Your Native American Heritage
Proving Your Native American Heritage:
Successfully Using Y-Line, Mitochondrial and Autosomal DNA Results
Written by Roberta Estes, http://www.dnaexplain.com
, Copyright 2007-2009
Contact information: Roberta@dnaexplain.com
Many American families carry oral histories of Native American heritage. Most often, we think of either the Western tribes who still reside in or near their indigenous homes, or the Cherokee who were displaced in the 1830s, forced to march from Appalachia to Oklahoma in the dead of winter, an event subsequently known as the Trail of Tears.
In truth, the history of Native American heritage in North America is much, much more complex. It is probable that many of the people who carry oral history of “Cherokee heritage” are actually descended from a tribe other than the Cherokee initially. The Cherokee were well known for accepting remnants of other tribes whose members and numbers had been decimated by disease or war. Sometimes these alliances were created for mutual protection.
The Cherokees were not the only tribe in the Eastern United States. The Eastern seaboard was widely populated by varying tribes, some related and affiliated, and some not. There were in fact three major language groupings, Algonquin, Souian and Iroquoian scattered throughout the Eastern seaboard northward into Canada, westward to Appalachia and south to the Gulf of Mexico.
People from Africa were also imported very early, often, but not always, as slaves. Jamestown shows evidence of individuals of African heritage. Those who were later brought specifically as slaves sometimes ran away, escaping into the Native population. Conversely, Indians were often taken or sold by defeating tribes into slavery as well.
In the early years of settlement, European women were scarce. Some men immigrated with wives and families, but most did not, and few women came alone. Therefore, with nature taking its course, it is not unreasonable to surmise that many of the early settlers traded with, worked alongside and married into indigenous families, especially immigrants who were not wealthy. Wealthy individuals traveled back and forth across the Atlantic and could bring a bride on a subsequent journey.
Further complicating matters, there were numerous “lost” individuals of varying ethnicity in the very early years of colonization. Specifically, Juan Pardo established forts in many southern states from Florida to Tennessee and back to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean beginning in 1566. In 1540, deSoto ventured all the way across the South to the Mississippi, northwards as far as Tennessee, introducing the Indians along the way to Spanish savagery.
The Spanish settled Florida and explored the interior beginning in 1521, settling Santa Elena Island in present day South Carolina from 1566-1576. Their forays extended as far North as present day East Tennessee. In 1569, 3 English men arrived in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia having set out on foot with 100 men 4000 miles earlier in Tampico, Mexico. The notorious Capt. Drake rescued and subsequently
possibly released 400-500 or more African, Portuguese and Moor galley slaves likely on or near Roanoke Island in North Carolina in
1586 . These individuals are in addition to the well-known Lost Colony of Roanoke, and the less well-known earlier military expeditions on which several individuals were “lost” or left behind.
What does this mean to the family historian who is trying to prove their genealogy and understand better just who they are and where they come from?
If your family has a long-standing oral history of Native American heritage, it is probably true. Historically, Native people were classified as “non-white” which severely limited (and sometimes prevented) their ability to function as free, white, people with equal rights. This means that free “people of color” often could not vote, could not own land, and could not attend schools along with white people, if at all.
Furthermore, laws varied and how much non-white heritage constituting “people of color” ranged from the infamous “one drop” rule to lesser admixture, sometimes much more liberal, to only the third generation. In essence, as soon as individuals could become or pass for “white” they did. It was socially and financially advantageous. It is not unusual to find a family who moved from one location to another, often westward, and while they were classified as mulatto in their old home, they were white in their new location.
Often there were only three or sometimes four classifications available, white, negro or black, mulatto and Indian. Sometimes Indian was a good thing to be, because in colonial states, reservation Indians weren’t taxed. However, this also means their existence in a particular area often went unrecorded. Often, poor “free people of color” weren’t taxed either because they lived and worked on someone else’s land and they had nothing of value. Because of their poverty and resulting lack of records, they became invisible to the genealogist.
Any classification other than white meant in terms of social and legal status that these people were lesser citizens. Therefore, Native American or other heritage that was not visually obvious was hidden and whispered about, sometimes renamed to much less emotionally and socially charged monikers, such as Black Dutch, Black Irish and possibly also Portuguese.
