Exploring Potential Native American Ancestry Using 23andMe

As the series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. begins its 10-week run on PBS, The Spittoon will feature posts from 23andMe’s Ancestry Ambassadors featuring their own stories about using DNA to dig into ancestry.

By Tim Janzen, M.D.

Many American families have a family legend that they have a Native American ancestor in their family tree. My family is no different.
We have two such stories, one from my mother’s father’s side of the family and one from my mother’s mother’s side.

The account of our American Indian ancestry on my grandfather Paul Youngman’s side is the best documented. The story from my grandmother Maude (McIntire) Youngman’s side is less well documented. Both stories are of interest and can potentially be established as being true using 23andMe’s Ancestry Painting tools as well as the Native American Ancestry Finder.

First I would like to provide some background about the family stories. Good genealogical records trace my grandfather’s ancestry back to Tarhe, a Wyandot Indian chief who was born about 1742, likely near Detroit, Michigan. Chief Tarhe was a relatively well-known Indian chief during that time period. He was the holder of the Treaty of Greenville that was signed in 1795 after General “Mad” Anthony Wayne defeated a large force of Indians in the Battle of Fallen Timbers.

Chief Tarhe married Ronyouquaines, who is said to have been the daughter of Chevalier La Durante, a French Canadian who lived on Mackinac Island just off the northern tip of Michigan. Ronyouquaines was captured by the Wyandot Indians and was adopted into their tribe. Their daughter, Myeerah, married Isaac Zane, who was also captured by Indians at the age of 8 in 1762 and was adopted into the Wyandot Indian tribe. Their daughter Sarah Zane married a third captive, Robert Armstrong, who was taken by Indians near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as a young boy around 1783. Robert Armstrong’s son John M. Armstrong (b. 1813) married Lucy Bigelow and they moved to Kansas in 1843 with the rest of the Wyandot Indian tribe after the Wyandots were forced to give up their land in Ohio. My grandfather, Paul Youngman, documented much of this history in a book that he wrote in 1975 titled Heritage of the Wyandots.

My maternal grandmother, Maude (McIntire) Youngman, said that her mother Harriet (Lawrence) McIntire also had Native American ancestry. In 1963 my grandmother’s cousin wrote a letter to my grandmother stating that their great-grandmother Margaret Perry (b. 1816) was a Choctaw Indian. The Chocktaw are a Native American people originally from the Southeastern United States. My grandmother believed this information to be true when I discussed it with her in the 1970s. Harriet Lawrence’s brother David Lawrence also told his grandchildren that his mother Mary McCleary (b. 1850) had American Indian ancestry.

Mary McCleary was the daughter of Moses McCleary and Margaret Perry. I have been somewhat skeptical about Margaret Perry’s reputed Native American ancestry over the years, particularly after I discovered that the 1880 U. S. Census indicates that Margaret Perry’s parents were born in Virginia. Research in recent years has indicated that Margaret Perry’s parents were Levi Perry (b. ca 1790 in Wales) and Elizabeth ____ (b. ca 1793 in Vermont).

When I received my 23andMe results three years ago one of the first things I wanted to do was to review my Ancestry Painting profile. I was not surprised when I found I have a segment on chromosome 6 that is Asian in origin, suggesting that I have Native American ancestry. When the results for my parents came back from 23andMe, the Ancestry Painting profile for my mother revealed that she has two Asian segments and that my father has no Asian segments. My mother’s two brothers also have Asian segments. One has six Asian segments and the other has five.

Additional relatives of my grandfather Paul Youngman have been tested by 23andMe including two first cousins and two second cousins. These cousins also descend from John M. Armstrong and their DNA results indicate that they each have between four and six Asian segments. My mother, her first cousins, and her second cousins on the Armstrong side have approximately 1% Asian ancestry as per their Ancestry Painting profiles. Since my mother is a great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Chief Tarhe one would expect that approximately 1/128 of her autosomal DNA came from him. The DNA evidence suggests that my mother does indeed have Native American ancestry and it seems highly probable that her only Native American ancestor within the past seven generations is Chief Tarhe.

