Posted by Ancestry Team on March 4, 2014 in Ask Ancestry Anne

Dear Anne,

I recently had my DNA done by 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.


Cheryl Caraglior


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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 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.

Happy Searching!

Ancestry Anne


  1. Sylvia Sue Martinez Barnett

    My family is from New Mexico and I’ve read that the Native tribes would raid other Natives and take the women and children and sell them as slaves. In New Mexico, the women and children were bought and raised in Catholic households as Christians. They call it detribalization. As they grew into adulthood they were freed, but since they did not know what tribe, or even if they did know, they were not accepted back into the tribe. They were called Genizarios. The Spaniards gave them a land grant in Abiquiu and many settled that area. My paternal grandmother was born in Abiquiu, New Mexico. DNA did not identify any particular tribe, but I have about 30 percent Native American DNA. They were not always identified as Natives on censuses either. I’m just saying it would be hard to say what exact tribe.

  2. Elizabeth

    I am curious as to what DNA did show, Did the OP have her mtDNA done? If that is the case, then that would only follow her mother’s maternal line. If the great-grandmother was in the paternal line, then a Y-DNA test would need to be done on a male relative. Males can be tested for both mtDNA and YDNA. So, it would provide a more accurate picture.
    We were also told we were Native American as well, on my mother’s side. My DNA showed that we had several matches to Ashkenai Jews in Eastern Europe and Druze (Lebanese religious sect) in Israel. Family stories are a funny thing….

  3. Amy Mart. Wilson

    My husband’s first cousin is a direct descendant through the female line of their great grandmother, who also looked Native in photographs. This cousin graciously agreed to take a DNA test because she had been told all her life she had Native ancestors. They all lived in western North Carolina where a lot of Cherokee were before and after being uprooted to Oklahoma. We thought the mitochondrial DNA would be a good test. However the test came back — no Native American ancestry. So now, after reading Ms. Mitchell’s comment about having the oldest member of that family tested, I am wondering if it would be a smart move to have my husband’s oldest brother, who is in his late 80s, tested, if that would reveal different results?

  4. Janet Cowling

    There is also the possibility that family members have not been truthful. Many black families believe they are African and Native American but they turn out to have Northern European DNA. Also many whites (especially in the south) claim Native American when their DNA shows African. Also Bryan Sykes, a professor of human genetics at Oxford University, claims that some Eastern American tribes like the Cherokee have DNA that is completely European. He says it is the Western tribes that have Asian DNA. He also claims in one of several books he has written that most Southern whites whose families were here before 1860 have some African. Then there are the Melungeons who claim African, Native American, and European ancestry. Only recently have their families started admitting their DNA might include something other than European. Their families are often very hard to trace.

  5. Pam west

    We had the family story of a Native American great grandmother as well. All four sibs took DNA (which included 2 men) and none showed up. We are going to do our mom next but I am doubting the stories.

  6. ruby porter

    Thank You Ann for sharing this story. My great Aunt, who definitely looked like a little Native American told me her mother told her that her mother or grand mother was Indian. But she told me we didn’t talk about it. After reading Bryan Sykes’s book Seven daughter of Eve., I had the DNA test done. Ancestry by DNA. This test showed percentage. I was 11% Native American, 84% European, 5 % Sub Saharan African, 0 % Asian. Needless to say, that made me very happy. However I had 23&me done recently, too. No mention of Native American, a minute amount Asian, 99.4% European. I suspect the 11% Native American is minute by my generation. Dr. Sykes relates most of us are European ancestry. So I am waiting for my DNA report from I may have to ask for help in understanding it.
    Ruby Porter

  7. Frankie Parsons

    I am card-carrying, registered Native American and this heritage did not show up in my DNA when I got the results back. Then all of a sudden, 6 months later it did appear in my “pie” as 6% Native American. I,too, had written to Ancestry with the same question, but received no reply. I have my family’s history so that is extremely helpful in proving the fact.

  8. Mike

    My DNA ethnicity profile from seems remarkably accurate but for one curious exception. I expected the analysis to return about 10% Native American to confirm my Cherokee ancestry, but it shows 0% Native American with 10% Iberian Peninsula instead. I expected 0% Iberian Peninsula because my family has no know Iberian mix.

    I once read an unpublished folk history that suggested the Cherokee migrated from Central America, where they were pushed north by the Aztec and then stopped in middle Appalachia by the Iroquois. If this theory has any validity, it may partially explain Iberian Peninsula DNA from Spanish and Portuguese mixing.

    I find comment #4 from Janet Cowling, about the work of Bryan Sykes at Oxford who thinks Eastern American tribes including Cherokee have European DNA, very interesting. For Cherokee descendants, how often does the DNA test return Iberian Peninsula ethnicity in the place of Native American?

  9. Yes I had my DNA done and I have the same question I show several Indians in my ancestry and you can check it out…the name John Croshaw and others.
    Yet my DNA did not show it…I was very disappointed in the test. I have
    Indians on both sides of my family you can go back to my Ancestry and check for your self….In fact one of your answers in researching my family shows that my 5th g grandmother was in Pocohontas family….I also have Powhatan Indians

  10. Jane

    My dna ethnic results claim I am 46% Scandinavian. This is a very rough estimate and is of no value as an actual percentage. The range given is 23% to 64%. Based on the example given in the Ancestry literature, this seems to be what statisticians call a 75% confidence interval. Roughly, this means that there is about a 75% chance that somewhere between 23% and 64% of my tested markers match those from the sample Scandinavian ethnic group Ancestry used, and that there is about a 25% chance that the actual percentage is either less than 23% or greater than 64%. Ancestry tested about 700,000 markers. This is less than 1/4 of 1% of my dna (although about 95% of human dna matches that of chimps, and we aren’t very interested in that portion). If the error in the estimate is as high or higher for the rest of my estimates, a 0% estimate could mean the actual percentage of dna is much higher than 0% – the test just missed it. So am I part Scandinavian? Probably, but I have yet to find actual ancestors who originated in Scandinavia. Any that I do have go back to before the early 1700s. The dna test is no substitute for careful research, and the ethnic estimates are very, very rough. Much more useful are your matches, especially those who have done careful research and posted their results on Ancestry.

