Best DNA Test for Native Americans: Everything You Need to Know

DNA ancestry testing can be fun and informative. Learning about your genetic history can reveal the unexpected and confirm information passed down through the generations.

It’s no surprise that many Americans are curious about the possibility of finding Native Americans in their family tree. However, it’s important to remember that even the best DNA test for Native American genealogy does not automatically make you eligible for tribal membership.

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DNA testing can show you where your family originated and the migrational patterns they traveled over generations. Just as learning you have French ancestry doesn’t make you a citizen of France, discovering you have Native American DNA does not mean you are a recognized member of a Native American tribe.

Your DNA test results may encourage you to begin the process of enrollment. Becoming a tribal member is a multi-step process that requires research, proving you are descended from an originally designated member of the tribe, and completing other steps laid out by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Each Native American tribe may also have its own qualifications that must be met.

Whether your goal is to kickstart becoming a tribal member or simply learn more about your genealogy, a DNA test for Native American heritage may provide the answers you seek.

Understanding Native American DNA Testing

You want to use the best DNA test for Native American genealogy, but what does the best test look like? The fact is, not all DNA test analysis is the same. You want accurate and comprehensive DNA analysis to learn the most about your heritage. In addition, a testing company with an extensive database is best for helping you connect with others who share your DNA.

How Do Native American DNA Tests Work?

Native American history is rich, tragic, and complex. Forced relocations and other policies divided tribes and families. Connections with blood relatives and extended families were often lost over time. As a result, even people who can easily identify their Native heritage may have lost touch with family members and the cultural traditions practiced within their tribes.

An American Indian DNA test includes searching for specific genetic markers to identify indigenous ancestry. Tribal populations have unique genetic signatures that differentiate them from one another.

Mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome DNA are the most commonly used DNA markers for an indigenous DNA test. Mitochondrial DNA is passed from mothers to their children, and Y-chromosome DNA is passed from fathers to sons.

Both tests can trace direct genetic lines for hundreds (sometimes thousands) of years. When the results of these tests are combined with other genetic markers, an individual’s heritage can be identified with a high level of accuracy.

So, what can’t a Native American blood test do? No DNA test can definitively identify which specific tribe a person is descended from. Even if you have Native American DNA markers, migration and population displacement can make it very hard to trace your exact tribal roots. Even people known to belong to the same tribe have genetic variations different from their ancestors.

Ancestry DNA testing may not provide you with health information. If you want to use DNA testing to learn about potential health risks, use a company that supplies that information. Alternatively, you can upload your raw data to an analysis company specializing in health information. Some specific health issues require specialized DNA tests. If you have concerns about your family’s health history, speak with your healthcare professional.

When connecting with Native American relatives, remember that testing alone does not fill out your family tree. Only people in your testing company’s database will be included in familial searches. This is one reason why it’s important to do testing with a company with a large database.

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Choosing the Right DNA Test for Native American Ancestry

When looking for the best DNA test for Native American ancestry, it’s important to note that several different types exist. Not only are there various brands to choose from – each with its pros and cons – but the type of testing you select is also important. The four main types of DNA testing for genealogy purposes are: Y-DNA, X-DNA, mitochondrial DNA, and autosomal DNA.


Y-DNA tests trace only the patrilineal ancestry (from father to son) and are not useful for examining a female’s DNA. Y-DNA testing can provide insight into ethnicity, paternal haplogroup, and relative matches going back six generations. No information from the maternal line is available with Y-DNA testing.


X-DNA tests examine the X chromosome and can be used for females and males; however, information may be the most accurate for females. Females inherit two X chromosomes, one from their father and one from their mother, whereas males inherit one from their mother. While men can also learn valuable information from X-DNA testing, it will not give the same level of accurate information it provides for women.

Mitochondrial DNA

Mitochondrial DNA tests trace the maternal line. Everyone contains mitochondrial DNA regardless of sex. Women and men who want to learn more about their female ancestors can benefit from this DNA test. Females who want to learn more about their maternal line will benefit significantly from mitochondrial testing.

Autosomal DNA

Autosomal DNA traces both maternal and paternal lines. This type of genetic testing uses a segment of DNA that all related people share. Autosomal testing can provide cousin matches of up to six generations from the mother’s and father’s sides. It provides a high level of accuracy for ethnicity testing. Autosomal testing is known to be the most accurate for immediate family matches.

Which DNA Test Is Best for Native American Ancestry?

It depends on what you are trying to learn. If you are a male interested in knowing more about your paternal Native American roots, Y-DNA testing may be the best place to begin your search. People looking for the most information from their maternal and paternal lines may select autosomal DNA testing.

