Jessica Biel – A Follow-up: DNA, Native Heritage and Lies

Jessica Biel’s episode aired on Who Do You Think You Are on Sunday, April 2nd. I wanted to write a follow-up article since I couldn’t reveal Jessica’s Native results before the show aired.

The first family story about Jessica’s Biel line being German proved to be erroneous. In total, Jessica had three family stories she wanted to follow, so the second family legend Jessica set out to research was her Native American heritage.

I was very pleased to see a DNA test involved, but I was dismayed that the impression was left with the viewing audience that the ethnicity results disproved Jessica’s Native heritage. They didn’t.

Jessica’s Ethnicity Reveal

Jessica was excited about her DNA test and opened her results during the episode to view her ethnicity percentages.

Courtesy TLC

The locations shown below and the percentages, above, show no Native ethnicity.

Courtesy TLC

Jessica was understandably disappointed to discover that her DNA did not reflect any Native heritage – conflicting with her family story. I feel for you Jessica.  Been there, done that.

Courtesy TLC

Jessica had the same reaction of many of us. “Lies, lies,” she said, in frustration.

Well Jessica, maybe not.

Let’s talk about Jessica’s DNA results.

Native or Lies?

I’ve written about the challenges with ethnicity testing repeatedly. At the end of this article, I’ll provide a reading resource list.

Right now, I want to talk about the misperception that because Jessica’s DNA ethnicity results showed no Native, that her family story about Native heritage is false. Even worse, Jessica perceived those stories to be lies. Ouch, that’s painful.

In my world view, a lie is an intentional misrepresentation of the truth. Let’s say that Jessica really didn’t have Native heritage. That doesn’t mean someone intentionally lied. People might have been confused. Maybe they made assumptions. Sometimes facts are misremembered or misquoted. I always give my ancestors the benefit of the doubt unless there is direct evidence of an intentional lie. And if then, I would like to try to understand what prompted that behavior. For example, discrimination encouraged many people of mixed ethnicity to “pass” for white as soon as possible.

That’s certainly a forgivable “lie.”

Ok, Back to DNA

Autosomal DNA testing can only reliably pick up to about the 1% level of minority DNA admixture successfully – minority meaning a small amount relative to your overall ancestry.

Everyone inherits DNA from ancestors differently, in different amounts, in each generation. Remember, you receive half of your DNA from each parent, but which half of their DNA you receive is random. That holds true for every generation between the ancestor in question and Jessica today.  Ultimately, more or less than 50% of any ancestor’s DNA can be passed in any generation.

However, if Jessica inherited the average amount of DNA from each generation, being 50% of the DNA from the ancestor that the parent had, the following chart would represent the amount of DNA Jessica carried from each ancestor in each generation.

This chart shows the amount of DNA of each ancestor, by generation, that an individual testing today can expect to inherit, if they inherit exactly 50% of that ancestor’s DNA from the previous generation. That’s not exactly how it works, as we’ll see in a minute, because sometimes you inherit more or less than 50% of a particular ancestor’s DNA.

Utilizing this chart, in the 4th generation, Jessica has 16 ancestors, all great-great-grandparents. On average, she can expect to inherit 6.25% of the DNA of each of those ancestors.

In the rightmost column, I’ve shown Jessica’s relationship to her Jewish great-great-grandparents, shown in the episode, Morris and Ottilia Biel.

Jessica has two great-great-grandparents who are both Jewish, so the amount of Jewish DNA that Jessica would be expected to carry would be 6.25% times two, or 12.50%. But that’s not how much Jewish DNA Jessica received, according to Ancestry’s ethnicity estimates. Jessica received only 8% Jewish ethnicity, 36% less than average for having two Jewish great-great-grandparents.

Courtesy TLC

Now we know that Jessica carries less Jewish DNA that we would expect based on her proven genealogy.  That’s the nature of random recombination and how autosomal DNA works.

Now let’s look at the oral history of Jessica’s Native heritage.

Native Heritage

The intro didn’t tell us much about Jessica’s Native heritage, except that it was on her mother’s mother’s side. We also know that the fully Native ancestor wasn’t her mother or grandmother, because those are the two women who were discussing which potential tribe the ancestor was affiliated with.

