How Much Indian Do I Have in Me???

I can’t believe how often I receive this question.

Here’s today’s version from Patrick.

“My mother had 1/8 Indian and my grandmother on my father’s side was 3/4, and my grandfather on my father’s side had 2/3. How much would that make me?”

First, this question was about Native American ancestry, but it could just have easily have been about African, European, Asian, Jewish….fill in the blank.

Secondly, Patrick’s initial question is a math question, but the real question is how much of a particular ethnicity do you have on paper versus how much you have genetically.

How could they be different?

Lots of ways.

Oral history in families tends to get diluted and condensed over time.  For example, maybe grandmother wasn’t really 3/4th – because her ancestors were admixed and she (or her descendants) didn’t know it.  And how does one have 2/3, exactly, with 4 grandparents.  So, the story may not be the whole story.

For our example, we’re going to eliminate the 2/3 number, because it can’t be correct.  A grandparent would be 1/4th, a great grandparent, 1/8th.  In other words, ancestors fractions come in divisions of 4, or 2, but not 3 – because it takes 2 people in each generation.

So, you could have 3 of 4 ancestors who are native, which would make the person 3/4th, 2 of 4 which would make the person half, or 1 of 4 which would make the person one quarter, but you cannot have 1 of 3, 2 of 3 or 3 of 3, because you have 4 grandparents, not 3.

Math

First, let’s answer the math question.

Math is your friend.

There are three easy steps.

1. Divide Each Generation By Half to Current

Each ancestral generation is reduced by one half, because the DNA is diluted by half in each generation.

So, if Patrick’s mother is 1/8, Patrick is 1/16 on their mother’s side, because Patrick received half of her DNA.  With fractions, you can’t reduce the top number of 1 by one half so you double the bottom number.

If grandfather was 3/4, then father was 3/8 on that side and Patrick is 3/16th.

So, now, add the numbers for Patrick together.

2. Find the Common Denominator

The two numbers you need to add together from the above exmaple are 1/16 and 3/16.  This is easy because the denominator is already the same – 16.  But let’s say you also have a third number, just for purposes of example.  Let’s say that third number is 3/32.

How do you add 1/16, 3/16 and 3/32?

The denominator has to be the same.  If you look at the denominators, you’ll see that if you double the fractions with 16, they become fractions with 32 as their denominator.

So, for this example, 1/16 becomes 2/32, 3/16 becomes 6/32 and 3/32 remains the same.

3. Add the Top Numbers Together

Now just add the numerators, or the top numbers together.

2/32 + 6/32 + 3/32 = 11/32

That’s the answer.  In this example, our person, per their family history, is 11/32 Native or 34.38%.

Patrick, who originally asked the question is 1/16 + 3/16 which equals 4/16, which reduces to 1/4 (by dividing the same number, 4, into the top and bottom of the fraction), plus whatever amount that “2/3” really is.  So, Patrick is more than one quarter, at least on paper.

Genetics

The next question is often, “how do I prove that?”  In terms of Native ancestry, the answer varies on the purpose – general interest, tribal identification or tribal membership, etc.  I’ve written about that in two articles, here and here.

You can take a DNA test from Family Tree DNA called Family Finder that provides you with percentages of ethnicity, including Native American, as well as a list of cousin matches. They also offer additional testing that may be relevant if you descend from the native person paternally (if you are a male) or matrilineally (for both sexes.)

On the diagram below, you can see the Y DNA in blue, inherited by males from their father and the mitochondrial or matrilineal DNA in red, always inherited from the mother.  While the Y and mitochondrial tests give you very specific information on two lines, the Family Finder test provides you with ethnicity information from all of your lines.  It just can’t tell you which line or lines the Native heritage came from.

adopted pedigree

Often, due to admixture in the Native population over the past several hundred years, since the Europeans “discovered” America, the amount of Native DNA is less than expected and sometimes is so far back and such a small amount that it doesn’t show at all.

An individual could well be considered a full tribal member, yet have less than half Native heritage.  Examples that come to mind are Mary Jemison, an adopted captive who was European, but considered a full tribal member, and Sequoyah, who invented the Cherokee alphabet.   Even the Cherokee Chief, Benge was at least half European, sporting red hair.  His mother was a member of the Cherokee tribe, so Benge was as well.  Cherokee Chief John Ross, born in 1790, was only one eighth Native.

