An interesting story in today's Press Herald about a Maine man whose relative died aboard the USS Monitor.

Andy Bryan was a child when he first heard the family tale of two ancestors who immigrated to the United States from Scotland, only to die as brothers fighting on opposite sides of the Civil War.


One of those siblings, Bryan's great-great-great-uncle William Bryan, was among the 16 sailors who perished when the Union's ironclad warship, the USS Monitor, sank on New Year's Eve 1862. However, the family connection only crystallized for Bryan several years ago, when the Navy asked for a DNA sample to compare against skeletal remains of two crew members recovered from the Monitor.

The DNA tests are as yet inconclusive. Andy Bryan should share his Y-chromosome with his great-great-great-uncle; the question is whether enough intact Y-DNA can be recovered from the remains to establish a match. These identifications generally involve mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down mother to child and degrades more slowly than Y-DNA. To test mtDNA, the researchers would have to find a relative who descends through his or her maternal line from William Bryan's mother—a more challenging task than tracing Bryan descendants.

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