For genealogists who are lucky, there are records confirming their genealogy, such as the Dawes Rolls and other legal documents. More often, there are only hints, if even that, such as a census where an ancestor is listed as mulatto, or some other document that hints at their heritage. Most often though, the stories are very vague, and were whispered or hidden for generations. References may be oral or found in old letters or documents. Supporting documentation is often missing.
Many times, it was the woman of the couple who was admixed initially, of course leading to admixed children, but with 50% less admixture than their mixed parent. It was much more common for a male of European stock to intermarry with Native or admixed women, rather than the other way around.
This means to genetic genealogists today, that they are likely to meet with frustration when attempting to document Native heritage in a male line.
Let’s take a look at why this is and how we can build a DNA pedigree chart to track our ancestry.
To avoid confusion, this is probably a good place to mention that DNA testing is not accepted by any tribe for membership. Each tribe has its own membership criteria and to my knowledge, none accept DNA as either proof or disproof.
Tribes typically require a percent of “blood quantum”, such as 1/4th or 1/8th and in addition they generally require that you be of proven descent from an individual about whom there is no question of their tribal Native heritage. This is most often accomplished by the inclusion of the family in question on specific tribal rolls, plus proven descent from that family, and that the applicant is not currently less than a specific percentage Native American.
Conceptually, this means that you could very well be mostly Native American, with 7 of your 8 direct great-grandparents being 100% Native American, but your father’s direct paternal line being European. With proven genealogy to the tribes specifications and being 7/8th Native American, there is no question that you would be accepted on the tribal rolls. However, a Y-line DNA test would reveal the European haplogroup of your father’s paternal line is not of Native heritage.
Given the above example, you can never interpret non-Native haplogroup results of any one line to answer the much broader questions of, “do I have Native heritage”, “how much” and “where”. What you can do at that point is to continue to test other lines in order to discover the identity of your Native American ancestor. You will need to create a DNA pedigree chart. But first, let’s take a look at the different kinds of DNA testing and what they can tell you about your heritage.
There are 3 different types of DNA tests that can be used to either confirm or hint at Native ancestry; Y-line, mitochondrial DNA and autosomal. There are two types of autosomal testing, that based on the forensic CODIS markers and that based on biogeographical ancestry markers. Let’s take a look at these different kinds of tests and what they can to help us identify our Native ancestors.
Y-Line – Paternal Line Testing
Y-line DNA tracks the male’s paternal line through the Y chromosome that is passed from father to son. This DNA also follows the last name of the father, so projects tracking these families are called surname projects. Comparatively speaking, these are easy to manage because a male carrying the last name of interest is obvious.
Y-line DNA can tell you whether or not you descend from a common male genealogically when compared to another testing participant. It can also tell you by identifying your deep ancestral clan whether or not you descend from early Native Americans who were here before contact with Europeans. For that matter, it can also tell you if you descend from those of African, European or Asian ancestry.
Scientists know today that there are only two primary haplogroups indicating deep ancestry that are found among Native American males who were here prior to contact with Indo-Europeans, and those haplogroups are C and Q. It is not accurate to say that all C and Q individuals exist only in the American Native population, but the American Native population is part of the larger group worldwide that comprises C and Q. Subgroups of haplogroups C and Q which we find only among the American Indians are C3b (also known as C-P39) and Q1a3a (also known as Q-M3). We find no C-P39 or Q-M3 in European or African populations, although we do learn more every single day in this infant science.
This sometimes becomes confusing, because the single most common male haplogroup among current Cherokee tribal members who have tested is R1b. How can this be, you ask? Clearly, one of three possibilities exists:
1. The Cherokee (or those tribes who were assimilated into the Cherokee) adopted a European male into the tribe or a European male fathered a child that was subsequently raised as Cherokee.
2. The R1b ancestor was not adopted into the tribe, maintained their European/American identity but married a Cherokee individual. This might be the case where one of the 8 great-grandparents in our example was European (white), and the other 7 were not.
3. There is some level of R1b admixture in the Native Population that preceded contact with Europeans that we have not yet identified.
Given this situation, I want to be very sure that people do understand that DNA results and tribal membership are not related.
