Why doesn't my DNA results show American Indian?

+4 votes
I know I have American Indian On my father's side. My great grandmother was of American Indian descent.
in The Tree House by Judy Deranian G2G6 (8.5k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith

2 Answers

+6 votes
Best answer
Picking up on Jessica Key's comment, we don't inherit DNA from all of our ancestors. The farther back you go, the more likely it is that you didn't inherit any DNA from that particular ancestor. Therefore it is quite possible that you are descended from a native American, but you don't have any native American DNA. See the following article for one discussion of this issue. https://support.ancestry.com/s/article/Why-are-my-AncestryDNA-ethnicity-results-different-than-I-expected-1460090082990
by Chase Ashley G2G6 Pilot (256k points)
selected by Tannis Mani
+3 votes

Bertie Freeman

United States Census, 1900

Name Bertie Freeman
Event Type Census
Event Year 1900
Event Place Township 9 N. Range 17 E., Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory, United States
Gender Female
Age 12
Marital Status Single
Race White
Race (Original) W
Relationship to Head of Household Daughter
Relationship to Head of Household (Original) Daughter
Birth Date Feb 1888
Birthplace Indian Territory
Father's Birthplace Illinois
Mother's Birthplace Missouri






John W Freeman Head M 39 Illinois
Lizza Freeman Wife F 42 Missouri
Virgie Freeman Son M 20 Arkansas
John H Freeman Son M 16 Indian Territory
Bertie Freeman Daughter F 12 Indian Territory
Winn Freeman Son M 10 Indian Territory
Dow Bailey Servant M 13 Arkansas
James Newbury Servant M 37 Arkansas

Citing this Record

"United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MST7-8QK : accessed 25 May 2018), Bertie Freeman in household of John W Freeman, Township 9 N. Range 17 E., Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 76, sheet 3A, family 36, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,241,850.


View the original document. The original may contain more information than was indexed.

United States Census, 1900

District 76
Sheet Number and Letter 3A
Household ID 36
Line Number 14
Affiliate Name The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
Affiliate Publication Number T623
GS Film Number 1241850
Digital Folder Number 004119062
Image Number 00757
by Frank Gill G2G Astronaut (2.3m points)
Adding to Frank's excellent profile with an observation- my DNA test includes a smattering, my kids DNA tests do not- even for the kid who should have had his Native American ancestry noted with a higher percentage through a paternal grandmother. Go figure.
The 1900 US Census has Berrtie Freeman as White and her parents too.
Is it possible that your paternal grandmother was less than 100% native American?
Whites outnumbered Indians in Indian Territory by 6 to 1 in 1900.
Bertie was my grandmother. I was talking about my Great Grandmother Mary Ann Hays Pearce Newbury.
Thank you for the correction and clarification.
Your Native ancestor may be so far back that their DNA has been "washed out" by the time you were born; in other words, you inherited no NA DNA.

Alternatively, your family has no Native American ancestry whatsoever and, like many white American families, simply has a legend about being part Native.
I just went on GedMatch and it shows American Indian in my Chromosomes even though Family Finder shows none. Who do you Believe?

The Native American ancestry has already been established "DNA test includes a smattering."


