Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA

Every day, I receive e-mails very similar to this one.

“My family has always said that we were part Native American.  I want to prove this so that I can receive help with money for college.”

The reasons vary, and not everyone wants to prove their heritage in order to qualify for some type of assistance.  Some want to find their tribe and join to reclaim their lost heritage.  Some want to honor their persecuted and hidden ancestors, undoing some of the wickedness of the past, and some simply seek the truth.  Regardless of why, they are all searching for information lost to them.

I’d like to talk about three topics in proving Native Ancestry.  First, I’d like to do some myth-busting.  Second, I’d like to talk a little about conventional research and third, I’d like to discuss what DNA can, and can’t, do for you.

As you read this blog, please click on the links.  I’m not going to repeat something I’ve already covered elsewhere.


Myth 1 – Free College

There is no free college for Native Americans.  There are sometimes scholarships and grants available, mostly by the individual tribes themselves, for their official members.

Myth 2 – Joining a Tribe

Many people think that if they can only figure out which tribe their ancestor descends from, they can join.  This is untrue.  Each tribe is a sovereign nation, and they get to determine their criteria for membership.  Most tribes require a specific percentage of Native “blood,” called blood quantum, in addition to being able to document which tribal member you descend from.  Some tribes require as much as 25% Native heritage, and most require at least 1/16th Native heritage, which is one great-great grandparent.  If you don’t know who in your family was a tribal member it’s unlikely that you would be able to meet the blood quantum requirement.

Myth 3 – DNA Testing Will Reveal my Tribe

Generally, DNA testing does not provide us with the information needed to determine a tribe, although it can clearly tell, using y-line or mitochondrial DNA testing, whether your direct paternal or maternal line was or was not Native.  Sometimes you will be able to infer a tribe based on your matches and their documented history, but the definition of tribes, their names and locations have changed over time.  We are working on improving this ability, but the science simply isn’t there yet and the number of Native people who have tested remains small.

Simply put, most federally recognized tribes aren’t interested in more tribal members.  More members mean a smaller piece of the pie for existing members.  The pot of resources, whatever resources you’re discussing, is only so large and it must be shared by all tribal members.

What is a Tribe?

Tribes in the US fall into two categories.  When most people think about tribes they are talking about federally recognized tribes.  Those are tribes that have some continuity with the past, such as they have always been a tribe, or they still retain tribal lands, etc., and the federal government recognizes them as such.  These are the tribes that qualify for government programs and many own casinos.  As you might imagine, with the influx of casino money, the desire to join a tribe has increased significantly.

The second category is non-federally recognized tribes.  Some are state recognized and others, not at all.  State recognition does not in any way guarantee federal or state funding and there are no universal standards for state recognition.  In other words, your mileage may vary, widely.  Non-federally recognized tribes are often run as non-profit entities.  In many cases, these tribes will help people research and document their genealogy and may be more open to tribal membership for those connecting with their Native heritage.

Be aware that some “tribes” that fall into the non-federally funded category may be less than ethical.  Some tend to come and go.  In one case, to apply to join, one had to provide information such as social security numbers and a complete family pedigree including your children. In some cases, membership is very expensive, hundreds of dollars, but is available to almost anyone for the right price.  When evaluating tribes that are not federally recognized, if something sounds fishy, it probably is.  Caution is the watchword.

In general, the federally recognized tribes do not feel kindly towards the non-federally recognized tribes and view them as “fake,” interlopers trying to get part of that pie.  Of course, the non-federally recognized tribes feel differently; that they are reclaiming their heritage denied them.  Native American politics is nothing new and is fraught with landmines.

No federally recognized tribes, to the best of my knowledge, have considered DNA testing as a criteria for membership.  No federally recognized tribe has endorsed or participated in DNA testing that I’m aware of.  This does not mean that individuals have not privately tested.

Traditional Genealogy Research

Given the criteria for membership in federally recognized tribes, traditional genealogy is the only way to obtain the type of information required.  If your family history includes a tribal name, and east of the Mississippi, that most often is Cherokee, contact the various Cherokee tribes to inquire about membership criteria.  If the membership criteria is 25% blood quantum, and you must live on the reservation, you’re toast… need to continue that line of research if your goal is to join the tribe.

If your goal is simply to find your Native ancestor, that’s another matter entirely.  Begin by using the traditional research tools.

First, look at where your ancestor or that family line was located.  Did they migrate from elsewhere?  How were they listed in the census?  Was someone listed as other than white, indicating mixed race?  Check the records where they lived, tax records and others to see if there is any indication of non-European heritage.  Remember that your non-white ancestor would have retained their “darker” countenance for at least 2 generations after being admixed.  Many Native people were admixed very early.

So first, check the normal genealogy records and look for hints and traces of non-European ancestry.