  11. John Henry

    You can’t go by how they look. I have found over and over that looks just don’t count for much. My great great grandmother is the spitting image of the last Dowager Empress of China but she was born in Ireland of very well documented Anglo-Irish heritage. A relative who had the fairest white skin you can imagine and res hair was at least 20 percent African-American. Too often stereotypes and cliches get into our heads as truth. Always think out of the box and remember that National Borders are just a line on a map and race is an artificial construct.

  12. David M. Myers

    You said she died in Louisiana so I went to and found that there is information on her death certificate that says her parents were John Tyler and Martha Enlow. If you go to the following website you can order a copy of it for $5.00:

    Keep in mind that the information on a Death Certificate is only as good as what the informant has provided. It could be a guess or it could be true information, depending on the source of where the informant got that information.

    She was born in 1862, at the height of the Civil War, so it’s possible that her parents died during the war.

  13. M.B.

    The extremely wide confidence intervals make the DNA analysis nearly useless for determining a precise ethnicity profile. At best, Ancestry can say that a given DNA segment is present or not present in your profile. This requires a good understanding of the nature and origin of the DNA segments.

    However, it seems that the Ancestry DNA matches are useful for identifying previously unknown relatives. DNA matches can then compare notes to develop their family trees and confirm, validate, include, exclude and triage individual members or entire branches.

  14. Mary Glynn

    My dad was adopted and there are no records..Lets start there. My real grandmother was a housekeeper/maid for my adopted grandmother. My adopted grandmother has always clearly told the story that my real grandfather was “pure” Indian (name and all) (my dad was born in Orange, Ca in 1947) I am not sure about my real grandmother. My adopted grandma said my dads real father was coastal indian (not sure what she meant by that) anyway my adopted grandparents were very well off and couldnt gave children. Her maid was pregnant with her 8th (?) baby (my dad) her husband left her (was said he served in the navy) my adopted grandparents agreed to adopt her child when she offered because she had several kids to raise on her own.
    My dad is very darked skin. On 23andme it shows no native, but says according to the other people tested my dad has 89% native american/Alaskan native ( neanderthal) non of that makes any since to me. Also do they not go off of dna supposivly originating to these neanderthals pre history. Non of it seems to help locate current (with in 5 generations) but 500 thousand years ago where you were from..I wasnt asking where my ancesters from that long ago were from but a more current area would be nice. The neanderthal says one thing, but the other says the opposite..its confusing and frustraiting. I also heard they cant really find out if your native american and nor which tribe exactly. This info coming off many native american websites. My dad and myself were tested.

  15. Jerry W Jones

    I too am interested in my Indian ancestry and fascinated by the previous discussion. If a branch of American Indians were originally, e.g., Iberian, and they are in my heritage, does DNA skip over the Indian designation and show Iberian?

    I too have been told I have American Indian ancestry and have sent for my DNA analysis as well as my 97 year old aunt. She, her sisters and my dad, if put in an Indian setting could not be distinguished from the other Indians.

    My primary interest is in determining Indian ancestry. I know I am English and German. I am beginning to believe I wasted my money. From what I get from the discussion is my aunt or I could show Indian ancestry, but the other may not. I do believe there is Indian ancestry because my grandfather was disinherited as he was marrying beneath his station in life–a big deal in 1800s Louisiana/Mississippi distinguished families, with Oxford educations going back to early 1600s.

    Any comments would be appreciated.

  16. Mike

    Both my cousin and I participated in the DNA analysis. As I mentioned above, I expected my Ancestry ethnicity profile to confirm about 10% Native American, but it returned 0% Native and about 10% Iberian instead. We expected my cousin to show twice the amount of Native American DNA in his ethnicity profile because he is one generation closer to our common Cherokee ancestors (my great-grandparents are my cousin’s grandparents). My cousin’s profile shows 0% Native American and 0% Iberian! So I guess one could say that my cousin DID show twice my Native 🙂

    On the other hand, Ancestry did return an accurate DNA match to show that I am truly related to my known cousin.

    I am inclined to agree with M.B. above that the ethnicity profile given by the DNA test is not useful, but the DNA match can be useful for discovering previously unknown relatives.

    With respect to the ethnicity profile, I hope that will continue to improve the scientific validity and reliability of their DNA analysis over time.

  17. Cherlyn

    We also have been told we have native American. Grandmother and Great Grandmother would not talk about it because they thought it shameful. I took DNA and was told I had 2% unidentifed. I thught this might be Native American.

    My daughter had a severe swollen red rash which was diagnosed as a type of sun allergy. The doctor told her it was only found in Native Americans. He asked her if she had any Native Amercan ancestors.

    Do you have any ideas. I would appreciate any suggestions or thoughts on this. Thanks.

  18. Lorena

    My family’s DNA shows that both my parents are over 50% Native American. Is there a test that can tell us which tribe we are from?

  19. Charlie Christian

    My site is “Christian Family Tree” in My Uncles have said for years that we are related to the Cherokee Nation. A cousin and me have both had several levels of DNA done with Yes we show related, but neither of us have shown Native American blood. On the Christian side, Thomas Bailey Christian, b; 15 Mar 1770, Tazewell County, VA d; 7 Dec 1854 m; 7 Jun 1793 Louise Harman b; 1776 Tazewell Co., VA d; 1828 Tazewell Co., VA. Thomas Bailey Christian was the son of Nathaniel Christian, b; 1726 New Kent Co, VA d; 1776 Montgomery Co. Va. m; Jae Ewing; b; 1727 Prince Edward Co, VA.

