And in my mtdna matches, I found an Irish mtdna match. Consequently I am wondering if that Irish match relates to Scots Irish who arrived in Ireland as part of one of the Plantations, eg King James Plantation of Ulster. Alternatively the Irish could also originate from Vikings’ forays into Ireland.

All of this led to me forming the view that my 3 x great grandmother, Ann McKenzie nee Maclean was quite likely of Clan Robertson from the Isle of Skye, on her maternal lines.

More on my exploration of mtdna and its outcomes can be found at an earlier post: Discovering my mtdna – Scottish Irish or Viking ? Part One.

Comments on the mtdna McKenzie – MacKenzie post:

Subsequently one of our Alexander McKenzie Junior cousins has offered some thoughts on this second mtdna post:

G’day Kerrie
I enjoyed reading through your article on possible Viking DNA in the McKenzie line.

Unfortunately it shows the limits of some of the popular DNA genealogy testing. When companies like Ancestry state that your match is x% Scandinavian etc what they mean is that it is x% consistent with the people currently in Scandinavia, not those who were there in the 9th century. Indeed they have reclassified their descriptions on a number of occasions. A further complication is that there were several entry points for scandinavian DNA into the British Isles. For example, there were Viking settlements into Ireland and Scotland, there was the Viking Kingdom of the Isles, there was the Viking incursions into mainland England and the establishment of Dane law. The Jutes and Saxon who settled in England prior to the Vikings were largely from the area of modern Denmark. Furthermore the Normans who conquered England had significant Viking blood lines. Many of the Irish families also descended from the Normans (any family name commencing ‘Fitz’ was of Norman origin). Unfortunately its the sort of mixed DNA soup for which we may never get definitive answers.
I’ve also read of some DNA testing on Viking remains in scandinavia which suggests that not all Vikings were Scandinavian genetically.

Another aspect which has come to light is that different results can come depending on the type of DNA tested. In Iceland, testing of mtDNA points to a Gaulic origin whereas yDNA points to Scandinavian. This is explained by reference to the Icelandic sagas which indicates that Iceland was settled by Viking males who brought along their female Gaulic slaves.

Interestingly, I have a mild Dupuytren’s contractur aka Viking Disease. This is a condition genetically linked to persons of Norse ancestry. I doubt that we can draw too many conclusions given how many Norse inputs went into the UK, but it’d be interesting to know how many of our McKenzie relatives have this condition.

Comment from Kerrie Anne Christian

I appreciated the input from our cousin.

Also it would be interesting to know if any others of our McKenzie/MacKenzie cousins have the Dupuytren’s contracture aka Viking Disease?

Basically where the three smaller fingers, often on the left hand, don’t straighten out properly and points inward toward the palm of the hand. In severe cases it can require straightening by surgery. Mainly it affects males, but not exclusively so. I found out about it because my husband also has the condition, also to a mild degree. His GP informed David that it indicated that he was a Viking, which was no surprise to David.

Subsequent Investigation and Review:

As inferred by our McKenzie cousin, could my Scandinavian ethnicity have come from other ancestral lines than the MacLean – McKenzie Isle of Skye – North Uist Hebrides related Ancestral Lines? Quite possibly.

Firstly, my mtdna Haplogroup H1bb is not as common as other Haplogroups in Viking research. However, interestingly, remains in several Viking Graves have been found to be of  the H1bb Haplogroup. So far these have been located in Trondheim Norway and in Dublin Ireland, noting that Dublin was itself founded by the Vikings. See map showing location of Trondheim, Norway grave below.

Viking grave with H1bb Trondheim Norway

Site of Viking grave  with H1bb DNA Trondheim Norway

Trondheim Norway Map

Trondheim Norway

As to my ethnicity, that of my siblings, maternal aunt, direct maternal line first cousins at Ancestry.com DNA, and also the Scandinavian DNA matches at MyHeritage, what could be the possible origins for our Scandinavian ethnicity

In fact some of the islands of current day Scotland were still under Norwegian rule until the 15th Century, though the Norwegians had lost territory, including the Isle of Skye, by the mid 13th Century, after the Battle of Largs, and under the Treaty of Perth. Until then “the Hebrides Islands, remained largely autonomous with feudal obligations to Norway”Weapons & Warfare page. See the 12th Century map of Norse Scottish Island possessions from Wikipedia below. 

