Cherokee DNA

First, the readers should understand that if any commercial DNA lab returns tests results that state a percentage of DNA for a particular Southeastern Native American tribe, the report should be considered fraudulent. The American Society of Human Genetics has not certified any DNA test markers to be associated with a particular Southeastern American Indian tribe. 1Marks, Jonathon & Shelton, Brooks Lee, Genetic Markers- Not a Valid Test of Native Identity The technique for creating indigenous DNA markers is to sample a statistically reliable number of “ethnically pure” members of a tribe than average their DNA profiles. Since the people who met the first European explorers on the shores of the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific are genetically not the same people calling themselves Native Americans today, it is a very difficult task. Virtually, no citizen of a federally recognized Southeastern tribe could maintain their membership, if it was based solely on the DNA profiles of pre-Spanish Conquest individuals.

There are DNA test markers for some other indigenous peoples in the Americas, such as the Nahuatl, Totonac, Maya, Purepeche, Tupi-Guarani and Quechua peoples. Some labs will provide an overall percentage of Asiatic DNA then ascribe a certain percentage to known DNA markers. Creek and Seminole descendants usually carry some identifiable DNA markers from Mexico, Central America and South America. Test results showing such ancestry are probably reliable.

Several commercial DNA labs for years have been trying to identify a pattern of DNA markers that would prove Cherokee ancestry. The reason is that perhaps over a million Americans claim Cherokee ancestry. There is big money to be had in people who think that their great-grandmother was a Cherokee Princess.

DNA Spectrum and 23ANDME DNA labs specifically advertise for Cherokee DNA tests in Google, but do not give reports that say a person is “Cherokee.” When a person searching the web double-clicks “Cherokee DNA tests” they are transferred to promotional web pages that do not mention “Cherokee.”

As DNA tests became more sophisticated in the first decade of the 21st century, some people who thought they were of Cherokee descent begin getting reports that told them they carried Jewish, Semitic or Middle Eastern DNA, but made no mention of Native American DNA. The test subjects originally thought that they had been defrauded. They KNEW that they had Cherokee ancestors on tribal rolls!

DNA Consultants Cherokee Study

Map of Known Human Migrations
Map of Known Human Migrations

In 2008 DNA Consultants, Inc. initiated comprehensive DNA testing of the Cherokees living on the Qualla Reservation in western North Carolina. The North Carolina Cherokees were chosen because after 180 years in the west, Oklahoma Cherokees are so thoroughly mixed with other ethnic groups, that any DNA test marker obtained would be meaningless.

The laboratory immediately stumbled into a scientific hornet’s nest when the results were issued on a press release in April 2010. 2Cherokee DNA Project That Cherokee princess in someone’s genealogy was most likely a Middle Eastern or North African princess. Its scientists have labeled the Cherokees not as Native Americans, but as a Middle Eastern-North African population. The implication is that they are indeed, the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. DNA Consultants, has now tested a much larger population on the North Carolina Reservation and gotten similar results.   The Cherokees seem to be the people that Brent Kennedy thought the Melungeons were.

The Cherokees tested had high levels of DNA test markers associated with the Berbers, native Egyptians, Turks, Lebanese, Hebrews and Mesopotamians. Genetically, they are more Jewish than the typical American Jew of European ancestry. So-called “full-blooded” Cherokees had high levels of European DNA and a trace of Asiatic (Native American) DNA. 80 Some “card-carrying” Cherokees had almost no Asiatic DNA. The European DNA contained a much higher level of DNA test markers associated with the Iberian Peninsula that was typical of Caucasian Americans. The level of haplogroup T in the Cherokee (26.9%) approximated the percentage for Egypt (25%), one of the only lands where T attains a major position among the various mitochondrial lineages. The lab claims that their skin color and facial features are primarily Semitic in origin, not Native American.

Another commercial DNA lab, Family Tree in Houston, TX has recently announced its own Cherokee Study Project. Family Tree has worked with Melungeon organizations for eight years. Family Tree has not made any public announcements concerning the results of its tests.

Statistical Bias

The scientific procedures of statistical analysis mandate a random population sample. Soliciting DNA tests from volunteers automatically makes the results biased. This is especially relevant to the North Carolina Cherokee Reservation. Cherokee citizens with the highest percentage of non-Northern European DNA tend to live in remote mountain cabins and avoid contact with non-Cherokees. They would be far less likely to participate in a voluntary DNA sampling effort than those Cherokees with high levels of European DNA. This has been a fact of Cherokee culture since the creation of the Cherokee Nation in Georgia in 1794.

Inadequate Geographical Coverage

There are major inaccuracies in most articles about this controversy. Both DNA Consultants and journalists are inferring that the research results from the Qualla Reservation apply to all Cherokees. Genetic research associated with the filming of the History Channel’s “America Unearthed” found separate populations of Cherokees outside the reservation with very different genetic profiles. In several counties, the “Cherokees” had profiles identical to Georgia Creeks, and often carried Maya DNA like the Georgia Creeks. In one Georgia county, the “Cherokees” had much higher levels of probable Native American DNA than found on the Cherokee Reservation in North Carolina. However, their Native American DNA was predominantly Quechua from South America, or else mixed Quechua, Maya and probable Creek. 3Thornton, Richard. South American and Mayan DNA Discovered in Southern Appalachians. Examiner.com. January 10, 2012.

Many of the residents of the Snowbird Cherokee Reservation in Graham County, NC look like the Zoque Indians of Mexico, who created the Olmec Civilization. 4The author camped out near the Snowbird Reservation in the winter and spring of 2010. He has traveled extensively in southern Mexico and conversed with Zoque Indians there. These Cherokees are called “Moon Faces” by the Cherokees on the main reservation. There is also a significant portion of the Snowbird Cherokees, who were originally Yuchi Indians from the Cohutta Mountains of northern Georgia. The Snowbird Cherokees evidently were not tested by DNA Consultants, Inc. or at least not treated as a separate DNA Study Group – Their “Oriental” physical appearance suggests a much higher level of Native American DNA than was found on the main Cherokee Reservation.