Second, turn to Native resources that might reflect the Native people in the areas where your family is or was found.  The Access Genealogy site is absolutely wonderful and has an amazingly complete set of records including searchable tribal rolls.  In addition, I add information almost daily to the Native Heritage Project at, which is searchable.  There are many more resources including several collections at

Hopefully, these records will help narrow your focus in your family tree to a particular person or two, not just a general branch.  Family rumors like “Grandma was a Cherokee Princess” are particularly unuseful.  What they more likely mean is that there was indeed some Native ancestry someplace in her line.  Cherokee has become a generic word like Kleenex.  It may also have meant that Indian heritage was claimed to cover much less desirable African heritage.  Institutionalized discrimination existed against any people of color in pre-1967 America, but Indians generally retained some rights that people of African ancestry did not.  Laws varied by state and time.  Take a look at my blog about Anti-Miscegenation Laws and when they were overturned.

Now, let’s look at DNA testing to see what it can do for you.

DNA Testing to Prove Native Ancestry

There are three types of DNA testing that you can do to prove Native Ancestry.  Two are very focused on specific family lines, and one is much more general.

  • Mitochondrial for your direct maternal line.
  • Y-line for your direct paternal line – if you are a male. Sorry ladies.
  • Autosomal to test your ethnic mix and one direct marker test for Native ancestors.

On a pedigree chart, these genealogical lines look like this:

adopted pedigree

You can see the path that the blue Y chromosome takes down the paternal line to the brother and the path the red mitochondrial DNA takes down the maternal line to both the brother and the sister.  Autosomal tests the DNA of all of the 16 ancestral lines shown here, but in a different sort of way.

Let’s look at each type of testing separately.

Y-Line DNA – For Paternal Line Testing for Males

The Y-line testing tests the Y chromosome which is passed intact from father to son with no DNA from the mother. This is the blue square on the pedigree chart. In this way, it remains the same in each generation, allowing us to compare it to others with a similar surname to see if we are from the same “Smith” family, for example, or to others with different surnames, in the case of adoption or Native heritage.  Native American genetics isn’t terribly different than adoptees in this situation, because different English surnames were adopted by various family members, into the late 1800s and sometimes into the early 1900s, depending on the location.

Y-line DNA can tell you whether or not you descend from a common male genealogically when compared to another testing participant.  Small mutations do take place and accumulate over time, and we depend on those so that we don’t all “look alike” genetically.  It can also tell you by identifying your deep ancestral clan, called a haplogroup, whether or not you descend from early Native Americans who were here before contact with Europeans.  For that matter, it can also tell you if you descend from those of African, European or Asian ancestry.

Scientists know today that there are only two primary haplogroups indicating deep ancestry that are found among Native American males who were here prior to contact with Indo-Europeans, and those haplogroups are C and Q3.  It is not accurate to say that all C and Q3 individuals exist only in the American Native population, but the American Native population is part of the larger group worldwide that comprises C and Q3.  We find some haplogroup C and Q3 in Europe but none in African populations, although we do learn more every single day in this infant science.

This sometimes becomes confusing, because the single most common male haplogroup among current Cherokee tribal members who have tested is R1b.  How can this be, you ask?  Clearly, one of three possibilities exists:

  1. The Cherokee (or those tribes who were assimilated into the Cherokee) adopted a European male into the tribe or a European male fathered a child that was subsequently raised as Cherokee.
  2. The R1b ancestor was not adopted into the tribe, maintained their European/American identity but married a Cherokee individual woman and their descendants are recognized as Cherokee today.
  3. There is some level of R1b admixture in the Native population that preceded contact with Europeans that we have not yet identified.

Because of the unique haplogroups for Native Americans who preceded European contact, Y-line is the only way to positively confirm that a specific line is or is not of Native American descent.  This obviously applies to all of the individuals in the pedigree chart who directly descend from the oldest known ancestor in this paternal line.

Y-line testing does not indicate anything about the contributions of the other ancestors in this family tree.  In other words, you could be 3/4th Native, with only the direct paternal line being European, and this test would tell you nothing at all about those other three Native lines.

When ordering DNA tests at Family Tree DNA, which is where I recommend that you test, everyone is encouraged to join projects.  There are several types of projects, but to begin with, you should join your surname project.  Not only does this group you with others whom you are likely to match, but this also assures that you receive the project based discounts.  I blogged about how to find and join relevant projects.

You can test at 12, 25, 37, 67 or 111 marker “locations” on the Y chromosome. I generally recommend 37 or 67 to begin which gives you enough to work with but isn’t terribly expensive.  At Family Tree DNA, you can always upgrade later, but it’s less expensive in total to test more initially.  Right now, 37 markers cost $119 and 67 markers are $199, but a sale is currently underway.

After your results are returned, you can then upload or manually enter your results at (upload directly from your Family Tree DNA matches page), and You can then check for matches at these sites as well. Not all of these other sites test as many markers as Family Tree DNA, but the comparison is free and useful.  Even if your haplogroup is not Native American, you may match others with a similar heritage story for their paternal line.