So, the bottom line.  Enjoy your family history and heritage.  Document your family stories.  Understand that tribal membership was historically not a matter of percentages, at least not until the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Your ancestor either was or was not “Indian,” generally based on the tribal membership status of their mother.  There was no halfway and mixed didn’t matter.

DNA testing can confirm Native heritage.  It can also prove Native heritage in a variety of ways depending on how one descends from the Native ancestor(s), using Y and mitochondrial DNA.  Depending on whether Patrick is male or female, and how Patrick descends from his or her Native ancestors, the Y or mitochondrial DNA test can add a wealth of information to Patrick’s family history.

For some people, DNA testing is how one discovers that they have a Native ancestor.

So, how much Indian do you have in you, on paper and through DNA testing?

77 thoughts on “How Much Indian Do I Have in Me???

  1. This is an interesting topic to me, since I just recently found out I have Native American DNA. Between Ancestry and FamilyTreeDNA, I’m somewhere between 7-10% genetically. That’s actually more than I expected, since I haven’t found documented evidence of a Native American person in my tree yet. My maternal side is Puerto Rican, so I knew it would be in there somewhere (along with Spain/Portugal), presumably very diluted once it reached me.

    I’ll keep looking for that link, but I’m happy just to know that’s part of my cocktail. =)

  2. I’m am Native American (NA) on paper at 3/16 or 18.75 %, but by DNA I am 6% + 2 % Asian. A lot of difference. My daughters did better by getting half of mine one 3% and the other 3% + 1% Asian. Question can that Asian be added to the NA or is it a separate % somewhere else in my DNA? I have no knowledge of Asian unless it is part of my NA.

  3. Shouldn’t we be using indigenous rather than Native American (NA), Most people think of NA as a term used for American Indians when it really should be used for the people before the white invasion. My mtDNA is where my NA is and most of my matches are south of the US boarder and a lot of matches are Puerto Rican. I have no ancestry on paper that far south.

    • I hate to break it to you, but no one was originally indigenous. Evidence and DNA show the first humans were Africa. All other continents were populated by migrants. Continental drift and splits separated populations. So at what millennium do you draw the line?

      And as far as paper, I think undocumented relationships were and are fairly common.

      And the more I research, the more I learn we are all connected.

  4. Over the years, my older sister told me some pretty tall tales about our Native American ancestry. It is said that my father’s older sister documented quite a bite of information, but my cousins don’t seem to want to share it with me. Although, I did find some of my paternal surnames on the Dawes roles.

    My father Identified as Native American and basically looked the part, but sadly for him he was a multi-generational mix. My Ancestry DNA indicates that I am 4% Native American, 1% Asia (Central) and 1% Asia (West). Based upon those tall tales, I was surprised that I have such a small percentage of Native American DNA.

    • Can you tell me what I need to know to find my ancestors on the Dawes Roll?I have their info from the tomb stones,and my grandmothers death certificate, but they didn’t put her heritages on it, but her mom it does say 100%Cherokee Indian burn on the reservation Cherokee Mountians, my dad’s mom was 100% and was a teacher on the reservation,but I dint know my dad’s dad info just it was frank hunter can you help me to find out the surenameand how you found the names on the Dawes Roll?thank you.

  5. Another point to be made: If the tribal community is characterized by tight family relationships and historical inter-marriage with Europeans and Africans, how then can you “parse” the percentages of tribal members (e.g., divide their ancestral, genetic, contribution into percentage European, Native American and African) — in that they are, in fact, 100% tribal members? Don’t worry — the scientists can’t do it either!

  6. I have three 5th and one 6th fully Indian great-grandmothers, adding up to 7/256 or 2.7%. That’s the easy part. My Origins says I’m 8% NA and I know the remaining 5.3% should come from my 31/256 Mexican mestizo ancestry (12%). I used that to calculate the average percentage NA my Mexican ancestors were, and got 44% (5.3/12) which seems reasonable. So my DNA results agree with my documentation– yay!

    • wow you are lucky. my mom’s papertrail is unclear about how much amerindian she has but ancestrydna gives her around 33% +2% asian

  7. I am one of those folks who have an Native tradition in the family history way back when. My family came from the border of Kentucky and West Virginia. My dna testes done by 2 of the main tests shows no Native dna. When I checked my results at Gedmatch.com, most of the different studies show anywhere from 0.69 to 1.25% Native dna. Can you explain what the differences are between a couple of the these different programs on Gedmatch.com? Also, I can’t figure who these samples of dna are taken from.