    It is thought that Thomas Bailey Christian was adopted by Nathaniel Christian. Some believe his grandfather was Chief Cornstalk. It is proven that Chief Cornstalk and his son were murdered in a US Fort in Virginia. It is thought that four kids were adopted by Nathaniel Christian; and supposedly were believed to have applied and been approved into the Cherokee National Organization. I have not been able to prove that. There are, if you see pictures, dark blood looking family members in my picture. My Uncles say that there was Native Americans on both sides of our family, Simpson and Christian. Both on neither side have we proved so in DNA. If anyone has any information please help us. Send information to;

  20. Rick Combs

    Just about everybody I know or have helped with their ancestry claims to have Indian blood in them, or related to somebody famous, even myself, I had heard that my great grandfather, my mother’s mother’s dad had Indian in him because he had high prominent cheek bones and that I was related to Jefferson Davis and Captain Morgan on my dad’s mother’s side. During my research not a one of my friends or myself was linked to any native american tribe, my DNA didn’t even have a smidgen nor could I find any link to Davis, however Captain Morgan is still a possiblility. Passed down word of mouth might help you alot but don’t believe it as gospel.

  21. yvonne manning kendley

    I also have Cherokee and Comanche roots. My recent DNA test showed nothing of this connection. It did list a small % of Iberian but I thought that was indication of African connection 10 generations back proved by a more detailed DNA provided by a male relative.

    Yes, my great-grandmother was told her father was full Cherokee and her mother was French Indian (what ever that means). Was she French AND Indian OR Indian from French Canada?
    My g-grandmother’s surname was BONE.


  22. Mike Hennessey

    The lack of a paper trail does support native lines. It was very common to answer White on census records. Financially a necessity. The whole town may have known it, but tolerated it if you did not flaunt it. Wife’s grandmother had no paper trail, it not stop the KKK from burning a cross on the lawn. Many natives did not believe in white’s records and did home births, even after moving into whites towns.
    Proving it, well that is a different matter.

  23. rosemary

    I am also very interested in this dialogue and appreciate the two book referrals. But, I’m very disappointed in my DNA result, hoping the sliver of “uncertain” may be my well-documented Cherokee ancestry of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, Bird Clan. I’ve searched all my life to confirm family stories and I’m nearly 84. My Paternal side were all certain, very proud, but my mother – like so many – would not discuss the subject. Historical societies, many county clerks, checks to state Vital Statistic offices, Mormon friends helped me, and now, escalation by the wonder of Can there, however, be better definition than Western European? I continue to search and find new kin, learning more of who I am, appreciating your constant service and improvements. Thank you. R.

  24. Keith Lowrey

    Thanks, that was a very interesting article. I was surprised to know that siblings could have different findings. My sister had asked me if she should have her DNA tested and I told her only if you want to know if you had a different father! 😉
    But I might ask her to do it. We are both getting up in years. I guess I will feel a little more like celebrating this St. Patfick’s Day. I’m more Irish than Native American!

  25. Natalie Fleming

    Rick Combs is spot on in his comment. I have been doing my own, my husband’s & other’s genealogy for 30 some odd years now. The two “family tradition” stories I hear from the majority of people I talk to are “descent from a Native American ancestor” and “three wealthy brothers traveled to Colonial America & went their separate ways”. I have never been able to verify these “family traditions”, including the ones in my own family. but have been able to prove a great many of them wrong. Family tradition stories must always be taken with a grain of salt, in my opinion, until actual proof presents itself. In my own case, I grew up being told I descended from a very wealthy, prominent, government connected English lord who lived in the 1600s, surname the same as mine. My great Aunt had even been to visit his grave in England. Turns out he, somewhat late in life, married a very wealthy widow but never had issue. I still see many people of the same surname online claiming descent from him.

  26. Pamela

    If you want to double check your Ancestry results download your raw data file from Ancestry then upload it to the free website Gedmatch has several “Admixture” calculators that analyze your results into ethnic percentages. I have 9% Amerind and the various calculators find it easily.

  27. For those interested about American Indian ancestry. There are 2 other possible reasons why someone who has thought or does think that they are part American Indian and that it doesn’t show up on DNA testing.

    1) For many years it was not popular to be American Indian or classified as such. Many put down in the census and other documents as being white. When it became more acceptable then people started stating that they were of American Indian heritage. The federal government became involved and allowed for many of the tribes to have open enrollment. Many non-American Indians were able to enroll themselves and their families during this time frame. I know of a few families with 0% blood that did just that.

    2) Some American Indian tribes have adopted people into their tribal enrollments over the years. Different tribes have different standards and allowances for those adopted members.

    There are over 500 federally recognized American Indian tribes in the USA. There are others that are recognized by the state and not the federal government. In the US, Tribal governments are now allowed to set the standards of determining who is and who is not American Indian and membership to their particular tribe.

    My advice is for anyone interested in finding out about their American Indian ancestry is to contact the Tribal Administrator for a particular tribe. Many of the Tribes/Nations have their own enrollment committees.

  28. M.B.

    This quote from National Geographic Daily News, Nov 20, 2013:

    “Great Surprise”—Native Americans Have West Eurasian Origins

    “…Prevailing theories suggest that Native Americans are descended from a group of East Asians who crossed the Bering Sea via a land bridge perhaps 16,500 years ago, though some sites may evidence an earlier arrival.

    “This study changes this idea because it shows that a significant minority of Native American ancestry actually derives not from East Asia but from a people related to present-day western Eurasians…”

  29. Adriana

    I read that the Cherokee were some of the earliest Native American peoples to intermarry with Europeans. So I don’t know if their DNA looks more “European” because of ancestral populations or because of the simple fact that there were very few 100% Cherokee Indians by the late 19th century or early 20th century when most of us alive would have had a grandparent or great-grandparent living.