Family Tree DNA also provides significant tools for Y-line DNA as well as Mitochondrial DNA. You can see both Family Tree and Ancestry Y-line results compared on this blog, which shows you how to use both companies’ tools. At Family Tree DNA, for all their tests, you are provided with the e-mail addresses of your matches. At Ancestry and 23andMe, you contact matches through their internal message system. My experience has been that direct e-mails have a better response rate.

The person looking for Native Heritage will be most interested in their haplogroup designation.  If your haplogroup is either Q or C, you’ll want to join your haplogroup project, minimally, as well as other relevant Native American projects, and work with the administrators for further testing.  Remember, neither haplogroup Q nor C are always Native, so deeper testing may be in order.  You may also match others with confirmed Native heritage, including a tribe.

If the haplogroup is not Native, then you’ll have to take a look at possible reasons why.

One can never interpret non-Native haplogroup results of any one line to answer the much broader questions of, “do I have Native heritage”, “how much” and “where?”  What you can do at that point is to continue to test other lines in order to discover the identity of your Native American ancestor.

Obviously, the Y-line test is only for males. Ladies, I feel your pain. However, these next tests are for both sexes.

Mitochondrial DNA – For Direct Maternal Line Testing for Both Sexes

Mitochondrial DNA is inherited by all children from their mother only, with no admixture from the father. Women obtain their mitochondrial DNA from their mother, who got it from their mother, on up the line into infinity. This is the red circle on the right hand side of the pedigree chart. Like Y-line DNA, mitochondrial DNA is passed intact from one generation to the next, except for an occasional mutation that allows us to identify family members and family lines.

Unfortunately, it does not follow any surname. In fact the surname changes with every generation when women marry. This makes it more challenging to work with genealogically, but certainly not impossible. Because of the surname changes in every generation, there are no “surname” projects for mitochondrial DNA, per se, but there are other types of projects.  For example, the Mothers of Acadia project is using mitochondrial DNA to reconstruct the Acadian families including those of Native American heritage.

There are three levels of testing you can take for mitochondrial DNA at Family Tree DNA, which is where I recommend that you test. The mtDNA, the mtDNAPlus and the Full Sequence. The mtDNA test is a starter test that will provide you with a base haplogroup, but will leave people searching for Native ancestry needing a more complete test for full haplogroup identification confirming Native ancestry. I strongly recommend the full sequence test, but if the budget just won’t allow that, then the mtDNAPlus will do until you can afford to upgrade. Family Tree DNA is the only major lab that tests the full sequence region, plus, they have the largest matching data base in the industry.

To put this in perspective for you, the mtDNA and the mtDNAPlus tests both test about 10% of your mitochondrial DNA and the full sequence test tests all of your 16,569 mitochondrial locations. You can then compare them with other people who have taken any of those 3 tests.  Pricing for the mtDNAPlus is currently $139 and the full sequence is $199.

MtDNA testing is not as popular as Y-line testing because it’s more difficult to use genealogically as last names change every generation.  When you look at your matches, you have no idea whatsoever if you might be related to these people in a genealogically relevant time frame by looking at their last names.  Those who have invested the effort to collaboratively work on their mtDNA matches, assuming a full sequence match and a shared geographical history as well, have been pleasantly surprised by what they’ve found.

A haplogroup assigning deep ancestry is provided through mitochondrial testing, so like the Y-line, depending on the haplogroup assigned, you will know if your ancestors were here before European contact.  Maternal haplogroups that indicate Native heritage include A, B, C, D and X.  Like Y-line DNA testing, none of these haplogroups are exclusive to Native Americans, so a full sequence level test will be required to confirm a Native American subgroup.

After you receive your results, you can enter the mtDNA and mtDNAPlus portions into public data bases. There are no public data bases for the full sequence segment because there may be medical implications in some of those mutations, so they are not displayed publicly although they are compared privately within the Family Tree DNA data base. You will want to enter your data and check for matches at (upload directly from your matches page at Family Tree DNA), and, although beware of Ancestry’s accuracy issues.

Testing the Y-line and mitochondrial DNA individually gives us a great deal of very specific information about 2 lines in your pedigree chart.  The best method of identifying Native American ancestors is indeed to test as many lines on your DNA pedigree chart using this methodology as possible.  Let’s take a minute to look at how to create a DNA pedigree chart.

DNA Pedigree Chart

If your Y-line and mitochondrial DNA have proven not to be Native, that doesn’t mean that the rest of your lines aren’t.

Let’s take a look at how to create a DNA pedigree chart so that you can focus your Y-line and mitochondrial DNA testing for other lines.

The purpose of a DNA pedigree chart is to provide guidance in terms of inheritance and also to provide a way of documenting your progress.  My chart is shown below, as an example.

DNA Pedigree

You can see the Y-line of my father and the mitochondrial line of my mother, on both ends of the pedigree chart.  At the top of each line, I have recorded the haplogroup information for each family.  Color coding each line helps in tracking descendants who would carry the DNA of the ancestor of that line.  For example, my mother’s father’s mother’s line is the yellow Miller line.  I need to find a daughter of my grandfather’s sisters, or their children, or their daughter’s children, to test for that mitochondrial DNA line.  Which reminds me, I need to call my cousin.  Family reunions, picnics and holidays are great for this type of thing.  Sadly, so are funerals.

