Are You Native? – Native American Haplogroup Origins and Ancestral Origins

At Family Tree DNA, having Haplogroup Origins and Ancestral Origins indicating Native American ancestry does not necessarily mean you are Native American or have Native American heritage.

This is a very pervasive myth that needs to be dispelled – although it’s easy to see how people draw that erroneous conclusion.  Let’s look at why – and how to draw a correct conclusion.

The good news is that more and more people are DNA testing.  The bad news is that errors in the system are tending to become more problematic, or said another way, GIGO – Garbage in, Garbage Out.

I want to address this problem in particular having to do with Native American ancestry – or the perception thereof.

At Family Tree DNA, everyone who tests their Y DNA or their mitochondrial DNA have both Haplogroup Origins and Ancestral Origins tabs as two of your 7 information tabs detailing your results.

haplogroup and ancestral orgins tab

The goals of these two pages are to provide the testers with locations around the world where their haplogroup is found, and locations where their matches’ ancestors are found – according to their matches.

Did a little neon danger sign start flashing?  It should have.

Haplogroup Origins

Haplogroup Origins provides testers with information about the origins of other individuals who match your haplogroup both exactly and nearly.  This data base uses the location information from both the Family Tree DNA participant data base and other academic or private databases.

haplogroup origins 2

Ancestral Origins

Ancestral Origins is comprised primarily of the results of the “most distant ancestor” country of your matches at Family Tree DNA.  This tab is designed to provide you a view into the locations where your closest matches are found at each of the testing levels.  After all, that’s where your ancestors are most likely to be from, as well.

ancestral origins 2

Most of the time this works really well, providing valuable information to testers, assuming two things:

1. Participants who are entering the information for their “most distant ancestor” understand that in the case of the Y line DNA – this is the most distant direct MALE ancestor who carries that paternal surname. Not his wife or someone else in that line.

Sometimes, people enter the name of the person in that line, in general, who lived to be the oldest – but that’s not what this field is requesting – the most distant – meaning further back in that direct line.

For mitochondrial DNA, this is the most distant FEMALE in your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s direct line – directly on up that maternal tree until you run out of mothers who have been identified. I can’t tell you how many male names I see listed as the “most distant ancestor” when I do DNA reports for people – and I know immediately that information is incorrect – along with their associated geographic locations.

mtdna matches

In this mitochondrial example, the third match shows a male Indian Chief.  The first problem is that this is a mitochondrial DNA test, so the mitochondrial DNA could not have descended from a male.  If you don’t understand how Y and mitochondrial DNA descends from ancestors, click here.

Secondly, there is no known genealogical descent from this chief – but that really doesn’t matter because the mtDNA cannot descend from a male and the batter is out with the first problem, before you ever get to the second issue.  However, if you are someone who is “looking for” Native American ancestry, this information is very welcome and even seems to be confirming – but it isn’t.  It’s a red herring.

Unfortunately, this may now have perpetuated itself in some fashion, because look at the first and last lines of this next entry – again – another male chief.  The second entry with a name is another male too, Domenico.  Hmmm….maybe information entered by other participants isn’t always reliable and shouldn’t be taken at face value….

mtdna matches 2

2. This approach works well if people enter only known, verified, proven information, not speculation. Herein lies the problem with Native American heritage. Let’s say that the family oral history says that my mother’s mother’s line is Native American. I decide to DNA test, so for the “Most Distant Ancestor” location I select “United States – Native American.”

united states selection

The DNA test comes back and shows heritage other than Native, but that previous information that I entered is never changed in the system.  Now, we have a non-Native haplogroup showing as a Native American result.

Unfortunately, I see this on an increasingly frequent basis – Native American “location” associated with non-Native haplogroups.

non native hap

This scenario has been occurring for some time now.  Family Tree DNA at one point attempted to help this situation by implementing a system in which you can select “United States” meaning you are brick walled here, and “United States Native American” which means your most distant ancestor in that line is Native American.

Native American Haplogroups

There are a very limited number of major haplogroups that include Native American results.  For mitochondrial DNA, they are A, B, C, D, X and possibly M.  I maintain a research list of the subgroups which are Native.  Each of these base haplogroups also have subgroups which are European and/or Asian.  The same holds true for Native American Y haplogroups Q and C.

In the Haplogroup Origins and Ancestral Origins, there are many examples where Non-Native haplogroups are assigned as Native American, such as haplogroup H1a below.  Haplogroup H is European..

non native hap 2

A big hint as to an incorrect “Native” designation is when most or many of the other exact haplogroups, especially full sequence haplogroups, are not Native.  As Bennett Greenspan says, haplogroups and ethnicity are “guilt by genetic association.”  You aren’t going to find the same subhaplogroup in Czechoslovakia, Serbia or England and as a Native American too.

non native hap 3

Haplogroup J is European.

non native hap 4

Haplogroup K is European, and so is U2e1, below.

non native hap 5

Unfortunately, what is happening is that someone tests and see that out of several matches, one is Native American.  People don’t even notice the rest of their matches, they only see the Native match, like the example above.  They then decide that they too must be Native, because they have a Native match, so they change their own “most distant ancestor” location to reflect Native heritage.  This happens most often when someone is brick walled in the US.

non native hap 6

Another issue is that people see haplogroup X and realize that haplogroup X is one of the 5 mitochondrial haplogroups, A, B, C, D and X. that define Native American DNA.  However, those haplogroups have many subgroups and only a few of those subgroups are Native American.  Many are Asian or European.  Regardless, participants see the main haplogroup designation of X and assume that means their ancestor was Native.  They then enter Native American.

In the example above, haplogroup X1c has never been found in a Native American individual or population, although we are still actively looking.  Haplogroup X2a is a Native American subgroup.

In some cases, we are finding new subgroups of known Native haplogroups that are Native.  I recently wrote about this for haplogroup A4 where different subgroups are Asian, Jewish, Native and European.  This is, however, within an already known base haplogroup that includes a Native American subgroup – haplogroup A4.

When testers see these “Native American” results under Haplogroup and Ancestral Origins, they become very encouraged and excited.  Unfortunately, there is no way to verify which of your matches entered “Native American,” nor why, unless you have only a few matches and you can contact all of them.

When someone has tested at the full sequence level, remember that their results will show on these pages in the HVR1 section, the HVR2 section and the full sequence section.  So while it may look like there are three Native American results, there is only one, listed once in all three locations where it “counts.”  In the example below, there are two V3a1 full sequence matches that claim Native American.  Those were the chiefs shown above.  There are those two, plus one more HVR1+HVR2 individuals who has entered Native American as well.  However, if the match total was one for the HVR1, HVR2 and coding regions, that would mean there is one person who tested and matched in all 3 categories, not that 3 people tested.  In other words, you don’t add the match totals together.

non native hap 7

What Does A Native Match Look Like?

