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What is the Native American—North, Central, South DNA Ethnicity on Ancestry?

If you got your DNA results and saw that you have Native American DNA from the North, Central, South region on Ancestry, you are among the hundreds of millions of people who can trace their ancestry back to the indigenous peoples of North and South America.

This is an amazing legacy.

What is the Native American—North, Central, South DNA Ethnicity on Ancestry?

In this post, I hope to help you learn more about this DNA ethnicity, including:

  • Where the Native American – North, Central, South DNA region is located
  • How far back you might have to look in your family tree to find your “100%” Native American ancestor
  • How you might have inherited your Native American – North, Central, South DNA
  • How to understand the 69 Native American sub-regions in this DNA region
  • Why you won’t see a tribe or specific group on your DNA results
  • How to get started tracing your Native American roots

If you didn’t get Native American DNA in your results, but were expecting to, you might be interested in my post titled, “Why Native American DNA Doesn’t Show Up.”

Important note: This region now shows up as “Indigenous Americas” on Ancestry DNA. It is a similar DNA region, but many people will find more specific sub-regions specified in their updated DNA results.

Where is the Native American—North, Central, South DNA Ethnicity on Ancestry located?

You might have been surprised to learn that hundreds of millions of people are likely to have ancestry from the Native American – North, Central, South DNA region. The heart of the Native American – North, Central, South DNA region is located in North America and includes Canada, United States, and Mexico.

The entire region spans from the most northern inhabited regions of Canada all the way to Argentina. It includes some very populous countries like Canada, United States, Mexico, and even Brazil.

This is the reason why so many people have heritage that could be traced back to the original peoples of North and South America.

How did you inherit your Native American – North, Central, South DNA?

If you got the Native American – North, Central, South region in your ethnicity estimate, then you can feel pretty confident that you have an ancestor who was (or is!) descended from the indigenous peoples of North and South America.

This DNA region covers more than a dozen countries, however, so you’ll have to look more closely to determine exactly who your Native American ancestors were.

Were you assigned a sub-region within the Native American – North, Central, South?

Did you get any of the 16 sub-regions in the Native American – North, Central, South DNA region, or the dozens of smaller regions within the 16 sub-regions in your results? If you did, then you can feel confident that the way in which you inherited your Native American DNA was from an ancestor who was born within the region specified.

In other words, if Ancestry says you have roots in one of the Native American sub-regions, there is a VERY high chance that you really do. So far, I’ve never seen this be wrong.

A few of the sub-regions include (there are WAY too many to list!):

  • Northeastern Mexico and South Texas
  • Central America
  • Central and Southern Mexico
  • Sinaloa
  • Baja Peninsula and the Southern California Coast

You probably noticed that there are few specific regions that cover parts of the United States or Canada. In order to provide results as specific as a particular state or other smaller geographic region, the database of DNA samples used to create a reference panel needs to have plenty of willing participants with verifiable ancestry.

As DNA testing becomes more widely understood, and political and ethical questions worked out, I hope to see the US and Canadian reference panels improve to provide more specific results to North American DNA testers.

Click here to buy the Understand Your DNA Results Ebook

Why your DNA results don’t show a Native American tribe or indigenous group

There is a good chance that we will never see a DNA test that accurately reports a specific “tribe” or indigenous peoples in an ethnicity estimate. There are a few companies out there that claim to be able to do this, but I believe that they are taking advantage of desire to either belong to a Native American tribe, or not have to do the sometimes difficult work of following a paper trail of records.

With more than 500 official Native American tribes in the United States, more than 600 in Canada, hundreds more that are not federally-recognized, and hundreds more in Mexico, and Central and South America, it is highly unlikely that a DNA reference panel will ever have the nuance necessary to determine which indigenous group one’s ancestors might have belonged to.

But never say never, right?

How far back is your 100% Native American ancestor?

One of the most common questions that people ask when they find out that they have Native American DNA – especially if they are surprised – is how far back they need to look in their family tree to find their “100%” Native American ancestors.

There are a few basic rules of thumb that we can use to estimate how far back a “100%” Native American ancestor might be in your tree.

A high percentage of Native American DNA can indicate recent ancestry

For example, if you have more than 50%, both of your parents likely have Native American ancestry from this region. This is because we inherit 50% of our DNA from each of our parents.

If we have more than 50% Native American DNA, the only explanation is that some Native America DNA came from both parents.

If you have less than 50%, there is a chance that you only inherited it from one of your parents, but you still have to keep open the possibility that you got some from each parent (unless, of course, you know for sure that this is not the case).

Ethnicity is passed down somewhat randomly

For the first few generations, ethnicity can be be passed down in even 50% increments. For example, if someone has 100% Native American DNA, their child will have 50% Native American DNA (assuming their other parent doesn’t have any Native American ancestry), and their grandchildren will have about 25%.

As the “100%” Native American ancestor becomes more distant in a family line, inheritance of any particular DNA ethnicity becomes more random (based on statistics), so its possible to inherit more or less than the expected 50% of the amount that the previous generation inherited.

This is true for any ethnicity region, as there is no quality unique to Native American DNA that makes it more elusive in DNA inheritance than any other.

Want something a little more definite? Definitely read this next part

Is it possible to trace your Native American – North, Central, South DNA?

The best way to figure out how you inherited your Native American – North, Central, South DNA is to start building a family tree. If you’ve already started building one, that’s great!

To find your Native American ancestors, you’ll just need to work on it a little more.

For those new to family tree research, it can seem a little overwhelming. I recommend not thinking about how far back you might have to go to find your Native American ancestor. Instead, start your tree with you and your parents.

Once you’ve learned about your parents, learn about your four grandparents. After you’ve learned about your grandparents, you can find out about your eight great-grandparents.

I am willing to bet (in a figurative sense, of course!) that after tracing your family tree back to your great-grandparents, you will have a good idea as to which lines of your family tree are most likely to lead you to your Native American ancestors.

Plus, you’ll learn all sorts of amazing things about your family in the process.

I recommend building trees on Ancestry, especially if you did your DNA test on the site. You can connect your DNA with your family tree and get extra features that make research and verification of your tree easier.

Plus, it’s free and easy (seriously, what don’t we love about that!?).

To get access to records, documents, and photographs, you will need to have a subscription. If you think you’d like to try out a subscription, you can use the following sponsored link to get a two-week free trial: Ancestry Free Trial


I hope that this post has helped you understand a little bit more about the Native American – North, Central, South DNA ethnicity on Ancestry, how you might have inherited DNA from this region, and how to get started tracing this heritage back to your Native American ancestors.

If you have any questions about something that you read in this post, or would like to share your own experience finding Native American DNA in your results, I would love to hear from you in the discussion below.

Thanks for being here today!

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