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 and 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!



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226 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.

    • hello im hamid from algerie ghardaia im mozabit amazigh pls i want more informations about my mozabit trubi exactly genitic resultes or give me your face
      im waiting for your helping……thnk you… im soory for my English if it s bad
      thank you agean

    • Thanks for this article. My 5th great grandfather was Anthony Sweet b. 1719. He claimed he was shipwrecked off Hatteras and was from England. He may have been the great grandson of Robert Sweat and Margaret Cornish. According to 23AndMe, I have small amounts of Middle East dna and trace amounts of Senegambian DNA. The only info passed down through other Anthony Sweet descendants is that he spoke fluent Spanish, loved Reading Shakespeare, was a ferryman at Dog Bluff, SC., and he claimed to have survived a shipwreck off Hatteras and married a wealthy widow soon after. Are there any known Hatteras Indian descendants that have Gedmatch kits that I can compare mine to?

  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.

          • 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.

          • So what was your middle eastern percentage?

            Sent from my Etch A Sketch


          • 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


        • 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

      • 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.

    • So you have no European Coastal Plain? What were your results?

      Sent from my Etch A Sketch


      • 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?

    • 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 ……

      • 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 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 have me coming out as .8 to 1.8 percent American Indian. When 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 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 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: 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


      • I have the Middle Eastern with Cherokee oral history and a lot of Circumpolar when I tried the K17 admixture. I have been able to determine my Ross line was R1a1-M17. They were from Georgia, North Carolina, and Kentucky. Possibly from Farrar Island off the coast of Georgia.

  12. You might want to check out Sephardic Jewish ancestry as a possible source of Middle Eastern DNA. Many Anglicized their names in late 1600s when immigrating to North America. Source would have been the Portuguese alliance with Britain. Charles II received the city of Tangier ( then a Portuguese Colony, now part of Morocco ) as Dowry when he married a Portuguese Princess in the 1680s. The civilian populated was evacuated and it appears many ended in London and North America ( Charleston, South Carolina ).

  13. Hi, Roberta–Both my mom (deceased) and dad supposedly have Native American ancestry. I tested my dad and his ethnicity was “100% European”. I tested the lone surviving [full] sibling of his mother and hers was “3% Middle Eastern”. Likewise, I tested the sole surviving [full] sibling of my mother’s father (the purported NA line) and she was also “3% Middle Eastern”. I just received my own results today and I am “100% European”. From reading your blog, this “ME” may represent NA since I have found no evidence of any lines in my family coming from the ME, and most definitely not within the last 4 or 5 generations from the great aunts. But the larger question I have: in your example, you show the DNA is halved each generation (is none lost with recombination?), so, if the great aunts each have 3% of this mystery DNA–NA or whatever it is–then each of my parents should have 1.5% and I should have 0.75% X 2 =1.5%, shouldn’t I? Is that too small an amount to be “picked up” in the ethnicity report? Mt DNA is still cooking on the maternal great aunt. Paternal mtDNA was non-NA-associated haplotype (H1e1a).

    • DNA is not exactly halved in each generation. You get half of your parents, but they don’t necessarily give you have of each of their parent’s DNA. So, that half number is a statistical estimate.

    • Hi Allison
      Let me start by stating I am by no means an expert on DNA or even autosomal testing. But I had a similar autosomal results with me being the 3% ME. As with you, this was very confusing as I was expecting some Native American (family stories and physical features in my grandparents). So, I uploaded my autosomal results to GEDMATCH. You should try that and see what shows up there! My results were very detailed – even showing Native American ancestry from both the Alaska/Bering Straight area and South America. I hope that helps.


  14. I have the opposite problem: “Middle Eastern” did NOT show up in the proportion I would’ve expected, and I’m wondering what gives? My paternal grandfather was from Palestine, and both of his parents were Palestinian. That would make my father 1/2 Palestinian, me 1/4, and my children 1/8 (or 12.5%). But when one of my kids did the DNA test through 23andMe, it showed only 0.1% “Middle Easten & North African.” Why do you think that was? I’ve read that this particular group is hard to pin down, for one reason or another.

    • surprising but it seems your dna doesnt quite match the reference population of middle east, have you done other dna tests? all of mine give 80% middle east. you would be 1/4 palestinian . don’t forget as well that your grand parents could have come from elsewhere , nationality and ethnicity are different but it’s surprising though, i would advise to test with 23 and me and national genographic as well. btw there can be some errors .

      • Thanks, Boutros (or should I say, “Shukran”?), but this test WAS with 23andMe. And I can’t see doing MORE of these tests — at 100 bucks or so a pop!

        Any other suggestions, anyone?

        • I too would use Gedmatch as it is free and pretty accurate i would say.Might be good to voice your concerns with 23 and me.perhaps they could relook if not retest?

