Discovering my mtdna – Scottish Irish or Viking ?

Part 1. Looking for McLean origins and connections using mtDNA

Introduction – Why Test ?

Having hit a brickwall with my Scottish born great great great grandmother Ann McKenzie nee McLean, I finally decided to try mtdna mitochondrial DNA testing with FamilyTreeDNA. I have no information on Ann’s parents.

All I know is that Ann was believed to be born in 1808 at Armadale or possibly Calligary on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. MacLean is a name associated with the Scottish Highlands. I have also found a DNA match at with a descendant of a Calligarry McLean – could his ancestor be related to my Ann McKenzie nee McLean ?

IMG_5965Images above and below are from Armadale,  Isle of Skye – June 2019.IMG_5970

IMG_5993Images above & below of the Calligarry, Sleat area of the Isle of Skye – June 2019.


In 1837 Ann 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. Such a short life and yet so many descendants. At the bottom of this post, I have a list of some of Ann McKenzie nee McLean’s direct maternal line descendants who would carry her mtdna.

We had a small McKenzie family gathering in October 2017 to commemorate the 180th anniversary of the McKenzie’s arrival in 1837.

IMG_9526McKenzie descendants at the Wollongong Old Presbyterian Cemetery in 2017 where some McKenzie’s lie – does Ann McKenzie nee McLean lie here ? Note – all except Josh in the centre are descendants of Ann McKenzie nee McLean.

Apparently there were some McLean’s from Corry, Strath on Skye who also emigrated to Australia on the “William Nicol” in 1837. Corry is a little less than half way between Armadale and Portree on Skye.

Below are photos of Ann’s two older daughters, Mary Ann Hicks nee McKenzie and Catherine Sheather Ross nee McKenzie.



One of my unanswered questions – did Ann’s maternal ancestry include Scottish, Irish and/or Scandinavian – Viking origins ? The Vikings were known raiders in England, Scotland and Ireland.

Mary Ann Hicks with Children Grandchildren 1917modified

Mary Ann Hicks nee McKenzie with two of her daughters, Mary Alice “Biddy” Cook & Edith Florence “Jog” Joy and seven of her grandchildren. Most in this photo carried Ann’s mtdna – except for the two young grandchildren to her left and the young grandchild second from right

Information from Ancestry DNA – my mother’s sister has done Ancestry DNA testing and her ethnicity shows no Scandinavian connections nor any from Germanic Europe but does show 40% Scottish – Irish. I have 3% from Germanic Europe which includes Denmark, whereas my two siblings both show 2% Norwegian but no Germanic Europe – one sibling also shows 2% from Sweden, while the other shows 4% from Sweden. So the potential for a Viking-related direct maternal line connection could not be entirely ruled out.

Mary Alice Cook Edith Florence Joy 1930s Penshurst

Ann McKenzie nee McLean’s direct maternal line granddaughters Mary Alice Cook and Edith Florence Joy at Penshurst in 1930’s.

I wasn’t actually expecting to find any mtdna matches who could provide me with common ancestors as the testing pool for mtdna is so much lower, ie about 300,000,  than the autosomal testing done by companies like Ancestry, MyHeritage, FTDNA, 23andMe, LivingDNA etc, which in total is running to 30 million or more people tested.

I have a First Edition of Blaine Bettinger’s The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy, which is 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,

Edith Florence Joy (Hicks) Christina Wooley (Hicks) early 1950's

Edith Florence Joy nee Hicks and Christina Woolley nee Hicks, direct maternal line granddaughters of Ann McKenzie nee McLean – at Thirroul in the 1950’s.

Results Arrive

  • My Haplogroup

My mtdna results are H1bb – and what does that mean ?

H is the most common haplogroup in Europe,  and about 44% of the British are in this grouping – 1,

H1 is a subgroup or subclade of H1, and likewise H1b is a subgroup of H1, and H1bb is a subgroup of H1b.

See also – Information at FTDNA on mtdna results

  • My Matches ?