    • Well, that’s the ying and yang of using these types of contributed programs. You don’t know anything about the samples, the people who wrote the programs or their qualifications. You’ll need to contact the contributor of the utility for that information.

  8. Hi Roberta. Technically, 2/3 is possible if each of 8 great-great-grandparent combinations included a great-great-grandparent from another line, so that the person had 12 rather than 16 individual great-great-grandparents. This would require, for example, a man marrying his brother’s wife upon death or divorce and having a grandchild that would marry a cousin descended from his wife’s first husband, his brother. Highly unlikely, but possible. As you know, there are some very endogamous populations in some parts of the country. Eight of the 12 would need to be NA.

    P.S. I’ve been away for awhile so am now catching up on your posts.

  9. Roberta, We had always been told of Native blood on my mother’s side and only a couple of generations back. With a mtDNA with Family Tree though shows haplogroup H which is predominately European. Does this mean there is absolutely no Native blood through that lineage?

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  11. My great great great grandma is 100 percent Indian and my G3 grandpa was 100 percent caucasian what percent of both am I look indian and have straight hair on my hair top

      • This is 3rd GREAT grandparents on one side of the family. There is also the other side. You are 1/16 through 1 parent, add in the other parent, if no NA, you would be 1/32 NA. Percentage I can’t give.

    • It depends on your definition of significant. For DNA testing, it probably won’t be picked up in the ethnicity tools. If you carry the Y or mtDNA of one of those lines, then you can see and document it there. If it’s significant to you personally, then yes, it is.

  12. I have my mom’s,mom’s mother was100%Cherokee Indian, and than in my dads side my dads mom’s,mom’s mother was 100% Indian not sure type though but they were from West Virginia area both 1mayb actually from Virginia on my moms side.. So if that’s the way it goes does that make me1/4qrtr Indian with having2great grandma’s 100% Indian?

    • You are 1/32
      GGG grandmother is full Indian
      GG grandmother is half Indian
      G grandmother is quarter Indian
      Grandmother is eighth
      Mother is sixteenth
      You are 1/32.

  13. It is my understanding that my great grandmother on my fathers side is 50% Native American

    My great grandfather on my fathers side is 80% Native American. On my mothers side my great grandmother is 100% Native American. When I went through 23 and me it did not show up at all. Any explanation?

  14. Ok my father’s mother and her mother were 100%Cherokee Indians,born on the reservation on Cherokee Mountain,Nc, so that makes 1/2 for my father so far ,my great~grandfather was100 % but I’m trying to find out how much my father’s father’s my Grandfather was,but on my mother’s side they came here on the Ark and dove from England the first white settlers, they kept the Indians that were already here and learned allot from them and inner marriages with them, I’m not sure if or how much I have in me, I’m guessing 1/4th so far or more what’s the best and the cheapest test I can take that will prove all my blood line, thank you for your help, I live in Southren, Md so if there’s a place to take the test near by would help full, thanks alott for your time in answering my request. Have a blessed day.

  15. I’ve recently discovered that I am Chief Keokuks 5th great granddaughter. One of Chief Keokuks daughters married a Pherigo. I have one family member who has all the info(my dads cousin, 4th great grandson of Keokuk) but I haven’t been able to reach him yet. Does that really put me at only 1/32?

  16. I’m not great with math I just know my great grandmother on my mother’s side was half Cherokee and my great grandmother on my father’s side was full blood Blackfoot. I would really love to know about what percentage I am native American. I can’t get the math right though can anyone help me out?

  17. My mom says that my dad had 1/4th blackfoot indian and her mom had 1/4th cherokee indian so if im not mistaken my moms mom was 1/2 indian and her mom was full indian but back to my dad i heard he had 1/4th cherokee in him too so how much indian do i have in me?
    Wesley

  18. As I was growing up I was told I had a little bit of Cherokee in me and rest was Central Europe in me. So I had a DNA test done it took me by surprise I come to find out that came back 3/4 Native American Indian In matter of fact I took it twice thinking it was wrong but still came out the same. How did it happen I was born in New Jersey.

  19. Hi I just had my family genealogy research done from the Natchitoches Indian. My great great grandparents on both sides are full blood Native Americans. I have been asked to fill out paper’s to become a member. How much Indian blood do I have, I am very dark skin, dark hair, and I most definitely look Indian. Thank you very much, have great day.