I blogged about how to put together your own DNA pedigree chart.  You can get a free copy and instructions on my website too, at under the Publications tab.  If you’re Native and adopted, then refer to the adoptee blog instead, or in addition.

But sometimes, we can’t find the right people in order to test, so we move to autosomal testing to help us fill in the blanks.

Autosomal Testing – For Both Sexes – The Rest of the Story 

Autosomal DNA testing tests all of your 23 pairs of chromosomes that you inherit from both of your parents. You get half of each chromosome from each parent. You can see this pattern on the pedigree chart, represented by all of the 16 genealogical lines. Therefore, as you move up that tree, you should have inherited about 25% of your DNA from each grandparent, about 12.5% of your DNA from each great-grandparent, as have all of their other great-grandchildren.

Therefore beginning with your parents, you carry the following approximate amount of DNA from each of these ancestors. I say approximate, because while you do receive exactly 50% of your DNA from each parent, there is no guarantee that their parents DNA was admixed in your parents such that you receive exactly 25% from each grandparent, but it’s close.  You can see the percentages in the chart below.

Generation Relationship % of Their DNA You Carry






















Given this chart, if the Native percentage is back beyond 6 generations and drops below the 1% threshold, it’s extremely difficult to discern today.

Autosomal testing will pick up relationships reliably back to about the 6th or 7th generations, and sporadically beyond that.

Autosomal testing provides you minimally with two things.  First, with a list of “cousin matches” by percentage and estimated relationship.  Second, percentages of ethnicity.  It’s this second part that’s most important for the person seeking to prove Native American heritage.

Percentages of Ethnicity

As the field of genetic genealogy has moved forward, research has begun to indicate that certain autosomal markers are found in higher or lower frequencies in different ethnic populations.

For example, if someone has the Duffy Null allele, or genetic marker, we know they positively have African admixture.  We don’t know how much African admixture, or from which line, or when that individual with African admixture entered their family tree, but we know for sure they existed.

Attempting to determine the population frequency of varying markers and what that means relative to other populations is the key to this analysis.  Few markers are simply present or absent in populations, but are found in varying frequencies.  Some populations are widely studied in the research literature, and others are virtually untouched.  Thousands have only been recently discovered as part of the National Geographic, Genographic project.

The process of compiling this information in a meaningful manner so that it can be analyzed is a formidable task, as the information is often found in nearly inaccessible academic and forensic research publications.  It’s difficult to determine sometimes if the DNA analysis of 29 individuals in a small village in northern Italy is, for example, representative of that village as a whole, of northern Italy, or more broadly for all of Italy.  Is it representative of Italy today or Italy historically?  These and other similar questions have to be answered fully before the data from autosomal testing can be useful and reliable.

Having said this, the recent release of the National Geographic, Genographic Project version 2.0 holds great promise.  It’s one of 4 autosomal tests on the market today that provide next-generation chip based wide spectrum testing which replaces the older CODIS type testing.   The difference between the old and new technology is using 15 or 20 markers versus a half a million or so.  They aren’t even in the same ballpark.  If you want to see a comparison of the older type tests, read my paper titled Revealing American Indian and Minority Heritage Using Y-Line, Mitochondrial, Autosomal and X Chromosome Testing Data Combined with Pedigree Analysis.

Let’s take a look at all 4 of the contemporary autosomal tests and what they have to offer.

Genographic 2.0

Of the 4 tests, the Geno 2.0 is the newest and appears to reach back the deepest in time, meaning it may well be picking up anthropological results, not just genealogical results.  We don’t know exactly how the analysis is done, but we do know, in general, that if you evaluate segments, you will get results closer in time than if you evaluate individual ancestry informative markers (AIMS).

You can take a look at the results of a man with Native ancestry on both his paternal and maternal sides.  You can also take a look at the reference populations used by National Geographic in this overview of their test results.

If you want to order this test visit  The price is $199.  You also receive your Y-line and mtDNA haplogroups, but no marker values for comparison to others. However, the Y haplogroup testing is the most advanced in the world.  You can see why in the Geno 2.0 announcement here.

I have found the Geno 2.0 test to be somewhat more sensitive autosomally than others, but it’s still very new and I have not yet been able to do a complete comparison.  Results have only been coming back for a couple of weeks.

Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA sells the Family Finder test. Right now it is priced at $199 or bundled with attractive pricing with either the Y-line or mitochondrial DNA tests. I often like to use this tool in conjunction with the Y-line and mitochondrial DNA tests to see, if you match someone closely, whether you are actually related to them in a recent timeframe or if it is further back. Family Tree DNA is the only one of the autosomal testing companies that has the ability to do this type of advanced comparison.  Compared to 23andMe and Geno 2.0, they are the only ones to offer traditional Y-line and mitochondrial DNA testing which provides individual marker results and matches.