So what about my grandmother’s story that her great-grandmother Margaret Perry was a Choctaw Indian? Interestingly, there is no evidence from the DNA results that would confirm this story. Two descendents of Moses McCleary and Margaret Perry who are second cousins of my mother have been tested by 23andMe and neither has any Asian segments in their Ancestry Painting profile and the 23andMe Native American Ancestry Finder tool indicates they have no Asian DNA. If Margaret Perry was truly a Choctaw Indian then we would expect that any great-great-grandchildren of hers would be 1/16 Native American. Thus we would expect that approximately 6% of their DNA would be Asian in origin in 23andMe’s Ancestry Painting and in Native American Ancestry Finder and that at least some Native American segments would appear in their DNA. However, the lack of any Asian segments in these two cousins’ 23andMe results coupled with the fact that my mother and her two brothers have only about 1% of their DNA being of Asian origin would strongly suggest that the family lore that Margaret Perry was a Choctaw Indian is incorrect.

Autosomal DNA has the potential to reveal much about our ancestral origins. In my case 23andMe’s Ancestry Painting feature and the Native American Ancestry Finder tool have helped confirm my Native American ancestry on the Armstrong side of my family, but have disproved any Native American ancestry on the Lawrence side. I would encourage others who have been tested by 23andMe to review their results using these tools. You might be surprised with what you find!

23andMe provides genetic testing services for informational purposes; your results may or may not help you to search for or identify relatives or family members.


Tim Janzen is a family practice doctor at South Tabor Family Physicians in Portland, Oregon. His interest in genealogical research goes back 35 years and he has particularly focused on Mennonite genealogy for the past 15 years.  He has a web site that summarizes many different sources available for Mennonite genealogical research found at www.timjanzen.com and has given many presentations about Mennonite genealogy in the United States and Canada.  He is the co-administrator of the Mennonite DNA project at www.mennonitedna.com. He also serves on the ISOGG Y-DNA Haplogroup Tree Committee.  Tim is married to Rachel Janzen and they have four children.

  • John Bears

    DNA tribes reports North American Indians have no Asian DNA. Any comments?

    • Kevin England

      I don’t know what DNA Tribes is, but Native Americans are believed to have migrated from Southeast Asia across the Bering Strait 30-50,000 years ago. Aleutians, U.S. Amerindians, Central and South Americans–Asian descent according to this view. It would seem the comments here agree with this understanding.

      • musings2

        I believe that it is Eastern Asia (and they break it down to Siberia, China, Korea, Japan etc) rather than Southeast Asia (which is Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia). I think it is fairly well-documented that Native Americans are mostly (though perhaps not all) originally from the more northern parts of Asia, rather than the tropics (although they later moved down to the tropical areas of the Western Hemisphere and adapted perfectly well). Right now, I am trying to determine if my Asian ancestry is from Asians moving west into parts of Eastern Europe or from my father’s family’s possibly intermarrying in the early days of the French and English colonies of North America.

        It would be interesting to see if there was any settlement of the Pacific side of the Americas from the sea, after the land migration across Siberia and the Bering Strait. That would perhaps be shown if anyone tested for genes from Southeast Asia. I think the jury may still be out on that contribution to the mix.

    • Chris Gray

      How would they know anyway since they have a very limited scope of TRUE NA ancestry?

  • Darius

    @John Bears

    Doug Mcdonald said my siberian (east asian) admix goes into my amerindian admixture. I’ve also seen other results from other people that get told the same thing by mcdonald regarding the east asian admix being part of Amerindian. DNATribes needs to recheck what they are saying.

  • LongPole

    For Native American ancestry, is it true that anything past 5 generations / circa 1850 will not show up on 23andme results?

    Viewing DNATribes and specially Ancestry.com DNA recent acquisition of the Sorrenson / Genetree database, is 23andme behind the curve on this when identifying likely tribes for African Americans or Native Americans?

    In regards to the Native American ancestry for Brown Univ. Pres Ruth Simmons you speculated that her maternal ancestry was Taino or Carib. Can you provide us with some information which would support that conclusion since the Gates program did not even mention her Hg?

  • nitosha parham

    My heritages dont add up to 99 percent but 101% thru 23and me. Why is that? 64% african, 31% European and 6% asian? Also my great-great grandmother was 100% cherokee. Why is there not native american indian blood detected?

  • Tim Janzen

    @Nitosha Parham,
    The 6% Asian ancestry you have is likely from a Native American Indian ancestry, probably your great-great grandmother who was Cherokee. You should have received about 6.25% of your autosomal DNA from this great-great grandmother. Assuming that you don’t have any Native American ancestry on any of your other lines, then it is reasonable to assume that the 6% of your DNA that was Asian in origin came from your great-great grandmother who was Cherokee.

    Native American DNA can appear on your 23andMe Ancestry Painting profile from ancestors who were born much earlier than 1850. In my particular case, the Native American DNA that is found in my relatives’ and my DNA appears to have come from Tarhe, a Wyandot Indian who was born ca 1742.

