The View from Puncheon Creek: So You Think You Are Part Native?

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Just about everyone in Magoffin County has heard it said that they had “Indian blood.” It is common for one to hear that their grandmother or great-grandmother was part Cherokee.

I had heard from various members of my family that I had Cherokee blood on different lines. I recently did a DNA test which showed I have zero percent Native American blood and in fact I have about 60 percent British, about 15 percent German, and 6 percent Scandinavian. No Native American. I think it might surprise you to know that this is normal for most people who test for Native American blood. How these rumors of Native American ancestors get in every family’s story, I do not know. What I do know is the stories of me carrying Native American blood are just simply false. As a matter of fact, I check at 99.8 percent northern European with an incidental two-tenths of one percent left over. Anything under one percent is to be disregarded, according to what I have been told. 

It has become quite the fad to prove one’s native ancestry and if, in fact, you are able to prove it is a source of great pride. After all, they are the original Americans. Unfortunately, most people who test find out they are not native, just as I found out I was not. I have shifted my research from trying to figure out my Native American ancestry, which I now know I don’t carry, to attempting to figure out where I received my Scandinavian genetics from. Scandinavia includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. I suspect that since Denmark borders northern Germany that through the Risners, who emigrated from Germany, is where I got my Scandinavian genetics. It may have come through the Patricks, as well, who were Vikings, it seems.

Family fables are more common than we generally think as stories are handed down from one generation to another. The younger generation tends to take without question what the older generations tell them, who in turn had not questioned their elders. As is human nature, with each telling of a story it changes a little bit as memories are not perfect and as each person stamps their own personality on the story. Usually traditional family stories have at least a kernel of truth at their heart. Honor the stories you have been told, but before you take them as the gospel, see if there is any way you can verify them. 

So, if you think you are part native there are specialized DNA tests you can take specifically to check for Native American genetics. Be proud of your ancestors, whatever the test shows. If you are native, be proud of it. If you are not, don’t get too discouraged about it. Somewhere in your gene pool are bloodlines to be just as proud of.