23andMe provide limited testing of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA tests). Part of the information is presented as a report of your maternal haplogroup.
This article shows you what to expect from your 23andMe test of mtDNA.
Does 23andMe Test Mitochondrial DNA?
23andMe does limited testing of mitochondrial DNA. Male and female customers are given their maternal haplogroup within a visual report of a timeline and map of the migration of a distant maternal line.
All 23andMe customers are given a link to a “Maternal Haplogroup” report. This presents your female lineage back to eastern Africa over 150 thousand years ago.
The 23andMe report identifies your most recent maternal haplogroup. This will date back over ten thousand years.
How Does 23andMe Test mtDNA?
There are two broad types of mtDNA tests. The most comprehensive test involves sequencing of the full mtDNA genome. This is known as mtDNA sequencing.
In contrast, the 23andMe mtDNA test is the second type of test. It is an SNP test (single nucleotide polymorphism) that samples several thousand DNA markers across your mitochondrial DNA.
The 23andMe mtDNA Maternal Haplogroup Report
The Maternal Haplogroup report starts by giving you your maternal haplogroup. Mine happens to be H, which is the most prevalent in Europe.
The next section presents the pattern of migrations of your maternal line. An interactive map shows how your line descends from our original maternal ancestor through different branches of the haplogroup tree.
It’s a nice display that changes as you click through the timeline. Here’s an example of the migration pattern from mitochondrial Eve (our first female ancestor) to the R haplogroup.
My maternal line moved from East Africa into the Arabian peninsula (L3). Later migration pushed through Eurasia (N) to southwest Asia (R).
Each step of the timeline gives you a narrative description of the geography.
The timeline gets close to the finish at the earliest appearance of my specific maternal haplogroup. This dates to some 18 thousand years ago.
The final piece of the timeline tells you how rare or common your maternal haplogroup is. My H haplogroup is shared with over 40% of Europeans.
How To Browse Your 23andMe mtDNA Test Data
To browse your raw mtDNA results:
- Expand the menu under your account name and choose “Browse Raw Data”
- Click on the rightmost icon labeled “MT”
I’ve truncated the width of the display in the image below.
Can You Download Your mtDNA Results from 23andMe?
As far as I can tell, customers cannot download mtDNA raw data. The only download available is our autosomal DNA results.
There are old instructions on a couple of websites that mention downloading mitochondrial DNA. If the option was in place at one time, it has been removed.
Where Can You Get More Detailed mtDNA Tests?
FamilyTreeDNA is the major company that provides whole genome sequencing of mtDNA. There are other companies out there, but FamilyTreeDNA has a great advantage of a well-established database of other mtDNA tests.
Taking an mtDNA test with FamilyTreeDNA lets you compare your results with other testers to find matrilineal relatives. You can also join dedicated projects to specific haplogroups.
The background to the different forms of mtDNA testing can seem a little complicated.
Autosomal testing from companies like Ancestry and 23andMe has become mainstream. So, there’s a lot of good introductory explanations in online resources. But mtDNA testing is more niche, and some of the online material is at quite an advanced level.
If you want a readable introduction pitched at beginner level, I recommend Blaine Bettinger’s introductory textbook on genetic genealogy. This book covers all mainstream DNA testing, so it’s not dedicated to mitochondrial DNA. But there is a detailed and informative chapter about mtDNA testing.
More Articles About 23andMe DNA Tests
We have a companion article on the 23andMe Y-DNA test for male customers. It includes a link to a full shared paternal haplogroup report.
You can check out all our articles on 23andMe by browsing the category on our blog.
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