    The issue of the origin of the Native American DNA found in African Americans is a very complicated topic and I don’t know that there is an easy answer to all of these issues. What we would like to know is the percentage of the Native American autosomal DNA that is found in the average African American that came from Native Americans in North America (likely primarily from the Eastern U. S.) and what percentage came from the Caribbean. We might never know the answer to that question. However, if a large number of Native American autosomal variants (primarily SNPs) could be determined to be of Caribbean origin and a large number of variants could be determined to be of North American ancestry, then we could likely start to get to the heart of this issue.
    Please take a look at http://www.familytreedna.com/pdf/ParraAJHG1998.pdf. Also read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_slave_trade, particularly the section under “Triangular trade”. There is also an excellent document at http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0002/000277/027738eb.pdf. My understanding is that the African slaves in the Caribbean intermarried significantly with the local native American Indians (who were also enslaved by the Spaniards). Their descendents formed the core of the slaves in the Caribbean. A portion of these slaves were imported to the U. S. in the 1700s and early 1800s. See page 6 of the document at http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0002/000277/027738eb.pdf which describes the slave trade between Havana and the U. S. On our family vacation to Washington, DC, in 2001 there was an extensive exhibit about the importation of slaves from Africa to the Caribbean at the Smithsonian which I spent some time studying. I don’t know what percentage of U. S. slaves that were imported to the U. S. from the Caribbean and what percentage that were imported to the U. S. directly from Africa, but in any case I believe that the percentage of African Americans who have ancestors who were at one point slaves in the Caribbean is significant. I don’t think we can assume that all of the Native American ancestry we find in the DNA of current African Americans came from Native Americans who lived in the U. S. I think that a significant portion of the Native American genetic component of African Americans in the U. S. came from the Caribbean, Mexico, and possibly also from S. America. An article on Black Indians may be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Indians_in_the_United_States that offers additional insights. There is also an article in the April issue of the National Geographic starting on p. 123 that touches on this topic since it discusses the quilombos, the descendents of Native Americans and African slaves in Brazil. I share genomes at the basic level with a number of African Americans. The percentage of their DNA that is of Asian ancestry I see for those people in Ancestry Painting seems to range from about 2% to 6%. It may be higher in some African Americans.

    Tim Janzen

  • Thanks Tim. I believe my Autosomal results reflect this quite well. I have a 1% African 99% European at 23andme. I have two well defined African segments (no matches on these anywhere yet–including FTDNA and GEDMATCH) I do however have one match with a Mexican who is mostly Native American AND we match on a segment where he shows 100% Native American and me better than 50% Native American (on that segment). I also show small amounts of Oceania in some calculators and some other unusual results.

    Although estimating the time frame for my African ancestor is fraught with problems my guestimate based on two sizable segments is 1700s-very early 1800’s and most likely was the parent of one of my female mystery women in the South or New Jersey/Maryland.

    My guess is that this women is the source of the Native American that matches my match from Mexico. I also have 5 small (5-6cM) matches with men from Portugal all who match at least 2 of the others. This suggests to me that most likely there was some admixing again guestimating in a common Portuguese ancestor perhaps in 1500’s to 1600’s.

    I have several Scottish ancestors (who were in Ireland later) at lest one of which appears to have immigrated to the Caribbean before come to America.

    Its not hard to imagine a person with two mixed ancestry parents giving birth to a child who passes for white and passes their mixed genes—relatively undetected until now. So these small bits of admixture might indeed be real and have a plausible and perhaps eventually provable story.

    Also regarding distant Native American—it appears likely that many Native Americans probably have admixing with Europeans going back centuries so that there is not as much detectable Native American as we might suspect. Both my husband and I show some small segments across the genome suggesting old admixing. This is a lot more prevalent than the History books tend to acknowledge.

    Although not far into the book I will mention “The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade:1440-1870” by Hugh Thomas for those that might be interested.


  • will berry


    Thank you for posting your research and that of others.

    My autosomal DNA test shows 90% European, 8% East Asian, 2% Native American,
    which the lab suggested could be read as 10% Indigenous DNA, Americas.

    Many of my European lines are known to me, early 17th century VA and MD English,
    later end of 18th century, Anglo-Scots- Irish. I have assumed that there could be different
    lines of Native American descent from both my mother’s and father’s families.

    In further research, I find in several of these extended Colonial families
    Native American marriages up through early 19th century, I cannot, however, determine a NA marriage in my direct line.

