Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA

Every day, I receive e-mails very similar to this one.

“My family has always said that we were part Native American.  I want to prove this so that I can receive help with money for college.”

The reasons vary, and not everyone wants to prove their heritage in order to qualify for some type of assistance.  Some want to find their tribe and join to reclaim their lost heritage.  Some want to honor their persecuted and hidden ancestors, undoing some of the wickedness of the past, and some simply seek the truth.  Regardless of why, they are all searching for information lost to them.

I’d like to talk about three topics in proving Native Ancestry.  First, I’d like to do some myth-busting.  Second, I’d like to talk a little about conventional research and third, I’d like to discuss what DNA can, and can’t, do for you.

As you read this blog, please click on the links.  I’m not going to repeat something I’ve already covered elsewhere.


Myth 1 – Free College

There is no free college for Native Americans.  There are sometimes scholarships and grants available, mostly by the individual tribes themselves, for their official members.

Myth 2 – Joining a Tribe

Many people think that if they can only figure out which tribe their ancestor descends from, they can join.  This is untrue.  Each tribe is a sovereign nation, and they get to determine their criteria for membership.  Most tribes require a specific percentage of Native “blood,” called blood quantum, in addition to being able to document which tribal member you descend from.  Some tribes require as much as 25% Native heritage, and most require at least 1/16th Native heritage, which is one great-great grandparent.  If you don’t know who in your family was a tribal member it’s unlikely that you would be able to meet the blood quantum requirement.

Myth 3 – DNA Testing Will Reveal my Tribe

Generally, DNA testing does not provide us with the information needed to determine a tribe, although it can clearly tell, using y-line or mitochondrial DNA testing, whether your direct paternal or maternal line was or was not Native.  Sometimes you will be able to infer a tribe based on your matches and their documented history, but the definition of tribes, their names and locations have changed over time.  We are working on improving this ability, but the science simply isn’t there yet and the number of Native people who have tested remains small.

Simply put, most federally recognized tribes aren’t interested in more tribal members.  More members mean a smaller piece of the pie for existing members.  The pot of resources, whatever resources you’re discussing, is only so large and it must be shared by all tribal members.

What is a Tribe?

Tribes in the US fall into two categories.  When most people think about tribes they are talking about federally recognized tribes.  Those are tribes that have some continuity with the past, such as they have always been a tribe, or they still retain tribal lands, etc., and the federal government recognizes them as such.  These are the tribes that qualify for government programs and many own casinos.  As you might imagine, with the influx of casino money, the desire to join a tribe has increased significantly.

The second category is non-federally recognized tribes.  Some are state recognized and others, not at all.  State recognition does not in any way guarantee federal or state funding and there are no universal standards for state recognition.  In other words, your mileage may vary, widely.  Non-federally recognized tribes are often run as non-profit entities.  In many cases, these tribes will help people research and document their genealogy and may be more open to tribal membership for those connecting with their Native heritage.

Be aware that some “tribes” that fall into the non-federally funded category may be less than ethical.  Some tend to come and go.  In one case, to apply to join, one had to provide information such as social security numbers and a complete family pedigree including your children. In some cases, membership is very expensive, hundreds of dollars, but is available to almost anyone for the right price.  When evaluating tribes that are not federally recognized, if something sounds fishy, it probably is.  Caution is the watchword.

In general, the federally recognized tribes do not feel kindly towards the non-federally recognized tribes and view them as “fake,” interlopers trying to get part of that pie.  Of course, the non-federally recognized tribes feel differently; that they are reclaiming their heritage denied them.  Native American politics is nothing new and is fraught with landmines.

No federally recognized tribes, to the best of my knowledge, have considered DNA testing as a criteria for membership.  No federally recognized tribe has endorsed or participated in DNA testing that I’m aware of.  This does not mean that individuals have not privately tested.

Traditional Genealogy Research

Given the criteria for membership in federally recognized tribes, traditional genealogy is the only way to obtain the type of information required.  If your family history includes a tribal name, and east of the Mississippi, that most often is Cherokee, contact the various Cherokee tribes to inquire about membership criteria.  If the membership criteria is 25% blood quantum, and you must live on the reservation, you’re toast… need to continue that line of research if your goal is to join the tribe.

If your goal is simply to find your Native ancestor, that’s another matter entirely.  Begin by using the traditional research tools.

First, look at where your ancestor or that family line was located.  Did they migrate from elsewhere?  How were they listed in the census?  Was someone listed as other than white, indicating mixed race?  Check the records where they lived, tax records and others to see if there is any indication of non-European heritage.  Remember that your non-white ancestor would have retained their “darker” countenance for at least 2 generations after being admixed.  Many Native people were admixed very early.

So first, check the normal genealogy records and look for hints and traces of non-European ancestry.

Second, turn to Native resources that might reflect the Native people in the areas where your family is or was found.  The Access Genealogy site is absolutely wonderful and has an amazingly complete set of records including searchable tribal rolls.  In addition, I add information almost daily to the Native Heritage Project at, which is searchable.  There are many more resources including several collections at

Hopefully, these records will help narrow your focus in your family tree to a particular person or two, not just a general branch.  Family rumors like “Grandma was a Cherokee Princess” are particularly unuseful.  What they more likely mean is that there was indeed some Native ancestry someplace in her line.  Cherokee has become a generic word like Kleenex.  It may also have meant that Indian heritage was claimed to cover much less desirable African heritage.  Institutionalized discrimination existed against any people of color in pre-1967 America, but Indians generally retained some rights that people of African ancestry did not.  Laws varied by state and time.  Take a look at my blog about Anti-Miscegenation Laws and when they were overturned.

