The Dreaded “Middle East” Autosomal Result

One of our blog followers, Ron, asked this question:

“My late father and his brother were born and raised on Hatteras Island which was a very isolated community until relatively recent times. Curious about their genetic ancestry, I had my uncle do the Family Tree DNA Family Finder test. His results for the Family (Population) Finder were:

Europe (Western European) – Orcadian 91.37% ±2.82%

Middle East – Palestinian, Bedouin, Bedouin South, Druze, Jewish, Mozabite 8.63% ±2.82%

The 8.63% Middle East was surprising since most if not all of his ancestors, going back 4 or more generations, were born on the OBX (Outer Banks). Most of the original families on Hatteras Island trace their roots back to the British Isles and western Europe.

Since my mother’s parents were immigrants from eastern Europe, I thought it would be interesting to know what contributions my maternal grandparents added to my genetic ancestry, so I submitted my DNA samples for the same test.  The Population Finder test showed that I was Europe Orcadian 100.00% ±0.00%. I was shocked that some other population did not show in the results.

Can you help me understand how the representative populations are determined and why Middle East didn’t show in my sample?”

Yes, indeed, the dreaded “Middle Eastern” result.  I’ve seen this over and over again.  Let’s talk about what this is and why it might happen.  As it happens, the fact that Ray is from Hatteras Island provides us with a wonderful research opportunity, because it’s a population I’m quite familiar with.

Given that Dawn Taylor and I administer the Hatteras Families DNA Projects (Y-line, mtDNA and autosomal), I have a good handle on the genealogy of the Hatteras Island Families.  They are of particular interest because Hatteras Island is where Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colonists are rumored to have gone and amalgamated with the Hatteras Indians.  The Hatteras Indians in turn appear to have partly died off, and partly married into the European Island population.  Both the Lost Colony Project and the Hatteras DNA Projects at  http://www.familytreedna.com/public/HatterasFathers and http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~molcgdrg/hatteras/hifr-index.htm are ongoing and all Hatteras families are included.

As part of the Hatteras families endeavor, Dawn and I have assembled a data base of the Hatteras families with over 5000 early settlers and their descendants to about the year 1900 included.  What Ron says is accurate.  Most of the Hatteras Island families settled on the island quite early, beginning about 1710.  Nearly all of them came from Virginia, some directly and others after having settled on the NC mainland first for a generation or so in surrounding counties.  By 1750, almost all of the families found there in 1900 were present.  So indeed, this isolated island was settled by a group of people from the British Isles and a few of them intermarried with the local population of Hatteras Indians.

Once on the island, it was unusual to marry outside of the island population, so we have the situation known as endogamy, which is where an isolated population marries repeatedly within itself.  Other examples of this are the Amish and Jewish populations.  When this happens, the founding group of people’s DNA gets passed around in circles, so to speak, and no new DNA is introduced.

Typically what happens is that in each generation, 50% “new” DNA is introduced by the other parent.  When the new DNA is from someone nonrelated, it’s relatively easy to sort out using today’s DNA phasing tools.  But when the “new” DNA isn’t new at all, but comes from the same ancestral stock as the other parent, it has the effect of making relationships look “closer” in time.

Let’s look at an example.

You carry the following average percentages of DNA from these relatives:

  • Parents 50% from each parent
  • Grandparents 25%
  • Great-grandparents 12.5%
  • Great-great-grandparents 6.5%

As you can see, the percentage is divided in each generation.  However, if two of your great-grandparents are the same person, then you actually carry 25% of the DNA from that person, not 12.5.  When you’re looking at matches to other people in an endogamous community, nearly everyone looks more closely related than they are on paper due to the cumulative effect of shared ancestors.  In essence, genetically, they are much closer than they look to be on a genealogy pedigree chart.

Ok, back to the question at hand.  Where did the Middle Eastern come from?

