The Lost Colony of Roanoke: Did They Survive? – National Geographic, Archaeology, Historical Records and DNA

The Lost Colony of Roanoke – what an enduring mystery – for 431 years it has remained unsolved and fascinated Americans and the British, alike.

An entire tourist industry has sprung up around the mystery of the Lost Colony along the Outer Banks in North Carolina. An open-air theater tells the story every summer on Roanoke Island near where Fort Raleigh was established. Tourists drift south to Hatteras Island across a long bridge that today connects Roanoke Island to Hatteras Island, the location where the colonists themselves indicated they were moving when they left the Fort Raleigh on Roanoke Island.

Then.

Nothing.

Hints, rescue missions, old entries in yellowed records that refer to the colonists, or might…but nothing factual or definitive about what happened to those colonists.

I joined the search for those elusive colonists in 2007 by co-founding The Lost Colony Research Group (LCRG) and establishing the Lost Colony DNA projects. Our small group of volunteers would contract with archaeologists and team with local residents to host archaeological excavations. We undertook research, compiled relevant records and publications as well as attempted to solve the mystery through genetics.

Just in case you’re wondering, the Lost Colonists haven’t yet been renamed the Found Colonists!

National Geographic Magazine

In 2017, Andrew Lawler, a journalist who was writing an article for National Geographic about the Lost Colony contacted me for an interview. Over the next several weeks, we would talk as well as exchange e-mails, discussing the story of the colony, the archaeological digs, and the DNA efforts to solve the mystery of whether any of the colonists survived.

Andrew’s article appears in the June 2018 issue of National Geographic Magazine. It’s exciting to garner a small place in history through National Geographic, a magazine I’ve loved since childhood.

(Full disclosure: I’ve been a volunteer member of the National Geographic Genographic Design team since 2012 and a Genographic affiliate researcher since 2015. Those activities are entirely unrelated to and separate from the Lost Colony article and DNA project.)

Andrew did a great job with a difficult story that resembles the best murder mystery with subplots upon twisting, turning, subplots. In fact, in many ways, the Lost Colony is the oldest known cold case in what would become America just shy of two centuries later.

Did the colonists live or did they die? Do they have descendants today? What happened?

The Back Story

The Lost Colony of Roanoke is an enduring romantic mystery that the history books haven’t treated very kindly, or at least, not terribly accurately.

Most people think of a young, loving mother, Eleanor White Dare, holding a newborn daughter, and then the picture fades to grey, oblivion, because we don’t know what happened next. That surely tugs at your heartstrings and makes you want to believe that Eleanor and her baby survived.

You’re not alone.

Almost everyone has their own idea of what transpired, and there are almost as many theories as people who are interested in the topic of the Lost Colony. A few scammers have made up stories of their own and attempted to sell them, one way or the other. Books have been written and stories told, but the facts and truth remain maddeningly elusive.

Indeed, Virginia Dare, born August 18th, 1587, was the first English person to be born on the land that would one day become the United States. Her grandfather, John White, left shortly thereafter to return to England for supplies – and that’s the last piece of actual factual information we have about either Eleanor or Virginia.

Virginia Dare has survived into infamy, the mystery of a fragile newborn child that refuses to be solved. Did she live? Did she marry? Is she the legendary “White Doe?” Was she the maiden reported to have escaped from the Powhatan slaughter nearly 20 years later in Virginia, near Jamestown? Does Virginia Dare have living descendants today? And what about the other colonists? Do they?

What does history tell us about the Lost Colony of Roanoke? The official version is very neat and clean. Sir Walter Raleigh sent an exploratory expedition in 1584 followed by a larger military expedition in 1585 that stayed until the early summer of 1586, built a fort, but then went back to England.

In 1587, a group of men, women and children arrived in what was then Virginia, now North Carolina, to establish a permanent “Cittie of Raleigh.” John White, the Governor and the grandfather of Virginia Dare, born days after arrival, returned to England for supplies but was unable to return to Roanoke Island until 1590. When White did return, the colonists were gone, the fort deserted, and he was unable to find them even though they had left him a message – the word “Croatoan” carved on a fortified palisade that had been constructed after White had departed. Croatoan was the name of Hatteras Island, the location where an Indian, Manteo, that had befriended the colonists lived. White, forced by a hurricane, returned to England and was unable to return again to search for the colonists, which included his son-in-law, daughter and grandchild. The colonists were presumed slain by Indians, which certainly could be true.

