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 recognized 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.

Family Tree DNA provides significant tools for Y-line DNA as well as Mitochondrial DNA. 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.

Update: As of 2019, mitosearch and SMGF no longer exist and Ancestry no longer sells Y and mitochondrial DNA tests, having destroyed their database.

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. 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.

Let’s take a look at all 3 of the contemporary autosomal tests and what they have to offer.

Note: as of 2019, MyHeritage is also a major player in the autosomal DNA testing space.

Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA sells the Family Finder test. Right now it is priced at $79 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.

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.



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995 thoughts on “Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA

      • My name is Terry Free and I found out that my great grandfather was 1% Aztec so that makes me 1\8% was done in a dna test but I dont know what tribe his family was a part of I would like to know how if I can get benefits, I have cousins that I would like to share this with.

  1. I have a quetion.
    You see i was adopted and back in 1962 i was registard as natural birth child to my adopted parents, (i was given to them 3 days of being born) so all i know is a possibility that my biological parents last name might be “Lara”. I say might because any one that can give me answers they all have passed away. And my adopted mother, well she is alive but has Alzheimer and shes 89. So i dont know what to do. My daughter for my birthday got me a ancestry/dna . Results say im 67% native american and thats my strongest % on my results. But nothing more specific. So i dont know still what i am. Other then i excist. HELP PLEASE ,…..tnk u and Gods Blessings.
    Noemi gomez

  2. I am adopted. I am listed as a natural birth to my adoptive parents. I did find my birth mother. I do know that I am Cherokee. I know that my maternal grandmother is listed on the roll for the Cherokee Nation. The problem is that my grandmother would not give my birth mother that information out of fear that I might some day track my birth mother down. I have only had one contact with my maternal mother. I want to know my true heritage. I don’t want to the white man’s version. I want my true blood’s history. Any suggestions on who or how to help me?

      • I have heard almost the exact same story my entire life. I’m a huge skeptic anyway but this makes it sound more mythical. Thank you for a great resource, very pleased to have stumbled across your blog

  3. How do i find out if me and my children are of native american desent? I asked my grand father on my birth mothers side and he said i was mixed with cherokee and blackfoot on his side and my birth father said i have chipawaa from his side what do i do ?

    • You can take either the Family Finder autosomal test (which I would recommend) and/or the mitochondrial DNA test, as the article suggests. Either way, you’re going to have to do your genealogy too. DNA is not the answer, it’s a clue. If you want to order either or both of those tests, here’s the link: Best of luck to you.

  4. About your 1st myth: Ft Lewis College in Durango Colorado has a “Native American Tuition Waiver. Qualified Native American students can attend Fort Lewis College tuition free. … Eskimos and other aboriginal people of Alaska shall be considered Native Americans.”
    I recommend though that if people did not grow up in a tribe or have no contact with that part of their ancestry, don’t try to fool the system, There are good reasons why that tuition waiver is in place for tribes and if that is not respected it could affect the benefit for those who’s land and culture have been so greatly affected.

  5. I had my DNA done by ancestry. They sent me pictures of native american ancestors and information. Does this definitly mean I am NA and what is my next step to applying for tribal membership ? Please advise.

  6. Pingback: Top DNA Articles for 2018 | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  7. I did the ancestry DNA and my results where 65% I am native american ..I don’t know where to start to find my tribe,I originally had this done because I don’t know who my father is and I am looking for him hoping he still alive. I was real surprised that I was 65% native…My mother passed away so I really don’t know where to start..I know its from my father’s side the native because he was from texas..

  8. I did my DNA and my percentage of Native American came up 45 percent and I don’t know where to go with this

    • That either one parent or half of two parents. You need to look at your genealogy. You might want to test your Y and mitochondrial DNA to see if that is Native as well, as it would tell you about your father’s surname line and your mother’s direct matrilineal line. Here’s a link for that.

  9. My Grandmother was Native American, we do not know what heritage she was, she was kidnapped by a white man at a very young age and didn’t know her true family. We are kinda leaning toward Cherokee or Blackfoot, but that is the best we could find out, we or her never knew what part of the U.S. she actually was from, how can I found out any information on what she was, and how much % do I have in me, would really love some help.

  10. Thank you, I’m glad I could be of help. Cause I know I was devastated and confused with my results. This helped me a lot.

  11. We have proof that my third great grandmother was full bloodied Native American of a Virginia tribe she was born at West Point Virginia but I have no Native American DNA. Being 1/32 that is hardly any NA blood at all but my two nephews DNA showed 22 and 11% respectively A genealogist explained to me that sometimes DNA is random so I suppose that is what happened.