We can also safely say that it also wasn’t Jessica’s great-grandmother, because if her great-grandmother had been a member of any tribe, her grandmother would have known that. I’d also wager that it wasn’t Jessica’s great-great-grandmother either, because most people would know if their grandmother was a tribal member, and Jessica’s grandmother didn’t know that. Barring a young death, most people know their grandmother. Utilizing this logic, we can probably safely say that Jessica’s Native ancestor was not found in the preceding 4 generations, as shown on the chart below.

On this expanded chart, I’ve included the estimated birth year of the ancestor in that particular generation, using 25 years as the average generation length.

If we use the logic that the fully Native ancestor was not between Jessica and her great-great-grandmother, that takes us back through an ancestor born in about 1882.

The next 2 generations back in time would have been born in 1857 and 1832, respectively, and both of those generations would have been reflected as Indian on the 1850 and/or 1860 census. Apparently, they weren’t or the genealogists working on the program would have picked up on that easy tip.

If Jessica’s Native ancestor was born in the 7th generation, in about 1807, and lived to the 1850 census, they would have been recorded in that census as Native at about 43 years of age. Now, it’s certainly possible that Jessica had a Native ancestor that might have been born about 1807 and didn’t live until the 1850 census, and whose half-Native children were not enumerated as Indian.

So, let’s go with that scenario for a minute.

If that was the case, the 7th generation born in 1807 contributed approximately 0.78% DNA to Jessica, IF Jessica inherited 50% in each generation. At 0.78%, that’s below the 1% level. Small amounts of trace DNA are reported as <1%, but at some point the amount is too miniscule to pick up or may have washed out entirely.

Let’s add to that scenario. Let’s say that Jessica’s ancestor in the 7th generation was already admixed with some European. Traders were well known to marry into tribes. If Jessica’s “Native” ancestor in the 7th generation was already admixed, that means Jessica today would carry even less than 0.78%.

You can easily see why this heritage, if it exists, might not show up in Jessica’s DNA results.

No Native DNA Does NOT Equal No Native Heritage

However, the fact that Jessica’s DNA ethnicity results don’t indicate Native American DNA doesn’t necessarily mean that Jessica doesn’t have a Native ancestor.

It might mean that Jessica doesn’t have a Native ancestor. But it might also mean that Jessica’s DNA can’t reliably disclose or identify Native ancestry that far back in time – both because of the genetic distance and also because Jessica may not have inherited exactly half of her ancestor’s Native DNA. Jessica’s 8% Jewish DNA is the perfect example of the variance in how DNA is actually passed versus the 50% average per generation that we have to utilize when calculating expected estimates.

Furthermore, keep in mind that all ethnicity tools are imprecise.  It’s a new field and the reference panels, especially for Native heritage, are not as robust as other groups.

Does Jessica Have Native Heritage?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but here’s what I do know.

  • You can’t conclude that because the ethnicity portion of a DNA test doesn’t show Native ancestry that there isn’t any.
  • You can probably say that any fully Native ancestor is not with in the past 6 generations, give or take a generation or so.
  • You can probably say that any Native ancestor is probably prior to 1825 or so.
  • You can look at the census records to confirm or eliminate Native ancestors in many or most lines within the past 6 or 7 generations.
  • You can utilize geographic location to potentially eliminate some ancestors from being Native, especially if you have a potential tribal affiliation. Let’s face it, Cherokees are not found in Maine, for example.
  • You can potentially utilize Y and mitochondrial DNA to reach further back in time, beyond what autosomal DNA can tell you.
  • If autosomal DNA does indicate Native heritage, you can utilize traditional genealogy research in combination with both Y and mitochondrial DNA to prove which line or lines the Native heritage came from.

Mitochondrial and Y DNA Testing

While autosomal DNA is constrained to 5 or 6 generations reasonably, Y and mitochondrial DNA is not.

Of course, Ancestry, who sponsors the Who Do You Think You Are series, doesn’t sell Y or mitochondrial DNA tests, so they certainly aren’t going to introduce that topic.

Y and mitochondrial DNA tests reach back time without the constraint of generations, because neither Y nor mitochondrial DNA are admixed with the other parent.

The Y DNA follows the direct paternal line for males, and mitochondrial DNA follows the direct matrilineal line for both males and females.