Because of the unique haplogroups for Native Americans who preceded European contact, Y-line is the only way to positively confirm that a specific line is or is not of Native American descent. This obviously applies to all of the individuals in the pedigree chart who directly descend from the oldest known ancestor in this paternal line.
Y-line testing does not indicate anything about the contributions of the other ancestors in this family tree.
Mitochondrial DNA tracks the participant’s maternal line. Mitochondrial DNA is passed from the mother to all of her children, but only the females pass it on. So both men and women can test themselves to reflect the mitochondrial (mtDNA) DNA of their mother, but following it up the ancestral tree, the path of ascent is only through the mothers. Your mtDNA is the mtDNA of your mother, her mother, her mother, etc. on up the tree following only the maternal line.
MtDNA testing is not as popular as Y-line testing because it’s more difficult to use genealogically as last names change every generation. When you look at your matches, you have no idea whatsoever if you might be related to these people in a genealogically relevant time frame by looking at their last names. Those who have put forth the effort to collaboratively work on their mtDNA matches, assuming a high resolution match and a shared geographical history as well, have been pleasantly surprised by what they’ve found.
A haplogroup assigning deep ancestry is also provided through mitochondrial testing, so like the Y-line, depending on the haplogroup assigned, you will know if your ancestors were here before the age of European contact. Female haplogroups that indicate Native heritage include A, B, C, D and X, although, like Y-line, these major haplogroups are also found in Eurasian populations while typically subgroups are found in the Americas.
The certificate below shows a typical certificate from the mtDNA test. Some additional information, along with matches, is available on the participant’s personal web page if they are Family Tree DNA clients. Clients of other testing companies receive varying amounts of information ranging from none to a printed report.
The pedigree fan chart below, courtesy of Family Tree DNA, shows the inheritance pattern for both Y-line and mtDNA.
Notice that of the 16 individuals shown as the great-great-grandparents of the siblings, the Y-line and mtDNA positively identify the deep ancestry of only two of the 16 branches, leaving 14 unidentified. It is certainly possible that their Native heritage descended through their father’s family pedigree, but was not reflected in the Y-line of that line. The Native American individual could have been any of the people on the father’s half of the tree other than the surname branch that was tested, or perhaps even someone further up the tree not shown here.
Both Y-line and mtDNA can provide this level of deep ancestral accuracy because both are passed from parent to child without being admixed with any DNA from the other parent, allowing us today to determine exactly what the DNA of those paternal and maternal ancestors looked like, with the exception of an occasional mutation.
Because of the accuracy of both Y-line and mtDNA testing, I strongly encourage people to attempt to complete their Personal DNA Pedigree Chart (see article by Roberta titled “Creating Your Personal DNA Pedigree Chart”) by finding appropriate testing candidates, representatives of the other genealogical lines found on their tree. It may indeed require some work, especially to identify individuals descended through maternal lines with last names changing each generation, but it is the only way to accurately reconstruct your genetic heritage.
Y-line and mitochondrial DNA testing is the only way to positively identify which individual line or lines were of Native (or African, European or Asian) heritage, although other types of tests, called autosomal and/or biogeographical tests can be done to indicate the existence or absence of Native American (or other) heritage, no other tests can pinpoint where the Native heritage entered the family tree and which ancestors were of Native heritage.
Autosomal DNA Testing
Unlike Y-line and mtDNA testing where the DNA of the father or mother is passed to the offspring unmixed with that of the other parent, autosomal testing tests portions of the DNA of an individual that they receive from both parents. As the field of genetic genealogy has moved forward, research has begun to indicate that certain markers are found in higher or lower amounts in different ethnic populations.
For example, if someone has the Duffy Null allele, or genetic marker, we know they positively have African admixture. We don’t know how much African admixture, or from which line, or when that individual with African admixture entered their family tree, but we know for sure they existed.