Now, let’s look at DNA testing to see what it can do for you.

DNA Testing to Prove Native Ancestry

There are three types of DNA testing that you can do to prove Native Ancestry.  Two are very focused on specific family lines, and one is much more general.

  • Mitochondrial for your direct maternal line.
  • Y-line for your direct paternal line – if you are a male. Sorry ladies.
  • Autosomal to test your ethnic mix and one direct marker test for Native ancestors.

On a pedigree chart, these genealogical lines look like this:

adopted pedigree

You can see the path that the blue Y chromosome takes down the paternal line to the brother and the path the red mitochondrial DNA takes down the maternal line to both the brother and the sister.  Autosomal tests the DNA of all of the 16 ancestral lines shown here, but in a different sort of way.

Let’s look at each type of testing separately.

Y-Line DNA – For Paternal Line Testing for Males

The Y-line testing tests the Y chromosome which is passed intact from father to son with no DNA from the mother. This is the blue square on the pedigree chart. In this way, it remains the same in each generation, allowing us to compare it to others with a similar surname to see if we are from the same “Smith” family, for example, or to others with different surnames, in the case of adoption or Native heritage.  Native American genetics isn’t terribly different than adoptees in this situation, because different English surnames were adopted by various family members, into the late 1800s and sometimes into the early 1900s, depending on the location.

Y-line DNA can tell you whether or not you descend from a common male genealogically when compared to another testing participant.  Small mutations do take place and accumulate over time, and we depend on those so that we don’t all “look alike” genetically.  It can also tell you by identifying your deep ancestral clan, called a haplogroup, whether or not you descend from early Native Americans who were here before contact with Europeans.  For that matter, it can also tell you if you descend from those of African, European or Asian ancestry.

Scientists know today that there are only two primary haplogroups indicating deep ancestry that are found among Native American males who were here prior to contact with Indo-Europeans, and those haplogroups are C and Q3.  It is not accurate to say that all C and Q3 individuals exist only in the American Native population, but the American Native population is part of the larger group worldwide that comprises C and Q3.  We find some haplogroup C and Q3 in Europe but none in African populations, although we do learn more every single day in this infant science.

This sometimes becomes confusing, because the single most common male haplogroup among current Cherokee tribal members who have tested is R1b.  How can this be, you ask?  Clearly, one of three possibilities exists:

  1. The Cherokee (or those tribes who were assimilated into the Cherokee) adopted a European male into the tribe or a European male fathered a child that was subsequently raised as Cherokee.
  2. The R1b ancestor was not adopted into the tribe, maintained their European/American identity but married a Cherokee individual woman and their descendants are recognized as Cherokee today.
  3. There is some level of R1b admixture in the Native population that preceded contact with Europeans that we have not yet identified.

Because of the unique haplogroups for Native Americans who preceded European contact, Y-line is the only way to positively confirm that a specific line is or is not of Native American descent.  This obviously applies to all of the individuals in the pedigree chart who directly descend from the oldest known ancestor in this paternal line.

Y-line testing does not indicate anything about the contributions of the other ancestors in this family tree.  In other words, you could be 3/4th Native, with only the direct paternal line being European, and this test would tell you nothing at all about those other three Native lines.

When ordering DNA tests at Family Tree DNA, which is where I recommend that you test, everyone is encouraged to join projects.  There are several types of projects, but to begin with, you should join your surname project.  Not only does this group you with others whom you are likely to match, but this also assures that you receive the project based discounts.  I blogged about how to find and join relevant projects.

You can test at 12, 25, 37, 67 or 111 marker “locations” on the Y chromosome. I generally recommend 37 or 67 to begin which gives you enough to work with but isn’t terribly expensive.  At Family Tree DNA, you can always upgrade later, but it’s less expensive in total to test more initially.  Right now, 37 markers cost $119 and 67 markers are $199, but a sale is currently underway.

After your results are returned, you can then upload or manually enter your results at (upload directly from your Family Tree DNA matches page), and You can then check for matches at these sites as well. Not all of these other sites test as many markers as Family Tree DNA, but the comparison is free and useful.  Even if your haplogroup is not Native American, you may match others with a similar heritage story for their paternal line.

Family Tree DNA also provides significant tools for Y-line DNA as well as Mitochondrial DNA. You can see both Family Tree and Ancestry Y-line results compared on this blog, which shows you how to use both companies’ tools. At Family Tree DNA, for all their tests, you are provided with the e-mail addresses of your matches. At Ancestry and 23andMe, you contact matches through their internal message system. My experience has been that direct e-mails have a better response rate.

The person looking for Native Heritage will be most interested in their haplogroup designation.  If your haplogroup is either Q or C, you’ll want to join your haplogroup project, minimally, as well as other relevant Native American projects, and work with the administrators for further testing.  Remember, neither haplogroup Q nor C are always Native, so deeper testing may be in order.  You may also match others with confirmed Native heritage, including a tribe.

If the haplogroup is not Native, then you’ll have to take a look at possible reasons why.

One can never interpret non-Native haplogroup results of any one line to answer the much broader questions of, “do I have Native heritage”, “how much” and “where?”  What you can do at that point is to continue to test other lines in order to discover the identity of your Native American ancestor.

Obviously, the Y-line test is only for males. Ladies, I feel your pain. However, these next tests are for both sexes.

Mitochondrial DNA – For Direct Maternal Line Testing for Both Sexes

Mitochondrial DNA is inherited by all children from their mother only, with no admixture from the father. Women obtain their mitochondrial DNA from their mother, who got it from their mother, on up the line into infinity. This is the red circle on the right hand side of the pedigree chart. Like Y-line DNA, mitochondrial DNA is passed intact from one generation to the next, except for an occasional mutation that allows us to identify family members and family lines.