There is also the problem of the Lower and Valley Cherokees. Their former town names indicate a significant Muskogean and Caribbean heritage. Although the languages of these two original branches of the Cherokees became extinct because of disastrous military losses to the Creeks and British military forces, there was much intermarriage between Cherokee towns prior to then in order to cement political ties. Families descended from these two branches of the Cherokee will have very different DNA patterns than those descended from Overhill and Middle Cherokees (Qualla Reservation area.)

Ethnic Isolates

In 1794 the Federal government gave the Cherokees most of northwest and north central Georgia. In the mountainous sections of this new Cherokee Nation, were other ethnic groups. Their names survive as the names of mountains, creeks and rivers. There are relatively few true Cherokee place names in the entire Southern Highlands. From that day forward, the federal government labeled these minorities as “Cherokees.” Since the Cherokees were more interested in the fertile, riverine bottomlands of northwest Georgia, most, if not all of the minorities were allowed to remain. Because of their relatively small numbers, these minorities were far more likely to have concealed their locations from federal and state troops assigned to round-up the Cherokees. However, virtually all their descendants in Georgia today call themselves Cherokees. Physically, they bear little resemblance to Qualla Cherokees.

Impact of Slave Raids

The interpretation of the Cherokee DNA study completely ignored the typical tactics of Rickohocken and Cherokee slave raiders. It is well documented that when at the peak of their military power, slave raiders labeled “Cherokee” ranged from Lake Erie to southern Florida to the Mississippi River. They targeted pre-adolescents, teenage females and young females. Teenage and adult males were killed in battle or tortured to death afterward. The heads of toddlers who were too young to walk to coastal slave markets were bashed against rocks. The elderly were left to starve to death. Particularly attractive young females were often kept as concubines, slaves or even wives rather than sold at slave markets on the Atlantic Coast. This is why Cherokee pottery seems to be the creation of women who were not fully trained in the sophisticated techniques of pottery making and decoration seen in Muskogean, Mississippi Basin and Caddo societies in the Southeast.

There were two genetic results of these brutal tactics. Mitochondrial DNA from much of eastern North America was imported into the Cherokee Nation. A much lesser proportion of Y-chromosome DNA from Eastern North America was imported from the male pre-adolescents.

Perhaps the biggest flaw in the interpretation of the Cherokee DNA study was this statement; “The Middle Eastern DNA could not possibly have resulted from post-1492 mixing.” This statement was an effort to present the Cherokees as the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. The DNA interpretation assumed that the Cherokees had always lived in western North Carolina, and therefore the parent population in 1492 already carried Middle Eastern DNA. Several of the Middle Eastern DNA test markers were traced back to pre-Roman Period female ancestors. It was then interpolated that this is when the ancestors of the Cherokees arrived in western North Carolina from the Middle East. The report stated that it was impossible for the offspring of intermittent reproduction between Cherokee females and Middle Eastern males in the Colonial Period to produce a widespread presence of Middle Eastern DNA test markers in the Cherokees. Such would not be the case, if the base population was Middle Eastern colonists and the Native American component was added on an intermittent basis.

Mysterious Core Group of the Cherokees

Despite all the official Cherokee histories, official State of North Carolina proclamations, “Cherokees-were-the-original-Native-Americans” documentary films and unofficial Cherokee History web sites to the contrary, there is absolutely no archaeological or linguistic evidence that the Cherokee Indians were in North Carolina until the very late 1600s, if not later. Multiple eyewitness accounts by Spanish, French and English explorers placed the Shawnees, Muskogeans, more recently arrived Arawaks/South Americans, Spanish/Portuguese speaking colonists and African colonists throughout the “Cherokee Homeland” as much as 125 years before the word “Cherokee” appeared in an official document.

Whatever Native American tribe entered the Southern Appalachians from the west, as described by Principal Chief Charles Hicks, was a genetic admixture to a Middle Eastern colonial population, not the other way around. About the only factual clues that might aid the discovery of this mystery tribe’s identity is that this group used the prefix or suffix “ani” to mean nation, province, clan or tribe. It is also known that the Cherokees originally built round huts that were supported by large posts in the walls.

At this time, the ethnic identity of the people who entered the Southern Appalachians from the west remains a mystery. It is fairly certain that this tribe was militarily powerful, because it caused a complete reshuffling of ethnic locations in the Southeast and became the core of an alliance that dominated the Southeast between 1717 and 1738.   The British created a mega-tribe around the core of these invaders to successfully thwart French colonial ambitions.

The core group of Cherokees may have well been the offspring of multi-ethnic spouses with Native American spouses, or perhaps two multi-ethnic spouses. Throughout the early history of the Southeast, the offspring of mixed-ethnic marriage often married in different directions. Those that looked the most “white” either married similar looking spouses or sought to completely “whiten” the appearance of their children by marrying a full-blooded European. Those who looked the most “non-white,” married spouses, who were from non-white parents.

This pattern was evident in the author’s own family during the late 18th and all of the 19th century. Because of the extreme Creek Indian taboo against miscegenation, young people traveled repeatedly from Ruckers Bottom, GA to Ninety-six, SC, Anderson County, SC, Hawkinsville, GA and Irwin County, GA to find spouses. During that period these were other Itsate Creek communities from which the young people could chose spouses who looked like Creek Indians, but not closely related by family or clan ties.

In 1848 a journalist from Kentucky arrived on Newman’s Ridge in northeastern Tennessee. Upon returning home, he told the legend of the Melungeons. 5Unknown. The Melungens. Littel’s Living Age. March 1849 He wrote that they were descended from Portuguese adventurers who had mixed with the Indians in the Carolinas and upon their arrival in Tennessee had mixed with the Indians, whites and blacks of that area. Given the evidence, this is as good as explanation as any. The Melungeons may be the descendants of Mediterranean-African-Indigenous-North European intermarriages that didn’t really look “Indian” but didn’t look Northern European either.