In the Concepts – Who To Test article, I discussed all three types of testing and who one can test to discover their heritage, through haplogroups, of each family line.  Every single one of your ancestors carried and had the opportunity to pass on either Y or mitochondrial DNA to their descendants.  Males pass the Y chromosome to male children, only, and females pass mitochondrial DNA to both genders of their children, but only females pass it on.

I don’t want to repeat myself about who carries which kind of DNA, but I do want to say that in Jessica’s case, based on what is known about her family, she could probably narrow the source of the potential Native ancestor significantly.

In the above example, if Jessica is the daughter – let’s say that we think the Native ancestor was the mother of the maternal great-grandmother. She is the furthest right on the chart, above. The pink coloring indicates that the pink maternal great grandmother carries the mitochondrial DNA and passed it on to the maternal grandmother who passed it to the mother who passed it to both Jessica and her siblings.

Therefore, Jessica or her mother, either one, could take a mitochondrial DNA test to see if there is deeper Native ancestry than an autosomal test can reveal.

When Y and mitochondrial DNA is tested, a haplogroup is assigned, and Native American haplogroups fall into subgroups of Y haplogroups C and Q, and subgroups of mitochondrial haplogroups A, B, C, D, X and probably M.

With a bit of genealogy work and then DNA testing the appropriate descendants of Jessica’s ancestors, she might still be able to discern whether or not she has Native heritage. All is not lost and Jessica’s Native ancestry has NOT been disproven – even though that’s certainly the impression left with viewers.

Y and Mitochondrial DNA Tests

If you’d like to order a Y or mitochondrial DNA test, I’d recommend the Full Mitochondrial Sequence test or the 37 marker Y DNA test, to begin with. You will receive a full haplogroup designation from the mitochondrial test, plus matching and other tools, and a haplogroup estimate with the Y DNA test, plus matching and other tools.

You can click here to order the mitochondrial DNA, the Y DNA or the Family Finder test which includes ethnicity estimates from Family Tree DNA. Family Tree DNA is the only DNA testing company that performs the Y and mitochondrial DNA tests.

Further Reading:

If you’d like to read more about ethnicity estimates, I’d specifically recommend “DNA Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum.

If you’d like more information on how to figure out what your ethnicity estimates should be, I’d recommend Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages.

You can also search on the word “ethnicity” in the search box in the upper right hand corner of the main page of this blog.

If you’d like to read more about Native American heritage and DNA testing, I’d  recommend the following articles. You can also search for “Native” in the search box as well.

How Much Indian Do I Have In Me?

Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA

Finding Your American Indian Tribe Using DNA

Native American Mitochondrial Haplogroups



I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

60 thoughts on “Jessica Biel – A Follow-up: DNA, Native Heritage and Lies

  1. Another thought would be to try the different admixture tests on Gedmatch to see if there’s a pattern of Native American in them. Of course, again, as you note, an Ancestry-funded show is unlikely to go in that direction.

    • Why would you say that an Ancestry-funded show is unlikely to go in the direction of Native American? That’s just not true. My friend had his ancestry verified through Ancestry and he found out he has approx. 44% Native American! So don’t just assume things.

      • Rose Marie, I think you misunderstood the comment. I believe satwatcher was saying that a show funded by Ancestry is unlikely to present 3rd party tools such as GedMatch, especially when one of the biggest complaints against AncestryDNA is their lack of a Chromosome Browser. Not that Ancestry won’t present Native American heritage if it’s found.

  2. Well, I hope Ms. Biel sees this or someone can get it to her somehow. I would hate to be so misled, and she will probably take what she was told “as gospel,” as we say down South, and not pursue it further.

  3. Thank you, that graph of % per generation is very useful. I have a question about
    “Iberian” Dna. I have 2% on one test (8% on another). I see Iberian listed in a lot of
    results of British Isle people. Does that indicate that that could come from the first peoples into Southern British Isles…who then retreated back to Southern France/Northern Spain when an Ice Age hit the British Isles? And who then, some generations on, went back to British Isles??? I.e., is Iberian a marker for those people? Thank you, Georgeann

    • Georgeann – your people could have originally came from the Spain/Portugal, i.e. Iberian region and then migrated to the British isles. There is no evidence that those people originated from the British Isles and then retreated, as you say, at all. Just because a people is living in a certain region, say the British Isles, that does not mean their ethnicity is to that country, you understand. It is just where they eventually settle. I hope that helps you.