In addition to a list of autosomal matches, you will receive your breakdown of ethnicity, by percent.  The results below are for the same man with Native ancestry whose Geno 2.0 results are shown in the Geno 2.0 – First Peek blog.

native pop finder

You can read more about the Family Tree DNA autosomal product on their FAQ.


Another company that sells autosomal testing is In addition to a list of cousins, you also receive admixture percentages, and their specialty, health traits.  You also receive a paternal and maternal haplogroup, but with no markers for personal comparison.  These Y-line and mitochondrial results are not as accurate at the Geno 2.0 nor the Family Tree DNA Y-line and mitochondrial DNA full sequence tests.

Be aware that while people who test at Family Tree DNA are interested in genealogy, the typical person at 23andMe tested for the health portion, not the genealogy portion, and may not answer contact requests or may know very little about their family history.

Right now, their test is $99, and you can download your results and upload them to Family Tree DNA for an additional $89, making the total price similar to the Family Tree DNA test. However, you need to be somewhat technically savvy to complete the download/upload process.

23andMe recently released a new version of their software which added quite a bit of resolution after years of being woefully behind.  Native American wasn’t even a category previously.  You can take a look at the new format here.

Ancestry recently introduced an autosomal test.  You receive matches and ethnicity percentages.  However, their ethnicity percentages have significant issues and I would not recommend them at this time.  Their cousin matches come with no analysis tools.  So for now, just skip Ancestry and concentrate on the other resources.

One Last Autosomal Test

One marker value in particular, known as D9S919 is present in about 30% of the Native people.  The value of 9 at this marker is not known to be present in any other ethnic group, so this mutation occurred after the Native people migrated across Beringia into the Americas, but long enough ago to be present in many descendants.  You can test this marker individually at Family Tree DNA, which is the only lab that offers this test.  If you have the value of 9 at this marker, it confirms Native heritage, but if you don’t carry 9, it does NOT disprove Native heritage.  After all, many Native people don’t carry it.

To order this test, for existing Family Tree DNA clients, click on the “Order Upgrade” orange button on the right hand side of your personal page, then on “Advanced Test”, then enter “autosomal” in the drop down box, then you will see the list below. D9S919 is the last one and it costs $15.  There may be a $10 one time transfer fee as well if your DNA sample is not in the Houston lab.

native d9s919 order

Swimming in Many Pools

As you can see there are lots of tools available to you that can be used individually or in conjunction with each other.  Like anything else, the more work and effort you are willing to devote to the search, the more likely you are to be successful.

Most people test their Y-line and mitochondrial DNA, not just for Native ancestry, but to learn more about the lines they can test for themselves without reaching out to other family members.

Use your DNA pedigree chart to plan who to ask in your extended family to test for which lines.

Plan to test with multiple autosomal testing companies.  Autosomal testing in particular is still in its infancy. I like to use the results of multiple companies, especially when you are dealing with small amounts of admixture.  They use different markers, combinations, analysis tools and reference populations, so you can expect slightly different results.  One company may pick up slight minority admixture while another may not.  This has happened repeatedly with both my Native and African minority admixture.


After you obtain your results from either Family Tree DNA or 23andMe, you’ll want to download your raw data results and then upload the file to This is a privately run “donation” site, not associated with any of the testing companies, meaning there is no subscription or fee to use the tools, but they do appreciate and are funded by donations.

After uploading your results you can utilize several admixture tools to compare and contrast your results.

Getting Help

If you’re struggling with working through your family possibilities for who to test, I do offer a DNA Test Plan service.

If you would like a Personalized DNA Report for Y-line or mitochondrial results, those are available as well.

If you have what amounts to a quick question that I can answer in less than an hour, including prep, I offer the Quick Consult service.

For more extensive consulting, contact me.  You can see my services here.

In Summary

Finding our Native ancestors is a way to pay homage to their lives and to the culture that was stripped from their descendants, ironically, by using their own DNA that has been gifted from them to us.  Native people, after contact with Europeans were marginalized, and that’s the best that can be said.  Many were killed, either intentionally or by European diseases, or enslaved.  The results are that Native people left few if any individual records and those that might be available often can’t be identified or linked to them personally.  For those who cannot unearth their Native ancestry using conventional genealogical means, genetic testing is the last hope left.  Fortunately, the tools and our knowledge improve every day.  We’re making great strides with what we can do, enlarging what was a pinhole into a keyhole, allowing us to peer into the past.  So, click your heels, order your tests and let’s see where your DNA takes you.

273 thoughts on “Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA

  1. Your article is very helpful. I’m doing a little family research because I just recently found out that my grandmother “confessed” that she was part Apache shortly before she died. I mentioned to my mother that I don’t understand why she would keep it a secret. Apparently, at the time she was born(late 1800’S) it was better to be “a live Mexican, than a dead Indian”. I have little else to go on which is extremely frustrating. I’m not wanting freebies or assistance, but I would love to see if I can figure out if her parent that was Apache is on a roll.
    I’m not seeking Tribal membership, but it wouldn’t hurt my feelings to be recognized,lol.
    I wish I had read your article before I purchased a DNA test from ancestry. I’m still going to submit it since I paid for it. We shall see…

    • Hi Bonny,
      What you described sounds just like my grandparents–although they never confessed to being native american. The dna test told me this and some paperwork I found. They always claimed to be Spanish. Was your grandmother from New Mexico?