Of course, not all matches that indicate Native heritage are incorrect.  It’s a matter of looking at all of the available evidence and finding that guilt by genetic association.

In this first confirmed Native example, we see that the haplogroup is a known Native haplogroup, and all of the matches from outside the US are from areas known to have a preponderance of Native Americans in their population.  For example, about 80% of the people from Mexico carry Native American mitochondrial DNA.

Native 1

In this second example, we see Native American indicated, plus Mexico and Canada, which it typical.  In addition we see Spain.  Just like some people assume Native American, some people from Mexico, Central and South America presume that their ancestors are from Spain, so I always take these with a grain of salt.  Japan is a legitimate location for haplogroup B as well, especially given that this result is listed at the HVR1 level. If this individual tested at the HVR2 or full sequence level, they might be assigned to a different subgroup, and therefore would no longer be considered a match.

native 2

It’s not just what is present that’s important, but what is absent as well.  There is no long list of full sequence matches to people whose ancestors come from European countries like the U2 example above.  Spain is understandable, given the history of the settlement of the Americas, and that can be overlooked or considered and set aside.  Japan makes sense too.  But a European haplogroup combined with a long list of primarily European high level matches with only one or two “Native” matches is impossible to justify away.

What Does Native American Mean?

This discussion begs the question of what Native American means.

It’s certainly possible for someone with a European or African haplogroup to descend from someone who was a proven member of the a tribe.  How is that possible?  Adoption, slavery and kidnapping.  All three were very prevalent practices in the Native culture.

For example, Mary Jemison is a very well-known frontierswoman adopted by the Seneca with many descendants today.  Was she Native?  Yes, she was adopted by the tribe.  Is her DNA Native?  No.  Were her ancestors Native?  No, they were European.  So, are her descendants Native, through her?  She married a Native man, so her descendants are clearly Native through him.  Whether you consider her descendants Native through her depends on how you define Native.  I think the answer would be both yes and no, and both should be a part of the history of Mary Jemison and her descendants.

If a European or African women was kidnapped, enslaved or adopted into the tribe, and bore children, her children were full tribal members.  Of course, today her descendants might have be unaware of her European or African roots, prior to her tribal membership.  Her mtDNA would, of course, come back as European or African, not Native.

This is a case where the culture of the tribe involved may overshadow the DNA in terms of definition of “Indian.”  However, genetically, that ancestor’s roots are still in either Europe or African, not in the Americas.

How Do We Know Which Haplogroups Are Native?

One of the problems we have today is that because there are so many people who carry the oral history of grandmother being “Cherokee,” it has become common to “self-assign” oneself as Native.  That’s all fine and good, until one begins to “self-assign” those haplogroups as Native as well – by virtue of that “Native” assignment in the Family Tree DNA data base.  That’s a horse of a different color.

Because having a Native American ancestor has become so popular, there are now entities who collect “self-assigned” Native descendants and ancestors and, if you match one of those “self-assigned” Native descendants and their haplogroups, voila, you too are magically Native.

I can tell you, being an administrator for the American Indian, Cherokee, Tuscarora, Lumbee and other Native American DNA projects – that list of “self-assigned” Native haplogroups would include every European and African haplogroup in existence – so we would one and all be Native – using that yardstick for comparison.  How about that!

Bottom line – no matter how unhappy it makes people – that’s just not true.

A great deal of research has been undertaken over the past two decades into Native American genetic heritage – and continues today.  The reason I started my Native American Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroup list is because it’s difficult to track and keep track of legitimate developments.  Any time someone tells me they have “heard” that haplogroup H, for example, is Native, I ask them for a credible source.  I’ve yet to see one.

How do we determine whether a haplogroup is Native, or not?

The litmus paper test is whether or not the haplogroup has been found in pre-contact burials.  If yes, then it can be considered that the ancestor was living on this continent prior to European contact.  Native people arrived from Asia, across Beringia into what is now Alaska, and then scattered over thousands of years across all of North and South America.  We see subgroups of these same haplogroups across this entire space.

In some locations, the Native people are much less admixed than, for example, the tribes that came into the earliest and closest contact Europeans.  These tribes were decimated and many are now extinct.  I wrote about this in my paper titled, “Where Have All the Indians Gone.”

The tribes that are less admixed are probably the best barometers of Native heritage today.

We are hoping for new discoveries every day, but for today, we must rely on the information we have that is known and proven.

Interpreting Results Today

Native American haplogroup results today are subsets of Y DNA haplogroups Q and C.  If you find a haplogroup O result that might potentially be Native, PLEASE let me know.  This is also a possibility, but as yet unproven.

Mitochondrial Native American haplogroups include subgroups of A, B, C, D, X and possibly M.

If anyone tells you otherwise, personally or indirectly via Haplogroup or Ancestral Origins – keep in mind that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof and data is only as good as its source.  Look at all of the information – what is present, what is absent, the testing level and what kind of documentation your matches have to share.

Finding your haplogroup listed as Native American in the Haplogroup or Ancestral Origins doesn’t make you Native American any more than it would make you an elephant if someone else listed “purple elephant.”

purple elephant

The only things that make you Native American are either a confirmed Native haplogroup subgroup, preferably with proven Native matches, or a confirmed genealogical paper trail.  Best of all scenarios is a combination of a Native haplogroup, matches that suggest or confirm your tribe and a proven paper trail.  That combination removes all doubt.

Evidence

Of the various kinds of evidence, some can stand alone, and some cannot.

Evidence Type Evidence Results Comments
DNA Y or mitochondrial Confirmed Native American subgroup – can stand alone sometimes With deep level testing, this can be enough to prove Native ancestry.  For Y  this generally means advanced SNP testing or matching to other proven Native participants.  For mitochondrial DNA, it means full sequence testing.
Proven paper trail Proven Native tribal membership, but does not prove ancestral origins Needs DNA evidence to prove whether the tribal member was admixed.
Matches to Haplogroup or Ancestral Origins If Native is indicated, need to evaluate the rest of the information. Level of testing, haplogroup, locations of most distant ancestors of other matches need to be evaluated, plus any paper trail evidence.
Autosomal DNA matches To people with Native ancestry Unless you can prove a common ancestor through triangulation, those individuals with Native ancestry could be related to you through any ancestor.  Matches to several people with Native ancestry does not indicate or suggest that you have Native ancestry.
Native DNA ethnicity through autosomal testing Native American results You can generally rely on these results, especially if they are over 5%.  Unless you have reason to believe that other regions could be providing some interfering results, this is probably a legitimate indication of Native heritage.  Locations that sometimes give Native results are Asia and eastern European countries that absorbed Asian invaders, such as the Slavic countries and Germany.  I wrote about this here.

