What You Should Know About DNA Testing for Family History Research

Posted By Paul G March 8th, 2017 Last Updated on: March 2nd, 2022

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?

Related Info – What tribe am I from?

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.


Home » Blog » What You Should Know About DNA Testing for Family History Research

TAGGED:    dna testing    genealogy  
5 1 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Is it worth taking an ancestry test if you are from an African background? Do these companies have enough data from African populations compared to say Europe or North America?


I’ve heard that it’s possible for two siblings to get differing results from ancestry tests. Does anyone have any experience with this?


It is totally possible for two siblings to get differing results. One reason may be that they only share one parent. But even when both parents are the same, you can still have very different results, depending on which genes mate with which genes. In my own family, for example, my mother had dark eyes and black hair. My younger sister has brown hair and brown eyes. I have blond hair and blue eyes. Blues eyes are recessive. My dad had blue eyes and blond hair – at least, blond as a kid. My mother carried a recessive gene for blue eyes – but because dark is dominant, her eyes were dark. My sister’s eyes were dark, because mom’s dark eye dominant gene and dad’s blue eye recessive gene matched – and dark eyes prevailed. I have blue eyes, tho, because mom also carried a blue recessive gene, and on me, dad’s blue eyes and mom’s blue eye recessive gene matched up. This is also why sometimes two parents who both have dark eyes can have a blue eyed child. I’ve also been told, although I haven’t done the research to find out for sure, that because of the way genes match up, you can be of direct Native American descent, and not have it show up on a DNA test. The reasoning goes, because of the way genes match, if two people of mixed descent were to marry, their child would have a 25% chance of being full blooded one race, 50% chance of being mixed descent, and 25% chance of being full blooded the other race. At least, so I’ve been told. Like I said, I haven’t done the research. But my grandmother grew up believing her grandmother was Native American. That’s what she told both my dad and me. And dad said that his great-grandma looked Native American. But when we did DNA tests, nothing showed up. But someone told us that didn’t mean she wasn’t Native American, it just meant those genes did not get passed down. I’m still doing research, trying to find out for sure if any of her family were on any of the rolls. I’ve found some names, but all I have are names, I don’t have any other info, so I don’t know if they are “my family” names or not.


Yes I do. My sister and I both had slightly varying results. Most of the ethnic regions that came up, we both had but to varying levels. Some slightly and a couple of them showed up on hers but not on mine and vice versa. We always knew somehow our Mom was mixed with Native American but she always said she was Spanish (our ancestors were part of the original Conquistadores who came from Spain to New Mexico). Along the way and over the years we were intermixed with Zuni and a few of my other grandparents were from various Pueblo’s throughout the area they lived in New Mexico. Because my Mom has passed we had limited ancestral history to go by and decided to Take a DNA test. Our history and genealogy was researched and well preserved by the state of New Mexico, their State genealogy dept and other similar groups within the state. I was able to get a pretty thorough background for Most of my ancestry but there are still holes and gaps where the work is still being done and seems to go blank. But everything that showed up on the ethnicities is in my genealogical records with the state of New Mexico and accurately matched up. My mother married my Dad who is an Anglo and our tests showed about 15-20% Native blood and many of our cousins are anywhere from 10%-70% Native as well. You can’t always tell by looking at people what runs through their blood but we always felt it in our hearts and souls!

Consuelo Smith

I did my DNA I’m 50% Native of America do not know what to do next or were can I go to sine


What happens if I ordered an ancestry test from 2 different companies and I got conflicting results from both? What should I do next?

Karan Derry

My adopted daughter is 25% Apache Indian, how can I find out if she is entitled to any college money?

Gina S Dickens

I did 23 an me ancestry testing. Since I am female it only gave me my Mothers side mostly. The native part is on my Fathers side. I have to get my male cousin to take the DNA test.

Millie Hue

Thanks for helping me understand that DNA testing will be able to trace our ancestors and what percentage we have regarding our race. That really made me interested, so I might try this out especially that my grandmother looks really different. I have a feeling that we might have a little bit of Spanish blood in our genes.


I had a DNA test, not to find out if I had any Native American blood but I do have .5 % .4% Native American and .1% East Asian & Native American. My purpose is to search my roots, do I have enough blood in me to continue with my quest?

Larry Jones

I was advised by the Ancestry technical staff that their lab test protocol did not identify any American Indian heritage? Both my wife and I believe we have such a heritage but the results were only western Europe. Any thoughts.

Debra A Crosby

I had the exact same result and reply when I received my results showing that I didn’t have any Native American ancestry. Family records and stories tell otherwise and I have always been very proud of my ancestry. When I received my results it was like the world came crashing down around me.

I have never known of anyone in my family being from Spain or Portugal, but there was more of a percentage from the Iberian peninsula than from Ireland – which I was told that some of my father’s ancestors were from.

Laurie Bedell

My husband did a DNA test with Ancestry and came back 66% Native American. His family roots have been traced back to Michoacán in Mexico, and most recently, found some ancestors from Spain. I know my history pretty good, so I can figure out how they ended up in central Texas. My question is: Apache or Comanche? Will a Mexican Tribal Map be a good guide for us to follow? Also, how does he join his fellow warriors tribe? We live in Normangee Texas, and I know the Caddo Indians lived and hunted here during the hunting season, but we have not been able to locate a source to answer our questions.

Hector Lopez Alvarez

I’m from Puerto Rico with 13 % native american. The Taino Indian from the Caribbeans. Can I register as a native American.

Free Email Series: What to Expect at Your First Pow Wow