I’m often asked about the significance of small percentages of autosomal DNA in results. Specifically, the small percentages are often of Native American or results that would suggest Native admixture. One of the first questions I always ask is whether or not the individual has Germanic or eastern European admixture.
Take a look at this map of the Invasion of the Roman Empire. See the Huns and their path?
It’s no wonder we’re so admixed.
Here’s a map of the Hunnic empire at its peak under Attila between the years 420-469.
Since both the Hungarians and some Germanic people descend from Asian populations, as do Native Americans, albeit thousands of years apart, it’s not unrealistic to expect that, as populations, they share a genetic connection.
Therefore, when people who carry heritage from this region of the world show small amounts of Native or Asian origin, I’m not surprised. However, for Americans, trying to sort out their Native ethnic heritage, this is most unhelpful.
Let’s take a look at the perfect example candidate. This man is exactly half Hungarian and half German. Let’s see what his DNA results say, relative to any Asian or Native heritage, utilizing the testing companies and the free admixture tools at www.gedmatch.com.
He has not tested at Ancestry, but at Family Tree DNA, his myOrigins report 96% European, 4% Middle Eastern. At 23andMe in speculative view, he shows 99.7 European and .2 sub-saharan African.
Moving to the admixture tools at GedMatch, MDLP is not recommended for Asian or Native ancestry, so I have excluded that tool.
Eurogenes K13 is the most recently updated admixture tool, so let’s take a look at that one first.
Eurogenes K13 showed 7% West Asian, which makes perfect sense considering his heritage, but it might be counted as “Native” in other circumstances, although I would certainly be very skeptical about counting it as such.
However, East Asian, Siberian and Amerindian would all be amalgamated into the Native American category, for a combined percentage of 1.31.
However, selecting the “admixture proportions by chromosome” view shows something a bit different. The cumulative percentages, by chromosome equate to 10.10%. Some researchers mistakenly add this amount and use that as their percentage of Native ancestry. This is not the case, because those are the portions of 100% of each individual chromosome, and the total would need to be divided by 22 to obtain the average value across all chromosomes. The total is irrelevant, and the average may not reflect how the developer determines the amount of admixture because chromosomes are not the same size nor carry the same number of SNPs. Questions relative to the functional underpinnings of each tool should be addressed to the developers.
I understand that there is a newer version of Dodecad, but that it has not been submitted to GedMatch for inclusion, per a discussion with GedMatch. I can’t tell which of the Dodecad versions on GedMatch is the most current, so I ran the results utilizing both v3 and 12b.
I hope v3 is not the most current, because it does not include any Native American category or pseudocategory – although there is a smattering of Northeast Asian at .27% and Southwest Asian at 1%.
Dodecad 12b below
The 12b version does show .52% Siberian and 2.6% Southwest Asian, although I’m not at all sure the Southwest Asian should be included.
Harappaworld shows .09 Siberian, .27% American (Native American), .23% Beringian and 1.8% Southwest Asian, although I would not include Southwest Asian in the Native calculation.
Neither Family Tree DNA nor 23andMe find Native ancestry in our German/Hungarian tester, but all 3 of the admixture tools at Gedmatch find either small amounts of Native or Asian ancestry that could certainly be interpreted as Native, such as Siberian or Beringian.
Does this mean this German/Hungarian man has Native American ancestry? Of course not, but it does probably mean that the Native population and his ancestral populations did share some genes from the same gene pool thousands of years ago.
While you might think this is improbable, or impossible, consider for a minute that every person outside of Africa today carries some percentage of Neanderthal DNA, and all Europeans also carry Denisovan DNA. Our DNA does indeed have staying power over the millennia, especially once an entire population or group of people is involved. We’ve recently seen this same type of scenarios in the full genome sequencing of a 24,000 year old Siberian male skeleton.
Our German/Hungarian man carries 2.4% Neanderthal DNA according to 23andMe and 2.7% according to the Genographic Project, which also reports that he carries 3.9% Denisovan. The European average is about 2% for Neanderthal.
The net-net of this is that minority admixture is not always what it seems to be, especially when utilizing autosomal DNA to detect small amounts of Native American admixture. The big picture needs to be taken into consideration. Caution is advised.
When searching for Native admixture, when possible, both Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA give specific answers for specific pedigree lines relative to ancestry. Of course, to utilize Y or mtDNA, the tester must descend from the Native ancestor either directly paternally to test the male Y chromosome, or directly matrilineally to test the mitochondrial line. You can read about this type of testing, and how it works, in my article, Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA. You can also read about other ways to prove Native ancestry using autosomal DNA, including how to unravel which pedigree line the Native ancestry descends from, utilizing admixture tools, in the article, “The Autosomal Me.”