If you don’t test, you can’t play.  If you think you have Native American ancestry, you can take the Y DNA test (at least to 37 markers) if you are a male, the full sequence test if you are testing mitochondrial DNA, or Family Finder to match family members from all ancestral lines and discover if you show any Native American in your ethnicity estimate provided in myOrigins.  Men can take all 3 tests and women can take the mitochondrial DNA and Family Finder tests.  Family Tree DNA is the only testing company providing this comprehensive level of testing.

Posted in DNA | 1 Comment

Butler Owens Confederate Pension Record

One of our subscribers was looking at the new 1901 Confederate Pension Applications on Digital North Carolina and found an application for Butler Owens in which he states he is part Indian and part white. He apparently joined the Confederate service in Edneyville  which is an unincorporated part of Henderson County, NC.

http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16062coll21/id/108602/rec/27

butler owens

Hat tip to Cindy for this find.

Posted in Confederate, Military, North Carolina | Leave a comment

James Whitehurst, Indian, Princess Anne County, VA

Princess Anne County Personal Property Tax List 1782-1789

Library of Virginia microfilm no. 291

1784 – James Whitehurst (Indian) 1 tithe

In 1786 James Whitehurst is listed as a mulatto with his son, Henry also.

There are several other Whitehursts that are listed as mulatto or as free black, many with slaves.  James is not listed after 1786.

Source:  http://www.freeafricanamericans.com/princessanne.htm

Hat tip to James for the link.

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Eugenics as Indian Removal: Sociohistorical Processes and the De(con)struction of American Indians in the Southeast

One century after “The Indian Removal” of the antebellum era, Native peoples in the American Southeast provide an important but often overlooked example of how racial policies, this time rooted in eugenics, led to a documentary erasure of Indians as peoples in the twentieth century.

https://www.academia.edu/5733825/Eugenics_as_Indian_Removal_Sociohistorical_Processes_and_the_De_con_struction_of_American_Indians_in_the_Southeast

Sociohistorical processes

This paper was written in conjunction with the “Our Lives” exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

Our Lives: Contemporary Life and Identities

September 21, 2004–July 6, 2015
Washington, DC

Our Lives reveals how residents of eight Native communities live in the 21st century. Through the stories of the Campo Band of Kumeyaay Indians (California, USA), urban Indian community of Chicago (Illinois, USA), Yakama Nation (Washington State, USA), Igloolik (Nunavut, Canada), Kahnawake (Quebec, Canada), Saint-Laurent Metis (Manitoba, Canada), Kalinago (Carib Territory, Dominica), and Pamunkey Tribe (Virginia, USA), visitors learn about the deliberate and often difficult choices indigenous people make in order to survive economically, save their languages from extinction, preserve their cultural integrity, and keep their traditional arts alive.

The main section of Our Lives centers on various layers of identity. For Native people, identity—who you are, how you dress, what you think, where you fit in, and how you see yourself in the world—has been shaped by language, place, community membership, social and political consciousness, and customs and beliefs. But Native identity has also been influenced by a legacy of legal policies that have sought to determine who is Indian and who is not. The issue of Native identity continues to resonate today, as Native people across the Americas seek to claim the future on their own terms.

Posted in Eugenics, National Museum of the American Indian | 3 Comments

1837 Treaty with the Choctaw and Chickasaw

Jan. 17, 1837. | 11 Stats., 573. | Proclamation Mar. 24, 1837.

Page 486

Articles of convention and agreement made on the seventeenth day of January, 1837, between the undersigned chiefs and commissioners duly appointed and empowered by the Choctaw tribe of red people, and John McLish, Pitman Colbert, James Brown, and James Perry, delegates of the Chickasaw tribe of Indians, duly authorized by the chiefs and head-men of said people for that purpose, at Doaksville, near Fort Towson, in the Choctaw country.

ARTICLE 1.

It is agreed by the Choctaws that the Chickasaws shall have the privilege of forming a district within the limits of their country, to be held on the same terms that the Choctaws now hold it, except the right of disposing of it, (which is held in common with the Choctaws and Chickasaws) to be called the Chickasaw district of the Choctaw Nation; to have an equal representation in their general council, and to be placed on an equal footing in every other respect with any of the other districts of said nation, except a voice in the management of the consideration which is given for these rights and privileges; and the Chickasaw people to be entitled to all the rights and privileges of Choctaws, with the exception of participating in the Choctaw annuities and the consideration to be paid for these rights and privileges, and to be subject to the same laws to which the Choctaws are; but the Chickasaws reserve to themselves the sole right and privilege of controlling and managing the residue of their funds as far

Page 487

as is consistent with the late treaty between the said people and the Government of the United States, and of making such regulations and electing such officers for that purpose as they may think proper.

ARTICLE 2.

The Chickasaw district shall be bounded as follows, viz: beginning on the north bank of Red River, at the mouth of Island Bayou, about eight or ten miles below the mouth of False Wachitta; thence running north along the main channel of said bayou to its source; thence along the dividing ridge between the Wachitta and Low Blue Rivers to the road leading from Fort Gibson to Fort Wachitta; thence along said road to the line dividing Musha-la-tubbee and Push-metahaw districts; thence eastwardly along said district line to the source of Brushy Creek; thence down said creek to where it flows into the Canadian River, ten or twelve miles above the mouth of the south fork of the Canadian; thence west along the main Canadian River to its source, if in the limits of the United States, or to those limits; and thence due south to Red River, and down Red River to the beginning.

ARTICLE 3.

The Chickasaws agree to pay the Choctaws, as a consideration for these rights and privileges, the sum of five hundred and thirty thousand dollars-thirty thousand of which shall be paid at the time and in the manner that the Choctaw annuity of 1837 is paid, and the remaining five hundred thousand dollars to be invested in some safe and secure stocks, under the direction of the Government of the United States, redeemable within a period of not less than twenty years-and the Government of the United States shall cause the interest arising therefrom to be paid annually to the Choctaws in the following manner: twenty thousand dollars of which to be paid as the present Choctaw annuity is paid, for four years, and the residue to be subject to the control of the general council of the Choctaws; and after the expiration of the four years the whole of said interest to be subject to the entire control of the said council.

ARTICLE 4.

To provide for the future adjustment of all complaints or dissatisfaction which may arise to interrupt the peace and harmony which have so long and so happily existed between the Choctaws and Chickasaws, it is hereby agreed by the parties that all questions relative to the construction of this agreement shall be referred to the Choctaw agent to be by him decided; reserving, however, to either party, should it feel itself aggrieved thereby, the rights of appealing to the President of the United States, whose decision shall be final and binding. But as considerable time might elapse before the decision of the President could be had in the meantime the decision of the said agent shall be binding.