As far as the official “history book” version of the Lost Colony…that’s the end of the chapter and the book. But in reality, it’s only the beginning, or perhaps more accurately, a short extract from the middle of a book that’s more like a juicy murder mystery combined with a cliff-hanger soap opera than a history book.

There is more to the story, much more. When I heard about the colony settling on Roanoke Island, I asked myself what brought 117 people to an “unsettled” wilderness, unlike anything they knew, with people they considered savages living adjacent to and grossly outnumbering them? Who would undertake such a risky journey, and why? There had to be more to the story.

The story of the Lost Colony is like a large knit sweater, once you start to pull on one loose thread, slowly the entire sweater starts to unravel, and eventually, that small raveling is much larger than you ever expected. So, let’s tug a little bit and see where we wind up.

Characters in the Roanoke Drama

The story of Roanoke really begins long before 1584. It begins in 1493 actually, when Pope Alexander divided the world into two portions, half for Spain and half for Portugal, excluding all others. This action would set the stage for the next century of conflict, not only between the excluded countries, in particular, England, and the included counties, but also between Catholics and Protestants.

The players in this intrigue read like a Who’s Who of 16th Century Europe.

Sir Walter Raleigh was born in 1552 in Hayes Barton in Devon, the youngest of 5 sons. He subsequently attended Oxford and led the life of a wealthy adventurer. Walter Raleigh, or Ralegh as he spelled his name, was not knighted until after he established the “Cittie of Raleigh,” so he was born simply “Walter Raleigh,” the Sir being appended later after being knighted by Queen Elizabeth. Ironically, Raleigh himself never set foot in his colony.

In 1556 King Philip, married to Mary, Queen of England and Ireland, a Catholic, ascended the throne of Spain, controlling half of Europe, per the Catholic Pope.

In 1558, Queen Elizabeth, a Protestant, ascended the English throne, shown in her coronation robes above, having inherited the throne from her half-sister, Queen Mary Tutor (known as Bloody Mary), wife of Prince Phillip of Spain.

Queen Elizabeth, known as the Virgin Queen because she never married, was born in 1533, 19 years before Sir Walter Raleigh.

By 1568, a decade after Elizabeth’s ascent to the throne, the Inquisition was in full swing, and King Philip overran the Protestant Netherlands, condemning the entire country to death. The people in the Netherlands rebelled, and King Philipp had to send reinforcements and money to attempt to subdue the rebellion. However, French Huguenots chased the Spanish ship carrying gold into an English Harbor. Elizabeth, suffering from financial difficulties, viewed this much as we would view winning the lottery. That was her lucky day indeed and she confiscated the ship and its cargo. Elizabeth’s action caused a “furious rage” in Spain.

1568 and 1569 continued to be trying times in England. In 1568 Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Sir Walter Raleigh’s half-brother, crushed a revolt in Catholic Ireland instigated by the Spanish. Later, Mary Queen of Scots was taken into custody and confined after repeated attempts on the life of Queen Elizabeth, her first cousin once removed. In 1569, Catholics in northern England revolted.

In 1570, Pope Pius excommunicated Protestant Queen Elizabeth and encouraged her overthrow. Elizabeth must have found this humorous on some level, because Catholic excommunication has no punitive effect on a Protestant.

On August 22, 1572, the horrific event known to history as the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre occurred in Paris where Catholics massacred an estimated 30,000 Protestant Huguenots. All Protestants were ordered to leave the country within 20 days or be condemned to death. Protestants were unable to sell their land or possessions, because everyone who might be interested knew that in 20 days or less, they could simply take the land and whatever was left. Raleigh left Oxford and fought in France for the Protestants.

In 1577 we find the first mention of John White, a Native of Bristol and the man who would become the eventual Governor of the Cittie of Raleigh. Ironically, even though White was an artist, we have no portrait or self-portrait of him.

Also in 1577, we meet another player in our real-life drama, Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s closest advisor.

