We have answered the most frequent questions below. There is also a version you can download and print.
If your don't find the answer, then email us at
MatriLine Y-Chromosome MatriLine Database
Will my test results be kept confidential?
Yes. Oxford Ancestors will not use your DNA for any other purpose than for the services you have requested. Your results will be disclosed only to you, unless you specifically instruct us otherwise, and your DNA will be destroyed after your results have been despatched.
- Can a DNA analysis identify my racial or ethnic background?
- No. There is no genetic basis for ethnicity or race. Our MatriLine service identifies your ancient ancestral mother, who lived at a time that pre-dates our notions of ethnicity and race. We know upon which continent all the clan mothers lived, but the modern day descendents of any single clan mother will be from many different countries, ethnic backgrounds and races.
- Can you recommend any further reading on genes and human evolution?
- A good starting point for delving into the scientific literature is "The Human Inheritance: Genes Language and Evolution" edited by Bryan Sykes and published by Oxford University Press in 1999. This contains eight essays by leading academics on all aspects of the revolution in understanding the past that has been triggered by developments in genetics. It is edited for a general readership and there is an extensive bibliography. Other recommended books are: "The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee" by Jared Diamond (ISBN 0 09 991380 1) and "The Language of the Genes" by Steve Jones (ISBN 0 00 654676 5). Both are written for a general audience. Professor Sykes' book, "The Seven Daughters of Eve", was published in June 2001 in the UK and has since appeared in over 23 countries. His book tells the story of the scientific research that lead to the discoveries made
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- How is the DNA collected?
- When payment for your order has been processed, you will be sent a sampling kit which contains two DNA sampling swabs with which you can painlessly take the necessary sample for our analysis. This is done by gently rubbing the swab ten times on the cheek inside your mouth.Use the second brush to swab the other cheek, then replace them both in back in the packet, seal with tape and return to us in the envelope provided. We ask for two swabs so we have back-up in case the first swab fails.Back to top
- Do I have to be European to use your MatriLine Service?
Not at all. We have a database of over 50,000 mitochondrial DNA sequences from all over the World to help us assign you to one of the 36 worldwide maternal clans.
Will any of my family be in the same clan as me?
If you are a woman, then all your children will inherit your mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA, for short) and therefore you will all be in the same clan. If you are a man, your children will inherit their mtDNA from their mother and not from you, so they could belong to a different clan to you. Brothers and sisters share the same mtDNA, inherited from their mother. In fact, any two people related through an unbroken maternal line will be in the same clan.
- If there are seven clans in Europe, how many are there in the rest of the World?
- A great deal of work has been done in other parts of the World in the past decade and it is very clear that there are many more clans. Our present estimate is that there are 36 clans in the World, including the 'Seven Daughters of Eve'. Twelve of them are found predominantly in people of Africa origin, four in the peoples of East Eurasia and the Americas, six in East Eurasia, twelve in the peoples of Central and West Eurasia, one predominantly in West Eurasia and North America, and one in Africa and West Eurasia. As the precise definition of what makes a clan depends on having a good set of DNA samples from different countries, we expect other clan mothers to be identified as more samples are obtained from peoples living in those parts of the World that have thus far been studied only very sparsely.
- What is the Cambridge Reference Sequence (CRS)?
- This is the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence against which we compare all of the mtDNA sequences generated for our customers. It was determined by a group of researchers in Cambridge (hence the name) as being the most common sequence found in native Europeans. If your sequence is the same as the CRS, then you are in the clan of Helena. The 400 base pairs of the CRS that we analyse is shown below:
ATTCTAATTT AAACTATTCT CTGTTCTTTC ATGGGGAAGC AGATTTGGGT
ACCACCCAAG TATTGACTCA CCCATCAACA ACCGCTATGT ATTTCGTACA
TTACTGCCAG CCACCATGAA TATTGTACGG TACCATAAAT ACTTGACCAC
CTGTAGTACA TAAAAACCCA ATCCACATCA AAACCCCCTC CCCATGCTTA
CAAGCAAGTA CAGCAATCAA CCCTCAACTA TCACACATCA ACTGCAACTC
CAAAGCCACC CCTCACCCAC TAGGATACCA ACAAACCTAC CCACCCTTAA
CAGTACATAG TACATAAAGC CATTTACCGT ACATAGCACA TTACAGTCAA
ATCCCTTCTC GTCCCCATGG ATGACCCCCC TCAGATAGGG GTCCCTTGAC
- What characteristics of my mtDNA sequence determine which clan I am in?
- All the clans have DNA sequence characteristics that allow us to determine from which clan mother you are descended. Some of these clan/characteristic associations are straightforward; others are more complicated. As a general rule, if your ancestors lived in the geographical area we now call Europe, and your sequence does not contain one of the characteristic changes listed below, then you are a descendant of Helena. The table below is a guide to some of the characteristic changes associated with the other 'Daughters of Eve':
POSITION OF CHANGE
NATURE OF CHANGE
C - T
C - T
T - C
T - C
C - T
T - C
T - C
C - T
T - C
- I have one (or more) letters highlighted in red on my sequence. Why am I still in the clan of Helena?
- The highlighted letters show where your mtDNA sequence varies from the Cambridge Reference Sequence (CRS). Your mtDNA changes overtime and only certain changes at specific positions are characteristic of your clan. If your sequence contains one of these characteristic changes, then your clan mother is identified appropriately. If your sequence does not contain one of these changes, then your clan mother was Helena.