ARTICLE 5.

It is hereby declared to be the intention of the parties hereto, that equal rights and privileges shall pertain to both Choctaws and Chickasaws to settle in whatever district they may think proper, and to be eligible to all the different offices of the Choctaw Nation, and to vote on the same terms in whatever district they may settle, except that the Choctaws are not to vote in anywise for officers in relation to the residue of the Chickasaw fund.

In testimony whereof, the parties hereto have hereunto subscribed their names and affixed their seals, at Doaksville, near fort Towson in the Choctaw country, on the day and year first above written.

In the presence of—

  • Wm. Armstrong, Acting Superintendent Western Territory,
  • Henry R. Carter, Conductor of the Chickasaw Delegation
  • Josiah S. Doak,
  • Vincent B. Tims,
  • Daniel McCurtain, United States Interpreter,
  • P. J. Humphreys,
  • J. T. Sprague, Lieutenant U. S. Marine Corps,
  • Thomas Lafloor, his x mark, Chief of Oaklafalaya district,
  • Nituchachue, his x mark, Chief of Pushmatahaw district,
  • Joseph Kincaid, his x mark, Chief of Mushalatubbee district.

Page 488

Commissioners of the Choctaw Nation:

  • P. P. Pitchlynn, [L. S.]
  • George W. Haskins, [L. S.]
  • Israel Folsom, [L. S.]
  • R. M. Jones, [L. S.]
  • Silas D. Fisher, [L. S.]
  • Samuel Wowster, [L. S.]
  • John McKenney, his x mark,
  • Eyachahofaa, his x mark,
  • Nathaniel Folsom, his x mark,
  • Lewis Breashears, his x mark,
  • James Fletcher, his x mark,
  • George Pusley, his x mark,

Captains:

  • Oak-chi-a, his x mark,
  • Thomas Hays, his x mark,
  • Pis-tam-bee, his x mark,
  • Ho-lah-ta-ho-ma, his x mark,
  • E-yo-tah, his x mark,
  • Isaac Perry, his x mark,
  • No-wah-ham-bee, his x mark.

Chickasaw delegation:

  • J. McLish,
  • Pitman Colbert,
  • James Brown, his x mark,
  • James Perry, his x mark.

Source:  http://digital.library.okstate.edu/kappler/vol2/treaties/chi0486.htm#mn2

Posted in Chickasaw, Choctaw | 1 Comment

The Croatan Indians of Sampson County, North Carolina. Their Origin and Racial Status. A Plea for Separate Schools.

New Bethel Indian School

In 1916, the Croatan Indians of Sampson County issued a plea for an Indian School for their children as had been provided in Robeson County.  This document is preserved today in the Documenting the American South collection, and includes significant genealogical information about several families.

Not only is the document’s text included, but all of the images as well, many photographs of people who were born in the early-mid 1800s.

Surnames include:

  • Ammons
  • Jacobs
  • Brewington
  • McLean
  • West
  • Jones
  • Williams
  • Strickland
  • Goodman
  • Jacobs
  • Butler
  • Simmons
  • Maynor
  • Bledsole
  • Robinson
  • Emanuel
  • Manuel
  • Burnette
  • Locklear
  • Cannady
  • Chavis
  • Thomas
  • Oxendine
  • Cummings
  • Lowery
  • Bell
  • Wilkins
  • Harding
  • Hardin
  • Warrick
  • Revell
  • Faircloth

At this link,  you can read a summary of this document combined with a couple of other relevant documents from that same timeframe, noted below.

Posted in Croatan (Later Lumbee), Indians of Robeson County (later Lumbee), Indians of Sampson County | Leave a comment

Finding Your American Indian Tribe Using DNA

If I had a dollar for every time I get asked a flavor of this question, I’d be on a cruise someplace warm instead of writing this in the still-blustery cold winter weather of the northlands!

So, I’m going to write the recipe of how to do this.  The process is basically the same whether you’re utilizing Y or mitochondrial DNA, but the details differ just a bit.

So, to answer the first question.  Can you find your Indian tribe utilizing DNA?  Yes, it can sometimes be done – but not for everyone, not all the time and not even for most people.  And it takes work on your part.  Furthermore, you may wind up disproving the Indian heritage in a particular line, not proving it.  If you’re still in, keep reading.

I want you to think of this as a scavenger hunt.  No one is going to give you the prize.  You have to hunt and search for it, but I’m going to give you the treasure map.

Treasure mapI’m going to tell you, up front, I’m cheating and using an example case that I know works.  Most people aren’t this lucky.  Just so you know.  I don’t want to misset your expectations.  But you’ll never know if you don’t do the footwork to find out, so you’ve got nothing to lose and knowledge to gain, one way or another.  If you aren’t interested in the truth, regardless of what it is, then just stop reading here.

DNA testing isn’t the be-all and end-all.  I know, you’re shocked to hear me say this.  But, it’s not.  In fact, it’s generally just a beginning.  Your DNA test is not a surefire answer to much of anything.  It’s more like a door opening or closing.  If you’re looking for tribal membership or benefits of any kind, it’s extremely unlikely that DNA testing is going to help you.  All tribes have different rules, including blood quantum and often other insurmountable rules to join, so you’ll need to contact the tribe in question. Furthermore, you’ll need to utilize other types of records in addition to any DNA test results.

You’re going to have some homework from time to time in this article, and to understand the next portion, it’s really critical that you read the link to an article that explains about the 4 kinds of DNA that can be utilized in DNA testing for genealogy and how they work for Native testing.  It’s essential that you understand the difference between Y line, mitochondrial and autosomal DNA testing, who can take each kind of test, and why.

Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA

For this article, I’m utilizing a mitochondrial DNA example, mostly because everyone has mitochondrial DNA and secondly, because it’s often more difficult to use genealogically, because the surnames change.  Plus, I have a great case study to use.  For those who think mito DNA is useless, well all I can say is keep reading.

Y and mito

You’ll know from the article you just read that mitochondrial DNA is contributed to you, intact, from your direct line maternal ancestors, ONLY.  In other words, from your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother and on up that line.

In the above chart, you can see that this test only provides information about that one red line, and nothing at all about any of your other 15 great-great grandparents, or anyone else on that pedigree chart other than the red circles.  But oh what a story it can tell about the ancestors of those people in the red circles.

If this example was using Y DNA, then the process would be the same, but only for males – the blue squares.  If you’re a male, the Y DNA is passed unrecombined from your direct paternal, or surname, ancestor, only and does not tell you anything at all about any of your other ancestors except the line represented by the little blue squares.  Females don’t have a Y chromosome, which is what makes males male, so this doesn’t apply to females.