  12. Dear Roberta,
    I know that my mother is an Ashkenazi Jew but I have no idea who my father is, all I know is that he is from Central or South America, I am currently trying to find him and find out more about him.

    This is the result I received form FTDNA:
    Ashkenazi Jew 48%
    Iberia 29%
    New World 21% (19% North and Central America and 2% South America)

    And my results from MyHeritage:
    Ashkenazi Jew 45%
    Iberia 19.3%
    Central American 30.4%

    Does this mean that my father is part Native American?

    Thank you very much,


  13. I took two DNA tests to compare, one on 23andme and one for (on sale over the holidays).

    23andme showed .6% Native American ancestry for me on one of my X chromosomes. showed no Native American ancestry at all. And even the European regions were much broader, but l like the tree building tools.

    My son shows no Native American ancestry on either site, but he may simply have not gotten what little l had left (of the type they tested for) esp since he only gets one X.

    I want to look into this further.

    Based on what l have done so far, what is the next best step?

    I don’t mind redoing for a 3rd or 4th time and paying the $199.00 because l like comparing, but where is the best place to go based on what l have told you?

    l simply want this done, it is something l want to leave behind for my kid who doesn’t yet care about this much, but who may in the future. This process has been a comfort to me after my mother’s death.

    BTW – My father is died years ago and he has no living brothers or sons to do a Y test.



  14. My native bio father was 75% native and his grand father were 100% back 3 generations.
    I found a living sister who is 3/8 blood quantum. My mother is white and had an affair in August of 1945 as I was born April 25,1946. speaking with my sister who I have never met wants to take a test that will show we are half brother and sister to each other. We have the same father but different Mothers. Which is the best company and test for the best results.


  15. i was born in Colombia south America, and did 23 & me, would I be able to get native American benefits in the US, I am a citizen and have been naturalized, but do not know my relatives. and if the answer is yes how do I register and prove I am part of a tribe?

    • You don’t. You’re not descended from any US tribe. Here, tribes are cultural and community constructs recognized by the US government through treaties.

  16. I am African american but mixed raced. Both of my parents are mixed. I grew up in foster care and recently found my biological father. I recently did a DNA test from multiple places and I found out I’m 25% Native american. Both of my bio parents claim to have NA ancestry, but my father says his dad was full Meskwaki/ Sac and Fox tribe. My moms side is African american and mixed as well and claim that there is “Cherokee” on her mothers side. How do I find out which tribes I am actually descended from?

  17. I am 59 percent Native American. My grandmother has always said we’re Aztec. So how can I find out what tribe I am part of.

    • Your best bet would be to contact matches who also share Native history. In Mexico, “tribal” affiliation is extremely difficult to prove.

  18. Pingback: Ethnicity is Just an Estimate – Yes, Really! | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  19. Still at a quandary pivoting in which direction to go. My siblings and I were foster children in the 1960’s. Never knew my parents or other family members. Until this test was taken after my daughter did first, I didn’t know I was 29% Native. What do I do now. Still feel like a lost orphan.

    • Do you have any idea which side it’s on? 29% sounds like a grandparent possibly. You could take a mitochondrial DNA test to see if it’s on your direct matrilineal line.

  20. My mother was adopted at birth. It was a closed adoption in 1966. And from what I am told the records are sealed in Pennsylvania. However, she did her own research years ago and found her birth mother. Her mother is full Cherokee. They only met once and never developed a relationship or maintained contact. How would she and I go about establishing our Cherokee heritage, joining the tribe and also be able to receive benefits?

  21. My Mother and Father just did theres my dads 32 % and my mom is 41%. How do I go about contacting tribes ? After I contact them what do I say ? i feel a little flustered over all this .

  22. My grandmother received an Oklahoma oil rights deed as a benefit of being 1/4 Native American through her mother and grandmother (who was 100%). Possibly Choctaw and Chickasaw.

    Would that possibly make me 1/16. Should I pursue this for health dna tracking or other study benefits?

    • As far as benefits are concerned, you need to call the tribe. As far as DNA testing, I’d certainly welcome you in the American Indian DNA project at Family Tree DNA. If you descend matrilineal your mitochondrial DNA will be Native too.