    If you’ve been told you have a Cherokee or other Native American ancestor within the past few generations and your DNA test doesn’t show that, then either 1) you don’t and the family stories are simply untrue or 2) your great-grandmother was part of Native American, but just not enough for the DNA to show up by your generation. Also, everyone says Cherokee, so don’t assume that. Every single one of my friends claims to have a Cherokee ancestor and my own family members say we’re descended from Cherokees. Not only can I not prove it on paper, but my DNA shows absolutely no Native American DNA.

    So here’s what I’d do: if you take the autosomal DNA and you don’t get DNA or an Asian result, upload your raw DNA data to GEDMatch (as someone else here pointed out in the comments) and run its many admixture calculators. Perhaps one of those calculators will pick up something that AncestryDNA or another company did not.

    If you can afford it, run your Y-Chromosome DNA, either from yourself or a male-line descendant for the side you want to check. For example, if you suspect your mother’s line is Native American, check her brother or her father. Also test your mitochondrial DNA and the mitochondrial DNA of a female on your father’s side or maternal grandfather’s side. Perhaps you’ll get lucky and have a Y Chromosome or mtDNA that’s rooted in North America. I saw an example of this on one of Henry Gates’ PBS programs.

    The stories are fun and worth pursuing, but just keep in mind that everyone you know probably has a story about a long-lost Cherokee grandmother was who persecuted and forced to flee in the middle of the night.

  30. M.B.

    Two technical discussions that raise more questions about identifying Cherokee ancestry using standard DNA testing.

    1) “Native Americans Have Deep Ancestry in Europe: Yes, It’s Official
    Wednesday, October 30, 2013
    Shocking, Long Overdue Revision to American Indian Genetics”

    – AND –

    2) “Anomalous Mitochondrial DNA Lineages in the Cherokee
    Tuesday, October 13, 2009
    Original Post: Egyptian, Greek, Phoenician and Hebrew Origins of Cherokee?”

  31. Paul A. Thorn

    I did some detective work after reading this article. I began with the 1880 Census, which shows Mary living with her aunt and uncle, Lavinia and Alexander Smith. Alex F. Smith and Lavinia C. Enlow were married in Wilkinson County in 1869. I tried to find them in the 1870 Census, but had no luck. Looking back to 1860, I found Lavinia in the household of Hiram Enlow, who also appears in the 1850 Census.

    I then looked for evidence that one of her sisters might have married a Tyler, and found the marriage record of John Tyler and Martha Ellen Enlow on December 22, 1858. I wasn’t able to identify Martha in Hiram Enlow’s household, but some family trees indicate that she was his daughter. I also couldn’t find John or Martha in 1860, 1870, or 1880.

    The simplest explanation would be that they were missed by the census enumerator in 1860, and died before 1880 (perhaps before 1870). I can’t account for the tradition that Mary was an Indian; the two explanations above are both plausible. But I do know that a lot of people in family trees have been described as Indians for no other reason than their appearance, or the lack of any other information about their parents or origin. So if that turns out to be the case here, it shouldn’t be too surprising.

    The consolation of losing a cherished family tradition about an Indian ancestor would be getting to add two or three more generations to your family tree, and maybe, if you’re lucky, more than that!

  32. Samantha

    In regards to the question of Cherokees not showing up as native American, it has become quite widely known, from several sources, that the Cherokees are actually from Irish descent, thus explaining the European DNA.

  33. Sharon S.

    I ,too, was disappointed that American Indian DNA did not show up on my test. On my Dad’s side there was supposedly Cherokee Indian as that side of the family had roots in Oklahoma. My Dad was supposedly 1/8 Cherokee which makes me and my sister 1/32. Maybe not enough to show up on the test? However, his mother looked 100% Indian which I’m sure she’d not have admitted to anyone as was the case in the late 1800s, early 1900s.

    Genetics are weirds. My baby picture shows me looking 100% “papoose” and you could show that picture to any Indian and they would agree. My sister on the other hand, came here 100% Aryan: blond hair, blue eyes, extremely white skin. Yet we both showed up on DNA as 99.9% N. European.

  34. M.B.

    Samantha, can you tell us your sources for Irish Cherokee, or did you forget to include the 😀 ?

  35. Sally Ann Lentz

    I too have Native American ancestry that did not show up on the Ancestry dna test, or did it? In my case, my great, great grandmother was a pure blood Lenape Indian. My dna results showed 11% unknown. Could it be that the genetic markers for my Lenape line are unknown?

  36. Deborah Melvin

    I too have been told my maternal Great Grandmother was ‘Indian'(unknown tribe, but reportedly from Georgia), another maternal Great-Great Grandmother was also reportedly ‘Indian’, and on my paternal side, my paternal Grandmother was reportedly descended from a Georgia tribe, and my Grandfather descended from an Alabama tribe. ..My DNA did not report any Native American DNA, but European , and 10% North African. I am still considering asking a brother to participate. I am thinking my Dna carries more of the maternal side, who have documented Irish, but no documents of Native American; however several of my father’s ancestors lived on a Cherokee reservation in Oklahoma. I too am a little confused by this DNA report and hope more information will surface regarding one of these illusive Native American tribes I descended from..

  37. Pat Roseberry

    Reply to Rick Combs Comment #21. My adopted daughter also claims to be decended from Jefferson Davis. Our reseach has shown that after Varina Davis, wife of Jefferson, died, he lived with an Indian woman, Ida Cooley Knouse. They had children but didn’t marry as she was considered a “person of color” and there were laws prohibiting it.

  38. KLK

    RE: The article linked by Mike #9 above: The Echota is NOT a federally recognized tribe but a nonprofit pretending to be a tribe, so the information in that article is questionable. There are only three federally recognized Cherokee tribes-the Cherokee Nation, the United Keetoowah, and the Eastern Band.

    The Cherokee are very well-documented. Failure to understand this has led to the spurious claims and family stories regarding Cherokee ancestry. If your family is really Cherokee, they will be on one of the numerous rolls made of Cherokee members.

  39. Jane

    We all have to stop saying we have Irish or Cherokee or whatever blood. Red blood cells do not contain dna!