The origin of the core group of Cherokees may well have been the offspring of mixed-ethnic pairings who looked so non-European that they coalesced into bands and villages, then in to small tribes, then upon the manipulation of British officials, into a large Cherokee Tribe. After then, wave after wave of Native American captives or refugees from remnant tribes added Native American DNA to the gene pool. This theory is one of the few that could explain why a region in northeastern Tennessee that contained Spanish/Portuguese-speaking towns, African settlers, mullato settlers, Middle Eastern settlers, Jewish settlers and northern European settlers during the late 1600s, could also be simultaneously labeled the original heartland of the Cherokee People in the 1700s.

Perhaps something else should be mentioned. “Ani”, the Cherokee word for nation, province, tribe or clan, is also the name of the medieval capital of Armenia, when it composed most of eastern Anatolia. It was known as the “City of Churches” and with 200,000 people, was one of the largest cities in the world.

The word “ani” in Christian Eastern Anatolia meant nation or capital city. It still means the same in non-Turkish regions of eastern Anatolia. Muslim Turks use the word in a pejorative manner to mean “small town” or the boonies. As stated in an earlier chapter, the letters of the Late Medieval writing system used in the city of Ani are virtually identical to the letters of Sequoya’s original syllabary, but are different than the Cherokee syllabary used today, that was created by Rev. Samuel Worcester and Elias Boudinot.

Armenia was the first Christian nation in the world. It was conquered by the Muslims in the late Middle Ages. During the 1500s, it was a bloody killing field as Muslim Turks and Muslim Persians fought over the region. In 1604, the Persians deported about 300,000 Christian Anatolians living in the region around Mount Ararat (as in the story of Noah’s Ark.) These Christians were not wanted in Muslim Turkey and so were forced to wander about the Mediterranean Basin.

The people of eastern Anatolia are a mixture of many ethnic groups that include Greeks, Galatians (Celts), Turks, Mesopotamians, Jews, Egyptians, North Africans, Romans and Circassians. Their DNA profile would probably be very similar to those obtained by DNA Consultants, Inc. at the North Carolina Cherokee Reservation. As stated above, a mid-19th century newspaper reporter described the Melungeons as looking like Circassians.

The word, Anatolia, literally means, “Land of the Sunrise” in Greek.  When British officials asked the famous Cherokee leader, Atta Kulla Kulla, from where the Cherokee’s ancestors came. He said, “Our ancestors came from the Land of the Sunrise.” The Cherokee chief’s real name was Atta Kullak Ula, which means “Rider of a roan colored horse” in Anatolian.

There is still much research to be done in the Southern Appalachians.

Footnotes:   [ + ]

1.Marks, Jonathon & Shelton, Brooks Lee, Genetic Markers- Not a Valid Test of Native Identity
2.Cherokee DNA Project
3.Thornton, Richard. South American and Mayan DNA Discovered in Southern Appalachians. Examiner.com. January 10, 2012.
4.The author camped out near the Snowbird Reservation in the winter and spring of 2010. He has traveled extensively in southern Mexico and conversed with Zoque Indians there.
5.Unknown. The Melungens. Littel’s Living Age. March 1849
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75 thoughts on “Cherokee DNA”

  1. My DNA test showed an interestingly large amount of Middle Eastern/South Asian DNA that isn’t founded by my family tree research, as well as Melanesian/Polynesian DNA. Not only that but North African as well.
    I do show Native American DNA on-top of that.
    I’m also an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, with strong roots within the tribe and culture. I think that this is a wonderful article, and kind of has helped me understand some hypothesis on where this strange DNA has come from. The world is such a fascinating place.

  2. How many Spanish explorers came to America and had an input into the dna of the American indian tribes?One of my MtDna surnames is De Soto,not saying I am kin to De Soto the explorer but I do have a degree on native American.And as far as Jewish is concerned how many Jewish sailors were there among the explorers.You wold have to go back in time and and find some bones to test in order to find the true DNA.

  3. This article and replies relates to my family/genealogy research as well.
    I am still searching for the elusive information on my Native American ancestors — thankfully, varied database comparisons (GEDmatch, FtDNA, Geni, MyHeritage) show small percentages of Jewish ancestry, Middle Eastern, South Asian, West Asian, Italian, and other regions — the most unusual result? To me , it is the “Beringaria” shown trhough a comparison on GEDmatch.
    So…the question of Native American ancestry “HAS” been answered (‘positive’), now the quest to have my family tree to show who they were.
    This quest, means I am reviewing hundreds of others’ family pedigrees, in hopes of finding, and documenting these direct connections.

  4. So knowing I have an estors from the Georgia area I guess explains why my DNA shows as Native American, and (Quechua) Inca Andean Native American. Is this clan / band specific?

  5. I am doing a DNA searched now, I am looking for my mom’s side of the family. She lived on an Indian reservation and her mom was Indian. She told me that when she was 4/5 years ago, she was taken by a women, they moved, her name was changed from Odella to Leala, she was born in Missouri. I am trying to find the reservations around the area where she was born. Any suggestions?

    Thanks Frieda Lowery

  6. So, a question for someone that might know. My great grandmother is in the Cherokee book of names. Will that alone show Cherokee bloodline with documents leading to me? Or do you need a DNA test too?

  7. Sam I am 45 My brother had Ancestry.com run his DNA. We were always told we were part Cherokee. Our grandfather was one of the first of our family not born on the Cherokee Reservation. A Couple of ancestors were born on the Choctaw Reservation. My family migrated from North & South Carolina to Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas to Oklahoma along with a lot of other Cherokees. We are not on the Dawes rolls except as rejected by the Choctaw ( which is where my ancestors lived when they did the Dawes rolls). Apparently even though they all looked like indians, they had blue eyes by then so no tribe would enroll them. My brother’s DNA came back 2% Jewish, 2% middle eastern, 10% Meso-American (Mayan, Aztec or Oltec, pre 1492), no Iberian peninsula, no African. Most of the rest of his markers were Danish, British Isles and eastern European. So the mystery has not been solved yet as to what we really are, except that we are not Mexican, Italian or Greek. In the meantime a lot of us have olive skin, very dark brown/black hair, roman noses and blue eyes. Since I am female my DNA markers are not close to my brother’s and he is my only brother. We would just like to know where some of the family traits came from and why our family emigrated with the Cherokee and lived on reservations until the late 1800’s. My great grandparents insisted the reason they left OK was because the Indians were prejudiced against them and so were the whites and they had had enough and wanted a fresh start.

