Objective The preclinical period of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is characterized by the presence of autoantibodies such as anticitrullinated protein antibodies (ACPA) and rheumatoid factor (RF). Little is known about the joint symptom profile preceding onset of RA, and whether symptoms are associated with RA autoantibodies. Because first-degree relatives (FDR) of North American Native (NAN) RA probands exhibit multiple risk factors for development of future RA, we investigated the prevalence of joint symptoms in this high-risk population. Methods We studied 306 FDR of NAN patients with RA, 323 NAN controls (NC), and 293 white controls (WC) having no family history of autoimmune diseases. Study subjects completed a questionnaire that asked whether they had pain, swelling, or morning stiffness in their hand joints, or in other joints. Serum samples were gathered at the same time and tested for the presence of ACPA, RF, and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein levels. Results In all cases, FDR were significantly more likely to report experiencing joint symptoms compared to the 2 control groups. FDR also exhibited a significantly higher prevalence of RA autoantibodies than the control groups. There were modest trends for joint symptoms to associate with RA autoantibodies, and individuals who were both ACPA-positive and RF-positive had the highest prevalence of joint symptoms. Conclusion FDR of NAN patients with RA have a higher prevalence of joint symptoms compared to individuals with no family history of autoimmune disease. This finding is only partially explained by a high prevalence of RA autoantibodies in the FDR.