Attempting to determine the population frequency of varying markers and what that means relative to other populations is the key to this analysis. Few markers are simply present or absent in populations, but are found in varying frequencies. Some populations are widely studied in the research literature, and others are virtually untouched. The process of compiling this information in a meaningful manner so that it can be analyzed is a formidable task, as the information is often found in nearly inaccessible academic and forensic research publications. It’s difficult to determine sometimes if the DNA analysis of 29 individuals in a small village in northern Italy is, for example, representative of that village as a whole, of northern Italy, or more broadly for all of Italy as a whole. Is it representative of Italy today or Italy historically? These and other similar questions have to be answered fully before the data from autosomal testing can be useful and reliable.
If the DNA tests being performed aren’t mtDNA or Y-line, then they are autosomal tests, meaning they are performed on the balance of the DNA contributed by both parents to an individual.
Before we discuss the varying kinds of autosomal tests and what they mean, let’s take a look at the inheritance process and how it really works.
Everyone knows that you inherit half of your DNA from your mother and half from your father. While this is technically true, you don’t receive 25% of your DNA from each grandparent.
While each child does on the average receive 25% from each grandparent, the actual inheritance pattern varies much more than that and each sibling may receive far more, or less, than 25% of their markers from any grandparent.
We don’t understand today how inheritance traits are selected to be passed to children. Each parent receives 50% from each of his parents, but how this is combined and reduced to the “half” that is passed to each child is unknown. Every individual has 2 chromosomes in each pair, one from each parent, but their DNA recombines to create one “new” chromosome to be passed to each of their children.
Some “groups” of genetic material are inherited together, and you may wind up with more or less genetic material from one of your grandparents. In time, certain genetic “traits” will be lost in some descendants, while not in others. Therefore, you can’t figure actual inheritance percentages by using the 50% rule. This means that if your father was 50% Native American, you are not necessarily 25%, genetically speaking. You may receive 10% of his Native genes and your sibling may receive 40%.
Let’s use the Duffy Null allele we mentioned earlier as an example. This marker could have entered your DNA pedigree chart with a grandmother who carried the allele but had no obvious visible African ancestral traits, or from your father who might have been visibly African in ethnicity. The Duffy Null allele, which is just one marker, could have been passed in the inheritance of DNA for many generations, far after any visible physical African traits had disappeared, or it could be one of many African traits passed from parent to child. It is also possible that an individual who is admixed, whether they know it or not, and physically appears to be African (or of African descent), has lost the Duffy Null allele someplace along the line in recombination and transmission.
The relevance of the Duffy Null allele is determined by the number of other “African” markers that appear in high quantity. If there are few other African markers, then your African ancestry was likely further back in time. If there are many, then your African ancestry was likely more recent. These statistical calculations are how the importance of autosomal markers are determined and how percentages or estimates of ethnicity are calculated.
Any one allele or marker can be lost permanently in any generation. Each child receives one gene from each parent. In the example below, let’s say that the mother carried genetic markers A and B, and the father C and D, and D is the Duffy Null allele.
You can see that half the children received the D marker, but each inheritance event was a random recombination of the markers. It is also possible that none of the children would receive the D marker, or all of them would receive it. Statistically speaking, half will receive the marker, but statistics and individual inheritance are two different things. Random recombination is the reason why siblings who take autosomal tests sometimes show significantly different results.
You can also see how a marker that is very old ancestrally, meaning introduced many many generations ago, could be absent in one entire descendant line and present in another line.
From the above examples, we see that we have two variables that we need to deal with when attempting to use autosomal DNA for genealogy.
First, we need to take into consideration inheritance patterns which we can’t determine retrospectively without testing several descendant lines. So, in essence, we can only deal with, and test, what we personally carry today as our genetic inheritance.
The second variable is determining population frequency for a particular marker and understanding its significance to us through comparative population genetics.
This is why autosomal testing can give us important hints, but is often considered “unreliable”. The results are highly subjective today, but increase in accuracy as more research is completed, compiled, published and analyzed.
Types of Autosomal Tests
There are two types of autosomal tests used today for genetic genealogy. One type of test uses the Codis forensic markers and the second type, biogeographical tests, use a much broader spectrum of marker results called AIMs (Ancestry Informative Markers). Let’s look at both types of testing and the information they provide separately.
Codis markers are a standardized set of autosomal markers used for paternity and siblingship testing. Additionally, they are used by police departments and forensics labs. The markers employed in these tests are selected specifically to differentiate between people in order to identify them individually, not to find common markers to place them in ethnic groups.
