Am I Native American? How to Find My Indian Ancestors – Native American Genealogy

Posted By Paul G July 27th, 2012 Last Updated on: April 1st, 2022

Many people in the US and Canada have at least one Indian ancestral line in their family.  Lots of people grew up hearing the family legend about a family member that was Native American.

Proving that legend to be true or false can be tough.

We have some steps and resources to help you in your search! Keep reading…

Finding Your Native American Heritage

Gather Information

The process to find your Native American/Indian heritage can take years. Gather and record all of the information you can!

Become a collector of information – search for stories from family members, find birth and death certificates, look for family Bibles.

Then document everything. Write it all down! Days, weeks, or months from now you may not remember every detail of the story your great aunt told you – so write it all down.

Not all the stories you hear from family members about American Indian ties may be true or correct, but you want to gather as many leads as you can about your ancestors and tribal heritage to start your search.  You may hear from your grandmother that your relatives were from the Cherokee tribe. So many families have that as part of their family lore.  Sometimes Cherokee may not be the right American Indian tribe. It may just be a name they knew.  

DNA Testing

DNA testing can be another resource to help you gather information. Results are not legal proof of Native American/Indian heritage, however.  

The DNA test can give you some idea about where in your family tree your Native heritage is rooted. In other words, the source of your Indian ancestry. For example, if your DNA test comes back and your records indicate you have 25% Native American blood, then it is likely that your grandmother/grandfather was full blood.  On the other hand, if it comes back less than 10%, you know that you'll need to go back several generations to find the source of your Native heritage.

Ancestry.com - Native American Genealogy

Building A Family Tree

Native American Genealogy

Now it is time to assemble all of the genealogy research (yes, even that death certificate of an ancestor you never met) you have into a family tree. This is how you can document your direct Native lineage.  

There are many resources to help you create this or you can just use old-fashioned pen and paper.

I recommend using Ancestry.com for all matters genealogy-related. They offer a 14-day free trial.  For most people, this will be enough time to build out a family tree.

Ancestry® Free Trial

I also have a free email guide that takes you step by step through how to use Ancestry.com's family tree builder.  

Free Email Lesson – How To Build Your Family Tree With Ancestry.com

What Tribe Are You From

Tracing your history can be very challenging. Given that there are over 570 federally recognized tribes, finding your one specific tribe can be even more daunting. 

Like I mentioned earlier if your family is several generations removed from your Native ancestors, knowledge of the exact tribe may have been lost or incorrectly remembered over the years.

Knowing where your family lived at different times and knowing all the surnames can be tools to help you find the tribe.  

We have a whole page about finding your tribe – How Do I Find Out What Tribe I Am From?

Applying for Tribal Enrollment

For many people just tracing the family tree is their goal.  For others, tribal enrollment with the Bureau of Indian Affairs is their ultimate goal.

Each tribe has its own requirements and process for enrollment.  In addition, each tribe has its own restrictions on blood quantum.  

Be sure you understand the difference between tribal enrollment and a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood.

Good luck on your quest to discover your family's history!

Join our Facebook Group for Native American Family History.  Talk with others looking for their history!


Native American Genealogy Articles on PowWows.com


Whether you’re trying to dig into the truth about that old family story of a distant ancestor who was a Native American or simply taking on a fascinating new hobby, genealogy can be very challenging.

This is particularly true for those with a Native American heritage, where records are often decentralized, sometimes poorly kept, and other times, just straight-up impossible to find.

The good news? We're here to help you in your search.

While there will always be challenges researching your family’s tree and its Native American history as you go further back in time, it has never been so easy to get the information you need when researching your family’s Native American past.

Ancestry.com lets you search specifically for. Search by name, tribe, mixed blood, citizenship, tribal enrollment and more in one place, using the world’s most complete records.

Start your trial now!


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Both my father and I took the Ancestry DNA test and it showed that we had Indigenous Americas DNA. My father’s was 53% and mine was 25%. The Indigenous people around the area where his ancestors were from are the Aztec and the Hopi.

Angie Mendoza Ortiz

My father recently passed away. He had the most beautiful skin tone and gorgeous golden brown eyes. My father spoke of his mother being native american, but we could never confirm that. His parents were pretty bad at keeping up with their lineage and when they were alive, i was too young to ask any questions. Before my father passed, he and I took a DNA test through Ancestry and Genomelink. My father was almost 90% Indigenous Native American and I am 69%. That is a pretty high percentage. How can I trace my true linage and identify legal who I truly am? If I can get my true identity, then my children and grandchildren can know who we are and learn more about our people and traditions of our ancestors to be past down to the next generations????

franklin archambault

I did a DNA test and found out that I am 76% and most is INCA fancy that so the stories about the Indians coming over a land bridge is false . As for me, I am an enrolled ASSINIBOINE from the Ft. Belknap rez. in Montana what a surprise though, and like the stories say we came from the south

Estevan Quintana

On ancestry.com I’m 39% indigenous americas and 39% Spain so I probably have native American

Ancestry.com told me I am 50% native american. But I’m from latin america. Everyone who is brown there has some percent of native blood. The problem is the conquest was so overwhelming and brutal, the people don’t see themselves as indigenous. If I was to guess, I’d bet I am Mayan or some other tribe from the area.

Candice Gaynel Copeland

I think it worth mentioning that Familysearch.com is also a good research source and it is free, unlike ancestry.

Gabriel Bays

I am Yowlumne Yokut of California. This is the oral history I was given as a child. We are the descendants of the Maya…When the people of the Yucatan moved their empire North. They came by the way of the Gulf of Mexico. They paddled to the Mississippi River. Then they went North along the Mississippi River Valley all the way to the Great Lakes Region. They came this route to avoid conflict with their neighbors and brothers the Aztec. That is why when asked the people of the Great Lakes area were asked, which people are you? They answered… We are the Meshicans, the Michigans, the Mexicans. Then they came West. All the way to the Pacific Ocean. We are the sons and daughters of Meshac. The brother to Embednago. Brother to Shadrac. The brother to Daniel. We are the neighbors to the People of Judah. In its true Hebrew name, Utah… The neighbors of the Utes… The Jutes… The Jews.. We are a tribe of Hebrews. We have been singing the true name of God for countless generations. Hey Yah Way..! Hey Yah Way..! Hey Hey Yah Way..! The true name of God… Or creator. We are the people who took to the rest of the world, civilization, agriculture. They are the architects of the temples around the world. Before any pyramids appeared in Egypt our temples were standing. Because it wasn’t angels with wings who walked with God… It was Indians with feathers…

Ben Dare

Meshach Abednego Daniel were eunuchs

Cindy W

Thanks Paul,
I used 23andme and got NO native American at all. I downloaded it to gedmatch.com and it shows there. This service was since sold to law enforcement. I don’t worry b/c I’m fairly law abiding (driving the speed limit????meh! not usually.)


i know that i am cherokee.i hav e proof of this.i am tracing my hertiage on the website http://www.myhertiage.com.and i have found my 4th cousin 1 removed and her name is mahala jane jones.and i know something about her life.

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