    1. Try dna consultants for their Melungeon fingerprint test. Your story sounds incredibly familiar to many who were told we were Cherokee. And you may be part native. My guess is you are Melungeon and there is some middle eastern floating around too. May I ask what part of the country your family or ancestors are from? Appalachia? Dark skin light eyes? Anyone with 6 fingers but that isn’t unusual. Anatolian ridge. Shovel teeth. Perhaps 3 roots in molars. Sarcoidosis. Certain counties lived in. Certain last names. I test for Portuguese Native American Jewish Eastern European lumbee a tribe from Brazil a tribe from Mexico that has high European dna. Scottish Irish welsh basque German French

    2. Upload all Raw DNA to Gedmatch! My American Indian DNA only shows up there!

      Facts to consider:

      1. American Indian DNA may not be inherited by every descendant. Siblings can have different results.
      2. Each Generation the % reduces in half. Therefore, by the 6th generation only 3% could show up!
      (100%, 50%, 25%, 12%, 6%, 3%, 0%). This is estimated by depends on what genes you may have inherited.
      3. Many Early Colonist left the settlements and join the Natives, history only mentions this without further genealogy evidence.
      4. There were Native American Slaves, and some even owned Slaves. This is also slightly mentioned and it is difficult to find genealogy evidence.
      5. Some DNA Relatives may be found with high British/Irish, Iberian, slight Sub-African, slight Jewish. I see this pattern often.
      6. Some American Indian DNA Relatives with high DNA for Native American don’t even know where their DNA comes from!
      7. Chiefs had several wives & many children. Those “Cherokee Princess” stories may actually be a clue! Although many discredit this oral history, it was the Whites that refered such Titles. Perhaps it is of those who left the Colonies & joined the Natives? I keep open mind to all stories.
      8. Upload All Raw DNA to GEDMATCH! My American Indian DNA was found here! Use the World Reports.

      1. PS, More Facts:
        Another Pattern I have noticed in my Research is that Many of my Southern (Confederate) Ancestors moved North & West and changed their names slightly. Some of my Northern Ancestors (Union) moved South after the Civil War! This may Confuse Genealogists. American Indians fought in every American War. They were given White Names, and many mixed families were considered White, Black or Mulatto depending on their inherited skin color and the Census Taker’s Opinion. In the 1800s, American Indian Mixed Families hid their Native Nationality to avoid Discrimination. Even in the 1900s, there were many Schools set up that forced the Native out & to adhere to White Standards & White Names. Discrimination continues and many Family Tree Brick Walls may lack evidence due to such.

  8. My DNA results from two companies indicate 18% West Asian (I.e. Armenian) ,as indicated by one company, and 17% West Asian/Caucasus). I was totally confounded by these results!! I expected that % amount for Native American. My great-grandmother, grandmother, and father were born in the northeastern part of North Carolina, I.e. Duplin County). There was and is still a good amount of Cherokee people there. Also, when I asked my father whether my great-grandmother had NA relatives due to hers and my grandmother’s physical looks, he told me that she was part NA. I got very excited upon reading this article, particularly because I had difficulty relating to being that much West Asian since I’d always been told I was part NA. Thanks for the info in article and comments.

  9. Phyllis Samantha Long

    I’ve had this happen to me as well. My grandpa’s grandmother was Cherokee (100%). My mother and my grandpa both looked it (tan skin, dark eyes, dark hair). Well I did the DNA test and it showed no Cherokee (Native American), at all. But it did come back as Iberian peninsula (5%), Middle Eastern (2%), European Jewish (1%), and African Southeastern Bantu (1%). Which is strange because we have none of those that we know of on our lineage. The only other traces were British and Scots-Irish (and all of that is traced by records).

    1. export your data to my heritage and family tree dna, Iberian you mentioned plus Jewish on one company is actually Sephardi on others. one company had my dad as 3% bantu, it’s not – it’s M. Eastern. I won’t do the whole family breakdown but it shows similar to those regions (I should say I’m Jewish, and we did y-dna and mtdna).

  10. By my family tree, 3/4 of my grandparents were descendants of Attakullakulla. My father is from removal, my mother’s line from rural Alabama. My DNA is that 98% N. European.
    My original test on 23&me gave a trace of Jewish ancestry which has since changed.

    I have taken National Geographic, 23&me, and MyHeritage DNA tests, the most thorough of which is 23&me, but My Heritage helped me build a family tree. Most of my ancestors were early colonists.

    1. My ancestors were also early colonist. I know of two Native Americans in my tree. My 23andme said I am Iberian & Jewish slightly. When I uploaded to Gedmatch, My Native American showed up, along with other nationalities & even South American DNA. This only proves that the Native Races mixed. All Native Americans are not of the same people. Research has found that there was likely 3 migrations to America (North East Coast, North West Land Bridge and South American East Coast likely from African Ships or Egyptian Ships). Ships capable of sailing the seas were built long before 1500s. Archeologists have found ancient burials dating 16,000 + years old. Our True History of the World is still Debatable. It’s a shame these things are not studied deeper & added to American History books.

  11. We were told our entire lives that we were part Cherokee. My grandfather and his 11 siblings all look like they just walked off the reservation. They all were olive skinned,dark haired and very ethnic looking except they all had blue eyes. Our family appears in North Carolina, then immigrated from there to Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama (Trail of Tears) , Missouri then the reservation in Oklahoma with the majority of my grandfathers generation being born in Oklahoma on reservations. My great grand parents said they left OK because of prejudices against people with mixed Indian blood. Whites didn’t want them nor did the Indian tribes.
    My family traveled from NC to OK at the same time as the Cherokee and followed the same pathall the way from NC and at the same time. During the Dawes Rolls we were living on the Choctaw reservation in Missouri and they didn’t want to claim us, so we do not appear on any naive American rolls. My brother and several male cousins have done dna testing done & test out between 10-26% Mesoamerican with the rest of their dna makeup being eastern European, but no Iberian peninsula. So I guess that kind of supports some of your testing but still leaves us wondering what our heritage is.