    I am wondering if any NA nation in VA or MD has tested for higher East Asian DNA
    than any others.



  • Lesley Castle

    Since 23andme only detects Native American ancestry back five generations there is still a possibility of Native American ancestry prior to that time. While interesting and informative, these dna tests are not 100% conclusive.

    • ScottH

      That’s correct. We would have a hard time detecting percentages below 1 percent or admixture that happened five or six generations (roughly 200 years ago).

  • Barb

    I am very disappointed with how the results of 23andme is shown, by lumping me into a big percentile of 99.8 of european that says NOTHING. I was looking for something on my mom s dna showing percentage of possible Jewish dna and oh guess what that s been lumped into a big pile so not happy. Also I know there was more native american dna than showing up, so I did not get the information I was looking for verification Oh, when I first saw the ad it said Both maternal & paternal dna can be shown and guess what I am now told that only my dad s dna can be determined by a male relative. oooops.

    • Tim Janzen

      Dear Barb,
      Knowing that you are 99.8% European is a meaningful result. It means that you don’t have any significant amounts of Native American DNA in your genome. 23andMe probably breaks down your European ancestry at least to a certain extent. I generally look at the “speculative” setting, which I generally find to be fairly accurate. Keep in mind that Europeans have been moving back and forth across the continent of Europe for many millennia, which makes it challenging to link many DNA segments to specific countries. Thus 23andMe is correct to say that many segments are “non-specific”. The DNA of Ashkenazi Jews is fairly distinctive, so if 23andMe doesn’t show you as having very much Ashkenazi DNA then you likely don’t have any Ashkenazi Jews who were direct ancestors of yours within the past 4 generations.
      Tim Janzen

      • Marishka Noyb

        Jews are not a race.Jews practice Judaism
        There are Russian Jews and and many different kinds of Jews(people who practice Judaism)
        But Jews are not a race

  • Delene Hartsfield

    If I were to get tested, would it show my grandmother born 1806 in Tennessee, as being Cherokee? We don’t know anything about her early life, except that she was a Cherokee Indian Would it be better if my brother got tested?

    • Tim Janzen

      Dear Delene,
      Does your Ancestry Composition profile show any Native American DNA at this point? If so, what percentage does it show? It would be very reasonable to also test your brother since about 50% of his genome isn’t in your genome. At this point in time it isn’t feasible to provide a breakdown of Native American DNA by tribe, but hopefully progress can be made in that area as more people with Native American ancestry are tested.
      Tim Janzen

  • NadineH

    Can read the 1% admixture up to only the past 200 years? My Maternal “English” Great GrandDad landed at JamesTowne in 1607, living over a decade with the Rappahannock Tribe. The ensuing maternal (14 generations) & paternal (13 generations), Scott & Welsh. Both, my teeth & 2 Daughters teeth are ‘shoveled’ which is a primary indicator archaeologically for verifying Native American heritage; no body hair & our eyes are green in color, just to comment. That’s 400 years or are we genetic throwbacks? Confusing. I am in the process of ordering the 23andMe DNA kit. Would we be viable candidates or be excluded for the 1% ? Thank You.

    • Tim Janzen

      Dear Nadine H,
      In theory there is no limit to how many generations small DNA segments from a specific ancestor will remain present in the genomes of their descendents. However, from a practical standpoint for your situation, 400 years is really pushing it in terms of whether or not any Native American segments will appear in your genome if one of your ancestors in the early 1600s was a Native American. Take a look at your Ancestry Composition profile. What percent Native American does it show? Also look at the chromosome view to see if any Native American segments appear there. Also consider uploading your 23andMe data file to GEDmatch to see if any of the admixture tools there show any clear Native American segments. I located at least one Native American segment in my mom’s genome that appears in the MDLP World 22 tool that 23andMe is not yet reporting.
      Tim Janzen

    • wednedaysummey

      I would like to add here as well. 23andMe Ancestry Composition is testing regions of the loci where SNP’s show some distinction among populations. These are very small regions. These regions are not “genes.” Only about 10% of our DNA is genes while the remaining 90% are in regions of non-coding. 1% of your DNA is for phenotype.
      For example, a person can test and have a Native American 6% sourced from a great grandparent but may not have inherited any “genes” from this ancestor.

      Also, shovel teeth, no hair etc. while found MORE common in Asian/Native Americans can also be found in other populations as well, and less to none with Africans.