First, you’ll need to test your DNA at Family Tree DNA.  This is the only testing company that offers either the Y (blue line) marker panel tests (37, 67 or 111), or the (red line) mitochondrial DNA full sequence tests.

For Y testing, order minimally the 37 marker test, but more is always better, so 67 or 111 is best.  For mitochondrial DNA, order the full sequence.  You’ll need your full mitochondrial haplogroup designation and this is the only way to obtain it.

I’m also going to be talking about how to incorporate your autosomal results into your search.  If you remember from the article, autosomal results give you a list of cousins that you are related to, and they can be from any and all of your ancestral lines.  In addition, you will receive your ethnicity result estimate expressed as a percentage.  It’s important to know that you are 25% Native, for example.  So, you also need to order the Family Finder test while you’re ordering.

You can click here to order your tests.

After you order, you’ll receive a kit number and password and you’ll have your own user page to display your results.

Fast forward a month or so now…and you have your results back.

A GEDCOM File

I hope you’ve been using that time to document as much about your ancestors as you can in a software program of some sort.  If so, upload your GEDCOM file to your personal page.  The program at Family Tree DNA utilizes your ancestral surnames to assist you in identifying matches to people in Family Finder.

It’s easy to upload, just click on the Family Tree icon in the middle of your personal page.

Family Tree icon

Don’t have a Gedcom file?  You can build your tree online. Just click on the myFamilyTree to start.

Having a file online is an important tool for you and others for ancestor matching.

Your Personal Page

Take a little bit of time to familiarize yourself with how your personal page works.  For example, all of your options we’re going to be discussing are found under the “My DNA” link at the top left hand side of the page.

My dna tab

If you want to join projects, click on “My Projects,” to the right of “My DNA” on the top left bar, then click on “join.”  If you want to familiarize yourself with your security or other options, click on the orange “Manage Personal Information” on the left side of the page to the right of your image.

Personal info

Preparing Your Account

You need to be sure your account is prepared to give you the best return on your research efforts and investment.  You are going to be utilizing three tabs, Ancestral Origins, Haplogroup Origins and various projects, and you need to be sure your results are displayed accurately.  You need to do two things.

The first thing you need to do is to update your most distant ancestor information on your Matches Map page.  You’ll find this page under either the mtDNA or the Y DNA tabs and if you’ve tested for both, you need to update both.

matches map

Here’s my page, for example. At the bottom, click on “Update Ancestor’s Location” and follow the prompts to the end.  When you are finished, your page should like mine – except of course, your balloon will be where your last know matrilineal ancestor lived – and that means for mitochondrial DNA, your mother’s mother’s mother’s line, on up the tree until you run out of mothers.  I can’t tell you how many men’s names I see in this field…and I know immediately someone is confused.  Remember, men can’t contribute mtDNA.

For men, if this is for your paternal Y line, this is your paternal surname line – because the Y DNA is passed in the same way that surnames are typically passed in the US – father to son.

It’s important to have your balloon in the correct location, because you’re going to see where your matches ancestors are found in relationship to your ancestor.  Your most distant ancestor’s location is represented by the white balloon.  However, you will only see your matches balloons that have entered the geographic information for their most distant ancestor. Now do you see what entering this information is important?  The more balloons, the more informative for everyone.

The second thing is that you need to make sure that the information about the location of your most distant ancestor is accurate.  Most Distant Ancestor information is NOT taken from the matches map page, but from the Most Distant Ancestors tab in your orange “Manage Personal Information” link on your main page.  Then click on to the Genealogy tab and then Most Distant Ancestors, shown below.

genealogy tab

If your ancestral brick wall in in the US, you can select 2 options, “United States” and “United States (Native American).”  Please Note – Please do not, let me repeat, DO NOT, enter the Native American option unless you have documented proof that your ancestor in this specific line is positively Native American.  Why?  Because people who match you will ASSUME you have proof and will then deduce they are Native because you are.

This is particularly problematic when someone sees they are member of a haplogroup that includes a Native subgroup.  Haplogroup X1, which is not Native, is a prime example.  Haplogroup X2 is Native, but people in X1 see that X is Native, don’t look further or don’t understand that ALL of X is not Native – so they list their ancestry as United States (Native American) based on an erroneous assumption.  Then when other people see they match people who are X1 who are Native, they assume they are Native as well.  It’s like those horrible copied and copied again incorrect Ancestry trees.

distant ancestor US optionsIt’s important to update both the location and your most distant ancestors name. This is the information that will show in the various projects that you might join in both the “Ancestor Name” and the “Country” field.  As an example, the Estes Y project page is shown below.  You can see for yourself how useless those blank fields are under “Paternal Ancestor Name” and “Unknown Origin” under Country when no one has entered their information.

estes project tab

While you are working on these housekeeping tasks, this would be a good time to enter your ancestral surnames as well.  You can find this, also under the Genealogy Tab, under Surnames.  surnames are used to show you other people who have taken the Family Finder test and who share the same surname, so this is really quite important.  These are surnames from both sides of your tree, from all of your direct ancestors.

surnames tab

Working With Results

Working with mitochondrial DNA genetic results is much easier than Y DNA.  To begin with, the full sequence test reads all of your mitochondrial DNA, and your haplogroup is fully determined by this test.  So once you receive those results, that’s all you need to purchase.

When working with Y DNA, there are the normal STR panels of 12, 25, 37, 67 and 111 markers which is where everyone interested in genealogy begins.  Then there are individual SNP tests you can take to confirm a specific haplogroup, panels of SNPs you can purchase and the Big Y test that reads the entire relevant portion of the Y chromosome.  You receive a haplogroup estimate that tends to be quite accurate with STR panel tests, but to confirm your actual haplogroup, or delve deeper, which is often necessary, you’ll need to work with project administrators to figure out which of the additional tests to purchase.  Your haplogroup estimate will reflect your main haplogroup of Q or C, if you are Native on that line, but to refine Q or C enough to confirm whether it is Native, European or Asian will require additional SNP testing  unless you can tell based on close or exact STR panel matches to others who are proven Native or who have taken those SNP tests.. 

Y Native DNA

In the Y DNA lines, both haplogroups Q and C have specific SNP mutations that confirm Native heritage.  SNPs are the special mutations that define haplogroups and their branches.   With the new in-depth SNP testing available with the introduction of the Big Y test in 2013, new discoveries abound, but suffice it to say that by joining the appropriate haplogroup project, and the American Indian project, which I co-administer, you can work with the project administrators to determine whether your version of Q or C is Native or not.