Unfortunately, it does not follow any surname. In fact the surname changes with every generation when women marry. This makes it more challenging to work with genealogically, but certainly not impossible. Because of the surname changes in every generation, there are no “surname” projects for mitochondrial DNA, per se, but there are other types of projects.  For example, the Mothers of Acadia project is using mitochondrial DNA to reconstruct the Acadian families including those of Native American heritage.

There are three levels of testing you can take for mitochondrial DNA at Family Tree DNA, which is where I recommend that you test. The mtDNA, the mtDNAPlus and the Full Sequence. The mtDNA test is a starter test that will provide you with a base haplogroup, but will leave people searching for Native ancestry needing a more complete test for full haplogroup identification confirming Native ancestry. I strongly recommend the full sequence test, but if the budget just won’t allow that, then the mtDNAPlus will do until you can afford to upgrade. Family Tree DNA is the only major lab that tests the full sequence region, plus, they have the largest matching data base in the industry.

To put this in perspective for you, the mtDNA and the mtDNAPlus tests both test about 10% of your mitochondrial DNA and the full sequence test tests all of your 16,569 mitochondrial locations. You can then compare them with other people who have taken any of those 3 tests.  Pricing for the mtDNAPlus is currently $139 and the full sequence is $199.

MtDNA testing is not as popular as Y-line testing because it’s more difficult to use genealogically as last names change every generation.  When you look at your matches, you have no idea whatsoever if you might be related to these people in a genealogically relevant time frame by looking at their last names.  Those who have invested the effort to collaboratively work on their mtDNA matches, assuming a full sequence match and a shared geographical history as well, have been pleasantly surprised by what they’ve found.

A haplogroup assigning deep ancestry is provided through mitochondrial testing, so like the Y-line, depending on the haplogroup assigned, you will know if your ancestors were here before European contact.  Maternal haplogroups that indicate Native heritage include A, B, C, D and X.  Like Y-line DNA testing, none of these haplogroups are exclusive to Native Americans, so a full sequence level test will be required to confirm a Native American subgroup.

After you receive your results, you can enter the mtDNA and mtDNAPlus portions into public data bases. There are no public data bases for the full sequence segment because there may be medical implications in some of those mutations, so they are not displayed publicly although they are compared privately within the Family Tree DNA data base. You will want to enter your data and check for matches at (upload directly from your matches page at Family Tree DNA), and, although beware of Ancestry’s accuracy issues.

Testing the Y-line and mitochondrial DNA individually gives us a great deal of very specific information about 2 lines in your pedigree chart.  The best method of identifying Native American ancestors is indeed to test as many lines on your DNA pedigree chart using this methodology as possible.  Let’s take a minute to look at how to create a DNA pedigree chart.

DNA Pedigree Chart

If your Y-line and mitochondrial DNA have proven not to be Native, that doesn’t mean that the rest of your lines aren’t.

Let’s take a look at how to create a DNA pedigree chart so that you can focus your Y-line and mitochondrial DNA testing for other lines.

The purpose of a DNA pedigree chart is to provide guidance in terms of inheritance and also to provide a way of documenting your progress.  My chart is shown below, as an example.

DNA Pedigree

You can see the Y-line of my father and the mitochondrial line of my mother, on both ends of the pedigree chart.  At the top of each line, I have recorded the haplogroup information for each family.  Color coding each line helps in tracking descendants who would carry the DNA of the ancestor of that line.  For example, my mother’s father’s mother’s line is the yellow Miller line.  I need to find a daughter of my grandfather’s sisters, or their children, or their daughter’s children, to test for that mitochondrial DNA line.  Which reminds me, I need to call my cousin.  Family reunions, picnics and holidays are great for this type of thing.  Sadly, so are funerals.

I blogged about how to put together your own DNA pedigree chart.  You can get a free copy and instructions on my website too, at under the Publications tab.  If you’re Native and adopted, then refer to the adoptee blog instead, or in addition.

But sometimes, we can’t find the right people in order to test, so we move to autosomal testing to help us fill in the blanks.

Autosomal Testing – For Both Sexes – The Rest of the Story 

Autosomal DNA testing tests all of your 23 pairs of chromosomes that you inherit from both of your parents. You get half of each chromosome from each parent. You can see this pattern on the pedigree chart, represented by all of the 16 genealogical lines. Therefore, as you move up that tree, you should have inherited about 25% of your DNA from each grandparent, about 12.5% of your DNA from each great-grandparent, as have all of their other great-grandchildren.

Therefore beginning with your parents, you carry the following approximate amount of DNA from each of these ancestors. I say approximate, because while you do receive exactly 50% of your DNA from each parent, there is no guarantee that their parents DNA was admixed in your parents such that you receive exactly 25% from each grandparent, but it’s close.  You can see the percentages in the chart below.

Generation Relationship % of Their DNA You Carry






















Given this chart, if the Native percentage is back beyond 6 generations and drops below the 1% threshold, it’s extremely difficult to discern today.

Autosomal testing will pick up relationships reliably back to about the 6th or 7th generations, and sporadically beyond that.

Autosomal testing provides you minimally with two things.  First, with a list of “cousin matches” by percentage and estimated relationship.  Second, percentages of ethnicity.  It’s this second part that’s most important for the person seeking to prove Native American heritage.

Percentages of Ethnicity

As the field of genetic genealogy has moved forward, research has begun to indicate that certain autosomal markers are found in higher or lower frequencies in different ethnic populations.