Looking at the percentages above, you can see that if Ray’s Uncle was in fact 8% (plus or minus about 2%, so we’ll just call it 8%) Middle Eastern, his Middle Eastern relative would be either a great-grandparent or a great-great-grandparent.  Given that generational length is typically 25 to 30 years, assuming Ray’s birth in 1960 and his uncles in 1940, this means that this Middle Eastern person would have been living on Hatteras Island between 1835 and 1860 using 25 year generations and between 1810 and 1840 using 30 year generations.  Having worked with the original records extensively, I can assure you that there were no Middle Eastern people on Hatteras Island at that time.  Furthermore, there were no Middle Eastern people on Hatteras earlier in the 1800s or in the 1700s that are reflected in the records.  This includes all existent records, deed, marriages, court, tax, census, etc.

What we do find, however, are both Native Americans, slaves and free people of color who may be an admixture of either or both with Europeans.  In fact, we find an entire community adjacent to the Indian village that is admixed.

We published an article in the Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter that discusses this mixed community when we identified the families involved.  It’s titled, “Will the Real Scarborough, Basnett and Whidbee Please Stand Up” and details our findings.

These families were present on the island and were recorded as being “of color” before 1790, so the intermarriage occurred early in the history of the island.

Furthermore, these families continued to intermarry and they continued to live in the same community as before.  In fact, in May and June of 2012, we visited with a woman who still owns the Indian land sold by the Indians to her family members in 1788!  And yes, Ray’s surname is one of the surnames who intermarried with these families.  In fact, it was someone with his family surname who bought the land that included the Indian village in 1788 from a Hatteras Indian woman.

So what does this tell us?

Having worked with the autosomal results of people who are looking for small amounts of Native American ancestry, I often see this “Middle Eastern” admixture.  I’ve actually come to expect it.  I don’t believe it’s accurate.  I believe, for some reason, tri-racial admixture is being measured as “Middle Eastern.”  If you look at the non-Jewish Middle East, this actually makes some sense.  There is no other place in the world as highly admixed with a combination of African, European (Caucasian) and Asian.  I’m not surprised that early admixture in the US that includes white, African and Native American looks somewhat the same as Middle Eastern in terms of the population as a whole.  Regardless of why, this is what we are seeing on a regular basis.

New technology is on the horizon which will, hopefully, resolve some of this ambiguous minority admixture identification.  As new discoveries are made, as we discussed when we talked about “Ethnicity Finders” in the blog a few days ago, we learn more and will be able to more acutely refine these minority amounts of trace admixture.

If Ray’s ancestor in 1750 was a Hatteras Indian, and if there was no Lost Colonist European admixture already in the genetic mix, then using a 25 year generation, we would see the following percentages of ethnicity in subsequent generations, assuming marriage to a 100% Caucasian in each generation, as follows:

  • 1750 – 100% Indian
  • 1775 – next generation, married white settler – 50% Indian
  • 1800 – 25% Indian
  • 1825 – 13.5% Indian
  • 1850 – 6.25% Indian
  • 1875 – 3.12% Indian
  • 1900 – 1.56% Indian
  • 1925 – 0.78% Indian
  • 1950 – 0.39% Indian

Remember, however, about endogamy.  This group of people were neighbors and lived in a relatively isolated community.  They married each other.  Every time they married someone else who descended from someone who was a Hatteras Indian in 1750, their percentage of Native Heritage in the subsequent generation doubled as compared to what it would have been without double inheritance.  So if Ray’s Uncle is descended several times from Hatteras Indians due to intermarriage within that community, it’s certainly possible that he would carry 6-10% Native admixture.  There are also records that suggest possible African admixture early in the Native community.

So now to answer Ray’s last question about inheritance.

Ray wanted to know why he didn’t show any “Middle Eastern” admixture when his uncle did.

Remember that Ray’s Uncle has two “genetic transmission events” that differ from Ray’s line.  Ray’s Uncle, even though he had the same parents as Ray’s father, inherited differently from his parents.  Children inherit half of their DNA from each parents, but not necessarily the same half.  Maybe Ray’s father inherited little or none of the Native admixture.  In the next generation, Ray inherited half of his father’s DNA and half of his mother’s.  We have no way of knowing in which of these two transmission events Ray lost the Native admixture, or whether it’s there, but in such small pieces that the technology today can’t detect it.

Hopefully the new technology on the horizon will improve all aspects of autosomal admixture analysis and ethnicity detection.  But for today, if you see the dreaded “Middle East” result appear as one of your autosomal geographic locations and your family isn’t Jewish and has been in the states since colonial times, think to yourself ‘racial admixture’ and revisit this topic as the technology improves.  In other words, as far as I’m concerned, the jury is still out!

