My DNA Adventure, Part II: The Search for Sarah Gilbert

When last we met, I had been going over the results of my DNA submission to the project.  Frankly, nothing I saw came as any huge surprise.   My Y-DNA places my ancient ancestry in West Africa; my mtDNA  also seems to be grounded in West  Africa.

There were three “exact matches” on my mtDNA results.  All three of the profiles of these persons had a link through which they could be contacted via   The profiles also indicated that each such person had last signed onto their DNA account many months ago.  They likely had not seen my results matched with theirs.

I contacted each pf the three individuals through    It’s been several months now and I haven’t heard back from any of them.  Their profiles show that none have signed on since before I contacted them.

The reason the mtDNA is so important to me is that it may give me a clue about Sarah Gilbert (1843-btwn 1880-1885) who was the first wife of Zeke Johnson (1847-1933), mother of Mary Elizabeth Johnson Long (1870-1946)  and thus my great-great-grandmother.  Sarah Gilbert has shown nothing of herself save for a record of her 1867 marriage in Clay County, Missouri and her residence in Kansas City at the time of the 1880 census.  Supposedly, she was an Indian.

I decided to take some alternative steps to locate the three mtDNA “matchees.”   I started with the first one and ran the name against several “people finder” databases.  One of them produced five possible matches in an eastern state.   The five matches appear to be the same person.   I think this is likely the mtDNA person.  The search directory has a middle initial that is consistent with the middle name that the DNA results reported.  (And the whole name is, if not “unusual”, at least, “uncommon.”)

The search database indicated that the person may have been born in the late 1920s or early 1930s.   This bit of information told me that there was a chance that the person might be on the 1930 census.  There were two persons with nearly identical names on the 1930 census. One person was born in Texas in 1902 and was eliminated as being obviously too old.  The other person was born in Kentucky in 1927.

But I felt I needed some additional evidence on this issue.  So I went on to examine birth, marriage and death records.  This yielded a number of persons with similar names, but who were also either too old or too young to be the person I’m seeking.  But two individuals piqued my interest.

One person of interest was born in a northeastern state in 1922 and died in 1985.   This is obviously not our subject because our subject was alive in 2007 to submit a DNA sample (additionally, the person just slightly beyond our age parameters).  But this person could be a relative of our subject–again, the name we’re seeking is not all that common.

The second person of interest was born in 1885 and died in 1976.   This  person has the same name as our subject and is old enough to be the subject’s parent.  And also tantalizing is the fact the person died in a county in a southern state, which county has a large population of people with my mother’s maiden name.

I then was moved to examine passenger manifests for New York.  There I discovered that a person with the same name and middle initial had arrived in New York from a European country in 1956, traveling on an American passport.  The US passport and the name of the ship made me relaize that this person was in some way affiliated with the US military.  The person was accompanied by a child, but appparently no other adult.  This fact, though explainable, is unusal for a military family returning from overseas.

To further locate and identify this person, I checked the child’s name against various databases, but came up with nothing. I’m willing to bet that the person I found in the search directory is the same person who submitted the matching sample. So I’ll try to write a letter.

The other two people with whom I had matches on the Ancestry site I could not reasonably identify further because too many similar names exist.

But there are other alternatives. Once you have DNA results, you can submit them to a number of other puicbl DNA databases and look for matches. I did that with the sites described below.

The first one is called, sponsorted by the folks at Family Tree DNAmitosearch.

Above is the mitosearch Welcome page.  On the page below, one can enter mtDNA values from any test.

I entered my mtDNA values here.

I entered my mtDNA values here.

On the following page are the registered mitosearch users whose mtDNA “matches” mine.

Three individuals had exact matches with me for HVR1

Three individuals had exact matches with me for HVR1

As you can see, three people matched my HVR1 value exactly, and several others were with one mutation. Using the “Compare” feature for the matches produces a page like this one below:

A "match" compared

A "match" compared

I can now contact the “matches” through mitosearch.   I can also determine if their most distant female ancestor appears in my family tree.   I did not find any of these in my files, but I will be contacting several of the individuals for more information.

Another database in which to enter mtDNA results is the Sorenson Molecular Genetics Foundation (SMGF) database.

Sorenson Molecular Genetics Foundation mtDNA Database Search

Sorenson Molecular Genetics Foundation mtDNA Database Search

The  page below is produced by my search.  There were 14 “zero mutation” matches in all, molstly in Africa.  Notice the pedigree symbol at each of the matches.

SMGF mtDNA Comparison Page

SMGF mtDNA Comparison Page

Some of the pedigrees were useful; some were not because all the data was marked “private.”  Here’s mine so you can see what they  look   like.

My pedigree as shown on the SMGF site

My pedigree as shown on the SMGF site

The SMGF site has the smallest database and most of the other users seem not very easy to contact.

But I’ve gotten some ideas from the other databases, so next step:  Contact!


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3 Responses to “My DNA Adventure, Part II: The Search for Sarah Gilbert”

  • Carol says:

    Truthfully, I have found the DNA results for myself and my brother somewhat disappointing, but at the same time, this kind of genealogical matching is in its infancy. I hope you find Sarah by using the tried and true snail mail method. Good luck!

  • Styln says:

    Very exciting! I hope you get the connection you seek for the illusive Sarah Gilbert. Good hunting!

  • Helen says:

    Did you try the free online people finder

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