For example, if someone has the Duffy Null allele, or genetic marker, we know they positively have African admixture.  We don’t know how much African admixture, or from which line, or when that individual with African admixture entered their family tree, but we know for sure they existed.

Attempting to determine the population frequency of varying markers and what that means relative to other populations is the key to this analysis.  Few markers are simply present or absent in populations, but are found in varying frequencies.  Some populations are widely studied in the research literature, and others are virtually untouched.  Thousands have only been recently discovered as part of the National Geographic, Genographic project.

The process of compiling this information in a meaningful manner so that it can be analyzed is a formidable task, as the information is often found in nearly inaccessible academic and forensic research publications.  It’s difficult to determine sometimes if the DNA analysis of 29 individuals in a small village in northern Italy is, for example, representative of that village as a whole, of northern Italy, or more broadly for all of Italy.  Is it representative of Italy today or Italy historically?  These and other similar questions have to be answered fully before the data from autosomal testing can be useful and reliable.

Having said this, the recent release of the National Geographic, Genographic Project version 2.0 holds great promise.  It’s one of 4 autosomal tests on the market today that provide next-generation chip based wide spectrum testing which replaces the older CODIS type testing.   The difference between the old and new technology is using 15 or 20 markers versus a half a million or so.  They aren’t even in the same ballpark.  If you want to see a comparison of the older type tests, read my paper titled Revealing American Indian and Minority Heritage Using Y-Line, Mitochondrial, Autosomal and X Chromosome Testing Data Combined with Pedigree Analysis.

Let’s take a look at all 4 of the contemporary autosomal tests and what they have to offer.

Genographic 2.0

Of the 4 tests, the Geno 2.0 is the newest and appears to reach back the deepest in time, meaning it may well be picking up anthropological results, not just genealogical results.  We don’t know exactly how the analysis is done, but we do know, in general, that if you evaluate segments, you will get results closer in time than if you evaluate individual ancestry informative markers (AIMS).

You can take a look at the results of a man with Native ancestry on both his paternal and maternal sides.  You can also take a look at the reference populations used by National Geographic in this overview of their test results.

If you want to order this test visit  The price is $199.  You also receive your Y-line and mtDNA haplogroups, but no marker values for comparison to others. However, the Y haplogroup testing is the most advanced in the world.  You can see why in the Geno 2.0 announcement here.

I have found the Geno 2.0 test to be somewhat more sensitive autosomally than others, but it’s still very new and I have not yet been able to do a complete comparison.  Results have only been coming back for a couple of weeks.

Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA sells the Family Finder test. Right now it is priced at $199 or bundled with attractive pricing with either the Y-line or mitochondrial DNA tests. I often like to use this tool in conjunction with the Y-line and mitochondrial DNA tests to see, if you match someone closely, whether you are actually related to them in a recent timeframe or if it is further back. Family Tree DNA is the only one of the autosomal testing companies that has the ability to do this type of advanced comparison.  Compared to 23andMe and Geno 2.0, they are the only ones to offer traditional Y-line and mitochondrial DNA testing which provides individual marker results and matches.

In addition to a list of autosomal matches, you will receive your breakdown of ethnicity, by percent.  The results below are for the same man with Native ancestry whose Geno 2.0 results are shown in the Geno 2.0 – First Peek blog.

native pop finder

You can read more about the Family Tree DNA autosomal product on their FAQ.


Another company that sells autosomal testing is In addition to a list of cousins, you also receive admixture percentages, and their specialty, health traits.  You also receive a paternal and maternal haplogroup, but with no markers for personal comparison.  These Y-line and mitochondrial results are not as accurate at the Geno 2.0 nor the Family Tree DNA Y-line and mitochondrial DNA full sequence tests.

Be aware that while people who test at Family Tree DNA are interested in genealogy, the typical person at 23andMe tested for the health portion, not the genealogy portion, and may not answer contact requests or may know very little about their family history.

Right now, their test is $99, and you can download your results and upload them to Family Tree DNA for an additional $89, making the total price similar to the Family Tree DNA test. However, you need to be somewhat technically savvy to complete the download/upload process.

23andMe recently released a new version of their software which added quite a bit of resolution after years of being woefully behind.  Native American wasn’t even a category previously.  You can take a look at the new format here.

Ancestry recently introduced an autosomal test.  You receive matches and ethnicity percentages.  However, their ethnicity percentages have significant issues and I would not recommend them at this time.  Their cousin matches come with no analysis tools.  So for now, just skip Ancestry and concentrate on the other resources.

One Last Autosomal Test

One marker value in particular, known as D9S919 is present in about 30% of the Native people.  The value of 9 at this marker is not known to be present in any other ethnic group, so this mutation occurred after the Native people migrated across Beringia into the Americas, but long enough ago to be present in many descendants.  You can test this marker individually at Family Tree DNA, which is the only lab that offers this test.  If you have the value of 9 at this marker, it confirms Native heritage, but if you don’t carry 9, it does NOT disprove Native heritage.  After all, many Native people don’t carry it.

To order this test, for existing Family Tree DNA clients, click on the “Order Upgrade” orange button on the right hand side of your personal page, then on “Advanced Test”, then enter “autosomal” in the drop down box, then you will see the list below. D9S919 is the last one and it costs $15.  There may be a $10 one time transfer fee as well if your DNA sample is not in the Houston lab.

native d9s919 order

Swimming in Many Pools

As you can see there are lots of tools available to you that can be used individually or in conjunction with each other.  Like anything else, the more work and effort you are willing to devote to the search, the more likely you are to be successful.

Most people test their Y-line and mitochondrial DNA, not just for Native ancestry, but to learn more about the lines they can test for themselves without reaching out to other family members.