k, so what ppl aren't understanding about Father & Mother DNA is this, the Mtdna of the mother is passed ONLY thru Daughters within the descending Direct line.  so if it is a son or Grandson, etc they will NOT show the mtdna of  a maternal or paternal grandmother.  NOW if it is a father who carries the dna because their direct line ancestral grandfather or gr. grandfather was of say half to full blood native then it should show, but again it may not, will depend on delutions over the next generations.  ALSO.. these Tests show possible, but are not fool proof or exact , and by the time a person has connected all their direct line grandparents just back to 7th generation, and you will have over 1000 grandparents. of this only 2 lines of grandparents are being searched thru Mtdna and Y dna, Your direct mother-& her mothers back and your direct father and his fathers back.. Daughter should do her mothers line, son should do his fathers line..again, the delution can be tricky, because if ONE grandparent married a Euro-then the next generation will have that delution, meaning generations after that one marriage may not show any NDN blood connection. Finding records that show the conclusions of n8v ancestors is more important to proving ANCESTRY, than any blood test.  What ppl don't seem to realize is that even if you have the blood dna, if you can't prove thru documents that you are of a specific line or tribe, clan or Nation...even if the BIA gave you a card based on the blood quantum..NON of the Nations that are "ACCEPTED by the US or Canada have to Accept you into their Nations & tribes.  why? because they are Soveirgn Nations, they decide in the end who is and who isn't!.. and just because someone shows some dna...does NOT a Native make.  Being Native is Cultural, Historical, Spiritual, Language Conscious, and many many other things.  It is not some State recognized "club" of ones that have decided in recent years to GROW their own Tribes around the US and Canada.  Find your paper-trails, document them, learn where they lived, where they came from, where they moved to and why..then you will begin to understand who your Ancestors were and weren't.  Sorry for the rant..I just can't stand this Dna/mtdna stuff.  I don't know a SINGLE Native person that has ever had to pull out their bia card to prove they are, nor do i kno a single one willing to  do dna/mtdna testing.  We don't do  it, because is just another way for government and other agencies to get a hold of our informations of us personally & again for gov. to find ways to again, use that against us and our descendants.  Assimilation is not complete until the Ndn is dead completely.   :(

Hi, Arora. I'm not entirely certain I'm reading you correctly, so this may be an unnecessary comment...but it might help some others who want a bit of clarification. There are three common types of DNA tests we see for genealogical/ancestral purposes. These look at mtDNA, yDNA, and autosomal DNA.

Mitochondrial DNA isn't human nuclear DNA at all; the mitochondria are organelles that exist in the cells of all animals...an average of about 100 in every human cell (well, except red blood cells; different story). Everybody has 'em; we've gotta have them to live. But as you say, the inheritance path is only from the mother: it follows the far right-hand side of the ahnentafel chart. Every child will have his or her mother's mtDNA, but only the daughters can pass it down to future generations. No recombination or mixing occurs with mtDNA, so there is never any kind of dilution. The mtDNA molecule is positively tiny and there's very little room for mutation. That's why mtDNA typically can look farther back in time than any other form of DNA, easily tens of thousands of years. It isn't very useful in matching a recent generation to a recent generation--again, because there's not much room for mutations to happen, not much variation--but your matrilineal ancestor from 10,000 years ago would have essentially the same mtDNA that you do today.

On the left-hand side of the ahnentafel chart is yDNA. The Y-chromosome is passed from father to son to son. The Y-chromosome escapes crossover during meiosis when the DNA replicates, and it never combines with the mother's DNA. Like mtDNA, it can look thousands of years back in time because the only changes that occur to it do so via mutation, not any type of dilution. The Y-chromosome has over 3,500 times as many base pairs of DNA as mtDNA, so there's much more room for mutation to occur without affecting the viability of the organism (though even that much larger than the mtDNA molecule, the Y-chromosome represents less than 2% of all the DNA in a genome). That makes yDNA unique in genealogy because it not only goes back many thousands of years with only minor changes along the way, but it's also useful in genealogical matching of recent generations.

Autosomal DNA does dilute; for autosomal DNA I'll mean the 22 pairs of autosomes and not include the X-chromosome, because the X behaves in a hybridized fashion and can be difficult to interpret/predict in some scenarios. And atDNA doesn't just dilute: before it mixes with the other parent's DNA it undergoes what's called crossover during meiosis, as the gamete is formed. Crossover sort of scrambles each parent's DNA so that the 50% that goes into the gamete isn't going to be exactly the same DNA that goes into the next gamete. Voila! Genetic diversity, and how species are able to survive even in situations with limited population pools (think isolated Pacific islands with endogamous populations, for example). The whole design mixes so well that even 4th cousins--sharing the very same 3g-grandparents--have less than a 50/50 chance of showing any measurable shared autosomal DNA at all.