Unexpectedly I found initially that I had four close mtdna matches – and by November 2019 I had five close mtnda matches and in December 2019 it was six close mtdna matches :

  • one match at genetic distance GD = 0 – unfortunately no family tree, no ancestral names nor places
  • one match at genetic distance GD = 0 – with a possible Scottish origin ?
  • three  matches at genetic distance GD = 1 : two of these have Scottish origins – one uncertain; one has a Catherine McLean b.1815 as the earliest known direct maternal line ancestor although her location in Scotland is unknown but could possibly have been from Skye or Ross, and the other had a McShane – Thompson origin possibly in Lanarkshire.
  • one match at genetic distance GD = 3 : this one is understood to have Irish origins and  a very small family tree. There is a maternal line of Conlon links to County Mayo Ireland (possibly at Tooromin Bohola ) as far back as 1836 . I found another likely family tree  in Ancestry, which went one generation further back. Unfortunately the earliest female’s maiden name was not given. A question ? Is it possible that this person may be a person of Scots Irish heritage from one of the Plantations into Ireland, eg the early 17th Protestant Plantation of Ulster by King James? Although County Mayo lies outside the best known Ulster Plantation area, nevertheless it is near  to County Tyrone, County Donegal and County Fermanagh which were part of the Plantation. Also there were other Plantations in Ireland dating from Henry VIII. And it seems that some Scottish and English did settle in County Mayo from the early 17th Century. Alternatively could the match relate to Viking origins – as Vikings were in Ireland and the Western Isles of Scotland?

The identified definite Scottish mtdna match is the only one I have with the 3433 people who identified as having Scottish as their earliest direct maternal line ancestor – that’s means my match represents about .03% of the Scottish pool of connected testers.

The identified Irish mtdna match is the only one I have with the 7142 people who identified as having Irish as their earliest direct maternal line ancestor – that means my match represents less than .015% of the Irish pool of connected testers.

There are about 300,000 who have done mtdna with FTDNA – and I only match 4 of them – these matches represent a little over  .001% of the total pool of mtdna testers at FTDNA.

So I was surprised and pleased to discover these matches as I was not overly optimistic about having any. Now having written to several of them, I have received replies from two and I hope one day to hear from the others ?

I also noticed another  possibly close H1bb descendant in the Scottish Hebrides Project at FTDNA – the place of origin was not given but the earliest maternal line ancestor’s surname was MacDougall. Plausibly this is probably consistent with some sort of Scottish origin? I wondered if this person might be a mtdna match or not, compared with my mtdna matches at FTDNA.

There was also a H1bb descendant in the Australian Citizens Project at FTDNA – but no details given.

So far I have directly encountered one person in a Facebook DNA group who is also H1bb, though I am yet to find out details of that person’s earliest Direct Maternal Line ancestor.

How far back to the common ancestor (MRCA) with my closest mtdna match? Reading more about mtdna indicates that where you have an exact matches in the  mtFullSequence HVR1, HVR2, & Coding Region, then the most recent common ancestor that you share could be  5 generations back (about 125 years) at 50% confidence level. Or, it could be as far back as 22 generations back (about 550 years) at 95% confidence level – FTDNA . What does that mean ?  Five generations takes me back to Ann McKenzie nee McLean, so it won’t be surprising if it’s way more than 5 generations back to find a common ancestor with my closest mtdna match with GD=0.

See also

I also found a study where mtdna results of Viking archaeological remains were being reviewed – and there were indications of some these having H1bb and H1b haplogroups – which could plausibly point to a Viking connection ? Scroll down to find more information on this.

In summary – well, I am a little disappointed that  it is not clear precisely where Ann McKenzie nee McLean’s direct maternal line ancestry originated from. However I suspect it is Scottish and quite possibly there is a Scandinavian – Viking connection into the Scottish Highlands. As for an Irish possibility – I am wondering if the Irish match relates to Scots Irish who arrived in Ireland as part of King James Plantation of Ulster. Alternatively the Irish could originate from Vikings in Ireland. Scroll down to the map to see the Viking activity.

More information

It was helpful to read the section on mtdna in my First Edition of Blaine Bettinger’s The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy. It provided a relatively simple understanding of the scientific basis of mtdna and an introduction to Haplogroups. However, as the book does not delve too deeply into all of the known Haplogroups and their subgroups (aka subclades), I sought information elsewhere and found Roberta Estes’ DNAeXplained blog was really good.

Some links – there’s a lot of information out there ! A lot of it is to do with the science of mtdna.

Joining Forums

MTDNA – The Science


MTDNA – The Haplogroups

MTDNA – Haplogroup H – Regions of the World in History

As explained earlier I am part of haplogroup H – specifically the H1bb subgroup aka subclade.

