Asks the Question: Is It Possible to Determine One’s Native American Ancestry?

March 30 08:55 2023 Asks the Question: Is It Possible to Determine One’s Native American Ancestry?

Maybe stories have been passed down through generations of one’s family, discussing a long-lost Native ancestor’s adventures. Perhaps a grandparent or great-grandparent is part Native, but adoption cut them off from that part of the family. No matter why one’s here, we’ll do our best to help one determine if one has Native American lineage and what it means for one.

Can one Find Out if one’s Part Native?

The answer to this question is multifaceted, depending on how far back one’s Native ancestry goes. Along with validated records, the easiest way to determine one’s lineage is with a DNA test. These tests provide additional info on a person’s genetic makeup, and the more recent the ancestor is, the greater the likelihood of a positive reading. There are over 550 Native American groups, and while DNA tests can identify most of them, they cannot find them all. 

Where Do Native Americans Come From?

According to, the ancestors of today’s Native Americans came over a frozen land bridge between Siberia and what is now Alaska approximately 15,000 to 30,000 years ago. The route was impassable before, which made North and South America one of the planet’s least habited landmasses. Genetic research and recordkeeping suggest that these Asian explorers moved across the Americas, forming hundreds of unique cultures, groups, and societies. With that information in mind, perhaps It’s Time to Rethink the Idea of the “Indigenous”.

Known as Paleoamericans, these early natives settled large parts of what is now known as the United States and Canada, as well as parts of Central and South America. After the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492, many of these people lost their ancestral lands, and discriminatory policies often left them with nothing. Today, there are more than five million Natives in the United States, with one-fifth of the population living on reservation lands.

Are There Non-Scientific Ways to Find one’s Native American Roots?

DNA tests are extremely helpful when looking into one’s ancestry, but they only tell part of the story. If one’s looking for information on one’s ancestry, there are other places to find it, such as:

  • Census records

  • Variations of known ancestors’ names. Many Native American names were Anglicized and misspelled.

  • Adoption records

  • Documentation of genetic disorders that run in families and are common in Native groups

  • Migration histories

  • Family stories and beliefs that seem to be rooted in Native American history

  • Wartime records

If looking in the above areas yields no results, but one still believes there’s a Native American connection in one’s family, try contacting local groups directly. It’s crucial to make these information requests respectfully, as many groups don’t take distant relationships very seriously.

Is it Easy to Learn About one’s Native Heritage?

Here’s where the answers start to get complicated. While the testing services provided by various companies are accurate and provide useful answers, they don’t always give the level of clarity users expect. In some cases, little DNA is passed from one generation to the next, limiting the scope of the answers provided by these tests. Relying solely on genetic testing to learn about one’s Native heritage would exclude numerous methods and tools with which history can be researched. Genealogy Bank allows users to trace their Native ancestry through marriage and birth announcements, tribal records, census records, and more.

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