The results from these tests are only numbers, and the recipient is often left to their own devices as to how to interpret the results. These tests are available from numerous sources. I prefer to interpret these results in conjunction with Y-line and mitochondrial DNA test results for as much of the genetic pedigree chart as can be provided in order to obtain a more complete genetic picture.
Below is an example of what Codis test results look like. They are very similar from any lab.
Analysis of Codis Markers
Unless you’re using the Codis marker results to determine siblingship or some other personal reason, these numbers are fairly useless genealogically. It’s the analysis of these markers that matters.
There are different avenues to analyze Codis results. None are “right” or “wrong”. DNAexplain (www.dnaexplain.com) provides analysis of these tests, along with broader more comprehensive analysis of genetic genealogy and what all of these tests together mean about you.
We use a combination of resources, both public and private, including Omnipop and other European and Canadian autosomal forensic data bases.
Tribes (www.dnatribes.com) has been compiling population data on these genetic markers for some years now and will compare your autosomal results with their data base. Take a look at their samples tab.
Ironically, the results may vary significantly between these resources. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer at this point. I encourage everyone to simply view these results as “data”, hints to puzzle pieces. As the data bases improve and we better understand population migration and movement, the clarity of the results will improve too.
Tribes early population tables did not include data from the British Isles, so their results were highly skewed towards other world populations. Omnipop today relies on self-reported ethnicity and does not include normalized data (or a normalizing factor) for varying populations. Because Tribes is a private company, we don’t know much about their population data, whether it’s widely representative of the world population distribution and whether it has been normalized or not.
To learn the most about your autosomal test results, you can take a dual approach, having them analyzed by Tribes as well as by DNAexplain using the other autosomal codis reference tools. We’ll be glad to help you through this process and provide a summary analysis of both.
Testing for the Codis markers is available though Family Tree DNA and also through DNATribes. If you are purchasing this test from any other lab, be sure before you purchase the test that it includes the various markers needed for Omnipop and the DNATribes analysis.
Biogeographical ancestry testing was previously available from DNA Print Genomics (www.dnaprint.com), however, they have now filed for bankruptcy and are out of business. However, biogeographical testing is the second type of autosomal testing and many people in the genealogy marketspace have taken this test. DNAPrint evaluated all of your genetic contributions for specific, proprietary markers that indicate geographical heritage, not just the Y-line or mtDNA. Results were returned as percentages of Indo-European, Asian, African and Native American.
They did not use the Codis markers, but use, depending on your test selected, between 500 and 1349 biogeographical markers they had discovered to be relevant to ethnicity.
This test itself was only available from only one source, DNAPrint, although the test was resold by several other companies under varying names. Results from this test were returned as percentages of ethnic heritage as shown below.
Results were reported within confidence bands, which indicate a range of percentages that might actually be accurate. This is shown above by the bands surrounding the red dot which shows the “most likely” result. The margin of error is often as high as 15%. Typically, there is no dispute over the majority ancestral type. However, minority types are apparently much more difficult to discern. Because of the wide and sometimes surprising range of results, this test was often considered unreliable, but the degree of unreliability sometimes was determined by how pleased the tester was with their results.
It is unfortunate that DNAPrint is now defunct. While the test did indeed need refinement, without continuing research, there will never be a test to offer this type of information to consumers who seek answers otherwise unavailable to them.
Having said that, let’s talk about the concept of statistical noise, which in this case (Darin) according to their documentation was as high as 15%. All testing that deals with statistics, which means by virtue of the nature of the beast, all population based autosomal tests today, deal with “statistical noise” at some level.
Statistical noise is easy to understand. It’s a scientific word that means the percentage of “slop” in the calculations based on what they don’t know. When scientists perform calculations based on populations, they have to sample an incredibly large number of individuals for the law of averages to work in their favor.
For example, sampling 50 individuals from inner city Detroit may not be reflective of the entire state of Michigan’s population or even of the population of Detroit itself, depending on which neighborhood you’ve visited to collect samples. However, many companies base their entire estimates of heritage on 50 or fewer samples from particular countries.
