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In Harry Potter, was there a spell or magical tool to detect that a wizard was pure-blood, half-blood or muggle-blood? Or, they simply used family information of wizard? Was it possible for a wizard to hide his/her blood-status?

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7 Answers 7

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I think JKR contradicted herself here.

On one hand, there are hints that blood status is detectable, as @Slytherincess and @Kristen's answers state.

On the second hand, if so, there would be no point in Umbridge-chaired hearings to determine blood status that Hermione witnessed in DH when they infiltrated the Minitry - the hearing allowed people to "prove" their blood status by providing documentation.

If you can determine someone's blood status magically, documentation and hearings are 100% superfluous and un-needed.

"No," said Umbridge, "no, I don't think so, Mrs. Cattermole. Wands only choose witches or wizards. You are not a witch. I have your responses to the questionnaire that was sent to you here – Mafalda, pass them to me."
...
... A pity," she continued in a louder voice, flicking through Mrs. Cattermole's questionnaire, "that the same cannot be said for you. ' Parents professions: greengrocers'."

(Yes, I know the out-of-universe reason to show the hearing... my point is that it's contradictory from in-universe perspective).

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Hmm ... Thanks for including an example of what kind of documentation the Ministry was using to determine blood status -- I think it's helpful. I'm having a hard time reconciling a self completed questionnaire as a reliable form of family history with, for example, the Black family tree, Toujours Pur - The Most Noble and Ancient House of Black. Of course that's not your doing; it's JKR's. +1 because there are discrepancies, as you say. :) –  Slytherincess Jan 19 at 2:50
    
I myself like to think that Umbridge was simply so disgusted at someone with such a lack of basic self-preservation, that she's just lashing out because she's petty. –  BMeph Jan 19 at 5:04
    
@BMeph - I was more referring to the fact that there WAS a hearing with documentation than specific kind. –  DVK Jan 19 at 12:44

It's possible that if there is a way of genetically or magically testing for pure blood lineage and Umbridge et al don't use it because many of them are lying about their ancestry. Hermione says that the Death Eaters can't all be pure bloods because there aren't enough pure bloods left, so most of them are just half-bloods pretending to be pure-bloods, so I can't imagine that would be particularly popular among death eaters, and although we don't know about Umbridge's blood status specifically, if she's lying about being related to the Selwyns, she must be a little insecure about it. And of course, Voldemort wouldn't want people prying too closely into his ancestry.

It also seems like the trials are being used by some ministry employees, at least, for political gain. Someone congratulates Harry-Runcorn on one of his victims because the interlocutor is "almost confident [he'll] get his job now." That makes it seem like the convenience of the sham trials is really important to the way the ministry functions-- you can disenfranchise people you don't like and let your supporters slide.

That's not to say that I don't think there's a lot more evidence on the you-can't -really-tell side. There's no concrete evidence for being able to tell, just hints and allusions and possibilities. The trials seem like good evidence that you can't tell. But it just seems odd that there isn't a spell, since magic and genetics play so nicely together elsewhere (Polyjuice potion needs a bit of the person, which seems like DNA, Hermione's antidote in Slughorn's class includes a bit of her own hair, jinxes don't work on people with giant-DNA, Harry's patronus matches James's animagus form, JK Rowling has stated that all muggle-borns have a witch or wizard ancestor sometime in the past), so I wanted to offer this one other possible explanation, just as food for thought.

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I think it's possible to detect blood status without knowing family history, based on something Draco Malfoy says in Goblet of Fire:

‘Language, Weasley,’ said Malfoy his pale eyes glittering. ‘Hadn’t you better be hurrying along, now? You wouldn’t like her spotted, would you?’

He nodded at Hermione, and at the same moment, a blast like a bomb sounded from the campsite, and a flash of green light momentarily lit the trees around them.

‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ said Hermione defiantly.

‘Granger, they’re after Muggles,’ said Malfoy. ‘D’you want to be showing off your knickers in mid-air? Because if you do, hang around ... they’re moving this way, and it would give us all a laugh.’

‘Hermione’s a witch,’ Harry snarled.

‘Have it your own way, Potter,’ said Malfoy, grinning maliciously. ‘If you think they can’t spot a Mudblood, stay where you are.’

Goblet of Fire - page 110 - Bloomsbury - chapter 9, The Dark Mark

Draco doesn't specify exactly how the Death Eaters might have been able to tell that Hermione is Muggleborn without knowing her heritage, but he does definitely suggest it's possible.