      • Hello Roberta, I have tested at FTDna as well as Ancestry. My paternal ancestors are Cherokee members. I have joined the American Indian project at FTDna. Interesting that FTDna does not show any North American DNA. Trace South American, East Asia, North African. Ancestry shows 1% or less, which corresponds to my pedigree estimate of 1/128. Take care, Brian

  23. I took the DNA test and it shows I am 46% Native American Indian. How can I use the DNA test to register and get my CDIB? I

  24. I left this comment In an older blog post but I’ll post question here too.

    In regards to FT DNA testing , I am curious as to why one with Native American ancestry (east coast tribal admixture) would recieve Asian (only Specifically Siberian) DNA, but not “New World” DNA ? Could this be that certain tribes of people in the east came in a later migration giving certain people this Asian Siberian marker instead of the “New World” markers?

    • I don’t think you can conclude that. It may simply be found in Asian populations today and was not found in only Native DNA. Each lab has their own classifier, and as new samples are added, segments are reclassified in new versions.

  25. Hello Roberta.

    My name is Cathy Bernal. I had my DNA done through to find out how much Spanish blood I had, so I can plan a trip to Spain to see my people. However, my results showed I was only 7% Spanish and 56% American Indian. So now my head is spinning. Both my parents are from New Mexico and my mother talked, frequently, about her Navajo heritage but it fell on deaf ears when I was young, unfortunately. Anyway, I would like to do the Family Tree DNA – Full Sequence, through your link, of course. However, I want to be honest about my curiosity: 1) I would love to know what tribe I am from and 2) if I am eligible to receive any funds through my tribe’s criteria of being eligible for funds. I have been the caretaker of my, now, 98 year old father, for the last eleven years; would you recommend that I get my father’s DNA tested as well? Thank you.

    • Tribes make their own rules and it’s very unlikely that you are eligible. You would first need to know which tribe and then fulfill their membership rules. Yes, absolutely get your father’s Y and his mtDNA tested as well. Those two gifts he can give you but you cannot do for yourself. You can transfer his autosomal from Ancestry and then his matches can help you sort your maternal matches from your paternal matches at FTDNA. What is your own mitochondrial DNA? Your mother’s may be Native too.

      • Okay.
        I will get my father’s Y and his mtDNA test; do I have to request these, specifically, or once I check “Full Sequence” it is automatically done? Also, where do I find my mitochondrial DNA? I did test with; but I don’t know if there is a certain number I am assigned, etc.? I will look closer at my results to find what my mitochondrial DNA is and get back to you. I get very confused with the terminology 🙁 .

        Thank you Roberta.

        • Ancestry does not test for either Y or mtDNA. Only Family Tree DNA, and yes, if you purchase the full sequence, that’s all there is and the order is placed. You also need to check the level of Y that you want to purchase too. Be sure to do that on the same account. You will need one account there for you, and one for your Dad. Here’s a short article on the types of DNA.

          • Ah, Roberta. Thank you so much. I will read the link attached and I will order our DNA Family Tree using your link as well. if I’m not entitled to any money, that is fine, but it would be so cool to find out what tribe my ancestors are from 🙂

  26. let me say first off I am not looking for any tribal benefits. Nor do I want to join a tribe even if I were to find out I qualify. My ancestors chose a path which was not to identify as Indians. But my mother always said one of her great grand mothers was a Cherokee by way of John Jackson Kirkland known as “Bushwhacker” Kirkland. He was a rather infamous character that hailed from Kirkland Creek in modern day Bryson City, NC. during the civil war. There is also the suggestion one of my ancestors named James Welch born in Craigengillan, Dumfrieshire, Scotland was married to a Indian woman named Susanna in and around Maryland and PA. I just want to know. My dad always said that she didnt have any Indian blood in her but….

  27. I have a question my dad had a number when he was younger being enrolled in a native american tribe, he use to get money, he has passed away and so has my grandma not sure where to inquire about getting further info. I’ve heard two things from his family that we are from kickapoo or ohlone costanoan. Two different regions, can you help?

  28. Please help me find my roots my great great grandfather had a child with a black foot American Indian. In want to do a dna test. Can you help me

  29. Hi. I just discovered that i am 16% indigitus from the south west America and Mexican tribes. This i know if on my mom’s side (im adopted) because my bio cousin on my dad’s side did our whole tree back to the beginning of the 1700’s. How do i go about trying to get recognized as part native American?

  30. I Have Native American Hertiage On Both Sides { Father & Mother Side }.

    1. Father’s Side Is Documented ; John Collins Born About 1725 Louisa County, VA. [ Revolutionary War Record Is His Mother Was A SAPONI INDIAN ] .

    2. Mother’s Side Is Documented ; Dr. Johnny Gourd Sizemore In Late 1700’s As CHEROKEE MEDICINEMAN , In What Is Grayson County, VA. Today .