      • Hi Jen,
        I’m so glad for your response. Even if nothing comes of any of this,it is nice to have someone to talk to about it. My grandmother was born in Atascosa County in Texas. She never said which parent was Apache, but I have a strong feeling that it was her mother, because I can barely find any info on her.
        I know that there are several different Apache Tribes that were, and perhaps are still in Texas, but I am pretty sure it will be hard to pinpoint which Tribe she belongs to if her parent is not on a roll.

    • This is valuable information and I’m glad to have come across it. I’ve been told I’m 1/2 native american. Can’t afford to have it checked out right now but I’m still glad I came across this. Thanks for writing it!!

  2. Hi Bonny,
    What you described sounds just like my grandparents–although they never confessed to being native american. The dna test told me this and some paperwork I found. They always claimed to be Spanish. Was your grandmother from New Mexico?

  3. This is a very good article. My great, great grandmother was said to be Native American (or part), I had the full sequence mtDNA test done, but it did not show anything to prove it. I am wondering if the D9S919 test you mentioned was done in the full sequence, or is it a separate test?

  4. Great article thanks! We recently found out my GG Grandmother has an affair with a Native American, which led to my G Grandmother being born. We have no names or anything, but I would love to get started finding out more. Which test would you suggest for my maternal GG Grandfathers DNA? My materal Grandmother is still alive and we have a huge family.

  5. well just reading this article !! I’ve already sent for DNA testing from waiting for the results !! can you tell me why you don’t recommend ANCESTRY.COM

  6. I was checking out you post in native American percentages.. my grandfather was half Cherokee Indian with the last name flowers & his father was full full blooded Cherokee but there is Chippewa on my grandmother’s side who married my full blooded Cherokee grandfather.. I have a family tree that was done on my mother’s side that goes back five generations. Which goes back to my great great something grandfather Who was chief Buffalo around the 1800’s..

  7. I was put up for adoption at birth, I know my birth mother was Caucasian so my birthfather must have been native American because I recently did my ancestry DNA and found out I was 22% native American. Is there any way of testing to see what tribe I’m from, I would love to learn about my heritage.

  8. My husband was adopted but knows(or his papers say) that his paternal grandmother was full blooded Native American. Is the Y line test the best to prove this? Also, which test would we use to test my daughter? We would like to be able to check the box for Native American on college applications.

  9. My great great grandmother was a full blooded Cherokee Indian. I was told that I could receive money if you’re blood is at least 10% of Cherokee descendents from my great great grandmother. Its just a question if that is true.

  10. I read the article and still have no idea which test to choose. Is there a way to contact family tree and tell them what I want and why so they can tell me exactly what test to buy?

    • You’re actually wrong.

      While a majority of First Nations people in Canada do receive funding from their band (mostly young, fresh out of high school or parents, etc), there is still a good chunk of people who, despite being status and belonging to a band, are denied funding because of limited funds. Being funded to go to University isn’t some freebie; the money is limited and varies from band to band. Some First Nation bands have more money to give a pretty decent living allowance for their students while others barely cover tuition costs and that’s why they’re very careful of choosing who to fund. It’s also usually only tuition that is covered; board, books, and travel is like, out of the question.

      As for the Metis, I don’t have much knowledge of what they go through but from what I’ve heard it’s basically the same, but with maybe less money and maybe more difficulty obtaining sponsorship since the Metis are not covered under the treaties. Also not too sure about the Inuit people since I’m not familiar with the treaties they signed.

      Anyways, the point is that not every single First Nation, Inuit, or Metis student you see on a university campus is getting a free ride.

    • You’re actually wrong.

      While a majority of First Nations people in Canada do receive funding from their band (mostly young, fresh out of high school or parents, etc), there is still a good chunk of people who, despite being status and belonging to a band, are denied funding because of limited funds. Being funded to go to University isn’t some freebie; the money is limited and varies from band to band. Some First Nation bands have more money to give a pretty decent living allowance for their students while others barely cover tuition costs and that’s why they’re very careful of choosing who to fund. It’s also usually only tuition that is covered; board, books, and travel is like, out of the question.

      As for the Metis, I don’t have much knowledge of what they go through but from what I’ve heard it’s basically the same, but with maybe less money and maybe more difficulty obtaining sponsorship since the Metis are not covered under the treaties. Also not too sure about the Inuit people since I’m not familiar with the treaties they signed.

      Anyways, my point is that not every single First Nation, Inuit, or Metis student you see on campus is getting a free ride.