  12. I absolutely share in this mystery,.My maternal Grandmother from.Appalachia,who’s ancestors were colonial Virginian and from.the Carolinas,told everyone ,very certain,of her North Carolina Cherokee ancestry.Our mother and father were so convinced of this,we reminded of the heritage most of our young lives.Several months ago,I purchased dma kits from myheritage for my now adult daughters ,as gifts.When my daughters results came in,..1.9 percent North African,0.9,west Asian,1 percent Nigerian,my daughter called right away to inquire if this was correct.My younger daughter received her results,0.8 middle eastern,and now both girls hoping to.understand the results.One tested with ancestry,she now showed iberian,south Asian,and Caucasus,and my younger daughter joined gedmatch which confirmed the Mediterranean dna trace region,with north African,both girls,west Asian,and both showed small.trace amerindian and kenwhick man.Fascinating and exciting,certainly hope this mystery can be solved oneday

  13. There is no question that the Native American population was largely descendant from two initial founding populations, 1) the Asiatic component, and 2) the Eurasian Hunter Gatherers (which predate modern Europeans). I suspect that the Eastern Woodland Indians would have much more of the Eurasian Hunter Gatherer genetics than the rest of Native American population, thus a more European-like genetic paradigm that would be related to the more arcane isolate populations of the Iberian peninsula and remote Eurasian populations which are descendants of the hunter gatherers and first farmers of the European region. Thus, you would expect Basque, Sardinian, Belarus, sub groups in Poland, etc. where the least genetically admixed descendants of the first Europeans, namely hunter and gatherers, are found.

    1. Absolutely on gedmatch I test for French basque some Sardinian Iberian and Belarus. Serbia Poland Croatia. I was really surprised with the basque.

    2. After six months of attempting to solve this mystery,I am learning so much about our country,its history,and that colonial America,and Western Europe were a very diverse centre,and we are truly seeing history play out in our fascinating DNA results! You see the historical migrations,the Atlantic and Ottoman slave trades,wars,invasions,.Remarkable to be able to learn.so much,and go so far back in our history! My daughters dna.results ,as well as other relatives is absolutely fascinating,Appalachian is a very historical,and mysterious place.We all the research continues,absolutely astonishing!

  14. After reading the comments from everyone I feel like I’m not alone in my quest to find out the answer behind my DNA. My great grandmother knew she was Native American and always said we were Muskogean Creek. she knew all the medicinal plants and her mother lived along chipola creek in Florida but I cannot find any paper trail for Native American documentation. I have done the chromosome painting from GEDmatch and it’s very apparent I have a Native American ancestor because it showed up on several of my chromosomes as Amerindian & 1% Siberian, Eskimo & mesoamerican. My mom took a DNA tests and it came back 3% Greek, 2% west Asian, 1%middle eastern 2% Jewish and we have no history of any of those origins in our family so I’m almost positive it has to be from our creek ancestors who may have actually been Cherokee? I’m happy to know there are other people with my same questions and that my ancestors stories are true.

  15. This is an excellent article that really helped me better understand my Ancestry.com DNA results. I wanted to post my story and the pertinent DNA results to possibly help others out who had similar results. I grew up in Western North Carolina and have genealogical proof that my great grandmother was a Cherokee from the Qualla Boundary. My Ancestry.com DNA test came back 12% “Iberian Peninsula,” 1% “European Jewish,” 1% “Caucasus,” 1% “North Africa”; a similar mix to so many others who can demonstrably prove by other means that they are, indeed, Cherokee. If you have a similar story, please post here. Help establish a pattern and help researchers who can possibly sort this out in the near future. Thank you.

    1. My 2nd great-grandmother (b. 1854) identified as part Cherokee Indian, and from her photos, I can see she looked NA. She said it was through her mother’s mother (b. abt 1764, North Carolina). Ancestry.com says I don’t have any NA, but when I looked into it, it’s clear they don’t even acknowledge the Eastern tribes. Look at their list of NAs. No Cherokee or other Eastern tribes. However, it tells me I’m 4% Iberian, 2% Caucasus, and 1% North African. And GEDmatch tells me I’ve got some “American Indian”, so as far as I’m concerned, DNA has verified what my 2nd great-grandmother knew.

      1. Rebecca—I feel the same as you. Like you, I’ve always been told my great or great-great grandmother was Native American, possibly Cherokee. She looked NA—my cousin even has her (very long, very dark) braid. My DNA shows only 1-3% NA—but I have a rather high percentage of “Mediterranean Race.” (GEDMatch)—almost 33%—14% of which is Iberian (Ancestry)—but also N. African, Middle Eastern, S. Europe, etc. I haven’t researched EVERY ancestry line—but I have all of my grandparents–at least as far back as the 1800s—a few much further than that. I’ve never ran across an Italian, Spaniard, Arab, etc. Not one. ALL of my grandparents back to the early 1800s/late 1700s were in America except one—who immigrated from England. I can’t believe if a couple of Iberians, etc exist in my heritage pre-1800, they would comprise over 30% of my DNA! That’s just not logical. I too, believe my high Mediterranean DNA verifies my NA heritage. It’s the only thing that makes sense.

    2. I am a registered Cherokee through my mom. I am 1/8th and Nat Geo and 23 and Me confirmed that I am slightly less than 1/8th (I found out my great great grandmother was 7/8th not full). I did the Cherokee DNA test and they say I have a trace of Cherokee DNA. The Native American results from them was Colombian, Mexican, and Florida. I am going to call them next week because their report is hard to understand. I am only 1.5% Iberian and 0.2% North Africa. I can prove I’m Cherokee through my great grandmother who is on the Dawes Roll.

    3. Harry,
      I am so glad you posted your DNA. My 3rd Great Grandfather was Supposedly Indian. On census it states he was born in Indian Territory. But according to My DNA I am not Native American. When I read this article and viewed all the posts I think Maybe I am. My Ancestry DNA Test Came back 7% Iberian Peninsula, 5% Europe East, 2% Middle East, <1% European Jewish, <1% Africa North.