164 thoughts on “The Dreaded “Middle East” Autosomal Result

  1. I assume that the 7.29% middle eastern Palestinian, Adygei, Bedouin, Bedouin South, Druze, Iranian, Jewish, Mozabite portion is related to the “St Luke Motif” in my mtdna.

  2. Hi Roberta! Will the NEW Population Finder that FTDNA JUST sent an email about help us with the “Dreaded Middle Eastern” results?

    • I sure hope so. I have 10% in the Middle Eastern and a definite genetic tie to the Lumbee. But so far nothing has changed on population finder.

      • I’m hoping there’s some North American Native American this time.

        Sent from my Etch A Sketch

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      • Hopefully. My Grandmother and her father from that line have straight black hair, very dark eyes, with a noticeable lack of body hair. My grandma said she wore her black hair in braids when she was young and it was so heavy it gave her headaches. This in spite of the fact that her mother was first generation German with very light blonde hair and grey eyes.

      • My dad came in at 16 +|- 3 which is right in line with the family lore. Like I said earlier, hopefully they have some North American designations this time around rather than just South American. Also looking forward to seeing what else there is besides Orcadian. cheers.

        Sent from my Etch A Sketch

        >

      • I have some South American, and Mesoamerican when I use Gedmatch. But my Middle Eastern goes to 1/3 on Gedmatch.

  3. I came out 89.04 percent Orcadian and 10.96 Middle Eastern (Druze, Palestenian, Jewish, Mozabit). There are rumors that my (Maternal) Great Grandmother was some portion Native American. But, on paper I cannot find any leads to that. I have all the way back to my 5th Great-Grandmother on her family. They did cross Marry brothers and sisters in my family. In other words my Grandmother’s 1st Cousins were Double First Cousins. On Ancestry, they indicated I have less that 1 Percent Middle East with No Native American. Not sure why such a difference in the DNA results..

    • So have any dreaded Middle East results been updated to the ‘Bering Expansion’ with familytree’s myorigins implementation?

      Sent from my Etch A Sketch

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      • So what was 84 percent Orcadian and 16 percent middle east is now 62 percent European Coastal Plain, 22 percent European coastal islands (84 percent! – completely believable) and 9 percent North Circumpolar with 4 percent Trans Ural and 4 percent Eurasian Heartland. Never had a clue about the North Circumpolar , Trans Ural,or Eurasian Heartland, but the NC makes sense with settlement patterns in the mid-Atlantic when my German ancestors were there as well. The latter two are complete mysteries, but it’s 7 or 8 percent. 

        sent from my Etch A Sketch

  4. Now I’m really confused. Before I received my FF results, I was expecting a small amount of Native American ancestry. Instead, the results showed 8% Middle Eastern. Now with “Origins”, it reads, “100% European”. Roberta, can you please explain?

      • I began this search to try to confirm/deny the family lore that we have Native American ancestry.  With population finder, I got the baffling 16% middle eastern result.  Now, I’ve gotten the equally out of the blue North Circumpolar and Eurasian heartland.   Familytreedna states that North Circumpolar is linked to the New World through Siberia and extends as far as Greenland.  Not sure how that works – extending to Greenland while only being connected to Ancient Siberia –  but just wondering whether others who were looking for Native American ancestry find this interesting as well.  And then there’s the Eurasian heartland.  Comments there are welcome too.  Cheers!

          sent from my Etch A Sketch

      • Ronald do you have a dna match with Michael John Hankey? I have him as a match at
        3 116470961 124537709 8.43 2100

    • Hey folks there’s more to DNA than meets the eye. As the posted link below suggests, DNA can change based upon diet. Can DNA change based upon your desires? (well why not?)

      We’ve all heard the stories of small women in emergency situations, where a jacked up car had fallen on a man, the woman lifted the car off him by her little ole lonesome while some other poor soul drug the man out from under the car. (The Questions Becomes?)

      What happened to the little ladies DNA in a sudden blink of an eye? Would her DNA look like Goliath’s? What caused her to go from being a normal soccer mom, to super woman for a brief 10 to 15 seconds?

