Senator Warren released her DNA test results for the public earlier today. The results show that she is very predominantly European, but does indeed have maternal lineage to Native Americans. The best median guess by the expert is somewhere between 1/64th and 1/1024th.

Let's do her a favor and just give her the benefit of a high end of that. Let's just do the math of the grandparents and parents involved, and say around 0.87 percent of one percent, which is around 1/114th. The Indian heritage is also believed to have entered into her mother's lineage some eight generations ago.

Valery Sharifulin/TASS
Valery Sharifulin/TASS

Warren said her father's family (Herrings) did not want their son Donald (Senator Warren's father) to marry her mother Pauline Reed (born in 1912) because they "knew" she was part Indian. Warren stated that her parents eloped when they were 19 and 20 years of age.

Senator Warren is suggesting that her parents had to elope in 1931, because her father's parents could never allow their son to marry a wife who was part Indian. The DNA test suggests she is related to a woman born eight generations prior to Senator Warren.

The average generational gap in the United States is 25.5 years. Warren's parents didn't have her until they were 37 and 38 years of age in 1949. Again, let's do another small favor so that the math benefits her story more favorably; let's knock down the average generational gap down to an even 25 years, not 25.5.

Eight generations x 25 years = 200 years. Now we are in 1749. Here is the list of the world's most famous people born in 1749:

  • Edward Jenner (1749 -1823), Doctor
  • Johann von Goethe (1749 -1832)
  • Christian VII (1749 -1808), King
  • William Blount (1749 -1800)
  • Nicolas Appert (1749 -1841), Inventor
  • Domenico Cimarosa (1749 -1801), Composer
  • Matthew Lyon (1749 -1822)
  • Edward Rutledge (1749 -1800)

Never heard of most or all of them? In 1749, George Washington was 17 years old. Paul Revere was 12. Thomas Jefferson was four.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Can you name one family relative born in 1749? How about 1849? If somehow you do, do you know their racial heritage?

Can you, for a single second, entertain the idea that Elizabeth Warren's mom was even remotely aware of that particular seven generations-removed ancestor born 1749-ish as a racially mixed European/Native American? Can you then believe for another moment that, if somehow this lore survived the time and flawed memories of oral history, the family carried this "shame" which allegedly stigmatized them through 1931?

I am willing to believe everything Senator Warren is presenting as evidence except for one thing, which I'll come back to. Okay, she's 1/114th Native American, even if we are being generous to her, with her DNA expert's best guess and the test being believed, which I do. I also believe her when she said her family documented themselves as "white" on many documents over the decades of records, because they did not want to be victims of racism.

That too is plausible. People were crappy to Indians even as late as the 1920s in Oklahoma and even later. Fine.

I don't believe for one second that Pauline Reed was despised by Donald Herring's parents and Elizabeth Warren's paternal grandparents Grant Leslie Herring and Ethel Virginia Herring, and that they refused to allow the marriage because Pauline's great, great, great, great, great grandmother was half Indian. I doubt Pauline would have been aware of that genealogical fact, given the records kept then.

Only the very rich were able to keep strict account of family lineage up until recently. Even up until 30 or so years ago, it was a lengthy, time consuming, expensive and often times fruitless investigation, required to learn of one's ancestry through 1749. Especially harder for Americans because so many of us have overseas roots, came here with very humble beginnings and moved quite a bit.

I doubt even stronger that the apparently super-racist Herrings somehow knew about this half-Indian woman, related to Pauline Reed, born 38 or so years before the Constitution of the United States was ratified.

Records go back to 1824 in Warren's case and to Missouri. If Pauline was denied the blessings of marrying Donald Herring in 1931, one would think Warren's ancestors in Missouri would have been widely known to be Cherokee Indian in 1824.

UIG via Getty Images
UIG via Getty Images

All Cherokee Indians were relocated to Oklahoma in 1838. Warren's ancestor Preston H. Crawford was born approximately 14 years before the forced removal, and Sarah Harlin was born about four years before the removal.

They were apparently not considered to be Indians by those who would have been highly aware by comparison to the Herring family those 97 years earlier.

The irony here is that Warren probably knew she shouldn't have indicated that she was Native American when she finally did after years of claiming Caucasian or white, and she likely took a job from a real minority deserving of the opportunity set aside for he or she. Now that she does have very trace elements of Indian DNA, she is going to spike the ball knowing the media will giver her all the political cover she will need, while actual Native American tribes, and anyone who can do basic math, know her story is a lie.

Warren's assessment by her own expert says that she is between 1/64th and 1/1024th American Indian. The average white American today has .8 percent Native American heritage in their DNA.

Ken Pittman is the host of The Ken Pittman Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @RadioKenPittman. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. 

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