Use your DNA pedigree chart to plan who to ask in your extended family to test for which lines.

Plan to test with multiple autosomal testing companies.  Autosomal testing in particular is still in its infancy. I like to use the results of multiple companies, especially when you are dealing with small amounts of admixture.  They use different markers, combinations, analysis tools and reference populations, so you can expect slightly different results.  One company may pick up slight minority admixture while another may not.  This has happened repeatedly with both my Native and African minority admixture.


After you obtain your results from either Family Tree DNA or 23andMe, you’ll want to download your raw data results and then upload the file to This is a privately run “donation” site, not associated with any of the testing companies, meaning there is no subscription or fee to use the tools, but they do appreciate and are funded by donations.

After uploading your results you can utilize several admixture tools to compare and contrast your results.

Getting Help

If you’re struggling with working through your family possibilities for who to test, I do offer a DNA Test Plan service.

If you would like a Personalized DNA Report for Y-line or mitochondrial results, those are available as well.

If you have what amounts to a quick question that I can answer in less than an hour, including prep, I offer the Quick Consult service.

For more extensive consulting, contact me.  You can see my services here.

In Summary

Finding our Native ancestors is a way to pay homage to their lives and to the culture that was stripped from their descendants, ironically, by using their own DNA that has been gifted from them to us.  Native people, after contact with Europeans were marginalized, and that’s the best that can be said.  Many were killed, either intentionally or by European diseases, or enslaved.  The results are that Native people left few if any individual records and those that might be available often can’t be identified or linked to them personally.  For those who cannot unearth their Native ancestry using conventional genealogical means, genetic testing is the last hope left.  Fortunately, the tools and our knowledge improve every day.  We’re making great strides with what we can do, enlarging what was a pinhole into a keyhole, allowing us to peer into the past.  So, click your heels, order your tests and let’s see where your DNA takes you.


About robertajestes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
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51 Responses to Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA

  1. Jeanette Taylor says:

    I started to do my genealogy when my Mother passed away Her childhood was extremely rough as it was for my Grandma & Great Grandma! I guess with that, our families mortality rate only makes it to our early 60’S! YIKES! So far no one in our family has been able to obtain any information about our heritage! Everyone, has either been fostered or adopted out! My mom was determined to break that chain! I am very fortunate for that! Never less, I’ve taken on the task to accomplish this mystery. So, I really appreciate informative websites and so far your number #1 in my book! Lol! Thank You!!!!!

  2. Thank you for the kind words. I hope you find your ancestors and live to break the 60s record!

  3. Jeanette Taylor says:

    LOL! I am doing my best with a vengeance! I’m getting my fathers DNA code’s now so, I will be back. I appreciate the knowledge & your hard work. So, I like to try to contribute what I have for the benefit that helps others as well. I think that’s where the phrase “That’s what makes the world go round”. Comes from! Thanks again!

  4. osssmon says:

    My mother’s father was full Arapaho. I have no documentation other than what I can find on
    I found my grandfathers military enlistment paper, but at the turn of the 1900’s if you weren’t white, you were colored.
    He was buried in a military cemetery in Portland Oregon

    Below is the tests I have had and just ordered.
    Product Ordered
    D9S919 6/4/2013
    mtHVR2toMega 10/9/2009
    Deep Clade Extended 8/20/2008
    Y-STR DNA-FP Panel 5 Palindromic Pack 5/16/2007
    mtDNAPlus 2/12/2007
    Y-Refine37to67 1/4/2007
    DeepSNP-R1b 7/28/2006
    Y-Refine12to37 7/27/2006
    Kit 3/14/2006
    Y-DNA12 3/14/2006

    Oscar Kelley

    • Actually, the draft enrollment cards did ask if they were Native. Can you find those for him? They are on ancestry. If he enlisted, he may never have enrolled for the draft, but there is always a chance.

  5. Sharon says:

    We all start this after we grow up. I grew up hearing my grandfather tell of his Indian family and just thought he was telling me a fun story. I have since found a book with his Grandmother name Susan Catherine Burnett (Little Dove) in telling of her marriage and getting a land allotment. I can go back so far on to my GG Grandmother and her marring a Burnett. From my research instead of Cherokee I think it’s Potawatomi. My mom is 94 now. Would it worth a DNA test and which one would be best. Or any other suggestion on how I can find documentation. I found a William Burnett (French) married Kaukeama but not sure if the child they had James E Burnett is my GGG Grandfather.

  6. kat says:

    My son just had his DNA tested through 23andme. He has about 4% Native American ancestry. We are interested in finding out where this originated, for strictly “just knowing” reasons; not to gain access to scholarships or money. What I found intriguing is that, even though only 4%, the DNA showed up in only one copy of each chromosome. It was in many chromosomes – a lot on chromosomes 2 and 20, and smaller amounts on 3,4,7,8,12 and 16. Does this yield any clues?

  7. kat says:

    In my question above, I meant to indicate that, for such a small percentage of Native American ancestry, I was surprised to find it on SO MANY chromosomes, but just one of each set of chromosomes it was on, that I referenced above. I was also surprised to see that sometimes it was on the top chromosome of a pair, and sometimes, on the bottom one. On the 2nd chromosome, I was surprised that almost the entire line of one of the pairs was Native American.

  8. M. Green says:

    I would like to be DNA tested

  9. Amy Turner says:

    So I’ve recently done testing w 23andme, which I did because I am adopted and curious about my paternal roots. My maternal half sister also tested. She was 99% European, whereas I was 70%+ European, about 4% Subsaharan African, and about 20% Native American. I was pretty surprised! Also, SUPER curious for specifics. If I were to test with other companies, in your opinion, would I get any more specific results relating me to any definite indigenous/native groups? I would love to know more! 23andme gives more specifics for European regions, so I know some info on various European parts, but the NA group is just basically EVERY NA group from all of North & South America lumped together!