Walsingham, a Machiavellian spy had formed an entire underground network of lowlife scoundrels to feed him information, was not above torture, and willing to do whatever it was he needed to do to achieve his ends. Elizabeth believed him to be her most trusted resource. In 1577, for reasons unknown, Walsingham saved Simon Fernandez, a pirate, from the gallows for murdering Portuguese sailors. In essence, Walsingham purchased his life and loyalty, and Fernandez became “Walsingham’s man.”

On June 11, 1578, Walter Raleigh’s half-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert was granted a patent by Queen Elizabeth to discover and occupy North American lands not occupied by Spain. This patent expired in 6 years, in 1584, if occupation had not occurred.

In 1579, Raleigh and his brother Carew Raleigh captained a reconnaissance mission funded by Gilbert with Simon Fernandez, described by Raleigh as “a thorough-paced scoundrel.” In 1580, leaking ships, storms and desertion caused the mission to fail and Gilbert’s fortune was lost.

Also in 1580, no longer happy with just “half the world,” Spain invaded and captured Portugal in just 70 days. Spain had become a very powerful European aggressor.

We find John White in 1580 joining the Painters and Stainers Company in London. The now famous watercolors from the 1584 and 1585-1586 Roanoke reconnaissance trips were John White’s work.

White’s paintings are extremely valuable historically as they are the first visual records of Native American life and villages and when compared with the various journals that exist from this timeframe, his paintings appear to be very accurate.

About this time, Raleigh hired an artist in London named Jacques Le Moyne to draw the Timucan Indians in Florida. White’s style is very similar to Le Moyne’s and White may have been studying under Le Moyne.

In 1581, Raleigh, age 29 and described as a “tall, handsome and bold man” is summoned to London by Queen Elizabeth, age 48, who seeks his opinion about Irish politics, quickly becoming her favorite. His rise at court was meteoric, causing a great deal of jealousy and creating enemies among those who had spent years “paying their dues” and slowly rising in the social ranks, only to be bypassed by Raleigh in the fast lane.

Raleigh’s ascent was viewed as a type of oracle by some. Elizabeth was quite smitten, giving him the pet name of “her Water” and “her Shepherd of the Ocean.” He is called the “Darling of the English Cleopatra” by others, not so affectionately. Rumors of a different type of relationship between Raleigh and the Queen were rampant. He lived at the Queen’s palace and she eventually financed his Roanoke expeditions.

In 1583, having again found financing through Raleigh, Gilbert planned to settle a colony of Catholic dissidents in Newfoundland. His fleet sets sail on June 11, 1583 but on September 9th, Gilbert drowned, “swallowed up by the sea” along with his frigate and crew.

1584 – Walter Raleigh Obtains a Patent and Launches an Exploratory Trip

Walsingham, seeing an opportunity, made a bid for Gilbert’s patent which, due to his death, was once again available. Unexpectedly, Queen Elizabeth gave Gilbert’s patent to Raleigh, forever pitting Walsingham against Raleigh and causing Walsingham to seek every opportunity to cause Raleigh’s failure. Walsingham’s schemes are not evident, straightforward or above-board, as we will see.

Raleigh, anxious to begin, sent a reconnaissance mission to seek out a favorable location for his colony. On July 4th, 1584, Roanoke Island was selected as headquarters. The island is protected from the open ocean, shielded from the enemy Spaniards by the Outer Banks, relatively easy to defend since it is an island, and has a fresh water source.

Please note that you can click on any image to enlarge.

This map, drawn in 1590 or 1591 by White and deBry, a mapmaker, shows the area in rather amazing detail. Pay close attention to the three circles on Croatoan Island, present day Hatteras Island, the location of three Indian villages.

The sailors stayed a few weeks, evaluating the area and interacting with the native people. When they returned to England, two Indians accompanied them, Manteo and Wanchese. Manteo was from the island immediately south of Roanoke, present day Hatteras Island where his mother was chief. Wanchese appeared to be the advisor of Wingina, chief of the village on Roanoke Island along with its sister village across the sound on the mainland.

The ship arrived back in England in October 1584 and during the next few months, the Indians were treated quite royally, visiting palaces and castles and learning English. They were also used to drum up support for a permanent colony in Virginia, as the merchants needed to see some reason to invest in the project and the Indians, describing their abundant natural resources, provided the perfect enticement. Little did Manteo and Wanchese know they were signing their people’s death warrant.

1585 – The Military Expedition

After their return to Virginia in 1585, Wanchese turned against the English.