      Point being could our desires for comfort zone, who we belief we are because of (possible) erronius teachings of our forfathers, versus who we really are, effect our DNA signitures when we test?

      I know enough of my personal history, I can tell you how I’m going to test. But I also know I’m not going to be 100% accurate to my beliefs of my personally identity. And for myself, that’s an adventure I’d love to find out.

      Your Diet Affects Your Grandchildren’s DNA, Scientists Say

      Christopher Wanjek, LiveScience Bad Medicine Columnist
      July 27, 2012 08:47am ET

      http://www.livescience.com/21902-diet-epigenetics-grandchildren.html

      • We still eat mostly organic and or grown our own gardens. This has been for generations. One thing I have notice also is that I am much healthier living a high altitude. But almost all my bloodline go back to the mountains Currently living at 5,600 ft. elevation and have lived at high altitudes since 1978. This includes conceiving at 8,500 ft elevation. I wonder how this has affected mine and my descendants dna. Happy Mother’s Day.

    • this is precisely what i said, whithin the margin of error you’re european mainly that’s all…. i’m 80% middle east but with tthe new ftdna admix i’m now rather turkish than lebanese lol still middle east though.

  5. 50% of my bloodlines are Swiss/Bavarian but this does not show. My Scots (Ross, McCullough/Henry/Gaff/McGregor/Harvey does not show. I know nothing about Mediterranean or Turkish. The Norwegian matches my Norway/Netherlands/Hanover at 12.5%.paper trail back to the abt 1100 AD.

    • What were your results? My German is from further north and as such the Coastal Plain designation seems to be accurate. If yours is more Alpine, Mediterranean might make sense
      .

  6. I had either side. The Northern ended in the middle of Denmark and the Mediterranean ended south of the Alps. My German/Swiss is Bern, Hanover, Wurttemberg, Bavaria. So they went all around, but missed. I have a mtdna mutation that matches a Neanderthal from Belgium, and Otzi the Iceman. So i know the dna goes back a long time in the area that was not indicated.

      • European Northlands 60% North Mediterranean Basin 26% Trans-Ural Peneplain 7% and Anatolia & Caucasus 7%

  7. Well, I’m more confused than ever now that my “Origins” has been updated from my FF test. My original test showed 92% Orcadian and 8% Middle Eastern. The Origins has me as 100% European. Soooooooo……….what happened to the 8% Middle Eastern? So confusing. Roberta, can you explain the disparity?

      • Good, because most of my Middle Eastern is now centered in Turkey.

    • Deborah, both my husband and I were like you with percentages. After the myOrigins run, my husband dropped from 8.08 % to 2% Middle Eastern and I dropped from 7.29% to 5% ….. Now we were both aware of Semitic ancestry in our trees long before FTDNA testing …….So I have been doing some digging …seems that they are now using software that is “quicker” to use and requires less run time and is less sensitive to what they term “outliers”, which means that it will not pick up the smaller percentages in the same way the old software did . Yes, some of the “outliers” may be IBS vs IBD, meaning a “shadow” verses “descendent”, but I would rather prove/disprove those for myself than to risk losing a important clue …… :-(

      Here is the link to the whitepaper on the matter ……

      https://www.familytreedna.com/learn/family-finder-pages/myorigins-methodology/

      • I am definitely still showing Native American in Chromosome by Chromosome admixtures in Gedmatch.. This also includes Austronesian, Siberian, MesoAmerican, Brazilian, South Asian and East Asian, Even Tibetan. This is across the chromosomes. But not on MyOrigins

      • I am 100% European now, but the 9% Circumpolar/Finnish/Russian is the same thing I was getting when Ancestry.com first did their population finder. What it is is my 1 percent or so American Indian pulling my European that way. Most of the programs on Gedmatch.com have me coming out as .8 to 1.8 percent American Indian. When ancestry.com redid their population finder, my Northeast Europe went from 21 percent to 2 percent. What funny is, all of my ancestors except for a few Indians are from Northwest Europe. So I have no central or eastern European, but I do have, allegedly, this Finnish.