  10. Pingback: 2013 – Native Heritage Project in Review | Native Heritage Project

  11. Melissa says:

    Just a thought about the chart where you state the percentages of DNA that you receive from grandparents. I believe that a female would have slightly more DNA from her paternal grandmother because since the father cannot give her the Y chromosome, he passes along his whole X chromosome – which he got from his mother. Whereas the other copy of X that the female gets from her mother is a recombination of DNA from both of the mothers X chromosomes. Statistically I’ve not worked that out because I’ve yet had any inclination to. But basically the X chromosome from the paternal grandmother is also a recombination of her mother’s X and her fathers X. So the X passed along to the granddaughter through the father is one generation less recombined that the X chromosome from the mother.

  12. Amanda says:

    Indian adoption in Florida was very common in the 1930’ family came from as all community in Florida called woods! Since grandmothers adoption was a closed case and she has passed they’re not willing to release the records.

  13. vickie says:

    Hi my name is vickie i am asking who i can talk to about getting the dna testing done on my self i was told i was a quarter native American . The tribe blackfoot i really would like to know. I looked into my family history and found some information and i would like to know and yes get my benefits if i can. I also would like to know how much thid will cost and can i talk to a live person. My number is 503-995-4646

    • The article you posted this comment to tells about the various options for testing. You can call Family Tree DNA to order if you would prefer. Each tribe sets its own rules for membership and I don’t know of any that accept DNA evidence. You’ll have to check with the tribe.

    • Alexander says:

      did you get any results? I also am a quarter or more native american (blackfoot tribe) i was always told my great grandmother was the chief’s daughter (princess) minerva…. but im not sure how to see just how much native american i am and what not with dna test not being as accurate as i would hope….. i dont think there database has grown enough to have all known native american tribes.

  14. dianamaria says:

    a few years ago my dna results surprised me — came back with Lumbee dna!!!
    Knew it had to be the mystery branch of family tree which was supposedly Irish — long story short
    gg grand dad was half (scot-irish and Lumbee)— no record of mother –his father identified as white in all records went from NC to MS and began pine plantation — gg grand dad moves to TX at age 20 (mexican border area) is drafted in TX Confederacy — described as white with dark complexion –dark hair and dark eyes!!! He deserts the Confederacy, joins Union Army in New Orleans and marries an Irish immigrant who spent childhood in Catholic orphanage — he kept a low profile his entire life and with dna and subsequent research I discovered my Lumbee gg grand dad —and I really like him

    • Victoria McCollister says:

      Hi , I know this truth i am a quarter native my self I do not know how to get the dna with out someone in the tribe as I under stand there needs to be some one in the nation to do dna with my family we do not know of any that is at least I know of at this time. I have been searching this for 15 years now. I do not know who to talk to about this to find someone that would be my blood family that I could do a dna with. I am still trying find out but limited info and something.I am half irish my self and a quarter native it would be nice to have more information to someone in the tribe to know for sure. I am going to keep trying.

    • Blue Ridge Blue says:

      By Lumbee DNA, do you mean NATIVE AMERICAN dna? Lumbee dna is kind of a tricky subject. People who belong to the tribe come back with some wildly varying results.

  15. Dean Hundorf says:

    I am 27 years old and was adopted as an infant. I just recieved Dna results saying I am a quarter Native American and would like to know what are my options to try to re connect with any possible relatives I may have.. I have no info from my biological family and to be quite honest the circumstances of my birth were vague and hard to believe. Anyone willing to help would be greatly appreciated.

  16. Johnny Fountano says:

    I am Johnny Fountano. First I grew up being told that we have Blackfoot then later also Cherokee on my mothers side, (Florida, Georgia). None that I know of on my Texas father’s side, sir name Fountano. My cousin on my fathers side did a Y-line and mtDna and admixture test with African to find his African lineage and the Y-line results came back Native American. I am on and I ordered the y-line and the autosomal. I tested 33 markers on the y-line and came up with Haplogroup Q Native American/North east Siberian. The Autosomal came up 79% African 18% European including Scandinavian, British Islands, trace west European, and 1% trace west Asian. I am trying to find my Native American heritage. I wonder if I should take a Family Tree autosomal test to get a more accurate result? Also the cousins on the DNA match I have no idea how and what side of the family they are on. Most of the sirnames are none of what I am familiar with and some of them have Native American, but I cannot tell if the Native American part is related to me.
    Thank You.

    • If you tested your mtDNA and Y at Ancestry, they are deleting those data bases as the end of September. You can transfer the data to Family Tree DNA or retest there. You can also transfer that results to Ysearch and Mitosearch.

      • Johnny Fountano says:

        Really? How do I go about transferring my Y DNA test result to Family Tree DNA? I have a print out of it with me now. I did not do a mtDNA because my mother in California is also on and she did a DNA test (I don’t know which one she did) But her ancestry match was 72% west African 20% European, mainly British Isles, and 6% uncertrain ( I believe that may be Native American). I asked her if she took the autosomal test, and she said no, The new autosomal test was not available, so I am not sure which test that was. I was told by my grandmother when she was living (Her mother) that Her mother was close to full blooded Indian and her father was 1/2 Cherokee. Her father was Joe Troutman from Georgia. But there was no indication of Indian on her DNA test from Ancestry. I believe it missed the Indian side.

      • Go to their website at and select that option, or call them on the phone to order.

