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Edmund Rice Homestead at East Sudbury
Edmund Rice (1638) Association

Colonial Sudbury mtDNA Project

This web page is still under construction. Please be patient while we collect and organize.

Highlighted technical terms are explained in the Glossary. Note: a term may be used many times but is highlighted only the first time within each section.

Last updated: 2011 Nov 10

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Project Summary


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The Edmund Rice (1638) Association has a project underway seeking to identify umbilical lines that passed through Sudbury before 1700. Primarily, we wish to locate and test documented modern female-line descendants of the women of that place and time, to provide a check on the conventional genealogy by direct comparison of the mtDNA. As an added benefit, we hope to discover, partly by sheer serendipity, some previously unknown distaff relationships among the early colonists.

The early settlers of Sudbury, Massachusetts, formed a cohesive community with the same families regularly intermarrying and eventually spreading out in all directions. Many of them came from the southeast of England, but they had not been a community before arriving in the New World. They can be expected to display a cross-section of the English mtDNA. (For an interesting discussion of the English antecedents of Colonial Sudbury, see Powell's Puritan Village.)

Even though the keeping of vital records of the early Massachusetts towns was mandated by law, and, on the whole, the records were carefully kept, there are many gaps, as well as lamentable instances where marriages were recorded without the maiden names of the brides, much less the parents' names. Therefore, we see a need for connections that mitochondrial DNA studies can meet -- bridging the gaps left by the vital records.

You, too, can participate. We have arranged with FamilyTree DNA (FTDNA) to offer mtDNA analysis to our project for the reduced, group rates. This includes the possibility of simultaneously testing both mtDNA and Y-DNA for participants who happen to be male, but we have no plans at present for analyzing the two types of DNA together.

This project is open to anyone whose umbilical (female-line) ancestors lived before 1700 in the town of Sudbury, Massachusetts, or in the neighboring towns of Concord, Framingham, Marlborough, Natick, Stow, or Watertown, including the parts that subsequently became Acton, Bedford, Carlisle, Hudson, Lincoln, Maynard, Northborough, Southborough, Waltham, Wayland, Westborough, and Weston. If you believe your ancestry meets this criterion, please get in touch.

For more information write to our project administrator/coordinator: Bob Rice.

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More information about this project: email Bob Rice.

The USGenWeb project website for Massachusetts.

the Sudbury Archives (historical documents relating to Sudbury history)

For information about the Edmund Rice (1638) Association (and how to join, should you care to do so), please visit our membership page.


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At the end of this page, we present the DNA test results we have obtained so far. As matches are found and confirmed, these results may be rearranged to emphasize the genealogical links.

In Table 1, each line of data begins with a unique ID. The 4-, 5-, and 6-digit ID's refer to FTDNA results. Results found in the SMGF database are denoted by "sm" and two digits. If and when we obtain data from other sources, we will introduce a distinct notation to distinguish such results. For example, ID's consisting of "N" and a number will refer to members of the Genographic Project who have also joined our project.

When we identify a shared lineage to a common ancestor on the part of two or more testees, we present the name of that ancestor in an extra, color-coded line in the table.

The test results in this table are shown as a list of differences from the CRS. Each difference is expressed as a substitution for, insertion into, or deletion from the reference. A substitution is shown as a number in the range 1-16569 (giving the location within the reference sequence), followed by the code letter for the discrepant nucleotide. An insertion is displayed similarly, but the number refers to the nucleotide immediately before the insertion, and is followed, first, by a period and another number indicating the order of insertion (in the case of multi-base insertions). When only one nucleotide is inserted, this insertion number is a "1". A deletion is indicated by a minus sign instead of a letter code.

Note: the position numbers for hypervariable region 1 (HVR1) are all in the range 16000-16569 and are sometimes abbreviated by leaving out the "16" in front. Do not confuse these locations with those in HVR2. To avoid confusion, we include the leading "16" for these locations in the table.

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An important part of this project is the compilation and validation of the lineages of the participants, which must proceed in tandem with the DNA testing, since the latter can overrule the former. We have collected these lineages on a separate web page,

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Other Relevant DNA Projects

There are many other geographic-based mtDNA studies, some of which may be relevant for the ancestors of early Sudbury colonists, and others which may be relevant for their descendants. In addition, there is a global, public database of user-contributed test results, known as Mitosearch, which contains test results uploaded by members of our project, among others. This database can be searched for near-matches.

Another global mtDNA database is maintained by SMGF. This database is searchable both by haplotype and by surname. The results in the database are presented with the associated pedigrees submitted by the test subjects, but the subjects themselves are anonymous. To look for matches of the results in Table 1, see the lookup index on a separate page.

A third relevant database is that of the Genographic Project conducted under the auspices of the National Geographic Society. This project is not a genealogical one, but is aimed at population studies, such as tracing the paths of human migration over tens of thousands of years. The main thrust of this project is the analysis of isolated indigenous populations around the world, but another component is a study open to the public. Participants in this public study are given their choice of the FTDNA 12-marker Y-DNA test (males only) or the FTDNA mtDNA HVR1 test. In either case, the measured haplotype is used as a predictor of the participant's ancestors' migration routes. After these initial results are returned, the participants are routinely invited to follow up with the genealogical aspects of DNA testing by joining a genealogical project at FTDNA, and we hope that some of the participants will have lineages back to Sudbury and will join our project. (Note: the link to the Genographic Project may not work for some web browsers.)