  15. Have you loaded your results to Once loaded, you can select different admixture “sorting” with more specific results than the testing labs. Perhaps something more definitive will show up for you that way.

    • Thanks, Deborah. I did take it up with 23andMe, but they can’t do much since I’m not the one who took the test. Nor are the results mine to load to Gedmatch, unfortunately.

  16. At 23andme, I got mostly European, with 13% Sub Saharan African & 1 % NA and 0 ME. But on GedMatch, I did many tests and on average usually come up with around 6-8 % ME or SW Asian, with the Euro still high and the African around the same amount. I don’t know of any ancestors who were ME. As far as I know, my grandmother on my mom’s side was Lithuanian-Polish and my mom’s father was black but adopted, so the paper trail ends there. It also end w/my grandmother, as my mom said she changed her name upon arriving in the US.

  17. At 23andme, I got mostly European, with 13% Sub Saharan African & 1 % NA and 0 ME. But on GedMatch, I did many tests and on average usually come up with around 6-8 % ME or SW Asian, with the Euro still high and the African around the same amount. I don’t know of any ancestors who were ME. As far as I know, my grandmother on my mom’s side was Lithuanian-Polish and my mom’s father was black but adopted, so the paper trail ends there. It also end w/my grandmother, as my mom said she changed her name upon arriving in the US. But both my parents are dead now.

  18. I am from North Carolina, and have a strong oral tradition of both Jewish & Native American ancestry on my maternal side; however, I’ve never been able to verify either. I have found that I do have a small amount of African ancestry coming from colonial tidewater Virginia. Some of my ancestors lived on Drowning Creek in Robeson County and I have cousins who identify as Lumbee.

    On 23andMe, my results show me as 99.9% European and .1% Subsaharan African (further broken down as less than .1% West African and less than .1% East African). No Jewish or American Indian. With FTDNA myOrigins I show 92% European and 7% Middle Eastern (further broken down to 6% Asia Minor and 1% North African). 1% is missing and when I inquired was told that appeared to be various amounts of African totaling less than 1%. (I really wish they would include those amounts less than 1% because it could be helpful). On GEDmatch I show higher amounts of Subsaharan African (generally between 1.25-1.95%), but still no Native American. I only show Jewish on the Dodecad feature.

    I’m very curious about this Middle Eastern/North African result with FTDNA. Could it really be Jewish? Or could it be connected to the African? My male cousins descended from the mixed-race family from colonial tidewater Virginia have all tested with the y-haplogroup E1b1a8a, which is definitely Subsaharan African in origin. I know this y-haplogroup is strongly associated with Cameroon and surrounding areas, but is it found further West? I ask because I’m wondering if this strong Middle Eastern result could reflect descend from people from an area such as Senegambia or even Mali?

  19. Correct me if I’m wrong but your saying NA DNA can appear as middle eastern if and only if the individual also have African ancestry as well? I have been reading on this as it seams plenty of people expecting NA ancestry have been shocked to see middle eastern show up.

  20. The earliest sugar plantations using west African slaves were on the Portuguese islands along the west coast of Africa. A mixed “Atlantic Creole” population was created on those islands many of whom bought their freedom over time and emigrated to the Americas especially to the *Spanish* parts where there was less direct slave trading and more need for labor.

    So imo “Atlantic Creole” ancestry is showing up as middle eastern particularly in regions which have a Spanish connection.

  21. My dna results are interesting! I am 79% West African (Black), 0.4 Native American, and 16.6 1/6 th percent European (White). BNW(Melungeon), and Malagasy(3 Percent East African 1 Percent South East Asian) (Indonesian Dayak Asian) !

      • Black, Native, and White. I tested with FT DNA so did my mom. She got Middle eastern on the old population finder. Her ancestry in Black White and Native. She has 2.3% Native American. I got the middle Eastern result from my BGA Dr. McDonald results. I was told that Arcadian or Irish can give off Middle East. My mom and I have a Irish ancestor that was born in 1760.

  22. I just got my atDNA results from FTDNA with 4% Middle Eastern. Highly unlikely as I know most of my English-Irish-Scots background back to GGG grandparents mid 18th Century. But one GG grandparent may have been part Mohawk in NY state. I will upload my raw data to Gedmatch and see if maybe my 4% ME is in fact a white-black-native American instead. Thanks for all the info on this blog!