  17. Alex Walker says:

    I am half Southern and half post-Revolution European immigrant. My father, so far as we know, was probably the first person in his family to marry a non-Southerner in 200+ years. My mother’s side, the more typical American immigrant side, only came to the US in the 1800s, and we know the names and countries of origin for all of her direct ancestors (none arrived earlier than the 1850s). But my Southern side was always a mystery. I learned my great-great-grandfather’s name (paternal line) only after becoming an adult. Here’s my question: recent inquiries make it likely (if not certain) that every line on my Southern side goes back to before 1776, the majority of them including births in this continent between the 1620s and late 1690s in Virginia (12 to 15 generations for the longest lines)–Can traces of African, Jewish (Sephardic Jews and/or Ashkenazim), or American Indian DNA can be measured that far back?

    My Southern family is white (extremely light complexion), and there are no rumors of Indian ancestors or anything of that nature; however, my father and his siblings have features completely unlike any white people I know and completely unlike their own paternal relatives. Old photographs have convinced me that the unusual features (extremely broad nose, for example) can be traced back to my father’s mother’s mother’s line, which came out of North Carolina, where some of them remained in one county (for some lines anyway) from the end of the 1600s until the 1910s or 1920s. No one is alive beyond my father’s generation to be tested, and I do not know whether the features continue up the maternal line or not, so I’m not sure whether my father’s sister would resolve things by being tested. Is there any way I can confirm or deny an African (Southern) ancestor if he or she is not in my paternal line and more than 7 generations back?

    I just ordered 23andMe tests for me and my wife (whose ancestry is much more mixed than mine), but I now think that the questions I have cannot be answered because of the great time depth of my American ancestry. If there are any special tests that can reach back beyond 8 generations with any degree of precision, I would like to know about them.

  18. Johnny Fountano says:

    Can you or anybody tell me what is the difference between the autosomal DNA test and the admixture test? I was looking at a show with Mr. Gates I think it was American Lives, and he traced featured people family trees and he ordered DNA ancestry test to find their deep ancestry. He used the admixture geneology method. Is that the same as the autosomal test? Another reason why I ask is Ancestry did a test on my mother and this is before their new atDNA test. So I assume that they traced her maternal line, and they came up with mixed ancestries including European and African with various percentages. I thought the mtDNA only points to a direct maternal line and it missed the maternal fathers and grandfathers, etc. and missed the maternal granmothers fathers lines. So did they do some kind of admixture? and what is the difference between an autosomal?

  19. Thomas McGuire says:

    At the beging of site it was stated that there were no recongnized tribes to the best of your knowledgeknowledge that required DNA testing as part of the enrollment process. FYI the Kalispel Tribe from Washington state has been using this for years.

    Thomas Chy McGuire
    Enrolled Kalispel tribal member.

    • Hi Thomas. What I meant was that they don’t recognize DNA testing as a way to become a tribal member. Can you send me a link to more info about the Kalispell tribe and their acceptance of DNA results? Thanks much.

  20. Pingback: 2014 in review | Native Heritage Project

  21. Nicole Abrams says:

    I want to get DNA for tax exempt. My grandfather is Indian.

  22. Pam says:

    I have a semi unique situation. I’m sure I am not the only one, but haven’t found anything close to my situation since my searching for an answer. My Grandmother was a full blood Cherokee and has a roll number on the Dawes Roll, my Dad is half and I have no problem proving that I am 1/4 Cherokee. I live in Oklahoma and I do have my CDIB/Tribal Citizenship card.

    My problem is: I have a full sister that is a year older than I am. Our parents were young, 14 and 16 when she was born. She was taken at birth and adopted by our Mothers Mother (white side of family) and she was raised as our Mother’s Sister and as my Aunt. When Mother gave birth to my sister, Mother gave her first name, but gave the last name of “her” mother on my sisters original birth certificate with father unknown. Therefore, on her original birth certificate, our white grandmother named and took my sister without having to adopt because her last name was already on the birth certificate. This was many years ago when things like this was not difficult to pull off.

    She was only told a couple of years ago that we are full sisters. My sister and I are both in our early 60’s now and we are trying to get my sister her CDIB/Tribal Citizenship thru Cherokee Nation. Thought it would be simple and easy with a DNA of my sister, our Dad’s and mine if needed, especially since Dad and I already have our CDIB/Tribal Citizenship.

    First, Cherokee Nation would not do anything without her original Birth Certificate which she only discovered a couple of months ago. Cherokee Nation has also told me that a DNA will not surpass as proof of her being a full sister of mine. My sister is trying to go the legal route without any success so far. No lawyer as of to date has given us any direction, paperwork or what is required to prove to Cherokee Nation that she is 1/4 Cherokee with the same linage that I have. Proving that she is my full sister and that we have the same Dad and Grandmother is not the problem, obliviously a DNA can prove that. The problem is how and what paperwork do we need as proof for Cherokee Nation to accept!

    We originally thought that all we needed was a DNA as proof for Cherokee Nation, but not so! We were told that we need to do it thru the legal system. All party’s are willing to do what ever it takes but, no one can tell us exactly what we need to do or who to talk to. It would be so very much appreciated if someone could help us by letting us know what direction we need to go! Thank you.

  23. Shirley Royer says:

    I have been looking to get my tribal Abenaki papers all my life to learn more about my heritage. At the age of 4 I saw my greatgrandmother also have a picture of her.