- What is the greatest number of changes you have ever found in a mtDNA sequence?
- We have a lady from South America on our database whose mtDNA sequence contains 14 changes compared to the Cambridge Reference Sequence. This places her in Layla's clan, the most ancient clan mother known, whose descendents live mostly (but not exclusively) in Africa today.
- Is there a connection between the Seven Daughters of Eve and the Bible?
- No. There is no biblical significance to the use of the term 'Seven Daughters of Eve'. When scientists discovered that we can all trace our maternal ancestry back to one woman, she was immediately dubbed 'Mitochondrial Eve' by the popular press. Even though the name was no doubt chosen because of the familiarity with our descent from Eve in the Bible, the scientific discovery does not confirm the biblical context of Eve. When it became clear that almost all native Europeans are descended from only seven women, it made sense to refer to them as the Seven Daughters of Eve, as they are all descendants of "Mitochondrial Eve".
- Which of my relatives is linked to me through an unbroken matrilineal link?
- Any relative whose relationship to you does not pass through a male. These include your mother, all your brothers and sisters and, if you are a woman, all your children and all your daughters’ children. They also include your maternal grandmother (your mother’s mother), all your mother’s brothers and sisters (your maternal aunts and uncles) and all your aunts’ children. If you are still in doubt, or if you want to ask about other relatives, please contact us at
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- Why do only males have Y-chromosomes?
- The Y-chromosome contains a gene that directs the development of a human embryo along the pathway to becoming male. As long as this gene is working properly, any human embryo which has a Y-chromosome will grow into a baby boy. Men produce two types of sperm in equal amounts. Half contain a Y-chromosome and half contain an X-chromosome. The eggs produced by women have only X-chromosomes. Fertilised eggs have either two X-chromosomes, and become girls, or one X and one Y and become boys.
- Can paternal lines be traced back using Y-chromosomes to a small number of men, in the same way that tracing mitochondrial DNA identified the Seven Daughters of Eve.
- Yes. Our Y-Clan™ service groups Y-chromosomes into a small number of ancient paternal clans. This is similar to the MatriLine™ service, but is not directly equivalent to it. Next year, we will be launching a new service, PatriLine, which will group Y-chromosomes into one of approximately 15 paternal clans, each founded by a single common male ancestor, so keep watching our website.
- Can the Y-Clan™ or the Y-Line™ analysis prove paternity?
- No. Neither our Y-Clan™ nor our Y-Line™ services can prove paternity. If you want a test of this nature, then you should contact a company which specialises in paternity tests. However, both our Y-chromosome analysis services will show if two males are paternally unrelated. For example, if two brothers have totally different Y-Clan™ or Y-Line™ results, then they cannot have the same biological father. Please be aware of this possibility before requesting our Y-Clan™ or Y-Line™ service.
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- How do I determine the position, in numbers, of the mutations on my MatriLine certificate?
- We report your mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence as the differences we find there compared to a reference sequence (called the CRS) between positions 16001 and 16400 base pairs on the mitochondrial chromosome. These differences compared to the CRS are indicated as the mDNA code on your certificate. More details about the CRS may be found HERE
Sequence differences are written in an abbreviated form in your mDNA code, missing out the “16” at the beginning. For example, a difference at position 16223 in your DNA will be written as just 223.
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How do the changes in the mitochondrial DNA sequence relate to the numbering system that you use for MatriLine database searches?
The vast majority of the changes (mutations) that occur in the DNA sequence we analyse are known as "transitions"; i.e., an “A” changes to a “G”, a “G” changes to an “A”, a “C” to a “T”, and a “T” to a “C”. We record the positions of these changes, relative to the Cambridge Reference Sequence
, using a three-digit number that corresponds to the position of the mutation within the sequence, from position 1 (written as 001) to position 400 (written, unsurprisingly, as 400).
However, other mutations can sometimes occur. We record these by using the same three-digit numbering system as described above to identify the position of the mutation, but we then add a single digit (the “fourth digit”) to the end of this number to indicate that the mutation is something other than a simple transition. The "fourth digit" used depends on the exact nature of the mutation that has occurred and these are described below:
A - C
A - T
G - C
G - T
C - A
C - G
T - A
T - G
Insertion or deletion
- How many sample are in your MatriLine™ database?
- As you may be aware, we have recently launched our MatriLine database, which is compiled from the results of Oxford Ancestors' customers and numbers in the thousands.
In the near future, we will be making accessible to our customers a database of mitochondrial DNA sequences compiled from research data. There are over 10,000 mtDNA sequences in this database, which can be used for research purposes or general interest.
Please check our website periodically for any updates on this.
- I am in the clan of Ursula and have 4 mutations from the Cambridge Reference Sequence in my own mitochondrial DNA sequence. When I do a search on three out of the four mutations the computer does not bring me up as one of the matches. It also brings up people who are in a different clan (Helena) to me. Please explain.
- The website search engine searches for matches with EXACTLY the mutations you ask for. If you search for only three out of the four mutations that you have, then it will not find your result, as that contains an additional mutation.
If you search on just a selection of the mutations that you possess, then it is possible that any matches found will be in a different clan to yours. This is because certain mutations are characteristic of certain clans. If a mutation in your sequence that is characteristic of your clan is not present in the search, then the clan in which any matches belong can be different to your own.
More information on characteristic mutations for the ancestral mothers' clans is available in the FAQ section.