      • My Turkish and Mediterranean on MyOrigins are my mysteries. I do get various forms of NA, including from Brasil on Gedmatch plus much smaller amounts of Sub-Saharan African which I would expect since the Eastern tribes took in runaway African slaves. In fact this may be an indicator of the difference between American origins and European origins of the “NA” dna. Or possibly the Native people that were br

  8. Thank you all who replied and are having the same confusing results with MyOrigins as I am. I just received my Gedmatch results which are consistent (but more indepth) with my FF Populations results. MyOrigins results is a watered down version of my admixture. MyOrigins only shows the portions of my admixtures that make up 40% or more, MyOrigins came up with 100% European. That’s not very interesting nor what my family lore was expecting. :-)

    In a nutshell, Gedmatch shows my smaller percentages which are interesting and are consistent with my family lore – with one surprise. (approximate percentage):

    75% Atlantic/Baltic European
    10% Gedrosia (the ….stan region of the central asia)
    13% Southern India (this was a surprise!)
    2% American Indian (0.5% which is Arctic Indian)

    So, which do you find more interesting? I feel like FTDNA made a mistake changing to MyOrigins.

  9. Population  
    Southwest_Asian 9.56%
    Native_American 1.47%
    Northeast_Asian 0.37%
    Mediterranean 20.82%
    North_European 65.67%
    Southeast_Asian 0.74%
    Oceanian 0.36%
    South_African -    
    Sub-Saharan_African 1.01%

    I have genetic ties to the Lumbee. The North European is in my family tree. My family names are 3/4 Germanic. The other 25% has Scots surnames and some of them were living with Native Americans. I have had this confirmed by other cousins that I did know until I stared doing our genealogy. Also I spoke with the grandson of my great-grandfather’s 4th wife and he is registered Cherokee. I came across a study that was done in South America concerning 50,000 year skeletons. From the work that was done so far they appear to be Australasian. They intermarried with the other Native People in South America and may have predated the Bering Straight NA. Considering the time frame this might help to explain the mix that the South East Tribes are getting. My NA is a mix of Arctic and Brazil. One thing to take into consideration also is the gene pools of the Western Tribes. Not only is there pre American contact, there is Japanese and Russian. The Japanese have been rice farming in the Sacramento Delta before the Spanish arrived. The Russian fur traders heavily inter married with the west coast NA populations for unknown periods of time. They settled as far south as Fort Ross, California and traded with the Spanish at the San Francisco Presidio.

  10. Coming back fro shopping this morning I noticed the name on one of the historic homes in a very Mormon town in Arizona. Freeman was the last name. Since they keep very good genealogical records I looked him up on Ancestry.com And yes he does come from the Virginia/North Carolina Area. Previously I had spoken to some my students and they have ancestry from Oklahoma and Tennessee. One of the young men told me that they have Cherokee ancestry. So I looked at a few more lines and I find many of the same names listed as found in North Carolina. I know this group also has many extended family members in Utah and consider themselves to be English. One of the testing pools is Utah. It shows up in my breakdown.

  11. Hi Roberta..my FTDNA Middle Eastern has been isolated to Anatolia. I don’t know what that means. I have wondered if my ancestors were Cherokee since some scientists have asserted that the Cherokees of NC and GA show Middle Eastern ancestry (ref: http://www.examiner.com/article/dna-scientists-claim-that-cherokees-are-from-the-middle-east). My grandmother’s mother family, the Ellises (who were supposed to be Native American), came from GA and prior to that NC. In fact, her grandfather was called “Indian Jim”. 23andme analysis states that my sister with Middle Eastern DNA; however, it originally stated that I had Southern European but, was later revised to “Broadly European.” Could we really be of Sephardi Jewish ancestry since many of the Sephardi came from modern-day Turkey? Your thoughts?

      • Very interesting. I believe the Ellis family came from the Robeson County area of NC. Perhaps Lumbee? What do you make of the Anatolia isolation?

      • That’s where the population samples in their data base were from perhaps. I would suggest that you download your results to Gedmatch and utilize their Admixture tools there as well.

    • Any thoughts about the Finnish/north circumpolar and Native American given what family tree Dna says is a link via Siberia? And anybody else surprised with out of the blue central Asian results?

      Sent from my Etch A Sketch

      >

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