11the Century Scandinavian Rule of Scottish Islands

Secondly, in August 2021 a family history presenter from the State Library of NSW, stated that you have to make assumptions in family history, but then you need to test those assumptions. And so my attribution, of my Scandinavian ethnicity to be largely due to Viking connections of the McKenzie / McIntosh / McLean /Robertson ancestors from the Isle of Skye and North Uist in the Hebrides, came into question.

In his comments above, our McKenzie cousin has rightly raised that the Vikings had settled across large areas of England, viz Danelaw in the northern parts of England, and elsewhere. And so there is the question as to whether the Scandinavian ethnicity of myself, my siblings, maternal aunt, and direct maternal line first cousins could have Viking connections from other areas, eg within England, other parts of Scotland and/or Ireland?

This is illustrated by an interesting case study on DNA and the Vikings by Steve Harding, based on research by by J D Richards in 2005 (link). The study includes maps of the extent of Viking settlements in England and Wales, ie in the old area of Danelaw. Vikings and DNA

My pedigree family tree is shown below, with origins of the various lines following.

KAC family tree

Known geographic origins of my ancestral lines as depicted in the pedigree family tree are shown below – noting that the majority of my English origins are in the south or to the west, away from the Vikings’ Danelaw area.

My Paternal Ancestral Lines

  • Barden/Easton – Sussex – Southern England – outside of Vikings Danelaw
  • Tulloch/Anderson – Morayshire – Scotland – invaded by Norwegian Vikings and Danish Vikings
  • McCosker/McAllina – County Tyrone – Ireland
  • Power – County Waterford – Ireland – area of Viking influence
  • Adams/Gray – Albany New York State – USA – earlier origins unknown
  • Weatherstone – Edinburgh – Scotland – area of Viking raids but not settlement
  • Butts – Birmingham – Midlands – England – outside of Vikings Danelaw
  • Dougherty – County Derry – Ireland
  • Watson/Waters – Bristol Gloucestershire – Southern England – outside of Vikings Danelaw
  • McDonald – Paisley Renfrewshire near Glasgow – Scotland – area of Viking influence
  • Robinson/Stearns – Cambridgeshire – Southern England – within Vikings Danelaw area

My Maternal Ancestral Lines

  • Callcott – Oxfordshire – Southern England – outside of Vikings Danelaw
  • Freeman – London England – Southern England – outside of Vikings Danelaw
  • Avard / Harmer / Mepham – Kent Southern England – outside of Vikings Danelaw
  • Midson/Mears – Essex – Southern England – within Vikings Danelaw area
  • Small – Birmingham – Midlands – England – outside of Vikings Danelaw
  • Parker – Chelsea – London area Southern England – outside of Vikings Danelaw
  • Bradley / Barnes – London area Southern England – outside of Vikings Danelaw
  • Joy – Kent – Southern England – outside of Vikings Danelaw
  • Newlands – Glasgow Edinburgh Bathgate Shotts – Scotland – Glasgow and Edinburgh were areas of Viking influence
  • Ure – Glasgow – Scotland – area of Viking influence
  • Hicks – Kent – Southern England – outside of Vikings Danelaw
  • Howe – Surrey – Southern England – outside of Vikings Danelaw
  • Daley – Dublin – Ireland – Viking area
  • McKenzie/McIntosh – North Uist/Isle of Skye Hebrides – Viking area – Scotland
  • McLean/Robertson – Isle of Skye – Inner Hebrides, Viking area Scotland – direct maternal line with H1bb haplogroup

It is noteworthy that whereas most of my English origins lie outside the Danelaw area, that my Scottish Tulloch/Anderson line, Newlands/Ure line and McDonald line, as well as my Irish Power and Daley lines, were in areas of Viking influence, along with my McKenzie/McIntosh/ MacLean/Robertson line from the Isle of Skye / North Uist.

So, as our McKenzie cousin suggests, arguably some of the Norwegian and Swedish ethnicity, of my siblings and I, could also in part, be attributed to our ancestors from places other than the Isle of Skye and North Uist in the Hebrides in Scotland.

