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May 25, 2011

Family Finder Test Results in for my Brother's DNA!

On April 15 I ordered an upgrade from Family Tree DNA called Family Finder for my brother's original Y-DNA test.  It wasn't clear to me exactly what I would learn from this test but I thought it sounded like fun and would probably provide us with new information on our family origins.

On May 18th I received an email saying my Family Finder Results were in. I was really excited and rushed to the website to read what they'd found. Confession time - I found it very confusing! But reading through their help with Family Finder Results page was very helpful. 

There I found answers to 61 questions about Family Finder including the very obvious questions

 What can it show me? What do my results mean?

 A brief but helpful explanation of Family Finder Testing was given

"The Family Finder test traces all of your ancestral lines. It uses your autosomal DNA to identify confidently relationships for five generations."

My understanding is that the test looks for identical blocks (segments) of DNA in other people in the database.  If you share identical segments with someone else, the odds are good that somewhere you have a common ancestor. So the test results include the names of those in the database who share identical segments - and your suggested relationship to them is calculated and given.

Unlike Y-DNA or MtDNA, the autsomal DNA testing will detect matches regardless of gender. Y-DNA  only tests males while MtDNA only tests females.  

As soon as I logged in to my brother's account, I saw the following choices under Family Finder
  • Matches
  • Chromosome Browser
  • Known Relationships
  • Population Finder
  • Download Raw Data

Checking my brother's results under MATCHES I found several people listed as 4th and 5th cousins, but no closer relationship. There were options to filter the results for those with a common surname, those who had close relationships and other choices.

What confused me (and still confuses me!) is that when I filtered on common surnames, I got a list of names and beside each, their list of ancestral surnames and the common surnames in bold. But the confusion is that NONE of the bolded surnames are in fact surnames that I submitted as surnames in my brother's list of ancestral surnames. In fact we do not have these names in our lineage on either my mom or my dad's side. Only two of those listed did in fact have a common surname - Downey in Ireland and Burkholder.

Beside each name is a link to contact the person via email and I'm going to contact the two who do have a common surname, so I'll be very interested in what information they might have that might help us figure out our common ancestor. 


Leaving MATCHES, I clicked on POPULATION FINDER and that got really interesting! The explanation given on the new page that loaded stated

The Population Finder program determines your biogeographical ancestry — the story of your personal genetic history — by comparing your autosomal DNA to that of our world DNA population database

The percentage of your genome that matches up to 4 of the 7 continental groups is shown.  The continental groups are based on genetic similarities and not exact geographic boundaries. I was stunned to read my brother's results: 94.33% Basque, Orcadian, Spanish and the remaining 5.67% was Sardinian


What the heck? We know my father's lineage back to the 1600s and it is predominantly Irish, German, and Dutch with a scattering of English, French and Norwegian. Mom's lineage is English back to the 1600s and we don't know of any other ancestry in her lines.

But I believe genetics and DNA are solid indicators of origins, so this news is really exciting and interesting. I knew from my brother's original Y-DNA test that he has a mutation that is apparently rare and can be traced back to the Basque region and a small group of Basque who were up in Northern England and Southern Scotland during the time Hadrian's Wall was built. Of course my genealogy research does not go back that far in time so it's not unexpected that what I know of our lineage from genealogy research does not tie in with what genetics shows us.

How I wish I could trace our ancestry back to those origins and have names of our ancestors who were from those regions! After reading the Population Finder results, I rushed off to research Basque, Orcadian and Sardinian.


I learned that Orcadians, who reside primarily in Orkney, which is just off the coast of Scotland, are the descendants of Iron Age Picts, Norwegian Vikings and Scots. Okay now I'm off to look up Picts. According to Wikipedia, The Picts were a group of Late Iron Age and Early Mediaeval people living in what is now eastern and northern Scotland.


I'm starting to get a very cool picture of our early genetic ancestral movements.  Next I checked Basque and learned that the Basque primarily inhabit an area  known as the Basque Country. This is a region located around the western end of the Pyrenees on the coast of the Bay of Biscay and straddling parts of north-central Spain and south-western France.


My last one to look up was Sardinian. My search found that Sardinians originated on the island of Sardiania (considered part of Italy) and that during the Neolithic (or New Stone Age) period, people from Italy, Spain and the Aegean area settled in Sardinia. While we can't know exact dates for our ancestry in these areas, we have to remember that this is genetic DNA we're looking at  - our early biogeographical ancestry.


I can hardly wait to do more research on this new find, and to finish looking at the rest of the Family Finder Results from Family Tree DNA

I'm really not sure at this point what else I can learn from the test results but I am going to have a lot of fun doing in-depth research on the countries, the people, the history and the culture of the groups given as my brother's genetic origins. I'm also eager to exchange emails with the 4th cousins that are listed as matches for his DNA.


Geniaus said...

Fascinating stuff. I can't wait to read the next chapter in this story

Kristin said...

Even if it's not directly relevant to your research, it sounds extremely interesting.

Joan Miller (Luxegen) said...

Such fun! I created a DNA SIG at our gen society and had a great time giving the first presentation this week. Lots of good questions and more topics to explore. It is a good way to keep my hand in the science now that I'm retired. My brother's YDNA matched with a fellow with the exact same name as him, right down to the middle name.

Looking forward to hearing more of your DNA stories!