Friday, June 29, 2012

Genetic genealogy journey - FamilyTreeDNA Family Finder - Part 2

On Thursday 21 June I posted Genetic genealogy journey - FamilyTreeDNA Family Finder - Part 1, a very short and almost wordless blog post showing a screenshot of my fascinating and unexpected Population Finder results from my recent FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA) Family Finder test. Population Finder is a standard feature of FTDNA's Family Finder Autosomal DNA test which provides 'biogeographical analysis' of autosomal DNA.
Could the Fullerton's have a Spanish ancestor?

As far as I know from paper trail research, all my ancestors within the last 200 years (and further back on some branches of my family tree) came from Ireland, England and Wales. However, as I have mentioned previously on this blog, there is a family story of Spanish ancestry that exists within my Fullerton family who originated in County Kildare, Ireland.
As my screenshot showed in 
Part 1 FTDNA's Population Finder currently describes me as 92.19% Europe (Western European) matching the Orcadian population (+/- 2.69% Margin of Error), and 7.81% Middle East matching the Palestinian, Adygei, Bedouin South, Druze, Iranian and Jewish populations (+/- 2.69% Margin of Error). 

What might these results mean? To begin my search for answers I have turned first to the FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA) Population Finder FAQs. The following are links to the FAQs most relevant to my situation, and my responses after reading FTDNA's answers. You can see all the FAQs here: FamilyTreeDNA - Understanding Results - Population Finder. Please remember that I am very much a newbie to all this and if you can help me in any way to understand the terminology and the possibilities and limitations of this technology, any helpful hints or advice would be most appreciated. Thanks.

What reference populations were used? This FAQ lists all the populations from approved scientific studies that were used to compose FTDNA's DNA Population Database, ie. a list of all the populations that I could have matched within the seven continental groups. Of the listed population groups I matched 92.19% with the Orcadian (Orkney Isles) representative population within the European Continental group and the Western European subcontinental group, and I matched 7.81% with the Palestinian, Adygei, Bedouin South, Druze, Iranian and Jewish representative populations within the Middle East continental group. Other populations I could have matched within the Western European subcontinental group include Basque, French and Spanish. Other Middle East populations I could have matched include Mozabite (North Africa).

My questions are now as follows:

  • If I do have a Spanish ancestor, why did I not match in some way with the Spanish representative population in the Western European subcontinental group? Is it perhaps that the speculative Spanish component of my autosomal DNA was indistinguishable from my British Isles component?
  • Could I have inherited the the Middle East component of my autosomal DNA from my speculative Spanish ancestor? 
How does Population Finder determine the percentages of different ancestries? This FAQ answer describes the process used to determine the percentages of different ancestries assigned in Population Finder. How many generations in the past do Population Finder results reflect? This FAQ answer states that "Population Finder results are your personal genetic ancestry that reflects the last 100 to 2,000 years (about 4 to 80 generations). They may also reflect one population that mixed with another in ancient times and became fixed in the second population". This probably indicates that my 7.81% Middle East autosomal DNA component is based not on an ancestor in the 'recent' past but on more distant ancestors who were part of a population composed of people with mixed ancestry e.g. Britian, Ireland, Spain etc. So I can repeat my question from above - Could I have inherited the the Middle East component of my autosomal DNA from my speculative Spanish ancestor?

The following FTDNA FAQs also cover the issue of admixture in populations:

In the comments on my last genetic genealogy post (FamilyTreeDNA Family Finder - Part 1) Heather from The Geneabrarian Reference Desk blog stated: "Wait there is more! Have you downloaded your raw data yet?...Then upload your zipped raw data file to Gedmatch ( and let the admixture tests begin. You will find amazing things." Thank you Heather. I have now downloaded the raw data from FTDNA and I have been exploring the admixture tests at Gedmatch. You can find out more about admixture tests at the ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy) Wiki: Admixture Tests - ISOGG Wiki.

Shelley from the Twigs of Yore blog also made a comment on my last post. Shelley has written many useful and interesting posts on genetic genealogy at Twigs of Yore. I mentioned in my reply to Shelley that I had taken the opportunity a few weeks ago, with a special offer from FTDNA, to purchase a Family Finder test for my Dad as well and that I was waiting "patiently until the end of July for the results". Well, wait no longer, I received my Dad's results yesterday.
Dad matches the same populations as me: 88.68% Europe (Western Europe) Orcadian (+/- 3.52% Margin of Error ) and 11.32% Middle East (Palestinian, Adygei, Bedouin, Bedouin South, Druze, Iranian and Jewish) (+/- 3.52% Margin of Error). This appears to show that much of my non-British Isles ancestry comes from my Dad's side of the family (but that does not mean that Mum has no Middle East ancestry). Very interesting! The Fullertons are on my Dad's side of the family tree.

In my next blog post I will look further at my Family Finder Matches, but until then I will be reading FamilyTreeDNA - Understanding Results - Family Finder

Further interesting genetic genealogy reading:

Creative Commons License Australian Genealogy Journeys by Aillin O'Brien is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License.Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at


  1. Hi!
    I also recently wrote a blog post reviewing AncestryDNA's admixture tools and the large amount of Scandinavian ancestry that many are showing in their results:

    1. Thanks CeCe, I really enjoy reading the Your Genetic Genealogist blog.


Your comments are appreciated. Thanks.

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