  4. Another caveat to consider is that the researcher told Jessica that “usually” Jews married Jews. Based upon that assumption, she told Jessica that both her GG Grandparents were Jews even though only one GG Grandparenp was noted as Jewish on the census, NOT both her GG Grandparents. The rest of the family was not so noted. It is possible that she had only one GG Grandparent who was Jewish which would account for the low amount of Jewish DNA showing.

    • Haha- I looked it up on Ancestry and both were Jewish. I think her gggrandmother’s maiden name was Morkowitz, and has Yiddish speaking parents.

    • Her great-grandfather’s parents were both Jewish. However, it’s possible that some of the other DNA results (I.e.”Europe East”) refer to Jewish ancestry.

  5. I suppose that many people believe that they have a Native ancestor. They were most likely told this by an older family member. My Mother told me that her grandmother was Cherokee. I was pleased to see that I had less than 1 percent Native heritage. Well, I guess that proves Grt-Grandma. Grt-Grandma Harriet does resemble the Cherokees that I have seen and met in the Smokies. Also, Grt-Grandma was born in Cherokee, AL, which I understand had once been the home of many Cherokee. Grt-Grandma was adopted as a child and taken to GA from AL. According to Mother, Harriet seldom would speak of her childhood. When asked about her birth parents she would only say, “A buzzard laid me on a stump and the sun hatched me out”. This buzzard story also seems to support her heritage. Her sister Mary lived in OK and wrote that there was land available for them due to their heritage. I have not seen the letter. it was sent to another sister who sent two of her sons to OK to check out the land. They supposedly did not like it there and remained in TX where thier family lived. I still know little about Grt-Grandma Harriet but the Family tradition and the small percentage of Native heritage in my DNA seems to prove the story. I do wish I knew more.

    • If your great-grandmother was a full blooded Cherokee,you would have around 12.5%,not less that 1%. The “less than 1%” amount that you have would be further back, maybe great-great-great-great-grandparent.

  6. Thank you so much for this follow-up post. And thank you for explaining the way autosomal DNA is inherited.
    I wanted to scream to Jessica through the TV last night that just because Native American didn’t show up in HER DNA didn’t mean the family story didn’t have some truth to it – and that she should continue to do her research and do the Mt- and Y-DNA testing at the very least. Also have her still living ancestors and siblings, cousins, etc. tested.

  7. People seem particularly attached to this idea of “x relative (my granny, great-granny, etc.) was a *full-blood* (insert tribe-name). And they attach a great deal of importance to what we refer to as “Blood quantum” or the percentage of Native DNA you have.

    Native peoples never attached any importance to blood-quantum until the government started dividing up the Treaty lands in Indian Territory, doing the Indian Census and they noted the blood quantum of each individual. The important thing was *culture*. If you lived in the village, lived the culture, had been adopted by the Clan Mothers and spoke the language you were a tribal member.

    Many Cherokee who were awarded land and tribal status *in the 1890s* by the BIA were only 1/256th Cherokee! If you are researching an ancestor you believe to be Native, 1st identify the tribe, then *intensively* research the tribe’s history. Know where the tribe, every branch of it, went, and when. Learn the moieties, the clans, and their respective responsibilities to each other. Know every family name in the clan, because they always moved together. What were their rituals around death? I once identified a family because I knew the death rituals of my family’s tribe.

    Good luck to everyone searching for their Native Ancestors!

    • The second picture down from the top shows the maps and for Africa which she has less than 1% of it is circled in purple with countries such as Morocco, Libya and Egypt included. They only mentioned the NA, Jewish, German and Hungarian because each celebrity chooses an ancestor they are more curious about, and they go from there.

  8. As always, Roberta and your DNAeXplained followers, have good comments. I have been able to prove there IS Native DNA on my mother’s side and my Father’s side, but not down to me. My father’s father’s side has unknown heritage info, but I have traced it back to my Jewish Great Great Grandfather Woeltz who married a Catholic French woman, (Liro) down to my immigrant Great Grandfather Woeltz (then 1/2 Jewish), who married a Jewish Heffner = my 3/4’s Jewish Grandfather, who married Annie Mohundro. The Mohundro line had at least ONE marriage to a full Native who had one son. The famous ‘Texas Jack’ born John Baker Omohundro. My ancestor but not in my direct line.