Mitochondrial DNA and the Y-chromosome are very accurate indicators of early and ancient origins...but only for those particular and specific matrilineal and patrilineal lines. I'm in a project right now that is closing in on being able to pinpoint our shared male line--which includes, currently, five different surnames--to being in Ireland or southwest Scotland before surnames were adopted, in the timeframe of around 100 BC to 1000 AD (the line likely came from the Iberian Peninsula before that, during the Atlantic Bronze Age, and with several more Big Y-500 tests pending we hope to narrow the time farther onto the AD side of the spectrum; we think we can get it to within 500 years). Again, though, mtDNA and yDNA each represent a very small fraction of the DNA that makes up our genomes, and a tiny fraction of our ancestral grandparental genetic contributions.

If someone is basing biological Native American ancestry on mtDNA or yDNA, the DNA tests will be accurate and the results are what they are. Nothing changed enough genetically along those matrilineal and patrilineal lines over the course of thousands of years to make a difference. Autosomal DNA is a whole 'nuther matter entirely. And that's where the vast majority of genealogists are looking today for "ethnicity." There are a whole lot of assumptions, genotype modeling algorithms, fuzzy math and, well, smoke and mirrors going on there given the current state of the technology. You can read some of my recent, curmudgeonly opinion about it here.

I love that the "trade your lederhosen for a kilt" advertising trope has led to millions getting their DNA tested when they otherwise may not have. I abhor that the term "ethnicity" continues to be used; that the results are touted to be accurate; and that people then assume the results to be accurate...either that or pronounce all DNA testing as a sham because they disagree with the results.

The "ethnicity" results from that $99 autosomal DNA test should come with a warning label: For Entertainment Purposes Only. So kinda back to your point, autosomal "ethnicity" results have no use as evidence.

Hi Edison, thank you for such a descriptive response because I certainly don't have the back ground in this to be able to put it all this way.  What you've said ,actually brings across some of the point I was trying to make.  Like ok... when someone comes on and says, ..Lets say they are a "she" person {now nooone get your drawers in a wad please .. just giving an example, not  pinpointing at anyone-have just seen this over and over on many different sites genealogical and social}  back to "she".. ok so... Jane Doe comes on here and says.. I know for sure that my paternal great grandma married a native man, but its not showing up in my dna test results...this is my point.. unless jane doe has her dad or one of her brothers if she has any get tested, it's not likely to show up.. why because she isn't the one that needs to do the test to find out.. she can't at this point, just like my point of.. look at how many direct line grand parents we can't directly test thru their lines, because say it was a maternal 3rd gr.grandparent dad & 3rd great gramma s dad was n8v -full..  but lets say from start present at daughter, has to go back thru her mothers mothers mother.. again.. she can't see this gramma because it started through her grandmother, and the line was thru the maternal grandfather being maternal grand fathers fathers fathers-wife .  Am I making sense here?  Basically I'm just saying there are a lot  thundreds of direct line ancestors that the ydna and the mt aren't able to be directly seen/known/ or tested?  Tell me if I'm incorrect.  This is just what I've read from others who are studying and working with these tests and then doing articles and blogs as well about findings, and how ppl are jumping to a lot of inaccurate conclusions.

another point is because there are so many unknowns still..just because someone isn't showing the dna/mtdna autosomal doesn't mean they don't have native ancestors somewhere in those 1000 + of 7 generations back. they may have some who were mixed bloods

I'd also read that the ydna and mt can actually only look back i think it was a total of 3 full generation/sequences?  not  sure if I have this worded right, but it was a genetics scientist that wrote the article..I'll have to see if I can find it again.
Arora, your hypothetical Jane Doe would still inherit Native American DNA from her hypothetical great-grandfather, just not through the YDNA or mtDNA. It would appear on auDNA tests. The average amount of DNA inherited from any given great-grandparent is approximately 12.5%. If Jane Doe's great-grandpa was full Native, she should be approximately 12.5% NA. If she shows up ZERO NA, then either he is not her great-grandpa, or he was not NA at all.

Just found this--and it's only days away--but genealogy conferences specifically for Native Americans are so rare that I thought I'd mention it: http://www.cherokeeheritage.org/cherokee-ancestry-conference.

The Five Tribes Ancestry Conference, "Understanding Native American genealogy among the Five Tribes." June 7-9 at the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma.

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