    If you upload your dna test results to, you can compare your matches chromosome by chromosome. This may be the best way to determine if (and how) you match identifiable Native Americans or those from other ethnic populations. Once you go back a few generations, with the exception of y-DNA and mtDNA, you may not have inherited any chromosomes from a particular ancestor, meaning you are not biologically related to that ancestor except as another human (humans share about 99% of their dna).

  40. Roberta Mucci

    I too, have been told that Chief Cornstalk, is my Great, Great, Great, Grandfather.

    Can you tell me just what tribe he was with/from?

    Thank you, Roberta

    PS: We, our family , have not had any DNA Testing done. The information all came
    from the Census Reports. This tribe was from the Chillicothe, Ohio area. (1886)

  41. annaford

    No one has been able to figure out for sure who my great-great Grand father parents were . I know that he was born in Charles County Maryland in 1795. He married Eleanor Nettles, who was also from Charles county, Maryland. WE have quiet a bit of information on her family but I said before not-much on him. Would a DNA test help His name was William S. Penn . AnnaPenn Ford

  42. Cindy

    Wow lots of comments. I had the same story – relatives from Mississippi saying we had Native American DNA. What showed up in my test was sub Saharan Africa DNA. I agree with one of the other comments. It was more shameful to have African American relatives so they said they were Native American.

  43. M.B.

    Annie’s article with subsequent comment stream reveal the current inability of AncestryDNA to prove individual Cherokee blood quantum (biological ancestry).

    1) As mentioned in prior comments, a growing body of rigorous scientific evidence strongly suggests that the standard DNA markers currently used to identify “Native American” ancestry are not valid and reliable for Cherokee descendants. To quote the AncestryDNA website: “Another thing to keep in mind is that ethnicity estimation is a problem that scientists around the world are actively working on. At AncestryDNA, we are on the cutting edge of this science, and we do our best to give you the best possible estimate.”

    2) Genetic markers are not uniformly inherited. To quote the AncestryDNA website: “Here’s another example. If you have a great-great-grandparent with Native American ancestry, you would theoretically expect to have 1/16th (6%) Native American ancestry. However, the pieces of DNA that you inherited from this great-great-grandparent are random. When the DNA was passed from your great-great-grandparent, to your great-grandparent, to your grandparent, to your parent, and then to you, some pieces of DNA from this great-great-grandparent may have been “lost.” Since you might not have much DNA from that great-great-grandparent, you might not show up as having any Native American genetic ethnicity.”

    3) The problem of Admixture has not been solved. To quote the AncestryDNA website: “There are a number of reasons why ethnicity estimation is difficult. If populations remained isolated all the time and never intermixed, it would be easy to find out what ONE ethnicity each person belongs to. History shows that this is simply not the case. Between migration, military invasions, and inter-marriage, most people today are a mix of different ethnicities.”

  44. Penny Taylor

    To my knowledge I have no Indian ancestors, but all of this interests me. One reason Mary M. Tyler’s parents weren’t known is because she could have been taken away from them. Many Indian children were taken away from the reservations to be indoctrinated with English and white man’s customs. If she’s listed with an Aunt and Uncle it could be an adopted aunt and uncle. I also notice a few people with Louisiana backgrounds having family tales of an Indian heritage. Louisiana has been such a melting pot that there are lots of possibilities.

  45. This was VERY helpful! I’m in a similar boat. We’ve always heard of Native American ancestors in a couple of directions but my DNA didn’t show any. And to look at me I am the spitting image of West Europe, Great Britain, Ireland, England and Wales. I have two brothers, one is fair like me, and the other has dark hair, dark eyes, and tans quickly. I was under the impression my DNA and my brothers’ would match, but now I know this is not the case. I expect Jim’s to be similar to mine, but David may have the undiscovered Native American link.
    I also have a smidge of Iberian Peninsula and Scandinavian in the mix which was unexpected. But it gives some credibility to searches that took my line back to the Vikings and the research is a lot of fun.

  46. Jan

    @Mike post #39 I also come from the surname Ward My Grandmother was a Ward and Her Mother was a Weir they lived near the Choctaw Indians near Meridian, MS. My Grandmother was olive skinned with high cheekbones as is all of my Mother’s children. My Mother on the other hand was very light skinned with light hair but seems we either inherited my Grandmother’s traits or my Father’s traits as he also is supposed to have descended from Native American blood. All of the Wards I know are pretty much olive skinned with some Native American traits. Could we be kin?

  47. Mike

    @Jan post 48. As we see from all the posts on this string, anything is possible and nothing is certain! 😀

    AncestryDNA is a good starting point to see if we are related genetically. I have done the test, as mentioned above. If you have also done this, we can try to find each other buried among the hundreds of distant cousin matches on

    If you have not done the AncestryDNA test, we can compare our family trees if you have one. Do you have a tree on Ancestry?

  48. Jan

    @Mike not the Ward side mostly my paternal side. Will let you know when I get started on Ward side. I am fairly new to Ancestry but plan on getting DNA done and working more on maternal side but feel it will be difficult due to little information available to me because most of the historians on that side have passed on.

  49. First Nation Mythbuster

    Having NA Ancestry is the #1 family history myth. The myth is rooted in racism (someone “looks” Indian) and sexism (it’s always a (x) great grandmother).

    I suggest googling and reading this paper:

    “Revealing American Indian and Minority Heritage using Y-line, Mitochondrial, Autosomal and X Chromosomal Testing Data Combined with Pedigree Analysis” by Roberta Estes”.

    If it’s over your head, then DNA testing is a waste of your money.

  50. 1st Gen Asian American

    Never go off of looks in a photo, at least not definitively. I am (absolutely confirmed LOL) exactly 1/2 asian as my mother is fresh off the boat 100% Thai (whatever that entails). Dad is a good ol’ fashioned American mutt from a variety of European stock. I have been mistaken as American Indian, by other American Indians. Except for those rare folks who’ve spent a lot of time in Thailand, no one has ever hazarded a guess that I am half asian (of mainland asia).