    4. We were always told that our paternal grandmother was of Cherokee descent. We’ve heard it was ‘half’, but not completely sure of this. Her father was from Ireland and he supposedly married a Cherokee Indian woman. When I did my dna test, I was surprised that it didn’t show any native American, but it does show a Iberian Peninsula, European Jewish and Caucasus.

  16. I have come across many people that do not believe that Cherokee Mix People Moved North before 1850. Mixed Ancestors may be listed as White in Census. I would love to see a report on Mixed Cherokee Family Trees that Moved Prior to the Trail of Tears or those Beautiful Cherokee Women that were married off to White Men.

    1. My family were “ Old Settlers” in Osage Missouri. They moved before being forced. They had a Spanish Land grant, which became worthless after the Louisiana Purchase. Then they were forced off the good farmland they had settled along the river, and forced into the hard to farm Ozark. The families were mixed. They lied about their heritage to keep from being forced into Oklahoma. They were barred from signing the Dawes Rolls, as Old Settlers. Staying in this state, they had to hide their heritage, or not be allowed to own land, a gun. Livestock, and other things. If you were outed your whole extended family was outed. There was a civil war of sorts going on I Oklaho a where the ones who came first, were fighting with the ones forced there on the Trail Of Tears. It was violent. Most Old Settlers came back to Missouri and Arkansas. They have had an annual Old Settler’s Reunion in Texas County Missouri every year from then til last year 1817. They used to do marriages and tribal business at the end of the reunions, which turned into fairs. All the local courthouses were burned along with all their records in this whole part of Missouri during the civil war( the big one). You can contact me at [email protected], my name is Lisa.

  17. For decades, our family thought we had Iroquois ancestry in it. It turns out the branch we thought was Iroquois were actually Jewish, but the family was told they were Iroquois because of fierce anti-Semitism at the time (1870s). It’s likely the same happened all the time during the 1600-1800s, and probably early 1900s.

  18. I have these dna ancestry markers to which my father is from Virginia. We.both aIso have specific indigenous dna. I have been learning the unique history of the region where he grew up so I know there is another possibility also well as being related to the indigenous mayans. I hope there is more research done in the future.

  19. My story is almost the same as Janie’s. My grandfather told me his grandmother was full Cherokee and was left on a door step of the Tyler family in 1832. I had my DNA tested by My Heritage and the results showed no native American matches. My matches were mainly Italian and Northwest European which were not a surprise, but I had 3.6% Iberian, 3.5% Middle East and 1.9% Ashkenazi Jewish these made little since to me. I remembered a segment on the History Channel about a Cherokee-Jewish connection and did a search which led me here.
    I would like to learn more about this; too many common stories to dismiss.

  20. Shirley McMahan

    Thank you for this very interesting article, it sure clears up things for me. Having been told of having Cherokee or other Native American heritage in my family line I’ve always been wanting to pin it down. So, I did a DNA with Ancestry, but was disappointed to find it did not point to any Native American markers. Now, I understand why. My test did come back showing 25% Great Britain and 39% West Europe or Germany (no surprise) but it also showed 4% Caucasus region of Armenia, Iran, Syria, Turkey, etc which was a big surprise to me. I thought maybe some Great Britain or German soldier was in a war in one of those places and ended up leaving some of himself behind! Now, that I’ve learned there is no sure way to prove Cherokee bloodline by DNA, I will continue to pursue it through my Genealogy research. As I am now 82 it soon won’t matter to me as I will be in heaven and will be with brothers and sisters and our ethnic backgrounds won’t matter at all! If you have any follow up or reply I would appreciate it, and thank you again.

    1. According to my family history as well as genealogical research my direct female line should descend from Cherokee Indians from north east Georgia and earlier from western North Carolina. Ancestry DNA shows small percentage of my mother’s DNA coming fom Eastern Europe and Northern Africa. MY 23 andme DNA results indicated that I am descended from halpogroup T2. Perhaps this is an indication of Cherokee ancestry from my direct maternal line.

    2. In the 1700s James Adair spent some 40 years living amongst the Cherokee, and documented their language and customs as consistent with ancient Hebrew. His work can be read free online.

      In Newark, Ohio the Moses stone was found in an ancient mound, in the 1800s.

      In Manchester, Kentucky is the Red Bird boulder full of ancient writings, including the 10 Commandments, in ancient hebrew.

      In Tennessee is the Bat Creek Stone with ancient hebrew, about God.

      In New Mexico is the boulder that has the 10 Commandments carved in ancient hebrew.

      I’m sure there are other examples that I either cannot recall at the moment, or have not yet learned of. But none are in this country by accident.

      I hope you find your answer, and may God bless you.

      1. Mary,

        Thank you for your post with interesting facts about your own genealogy and the results of the two different services.
        And thank you, as well, for sharing the different locations of hebrew inscriptions and the location that correlates to them.

        Warmest regards,
        Shelly Burris, IN

  21. I just got my DNA back. I was adopted and my Bio father was/is 50% Native and 50% Italian.

    I was just reading that Cherokee is mostly European my DNA came back as I am 99%.

    How do I figure out if I am Cherokee and how I find out how I can get to belong to the tribe?

  22. Like many from the Appalachian Mountain region, I was told at an early age that our family on my paternal side has Indian (Native American) ancestry. My results from MyHeritage indicates that I have 0.7% Central American DNA, so this may hold true if an ancestor from Central America migrated to the Appalachian region. My aunt is the only surviving paternal sibling , so I hope that she will agree to taking an autosomal DNA test. I would expect she would have a higher percentage or at least the same percentage as me. Do any of you have a similar situation?

    In any case, I also have 1.2% Southern Asia (India and surrounding region), so I guess I may still have Indian ancestry, albeit it may be East Indian.;).

    1. Indian ancestry (from India) in a European person indicates one of two things:

      gypsy blood (Roma) which is most likely if there is some central, eastern, south eastern, or south central european blood
      (romania, hungary, etc. heavy gypsy populations)
      or
      a British indian marriage during the british occupation of india. Many of these indian spouses and anglo-indian offspring were passed off as “portuguese” or other ethnicity considered more palatable/socially acceptable, if the indian spouse or part-indian children came to england.