  24. I now i have creek native american blood in me on my mother side But what a mount of creek blood do i have ?creek middle ga please help james thanks

  25. Julia lewis says:

    Trying to find my true heritage father known liar, mom not able to tell me anything now due to illness. Supposedly my father was adopted due to his birth father drowning in a lake on Cherokee reservation born another reservation in New Mexico. My mothers great grandmother looked very white but supposedly very Cherokee also. Any help would be appreciated. I did have to have seven blood test when I became pregnant the first time due to different blood types, they used the majority o-. Thank you for your research and information.

  26. Carol Jean Vogelman says:

    I’m from Madison, Wisconsin, born 1947 to a handsome German & a beautiful young woman whose Indian looks got her dubbed “Pocahantas” the moment they met!

    My grandma was supposedly half Swedish/half Norwegian.

    My great grandpa was a tailor who drank & often left his wife alone to travel to clients farms & small towns.

    In their early years, the Bergfors family lived near, I think, Black Earth or nearby small town near Madison; 1900.

    Great grandma one day answered her day during one of her husbands trips, to find a polite Indian man who said he had been assigned by the tribe to keep an eye on her; changing screen doors, shovelling snow, lifting heavy things.

    He took care of her & I believe they developed a relationship.
    When my grandma was young the family moved to Madison. They lived on the Capitol square; grandma’s father would get drunk & abuse her, chasing his 16 year old daughter with a belt!”

    When grandma married a kind and protective man, she had two daughters; mother had dark skin, never burned, pitch black hair, warm brown eyes, very high cheekbones & natural love for Indian & bohemian styles of art & nature!
    Dad dubbed her Pokey! She was precocious, pursuing dad from 15 yrs until he announced that as it was getting too expensive to date her, they may as well marry!

    Great gran used to tease, in a deliberately off hand manner, that gypsies had left her! Or “You look just like a little Mexican baby!” And what impressed mother as she aged, was that never once did her gran mention her outstandingly Indian appearance!

    Mother finally confided in me these connections & her growing suspicion about her mother’s heritage; she was not very Norwegian appearing more Swedish.
    I believe grandma’s father knew or suspected his daughter may have had an Indian father and when he drank, his anger & resentment were impossible to control!

    One more bit; when young I had plenty of cavities and used to have what dentists call a “busy tongue” when a dentist works on different people some patients tongues just lie there others move without cease. Recently, I read that Indians have a tiny dent behind their two front teeth?

    And it rolled over me an ancient memory of sitting at my school desk, my tongue restlessly probing behind my teeth for two little dents!

    It would be just wonderful to know if it is possible I have Indian blood?
    My own cheekbone are also very high, & I am told I have “exotic” looks but I saw my own smile in the eyes I a photo of a Hochunk Indian woman named Janet Whitefeather & I was not surprised at all, but felt beautiful!

    If you have any feedback or advise I’d be so pleased; it would explain a great deal about the 2 women who meant the world to me & about my own nature;
    I believe the genetic markers could be such powerful “microchips” that we get remarkably strong emotions, reactions & drives for some things over others, messages from hundreds of years over time alive in us now; a child in Idaho suddenly at 8 years, began to speak an ancient chinese dialect that hadn’t been heard in several generations, & his use was correct it could have been an accidentally opened generic file?

    Thank you so much; as soon as I can save for it I intend to use the 199$ test if you advise it?

    A woman at another facility was dismissive and insisted I had absolutely no possibility of learning if I had indian blood from any currant testing so I was depressed!
    She did mention the teeth & I felt the oddest sensation when she said it! I suppose I thought it was normal!

    Sincerely, Carol Jean Vogelman

    • If you are 25% Native, meaning one grandparent, you will most certainly be able to tell via autosomal testing. That’s the Family Finder test at Family Tree DNA. There is a link on the sidebar of the blog.

  27. Nykkole Janelle Koeppel says:

    My name is Nykkole Janelle Koeppel and my maiden name is Moore I’m looking around for where my husband and I can get our indian DNA testing done at

  28. M Lawson says:

    I would slightly disagree with your statement that there are no scholarships for NAs. No ‘free rides’, true, BUT every college I and my children checked out offer some SMALL scholarship, usually offered to all admitted ‘under represented minorities’, maybe only $1,000.00, but in college costs every little bit helps. Also, if you are borderline in test scores or GPA, being any ‘under represented minority’ will definitely get you in the door. Every college differs on their proof criteria, but most do not require tribal registration/membership, as no other minority would have any similar proof. In my experience, the bigger the tribe is and the more money they have from casinos or oil, the tougher it is to join. The smallest tribes, ones with more recent Fed recognition as a distinct tribe… tribes with no casino and no oil… the more lenient they are on admission.

  29. heather says:

    Hi my name is heather and i have been told that my gggg grandma was full sioux and my dad supposedly lived on a reservation in Missouri. Also told my moms side has cherokee or blackfoot. And that my gggg grandma was often mistaken for being spanish so at the time they plYed it off so she wouldnt be hurt. Im trying to get info on it all and its so confusing. I just want to know what all me and my children have in us. Any suggestions on where to start?

    • This article described the different kinds of DNA you can test for depending on where in your family the Native heritage originates. I suggest starting with the Family Finder test and going from there. The link for Family Tree DNA is on the sidebar of this blog.

  30. Chantel says:

    I have been told that my grandma (on my moms side) was 100% Iroquois. But when she voted she put Caucasian. . Does that mean she is not Native American or is it common to lie and say white? I do know that my sister joined a tribe when she was down South where she met her now husband. He actually took her last name and so did the kids. I do not really talk to that side of my family but I have an aunt who said we are Seneca… I think. All I know is from what I heard there are so few that “my tribe” has to live with other tribes. How can I find evidence to prove this? Is blood enough? I do not care about money or benefits as I am doing fine on my own. I just love different cultures and find it fascinating.

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