  20. My great grand father was a real chief of our cherrokee nation.we cam from Oklahoma.till we was ran off our land then my people traveled by covered wagons to Texas.I was told that they had to dress the little girls up to look like boys so they would not be rape.my fathers mother was full blooded and so was my dad.but my mom.I debt k how what all she has in her.my father passed away in 2007. But he told me to see how much Indian blood we children have is Indian and if we were certain percentage.the government would give us free treaty land .so I just want to know for myself.now with this math thing I have a son cherrokee.and his father is apace.does that make him a full blooded Indian? Many questions .my grand mothers name was lottie rineheart.I think my grand father died before I was born but you can see my grandmother was full blooded.a d everyone in the family say I lookvjust like little rineheart.so how can I find out for sure.? I just need to know for myself.

    • Regarding the tribe and any rights you might have, you’ll have to call the tribe and ask. As for DNA testing, you’ll need to order either the Family Finder test and possibly the Y or mtDNA depending on how you descend from the person to believe to be your Native ancestor.

  21. I have got small amount of Polynesian DNA from ancestry DNA test, and on GED match using raw data. Discovered that I have got 0.14% American Indian DNA. (also got Spanish, South and East Asian small percentages of DNA, while rest of DNA is Great Britain, Ireland, Italy and Scandinavia etc).

    It is very tiny percentages, but I don’t think I will able to trace down American Indian ancestors and Polynesian DNA is from AD1200 when my ancestors came to New Zealand. This is looking over thousand years ago if I tried to trace way way back.

    My parents is 1/16 New Zealand Native.

    I guess that would make me 1/16 Native or 1/8th Native?

  22. Hi, I have a related question. I don’t have any answers for sure. We also have the Cherokee in the family history. Since our family was in western Pa I began to doubt it. But anyway, we found that we have an ancestor born in what became Burke County NC, so the story is looking more plausible. If she were full blooded Cherokee, then down to my grandparents, they would be 1/32. But my question is this, since my grandparents were cousins and had the same paternal grandfather, how would that effect the percentage? I know that it’s not an exact science and I don’t actually even have proof that she was Cherokee but there a lot of people with her surname on the Baker Rolls, but I digress. Would my father still be 1/32 as both of his parents may have been 1/32 or would he be 1/64. So would that make me 1/64 or 1/128. Assuming for the sake of argument that she was full blood Cherokee and no other Native mixture was involved.

  23. So if I’m 7/8ths white and my girlfriend is 4/8ths white I suppose our child will be 11/8ths white. But since I’m 1/8th brown and she is 4/8ths brown our child will be 5/8ths brown too. You see the conundrum?

  24. As with most posts here, My maternal line swears to NA ancestors. According to family tales, My GGG grandmother was 100% Cherokee. Bringing it down the line, with no NA in my Father, that would make Mom 1/16 and me and my siblings 1/32. I’ve had my Mom do 2 dna tests with 2 different companies as well as my sisters test…none of us show any percentage of NA or asian. Would you agree with me that the chances of us having NA is slim to none? I love the family stories, I just want to leave an accurate account to my children and grandchildren

  25. Norma Reyna Moreno my problems is my found out my Uncles felix Moreno & Jose Moreno Had there childern in Roll. In paso Texas and dont now how too go about getting in our setf’s. — my Email is –Fartotheend@gmail.com or my no: 6612835441 in Bakersfield Ca.

  26. my girlfriend grandma and grandpa were pure indian,and her mother was pure indian,would she qualify,what should she do Thank you

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  28. If my dad is 100% Caucasian and my mother 25% Chinese and 75% Caucasian, is it possible for me to have 25% Chinese also?

  29. I have heard my whole life that my GGG grandmother was 100% Chippewa but married a white man and that upon marriage to him she identified as white on all census. I am having a hard time finding any proof. I am female so the way the line to my GGG grandmother goes is Me (female), My Mom, My Grandmother, My Great Grand Father, My Great Great Grand Mother and my Great Great Great Grand Mother. So which type of testing would I do, since I have read that mtDNA is not passed down from Men to their children the fact that my Great Grand Father is in this line will it have been lost? Not trying to be member of any tribe or gain anything from it other than I love history and want to know my line. Thank you for any help.

    • You would have to find someone who descends from your great-grandfather’s sisters or his mother’s sisters through all females to the current generation. You could also find someone who descends from your GGG grandfather or his siblings through all males for the Y chromosome too. Both tests would yield insight.

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  31. ancestry showed me 50% irish. my grandfather was full bloodied cherokee. no cherokee shown on dna. i should be 25%. why not?

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