H is the most common haplogroup in Europe,  and about 44% of the British are in this grouping – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12,

38.5% of Irish people carry mtDNA haplogroup H – of whom 11% are in H1 – Irish Genetics

H is found across Europe and especially found in Eastern Europe and the Iberian Peninsula – but not confined to these areas – and may be found in Scandinavia – including Vikings 

H1 is a subgroup or subclade of H, and likewise H1b is a subgroup of H1, and H1bb is a subgroup of H1b.

H1 is the most common branch of haplogroup H. It represents 30% of people in haplogroup H, and 46% of the maternal lineages in Iberia. 13-14% of all Europeans belong to this branch, and H1 is about 13,000 years old. – Harvey,


It is detected at its highest frequency in Eastern Europe and North Central Europe. It is also found in about 5% of haplogroup H lineages in Siberian Mansis – Harvey. However H1b can be found in other areas as indicated in the links below.


  • Viking –  “there was a study to explore the genomic history of the Viking era, we shotgun sequenced 442 ancient human remains, from the Bronze Age c. 2400 BC to the Medieval Age c. 1600 AD” – the map below was shared on the web page. Also  included on the web page were the following four which are relevant to my H1bb result :
    • H1bb – VK 118 (Norway), VK545 (Ireland)
    • H1b – VK313 (Denmark), VK395 (Estonia)
  • Other Viking Links –  1, 2, 3,


Some more links

  • The DanelawThe reasons for the waves of immigration (of Vikings) were complex and bound to the political situation in Scandinavia at that time; moreover, they occurred when Viking settlers were also establishing their presence in the Hebrides, Orkney, the Faroe Islands, Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, France (Normandy), Russia and Ukraine (see Kievan Rus’). Polabian Slavs (Wends) settled in parts of England, apparently as Danish allies. – this may provide an insight to the spread of H1b and H1bb
  • Where did Vikings settle in the British Isles ?

Direct Maternal Line Descendants of Ann McKenzie nee McLean

  • Donald Daniel McKenzie
  • Donald McKenzie
  • Alexander McKenzie
  • John McKenzie
  • Mary Ann Hicks nee McKenzie
    • Catherine Hicks – died as infant
    • Ann Hicks – died as infant
    • James Alexander Hicks
    • Margaret Minnie “Maggie” Cook nee Hicks
      • George Wilfred Cook
      • Marjorie Allison Rummery nee Cook
        • Harold Rummery
        • Rae Rummery
      • Gladys May Saunders nee Cook – had at least one son
      • Alfred Edward Cook
    • Henry William Hicks
    • Unnamed Hicks – died at birth
    • Mary Alice Cook nee Hicks  – no known descendants
    • George Hicks
    • Christina Ann Woolley nee Hicks
      • Unnamed Woolley – died as infant
      • Unnamed Woolley – died as infant
      • Mary Thelma Harris nee Woolley
        • Thelma Ann Harris – died as child
        • Douglas John Harris
      • Muriel Lucy Julian McKenzie nee Woolley
    • Henry Thomas Hicks
    • Edith Florence Joy nee Hicks
      • Kenneth Charles Joy
      • Mary Constance Callcott nee Joy
        • Ian
        •  Joan
          • KerrieAnne
            • KEC
          • Julie
            • ELL
              • OS
            • GLL
          • Daryl
        • Enid
          • Virginia
            • JB
            • KB
        • John
        • Joy
          • Susan
            • MC
          • Barbara
            • KS
            • JV
            • RV
          • Julie
            • BD
          • Barry
          • Graham
    • Ida McKenzie Webb nee Hicks
      • Gwynneth Mary Emily Stuart nee Webb – has  male and female children
      • Enid Rhys Webb – no known children
      • Ida McKenzie Knox nee Webb – has at least one daughter
      • Frederick Henry Webb
      • Joy Lois Webb – had at least one son
    • Richard Ernest Hicks
  • Catherine Sheather Ross nee McKenzie
    • Isabella Ann Bruggy nee Ross
      • John Bruggy
      • William Bruggy
      • Catherine Anne Bruggy
      • Bertie L Bruggy
      • Nellie M Blood nee Bruggy
      • Harold Bruggy
      • Vera D Bruggy
    • William Ross
    • Christine Mary Ross
    • Catherine Eliza Henson nee Ross
      • Emma May Henson
      • Arthur E Henson
      • Charles E Henson
      • Doris L Henson
      • Katherine R Henson
      • Harry Gordon Henson
      • William Alexander Henson
      • John R Henson
      • Robert Henson
    • John Donald Ross
    • William James Sheather
    • Thomas Henry Sheather
    • Robert Benjamin Sheather
    • Archibald Hugh Sheather
    • Edward John Sheather
  • Agnus McKenzie – no known descendants
  • Angus McKenzie

