You may have Native American genes and not even know if your U.S. ancestry dates back more than 250 years.
A new study led by Georgia Institute of Technology found that Americans with European or African ancestry that dates back more than two hundred years also have Native American genes. The researchers, led by Andrew Conley, a research scientist at Georgia Tech's School of Biological Scicenes found the Americans usually have family roots near the homes of the tribes found in their genes. The study was published in journal PLoS Genetics.
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People with Native American genes settled near the tribes
“People of Western European heritage have Native gene sequences from tribes that were located near where they now live,” Conley said in a press release highlighting the new research. “For African descendants, Native American ancestry looks like it came from regional groups of Native Americans in the southeastern United States.”
In order to come to their conclusions, the researchers tracked haplotypes, which are the genes passed on by one parent and tend to be typical in certain regions and individuals. The data was taken from The Health and Retirement Study sponsored by the National Institue on Aging and carried out by the University of Michigan.
Americans with European heritage have Native American genes from those living in Mexico
The researchers found Americans who have European heritage that can be traced back to Spain, have sequences from Native American ancestors who lived in what is today Mexico. In that group, 40% of their total genome is Native American genes.
As for the Americans with early African ancestry, many left the south in the migration North and took the Native American gene sequences with them. Americans with African heritage have around 1% of Native American haplotypes while those of European heritage have about 0.1% Native American haplotypes.
“With African Americans, it correlates to about eight to nine generations back and probably ends there. With Western European ancestors, we think about eight to 10 generations ago, and the contact with Native Americans could have also been more continuous," said Conley. “Particularly in the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, there is almost no Native American ancestry among European descendants. When you go out West, that’s where you have the most Native American ancestry in European populations.”