What You Should Know About DNA Testing for Family History Research


Posted By Paul G March 8th, 2017 Blog


There are many potential steps involved in researching your genealogy, especially if you’re starting from scratch. Before you do anything else, it’s of course, best to start with your living family members – gather information from your oral history, and search through their old records and photographs. You may be surprised at how much you can learn this way!

But you might not get all the answers you’re looking for, where do you go next?

Especially for those of us with Indian ancestry, it can be tough tracking down information through written records. The census only dates back so far, and some archives are simply not as well-maintained as others. Thankfully, though, there are other routes you can take for learning about your genealogy, such as DNA testing.



DNA Testing for Ancestry Research

By testing your DNA – the 23 pairs of chromosomes you received from your biological parents – researchers can find out information about your personal ancestry. After taking a non-invasive sample of your DNA, such as from a cheek swab, the DNA testing organization will compare your results with the results of others from the same lineage. The comparisons are made with DNA samples from both current and historical individuals.

What You Can Learn from DNA Testing

Genetic markers are examined during DNA testing, which will tell the tester how likely you are to have specific characteristics. They can also help point you in the direction of your paternal line origins, and potentially even show your paternal ancestors’ migration routes. For maternal ancestry, the same can be done by examining mitochondrial markers.

There are over 200 historical human populations, and through genetic testing, you can find out which you are most genetically similar too – meaning which you are most likely to be descended from. Many people use DNA testing to determine what percentage of their ancestry came from Europe or Africa, for example.

For Native Americans or those with Indian ancestry, it can be a little more difficult to pin down results. Ancestry.com, one of the most popular and well-known genealogy sites, offers DNA testing services; while you can find out if you are partially Native American through their services, they cannot currently provide your specific tribal affiliation. This review of their DNA testing services will give you a good idea of what it entails and what to expect.

What You Won’t Get from DNA Testing

There are other consumer genetics testing services. You may have heard of some running into trouble with the FDA previously – that’s because consumers were using their services as diagnostic of potential health issues. It’s important to note that no genetic testing service will provide you with a diagnosis of a condition.

You will also not find out tribal affiliation.  You can find out what percentage of your genetic makeup is Native American, but you won't know if it is from Cherokee, Sioux or other.  In addition, DNA testing is not a substitute for documentation needed for tribal enrollment.


Find New Connections Through DNA Testing

If you decide that you wish to go through with DNA testing to learn more about your ancestry, it’s important to remember that you won’t learn everything. Genetics test results can’t be exact, but they instead simply provide a prediction for your ethnic makeup. However, with more and more individuals getting DNA testing, and therefore broadening the database of DNA samples to compare, we can bet that genetic testing research is becoming more precise every day!

Ancestry.com is the world’s largest internet-based family history resource, and that combined with their DNA testing services is very promising for leading you in the direction of understanding your heritage. Thanks to their list of DNA matches, they can potentially help you identify unknown familial relationships. Currently, over three million individuals have taken the Ancestry.com DNA test.


Indian Census Collection

How DNA Testing Works

DNA testing can be pricey, with at-home kits starting from at least $99. However, if you are serious and curious about your ancestry, it may just be a worthwhile investment.


Consumer genetic testing kits are very simple. Generally, the organization will ship a kit to your home. All you have to do is follow the instructions – generally, fill up a testing tube with a sample of your saliva – and send the kit back in the mail. It will usually take several weeks or a few months to receive your results back; Ancestry.com sends them back to you via email.

Ultimately, the decision to undergo DNA testing in order to find out more about where you come from is up to you. First, we do recommend building out your family tree and going from there. The DNA tests will not give you any certain or specific results, but they may give you a good idea of your heritage or place of origin. For many of us, simply knowing that information is enough.



TAGGED:    dna testing    genealogy  

Comments

15 thoughts on “What You Should Know About DNA Testing for Family History Research

  1. Denice Rose says:

    I have heard that Ancestry.com or some other sites will do the genetic testing for free if you belong to the LDS church. I do and I do Know that my father’s great grandmother on his mother’s side was Lacota and that my mother’s great grand mother on her father’s side was Pennicook. I would like to know if the test could be free or at a reduced price. Thank you in advance.

