We have discussed Y-DNA testing and mtDNA testing many times here on GenealogyDNA.com. As described, both of those do a good job of returning exact DNA trails to your two outermost branches of the family tree, meaning the all male father’s, father and on back to earliest times. The mtDNA tests the matrilineal line meaning the mother’s mothers female or umbilical line.
So what about all the branches on the tree in between? That is where Autosomal DNA testing comes in. It is also where a better examination of the possibility of having Native American Ancestry is used.
From the recent ISOGG Newsletter, vol.3, no.7 a good description and a success story shows how the combined testing of all parts of the subject DNA can lead to answers to these questions. As for autosomal testing it is suggested that the Native American possibilities is most effective out to the great grandparents range, or possibly a little further. It will not be of much use back several centuries, or as the Director of ISOGG, Katherine Borges, stated “If you’re looking to uncover Pocahontas’ DNA in your tree, its not going to show.”
The following story offered by Ms. Borges describes a perfect example of how autosomal testing can help in such a quest.
DNA Success Stories
Searching for Native American Ancestry
by Katherine Borges
One fateful day back in the year 2000, I asked my father-in-law what he knew about his
ancestry. His father was 100% Portuguese and his mother was a mix of Swiss-French on her
father’s side and Heinz 57 American on her mother’s side. And then the words that
propelled me on this search: “…and I think I may have a Native American ancestor.”
As exciting as that statement might be, I never found it on paper. Perhaps the reason
why is because there never was one and his DNA results appear to confirm that. But this
journey wasn’t without tantalizing tidbits along the way. Like the photo of his great-grandmother
where she had a Native American look about her. We are brickwalled at her parents so you
never know, it was a clue that might have panned out. But then there’s the DNA…
In 2004, I thought that if I tested my son, that it would show whether he had Native American
ancestry so I ordered an autosomal DNA test for him through a company called “DNA Print”.
His results came back as 92% Caucasian and 8% East Asian. “EAST ASIAN??? My son
doesn’t have any Asian ancestry.” I said. My friend, Dr. Ana Oquendo Pabón gently assured
me that the East Asian was really Native American in my son; its just that the company didn’t
have his type of NA DNA in their database so he matched the next closest type. While Ana’s
explanation made sense, the test didn’t quite give me the clear cut answer I was hoping for.
The next test I tried for the search was a single marker test for D9S919 offered by Family
Tree DNA in the Fall of 2008. Since the company already had his DNA on file, I had the test
performed on my son and the results were once again, inconclusive.
One year later, 23andMe came out with their Relative Finder autosomal DNA test so the very
first one I ordered was on my father-in-law. His results came back 100% European, primarily
Southern European which fits with his 50% Portuguese ancestry. Alas, it appeared that
the lack of finding a Native American paper trail in his family tree had now been firmly
corroborated through DNA.
However, this didn’t turn out to be the end of the search. During this time, mtDNA results
came in for my mother-in-law’s brother and sister as Haplogroup C – a Native American
haplogroup! I also tested one of their female first cousins through the National Geographic
Genographic Project and she came back as Haplogroup A – another Native American haplogroup!
One month later, both my son and his great-aunt tested through 23andMe and both had Native
American autosomal DNA results through the feature, Native American Ancestry Finder. My
mother-in-law’s ancestry is 3/4 Mexican and 1/4 Austrian so the results do fit with their Mexican
So this journey through different types of DNA testing led to success in finding Native American
ancestry, even though it wasn’t where I initially thought it might have originated. And this can serve
as a cautionary tale that just one test might not provide the answer, but don’t give up! You
never know what’s just around the corner to give you the answer that you’re searching for.
Copyright 2010 – International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG).
(Used with permission under Creative Commons Licensing, all credit to ISOGG.)
As this story shows there are many possibilities or ways to prove native ancestry but it still takes a combination of genealogical detective work and the various types of DNA test results to help verify it.
The best way to find out is to jump in and get tested. As millions of more people become tested for this type of genealogy DNA “and” genealogy paperwork research is compared, the better the over all chances of finding those missing bits and pieces of data that might show that you were here before Christoper Columbus.