Recently, Elizabeth Warren released her “DNA Results” to counter President Trump’s doubts of her Native American ethnicity, which he has made a political issue. This article isn’t intended to be political, but rather question this DNA test and the information released. As information about this is released, I have read articles from all the major news sources. On the surface most of the reporting offers a counter point to the skepticism of Elizabeth Warren’s Native American ethnicity.
However, several questions from the genetic and genealogy side also surface regarding the DNA test and results. First, not all DNA tests are the same! Was it an autosomal test? Most of the ethnicity testing with the major DNA services relies on autosomal testing to determine ethnicity.
Second, what DNA databases was this sample compared against? One article states that the test was not done through any of the commercial testing services (AncestryDNA, 23andMe, etc…). Each commercial service determines ethnicity using different criteria. And databases are not shared between all the services, which can skew any ethnicity estimation. Ethnicity markers in DNA have some unique signatures or markers, but even the strength of these identifying markers is constantly being refined. DNA testing services will continue to adjust their ethnicity estimations as more people have their DNA tested and the ethnicity markers are refined. AncestryDNA recently just updated their ethnicity estimations (regions and percentages) of their users!
Third, what is the strength (centimorgans or shared segments) of the Native American DNA and family relationship from this test? A few articles say the closest distance between the Native American origin ancestor and Elizabeth Warren ranges anywhere from 6 to 10 generations. If this was an autosomal DNA test the results only have strong reliability to about 5 generations.
GenealogyChris says based on this, the results released may imply there is a possibility of a Native American ancestor, but it is not definitive proof! More DNA testing and documented research of established relatives must be performed in order to support this Native American ancestry claim.