  • Herman

    Would not a better source for determing u.s. native american dna come from the Choctaws that never left Mississippi? Although some of them did father african and european children, for the most part the majority of them remained as a community amongst themselves even before they were granted a reservation in 1945. Even today I don’t think they allow anyone less than 1/4 to become an enrolled citizen. If you check the 1860 U.S census for Mississippi, you would find very few choctaws on the census rolls -less than 10. Yet after the civil war, in 1870-1880, U.S. census rolls indicate their numbers suddenly increased from near a 1000 in 1870 to nearing 2000 afterward . And also, testing Mississippians (both Blacks and Whites) claiming to be Choctaw and that can supply photos of their relatives they claim to be part Native American; and can tell a viable relationship between their family and the Mississippi Choctaws that has been passed on through family lore; And as well reecite some story passed down told by Choctaws in order to compare their dna against the two would be a giant step foward since dna comparison for european and african ancestry is becoming well established. You would by this way have filtered out with just 2 to 3 request that left more plausible candidates for your testing. you may just have enough customers that originated from Mississippy already to initiate such a project. You already have the dna, all is needed is the required evidence that can be requested by way of email for the mixed and then gathering the participation of some Mississippi Choctaws to submit dna samples in order to complete the gathering of what is needed for evidence. Or maybe not

    • Tim Janzen

      Dear Herman,
      If you are trying to create a reference sample with people that have Choctaw ancestry you would definitely want to test people who have the purest Choctaw ancestry, no matter where they are currently living. However, most descendents of the Native American tribes from the Eastern U. S. have at least some admixture with people with European ancestry or in some cases African ancestry. So it would be difficult to find Native Americans from tribes east of the Mississippi that are 100% Native American in terms of their DNA.
      Tim Janzen

  • My grandmothers, grandmother is suppose to be full blooded Western Abenaki (Sally Starr who married Butler Wood) in the 1800’s in Maine – where my maternal family (my mtDNA is H7a, incidentally ) has lived for generations. Family lore says that she may have some African ancestry as well as her features are very dark for an English, Scots – Irish lass ! However my recent “23 and Me” ancestral composition designates that I am 99.9 % European, mostly Northern with some traces of Southern European with ZERO % of Eastern European, Asian, African and Native American ancestry. Can I just chalked my assumed Abenaki and as well as my supposed African ancestry as just “folk lore” ? I guess that my grandmother’s “darkness” can be just attributed to her Irish heritage !

    • Tim Janzen

      Dear Viola,
      I suspect that your great-great-grandmother was not a full blooded Western Abenaki because if she was so you should show up as being about 1/16 (6.25%) Native American in Ancestry Composition. That should stick out like a sore thumb in Ancestry Composition. The fact that you are 99.9% European strongly suggests that you don’t have any Native American ancestry within the past 6 generations. One of my mom’s 2nd cousins doesn’t have any Native American segments appearing in her Ancestry Composition results even though she is at least 1/128 Native American and could be as much as 1/64th Native American in terms of her ancestry. All of the rest of my mom’s cousins who have been tested up to this point in time are showing between 2 and 7 Native American segments in Ancestry Composition.
      Tim Janzen

      • Herman

        I got a 1% rating from 23andme. I was told that is a fairly strong indication of having NA heritage. Yet it seems to me that you’re saying that 1% result would show my inheritance was like 6 or 7 generations back at the least.
        Scot H on the other hand says that it would be difficult tracing ancestry below 1% or back 5 or 6 generations ago within the last 200 years. Five to six generations back equal to 1/16th or 1/32nd whereas 6 or 7 generations back would equal 1/32nd or 1/64th.
        Then yet again, 23andme states under HELP: under FAQ: Detecting NA heritage that a gr gr grandparent(1/32) may not be detectable, whereas a gr grandparent(1/8th) would most likely be detectable.
        Would it not be best to say that any results less than 12.5% indicates you have an NA ancestry more likely within the range of your gr grandmother and less likely from your gr gr grandmother. And if you have no NA ancestry results means it is most likely your NA ancestry mst likely ranges further back than your gr gr grandmother?

        • wednedaysummey

          I think part of the problems is people trying to conclude racial percentages with DNA inheritance. Say for example you have 1 2nd great grandparent who is Native American. This will make you 1/16 or 6.25 racially speaking. However, you may not inherit 6.25% on the dot in your Ancestry composition. You may inherit as little as 2% or 3% based on recombination and also considering if this ancestor has admixture, can affect this as well. I believe this is what 23andMe is suggesting.

          However, I believe a fullblooded or even with some mixture, a 3rd great grandparent is detectable. It get’s sketchy getting back to a 4th or 5th grandparent.