  2. I was told from a family member we have native american blood ; but had no idea from what tribe just that it was northern native american. I hope you can have some idea for me.

  3. I was told from a family member that we have native american blood ; but have no idea from what tribe. all she knew was it was northern native american.

  4. Kim Dowell says:

    My DNa came back with Hunuran/native and I have census showing my great grandmother and grandmother native from Attleboro,Ma. and my grandfathers side native from Penobscott,maine but I don’t know which tribes they would be from. How can I find the tribes?

  5. Tamar Meadowhawk says:

    All my life I was told that on my mother’s side we have native blood – we were told Chickasaw. More recently my younger brother said that it is Chickasaw and Choctaw. What would be a good way to research/prove whether this is true or not? How could I find out the specific tribes? (My mother grew up in Mississippi.) thank you for your time!

    • Becca Riley says:

      Tamar, there are a couple of ways to find our about that. Do you know have a family tree? Do you know the possible names of your ancestors that were said to be Chickasaw? You might have to go 5 or 6 generations back to find them. Once you have tracked back the line you believe has Chickasaw you can search the Dawes Rolls for them. Choctaw family members will appear there as well. Good Luck!

  6. My DNA came back as 55 % native American It shows for the last few hundred years my Ancestors were living around South Texas and northern Mexico to central Mexico. I read an Article on Genetic diversity a study done in Mexico. They studied genomes and found that they were different genetic forms among different tribes There is a genetic map of those findings but I can not understand it at all. My ancestors might have been Mayan Or Aztec. Where or how can I have my genomes tested to narrow my search on where my native ancestors came from?

    • Iris Valencia Maldonado says:

      Did you ever get answers? I to am from same area 49 % Native American, my problem is I don’t know any family history, so I don’t know where to start, my maiden name is Valencia and I always thought I was Spanish.

  7. Maria E Daniels says:

    For as long as I can remember I have always been approached and asked what tribe I was from or what nation, or if I am going to powwow, my answer is always the same, I’m not Native American I am Mexican.
    The DNA company 23 and me asked if I would participate in a genetic study for lupus, I did not know they were going to do my entire genetic history, I was shocked to find out that I am a 48% Native American .
    So now I am curious, where do I go from here, it gives you a general area of where your ancestors come from mostly Mexico and South America, how do I narrow that down? My grandfather always used to say we were Apache, I’m not sure if he was serious, but I would like to know.
    Suggestions?
    Thank you in advance for your time.
    Maria D

  8. My child’s biological father was adopted. He knows he is partially Native American but not a clue to how much or which tribe. My child would like to find out for his own information. How do we go about doing that if after DNA testing there is confirmation of Native American ancestry? We have no information about his father’s family at all, not even where they’re from.

    • Alan Riley says:

      Wow, good luck!! I am “luckier”, maybe! I was adopted and still searching “roots”; I’ve known birth mothers tribe, as adopted parents knew some of my history. Any idea if his parents have any knowledge of where his origins are? Or perhaps of existence of 1st/original birth certificate? That’s what I had been going on- have narrrowd things down to a village of birth mother and also of birth father(very vague), but, I believe, only two people knew of my existence -bio mother and perhaps her mother- now both deceased- positive on my birth mother-guessing on her mother. So, again, good luck-a little information can be good, or lead to more dead-ends!

  9. Be aware that this testing company and 123&Me also send your DNA and results to government agencies and the police, so if you want privacy DO NOT use those services. They don’t even tell you that they’re doing it, they make more $$$$ off of you than the simple price if the test. Not right!

  10. I too had no idea. Both my parents are from Mexico. So, I always thought I was Mexican. I have drawings of Native American Indians from when I was a child that I drew. I fell in love with New Mexico that I told myself, I want to retire here. My home has Native American decor. I had no idea why I had this love until I took I received my dna results from ancestry. I’m 44% Native American! Now it all makes sense. But I have no idea what tribe. My grandmother died giving birth to my mother. My grandfather couldn’t take care of my mother as an infant and she was raised by a maternal aunt. Where do I start?

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