    2. The Native Americans from southern WV, in the central Appalachian region, were notorious for adopting other people, and therefore, their tribe included a potentially diverse population. The Mingo tribe along the Kanawha River was well known for taking in other tribes, so an ethnic mixture of indigenous peoples AND Europeans/Africans would be expected. Until they test the DNA of the Mound People, we aren’t going to have a solid idea about the historical Eastern Native American population’s DNA paradigm. There could easily have been a tribe of European Hunter and Gatherers already in North America before any of the other groups came. IN other words, maybe America was Beringia, and the European component is more prevalent in the eastern Atlantic region of North America, and more specifically in the isolated region of the ridge and valley topography in the central parts of the Appalachians. These could be, in part, the signals that Ancestry.com discovered in their community analysis for Appalachians and WV/western Virginia.

  23. Wow! I am Native American! My DNA proves it with this research! GedMatch shows more results for bloodlines. As a child, I was always called Indian names. I often believed the Indians looked Egyptian and made many comments or asked questions about my beliefs. Now finally someone has made a connection! Thanks!

  24. I have always been told that my gggreat-grandmother was full Cherokee. My ggreat-grandfather was widely known as a “half-breed” and is buried in Ardmore, Oklahoma where he moved to be near family. My great-grandmother said she was embarrassed that her grandmother was only married in a tribal ceremony. They all were living for most of their lives in Tennessee and/or North Alabama. My 23 & Me showed that I have no Native American ancestry, but I do have 1.8% Iberian Peninsula, .6% Sub-Saharan Africa, and .5% Ashkenazi Jewish — all of which seem to follow this author’s findings. My grandmother lived to be 101, and I wish these tests were in place before she died in 1996.

    1. I was told I was Scottish and Cherokee. My grandparents were born in Jackson co and have a land grant from a president for the Cherokee before removal. None were removed, or I can’t find evidence. Anyone from Appalachia understands this. My dna came bac Scots/ British, Western Europe, Eastern Europe caucuses and Iberian peninsula. Does this mean Cherokee? I have nomale line to test.

      1. When the DNA first became popular I believe I read somewhere (can’t remember where) that the true Eastern Band Cherokee will not show Native American but rather show Iberian Peninsula…. or Berber
        Can anyone confirm or disprove this?

      2. Tammy & Lori…I too, have read NA will not show for eastern American NA. Personally, I have a NA great grandmother (with proof, not just family lore). I showed a small amount of NA, but 14% Iberian Peninsula & a total of 33% DNA from the Mediterranean area (14% IP included). I have found NO ancestors from this region whatsoever… going back into the 1700s, some lines 1500s. My research has to be reasonably correct, as my DNA matches align with the mutual ancestors they should. Such a high percentage would have to be a fairly close ancestor…and 14% aligns perfectly with a great grandparent. It’s not “proof” by scientific standards, but it is evidence and its enough proof for me.

  25. My son had a DNA test with no markers for Native American. This really surprised me having been told my great great grandmother was full Native American. I remember seeing her picture in the home of my great grandmother, who I had the privilege of knowing. My great grandmother lived to be 100.
    Unlike the story you suggest, my family was told our great great grandmother left her home in Young Harris Georgia when the man she had children with after he married a white women.
    What catches my attention is the fact you mention Spanish markers. My son had markers from Spain. We are confused and trying to find out what to make of the results. Any thoughts?

    1. There are Spanish mines and carvings in parts of Kentucky that date back to the early 1600s. There are stories that they forced Native Americans to work the mines for them.

    2. The Southeastern States were first settled by Spain, even before the English settled Jamestown. Alsi, there has been continuous settlement by the portugese and african/portugese admixture in the Southeastern population.

  26. hello my name is lona howard and i have a question my family told me i was part cherokee on my dad’s dad side but i have no proof and my family wont give me any info on it to see if i am i did a 23 and me dna and i know the native american dont believe in these so how do i get proof on this

      1. Upload your 23andme to GedMatch. It’s free. It will give you more detailed information. My Indian DNA showed up there. It will also give you more marches.

    1. If your family was in Oklahoma in the late 1800s early 1900s you can check their names on the Dawes Rolls which were created about that time.

  27. Hello, very intersting article, well the Cherokee population was added to our method in December 2014 and in addition to Cherokee, possible matches included Apache, Navajo, Salishan, Inuit, Lumbee, Maya, Huichols and Canadian aboriginal tribes, representing a total of nearly 4,000 subjects who identified as Native American, American Indian, indigenous or aboriginal in forensic studies. Thanks!

    1. The lumbee are NOT real indigenous people but a European/ African hybrid population. They have more european ancestry now, but to hide their african ancestry, they chose toclaim Native American.

      1. I am not Lumbee, but that’s not true. Although Lumbee do have White and Black ancestry (as do many other tribes, looking at you Choctaw and Cherokee), the Lumbee ARE an Indian people. The problem is, is that non-Indians have come to expect a stereotype of what Indians should be. By the way, the Lumbee DNA project is majorly flawed anyway. For one, it only tested Ydna (no mtDNA), two it was people who claimed Lumbee heritage (not members of the tribe). Three, there are federally recognized tribes with NO full blooded members, which probably have nary a hint of discernible Indian blood anyway (go to Virginia, but they still culturally identified as Indian). You my friend, are relying on a concept known as “scientific racism”.

  28. BoogerTsnottington

    The anchor groups for the DNA test for major reputable companies are from the Human Genome Diversity Project which consists of 108 people from Central and South America. Some get samples from 10000 Genomes. Since all Native Americans have more in common with one another than outside populations, if you have Native American ancestry even from Canada, does not mean you are Mayan for God sakes if it shows a % of Native American, you show “affinity” which will identify Native American ancestry within 5 generations. Since the sample pool is very low, anything not identified will show as East Asian. Native Americans are Asians and their DNA has no gradient and is very hard to tell apart. The same theory for Sub-Saharan ancestry. If the dataset is Igbo suggests you have West African ancestry, however your ancestry can be from the Congo.