    Yes that I have no DNA of Native American, but that both maternal and paternal sides had an ancestor with some native but not in our blood lines.

    It took from 1998 – 2014, to go back far enough to find all of this. Jessica Biel has time to find her own ‘story’ and I hope it gets shared with us!

  9. I hope this question isn’t too far off the subject. My mother(Gloria), Her Mother(Kittie), Kittie’s father (Frank), Franks father (William C Smith) my second great grandfather was born in 1804. Is the AncestryDNA detailed enough to give me hints as to who his father Is Or would it be beneficial to take a Y or a mitochondrial DNA test. I’ve tested with Ancestry so far.

  10. I always pretty sure of Native American Ancestry on my maternal side ( Clarke County AL)but was surprised to learn the same with dad’s side (Lenoir and other counties in NC). What amazes me is the number of Ancestry matches whose DNA also includes NA admixture from Oklahoma( a huge surprise), Florida, South Carolina etc.

  11. I’m fortunate in that my Native American ancestry not only shows up pretty clearly in most tests — including Ancestry’s — but I also have a nice paper trail to a specific ancestor.

    What’s especially nice is that I belong to no less than *seven* DNA Circles that involve descendants of hers. One of these is centered on a great granddaughter of hers, Marie Marthe Pacquet, who married Michel d’Argaray.

    Quite a few — possibly a majority — of the circle members show Native American ancestry. In some cases, it’s only “trace”; but in quite a few cases it’s more than that. I think one of the reasons for this is that this is a very endogamous group, with a number of folks having multiple ties to the same ancestors. (I have at least two, which may be on the low side.)

    Yet there are still some members of the circle that *don’t* show Native American ancestry. Pretty clearly the ancestry exists, but for some reason it simply doesn’t show up. Of course, this is yet another place where we see the superiority of 23andMe’s chromosome browser (something is almost always superior to nothing).

    In fact, I have a 3rd cousin at 23andMe who’s another descendant of the same Native American ancestor. One of our matching segments is on chromosome 15, and this is also a place at which Ancestry Composition shows a Native American segment for each of us. This of course doesn’t prove it’s from the ancestor I’ve referred to, but it’s definitely suggestive.

    Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if Ancestry had a chromosome browser? Or maybe even the guts to report ethnicity as more than just percentages? (I say “guts” because it does expose the process to greater challenges.)

    I mean, I like much of what Ancestry is doing … I just wish they’d do it *better*, as I believe they can.

  12. According to,my uncle has a good percentage of Native American DNA,which proves I do have NA ancestry,just none of the genes were passed to me. While my DNA test from DNATribes and 23andme does in fact show Native American genomes.
    I’m also curious as to why Jessica never revealed her African results? Perhaps she didn’t exactly how to read her pie chart.

  13. Almost every white person I know has a family story about their native ancestor. There just weren’t enough Natives to go around for this to be true. Most of these claims are made honestly but are not proveable.

  14. I can attest to Roberta’s point about how Y DNA and mt DNA can tell things autosomal DNA can not. My father-in-law is of Cuban-American descent. He would say he is Spanish and has a couple of family connections to Spain on a couple of lines. However, he cheekbones and forehead led me to think he must have some Native American. He only has a couple of percent Native American which just didn’t seem right, appear-wise. He was skeptical because of the low percentage. My wife only has 1% of it. However, his mt DNA is haplogroup C. It is of the same type found in ancient burials among the Native Americans that Christopher Columbus’s expeditions found. His Y DNA is a bit unusual, of type found in the Middle East, including only selected locations in Spain. One of the hotspots for his Y DNA is Huelva, the bay from where Christopher Columbus launched.

  15. Thank you for this well-presented article. My family has well-documented native ancestry on at least two lines from the 17th and 18th Centuries. So far, this does not appear in extended family members including the oldest living generation.