On January 6, 1585, Queen Elizabeth knighted Walter Raleigh, so he officially became Sir Walter Raleigh.

On April the 9th, a military expedition of 600 men commanded by Raleigh’s cousin, Sir Richard Grenville, departed for Roanoke, along with Manteo and Wanchese who were being returned home. Not all 600 men reached Roanoke however. Some men became ill and died, and some decided that pirating in the West Indies was a much more attractive option. Some ships were lost in storms. About 200 men actually arrived on Roanoke Island in five ships. However, the ship carrying food wrecked on the Outer Banks shoals among allegations of incompetence between Ralph Lane, Captain of the ship Tiger, and Simon Fernandez, captaining another ship. It’s unclear, but it may be that during the salvage efforts another officer named Butler killed about 20 members of an Indian nation who lived 60 miles inland who were enemies of the Hatteras. This is the point at which Wanchese distanced himself from the English.

Meanwhile across the Atlantic, in May of 1585, King Philip of Spain placed an embargo on all English merchant ships in Spanish ports, subjecting the stranded English sailors to the Inquisition, a torturous death sentence. The situation between Spain and England escalated towards open war. In retaliation, Elizabeth issued letters of reprisal to privateering vessels to recoup her losses.

The difference between a pirate and a privateer? The blessing of the Queen. That’s it.

The Queen shared in the profits of any prize, meaning a captured ship and cargo, brought home to England; 20% to her and the rest to the ship’s owner, captain and crew. In essence, this action constituted undeclared war.

Unaware of any of these developments of course, the group of men on Roanoke built a fort and proceeded to explore inland, accompanied by Manteo. The men were particularly interested in finding gold, copper and silver. They were also scouting for sites for the permanent settlement, looking at the availability of farmland and the ability to defend a fort.

On July the 11th, 4 vessels with 50 men and Manteo as their interpreter ventured inland and visited the Secotan people.

John White drew a picture of the village and the chief’s wife and child carrying a doll given as a gift to the child.

Four days later, the men reached the town of Secota, Wingina’s capital city, after visiting the village of Aquascogoc the previous day. Upon arrival at Secota, they discover that a silver chalice was missing and they returned to Aquascogoc to seek the chalice, believing that someone there stole it during their visit. The chalice was not forthcoming, and the soldiers burned the village. The residents were confused by the change in behavior, friendly one day and clearly enemies the next.

Unprepared for this turn of events, the Native people fled and no resistance was offered. However, given the time of year, their fields would have been ruined, eliminating their ability to harvest corn to tide them over the winter, causing a hardship on the entire Indian community in the area – perhaps even starvation.

The above drawing by John White is an Algonkin Indian Chief, and may have been Manteo, Wingina or Wanchese.

Later in July, the soldiers asked Wingina if they could stay over the winter on Roanoke Island. He begrudgingly agreed, but only under the condition that they did not ask for food or help. Wingina said that the 1584 expedition depleted their food supplies and so had the burning of Aquascogoc.

On August 17th, the men complete a larger fort on the island and prepare for the upcoming winter. Five days later, the ships sailed for England, leaving 107 men and their commander, Ralph Lane, with no supplies and no food and a promise to the Indians that they won’t ask them for any. This lack of planning and foresight was amazing. However, Richard Grenville captured a Spanish ship on the way home and arrived in October, a hero.

An additional problem in Virginia was that 1585 was a year of severe drought. Scientists today indicate that it may have been the worst drought in 800 years. In the midst of this drought, a comet streaked across the sky on September 27th and the Indians began to die. Many perished, including Wingina’s brother and another important man in the village.

Some Indians blamed the colonists, but others felt that the tribe was being punished by angry Gods because they were not helping the colonists. Still others felt that the colonists were Gods, or were those who had died previously had come back and were now immortal, because the colonists were not perishing like the Indians. Today of course we understand that the colonists had immunity against European illnesses that the Indians simply didn’t possess. From the Indian’s perspective, however, this disparity seemed supernatural.

Winter 1585-1586

Over the winter of 1585/1586, journals tell us that at least one soldier was hung, although his crime is unrecorded. We know that only 3 things were hanging offences; falling asleep on guard duty, disobeying a direct order or raping a woman. If his offense was rape, the only women would have been Native women and that would, of course, have eroded relationships even further.