Haplogroups Q and C are not evenly distributed.  For example, we often see haplogroup C in the Algonquian people of Eastern Canada and seldom in South America, where we see Q throughout the Americas.  This wiki page does a relatively good job of breaking this down by tribe.  Please note that haplogroup R1 has NEVER been proven to be Native – meaning that it has never been found in a pre-contact burial – and is not considered Native, although speculation abounds.

This page discusses haplogroup Q and this page, haplogroup C.

Haplogroup C in the Native population is defined by SNP C-P39 and now C-M217 as well.

Haplogroup Q is not as straightforward.  It was believed for some time that SNP Q-M3 defined the Native American population, but advanced testing has shown that is not entirely correct.  Not all Native Q men carry M3.  Some do not.  Therefore, Native people include those with SNPs M3, M346, L54, Z780 and one ancient burial with MEH2.  Recently, a newly defined SNP, Y4273 has been identified in haplogroup Q as possibly defining a group of Algonquian speakers.  Little by little, we are beginning to more clearly define the Native American genetic landscape although there is a very long way to go.

With or without the SNP tests, you can still tell a great deal based on who you match.

For Y and mitochondrial DNA (not autosomal), at the highest levels of testing, if you are matching only or primarily Jewish individuals, you’re not Native.  If you’re matching people in Scandinavia, or Asia, or Russia, nope, not Native.  If you’re matching individuals with known (proven) Native heritage in Oklahoma or New Mexico, then yep….you’re probably Native

We’ll look at tools to do this in just a few minutes.                              

Mitochondrial Native DNA

There are several Native founder mitochondrial DNA lineages meaning those that are believed to have developed during the time about 15,000 years ago (plus or minus) that the Native people spent living on Beringia, after leaving continental Asia and before dispersing in the Americas.

Those haplogroups (along with the Native Y haplogroups) are shown in this graphic from a paper by Tamm, et al, 2007, titled “Beringian Standstill and the Spread of Native American Founders.”

beringia map

The founder mitochondrial haplogroups and latecomers, based on this paper, are:

  • A2
  • B2
  • C1b
  • C1c
  • C1d
  • C4c
  • C1
  • D2
  • D2a
  • D4h3
  • X2a

Subsequent subgroups have been found, and another haplogroup, M, may also be Native.  I compiled a comprehensive list of all suspects.  This list is meant as a research tool, which is why it gives links to where you can find additional information and the source of each reference.  In some cases, you’ll discover that the haplogroup is found in both Asia and the Americas.  Oh boy, fun fun….just like the Y.

Be aware that because of the desire to “be Native” that some individuals have “identified” European haplogroups as Native.  I’ll be writing about this soon, but for now, suffice it to say that if you “self-identify” yourself as Native (like my family did) and then you turn up with a European haplogroup – that does NOT make that European haplogroup Native.  So, when the next person in that haplogroup tests, and you tell them they match “Native” people with European haplogroups – it’s misleading to say the least.

When working to identify your Native heritage, some of your best tools will be the offerings of Family Tree DNA on your personal page.  The same tools exist for both Y and mitochondrial DNA results, so let’s take a look.

Your Results

If your ancestor was Native on your direct matrilineal line, then her haplogroup will fall within one of 5 or 6 haplogroups.  The confirmed Native American mitochondrial haplogroups fall into major haplogroups A, B, C, D and X, with haplogroup M a possibility, but extremely rare and as yet, unconfirmed.  Known Y haplogroups are C and Q with O as an additional possibility.

Now, just because you find yourself with one of these haplogroups doesn’t mean automatically that it’s Native, or that your ancestors in this line were Native.  If your haplogroup isn’t one of these, then you aren’t Native on this line.  For example, we find male haplogroup C around the world, including in Europe.

Here is the list of known and possible Native mitochondrial DNA haplogroups and subgroups.

If your results don’t fall into these haplogroups, then your matrilineal ancestor was not Native on this particular line.  If your ancestor does fall into these base groups, then you need to look at the subgroup to confirm that they are indeed Native and not in one of the non-Native sister clades.  Does this happen often?  Yes, it does, and there are a whole lot of people who see Q or C for the Y DNA and immediately assume they are Native, as they do when they see A, B, C, D or X for mitochondrial.  Just remember about assume.

Scenario 1: 

Oh No! My Haplogroup is NOT Native???

Let’s say your mitochondrial ancestor is not in haplogroup A, B, C, D, X or M.

About now, many people choke, because they are just sure that their matrilineal ancestor was Native, for a variety of reasons, so let’s talk about that.

  1. Family history says so. Mine did too. It was wrong. Or more precisely, wrong about which line.  Test other contributing lineages to the ancestor who was identified as Native.
  2. The Native ancestor is on the maternal line, but not in the direct matrilineal line. There’s a difference. Remember, mitochondrial DNA only tests the direct matrilineal line. What this means is that, for example, if your grandmother’s father was Native, your grandmother is still Native, or half Native, but not through her mother’s side so IT WON’T SHOW ON A MITOCHONDRIAL DNA TEST. In times past, stories like “grandma was Indian” was what was passed down. Not, grandmother’s father’s father’s mother was Waccamaw. Any Indian heritage got conveyed in the message about that ancestor, without giving the source, which leads to a lot of incorrect assumptions – and a lot of DNA tests that don’t produce the expected results. This is exactly what happened in my family line.
  3. Your ancestor is “Native” but her genetic ancestor was not – meaning she may have been adopted into the tribe, or kidnapped or was for some other reason a tribal member, but not originally genetically Native on the direct matrilineal line.  Mary Jemison is the perfect example.
  4. My ancestor’s picture looks Native. Great! That could have come from any of her other ancestors on her pedigree chart. Let’s see what other eividence we can find.

At this point, you’re disappointed, but you are not dead in the water and there are ways to move forward to search for your Native heritage on other lines.  What I would suggest are the following three action items.

1. Look at your family pedigree chart and see who else can be tested to determine a haplogroup for other lineages. For example, let’s say, your grandmother’s father. He would not have passed on any of his mother’s mitochondrial DNA, but his sisters would have passed their mother’s mitochondrial DNA to their children, and their daughters would pass it on as well. So dig your pedigree chart out. and see who is alive today that can test to represent other contributing ancestral lines.

2. Take a look at your Family Finder ethnicity chart under myOrigins and see how much Native DNA you have.

FF no Native

If your ethnicity chart looks like this one, with no New World showing, it means that if you have Native heritage, it’s probably more than 5 or 6 generations back in time and the current technology can’t measurably read those small amounts.  However, this is only measuring admixed or recombined DNA, meaning the DNA you received from both your mother and father.  Recombination in essence halves the DNA of each of your ancestors in each generation, so it’s not long until it’s so small that it’s unmeasurable today.