  16. The episode and the replies are all very interesting. This is a discussion that could go on indefinitely. I will say one thing in defense of Jennifer and Ancestry regarding the African ancestry. Jennifer probably did not have any idea that she had any African ancestry. Also, Jennifer had some specific questions that she wanted answers for and African ancestry was not one of them. The show is only an hour long and so many things could not be researched or the questions all answered. I suspect that Jennifer, like most of us, now has many more questions regarding her ancestry and maybe she also now has some new skills that she can use to learn more. Maybe one day Ancestry will do a special show about updates and new information regarding the many stars that they have featured in the series. I am certain that all of them have more questions about their heritage.

    • The portion of North African circles is also part of the Mediterranean Basin, part of the southern portion of Spain and is generally not considered “African” in the sense of sub-Saharan Africa. Often, it’s considered Middle Eastern. Jessica’s trace regions, as reported on by percentages, did not include African. And yes, there were a lot of other areas also not discussed – like all of her other ancestors who could have been traced, at least for a few generations. They have to select lines that offer the most interest to the viewing public and that can be traced.

      • It’s just for the fact that the top of her DNA Regions shows “Africa”; it doesn’t say what part, it doesn’t say North Africa. It’s just a fact that she totally didn’t mention that; she started her results at Great Britain and went from there. Why make excuses as to why she didn’t mention her African ancestry? And why is it so important to you to excuse away her African heritage? Yes, there were other area’s to discuss; but it just stands out like a sore thumb that the only part of her DNA that she Didn’t discuss was at the top of the list: Africa.

        • If you look back at her results, the screen shot is in this article. In her results, Africa is not shown. The Iberian peninsula is shown at 3%. North Africa is considered to be in the same region with the Iberian peninsula. So please don’t assume that I or anyone else is excusing away her African results, because at least in my case, that is patently untrue.

  17. Just wanted to comment on the census records and the recording of races/color in the 1850’s and later, specifically in the N.Georgia, Western NC and upstate of SC area. I’m running into a lot of families who claim Cherokee ancestry, but were never listed as “Indian” on any census records or even death certificates. A few may have been listed as Mulatto early on, but most were just listed as White.

    I’m starting to believe that in this area after the removal, if you were mixed and could pass as white and wanted to live in the white community, then that’s just what you did, even if you “looked Indian”. In my family, there are no stories of where we came from or who we were, just stories of how our grandparents and how their grandparents made it thru on a day to day basis – living thru wars, burying children way too young to die, and how and when to grow your garden.

    Hence my reason for DNA testing. FTDNA showed only my 2 main ethnicities, but Gedmatch broke it down further and showed a small amount of Native American, which I inherited from my father. It didn’t surprise me, but it’s getting quite annoying that I can’t find a paper trail or evidence of where this Native come from. Has this happened to anyone else ?

    • We should also consider the fact that many races, besides African American, were slaves in the U. S., such as many Native Americans, Irish, etc; a large percentage being children at the time they were unwillingly enslaved! Census takers didn’t always write down the names of slaves; many years just a number was written for how many slaves there were, nor was there a division for racial counting. If the slaves had children, by ANYONE, even ‘their owner’ or another land owner, those children were slaves as well, unless granted there freedom by ‘their owner.’ Sometimes these freedom papers were stolen from them by unscrupulous slave trackers or traders, in order to claim a bounty or sell them back into slavery. And that doesn’t even speak to how often a child’s name, an supposed heritage, may change if they were captured very young, and then sold (or captured again by another tribe, as was common among some of the Native American tribes) many times. Sadly, too many of our ancestors had no idea who they were, for whatever reason.

  18. I don’t remember if Jessica’s maternal grandmother was still living. If she is, she should be tested immediately. Two generations closer to a possible Native American ancestor would be a great help.

  19. There were stories about a native American connection on my paternal side. The family tree had been researched back to that ancestor as well but there were still questions about whether it was true or not. I had a DNA test done and it showed zero native American ancestry. I then had my father take a DNA test to confirm my results. Turns out the native American ancestry showed up in his maternal line (just like the family tree said it would) but at less than 1%. Which makes sense since the relative we thought was native American was born in the early 1800’s.

  20. Thank you! I was screaming at my tv when they left it at her not having any Native American ancestry. She has lberian peninsula which COULD be native american.The Italy/Greece COULD be through her native american roots.

  21. It struck me that Jessica said he mother and grandmother are still alive, but they apparently only tested Jessica’s DNA. I think it would be much more valuable to test her grandmother for better results on that side of her family. I sure wish I had that option!

