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-Busting

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…..no 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 www.nativeheritageproject.com, which is searchable.  There are many more resources including several collections at Ancestry.com.

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 www.ysearch.org (upload directly from your Family Tree DNA matches page), www.smgf.org and www.ancestry.com. 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 www.mitosearch.org (upload directly from your matches page at Family Tree DNA), www.smgf.org and www.ancestry.com, 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 www.dnaexplain.com 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

1

Parents

50

2

Grandparents

25

3

Great-grandparents

12.5

4

GG-grandparents

6.25

5

GGG-grandparents

3.125

6

GGGG-grandparents

1.56

7

GGGGG-Grandparents

0.78

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 www.genographic.com.  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.

23andMe

Another company that sells autosomal testing is www.23andme.com. 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

Ancestry.com 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.

GedMatch

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 www.gedmatch.com. 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.

572 thoughts on “Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA

  1. Hi there.
    I apologize, in advance, if I ask a question to which you have already posted the answer.
    I read the entire blog and all of the comments and replies and just wish someone would tell me EXACTLY what to do as I feel VERY confused.
    My daughter will turn 20 in November and would like to know her DNA as we have no contact with any family members except one another. I raised her as a single mama.
    We both want our DNA results and I would like to order hers for her birthday, if that is a good idea.
    My (abusive) father said, long ago, that his grandmother on his mother’s side was full blooded Cherokee (which is VERY important to me to find out as much as possible about). I long to connect with my her as an ancestor if that is the case. Apparently, her last name was Calling Wood (I don’t know if that is how it was spelled).
    My father was a child born of an affair so he took on his mother’s husband’s last name rather than his real father’s last name which messes with surnames. He never knew his actual father.
    My mother’s father’s last name was Smith, her mother’s was Peters so I can guess that there is European ancestry there.
    Obviously, my daughter only knows as much as I do about from where her ancestors originate on my side of her “family.”
    All I know about her father’s blood is what he told me once which is that he is part “Black Irish.”
    I have no idea what that means.
    Sooooo… would you be so kind as to tell me EXACTLY what to do for the most AFFORDABLY for us both to feel we know about ourselves?
    We, both, feel so disconnected and I feel ancestry is SO important to having a strong sense of self.
    I really want to make the best choice and don’t have money to waste.
    Thank you so very, very much.

    • The Family Finder test at Family Tree DNA is $79, which is $20 less than the others, and will provide you with an ethnicity estimate and matches with whom you can compare your genealogy. There is a link on the sidebar of my blog.

    • I believe “Black Irish” refers to Irish descendants of survivors of the Spanish Armada. Or so the tale goes! The Armada was the last effort to return England to the Catholic fold, so it is possible that the Catholics moved to Ireland. I suppose! I think, though, that all it really means is dark hair & eyes.

      • To Jan Sutton’s point, my Dad is a Fitzgerald, Irish as the day is long. Both my brother and I got our DNA tested through 23andme.com Because I’m female it pulls mainly my mtDNA or mother’s side. However my brother’s paternal line came up with some interesting stuff. You can use a slide scale to alter the results from conservative to standard to speculative. On the latter, Iberian and Southern European came up with a fractional amount of Oceanian, ironically on standard it went to Broadly European and Broadly Northwestern European, but largely British and Irish, still keeping that little bit of Oceanian, on conservative it drops the Oceanian and the % allocations change a little. So, though I was reared in Ireland and we’re Irish as far back as anyone can recall, the DNA tells a little bit of a different story. It wasn’t until I moved to the U.S. I’d heard of the Black Irish and it’s been used to describe me (despite my fair skin and green eyes, however my Dad has dark hair, brown eyes always had a slight tan). As far as my mother’s DNA goes, something similar except on speculative, I come up with .1% of East Asian/Native American, I know this would be pretty far back, but it’s very interesting to me that those little blips on both sides are from the Eastern side of the world and the story is told today by DNA.

  2. This is very interesting and helpful. What troubles me is the assumption that those of us who wish to have our DNA tested want a “piece of the pie”. Personally, even though my skin tone is white, when I look at old photographs I see two brown grandparents one on each my mother’s and father’s side. And-when I think back to some of the private aspects of my family traditions some things just do not match up with what other “white” children experienced. I simply want to know my heritage. I do not need any pie.

      • I feel the same way! My Aunt used to tell her children that her Grandmother used to be an “Old Indian woman who smoked a corn cob pipe”. Myself and several cousins (various amounts) and my Aunt (3%) tested having Native American DNA. Many of my family ancestors on both my parents sides lived in Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, and other areas where there were a strong presence of Native American tribes. Besides the Southern Native American tribes, my ancestry is largely French, my ancestors having arrived in Quebec on the first ships, Hired in Paris as elite builders and artisans to begin the settlement of Quebec City. They always lived with Native Americans and many of our family and friends intermarried with the Native Americans. Many of my ancestors became God Parents to the 1/2 Native American children. All I want to know is from which of the lines the Native American DNA came from, and eventually to know the history of those tribes.