Factors to Consider before Taking a Native American DNA Test

Which DNA test is best for Native American genealogy research depends on many factors, the most important of which is accuracy. The first step is to choose a testing company with a strong reputation and a comprehensive data bank. The second step is deciding which type of testing (Y-DNA, X-DNA, mitochondrial, or autosomal) will provide the specific information you seek.

Other factors will help you choose the best DNA test for your needs. Consider whether the testing company does the following:

  • Provides affordable tests and transparent pricing
  • Offers comprehensive and accurate genetic analysis
  • Uses advanced technologies
  • Contains at least 650,000 genetic markers on the test panel, including markers that specifically identify Native American ancestry
  • Provides all four types of DNA testing, especially mitochondrial and Y-chromosome for deep ancestry
  • Maintains an extensive global database that is updated frequently
  • Provides information on haplogroups and ancestral groups
  • Clearly states privacy and security measures

Remember that the best DNA test for Native American genealogy depends on the quality and size of the sample. A good indigenous DNA test will also protect your privacy. Sharing genetic and personal information online can make you vulnerable. To start, test only with well-established, reputable companies. Saving a few dollars on test results could be costly in the long run.

In addition, always make sure to read the terms and conditions before you agree to share any personal data. In general, most companies take extra measures to ensure your privacy. However, if you don’t take the time to read the agreement policy you don’t really know if or how you are being protected.

After you purchase a DNA testing kit, you’ll probably be asked to create an account and register the kit. You may be asked several questions, such as if you consent to participate in research, or if your information can be shared with a third party. When answering these questions, keep in mind that your decisions may impact other family members.

When a family member takes a DNA test, it can reveal information about other people who share the same DNA. Sometimes that information is sensitive or has been hidden for personal reasons. Allowing your DNA analysis to be shared with others is essentially the same as sharing the DNA of your siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Opting out of third-party access and not allowing your DNA to be used for research protects your privacy and those you are related to.

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Making the Most of Your Native American DNA Test Results

Learning that you have Native American DNA is exciting, but there is much more information to explore if you choose. DNA testing can provide you with the percentage of DNA that is Native American, and – depending on which test you select – it can also show you which side of the family your Native American genes come from. If you take a DNA test for Native American benefits, there is still much work to complete.

Those interested in establishing a tribal connection and/or qualifying for enrollment as a tribal member must continue their journey with more research. Genealogical records and other documents will help you discover roots with a specific tribe.

The federal government recognizes 547 American Indian tribes, including indigenous Alaskan peoples. Finding which people, region, and tribe you are connected to can be labor-intensive.

Each tribe maintains its own criteria for becoming a member. Genealogical records and DNA testing will help you narrow the focus of your search. Once you’ve established with some accuracy which tribe or tribes you are connected to, you can contact the governing body of that community to learn about their membership criteria.

In most cases, to gain membership, you must show evidence that you have a direct relationship with a recognized member of the tribe. DNA testing can give you the starting point to prove you have Native American ancestry, but you must put in the legwork if your goal is tribal membership.

What Does Genealogical Research Entail?

Genealogical research is the sometimes painstaking process of reading through old historical documents to establish your ancestral history. Documents used for genealogical research may include but are not limited to:

  • Birth certificates
  • Adoption records
  • Death certificates
  • Marriage and divorce records
  • Newspaper articles/notices (birth, marriage, and obituary notices)
  • Wills and other probate records
  • Military records
  • Arrest records
  • School records
  • Immigration and naturalization records
  • Real estate and other business ownership records

To better understand the value of genealogical research, consider the following scenario:

Your family’s oral history has long told of Native American ancestry, but it has never been established which ancestor had Native American roots or where they were from. You take an autosomal DNA test and learn you inherited Native American DNA from your matrilineal line.

By researching adoption records, you can confirm that your 3x great-grandfather on your mother’s side was Lakota and was born in Oklahoma. His name was changed at adoption, and his history and his adoptive parents (your 4x great-grandparents) never spoke about his indigenous roots. Over time, the specific information about your Native American grandfather was lost.

Because you had a DNA test done and followed up with research, you have restored your ancestor’s personal identity and established your family’s Native American connection. With more research, you may be able to determine which of the seven Lakota tribes your ancestor was from and qualify for tribal membership (if that is your goal).

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Leveraging GenealogyBank for Native American Ancestry Research

Genealogical research can be time-consuming, but it is also enjoyable. Many people think of genealogy as a puzzle they look forward to solving. Good resources are key to success, whether you are an experienced researcher or a beginner in genealogy. GenealogyBank is a comprehensive research platform where you can find billions of newspaper articles, government records, and other historical documents to aid your ancestry search.

One of the most significant benefits of GenealogyBank is its easy use. You simply enter your last name and the GenealogyBank search engine explores all its records looking for information that may be pertinent to your family. When you want to narrow your search, simply use the intuitive filters to focus on a specific keyword, a location, or a timeframe.