  22. My question is are native Mexicans considered native Americans even though they aren’t considered a member of any tribe? And as far as culture my daughter’s grandmother is half black and when I inquired about school scholarship money in 1982I was told if she was raised as white that was what she was so no money.

      • A lot of people with Mexican ancestry also have Native American Genes. California,Texas,New Mexico,Oklahoma used to be All Mexico.

      • August Allen+ there were Native American nations before California and the Southwest were Mexico. Those Native Americans still exist and they have no connections to Mexico, the Mexicans invaded and enslaved them in their own homelands. Then came the Americans with more of the same, yet worse.

  23. I thought that perhaps these German or Native American ancestors were far enough back, that their contribution to her DNA was lost. So she could well have ancestors from these two groups. It is also possible that Jessica did not receive those segments of DNA from her parents. I have heard of two brothers where one had Jewish ancestry in his profile and the other had none. They were full brothers with a father who had a small percentage of Jewish origin and a mother who had none.

  24. Lets see… No DNA…No Records…just oral history. One of these days she’s going to have to just let it go.

  25. This is an interesting story and article. I ran my results through Gedmatch’s Eurogenes K13 calculator and it says I have .54% Amerindian; for my dad it says he has .96%. This is odd because we don’t have any NA ancestry (my dad is 50% Irish and 50% Polish and the family came here – as far as I know – way too late to absorb NA admixture). So, I believe this to be testing noise or admixture that’s so far back it only relates to ancient ancestry and isn’t NA. Why would we get these results if we don’t have any Native American admixture? I don’t think it’s actual ancestry but I still am interested in knowing the why behind it.

    • I sometimes see small amounts of NA in people of eastern European ancestry, specifically German and Slavic. In that case, it is likely from a common ancient population. However, less than one percent, especially without any reason to think NA, is very doubtful.

  26. She’s disappointed that she doesn’t have Native American ancestry? This would have made her feel more proud than say, discovering Jewish heritage? Kind of biased to be “rooting for” one type of ethnicity alone…

  27. Excellent article, Roberta. My grandmother is a good case study on this. We have documented evidence that her great-great grandfather was Saponi on his father’s side and Susquehanna through his mother. Other ancestors were also believed to have had native ancestry – and finally most people assumed that Grandma was native because of her appearance. Yet the DNA tests of two of her children do NOT present DNA evidence of native heritage. So for Jessica, not lies, just luck of the draw.

  28. If others already pointed this out please forgive the duplication but there were soooo many responses here.

    I just wanted to point out a few things with regard to Native Americans on the federal census.

    You say that if Biel’s ancestors were Native American, they would have been recorded as such on the 1850 and 1860 Censuses and that the genealogists would have found them. That is not accurate.

    According to the Census Bureau and the National Archives, it was RARE to find any instances of Native Americans being identified as Indian (i.e., I or In) on the 1850 or 1860 Censuses. The few that were identified as Indians were ONLY counted from among those living in the general population. The race of most other Native Americans in the general population were still being recorded as white, black, or mulatto just as in censuses prior to 1850.

    (“Between 1790 to 1870, the duty of collecting census data fell upon the U.S. Marshals. … During the early censuses, U.S. Marshalls received little training or instruction on how to collect census data. In fact, it was not until 1830 that marshals even received printed shedules on which to record households’ responses. The marshals often received limited instruction from the census acts passed prior to each census.“)

    Additionally, it was not until 1900 that Native Americans living “on reservations“ and in “unsettled areas” — i.e., untaxed Native Americans — were first recorded on the Federal census along with those in the general population.

    Thus, it seems very unlikely that Jessica Biel’s Native American ancestors would have been recorded as Indians on the 1850 or 1860 Censuses. If anything, they would have been recorded as white, black, or mulatto, but more often than not, as black or mulatto…. assuming they lived among the general population. If, however, they lived on a reservation or on unsettled land, they would not have been recorded at all in 1850 or 1860.

    Here’s the link to the Census Bureau’s web site section on Censuses of American Indians:

    At the bottom, there’s a link that sends you to the National Archives, which lists descriptions of what was contained in the 1850 through 1930 Censuses.

    — Deborah P.

Leave a Reply