  3. It was brought to my attention by my mother that one of her grandparents were from a native people. She look just like Geronimo. How can we figure this out.

  4. I am a male and my fathers family is said to have some Iroqui\ois back ground. I do not know how far back but photos of my dads uncles show it.

    What DNA test do you reccomend? What is the cost and how would it have it done

    • The article you just commented on explains this. But if you need it explained differently, try this article. https://dna-explained.com/2012/10/01/4-kinds-of-dna-for-genetic-genealogy/

      Personal consultations are available for $75, but I wrote these articles so people wouldn’t need the consultations. You can order the test appropriate for you by clicking on the Family Tree DNA link on the sidebar. Men can order Y DNA tests, mtDNA tests and autosomal tests, and which one you order is based on where you think the Native heritage is found in your family.

  5. Hello. Just wondering…..I was adopted and was always told I am part Native American & German. It was a closed adoption and my adoptive parents don’t like to talk about it, so I never ask questions/ask them about my adoption. I am curious though to find out what nationalities I really am, as well as any health/medical history I might/should be aware of. Was thinking of doing a DNA test, but not sure if something like this will really help me? It seems so confusing. Thanks for any help!

    • An autosomal DNA test will give you ethnicity estimates which are relatively accurate on the continental level. A mitochondrial DNA test provides direct information on your mothers matrilineal line. Y DNA for men gives information about the direct paternal side. For medical you can upload autosomal results to Promethease. The link to purchase these various tests is on the sidebar of the blog.

  6. I’m a descendant of Clovis Montana child, I know my mothers group came from Doggerland only 13,000 yrs old.

    Here is my ancestors
    Lbk, Stuttgart Germany f999916 7ky
    Motala-12 Sweden f999917 7ky
    Locshbour, lux f999918 8ky
    Clovis, Montana f999919 12.5ky
    Br2, Hungary f999933 3.2 ky
    Ust-ishim, Siberia f999935 45 ky
    Ne1, Hungary f9999937 7.2 ky
    Rise98 Sweden f999941 3.7 ky
    Rise493 Russia f999950 3.2 ky
    Rise505 Russia f999953 3.3 ky
    Rise497 Russia f999957 2 ky
    Rise495 Russia f999958 2 ky
    Rise523 Russia f999966 3.1 ky
    Rise511 Russia f999967 4.2 ky

    I don’t want native money lol
    What I want is the direct location of the burial of that child who is my ancestor. My people have been around for 45,000 years or more. I am native, but my only interest is that child, my only American part of my puzzle. It’s not like I’m going to Siberia or any part of Europe. What I don’t understand is why the native Americans ( my people) are so afraid of sharing their dna, are they afraid they will lose the reservations, the casino money? The truth is they are both Asian/ Eurasian and Siberian. They need to share all the bodies that they fought for and reburied. They already know the truth, but are ashamed of where they really came from. I have every right to get the information they have on those 9,000 yr old corpses. That is my link too. Maybe all of the Clovis Montana descendants should fight our own people for the rest of our puzzle. Maybe it’s time to stand up against my own people, maybe it’s time to drag them to Supreme Court to give scientists our ancestors corpses

  7. Hi there,
    Was just a bit confused on which test to consider…Y-line or mitochondrial? I want to order a test for my husband. It is believed that there is Native American ancestry from his grandfather (his mother’s father). They never met him. His mother took her step-father’s surname. I just want to make sure I order the correct test. Thank you for your time.

    And by the way, great blog!

    • Your husband’s Y DNA comes from only his father and the direct surname line. Your husband’s mitochondrial DNA comes only from his mother’s direct matrilineal line, meaning her mother, her mother, her mother, etc. So your husband’s grandfather on his mother’s side only contributes to your husband via autosomal DNA. That would be the Family Finder test. However, if your mother’s brother is still living, he inherited his Y DNA from his father, so that would work for Y DNA testing.