You can also save searches, download images, and share discoveries with other GenealogyBank members. Some of the documents you will have access to include:

  • Newspaper and historical obituaries dating back to 1690
  • S. Census Records as early as 1790
  • Government publications from 1789 to 1994
  • Social Security records
  • You will also have access to historical books, newspaper archives, and more

Access to these vital records will help you uncover your past and understand more about the information in your DNA analysis. GenealogyBank maintains one of the most extensive collections of online obituaries and newspaper records available anywhere.

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12 Tips for Making the Most of GenealogyBank

Interested in getting your ancestry search started? There are a few essential things to know before beginning your search. Only members can access the nearly endless number of documents available at GenealogyBank. The first step is to sign up for full access. Then use the following tips.

(1) Narrow Your Search

Search by dates, names, and locations to avoid being overwhelmed with documents. Using more details in your search will provide information that is more likely to be helpful. You will be given many forms of documentation that match your search criteria.

(2) Understand the Platform

GenealogyBank is not a family tree builder. It is an information database where you can find information about your family’s history that you can then apply to your family tree.

(3) Start with What You Know

Not all family stories are 100% accurate, but start the search for your Native American heritage with the information that’s readily available. Speak with family members and review family records to establish timelines and give your research direction.

(4) Make a Plan

What is it you want to know? Genealogical research can take you down many rabbit holes if you let it. What questions about your Native American heritage would you like to answer first? Establish a goal and stick with a research plan to help you meet it.

(5) Learn from Marriage Certificates

Study marriage certificates for biographical information on the bride and groom. Look for wedding announcements to discover attendees who may be able to offer information or even photos of the event.

(6) Don’t Forget Your Ancestors’ Networks

Original records like those available at GenealogyBank are priceless when it comes to research, but so are the first-hand accounts from your ancestors’ friends, neighbors, and extended family members. They may not remember all the details accurately, but the recollections of your ancestors’ peers can help lead you to new information.

(7) Remember the Value of Newspaper Coverage

Search over 330 years of U.S. newspaper coverage for hometown news, photos, birth and death announcements, and more. Newspaper accounts can help you fill the blank spots in your family history and lead you to new information you’ve never heard before.

(8) Read the Obituaries

Obituaries not only provide information about how and when your ancestors died but also offer insight into what was happening during that person’s lifetime. This can be helpful when tracking information about specific Native American tribes that may not have kept a written record of their migrations or activities.

(9) Stay Organized

Develop a filing system of some kind that keeps documents safe and organized. This is a vital tip if you are researching to help qualify for tribal membership. Your documentation must be readable, genuine, and factual.

(10) Keep Talking

Share your information with other family members and interested friends. Your research may uncover a puzzle piece that jogs someone else’s memory or excites them about helping you search.

(11) Expect Surprises

Genealogical research can sometimes lead to surprises about family members and family history. Some of this new information will be exciting, but sometimes research uncovers painful secrets. Be prepared for some ups and downs, and don’t be too disappointed if not every family member shares your interest in learning more.

(12) Embrace Who You Are

Whether you confirm you are of Native American descent or learn that a family member may have been exaggerating about their heritage, taking an American Indian blood test can lead to a better understanding of yourself and your family.

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Putting the DNA Pieces Together

The best DNA test for Native American ancestry is the one that meets your needs. As long as your analysis company has a strong record of professionalism, protects your privacy, and maintains a comprehensive, frequently updated database to help you build a family tree, your personal goals will help you choose the right DNA test.

However, DNA is only the beginning. Genealogical research with the help of GenealogyBank will help you fit the pieces into a clear image.

If you are interested in learning about your Native American heritage, or if you are taking on the more serious task of documenting your ancestry for tribal membership, the resources available at GenealogyBank can help.

Our extensive collection includes exclusive archives, birth records, family history databases, Native American records, and more. Uncover your heritage’s fascinating stories and rich legacy with our reliable and comprehensive resources. With an experienced research team on hand to answer questions and guide your research journey, and powerful search capabilities to find the answers you need, GenealogyBank can make your research easier.

Contact GenealogyBank today to learn more and start your ancestry journey. You can email us at:, or call toll-free: 1-866-641-3297 (Mon-Fri 7 am-6 pm MST).

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Note on the header image: DNA double helix horizontal. Credit: Jerome Walker; Wikipedia.

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4 thoughts on “Best DNA Test for Native Americans: Everything You Need to Know

  1. Best DNA Test for Native Americans: Thank you for this article. My grandparents’ Bible states that a great-great grandmother had an American Indian bloodline. I’m trying to make the connection using DNA testing. This article is a valuable guide to point me in the right direction.

  2. It would be nice if this article included a list of testing facilities that match the required criteria for testing, and possibly the pros and cons of each.

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