    *** I Wasn’t Adopted & My Parents Names On My Birth Certificate , My Mother Giving Birth To Me on Hospital Record …………..

    So I Am At A Loss As To WHY , But MOMMAS’S BABY, DADDY’S MAYBE, So I Should Have NATIVE AMERICAN In My D.N.A. Test ????????????


    Sam Campbell

    • You may not carry any if the Native autosomal segments from those ancestors. Or the testing company nay not be picking it up. That’s many generations ago.

  31. Please explain why First Nations tribes do not accept DNA results.
    I can kinda do some reasonable guessing on this but respect your expertise in the area of culture and genealogy.
    I consider myself a novice genealogist for both sides of my family. I do pretty good with research overall. I am open to learning more…staying informed in this area.
    I’m happy to have found you!

  32. I did the ancestry DNA and it came out I was 58% American Indian. The problem is I don’t know we’re to start to find out what tribe. I do remember my Mother saying Great Grandma was from the Indian Tribes in Arizona but don’t know which one that is. Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother have past away so I’m lost in we’re I can register or really find my Real Blood Tribe. Can you help. Is there another blood test I can do. Best regards.

  33. That’s more than half Native American, it shouldn’t be difficult to find out what tribe, your close cousin matches should know.

  34. Im just trying to find out Who I am. I have my Whole Complete European tree, not intrested in that. Am looking for fathers side as I do know there is Native American in his mix

  35. I took ancestry, MTA, my heritage, GED match all say I am 97% NA.. where can I start looking for my tribe?

  36. I have a question. My grandfather was half Choctaw. My mother a quarter and that would make me an eighth. I’ve never called myself a Native American, because the blood is too thin and my looks are more like those of the other half of my ancestry – German. Would a DNA test give me a breakdown on which genetics are strongest and what characteristics I have that represents each?

  37. I’m Cherokee Indian…never got documented…now grandparents are gone…would like to know easiest way to confirm percentage i may have…and would love to get family tree figured out…i don’t tell anyone i have Indian…but some people say they can tell by my high check bones and dark brown eyes…ty

    • I have Cherokee ancestry also, I’m not part of the tribe, there’s no test that’s going to confirm you as part of the tribe Native American tribes do not recognize dna tests for tribe confirmation. You can take a dna test it may say you have a percentage of Native American dna or it may not,.a y people people are disappointed that they show 0 or very small percentage of Native American 9it depends on the test company some pick it up easily some do not, you can take a test but it won’t confirm you have Cherokee ancestry, and it won’t be accepted by any tribe.

  38. I have 1.7% Native DNA via autosomal testing. My 2nd cousin tested her mtDNA and found an A2 haplogroup. We are related on her mom’s mom’s mom’s line. I know where it came from, and my ancestor of which it came from was born in 1856. I cannot find any record of her parents though. She just shows up in the 1870 census, at 14 years old, living in a household that is not her own. She is not listed as a relative of the people she is living with either.

    We are stuck! It is so frustrating to know that I absolutely have Native American ancestry and I have no way of going further to find more information. My DNA suggests that her mother was 100% Native (as her mom would be my 4th great grandmother).

    I wish I knew what to do at this point.

      • Thanks so much for replying. We have searched and searched.. and there is nothing. She was in Louisiana and there is a Catholic Church record of her first husband’s death.. but no record of hers or her marriage to her second husband (maybe he wasn’t actually a husband). There aren’t any records of her death either. No obituary. 🙁 She was just lost in history, it seems.

        I will keep hunting until my last breath tho!

        • I subscribed two two newspaper sites and found out quite a bit searching those papers. Including a brother.

          • I’ve searched newspapers, but I’ll have to see if I can find another site for LA. Thanks again!

          • Have you done Autoclusters on Generic Affaires and AutoPedigrees? It will show you if your matches have trees that match each other. Possibly a clue there.

          • I have an article where I’ve compiled information on how to do this. Just search my blog for Genetic Affairs.

          • Thank you so much! It didn’t take long, but we found her!!! I can now confidentially place her in my family tree. The 1860 record shows her mother as (Indian). I want to cry.

            Thank you again. ❤️💕

    • My story is very similar too yours, I also have Native American ancestry Cherokee, my grandmother lived in a household where she was not related too the occupants her race was marked different from the other occupants, I haven’t been able too find out why she was there, my 2ad great grandmother I haven’t been able to find any records of her death.

  39. Roberta, I took my mtdna test and it came back B2c2a. Do I need to do anything further. Also, my son’s test came back Q-BY66876.

    Thank you.

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