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Notes and Discussion

This project is just beginning. We do not have much to report yet, but we have two confirmed matches already: (1) four test subjects whose MRCA is Martha (___), the wife of immigrant John Bent of Sudbury, and (2) eight test subjects whose MRCA is Sybil Brigham, granddaughter of Mary Collins, wife of Richard Moore of Sudbury. (See Table 1.)

It is noteworthy that there are DNA discrepancies within each group. The first group has two members who were tested as part of the SMGF project, which reported a mutation for them that occurs so frequently (and in so many independent contexts, but especially in the presence of 16189C) that FTDNA suppresses this mutation from all reports. We therefore presume that the mutation is present in both subjects tested by FTDNA.

(A word of explanation for those who may be curious: location 16189 is normally a T flanked by five C's on one side and 4 C's on the other. Mutation 16189C converts this stretch into a continuous 10-base string of C's. Such long poly-C sections are extremely susceptible to mutation by insertion of one or more extra C's. Furthermore, sequencing such sections -- and getting the length right -- is technically more challenging in the lab than sequencing the usual jumble of DNA.)

Besides this lab-dependent reporting difference, we see an outright mutation in one of the four: a two-base insertion in a different poly-C section in HVR2 for 1673. If it were just a one-base insertion, we might simply wonder about the accuracy of the lab report (see below), but a reported two-base insertion must surely be a real mutation. Note that the insertion is reported as if it were two successive one-base insertions, but in this case it almost certainly occurred as a single insertion event. Ordinarily, the existence of even one discrepancy between two testees is cause for concern that they may not be closely related, and two discrepancies would be a real barrier. However, mutations do occur, and we know empirically that they occur especially often at location 309, and so we conclude that this two-base insertion must have occurred at some point in the past three centuries in the line leading to 1673 and that the genealogical connection outweighs the genetic "cause for concern." To be doubly sure of this interpretation, we encouraged the two who were tested at FTDNA to take advantage of a special price for upgrading to a full-genome sequence of their mtDNA (i.e., 1673 and 102849). Indeed, those tests showed perfect agreement in the sequence outside of the already-completed HVR1+HVR2 segments. We are therefore confident in our assessment of the insertion in 1673 -- that it is a single, random, recent mutation in a susceptible spot.

The second group has a disagreement about a mutation in the same HVR2 poly-C section as above, noted for its high mutation frequency and the difficulty of correct ascertainment. Four members have an extra insertion while three do not (or at least do not have it reported). Since the three subjects seemingly lacking this mutation do not form a genealogically closed set separated from the rest, we are inclined to treat this discrepancy as a lab error. This group has another discrepancy of interest: a detection in one subject of two different bases at the same locus. This detection is somewhat subjective, since the testing process often shows small hints of such behavior, which is ignored unless it exceeds an arbitrary threshold. We cannot tell how close to the threshold this locus may be for the other members of the group, but it seems likely that they all display some duality at this locus.

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DNA Data

Table 1. Colonial Sudbury Haplotypes
ID Haplogroup HVR1 HVR2
Martha ___ (c1600?-1679)
1673 U* 16183C, 16189C, 16325C 73G, 150T, 152C, 263G, 309.1C, 309.2C, 315.1C
102849 U* 16183C, 16189C, 16325C 73G, 150T, 152C, 263G, 315.1C
sm38 U* 16183C, 16189C, 16193.1C+, 16325C 73G, 150T, 152C, 263G, 315.1C
sm39 U* 16183C, 16189C, 16193.1C+, 16325C 73G, 150T, 152C, 263G, 315.1C
Sybil Brigham (1718-1807) traced to Mary Collins (1672-1760)
sm51 H 16293G, 16311C, 16368C 195C, 263G, 309.1C, 309.2C, 315.1C
sm52 H 16293G, 16311C, 16368C 195C, 263G, 309.1C, -, 315.1C
sm53 H 16293G, 16311C, 16368C 195C, 263G, 309.1C, -, 315.1C
sm54 H 16293G, 16311C, 16368C 195C, 263G, 309.1C, -, 315.1C
sm55 H 16293G, 16311C, 16368C 152Y, 195C, 263G, 309.1C, 309.2C, 315.1C
sm56 H 16293G, 16311C, 16368C 195C, 263G, 309.1C, 309.2C, 315.1C
sm63 H 16293G, 16311C, 16368C 195C, 263G, 309.1C, -, 315.1C
sm64 H 16293G, 16311C, 16368C 195C, 263G, 309.1C, 309.2C, 315.1C
17204 U4 16355T, 16356C, 16519C 73G, 146C, 195C, 263G, 309.1C, 315.1C, 499A
97512 T1 16126C, 16163G, 16186T, 16189C, 16294T, 16519C 73G, 152C, 195C, 263G, 315.1C
105522 U* 16192T, 16311C
108895 U5b 16174T, 16189C, 16270T, 16311C 73G, 146C, 150T, 263G, 309.1C, 309.2C, 315.1C, 516T
103192 H1 16519C 263G, 309.1C, 315.1C
N5847 H24 16293G, 16519C 236C, 263G, 309.1C, 315.1C
sm37 H 16304C 263G, 315.1C, 456T
+ This mutation is never reported by FTDNA.

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