    As to family lore. I have debunked more family stories than I can care to admit. And I am working on my next one. Mind, I am not trying to debunk them, but each time I try to prove it through research, it gets debunked. Happily, I can usually track down how, when, where, and who initiated the deviations in the stories.

    Now, DNA testing. I refrain from DNA testing for many many reasons. Not saying it could or couldn’t be helpful, but understand that you must take the results with a grain of salt and be prepared for either shock in any direction. As many folks have commented – the lack or presence of an expected racial group is not proof of having or not-having that heritage. Remember, even the Native American’s originated from somewhere else. DNA from a fully documented, card carrying member of a living tribe might produce some surprises. Their society did not advance in the bubble that some seem to believe.

    By the way, I have a similar family lore that claims some distant ancestor was Native American – due to my heavy asian DNA I would opine that (if the lore were true) my Asian markers could negate or hide any identification of Native American DNA (just using simple English for a potentially complicated discussion on percentages – numbers hurt my head). 😀

  51. Ruth Velazquez

    Is it also at all possible that whites were integrated into the tribe, as in the Seminoles? The “stories” might be correct as far as someone saying they were from the tribe but not their actual DNA. Or did someone already come up with this theory?

  52. Christie Young

    Very enlightening conversation! My grandmother, who was orphaned as a child, had been told that she was the descendent of an Indian Chief. Having started with a completely blank slate, I’ve done several years of intense research and found the relationship to the historically significant Creek Chief Hopoiethele Micco, nine generations back on her father’s side. Her European ancestors were located in the Georgia/ Alabama area that was Creek territory in the 1700s-1800s. Since there were conflicting claims about the lineage in various Ancestry family trees, I submitted a DNA sample. which revealed 0 specific Native American DNA, but reflected a mysterious 2% Iberian Peninsula. I can go as far back as the 1400s-1500s on most of my Western European tree and there is absolutely no known connection to the Iberian Peninsula. The matches, on the other hand, repeatedly confirm DNA relationships, not only to his known and well documented offspring, but to many other distant cousins who also claim descendency to him. It’s enough to assure me that my research is correct despite the curious ethnicity results. I’m glad to know that others have run into the same frustrating twists with DNA testing associated with Native American ancestry. Interesting that the Iberian traces keep turning up. Perhaps the fact that the Spanish invaded the Creek and Cherokee homelands in the 1500s could account for it. There was extensive interbreeding between the natives and the Spanish then and the English, Scotts and French that came after them. Or perhaps it goes way back. I want to know more!

  53. Robin

    One thing no one seems to have mentioned is that there aren’t enough DNA tests in the data base yet and that is a reason for the evolving change in results.

  54. I’ve learned that my Native American ancestry has been blurred because many of my male ancestors re-named their native American wives, often naming them after the man’s own mother or sister. Reason: Native Americans could not inherit property and were commonly denied all basic human rights in many states back in the 17th 18th, 19th and even to some extent in the 20th century, nor could their “half-breed” offspring. Best solution: Rename the mother, claim heritage from darker-skinned European stock, and never make public their Native American blood lines.

    Sometimes white men took Native American wives, gave them English names and named their own offspring the same identical names of their white first and second cousins…nobody in their right mind would indicate on a local, state or federal census document a name like “Dove of the Morning” or “Standing Bear”-“Running Wolf”, etc.

    Not only did I learn these facts while establishing my own family trees in but also was fore-warned by a great uncle who was himself half Cherokee-but-passed-for-white, who did, at an early age, cleverly changed his Oklahoma Reservation name and wound up decades later becoming a county judge in Arkansas back in the 1930s. He explained why he did it, how he did it, and why the laws in previous centuries pretty much only protected white property owners and very few others.

    I am proud of my own Native American heritage…but not so long ago being Native American was not so cool (or wise) to be Native American on the one hand, or to advertise the fact on the other hand.

  55. Jeanette Lawson Potts

    When I first got on 15 years ago, I was notified by Ancestry that my (deceased and I never met her) grandmother was a registered member of the Chippewa Tribe in Virginia. Before my Dad died, last year he finally admitted, “Yes, Jeanette we are Cherokee”. He, his brother, and sister, had been sent to foster care in West Virginia/Kentucky when he was 3. I live on Cherokee Nation Lands in Oklahoma and when I visited the ‘Family research Center and Museum’ in Tahlequah, Oklahoma I found my maiden name, repeated in several places, on rolls, and on History displays. (I,also found a lot of Cherokees were genetically Deaf/Hard of Hearing and my grandfather was deaf and I have a deaf daughter. My mothers’ parents were born at the tribal headquarters of ‘The Mississippi Choctaws’. I HAVE NO INDIAN CARD(S). Go figure! I have documented my lineage on Ancestry and I have applied to 2 of the 3 tribes for membership. (The Chippewas have an unlike the other 2 census roll numbers, so I have not pursued this avenue.) I am looking forward to the day I can do my DNA, to see what comes up. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading all of your comments and learned a little, also. I, still have my Choctaw Indian Grandmothers Dresses and Dolls from the 40′ and 50s’. Jeanette

  56. Andrea

    I was told by my family we are of African, Irish and Native American “Choctaw” descent. For at least 5 generations most of my family on my mom and dad’s sides have lived in the same small farming area where there is documented evidence of a mixture of the three. Most of my greatgrandparents look Native American. My granddaddy does and I am told often without me even asking that I have strong NA features. But most important to me my great aunt told me her grandmother ( my gggrandma) was Native, had long straight hair and followed the customs and ways of the tribe. That is NOT speculation.I was very surprised to have no NA dna. However somehow got Iberian, Central and East Asian and Polynesian. A gentleman I know is my cousin from the same community came back with Native blood.