Note – a mother passes her mtdna onto all of her children, but only her daughters pass the mtdna onto the next generation

Part 2. Reviewing Autosomal DNA test results for McLean/MacLean connections

A New Year Project for 2020 – The Plan

I reviewed my research on Ann McKenzie nee McLean/MacLean with a mindmap – a technique I had encountered in a “Researching Your Family History” online course with the University of Strathclyde and FutureLearn – see summary diagram below

Ann McLean v1

Then, having decided that I had probably ascertained as much as I was likely to achieve with my mtDNA results for a while, I decided to review my DNA results  from, MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA with a focus on McLean/MacLean connections – including the use of Third Party Tools like,, DNAPainter and FreeMind. This is not going to be a quick project by any means.

So I was looking for any McLean/MacLean connections :

  • who mostly might be 5th cousins at the closest, though it is possible that Endogamy (Pedigree Collapse aka In-breeding) in Scottish Highlands and Islands could distort the CM’s sizes of matches.
  • with ancestry from the Isle of Skye especially around Armadale and Calligarry down in Sleat – or ancestry from other areas of the Hebrides eg North Uist, South Uist, Lewis, or from the Highlands
  • who are a shared match with my relatives descended from Ann McKenzie nee McLean/MacLean but are not descended from Elizabeth McKenzie Hanks, the second wife of Alexander McKenzie (Jnr), and not descended from any of her husband’s three siblings.

Likewise, I decided to run a similar process for matches of my sister Julie, brother Daryl and my maternal first cousin, also named Julie.

My Results

Previously I had grouped my McLean/MacLean  DNA connections in with my McKenzie and McIntosh DNA connected matches. It was time to split off these McLean connections into a separate group. After hours of research activity when I was kept indoors on a bushfire smoke laden day, I found I had nearly 200 potential McLean/MacLean connections in my DNA matches (which by December 2019 totalled over 34,000).

I had previously noticed that, in my McKenzie – McLean/MacLean DNA cluster of matches, I had relatively close matches with a Canadian mother and son with North Uist Outer Hebrides ancestry – they were at 34 cms and 31 cms respectively, and both of these were across 1 segment only. They  also seemed to be connected to some of my Australian McKenzie McLean/MacLean relations. I’d also noticed that they seemed to be “nodes” for a large number of North American connected matches. As I began to explore these interrelated matches I found that there were McLean/MacLean’s and McDonald’s appearing in some of the ancestral lines. However the closeness of the matches with the Canadian mother and son was surprising and unexpected – unless there was some Endogamy (Pedigree Collapse aka In-breeding) at play. In the Western Highlands and Islands, Endogamy was quite feasible.


At MyHeritage where I have over 6000 matches, I had several known McKenzie – McLean/MacLean DNA matches, a third cousin and a third cousin once removed – so I was looking for shared matches with these, especially those that could be triangulated. A search for McLean/MacLean in the ancestral lines in my DNA matches revealed over 40 people for further analysis, and also about 30 people who were triangulated matches with my third cousin and third cousin once removed


Here I found 6 matches with McLean/MacLean ancestry.

My Sister’s Results – based on, MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA

My Brother’s Results – based on MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA

My First Cousin’s Results – based only on test results

Like me, Julie (and her mother) also had matches with the Canadian mother and son – at 34 cms and 33cms respectively.


About Kerrie Anne Christian

Interests - Travel, Photography, Developing Websites, Social Media, Writing, Local History, Researcher, Genealogy
This entry was posted in DNA and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Discovering my mtdna – Scottish Irish or Viking ?

  1. brianharris5 says:

    Ok. You have convinced me to start down the slippery slope of DNA testing. What type of test/s do you recommend? PS I love the picture of Christina and Edith.

  2. Pingback: Accentuate the Positive  | A Steely Genes Journey

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