    This article does not appear to be written by someone educated in population genetics or even more recent studies involving genetic studies. Lots of romanticism about Cherokees but genetics does not support any of this. I have personally seen on 23andMe results from enrolled card carrying members of the Cherokee Nation and Eastern Band and their profiles have Native American/East Asian, Northern European and Sub-Sahran African from core family members. Old Cherokee families. Enrolled members of predominate European will have North Euro, Native American/East Asian and sometimes African. I have not seen anyone (over the noise threshold of 1%) show any Middle Eastern or Ashkenazi Jewish in their autosomal or carrying halpogroups (YDNA/mtDNA) which are Middle Eastern or Jewish, again, from legit Cherokees.

    I’ll add in as well, a few people around the Appalachian area with claims of Native American ancestry 99.9 percent of these people show zero % Native American or other exotic ancestry (claimed Gypsy or Jewish). Some people able to confirm probable claims to Cherokee ancestry show Native American/East Asian, they have no Mid-East or Jewish. Melungon ancestry, is overblown. It is mainly a Mulatto population if that, no unusual ancestry to the area of the Appalachians.

    This article appears to be built on the foundation of Donald Yates and references to DNA Consultants, a known fraudulent company. His work is not even scientific and misleading. His PHD is in Classical Literature…There is so much folklore about the Appalachians but does not hold up to genetics.

    Don’t forget, While Yates claimed Cherokee were one of the “Lost Tribe of Israel,” while the Israelites wandered in the Sinai lost for 40 years, we have been here in the Americas thousands of years.

    1. I don’t know why it is so offensive to you that a Native American person might have a littel middle eastern DNA, but it is very evident that you neither know, nor care much about what it means to have a Mulungeon family history. I don’t identify as Native American, I do identify as Melungeon, which, as the word itself explains, implies MIXTURE. Nothing wrong with it.

    2. The reason that this article doesn’t appear to be well written is that it was written by Richard Thornton, a man that has a mission to prove that the Cherokee is not a real tribe. He runs a blog in which he writes articles like this. The first time I tangled with him was his attack on the Nancy Ward story. I had the deposition of the brother of my 4th great grandfather that confirmed much of the story. The deposition was dated July 6, 1776, three weeks before the attacks. After using actual documents to prove him wrong several time, I was blocked from posting comments on his blog.

      While with questionable accuracy, DNA may say you are Native American. But it can not say where in the Americas your ancestors were from, let alone the tribe.

      I do genealogy research. I deal only with what the documents say about people’s ancestry. Of the people that want to find the documents to prove the family stories of Native American ancestry, around 90+ I find no documents to prove the story.

      If Donald Yates had read his Bible he would have known that the 10 lost tribes of Israel did not go missing in the Sinai. It was a lot later in 733 BC when the Assyrians expelled them from the northern kingdom. My guess is that the descendants are the same people the country of Israel is fighting today.

    3. I refer you to the ancestry.com research related to the analysis 770,000 genomes. They found a unique genetic signals for Appalachians that are not reproduced in Europe. Look through the supplemental report and you will find maps that demonstrate the location of Appalachians with weak signals in Europe. All other such groups, except indigenous ones, have a separate signal (shown in red) in Europe. There is in fact a unique population of people in the Appalachian region which corresponds exactly to historical records of Native American groups in the “Old West” coupled with the fact that Native Americans were never removed as a group from Kentucky or western Virginia (which includes the entire state of West Virginia). Just because the DNA origin of Eastern Amerindian population has not occurred, does not mean that there are no Native Americans in WV/Appalachia. It just means that they don’t know what DNA signals to look for.

  29. I was always told I had Native American ancestry, upon getting my DNA done…I found out I was just under 25% Western Asian, Western Mediterranean and Eastern Mediterranean together that beat out all the ancestry of my German Great Grandmother.

    My German Great Grandmother was the only Grandparent out of 4 that didn’t have family in Southern Appalachia sice the 1600’s. I had no Sub Saharan African DNA, but did carry traces of North African and Melanesian which I find odd….

    1. I am also from an Appalachian state and carry melanesian, middle eastern and north African dna for no reason. No jewish dna though. It would be interesting to see more research done on archaic dna.

      1. Hi if you have a profile on Gedmatch here is my number A003489. I’m wanting to find out if this is a single ancestor or maybe a group of people from the same are.

    2. This unexplained Melanesian dna clustered in the Appalachian mountains of those of us connected to Indian or Melungeon heritage. Seems to go unnoticed.

      1. If you have a Gedmatch, here is mine.

        A003489 I know of 9 people that I match who have Melanesian DNA, I can barely find anything on it at all.

      1. I also have Melanesian/Oceania, and so does my mother, one of her siblings, and her father. We highly suspect it came from a side of our family, which originated out of Eastern Tennessee that we had originally believed was Native American. The only thing I’ve seen on this topic is that one study in 2015, that said they found that some Native Americans had Oceanic ancestors, but they mostly connected it up with South American, not North American Native Americans. All I can say is, there’s definitely a very strong link with Melanesia to Tennessee/Appalachia…as I keep coming across similar stories. This is all just very mysterious…

  30. Christy Ross Angérs

    I am related to Chief Daniel Smith Helton on my Mothers side, also Asbury Goins from Graysville Tennessee. I am Melungeon on my Mothers side, I was always told we had Cherokee Blood in us, that’s why some of us are so dark (I am the darkest),…I would love to be tested again…my DNA came back with African3% and Iberian Peninsula. .a lot of other stuff too…only 1.63% American Indian. I just want to know the story of my People…on both sides of my Family…

  31. My Cherokee ancestors were on the trail of tears documents from Alabama. There are some Western Alabama tribes who went to the mountains to escape the trail of tears. The land of the rising sun they speak of was most likely Atlantis. It had merchant ports in the Americas and in Egypt as well as the Canary Islands. We all know this. There is also a J marker of great antiquity now emerging. The answer is quite simple…some Atlanteans were travelers and merchants. Noah was not the only one who could build a sea worthy boat. Some went one direction and the others another direction. Quite simple I think. Why complicate this?

    1. So I read online, the Hopi have a tradition about another land mass that sank around the same time as Atlantas, but more slowly, allowing their ancestors to escape. As I recall, it also had a name that had to do with the sun. In any case, you made a very valid point.

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