As for hiding one's blood status, the fact that Bellatrix Lestrange, in Order of the Phoenix, didn't know that Voldemort was a half-blood seems to indicate it's certainly possible to fool others. Bellatrix was rabidly elitist; when Harry informed her that Voldemmort was a half-blood she was not only disbelieving, but also fearful at the mere suggestion. I won't type in another wall of text to provide the passages, but it's in chapter 36, The Only One He Ever Feared, in Order of the Phoenix.

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Some of the Nazi's thought they could spot a Jewish person based on looks alone, and while there are trademark characteristics they are certainly not all there is to the picture. Is it possible this is the same kind of case here? Draco is a character (a young, hot-blooded one at that) and not the author herself. He (and his father) also happen to already know her "blood status" so I wouldn't take this as proof there is a clear and reliable way to tell - especially given legal procedings in later books. –  balanced mama Jan 19 at 2:12
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You're right about the possibility of Lucius recognizing Hermione and then identifying her to his fellow Death Eaters as a Muggleborn -- I almost made mention of this in my answer. Regarding Draco, I think he's perfectly intelligent, despite his youth. He is a generational pureblood and the son of a Death Eater (and becomes a Death Eater himself). I think his comment could be true, but I did try to be very careful to note that it only indicates the possibility of blood status as identifiable without documentation, i.e. on sight or through some magical means. I never said proof. :) –  Slytherincess Jan 19 at 2:28
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I don't think his intelligence plays a part in whether he would say something he believed to be true because of a racist upbringing that clouded his judgement in this issue and he is prone to swagger and big talk he can't follow through on. I would argue, possible but not necessarily likely. –  balanced mama Jan 19 at 2:29
    
Well, as I noted, I said "possible", not "definitely". I was very careful to say "possible". Whether that means yes or no is going to vary depending on a reader's relationship with the text because there is no definitive canon answer. –  Slytherincess Jan 19 at 2:36

I would think that perhaps there was a way of magically determining the blood status. If they can detect muggleborn children for Hogwarts, I'm sure they have a list somewhere of each status, at least until they are 17. Those that may be 'half blood' or have a muddy history, might need papers to prove their background.

It was never really touched on.

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An excellent point. There's certainly mention of "muggle repelling charms" so clearly there's more than just a status element to it... –  Richard Jan 19 at 1:01
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but they aren't detecting "muggle borns" per se, they are detecting magic and in the case of muggle repelling charms, the lack there of. That doesn't mean that determining the status of a magical person as being born to muggles or witch and wizard is possible. –  balanced mama Jan 19 at 2:15

It is difficult to say but what we know for sure (from book 7 mainly) is that :

  • Muggle born registration was mandatory during the second raise of Voldemort and that people who wanted to avoid it had to go on the run

  • Muggle born weren't allowed to go into Hogwarts during the second raise of Voldemort (all students were required to prove their blood status)

  • When a muggle got his/her letter from Hogwarts, a specialized wizard/witch was sent to explain the situation to the parents

Those information could led to two different deductions.

And we do not know about foreign wizards/witches : could they lie or not ? Produce fake papers ? It is not explained in the books.

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Rowling has said that magic is inherited, and another user here has theorized one of the ways to get the complex mixture of muggle-borns, squibs, and skipping several generations.

This makes it possible for both to be true, depending on how the magic works:

Let's say muggle-borns/muggle/pure-blood detection is done by detecting some combination of "magic-positive" genes. The specific combination they detect may not correspond perfectly to actual ability, but simply have a very high success rate.

This would mean that they can separate pure-bloods from others, as Malfoy says, but perhaps only with a 99% success rate. Because of that last 1%, the hearings would then be necessary to weed out anyone who either was pure-blood (and the test has false positives) or wasn't pure-blood (and the test has false negatives).

This extra catch, to keep pure-bloods from being removed from the general populace, would be considered necessary due to the low number of pure-blood families still in existence.

If I recall correctly, Umbridge was using the Horcrux locket as her proof that she came from a pure-blood family - which was obviously false, since the locket wasn't hers. This means that it would indeed be possible to cover up the truth, by taking advantage of that 1% failure rate.

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Umbridge seems much more concerned about non-pure-bloods gaining power, more than pure-bloods being unfairly punished; she seems Slytherin-minded enough to think that any pure-bloods who get caught deserve punishment for being caught, whether guilty of that crime, or not. –  BMeph Jan 19 at 5:10

I imagine, but have neither citation or other proof, that any means of "detecting" non-pure-bloods, is as reliable as gaydar.

I also imagine such a "wiz-dar" detector going by Snape and calling him a Blackadder...and getting complimented on his astute perception, then threatened severely should such perception be shared with anyone else.

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