  11. Hi,My dad was AB Neg, have 3 sisters all have AB neg had O pos I am A pos my mother played around a lot, my sister say I am not dads which is gone now,Can I be the mailmans?Do I did a DNA test? I am 64 years old and would like to know before I died, Thank You,

  12. Love your article…Very informative. Question about autosomal test D9S919…Does the test result have to be specifically “9” to indicate Native American ancestry? I had this test done on my aunt and uncle (sister and brother). Her result was a value of 16- 17; his was 17- 18. I’m not sure what this means. Could you explain?

  13. I would like to do a DNA test to see if I have Native American blood. I get all kinds of information about it in my family but I would like some answers through blood work. Can you help me? I have family from Oklahoma and I am told have Cherokee and and maybe Choktaw but not sure. I would just like to see if I have any percentage at all as my great grandmother on my Dad’s side was said to be mostly cherokee.

  14. Pingback: Finding Your American Indian Tribe Using DNA | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  15. Pingback: Finding Your American Indian Tribe Using DNA | Native Heritage Project

  16. Hi I’m getting married in about ten days so I asked my mother for my birth certificate. I always knew that I was adopted by my father but I didn’t know about my real dad. Well the only certificate mom had was my first one with my bio dads name on it. I started looking into finding him and found that he was dead. His ex however told me that my great grandmother was full blooded Cherokee Indian. I was wondering what percent this makes me and how I can find out about getting tested for this. The problem is most of his family has died out. So I can’t get a lot of names to track back a family line. Please if you can help with some info at all I would really appreciate it.
    Thank you. Michael

  17. Pingback: Milestone 5000 | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  18. My dad’s mother was 50% native american. He used to visit his grandmother on a reservation. I know my grandmother’s name, but that is the extent of my information. I am not able to locate her birth records. Am I understanding correctly that since I am female and it is my paternal side that has the native american history, DNA test won’t help me? Thank you for your time. (my dad and grandparent’s are not alive)

  19. Interesting and we’ll written information. Thank you so much. Want DNA just to know what was handed down is true. With my GG GRANDMOTHER being adopted will not be able to trace the line but love searching.

  20. Pingback: Are You Native? – Native American Haplogroup Origins and Ancestral Origins | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  21. Pingback: Are You Native? – Native American Haplogroup Origins and Ancestral Origins | Native Heritage Project

  22. I’d like to know what tribe of indians I’m from through blood testing and how much I am indian as well. Thanks

    Call me asap

  23. Hi Roberta, I am so happy that I came across your website and blogs. I have been reading through them for days now and it has been very informative. I am new to DNA studies. I was adopted at birth. A few years ago, I was able to make contact via the adoption agency with my birth mother. She wrote me a letter and told me that I had a half sister that she had 6 years after me and raised her. She put my half sister and I in touch with each other. We are such “sisters” now, it is truly amazing! My sister and I have gone through 23andme and done our DNA tests because we know nothing about our birth fathers. Her results came back with 99.9% European. Mine came back with 20.2% native american and the rest European. This has been fascinating to me because obviously this is from my birth father’s side because it does not show in my sister’s DNA at all. I want to learn more about my Native American heritage but do not know where to go from here. Should I test also with Family Tree and Ancestry? What type of tests should I take? I did look into DNAadoption as you had instructed someone else with a similar issue, but I am having a hard time still determining which test to take next. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • It would be best if you and your sister would both take all 3 autosomal tests. The reason for this is that it will help you in figuring out which of your matches are from you mother’s side and which from your fathers. The test at Family Tree DNA is called Family Finder, and there is only one test at Ancestry. Also, you can test at Ancestry and then transfer your results to Family Tree DNA for $39 instead of the $99 to test.

      • Thank you for your reply. However, wouldn’t we already be sure that the Native American DNA was from my fathers side since there was no native american dna in my sister’s results? We have the same mother but not the same father.

  24. I’ve recently reconnected with my birth father and his mother (My grandmother). I learned that my grandmother’s mother was 100% Cherokee. What percentage would that make me? Your chart had me a little confused. Thank you for your time.

    • 12.5% if what she said is accurate. However, most Cherokee were mixed by the end of the 1700s. You can always take an autosomal DNA test to see how much Native American shows in the ethnicity results.

  25. Why does everyone who thinks they have Native blood claim to be Cherokee? I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard say that.

    • Thank you jupe77 :) When people find out I am Native American, the first thing they ask is if I’m Cherokee. So tired of hearing this. When I tell them I’m Pueblo they get this confused look on their face lol.

    • Cherokee is probably the most widely known tribal name associated with Native Americans, especially those in the eastern part of the country and those looking for their roots. A long time ago, in Kentucky and Tennessee, for example, if you had “Indian” heritage, it was assumed that it was Cherokee, in part, because many of the early tribes had been entirely decimated but the Cherokee remained as a tribe and were therefore familiar.

      • I kinda figured most of these people were ignorant about other tribes, but how could they have not heard of the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee), especially if they live here in NYS? I’m sure most people must have at least heard of the Mohawk…

  26. I would like to prove my indian heritage.
    My grandmother on my father’s side is full blooded Cherokee Indian Pennsylvania Dutch.

