Can you prove that you have a Native American or “Indian” bloodline?
As more people take DNA tests they are often surprised that test results show not a drop of identifiable bloodline linked to being Indian.
Does lack of DNA evidence definitively mean that you do not have Indian grandparentage?
Can alternative methods of DNA testing be used to prove that you do have Indian grandparentage?
Will Popular DNA Testing Show Indian Heritage?
Most of the popular DNA tests are atDNA tests. If your 5th grandparent was a full-blooded Indian, but no grandparent since was Indian, then chances are that an atDNA test will show a negative relationship. What you inherit through your 23 chromosomes pretty much gets filtered out after four generations.
However, while chromosomes are the owner’s manual to what makes you what you are: you have a far deeper genetic history.
DNA Testing Challenges
Reality 101: Native Americans came from somewhere else in the world. They migrated to the Americas. Whether they arrived 12,000 or 20,000 years ago, they are recent arrivals in the human timeline. Their DNA has experienced genetic mutations (SNPs), but not enough to produce a unique haplogroup (DNA type, new major branch on the DNA tree).
Reality 102: There is no unique Indian DNA outside of a few USA tribes (mostly in the southwest), and some South American populations. This uniqueness is primarily due to the presence of certain DNA haplotypes that do not exist in the larger generation population, or among groups known to have settled since the 1600s.
Reality 103: The best indicator of possible Indian bloodline is your mtDNA or yDNA test results.
—- Women: You might be of Indian bloodline if your maternal DNA (mtDNA) type is A2, B2, C1, D1, X2a (95% of Indian women) or you are in the very small percentage (5%) that are C4c, D2, D3, and D4h3.
—- Men: You might be of Indian bloodline if your paternal DNA (yDNA) type is C-M217, C-P39, Q-M242, Q-M3, R1-M173 … unique to South America: Q-L54, Q-Z780, Q-MEH2, Q-SA01, Q-M346 … or unique to Canada: Q-P89.1 and Q-NWT01.
——— Q-M242: I tested one Golden family that was amazed that their Ancestry test showed no Indian bloodline. They have dark olive skin, dark hair … and in their self-assessment: they looked Indian. DNA says: their branch of Q-M242 was the European branch that settled in eastern Scandanavia. Maybe a grandmother was Indian but that would have been before 1800. If since 1800, then their Indian grandparent was only part, and probably 1/4 at best, otherwise there would have been indication in the DNA testing.
———- ACK!! R1b Alert!! R1b is the yDNA of almost 80% of western Europe males, and yet it is the second most common type of yDNA among self-identified Indian males. So what does this mean? We don’t know … but we are studying it.
Reality 104: Looking at your 23 chromosomes via atDNA testing gives you information that is indicative of your genetic heritage within some high level of accuracy only within the last 3-5 generations. You can get useful information for the last 5-10 generations. There will be indicators for the last 10-24 generations — people of Irish or UK descent see this ‘indicator’ often by association with Scandanavian ancestors (Viking visitors without appropriate visas for entry into the isles).
Deeper mtDNA (women) and yDNA (males) testing is essential if you want to look more deeply into your past beyond the past few thousand years.
Can GEDmatch Help Discover Your Roots?
Yes! GEDmatch can help you discover your roots. Maybe.
Be prepared to be bewildered. GEDmatch.com offers a serious set of DNA tools that you can use for free. Just upload your atDNA and use their DNA modeling tests to look. Be warned that the DNA models are provided with absolutely no explanation of their usefulness or importance. Some of the chromosome painting charges make no sense at all — and I have searched for ways to interpret them.
———- Many people use the Eurogenes K9 test (it appears first in the menu) and are amazed at what it shows them. It seems to indicate shared Indian origins for many people. Just one problem: the K9 model looks at your ancient DNA. If you are looking for whether you are of Indian bloodline then you need a model that can focus on the last 20,000 years, or more recent (last five generations). Remember: Native Americans came from somewhere else in the world so the K9 test will not be very helpful.
Getting Positive Results: Using GEDmatch to look for Native American bloodlines, these tests are most likely to detect appropriate bloodlines for the period of the last 15,000 years:
- Eurogenes K13
- Eurogenes V2 K15
- Eurogenes K36 (most recent, probably most accurate)
- MDLP K11
The test results that you are looking for are positive matches with DNA that is Siberian, Amerindian, East Asian … and possibly South Asian (not likely to be Indian, but it happens).
Eurogenes tests are indeed Eurocentric — and yet not.
Eurogenes broadly consider other modern ethnicities since the Eurogenes focus is on looking at the impact of genetic migration to Europe over the millenia. The number in the Eurogenes tests (Kx) indicates how many ethnicities identifiable by DNA were included in the model.
Numerous of the other tests on GEDmatch tend to focus on ancient DNA or identifying subsets of ethnicities that are too focused. I recommend that you try them all, with my recommendations above as your starting point.
Caveat: Positive results indicate may NOT indicate that you have Indian bloodline. Positive results mean that your ancient parents came from the right place BEFORE they came to America. As more studies are done on First Americans … =^) … then we should have useful SNP analysis in the near future that will be have significant meaning in your search.
A SNP is a genetic mutation that is inherited by future generations. They occur in our lives at least every few generations. For them to have meaning we need enough DNA tests to be able to build a map of SNP inheritance, and to be able to assign a time and place as to where that SNP came into being.
A Good Resource for Understanding Indian DNA
One of the best resources for learning more about what research shows is Genetic history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
You are welcome to add to or to correct this story by contacting: Bill Golden, Norfolk1956@gmail.com
BTW – I look forward to sharing your stories, photos and in-search-of quests. Contact me at the email address above.