  23. What you might be missing is that the Phoenicians, a hardy maritime culture that ruled and colonized much of the mediterranean in antiquity, were such good sailors (Their ships made of the famous cedar of Lebanon) that they visited the British Isles and many areas of Northern Europe where they traded, most famously in tin with the Irish, (a more likely explanation for some of the black haired Irish than the armada) and other products elsewhere. This culture was originally from Lebanon in the Levant, and the traces of its genetic presence is everywhere in the mediterranean, northern Africa and Europe. If you come from a coastal area, that is near a cove, or a bay where ships could dock safely, you are likely partially a decendent of someone from this great culture that rivaled the Romans and Greeks, and that could explain the “middle eastern” DNA signature. They invented the modern alphabet and advanced concepts of democracy which they taught to the Greeks, from where it propagated to Europe. Many great cities in Europe including Lisbon, Cadiz, Malaga, Gibraltar and others were established by them. Hannibal was a descendent of one of its colonies. Their ships were the envy of various cultures of the ancient world as evidenced in the bible’s mention of the ships of Tarshish. According to the geneticist Pierre Zalloua, their DNA signature is mostly J2.

    • Thanks for the share Graham …I had been wondering about this very possibility for spreading Semetic DNA ….. This as been a rather overlooked group ….

      • Thanks Roberta. You can understand how it can sound like it is an undesirable thing to be of middle eastern decent? Maybe a term like “ambiguous” or “inaccurate” would be more accurate. But I appreciate your explanation, thank you!


          • I don’t want this to be awkward for anyone. When I wrote this article, I was referencing the reaction that occurs when people are expecting to see small amounts of Native or African DNA, or both. Instead they have a small amount of Middle Eastern, of about the same percentage. I have yet to see this actually be trackable to Middle Eastern ancestry – and I see this result often in people of mixed ethicity. I wasn’t implying anything about BEING Middle Eastern, only about receiving this ethnicity when expecting something else what is likely more accurate.

      • “Thank you Roberta. I was sure you weren’t looking at it from that angle 😀

        I am actually interested in another angle if you don’t mind me asking you.

        I keep hearing people doing those online dna tests like and…I really want to try one and then follow up with a sibling who also does it (my own small case study for accuracy 🙂

        I am Palestinian American…both my parents are Palestinian from the holy land and I am very curious to know if any Palestinians have done that kind of ancestry dna testing an what the results were. I know many Jews have done dna testing and the ironic (and hopeful for a peacful future between the two peoples) results showed that Jews and Arabs share a lot of dna (according to the Torah, Bible, and Koran, both peoples are descendants of the Prophet Abraham).

        Any thoughts?

        Thank you Roberta!

        • Family Tree DNA is very focused on Jewish ancestry. Both owners have a special interest in the topic. I would expect their results to be as accurate as any and likely more accurate than most. I don’t know specifically of Palestinians. I expect that genetically they would be very similar to anyone else from that region.

      • NO DAVID (using your tone) I wasn’t addressing you. Congratulations on being of middle eastern dissent. And you felt like you had to post your over reaction in two different places including an unrelated thread. Go troll elsewhere.

      • Well, my wife ‘s grandfather was from Palestine and she shows up as 26% Middle eastern, and all the DNA studies of her were right on with regard to ethnicity estimates. New revelations were, in fact, confirmed(like her Greek ancestry). She is also native American, Iberian, and a few percentage points African. I, an Ashkenazim Jew, turned up 91 European Jewish and not a trace of ME, as with my Ashkenazim friends. A little non Jewish Italian as I expected. Where is the Middle eastern in the European Jew? I always thought we were 50/50!

        • I started looking for ydna and mtdna testing of my ancestors and found the Schrock, Mennonite/Amish had a J ydna which tracked right back to the Middle East even though they have been in Switzerland since at least 1500.

  24. Pingback: DNAeXplain Archives – Introductory DNA | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  25. I am 50% British Isles, 30% Scandinavian (who knew?), 20% Central European, and 4% Asia Minor. The Asia Minor map shows over what is today Turkey. I know, the %’s don’t work out, but I didn’t make up these numbers. Actually, I was thrilled to find the Middle Eastern (Asia Minor) because I thought it made me more interesting. However, I have no idea what the 4% means. Can this be figured out mathematically? I have a lot of first cousins who married each other, which I guess would through off the results.

    I am fair (sunburn easily and some make -up companies no linger have make-up fair enough for me), blue eyed and did have dark brown-reddish hair. My maternal grandmother and the photos and paintings of her family are dark-haired, brown-eyed and skin that today would tan nicely. All other people I have photos or paintings of seem to be fair.

    So, exactly what does that 4% mean?


  26. On my ancestry dna I got 1% native, 1% Asia east, 1% North African, and 2 or 3% Finland/Russia. Do you think these are all related? We do have native in our family so it is weird that it didn’t show up higher. On gedmatch it does get higher.

    • Very interesting. We were surprised by our result of 9% Finnish/Siberian. The analysis was run to confirm or deny rumors of Native American ancestry. As our German ancestors immigrated through Philadelphia which is right next to Delaware with its Swedish and Finnish settlement, this seemed plausible. But your ‘bridge’ from Finland to the New World is fascinating. When will familytree recalibrate?