        • wednesdaysummey

          I just wanted to break down the generations and fractions for you. I appears there is some confusion here.

          Parent 1 generation -1/2
          Grandparent 2 generations – 1/4
          1st great 3 generations – 1/8
          2nd great 4 generations – 1/16
          3rd great 5 generations – 1/32
          4th great 6 generations – 1/64
          5th great 7 generations – 1/128

          23andMe says about detecting Native American ancestry;

          “Using a technique called Ancestry Painting, 23andMe can determine whether you have any Native American ancestors within the past five generations.”

          Now, if they are going according to my chart I made, 5 generations ends at a 3rd great grandparent (1/32). I think 23andMe can detect with confidence to the 5th generation because segments from a mostly fullblood at that generation should pretty much be in tact to be detected in AC. Once you get to 6/7 generations because segments can be lost, it’s a crap shoot, however, people back at 7 generations (5th great) can show traces under 1%.

        • ScottH

          A better breakdown the the percentages by generation would have a range. Remember because of recombination, after the first generation the percentage of DNA that is passed down isn’t a simple math equation. So you do not get exactly 25 percent (1/4) of your DNA from your grandparents. It’s more like 25 percent is a a mid-point within that range.

  • I am a little disapointed because I know I have native american cherokee my 3rd great grandmother nancy agness( donnelly)husband was william john taylor. were fullblood on my mother side but why is this not showing up on my dna thing here im new at this my father side has different native american in it but i do not have his dna to test.how can I find out what if any native american am I? it shows british, and irish, scottish I already knew this .

    • Tim Janzen

      Dear Roydanna,
      Does Ancestry Composition indicate that you have any Native American ancestry? If so, what percentage does it say? If your great-great-great-grandmother was a full blooded Cherokee then you should show up as being about 1/32 (3.125%) Native American in Ancestry Composition. You should keep in mind that Native Americans in the 1700s and 1800s were often not 100% Native American in terms of their DNA due to intermarriage with people with European and sometimes African ancestry. My own great grandmother was on the Wyandot tribal rolls, but was at the most 1/16 Native American by blood due to the fact her ancestors intermarried with Americans of European ancestry.
      Tim Janzen

  • Wednesday

    I think many people are not ready for DNA testing. While paper trails can lead way, DNA testing is more evasive to people’s personal identity of themselves. Unfortunately, It seems pretty odd, that most people who expect to see Native American show up in their DNA turn out European genomically or have small fragments of African (SSA) DNA. I have seen plenty of results for people descended of various Native American tribes, of different generations descended from North Native Americans and Native American is well detected in their genome of those within the 5 generations parameters. Even considering the lack of Native samples, something still shows.

    I think many people are descendants from Indian/African Blood Myths that run rampant in families. Ancestors with deemed with *dark hair* or *dark skin* are attributed quickly for a case of a Native ancestors. Such ancestors usually resemble European phenotypic traits.
    If the ancestor are documented with a Native American tribe, were quite admixed and due to recombination, Native DNA has been bred off the genome long ago. I don’t think anyone is being dishonest about their claims of Native American ancestry, just mistaken or overestimate their ancestral contribution of Native DNA.

    I don’t see why Native American DNA would be detected in some and no others.

    • Kevin England

      A Faq over at AncestryDNA explains this. You and your siblings did not inherit the same mix of genes from the exact same parents–unless you were identical twins. Brothers can vary in their human group heritages by about 12%. Of course, they can all say they are 25% Cherokee in heritage–just by virtue of having a single full-blooded Cherokee grandparent. But each of us is a “remix” of the genes from each parent, and may have inherited a different, unique mix of genes at the molecular DNA level. It opens up an interesting discussion for “identity.” “What is your confidence level for your assertion of being 95% Eastern European–molecular, verbal, or paper?”

      • Melissa Mimi Fayyazi

        Kevin, that is a great answer! I would also like to point out, that while it does not make a huge difference in genetic similarity within the near generations, in distance generations it could – and that’s the fact that genetic inheritance between all grandparents are not the same. While your parents contribute 50% to each child, the amount that grandparents contribute varies. A male passes a complete and whole Y chromosome on to his son, whole and in tact from the grandfather. The X from the mother to that same child is an X chromosome that is recombined. For women: the male passes on a whole and in tact X chromosome from his mother (because his father gave him a Y and he is not passing that on to his daughter) whereas the mother of the female is passing on a recombined X to her daughter. This makes the amount of DNA shared with grandparents differed – but only to a small degree. A woman shares slightly more DNA with her paternal grandmother, than with her maternal grandmother. A man shares slightly more DNA with his paternal father than his maternal father. While it is not a lot, I think that it could potentially make a difference of 1-2 generations in the disappearance of our ancestors footprint in our genome. Interesting: I have 1% Native American DNA and my brother has 2% (neither of us inherited that through X or Y though) But I have 2% African ancestry, and my brother about 1%. It doesn’t seem like much but it is actually twice as much – genetically speaking, that’s a lot.