  57. I agree with posts #8 and #9. I too have Native Americans(Cherokee) on both sides of my family, but my DNA tested negative. I also had the Iberian peninsula in my results. If a card carrying Native American’s results came back negative, then I have little faith in the testing.

  58. Robert Ulmer

    I have native American in my blood line my grandmother was supposed to be native American but i had no show ing of it on my dna test im tryin to get my card saying im native American cn you help me grandmothers name was. Althea winningham her maden the winninghams have had native American through out as far say i can trace the back help pease.

  59. I, too, am among the many surprised my well-documented MicMac ancestry isn’t supported by your DNA report. On my mother’s side, my great, great great grandmother Famicha (Bear River band) for which we have photograhic proof, baptism records, etc.; and on my father’s side, my great grandmother Elizabeth Starchild was full-blooded and we have much written support from her two offspring (my grandmother, whom I personally interviewed) and great aunt, Their stories and photographic records are published in a book entitled “Ripe Berry Moon” , well supported by records in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia where both MicMac lines lived. Could the MicMacs have originated from extreme north Europe?

  60. diane

    Irish, Native American, and southern (and goose bumps)

    I have been tracing ancestors since I was about 10 years old –I am now 68! My mother and her siblings were always vague about their maternal grandmother’s side of the family– only that they were Irish via Liverpool, England and their great grandfather was a no nonsense remote type of man. My dna shed some light on where I perhaps could find traces of the missing link. I was “unlike” many others searching for dna Native American connections in that I was very surprised to discover than I was Native American—Lumbee tribe in North Carolina.

    No one ever mentioned Native American and my mother came from a large rather inquisitive family that has roots in Mayflower II, French Indian War, Revolution etc. — and the irony of it according to family lore Indian Fighters. Well according to my dna there was more than fighting going on in one branch of the tree!

    The family accordingly were Irish, Scot Irish and English. My great great great grandfather born in North Carolina was probably Scot Irish/Irish (based on surname and his business/social acceptance in the Mississippi community where he settled about 1839). I believe he probably was not Native American. His son was born in Talahatchie, MS, 1841. I believe his son was the result of a union with a Lumbee.

    There is no record of my great great grandfather’s mother in the 1840 or 1850 Mississippi census. He apparently was an only child though there is indication that he may have had Caucasian-African half siblings. It was very difficult finding him because he always used his initial “G” in lieu of a full first name or less often George which was not his real first name.

    He left MS and went to southern Texas about 1860, I think perhaps to more easily blend with the Tex-Mex population. Though people from his area of MS were moving to Texas (particularly the younger generation), most from his area of MS were going to an area around Austin –he seemed to head further south near the border. He soon was drafted by the Confederacy of Texas into Coastal Defense Artillery and is described as dark hair, skin and eyes. Learned something about the Texas Confederacy — many Mexicans were urged to join the Texas Confederacy and seemingly classified as Caucasian.

    My great great grandfather after a few years of what seems a distinguished service record in the Gulf of Mexico battles (these Texas coastal battles and western frontier battles are seldom mentioned in history books; or the recruitment in Mexico of Mexicans by both Union and Confederate armies). He and other soldiers deserted after deplorable treatment of slaves (killing 60 male slaves from work exhaustion–denied sleep and food), and deplorable treatment of civilians and soldiers in Galveston by their commanding officer who had a history of eccentric and abusive conduct.

    A few months later after the Galveston battle(s) and the subsequent deplorable treatment/conditions, he is in the Union Army in New Orleans. He received $100 in bounty money from General Banks (Commander in New Orleans), obtained the rank of Sergeant and met his Irish Catholic wife there who attended a girls convent—- and her parents were from Ireland via Liverpool ! Only his military records and marriage certificate have his complete and/or real first name — his obituary only gave his initial and surname; and his grave marker only gives the family’s last name.

    Whether it was his mixed race, his desertion from the Confederacy, or his childhood in Mississippi — or all of the factors of his life, he seemed to want to be unknown until with the great help of, I found this Native American’s story.

    ps– I am a retired Army Officer and my first assignment was Coastal Defense Artillery. The day great great grandfather signed up in the Texas Confederacy is my birthday; the day he signed up in the Union Army is my wedding anniversary. It gives me goose bumps!




  61. SherylChudnowHalvey

    Anne Ford – I’ll have a go at researching your G-G-G Grandparents! I enjoy the research and helping others. Sometimes, it just takes a fresh pair of eyes. Sometimes, the various name spellings, either from inaccurate data-taking, inaccurate transcribing, or the very strong, bad habits of our ancestors, constantly changing what they prefer to be called from one decade to another, can really throw a person off, too! Seriously, it seems that back in the day, people took nicknames, or chose different names, not legally, but, just because it sounded better, or because it was the name of the current bombshell, or, quite honestly, as I am finding, because they were hiding from something! And, they didn’t have to change their names legally to use them! Nobody was asked for proof of identification back then when getting their electric turned on, or when the census taker came around!

    Heck, my great-grandfather apparently did not have to prove who he was when getting married. He took his 2nd wife’s name after relocating out to California, which barely happens now, let alone back then. It explains why it took me 10 years to track him down, even though I found tons of information on the rest of his family! But, his story is a rather interesting story for another day. Well, let’s just say, the family lore here is, supposedly he may have been a witness to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. One version was that he was rooming across the street (um…hmm…), and a later version that he may have been across the street. My mother did find one article, several years ago, that mentioned him as a witness, by name, but, it’s disappeared! The theory was that when his name appeared in the paper, he got scared and ran to California. After much research, I have to go back to that version of him “rooming across the street.” It’s beginning to tell a rather interesting, possibly not so innocent tale.

    Anyway, to M. B., thank you! I was going to bring up the same thing. Supposedly, eastern europeans and asians walked over that land bridge prior to continental separations. Also, I thought it was discovered that we all have some type of asian in us?

