Indian DNA Test Options in Native American Genealogy

Indian DNA test

By itself, no Indian DNA test will grant you admission to a particular tribe.

Depending on your situation, however, DNA testing may be just what you need to define your family’s biological relationship to Native Americans.

The Right Indian DNA Test Depends on Your Situation

Each section below describes a particular situation. If that does not apply to you, move on to the next one. 

You think a particular MALE ancestor may have been a Native American

Since the ancestor in question was male, you can use a Y-DNA test of a male in that man’s direct paternal line, i.e. any son, or any sons of those sons, or any of their sons etc. You want to know the paternal haplogroup.

If the haplogroup is C or Q, then it’s highly likely that this ancestor is descended from Native Americans who were here before European contact. If the haplogroup subgroup is C3b or Q1a3a, then you have absolute confirmation.

I recommend Family Tree DNA for Y-DNA testing. You need at least 37 markers if you want to identify and correspond with your biological cousins.

NOTE: If your haplogroup is not C or Q, this does not rule out Native American ancestry in another line.

For example, many men of eastern U.S. tribes, such as Cherokee, have a European haplogroup like R1b. That’s because there was a lot of intermingling with the early settlers from Europe.

So your Indian ancestor with a European haplogroup could be culturally Indian and genetically Indian through a female line.

You think a particular FEMALE ancestor may have been a Native American

Since the ancestor in question was female, she did not have a Y chromosome to pass on. She did pass on her mitochondrial DNA.

So you need an mtDNA test of a man or woman in that ancestor’s direct maternal line, i.e. any child of hers, or any child of her daughters, or any child of her daughter’s daughters etc. You want to know the maternal haplogroup.

Maternal haplogroups that indicate Native American heritage are A, B, C, D, and X. 

You can determine the base haplogroup through any mtDNA test at Family Tree DNA. To determine the complete haplogroup designation you need their full mitochondrial sequence test.

You think you’re part Native American but can’t identify a specific ancestor

In this case, your first choice for an Indian DNA test would be one of DNA tests that check nearly a million autosomal markers.

These tests look at DNA inherited from ALL your ancestors. They are much broader tests, because they are not limited to paternal or maternal lines.

These tests are:

Each of these tests includes a report that breaks down your ethnic ancestry into percentages. All of them are capable of picking up Native American ancestry if it is not too far back.

NOTE: Since Native Americans originally migrated from Asia, you may instead see a percentage marked “Asian.” Unless you have recent Asian ancestry in your family tree, that probably reflects Native American ancestry.

If your report does not show Native American or Asian ancestry, download your raw data and upload it for free into Try the various Admixture Utilities. One of these will sometimes pick up Native American ancestry that’s missed in the testing company report.

You are part Native American and want to expand your family tree

All of the tests noted above include a list of people who share significant amounts of DNA with you. By contacting them, you may be able to identify your Native American ancestor or his or her ancestors.

NOTE: By itself, no reputable DNA test can place you in a specific tribe. Any that claim to do so are based on small samples and a waste of money. Your best chance is to make contact with a DNA match who knows the tribe of your common ancestors.

If you tested at Family Tree DNA, you will be able to join any of the Native American or relevant geographic group projects. The project administrators can be a great source of information.

Your Best Source for Extra Help

I recommend Roberta Estes as an expert on Native American history and Indian DNA Testing. Read her excellent paper. 

Through her web site, DNA Explain, she can devise a customized Indian DNA test plan to best achieve your goals. Once you get your results, she offers various analysis packages to help you get the most information from your data. 

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