There are a lot of different terms that get thrown around in the genealogy world. I want to break down the history behind two of them and explain how it affects genealogy today. The first term I want to talk about is: 


The concept of blood quantum has been around since the 1700s but it was first introduced into laws in the U.S. in the 1930s.  It was a way for the government to define who was legally what race.  This term is mainly used by the Indigenous people of the U.S. and surrounding areas.  Blood quantum was a tool that was used in determining how “indian” someone was and determining if a tribe would receive government funding towards reviving their lands.  

There were similar practices used towards mixed black people during and after slavery. Terms like mulatto were used to describe someone who had both black and white ancestry. Over time the exact definition varied but that was the primary use of the word.  

Along with blood quantum comes the conversation around the one drop rule.  The one drop rule dealt with notion that even if all your ancestors were white but your mother or father was black that automatically deemed you in the eyes of the government as “negro”.  However those with mixed ancestry come in a variety of shades. 

Both blood quantum and the one drop rule were utilized against people of color, specifically people with mixed native or black ancestry in making them claim one ethnicity over another and societally punishing them depending on which box they chose to put themselves in.  

Neither one of these concepts is an adequate way to determine someone’s ethnicity or race.  When it comes to rules like this, it is less so about DNA and more so about societal power.  The one drop rule is based in the mindset that a child produced from a mixed race relationship is somehow unpure due to them being part black. 

Both of these systems of measuring the percentage of ethnicity in a person are highly outdated.  No matter what percentage of anything that you have in you, you should do the work of learning your ancestors’ stories and the people who paved the way for you to be present in this world and all the love, joy, pain and suffering that occurred for them.