The Math of Elizabeth Warren’s Ancestry

2018-10-15 – The “debate” about Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s ancestry is ridiculous. Those who debate this in public (for example, Donald Trump) have no basis for knowing her ancestry one way or another. It’s just a gotcha.

But there are facts that have been researched and made public.

When this first came up, Sen. Warren only claimed what she learned from her family: that her great-great-great-grandmother was, at least partially, Native American. If her g-g-g-grandmother was 100% Native American, that would make Sen. Warren 1/32 Native American. If her g-g-g-grandmother was 50% Native American, that would make Sen. Warren 1/64 Native American . . . and so on. That’s the math of it.

We all have family lore. Few of us have documentary evidence that goes back to g-g-g-grandparents. I have seen documents about my own g-granparents. That means I am 2 generations short of being able to say anything for sure about my g-g-g-grandparents.

Sen. Warren was in the same boat: no documents going that far back. In fact, documents may not have existed that far back.

Sen. Warren has now had a DNA analysis that indicates that, indeed, she has some Native American ancestors. This heritage is a small fraction: 1/32 or less. Trump supporters are now shouting that the fraction is too small to count.

But Warren never claimed anything more. The DNA fraction is pretty similar to the fraction she heard from her family.

As usual, the Trumpies want to have it both ways.

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