You can also download your raw autosomal data file to http://www.gedmatch.com and utilize their admixture tools to look for small amounts of Native heritage.  However, beware that small amounts of Native admixture can also be found in people with Asian ancestors, like Slavic Europeans.

The person whose results are shown above does have proven Native Ancestry, both via paper documentation and mitochondrial DNA results – but her Native ancestor is back in French Canada in the 1600s.  Too much admixture has occurred between then and now for the Native to be found on the autosomal test, but mtDNA is forever.

If your Y or mtDNA haplogroup is Native, there is no division in each generation, so nothing washes out. If Y or mtDNA is Native, it stays fully Native forever, even if the rest of your autosomal Native DNA has washed out with succeeding generations.  That is the blessing of both Y and mtDNA testing!

FF native

If your myOrigins ethnicity chart looks like this one, which shows a significant amount of New World and other areas that typically, in conjunction with New World, are interpreted as additional Native contribution, such as the Asian groups, and your Y and/or mtDNA is not Native, then you’re looking at the wrong ancestor in your tree.  Your mtDNA or Y DNA test has just eliminated this specific line – but none of the lines that “married in.”

You can do a couple of things – find more people to test for Y and mtDNA in other lines.  In this case, 18% Native is significant.  In this person’s case, she could eliminate her father’s line, because he was known not to be Native.  Her mother was Hispanic – a prime candidate for Native ancestry.  The next thing for this person to do is to test her mother’s brother’s Y DNA to determine her mother’s father’s Y haplogroup.  He could be the source of the Native heritage in her family.

3. The third thing to do is to utilize Family Finder matching to see who you match that also carries Native heritage. In the chart below, you can see which of your Family Finder matches also carry a percentage of Native ancestry. This only shows their Native match percent if you have Native. In other words, it doesn’t’ show a category for your matches that you don’t also have.

ff native matches

Please note – just because you match someone who also carries Native American heritage does NOT mean that your Native line is how you match.

For example, in one person’s case, their Native heritage is on their mother’s side.  They also match their father’s cousin, who also carries Native heritage but he got his Native heritage from his mother’s line.  So they both carry Native heritage, but their matching DNA and ancestry are on their non-Native lines.

Lots of people send me e-mails that say things like this, “I match many people with Cherokee heritage.”  But what they don’t realize is that unless you share common proven ancestors, that doesn’t matter.  It’s circumstantial.  Think about it this way.

When measuring back 6 generations, which is generally (but not always) the last generation at which autosomal can reliably find matches between people, you have 64 ancestors.  So does the other person.  You match on at least one of those ancestors (or ancestral lines), and maybe more.  If one of your ancestors and one of your match’s ancestors are both Native, then the chances of you randomly matching that ancestor is 1 in 64.  So you’re actually much more likely to share a different ancestor.  Occasionally, you will actually match the same Native ancestor.  Just don’t assume, because you know what assume does – and you’ll be wrong 63 out of 64 times.

Sharing Native ancestry with one or several of your matches is a possible clue, but nothing more.

Scenario 2:

Yippee!!  My Haplogroup IS Native!!!

Ok, take a few minutes to do the happy dance – because when you’re done – we still have work to do!!!

happy dance frog

Many people actually find out about their Native American heritage by a surprise Native American haplogroup result.  But now, it’s time to figure out if your haplogroup really IS Native.

As I mentioned before, many of the major haplogroups have some members who are from Europe, Asia and the America.  Fortunately, the New World lines have been separated from the Old World lines long enough to develop specific and separate mutations, that enable us to tell the difference – most of the time.  If you’re interested, I recently wrote a paper about the various European, Jewish, Asian and Native American groups within subgroups of haplogroup A4.  If you’re curious about how haplogroups can have subgroups on different continents, then read this article about Haplogroups and The Three Brothers.  This is also an article that is helpful when trying to understand what your matches do, and don’t, mean.

So, before going any further, check your haplogroup subgroup and make sure your results really do fall into the Native subgroups.  If they don’t, then go back to the “Not Native” section.  If you aren’t sure, which typically means you’re a male with an estimated haplogroup of C or Q, then keep reading because we have some tools available that may help clarify the situation.

Utilizing Personal Page Y and Mito Tools to Find Your Tribe

Much of Y and mitochondrial DNA genetic genealogy matching is “guilt by genetic association,” to quote Bennett Greenspan.  In other words we can tell a great deal about your heritage by who you match – and who you don’t match.

Let’s say you are haplogroup B2a2 – that’s a really nice Native American haplogroup, a subgroup of B2a, a known Beringian founder.  B2a2 developed in the Americas and has never been found outside of the Native population in the Americas.  In other words, there is no controversy or drama surrounding this haplogroup.

It just so happens that our “finding your tribe” example is a haplogroup B2a2 individual, Cindy, so let’s take a look at how we work through this process.

Taking a look at Cindy’s Matches Map tab, which shows the location of Cindy’s matches most distant ancestor on their matrilineal line (hopefully that’s what they entered.)  Only one of Cindy’s full sequence matches has entered their ancestor’s geographic information.  However, it’s not far from Cindy’s ancestor which is shown by the white balloon.

Cindy full seq match

Please note that Cindy, who is haplogroup B2a2, has NO European matching individuals.  In fact, no matches outside of North and South America.  Being Native, we would not expect her to have matches elsewhere, but since the match location field is self-entered and depends on the understanding of the person entering the information, sometimes information provided seems confusing.  Occasionally information found here has to be taken with a grain of salt, or confirmed with the individual who entered the information.

For example, I have one instance of someone with all Native matches having one Spanish match.  When asked about this, the person entering the information said, “Oh, our family was Spanish.”  And of course, if you see a male name entered in the most distant ancestor field for mtDNA, or a female for Y DNA, you know there is a problem.

While the full sequence test is by far the best, don’t neglect to look at the HVR1 and HVR2 results, because not everyone tests at higher levels and there may be hints waiting there for you.  There certainly was for Cindy.

Cindy HVR1 match

Look at Cindy’s cluster of HVR1 matches.  Let’s look at the New Mexico group more closely.

Cindy HVR1 NM matches

Look how tightly these are clustered.  One is so close to Cindy’s ancestor that the red balloon almost obscures her white balloon.  By clicking on the red balloons, that person’s information pops up.

You will also want to utilize the Haplogroup and Ancestral Origins tabs.  The Haplogroup Origins provides you with academic and research data with some participant data included.  The Ancestral Origins tab provides you with the locations where your matches say their most distant ancestor is from.

Cindy’s Haplogroup Origins page looks like this.

Cindy haplogroup origins

Keep  in mind that your closest matches are generally the most precise – for mitochondrial DNA meaning the group at the bottom titled “HVR1, HVR2 and Coding Region Matches.”  In Cindy’s case, above, at both the HVR1 and HVR2 levels, she also matches individuals in haplogroup B4’5, but at the highest level, she will only match her own haplogroup.