      • Wendnesday

        I was making a statement, not asking a question regarding patterns of recombination and inheritance between siblings. My case in point are people (with no external evidence of NA ancestors) claiming it does not show up on their test. No documented ancestors, no DNA evidence.
        If you think you had a NA ancestor back in the 1700’s not showing up (probably won’t), then keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best. If you have recent Native American ancestry (3rd GP, will show). There are

        “Of course, they can all say they are 25% Cherokee in heritage” – Kevin

        This gaggle of DNA testers have photos, can’t understand why they show Zero Native American or African ancestry (their exotic ancestries) and showing 100% European. Yet still they claim the tests are inaccurate, the Vikings diluted Native American bloodlines and other tales from the crypt to explain it away ………..Next.

  • Stephanie Gaughf Geist

    My father recently had his Paternal Dna tested. To our shock his haplogroup is Q1a3a1-M3. For over fifteen years I been trying to get past his male line who was in GA and actually won land in the Cherokee land lottery! My uncle told me that my grandfather always told them that either his grandmother or great-grandmother was full blooded Cherokee. If my grandfather’s grandmother was full blooded Cherokee would that result in the Q1a3a1-M3 haplo group? I am confused how this works! I have recently submitted my father’s DNA for further testing through Family Tree DNA. What exactly am I looking for as proof. There is no paper trail and I’ve hit a brick wall!

    • ScottH

      Stephanie, The Q1a3a1 paternal haplogroup is very interesting. It still dominates in certain Native American populations, reaching up to 40 percent in tribes like the Cherokee. As to your question about whether your father’s paternal haplogroup could be explained by his grandfather’s grandmother or great-grandmother being a full-blooded Cherokee. The answer is no. The paternal line traces from son, to father, to grandfather to great-grandfather and all the way back on that paternal line. Here’s a link to more detail about haplogroups. 23andMe has several features that can reveal genetic evidence of Native American ancestry, although they are not considered a confirmatory test or proof of such ancestry in a legal context.

  • Colleen Fadollone

    My Great Grand parents back in early 1600 were also Wyandotte, he was Nicholas Arendanki Chief of the Huron Bear clan. They were massacred by the Iroquois and they had a daughter that was taken to the convent to be raised, Princess Catherine Annenonntak, at age 13 she married my French Grandfather Jean Durand, she out lived 3 French husbands.

    • disqusqueen

      Colleen, I have spoken to several researchers who specialize in American Indian researchers. It is my understanding that American Indians did not have the hierarchy that included that of “Princess.” You might look this up to be sure.

  • Sam Harris

    My mother’s haplogroup was D1 that’s native american so no question here about what we are in the women of my family

  • Stacy

    I am a female and do not know anything about my father’s side. My autosomal DNA results(23 and me) are as follows:

    50% East Asian and Native American
    12.9% Japanese
    5.8% Korean
    0.4% Chinese
    28.4% Non specific East Asian
    2.4% Non specific East Asian and Native American

    Any help in interpreting my results.

    • Melissa Mimi Fayyazi

      I would interpret this as a Japanese person, with trace amounts of other Asian ancestry that are likely a result of the last 500-700 years of migration

  • Scott23H

    That is a significant percentage. It is difficult to estimate how far back but it is likely in the last 150 to 200 years. The Yakut segment would not be part of the Native American designation.

  • J. Ray Chretien

    my native ancestry on 23andme is far less than that of the family stories. Then I noticed that there are 110 native DNA profiles on record and none have been done by 23andme. If you were to give me 60 free samples I could change that. I live where there are many native groups with little European cross breeding, for the lack of a better term. I could get 20 native DNA sample from coastal native people south of Alaska, north of Vancouver. Drive 3 hours and find 20 people for interior Native people, probably Caribou First Nations and another 8 hours I could find people for Northern Cree east of the Rockies. Just an Idea, i’m willing to help the cause but 60 $200 sample would hobble me financially. :) 110 samples vs 5000k plus European really seems disappointing. I work for the health authority so I have connections to people in case you were wondering if I was going to solicit random native looking people off the street.