  8. Very interesting article. I am very interested in finding out more about my dad who was adopted by his step dad when he was 3 yrs old. My father’s mother , my grandmother always used to tell us kids when we were growing up that we had native blood and it was Cherokee but now I just recently learned that it may be Blackfoot now. My father has pasted way and I have asked my brother to do the test will this show if I have native blood and perhaps other areas as well and what would be the best test to use. I want to know more about my dad’s background. Can you please recommend a good test to purchase . I want to know about the Native American heritage but not interested in the Piece of Pie just curious as to my father’s background. Thanks

    • You will want to order a Y DNA 37 marker test from Family Tree DNA. You will receive a predicted haplogroup from this test, as well as his matches. The haplogroup will tell you if that particular direct paternal line is Native or not. The link to FTDNA is on the sidebar of my blog. This is a great time due to the sale prices. There are also coupons available. Here’s the link to this week’s and I’ll post another list on Tuesday for this upcoming week. https://dna-explained.com/2016/11/28/new-family-tree-dna-holiday-coupons-and-why-the-big-y/

    • Does this test that you recommend will it reveal surnames? I read another article where you were talking about that. Also one of my Dad’s sisters is very curious to their mom’s past specifically on the Lutes side which is my Grandmother’s maiden name. Myself am curious to this too. My Aunt is thinking that this test may not reveal what she wants to know considering that my Dad and his siblings have different fathers. My dad had different father then my two aunts and uncle. Can you advice me in the direction for this? Thanks

      • The tests tell you who you match, along with their surnames. You then compare your genealogy to see if you share a common ancestor. These tests aren’t “answers”, they provide information and they are “tools.” If you have relatives on the various sides test also, then who you do and don’t match, second cousins or closer, is very revealing, if that is what you are after.

      • Thank you. ..very insightful. Can you recommend a test for my Dad’s sister to take as well. I know that I can learn alot more about my grandmother and her side of her family. Because I am really excited about learning more about my Dad and his family and have started a family tree as well. Believe finding where my Dad comes from and learning more about my Dad’s mother’s side will help put some pieces together.

      • Your father’s sister can test her mitochondrial DNA which represents her mother’s direct line (which is your father’s mother’s line of course), and she can take the Family Finder autosomal test as well. You can click on the blog sidebar for the link and there is a sale now for the holidays.

    • DNA tests can’t identify tribes. Any company that says that they do should be viewed very skeptically. Look at it this way, various tribal members have been intermarrying, taking each other captive and such for centuries if not millennia. Native people are more alike than different, especially given that they all descend from a very small founder population and there was no one else to intermarry with for 10,000 years, plus.

  9. I am interested in finding out about my Indian heritage, your site is very helpful, mom mother’s father died in a coal mining accident in KY when she was young, unfortunately I never knew him, I have been told that he was half Indian and that’s it.
    I am interested in finding out what type and percentage that could be in me.
    My fathers side has no Indian at all, I have been told that his ancestors are from the Netherlands.
    Can you please tell me what test would be best for me?

    • Given what you just said, the only test you can take to find out about your father is the Family Finder test. It provides you with percentages of ethnicity. The link in on the sidebar of the blog and right now that test is on sale for $59.

  10. Greetings: I received my DNA test results last week. I was quite surprised that the test (autosomal) did not show one drop of Native American blood. It showed 90% African American and 10 % European ethnicity. After reading this page and if I’m understanding it correctly, could this be because it was my grandfather’s, mother who was half Black Foot as opposed to my grandmother’s? I’m thinking that the test showed European blood because my great grandmother’s father was European as opposed to my grandfather’s father being European.

  11. Hi. I’m confused on what test or tests I should take. I have native history on both my Mother’s Maternal and Paternal side of the family. I know to test on my Maternal side of my mother and her mother I should use the MTDNA. However, for my Mother’s father/paternal side should I test using the Family Finder Test? I’m wondering would the full sequence cover them both (My Mother’s maternal and paternal side). Thanks for your assistance in advance.

    • You cannot directly test your mother for her paternal side. If her father, brother or uncle is living, you can test them. Your mother can also take the Family Finder test which gives percentages of ethnicity if the full blood Native ancestor was within the past 5 or 6 generations. So you can test in a variety of ways.

      • None of them are living-my mother, my grandfather, nor my grandfather’s brother. Is there someone else I can test as far as on my mom’s paternal side. I myself have a brother.

      • Your brother has his father’s Y DNA. You’ll just have to go up your mother’s tree until you can come down a paternal line and find a male. In the mean time, go ahead and take the Family Finder test. AT least you will know roughly how close or distant the Native ancestor is. The link for that is on the sidebar of the blog and the test is on sale now.

  12. I am a bit confused and have a question for anyone who can answer. I strongly believe my father comes from the Penobscot Tribe, Bangor, ME. I would like to find out because it has been denied for so many years. I am female. To find out the truth would the DNA test have to come from a Y-line DNA? Thanks!

    • The Y tests his direct paternal line only. If he isn’t living, you can test your autosomal line to see if the Native shows up. You can also test any other male from your family who descends paternally from that line, meaning carries the surname.

