People have all sorts of motivations for doing an Ancestry DNA test. One popular reason is to search for Native American Ancestry, or to confirm it.
This leads to an obvious question: Does Ancestry DNA Test For Native American ancestry?
In this article, I’ll show you what Native American results look like on the Ancestry DNA test, and talk a little bit about why this ethnicity will (or won’t) show up on your DNA results. The quick answer to your original question is that Ancestry DNA does test for Native American ancestry.
What is Native American ethnicity?
I’m planning to write a much more extensive explanation for another post, but for now a short description will do. Here are some quick facts:
- The Native American ethnicity is called Indigenous Americas on Ancestry DNA and covers both North and South America, including islands in the Caribbean, and Central America.
- The generally accepted explanation as to why Native American DNA found in Canada is very similar to that found in Guatemala, for example, is that all indigenous Americans are descended from three or more small original “populating” groups that traveled from East Asia to North America through what is now Alaska.
- These small groups of people thrived, and quickly populated both continents.
- For thousands of years, these communities remained very genetically isolated and rarely had outside contact with people from other areas, and that is why there is a strong genetic connection between their descendants – even today.
Fun fact: There is evidence that some of these original Native Americans actually migrated back to Asia to stay! Scientists are able to determine that this occurred through the study of mitochondrial DNA.
Does Ancestry test for Native American?
Yes, Ancestry DNA does test for and report Native American ancestry on test results. The Native American region is called Indigenous Americas on Ancestry, and it will appear on your ethnicity estimate if you have inherited DNA from a Native American ancestor.
My husband was born in an indigenous village in the mountains of central Mexico and has consistently shown between 93-100% Native American DNA, depending on which iteration of test results we examine. Most people from Latin American countries show at least a small percentage of Native American DNA, and many show large percentages.
It is important to note that it is completely normal to be from a Latin American country and have no Native American DNA, too.
Ancestry DNA will pick up on your Native American ethnicity, as long as it is higher than 0%. This is what it could look like if you have inherited DNA from a Native American ancestor:
The Ancestry DNA test is sensitive, so it can pick up on a wide variety of ranges. Here is the Native American ethnicity of another family member.
I have clicked on the ethnicity region in the following results so you can see the detail provided:
And yet another family member shows an even smaller amount of Native American. Their indigenous roots are in Mexico, and this is picked up by Ancestry’s sensitive detection technology.
Zacatecas and Aguascalientes are Mexican states:
Even if you only have a minute “trace” of potential Native American ancestry, it might show up. In the results below, the person might have zero Native American ancestry, but the test picked up an amount large enough to state that there is a possibility of 1%:
Note: If your Ancestry DNA test shows no Native American ethnicity, it is still possible to have a Native American ancestor. The ancestor is might be too far back in your tree to show up in your DNA.
So What Does It Mean if Native American DNA Shows Up in My Results?
If you find out that you have Native American ethnicity in your DNA, it means that you have ancestors tracing back to the original inhabitants of North and South America. In order to figure out where you got your Native American, you will need to resort to traditional genealogy: building a family tree and finding the paper trail.
It’s important to note that there is no 100% reliable genetic genealogy DNA test that can tell you which tribe or group of Native American or First Nation people you descend from. There are some companies who claim to be working on developing a test that can tease out more information from the Native American ethnicity, and I would assume that as soon as it becomes possible to accurately do so, Ancestry would add this to their ethnicity estimate information.
For now, we are limited to the general “Indigenous Americas” classification and the sub-regions as reported on the ethnicity estimates. These sub-regions almost always correspond with a particular country and so are not organized by tribe or group.
Additionally, there are no Native American tribes in the United States (as of 2021) that accept a DNA test as proof for membership. If you do find Native American DNA in your results, you will have to do traditional research to find your Native American ancestors, and then check with the individual tribe to determine if you qualify for citizenship or membership.
If you have a high percentage of Native American, there is a chance that Ancestry DNA will place you in a Genetic Community (see more about this below). This can help give you a clue about where you got your Native American ancestry, and where to look to trace your family tree.
Can Ancestry DNA show me exactly where my Native American DNA is from?
Ancestry DNA currently tests for 136 distinct sub-regions within the larger Indigenous Americas ethnicity region. This is such an exciting change compared to the previously reported “Native American” category that broadly covered two continents, which many people may have seen if they did their DNA test a few years ago.
Fortunately, AncestryDNA regularly updates our DNA results as new and improved technology and science is available. I am sure that we will continue to see improved detail in the Native American – Indigenous Americas region, too.
Many of the DNA testing companies are still reporting a very general “Native American” category, without being able to be more specific about the exact region where your Native American ancestors may have lived.
Not everyone who has Native American DNA will be placed into one of the 136 available sub-regions. Additionally, while there are sub-regions for much of the Native American region (covering both North and South America), the sub-regions don’t cover this entire area.
The takeaway is that, depending on where your Native American ancestors lived, there may or may not be a sub-region assigned to that area.
There are many reasons to be curious about whether or not you have Native American ethnicity in your DNA, and how much you might have. No matter the reason that you are interested, I wish you the best of luck in your search.
Are you thinking of doing a DNA test to see if you have Native American ancestors? If you found Native American in your DNA, were you surprised, or was it more or less than you expected?
Were you able to trace your family tree? I would love to hear your story in the comments.
Thanks for stopping by!