  • 23blog

    Currently 23andMe has several features that can reveal genetic evidence of Native American ancestry, although they are not considered a confirmatory test or proof of such ancestry in a legal context.

    It is important to note that even if an individual in your family tree was considered to be Native American, your own DNA may not reveal the Native American ancestry because evidence is lost each generation.

    For more information about Native American ancestry go here: https://customercare.23andme.com/hc/en-us/articles/202906870-Can-23andMe-identify-Native-American-ancestry-

  • 23blog

    That tool is no longer active. Here’s some more information on Native American ancestry:

  • Melissa Mimi Fayyazi

    I once thought that Yakut was indicative of NA ancestry, and there is likely some link there.. however, my research has found that YAKU seems more heavily associated with Russian, eastern European, and some middle eastern lineages.

  • musings2

    I don’t have any family stories that I know of about Native American ancestry. I will just throw this out: I have a common ancestor in one of Winston Churchill’s American ancestors, and his mother’s family lived on land near my family’s in Long Island, but there is no documented connection there. I say this because Churchill’s mother believed herself to have Native American ancestry, but no one ever found genealogical evidence of it. I however have found what may be evidence of my own (what 23andme calls “speculative”) on chromosome 5. Since I have several siblings, they might turn up with more if they were tested. Or less.

    My father has died, but my mother is still alive. His mother was from a Hanseatic/Baltic German family; his father was from Mayflower stock. My mother is so far as I can tell, all British Isles from 19th century immigrants who did not marry Indians. I am pretty sure it isn’t from her, but I could get her to spit.

    My father’s the one with a long family history in New England and Long Island, with close contact with Native Americans (including the Deerfield Massacre which was only the last act in a series of interactions with fur trappers, elopements with Frenchmen – possibly of mixed race – and abductions in battle of many, many cousins, enough documented to make for speculation about other instances). I am a direct descendant of Benoni Stebbins, who was killed there, and many of his relatives were taken to Quebec by the combination of Native Americans and French in 1704. But before that, there was other contact and young people who stayed with the tribes both voluntarily and involuntarily.

    The Long Islanders, by contrast, were whalers and maintained a relationship with those Native Americans who pursued the same trade.

    My percentage is low enough to be about 7 generations back, which puts it squarely into the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Without this genetic evidence, if that is what it is, I would not have had a clue, only perhaps a vague hope unsupported by any family story. The average Mexican has it way over me for being a mixture, but I am happy for what little I have and maybe one day I will turn up some historical evidence.

    I have to say that I have only been doing genealogical research for about ten years, much of it a big surprise, but the 23andme adds to the picture. I am really, really white – except for that tiny bit (much like Sally Fields’ experience with the Henry Louis Gates show). That is, 99.7% white, .3% East Asian and Native American. There is always a chance it is from Eastern Europe, but I haven’t much of that (1.2%, and I doubt someone Polish could account for such a high percentage of Asian relative to their contribution to my ancestry; E. European probably came from my paternal grandmother, whose family was German).

    I always felt my father had several Asian traits and in fact he somewhat resembled a photo of a chief from a Long Island tribe, but it could be because they share a lot of the same white ancestors. However sometimes facial features predominate and carry over from one generation to the next. Until there is reason to believe in that kinship for sure, I wouldn’t spend too much time on a superficial resemblance.

  • Dianne Spencer

    Our male line showed 2 percent Native American Indian DNA in our bloodline. When would the 100 percent Native American Indian been born approximately?

    • 23blog

      That would suggest in the last five generations or about 200 years. Perhaps less.

  • Jane Peters

    Can 23andme distinguish between Native American and Chinese DNA? I believe I have both on my father’s side.

  • jet199

    Remember that the vikings brought back native american women to their empire. The population of Iceland has 1% native american mDNA because of this. You also have native americans, such as Pocahontas, being brought back to europe by the first explorers and marrying locals.

    • Marty Verone

      So Pocahontas married various men? She got around LOL.

  • 23blog

    I’m not sure, to be honest. Looking at percentages of less than 1 percent there may be other factors at play, including the possibility of noise in the signal. If your Native American ancestor goes back that far, in excess of 200 years, it may be very difficult to detect that accurately.

  • Except for the fact that traditionally people could be considered Choctaw by the tribe when they became part of the tribe in ways other than blood descent.

  • Marty Verone

    I did a family tree, and all branches led to Europe. So, I’m white. However, my DNA showed that I’m 5% Native American. How is that possible?

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