Next Cindy’s Ancestral Origins tab shows us the locations where her matches indicate their most distant ancestor is found.

Cindy ancestral origins

These people, at least some of them, identified themselves as Native American and their DNA along with genealogy research confirmed their accuracy.

Now, it’s time to look at your matches.

Cindy fs matches

If you’re lucky, now that you know positively that your results are Native (because you carry an exclusive Native haplogroup), and so do your matches, one of them will not only list their most distant ancestor, they will also put a nice little heartwarming note like (Apache) or (Navajo) or (Pueblo).  Now that one word would just make your day.

Another word of caution.  Even though that would make your day, that’s not always YOUR answer.  Why not?  Because Native people intermarried with other tribes, sometimes willingly, and sometimes not by choice.  Willingly or not, their DNA went along with them and sometimes you will find someone among the Apache that is really a Plains Indian, for example.  So you can get excited, but don’t get too excited until you find a few matches who know positively what tribe their ancestor was from.

Proof

So let’s talk about what positive means.  When someone tells me they are a member of the Cherokee Tribe for example, I ask which Cherokee tribe, because there are many that are not the federally recognized tribes and accept a wide variety of people based on their family stories and little more except an enrollment fee.  I’m not saying that’s bad, I’m saying you don’t want to base the identity of your ancestor’s tribe, unwittingly, on a situation like that.

If the answer is the official Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, for example, whose enrollment criteria I understand, then I ask them based on which ancestral line.  It could well be that they are a tribal member based on one relative and their mitochondrial DNA goes to an entirely different tribe.  In fact, I had this exact situation recently.  Their mitochondrial DNA was Seminole and they were a member of a different tribe based on a different lineage.

If the match is not a tribal member or descended from a tribal member, then I try, tactfully, to ask what proof they have that they are descended from that particular tribe.  It’s important to ask this in a nonconfrontional way, but you do need to know because if their claim to Native heritage is based on a family story, that’s entirely different than if it is based on the fact that their direct mitochondrial ancestor was listed on one of the government rolls on which tribal citizenship was predicated.

So, in essence, by your matches proving their mitochondrial lineage as Native and affiliated with a particular tribe, they are, in part, proving yours, or at least giving you a really big hint, because at some point you do share a common matrilineal ancestor.

You may find that two of your matches track their lineage to different tribes.  At that point, fall back to languages.  Are the tribes from the same language group?  If so, then your ancestor may be further back in time.  If not, then most likely someone married, was kidnapped, adopted or sold into slavery from one tribe to the other.  Take a look at the history and geography of the two tribes involved

Advanced Matching

It’s difficult to tell with any reasonable accuracy how long ago you share a common ancestor with someone that you match on either Y or mtDNA.  Family Tree DNA does provide guidelines, but those are based on statistical probabilities, and while they are certainly better than nothing, one size does not fit all and doesn’t tend to fit anyone very well.  I don’t mean this to be a criticism of Family Tree DNA – it’s just the nature of the beast.

For Y DNA, you can utilize the TIP tool, shown as the orange icon on your match bar, and the learning center provides information about mitochondrial time estimates to a common ancestor.  Let me say that I find the 5 generation estimate at the 50th percentile for a full sequence match extremely optimistic.  This version is a bit older but more detailed.

mtdna mrca chart

However, you can utilize another tool to see if you match anyone autosomally that you also match on your mitochondrial or Y DNA.  Before you do this, take a look at your closest matches and make note of whether they took the Family Finder test.  That will be listed by their name on the match table, by the FF, at right, below.

mtdna matches plus ff

If they didn’t take the Family Finder test, then you obviously won’t match them on that test.

On your mtDNA or Y DNA options panel, select Advanced Matching.

advanced matching

You’ll see the following screen.  Select both Family Finder and ONE Of the mtDNA selections  Why just one?  Because you’re going to select “show only people I match on selected tests” which means all the tests that you select.  Not everyone takes all the tests or matches on all three levels, so search one level of mtDNA plus Family Finder, at a time.  This means if you have matches on all 3 mitochondrial levels, you’ll run this query 3 times.  If you’re working with Y DNA, then you’ll do the same thing, selecting the 12-111 panels one at a time in combination with Family Finder.

The results show you who matches you on BOTH the Family Finder and the mtDNA test, one level at a time.  Here are the results for Cindy comparing her B2a2 HVR1 region mitochondrial DNA (where she had the most matches) and Family Finder.

advanced matches results

Remember those clusters of people that we saw near Cindy’s oldest ancestor on the map?  It’s Cindy’s lucky day.  She is extremely lucky to match three of her HVR1 matches on Family Finder.  And yes, that red balloon overlapping her own balloon is one of the matches here as well.  Cindy just won the Native American “find my tribe” lottery!!!!  Before testing, Cindy had no idea and now she has 3 new autosomal cousins AND she know that her ancestor was Native and has a very good idea of which tribe.  Several of the people Cindy matches knew their ancestor’s tribal affiliation.

So, now we know that not only does Cindy share a direct matrilineal ancestor with these people, but that ancestor is likely to be within 5 or 6 generations, which is the typical reach for the Family Finder matching, with one caveat…and that’s endogamous populations.  And yes, Native American people are an endogamous group.  They didn’t have anyone else to marry except for other Native people for thousands of years.  In recent times, and especially east of the Mississippi, significant admixture has occurred, but not so much in New Mexico at least not across the board.  The message here is that with endogamous populations, autosomal relationships can look closer than they really are because there is so much common DNA within the population as a whole.  That said, Cindy did find a common ancestor with some of her matches – and because they matched on their mitochondrial DNA, they knew exactly where in their trees to look.

Identifying your Tribe

Being able to utilize DNA to find your tribe is much like a puzzle.  It’s a little bit science, meaning the DNA testing itself, a dose of elbow grease, meaning the genealogy and research work, and a dash of luck mixed with some magic to match someone (or ones) who actually know their tribal affiliation.  And if you’re really REALLY lucky, you’ll find your common ancestor while you’re at it!  Cindy did!

In essence, all of these pieces of information are evidence in your story.  In the end, you have to evaluate all of the cumulative pieces of evidence as to quality, accuracy and relevance.  These pieces of evidence are also breadcrumbs and clues for you to follow – to find your own personal answer.  After all, your story and that of your ancestors isn’t exactly like anyone else’s.  Yes, it’s work, but it’s possible and it happens.

In case you think Cindy’s case is a one time occurrence, it’s not.  Lenny Trujillo did the same thing and wrote about his experience.  Here’s hoping you’re the next person to make the same kind of breakthrough.

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