Subsequently, I decided to explore further in regard to possible Scandinavian connections. PreviouslyI’d been perplexed about some Scandinavian DNA matches in MyHeritage but hadn’t looked into them. However I decided to now these matches at MyHeritage, as it is a popular testing company amongst Europeans.

There I was surprised to find quite a few matches with people from Norway. Eleven of these matches were in excess of 20cms, and another 19 down to 15 cms. Matches of this size were worth further exploration. Subsequently I found that some of these eleven larger matches, there were triangulated shared matches, and possible connections along McKenzie / McLean / Robertson lines. Further supporting my siblings and I having not only Scottish but also Norwegian/Viking links. There were also some that seemed to be matches along Tulloch / Anderson lines

Next I looked at matches with people from Sweden in MyHeritage and found 13 matches of 20 cms and above, as well as another 25 matches down to 15 cms. In the Swedish matches there were triangulated  connections with my McDonald and also my Tulloch / Anderson / Urquhart lines. There were also triangulated linkages with some of the Norwegian matches

I also found seven matches with people from Denmark at 20cms and above in MyHeritage, and another eight matches down to 15 cms.

From Iceland and from Finland matches in MyHeritage, I didn’t find any matches at 20cms and above in MyHeritage, and only a couple of matches down to 15 cms.

Then I reviewed similar matches for my sister and brother at MyHeritage, with fairly similar findings. Though my brother had one Norwegian match at 42.2 cms across 3 segments, whereas I had only 18.2cms with this match!

And as noted earlier, examination of  MyHeritage DNA results revealed matches from Norway, Sweden and Denmark along not only the McKenzie/McIntosh/MacLean/Robertson lines, but also likely along the Tulloch/Anderson line from Morayshire. And so there was indeed at least another possible line of Scandinavian connections that I hadn’t considered!

However other than the McKenzie line how could this be? Surely too far back to be linked to the Viking era ? Had there also been interactions between Scandinavians and my ancestors along the North Coast of Scotland in the Morayshire area and also in the Western Isles in the centuries after the Scottish Viking era? Or were there also some other factors at play, viz some Endogamy and also Pedigree Collapse?

For several years I had suspected that there might have been some Endogamy and/or Pedigree Collapse at play, with Western Isles connected matches, when I encountered sizable clusters of matches with people from Cape Breton, PEI (Prince Edward Island), Nova Scotia, in my McKenzie and McDonald lines. The size of some of those matches seemed too large for the time frames for our possible MRCA – Most Recent Possible Ancestors. The issue of Endogamy amongst the Ashkenazi Jewish populations and also among the Acadian populations is well known. However when I raised the potential for it also to be linked with Highlander and Islander populations who had moved to Cape Breton, PEI and Nova Scotia centuries ago it met with only limited agreement.

Were the Scandinavian DNA matches part of another like case, with peoples from relatively isolated areas of Scotland having some interactions with peoples from isolated areas in Scandinavia? An interesting question.

However, as yet I haven’t found any Scandinavian DNA matches to connect with people from the following ancestral lines: Irish Daley Dublin and Power Waterford lines, Scottish Weatherstone Edinburgh, Newlands/Ure Glasgow and McDonald Paisley lines, nor English Robinson/Stearns Cambridgeshire and Midson Mears Essex lines. 

And so many thanks to the prompts from our McKenzie cousin, that led to me looking further, for not only possible Viking connections, but also to consider other possibilities for wider Scandinavian connections.

And thus, aspects of those likely McKenzie/McIntosh/MacLean/Robertson Scandinavian related DNA matches at MyHeritage would seem to support the H1bb mtdna of our direct maternal line indicates that our McLean/Robertson Isle of Skye ancestry also has some highly likely Viking origins.

About Kerrie Anne Christian

Interests - Travel, Photography, Developing Websites, Social Media, Writing, Local History, Researcher, Genealogy
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1 Response to DNA & Discovering my mtdna – Scottish Irish or Viking ? Part Two

  1. Pingback: Discovering my mtdna – Scottish Irish or Viking ? | A Steely Genes Journey

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