  13. Great article, thank you for sharing the info! I have a difficult situation in that I have a very good idea that I am the illegitimate daughter of a full blood Native American father. The trouble is that he naver claimed me and has now passed away. You state in your info that women cannot test through there paternal line? My father has a son who is willing to do a test with me, but is that the only way to prove that I am at least 50% Native American? I am really hoping to come to some kind of peace with this as I am getting older and would just like to know my ancestry and where I came from. Thank you for any info you can provide!

  14. Another question if I get these different dna tests for my brother and my aunt can i have them sent directly to them and also you gets the results them or me

    • Yes, you can have them sent directly to them, and whoever’s e-mail is entered as the contact gets the results. There can be two e-mails entered and anyone can be given the kit number and password to sign in and see the results. However, the person whose e-mail is primary received notifications of results and matches.

  15. Do you believe that Ancestry.com’s ethnicity percentages are still inaccurate? I have tested myself and my aunt (father’s side) for autosomal DNA results to determine if we have Native American ancestry (my great grandmother on my father’s side is reported to have been Native American). It did not show up in the ethnicity percentages, but rather East, South and Central Asia with my aunt’s having higher percentages than mine for each region. I also uploaded the raw DNA for both of us to GEDmatch and their admixture tools seem to indicate the same results. I’ve also been reading articles (T. L. Dixon) that suggest that Native American ethnicity can sometimes show up as East and South Asian. Your thoughts?

    • They should only be taken as estimates and only at the continental level. Sometimes Native does show as East Asia, not generally as central and south, which is typically India. Often it’s in conjunction WITH Native DNA. I would be suspicious of those results, especially at low percentages – relative to Native.

      • On ancestry mine showed in the range area as less than 1percent, my East Asian a little higher in the 1 to 2 percent range, My Central Asia as 2 percent, a lot of Mongoloids people live in Central Asia. On gedmatch it shows on nearly every test.

      • My first Y-DNA tests suggested no Native American, but there were dribbles of South Pacific Islander and Ashkenazi genes identified (way back when I took my first couple tests maybe 2004). Now my origins are almost all European and a little bit of Middle Eastern. Gedmatch did match me up with a Q haplo cousin, which did not surprise me because I had by then accidentally found my Native American links when another gedmatch cousin and a couple folks on FTDNA included ancestor information in their Family Finder profiles (a good percentage do not for some reason). Now interestingly, I have had Family Finder matches to a couple Filipinos and a Japanese person. I can hardly wait for my Big-Y results in January. I suspect a randy bunch of relatives have been spreading cheer around the world. The point of this epistle, don’t get wrapped around that “origins” axle too tightly. As more folks get tested, the more chance is that you will find a match, if there is one to be found. I searched over 10 years!

  16. What if my DNA results show I’m 74% Native American? The rest is 23% European and Polynesian. Would this mean that my father or mother is full blooded Native & the other one is only half? How may I know this for sure?

  17. Hi there, I’m female and native American blood has been known to run on both sides of my family. I don’t know anything about my biological father’s father (my biological grandfather) so if I were to go through family tree and do the mitochondrial DNA test for myself and ask my biological father to do the Y DNA test would that be the most effective way to figure out the total percentage for myself since I’m female? What about knowing the total amount of native american on my mothers side? Will that show on my mitochondrial? Thank you so much for taking the time to respond!

    • Your mitochondrial shows you your direct line for your mother, her mother, her mother. But no other lines. Your brother’s Y will show his father’s direct paternal, generally the surname line, only. We can tell if the mitochondrial line and the paternal line are Native via their haplogroup. I would suggest you both also take the Family Finder test so that you can see your ethnicity estimates. The Family Finder test looks at all your lines, but only about 5 or 6 generations back.

  18. I imagine that PRIDE in one’s ancestry and a personal history of “walking the walk” (sincerely learning about one’s ancestry and living up to customs and being a help to the native community) would go a LONG way (ONCE DNA shows one’s heritage) to being welcomed into a tribe. Surely some apparent white dude, with designs on some perceived free meal-ticket, would not be welcomed no matter what percentage he could prove. And this is reasonable.
    BEING native is far more than just proving a genetic component.
    I am a white Canadian. My own pride comes from loving my neighbour, no matter who they are. I have immense gratification when I see a First Nation’s friend feeling the spirit of his ancestors racing through his veins.
    Peace.

  19. Hi. My daughter is adopted. We knew her bio mom’s ethnic background and a recent DNA test showed almost exactly what she said. We had limited info on the bio father’s side other than a physical description and thoughts he was of mixed races. The DNA test showed my daughter is 34% Iberian Peninsula, 15% Native American, and 1% African (the rest being from Great Britain and Eastern Europe, we arriviste to the mothers side). What would be the best test to dig deeper into her Native American heritage from her father? Maybe find out what tribe if that’s possible. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s