I recently had my DNA done by Ancestry.com. Most of it seems correct, but there is no trace of Native American ancestry. I have always been told that my great-grandmother was Native American and the family pictures seem to corroborate this. She had very distinct Indian features. Also I can find no information on her parents. In one census she seems to be living with an aunt and uncle and her parents are listed as ‘unknown.’ This is another puzzle. If she were with her aunt and uncle, why wouldn’t they know who her parents were?
Here is what we do know about her: Mary M. Tyler, born May 30, 1862 in Wilkinson County, Mississippi. Died April 17, 1943 in Shreveport, Louisiana. Lived in Delta, Louisiana at some point.
Married Ellis Cobb January 18, 1887 in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
I know in those days it was considered shameful to be mixed Indian and Caucasian blood. Is there any registry of Native Americans or tribes in Mississippi? Every avenue I’ve tried is a dead end.
Thanks for any help you can give me.
I consulted with our DNA folks, and they tell me that if one of your great-grandparents was fully Native American we would most likely be able to identify the portion you inherited.
I can think of 2 possibilities as to why your DNA test is not showing that you are Native American:
- The family stories may be wrong. I know that takes the fun out the story, but because a photo of someone looks like images you have seen of Native Americans, doesn’t mean that person was one. Dark skin may suggest a number of possible nationalities. Do you see Middle-Eastern or Asian in your DNA breakdown? Then again, the stories may be true.
- You may not have the right pieces of her DNA in your DNA to make a match. You have 50% of your mom’s and 50% of your dad’s DNA, more or less. So you didn’t get all of their DNA. And they got half from each of their parents. So the DNA you received from your great-grandmother is only bits and pieces. You may not have the right pieces to make the match.
If you have brothers, sisters and/or cousins, you may want to consider having them tested. They may have different DNA pieces than you. Also, test the oldest living member of that family possible. They will most likely have a greater similarity to your great-grandmother.
As for your great-grandmother’s parents being listed as “unknown,” don’t assume that her aunt or uncle reported the information. It could have been a neighbor. Or maybe they just didn’t know. Some families just don’t talk about their past.
Familiarize yourself with Mississippi history to understand what tribes were there early in the states history and how they were treated and moved. The Ancestry.com wiki is a good place to start: Mississippi Family History Research
Native Languages has a map of the original inhabitants of Mississippi and lists the follow tribes: Biloxi, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Houma, Natchez, Ofo, Quapaw and Tunica.
You believe she was born in Wilkinson County, and according to the map, that could have been Choctaw, Houma or Natchez. Those are guesses and places to start. You will need to start investigating the histories of those tribes. Were they forced to leave Mississippi, and if so, when? What can you learn about the tribe and what historical records might they have kept? And where are they stored?
There is a Wilkinson County Mississippi Genealogy and History Network and a Wilkinson County Museum. I would study those web sites carefully and then contact them to see if they have recommendations on how you can learn more about what Native Americans where in the area at the time of your great grandmother’s birth and what records might be available.
Also, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History is a good place to learn more and possibly contact in your quest.
Keep searching! Write down everything you know and review all the documents you currently have. Research all known relatives. Somewhere, there is that one piece of information that is going to be the key.
About Anne Gillespie Mitchell
Anne Gillespie Mitchell is a Senior Product Manager at Ancestry.com. She is an active blogger on Ancestry.com and writes the Ancestry Anne column. She has been chasing her ancestors through Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina for many years. Anne holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program, and is currently on the clock working towards certification from the Board for Certification of Genealogists. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook and Finding Forgotten Stories.