    • Regardless of the database used, I have consistently gotten Middle-Eastern percentages all the way from 5-8%. Paper and oral history supported that fact on one side of the house (Sephardic Spanish-Italian). It was also suspected on another. Continued research has uncovered at least 3 separate lines of actual ME heritage. While some ethnicity decoders have also reported Native American, as I worked through various DNA matches I began to doubt that assignment, and what I have recently been seeing is Finnish lineage not only in some of the updated ethnicity predictors but likewise in numerous matches at a distance that also lines up with the predicted percentages ……. For myself and several family members this has been consistent and FITS with the oral history of SWEDISH & NORWEGIAN & evidenced by numerous Americanized Nordic surnames on paper …. It appears that the NA picked up by some of ethnicity programs in our family group is because of a small percentage of the Finnish & their native Saami on one part and our Spanish-Italian Jewish heritage, which is also found in some Native American Groups, on the other part ……. In summary, when one is dealing with ODD reporting, one has to realize the markers are not in error, only the assignments …..As more people test and compare, the more accurate the ethnicity predictions will become , and ultimately “our” story as individuals and humans will also be more accurate ….. What an exciting process to be a part of!!!

  27. I found this site while asking Google a question. I have done the ancestry DNA TEST. My DNA says I’m 14% middle eastern, 7% Iberia peninsula, 1% African, 7% Italian/Greece which is a surprise. My mother’s parents both born in America, my mom’s mother side is mostly German and Irish and have been traced back to 1700’s the in America. . Her fathers parents both immigrated here from Italy and both had Italian last names. From everyone’s understanding, both my great granparents on my mom’s dad’s side were Italian. Now on my dad’s side, there is mostly French, German and English. I asked my mom and my dad both where middle east came in and neither of them knew. I’m assuming on my mother’s father’s side they came from San Giovanni in fiore Italy. But since both were Italian, how far back would it be for me to be almost a quarter, middle east shows strong but Italian only at 14%. That’s like a quarter. What would that mean, both great grandparents were middle eastern or their (my mom’s grandparent) great grandparents were full middle eastern? I’m just having a hard time with 14% middle eastern and only 7% Italian when both were said to be Italian, born and raised and had Italian last names. Also my mom’s great grandmother on her mom’s side (my 3rd great grandmothe) was supposed Native American, it’s on her headstone, it says ” BLACKFOOT INDIAN” and she is buried in the family cemetery (only blood related buried there) ITS THE CORRECT PERSON BECAUSE I CHECKED AND RECHECKED HER DOB AND DOD AND HER CHILDREN AND HUSBAND, NOW MY DNA SAYS 0%.NATIVE, HOW CAN I HAVE 0% NATIVE BUT I HAVE PROOF MY GGG GRANDMOTHER WAS NATIVE, THEN HAVE 14% MIDDLE EAST AND NO ONE KNOWS WHERE IT CAME FROM. THANK YOU PLEASE RESPOND.

  28. Hi Roberta, I just received my 23andMe report. It indicates that I am 79.7% Sub-Saharan African, 18.0% European, 1.7% East Asian & Native American, 0.2% Middle Eastern & North African , 0.5% Unassigned. I very curious about my Middle Eastern & North African ancestors. Is there a way to find out the exact location or tribe from the Middle East? And how many generations back would this be? Is it possible to trace this descendent and relatives with the same markers?

  29. Thank you for the interesting article, Roberta. My mom shows 3% Middle East and I show 5% Middle East. My dad is 100% European. My maternal line does have documented Native American (paper trail and DNA). My mtDNA haplogroup is C1b. What has really puzzled me is why I show 7% Jewish Diaspora (Ashkenazi). Neither of my parents show any Jewish.

  30. Couldn’t Black ancestry have “Middle Eastern” ancestry since Arab/Semitic people intermarried with Black Africans…who were brought to the colonies as slaves…who were then intermixed with white colonials and Whites later in history. It is not just Arab Jews who are Semites.

  31. When I tool the MDLP World9 Admixture, 0.99& North Amerind, 3.69% Near East, 0.51% Indo-Iranian, 0.84% Samoedic (Samoyedic). And of course mostly European. Can anyone tell me what my results mean?

  32. This is interesting. I have results from 23andme and Ancestry. The results are practically identical except 23andme gives me 2% Native American and 0% Middle Eastern. While Ancestry gives me 2% Middle Eastern and 0% Native. I am very certain that I have native ancestry and I would have actually assumed more than 2%. However, I have no idea how I could possibly have any middle eastern ancestry.

  33. Now I understand why I have the results that I have. My Grandmama was have Indian and her mothers picture looked Indian but she also looks like her hair can from a slave. I don’t know anything about her but now I have a feeling that she was part of the Hatteras clan. I was really upset when I got my results but understand it better now.Thanks for posting this.

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