  27. I know how much my mother had in her and how much my grandparents on my father’s side had in them. Is there any way to do some math to determine how much I have in me?

  28. I just want to know how much Native American I am. The test you talked about through family is $199. I can’t find info on how the test is performed. Is this a spit test or blood test?
    Thank you

  29. Pingback: How Much Indian Do I Have in Me??? | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  30. Pingback: How Much Indian Do I Have In Me??? | Native Heritage Project

  31. i just got tested from and my DNA shows i have 38% Native America in me. my question is i would like to find out more of my family history and find out how if i can receive benefits for me and my family. My aunt Delia tells me we might be related to GERONIMO, & that my great grampa used to hang out with him. i want and need answers.

  32. My DNA test with Geno 2.0 showed, surprisingly, that I had 2% Native American DNA. When I had a test done at, no detectable Native American DNA was found. I’d like to resolve this discrepancy, but am not sure how I would go about it. Any suggestions on which test might be more reliable or where I could go to get a more definitive test done?

  33. “Cherokee has become a generic word like Kleenex.” Love it. So true down here in the south, where every white and black person wants to inform me that they have some Cherokee blood. But how freaking sad it is how many non-Indians want to find out their alleged heritage for the purpose of “getting money”. WTH. I can understand why so many tribes/nations (unlike Cherokee Nation) are so strict about enrollment. Come on, people. You want to connect with a tribe you have zero personal, cultural, or relational investment in…to get “free money.” Please be ashamed…and then take pride in your own culture.

    Anyway, what a great site this is…so educational. Thank you so much for the time you put into explaining things to us nonprofessionals.

  34. I know what race my mother is my father is what im questioning. I dont know who he is or what is race is. I just want to know should i do the dna test 23andme to ge a general idea. I hace suspicion my father is native american i just want to know if im right

  35. I just did for DNA results and I’m 49% native American and i want to know which test i take to see what type of native i am.

    • There is no reliable test to do that. You’ll have to do that using genealogy. AT 49%, one of your parents should be 100% Native, so I would suggest testing your mitochondrial DNA to begin with, if you haven’t already done that, at Family Tree DNA. That will help you determine if it’s on your Mom’s side.

  36. Pingback: DNAeXplain Archives – General Information Articles | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  37. I am on a quest to find my Cherokee ancestors and family through the bloodline that is in my body and soul. I am compelled to understand what it is a muscle as a human and the Cherokee family tribes. I ask nothing in material objects or money just an understanding of my own personal soul as a human being that is born of the Cherokee tribes. My birth name was given to me by my mother and father. My birth name was given by my father to me and it is Joel Dean Morrow Jr….. I have been adopted at the age of 4 years old, my adopted name which I still have is Joseph James Post. I have 4 boys that carry the last name Post as well. I feel very strongly in my soul as a spirit in human being to find my bloodline with a Cherokee family tribes. If you can further help my effort in understanding these things it would be very greatly appreciated. email lowercase letters joepost. 2014 @

  38. can I be tested in this situation – – Catherine may have been all or part Native American. She gave birth to Louis, fathered Eva, gave birth to Calvin, fathered me. – – -I fear the male female back and forth prevent being able to test?

  39. I know there is no money, no membership–no nothing except to be able to tell the BIA to stuff it, So, is better for me or my brother to take the test? 3 tribes, all in the Southeast…supposed to be Creek, Seminole and Cherokee or Catawba.

    • It depends on which side you believe the Native to be on. MtDNA tests the matrilineal line, Y the patrilineal line and autosomal the test. I’d do the autosomal for sure and if there is any possiblility it’s the maternal or paternal lines, the Y and mtDNA too. The only way to know is to test.

  40. my cousine and i have an ongoing arguement ! please help ! we are in b.c canada been told we are blackfoot . he is 1/8 indian and me 1/16 he thinks this is enough to qualify for a staus card . i have a hard time believing that . please help . thanks

  41. I wonder if anyone has some advice… my wife’s mom has always repeated a story that HER mother told her (they came from very poor backgrounds and have little documentation to PROVE anything) that there was a full blood native man in their background. Perhaps about 4 or 5 generations back. Since the actual blood line is through the female side but originates with a male – I am sort of confused as to which type of DNA test my wife could take that may reveal the truth. Any ideas anyone? Thank you in advance.

  42. My father always told us he was 1/2 Apache and his dad was full. They did not have a tribal number and things don’t add up. I am interested in figuring out if I am 1/4 Apache which testing would help me with that and how do I get a tribal number?

    • Every tribe has different requirements, so you’ll have to contact them. Most tribes don’t accept DNA evidence. Depending of how you connect and if you have any male siblings (from the same father) to test, depends of which tests you and your brother might take. He could take the Y at Family Tree DNA. You both could take autosomal (Family Finder) for percentages estimates. Both are offered by Family Tree DNA. Their link is on the sidebar.

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