Thursday, March 31, 2011

Can mtDNA give clues to Sarah Stolebarger's identity?

I have long wondered about who my 3rd great grandmother Sarah Stolebarger really was. Sarah was born about 1802 and by 1823 she was married to John Stolebarger and living in Union, Huntingdon County, PA. Her maiden name, country of origin and date of birth are all unknown.  I wrote about the details of my genealogical research here.

My mother's male first cousin is a direct maternal line descendant of Sarah, so I decided to test his mtDNA to see if I might get lucky and find something meaningful. Since mtDNA is not often helpful for genealogy, I know that this is a long shot.

Yesterday, I received the HRV1 results:

Haplogroup I 

HVR1 differences from CRS:

I don't have any experience with mtDNA Haplogroup I, so I have been doing some research. According to Wikipedia, it is quite rare and found in low levels throughout Europe, the Middle East and South Asia. Reviewing the mtDNA I Haplogroup Project, I did not find any matches.

According to FTDNA, there is one exact match (HRV1). I contacted her and learned that she is also researching a Sarah (maiden name unknown) from the same area and time period as my Sarah. We both suspect that our Sarahs were of German ancestry, but have no documentation of their origins or parentage. Hopefully, this match will bear fruit in the future, but for now both genealogical brickwalls stand.

I am still waiting for the HRV2 results, but I don't expect to have any new matches at this time since there must be an unusual mutation in HRV1. It will be interesting to see if I can learn anything more specific about Sarah's possible origin when/if a subclade is assigned.

[Disclosure - My company StudioINTV has an existing production agreement with FTDNA that has no bearing on the opinions I express. I also receive a small commission from FTDNA on non-sale orders through my affiliate link, which I use to fund DNA tests. I receive no other compensation in relation to any of the companies or products referenced in my blog.]


  1. One way to check for unusual mutations is to enter a query at Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, allowing one mismatch. Positions that don't match show up in dark purple in this query:

    There are two exact matches, and it looks like 16093C is the mutation that precludes a few more. As it happens, 16093C is a hotspot, and furthermore, it seems prone to heteroplasmy (a mixture of 16093C and the CRS value 16093T). We usually like to see exact matches for mtDNA, but I think you can allow a little leeway on this one.

  2. Thank you for the great suggestion and your valuable expertise, Ann. I always appreciate your comments and assistance.

  3. Ann, it is interesting that the few matches on SMGF that have pedigrees to places other than the US seem to be trending toward Wales as an origin point.

  4. I'm German, and this has nothing to to with genetics, but I'll post this anyway: It seems to me that the last name 'Stolebarger' could be an anglicised version of the German location name "Stollberg" (Quarry mountain, gallery mountain) . Kind of a generic name, so there are several places with that name scattered all over Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

  5. Thank you so much, knb! I will investigate that. I have been trying to figure out what their name could have been in Germany for years. I really appreciate the tip.

  6. There is also a place called Stolberg which would be pronounced like "coal", whereas in "Stollberg" the o sounds more like "floss". And this Stolberg town is located in the Lower Rhine or Mid-Rhine area.
    The article says the town was specialized for craftsmanship in metalworks and manufacturing things made of copper. (I myself didn't know this).