A much more reasonable and accurate approach would be to take samples from a percentage of people, based on population, throughout Michigan. That approach is difficult and expensive. To attempt to compensate for the issues inherent in the smaller sample approach, there are various calculations that are used on the results to “normalize” them. The resultant “unknown” or “margin of error” is considered statistical noise. It’s much like the political surveys taken that are always qualified by “+ or – a 5% margin of error”.
So what does this mean to genealogists trying to understand their results?
What this means is that any number that you received could in actuality be 15% higher or lower than stated. For majority ancestry, this is not a problem, but for minority ancestry, which is the information most people are seeking, it represents a huge problem. Looking at the East-Asian and Native American results above, that means that they could actually be zero to 22% (East-Asian) or 17% (Native American).
Now let’s connect this to genealogy.
If we use the figure of 50% inheritance in each generation, knowing that it’s imperfect because we don’t receive 25% of our genes from each grandparent, we know the following about our individual inheritance.
Parents – 50% from each one
Grandparents – 25% from each one
Great-grandparents – 12.5% from each one
Great-great-grandparents – 6.25% from each one
For most of us, average age of 50 (genealogists don’t tend to start young), and with an average generation length of 30 years, this equates to the following information:
Us –born about 1960
Parents – born about 1930
Grand-parents – born about 1900 (we probably knew them)
Great-grandparents – born about 1870 (we probably didn’t know them, but our grandparents and parents told us about them)
Great-grandparents – born about 1840 (we definitely didn’t know them, but we probably knew who they were genealogically as our grandparents knew them)
For most people, if our great-grandparents had been Asian, African or Native American, born about 1870, we would have known it. In this generation, we are within the statistical noise 15% ration as we only inherit (on the average) 12.5% from each of these individuals. If they were “full blooded” anything, it wouldn’t be a secret that needs to be ferreted out by DNA testing.
By 1870, there were very few American Indian people who were not admixed with European or African ancestors, although they might have been unaware of that fact if it occurred several generations previously. Most of the least admixed individuals were on reservations by 1870 or living in the west. Indians living in the east were admixed enough to not have been removed in the 1830s.
By the great-grandparents generation, we are now at the 6.25% level, well with the noise range, but within the timeframe where we should receive at least some oral history. The 1850 census is our friend here, as we can determine where they lived, if they were on a reservation, and if they were considered anything other than “white”, such as black or mulatto, as many admixed American Indians were labeled.
Most people who seek to discover their Native American ancestry are by necessity looking back before the “Trail of Tears”, often to the tribes that were exterminated by the colonists before the Revolutionary War. Remnants of those tribes intermarried with whites and free people of color as well as joining the tribes still existent, such as the Cherokees and Creeks who were later removed.
Unfortunately, on the genealogy chart, this takes us back another two generations to ancestors born in 1810 and in 1780. Respectively, we carry an average of 3.125% and 1.56% of their DNA. The next generation back, born in 1750 before the Revolutionary War, we carry less than 1%, on average, of their individual DNA.
It’s no wonder that the autosomal tests have such a difficult time finding traces of our Native ancestors. Unfortunately, because of the way DNA is recombined and transmitted generation to generation, we simply can’t unlock those secrets to day. What we can do is to participate in new testing as it comes along and use the various pieces of information available from each type of test to build our “case”.
DNATribes has been a provider of products in the genetic genealogy field for several years. They use the Codis markers and provide an analysis from their data base relative to the markers and the populations in which they are found. They combine this population data into a trend and provide you with a report based on their findings as to which populations you are most likely to match. Considerations relevant to these results are mentioned above in the Statistical Noise section.
DNATribes products match you against the various world populations and report your most likely matches. An example is shown below.
Their reports begin at about $99 and they can also provide CODIS Marker testing if you have not been tested elsewhere.
D9S919 Autosomal Allele
From the halls of academia a paper was published a couple of years ago that indicated that about 30% of the Native Americans tested carry a certain value for this particular autosomal marker. These values are not known to occur in other populations. This makes this particular marker extremely useful in determining whether an individual carries Native American admixture.
A value of 9-10 confirms Native admixture, but a value of anything else does NOT disprove Native admixture.
