DNA and Trace Amounts of Native American

Growing up, I always heard that my grandfather (on my dad’s side) was part Native American. A lot of people in the south and in the United States grow up hearing the same. Often, no one knows exactly where the rumored Native American DNA originates.

I created a family tree for my grandfather’s family over a decade ago, but I couldn’t find any Native American ancestors. In 2016, I had my grandfather take a DNA test with Ancestry.com. It was the best decision I ever made for my genealogy research.

Unfortunately, when we received my grandfather’s results, he had ZERO amount of Native American DNA. If he did have Native American somewhere in his family tree, it wasn’t showing up and was likely his fourth great-grandparents or further back.

Here is a chart of the approximate amount of DNA you inherit from each grandparent:

YOU 100%
Parents 50%
Grandparents 25%
Great-grantsparents 12.50%
Gr-Gr-Grandparents (2) 6.25%
Gr-Gr-Gr-Grandparents (3) 3.125%
Gr-Gr-Gr-Gr-Grantparents (4)  1.56%
Gr-Gr-Gr-Gr-Gr-Grandparents (5)  .78%


I used my grandfather’s test to find cousins and establish some of his great-grandparents I was unsure of. The DNA test was not a let down after all.

I wanted to use DNA to help research my grandmother’s family (also on my dad’s side), but she passed away in 2012. I was lucky enough to be able to test her brother instead (my great uncle). When I told my aunt that I was doing a DNA test for my grandmother’s side, she told me that my grandmother always said she had Native American ancestry. Hmmm…. I wasn’t so sure. I thought I would end up with results like I did with my grandfather….

But I was in for a surprise.

RC eth

My great uncle is about 1% Native American (according to Ancestry.com). Ancestry is known for their conservative estimates. I also ran his DNA through various calculators using GEDmatch.com and he is anywhere between 1% – 3% Native American.

Surprise!!! My grandmother’s family has no Native American features and I assumed they were mainly Irish and Western European.

DNA doesn’t always split evenly. It’s random. Pinpointing our Native American roots is going to take some time, if I’m even able to figure it out.

1% – 3% points towards a third or fourth great-grandparent being full-blooded Native American. You receive 3.125% of DNA from each third great-grandparent and 1.56% from each fourth great-grandparent. (Estimated.)

I am going to first focus on the most likely candidates for Native American ancestry: my grandmother’s Bullard ancestors from Robeson County, North Carolina. There are already rumors on the internet about the Bullards being Lumbee. This will be interesting to research more.

Late 2019 update: My great uncle’s DNA has updated to 1% Yucatan Peninsula (Mayan). I’ve identified a group of his shared matches with the surname Coley in their trees. They all have small amounts of Yucatan DNA as well. I am working on solving this puzzle and hope to post an update soon.

Originally posted Oct. 24, 2017
Last updated Nov. 20, 2019

One thought on “DNA and Trace Amounts of Native American

  1. Pingback: Nannie Bullard Carrell – Down Home Genealogy

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