    My great-grandmother came over here in 1921. She was supposedly from Kiev. Of course, for many years, Kiev meant Russia. I was always told we were Russian. Now, Kiev is again in the Ukraine (well, for now, anyway…or did something change this week?), so I asked some people, “Does that mean we are actually Ukrainian, not Russian, since Kiev was originally in the Ukraine?” Anyway, she/my grandfather’s family was supposedly from Kiev, or, better yet, Chudnov (there are various spellings), just outside of Kiev, but, various records of hers list her, and her siblings, as being from various places, like Galacia, and Budapest, and Roumania. There were other places, too. But, see, they were Jewish, and, just as the Native American Indians had to keep moving around, or were forced to move to certain regions, so were the Jews! The last several years prior to coming over here, my grandfather’s family was running from the Bolsheviks. I have yet to find birth records, or marriage records, as the bolsheviks raided their town, burning down much of it, including their hall of records. Now, my grandmother, whom I have only a few pictures of, had dark features, olive skin, dark hair, etc. I suppose I see Russian in her, as a younger woman, but, I’d say more like Roumanian. Then when she is old, she looks very Indian to me! Of course, being that she came over here as an adult, she cannot be Native American Indian. But, there is something many people forget. To be Jewish has more than one meaning. There are religious Jews, and then there are Jews by blood, and they came from Jerusalem, which would make them middle-eastern/north african.

    Just another note: I was watching a special last year on Russia and Siberia. It featured a family that pretty much seemed to live “off the grid,” they were so far out to the east! They were “Russian,” but had some asian features, especially their eyes. I suppose they also could have been mistaken for Alaskans. Interesting point, since Alaska is kind of close to Russia. *wink-wink* But, seriously, that land bridge would have connected Russia/Siberia and Alaska/Canada.

    As for the family stories of being “Native American,” did your families all actually use the term “Native American Indian,” or is it possible they just said, “Indian?” There are Indians from India, Mexican Indians, Indians from other areas, I would imagine.

    Also, I used to tease my mother, because, she would always insist she was full-blooded scandinavian! Her parents were Swedish and Norwegian. I pointed out to her that the reason the men in our family tanned so easily (the woman only burn, or freckle), is because we most likely also have spanish blood in us! She said that was not possible, so, I pointed out the fact that the Spaniards invaded many regions, and usually hung around a while, often settling, and “marrying,” the locals/natives of those countries/regions.

    My fiancé is French, Belgian, Russian, Polish, Chinese, and Filipino. He used to say, “For some reason, when I grow beard, people say I look Mexican.” I said, “Well, that makes sense. The Filipinos are a mix of Asian and Spanish.”

    Jane – our blood is made up of more than just red blood cells, and our dna is in every part of our bodies.

    I think a better point is, where our ancestors “came from,” in locality, isn’t always the only indicator of our heritage, or bloodline. People travel. Columbus wasn’t the first explorer. People were traveling for trade, to claim territory, etc., long before Columbus’ time. It makes sense that bloodlines could show up in unexpected areas.

  62. SherylChudnowHalvey

    I just looked up the Iberian Peninsula, and I am not surprised that many who have been told they have Native American lineage receive the Iberian result. Many Native Americans migrated up here from Mexico, Central and South America. Spanish blood was mixed with Mexican Indians prior to migration. Also, don’t forget, Mexico once spanned much further to the north and east prior to the United States claiming that territory. I think if you receive an Iberian Peninsula result it only confirms your Native American ancestry!

  63. BoogerTsnottington

    Firstly, Cherokees have three federally recognized tribes, United Keetoowah and the Cherokee Nation both relocated to OK and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in Western North Carolina. Cherokees have never lived on a “reservation” they reside on “land trusts.” Only the Eastern Band is in their original homelands. Most of these folks are listed on various Indian Rolls. There are many of them for the Western and Eastern Cherokee. Sometimes they don’t appear on one but will appear on another, depending on the year pre/during/post removal. During the years in OK, many people who were White and Black lived in OK. Don’t forget the OK Land Rush (Sooners). Most of these Cherokee were pretty diluted in “Indian blood.” John Ross (trail of tears hero) was 1/8 Cherokee and he was a Chief.

    Native American admixture is not common, not at all be its wantonly claimed with proof. Once the DNA does not show this, just accept this and move on and be proud of your ancestors. The prejudice between Whites and Indians was horrible and tensions between the two were also horrible. Indian were not looking to mix with Whites. Whites were in close relationships with Blacks due to slavery and explains why most Whites find Sub Saharan African DNA. Also, most Whites were not even living around Indians at their prime of the land. By the time most Whites came into contact with Indian lands the Indians were mostly gone or removed. They stayed with the tribe especially fullbloods.

    You’ve been zapped by Cherokee Blood Myth or Indian Blood Myth stories. Telltale signs are; grandma left or ran off from the reservation, they were passing for White (or Black), she was adopted, she was ashamed, she was lost on the trail of tears, records lost in the Bible or in a Church among many others. Most of these claims may have been a very rare, rare case were very fashionable by “wannabes” to explain why they cannot provide any lineage verification (i.e. evidence) to the Cherokee people, the Indigenous. Never know what exactly which Cherokee tribe they descend from. They are not ONE Nation. The hordes of people claiming Cherokee ancestry is more than Cherokee people that existed.
    You are going to get people, again in very rare cases of those who are Cherokee descended and find Native American DNA say with 23andME who are quite accurate. Most people of Indian ancestry (unless adopted) know they are of genuine ancestry and claim legitimately claim such ancestry.
    No paper trail no DNA clues….is the inevitable “Indian Blood Myth.” If you at least have a 3rd great grandmother who was Cherokee it should show up, even just a little. Beyond this, who focus on ancestry back that far? Start appr

    I’ve seen Cherokees in NC, not considering the mixed-bloods believe me, they do not look Irish. They look the other Indian of the US, some very Asian featured. I hardly doubt Irish DNA will predominate. LOL.

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