This test is only available at Family Tree DNA for existing customers under Advanced Orders, Autosomal Markers, Panel 3, for $15 plus a transfer fee of about $10 if your DNA is not already in the Houston lab for advanced testing.
23andMe Ancestry Testing
A recent entry into the field of consumer genetic testing is the firm 23andMe, owned by the wife of Google’s founder. They are focused on testing that is not just for ancestry, but includes a significant amount of medical information. This is not equivalent to genetic genealogy testing, as there is no matching with others by surname, projects and etc.
What this does offer is a much wider range of tests on 580,000 locations on your genome. Today, you can’t separate out the medical and ancestry testing, so if you don’t want the medical, you’re getting it anyway. Take a look at their website at www.23andme.com for details. The price is about $400.
In addition to your Y-Line haplogroup (for males) and your mtDNA haplogroup, they also provide consumers with an estimation of their percentage of ancestry, although they only include European, Asian and African, and their sample size is small, in many cases about 50 individuals per population, which I feel is much too small to be reliable.
They recently introduced a feature called Native Ancestry Finder that evaluates your mtDNA and Y-line haplogroups, plus your percent of Asian heritage and tells you whether or not you’re likely to have Native Ancestry. In my case, it says I’m unlikely, but that it’s possible beyond 5 generations. Given my finding at their lab of 99% European and less than 1% Asian, they’re not incorrect, but their evaluation adds nothing that I didn’t already know from other sources. Their results are the lowest for Native/Asian/African admixture of all of the testing companies.
Having said that, here is an example of the ancestry results.
Another entrant into the same arena, about the same time, is DeCode Genetics from Iceland with their deCodeMe product offering. DeCode Genetics is a well known biomedical company for their research into heart disease and related genetics. Unfortunately, with the Icelandic government’s collapse following the banking industry crisis, deCode Genetics is now in bankruptcy, but is still functioning. You can see their products at www.decodeme.com.
The ancestry portion of their offering is only available if you purchase the entire testing package, which costs $985. Their package is similar to 23andMe in that they offer primarily medical testing.
Here are examples of their ancestry results. Of interest, they display the entire X chromosome which 23andMe does not. In my case, this is a critical piece of information as my “Asian” ancestry is pronounced on the X chromosome. The X chromosome has a particular inheritance pattern and this limits the possibility of who, on my pedigree chart, contributed that “Asian” DNA substantially.
There are only two tests that can provide you with solid evidence of the source of your Native American or other ethnic ancestry. Those are Y-line and mitochondrial DNA tests. It’s important to try to fill in the blanks in your family tree pedigree chart by testing relatives who carry the Y-line and/or mtDNA of the lines of your tree that you cannot personally be tested for. It’s also important to test at Family Tree DNA, because they provide SNP testing for accurate haplotype identification for both mtDNA (free) and Y-line (if it cannot be accurately predicted based on identical matches to SNP tested individuals). Additionally they provide surname, geographic and haplogroup projects and customer support (by a qualified person) by phone or e-mail if needed.
In addition, two types of autosomal testing can provide useful clues as to the percentage of your ethnic heritage and the geographical source. DNAPrint provided percentages of ethnicity of the 4 major world groups, European, Asian, African and Native American, but they are no longer in business. DeCodeMe and 23andMe provide something slightly similar in their predictions, but neither test for Native ancestry. People of European descent must allow Asian heritage to infer Native Ancestry.
Codis marker testing is another type of autosomal test used to determine the Codis marker values which in turn can be used to map those marker values against known population groups. OmniPop is a tool that is used to view population matches, although issues persist relative to the identification of individuals and populations used by OmniPop and other tests of this type. DNATribes provides a population matching service using their internal database.
D9S919, an autosomal allele, can be tested through Family Tree DNA who also provides Codis marker testing. The values of 9-10 can confirm Native ancestry, but other values do not eliminate the possibility.
DNAexplain provides autosomal analysis services for Omnipop and other public databases in addition to analysis services for Y-line and mtDNA test results.
All genetic genealogy results need to be accompanied by genealogical research to unravel the historical context for the lives and trials of our ancestors. DNA testing may well answer the question what and who, but the why is typically revealed only by studying the history of the times in which they lived.
Roberta Estes, all rights reserved