We also know that the soldiers went on reconnaissance missions as far as “140 miles into the main” in search of copper. The Indians in White’s drawings often wear copper ornaments and the English were convinced that there must be a rich source of copper and other minerals if they could simply locate the mine.

In February of 1586, a second epidemic further devastated the Native people.

In the spring, while in search of gold in a local village, a Native boy was kidnapped and all who resisted were killed. Relationships between the English and the Native people deteriorated further.

Finally, in June, as a preemptive strike, Lane and his men massacred the people in Wingina’s village across the sound from Roanoke Island, and they beheaded Wingina. At this point, the only friendly Indians towards the English were Manteo’s village on Croatoan Island. The English had not only alienated the others but turned them into enemies seeking revenge. It’s amazing that the Englishmen survived the winter.

1586 – Sir Francis Drake

Far to the south in June, Sir Francis Drake was privateering in the Caribbean, “visiting” several islands.

For good measure, Drake attacked and destroyed the Spanish stronghold of St. Augustine shown below, on his way north to stop at Roanoke Island, arriving in Roanoke in a hurricane on June the 8th.

Drake may or may not have brought captured Indian and African slaves with him, along with Moors and 100 Turks that we know he had on board because they were subsequently ransomed to the Turkish empire after their return to England. We do know that 3 escaped slaves stated that they were being taken to Roanoke to work. Of course, Drake had no idea that it wasn’t labor they desperately needed, but food.

Drake’s arrival in a hurricane and the subsequent sinking of several ships on the shoals on the Outer Banks in the hurricane is significant. Drake was attempting to offload food and supplies to the military colonists, when the ship, half unloaded, was lost to the storm. If Drake did have slaves with him, they were likely unloading the ship, and Drake would not have risked the lives of his soldiers, nor his boats, to offload the slaves to the mainland. Given that the supply ship was lost, it’s probable that the slaves unloading the supplies were lost too.

The geography of the outer banks requires that the larger ships unload to smaller ships, canoes or pinnaces as the water is too shallow inside of the outer banks islands for the larger vessels. This meant that goods, supplies and men all had to transfer to smaller boats to get from the barrier islands to Roanoke Island across the sound. In a hurricane, the barrier islands are extremely unsafe. They shift, disappear and are created during storms. The area on the outside of the islands for a distance of 100 miles or so is called the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” for a reason.

Some of Drake’s men mutinied, in fear for their lives on the shoals, and headed with their boats for England. Drake offered to leave his smaller boats for the military colonists, but after 6 days, the decision was made for all of the men to leave with Drake for England. On June 19th, having devastated the Native population with disease, warfare and famine, they left for England, taking Manteo with them once again along with a second Indian, Towaye.

Unfortunately, 3 men who were inland on a reconnaissance mission were left behind. Imagine the surprise of those men when they returned to find that their comrades had departed and they were left to fend for themselves among openly hostile Indians. I’m thinking this is the definition of a very bad day.

These men become the first three “lost colonists” although we don’t know their names.

1586 – The Grenville 15

Sir Richard Grenville, another privateer, was involved in multiple voyages to the New World. One of the captains of the 1585 expedition, he led the crew that burned the village of Aquascogoc. Embroiled in a bitter battle with the Ralph Lane, another ship’s captain and general of the expedition, Grenville was criticized by Lane for his “intolerable pride and insatiable ambition.”

However, Grenville’s most memorable feat, aside from the terror he rained on Aquascogoc, is a description given of Grenville dining with Spanish ship captains while raiding the Azores Islands on his return to England in 1586:

“He would carouse three or four glasses of wine, and in a bravery take the glasses between his teeth and crash them in pieces and swallow them down, so that often the blood ran out of his mouth without any harm at all unto him…”

Just a few days after the men departed for England with Drake, Raleigh’s supply ship captained by Sir Richard Grenville, Raleigh’s cousin, arrived and found the fort deserted. Unaware of the events that had transpired, Grenville left 15 men behind to “hold the fort.” These men are known as the “Grenville 15.” Grenville left to return to England.

These men disappeared and are the next 15 “lost colonists,” for a total of 18, so far.

During this time in England, Queen Elizabeth had appointed Raleigh “Captain of the Guard,” the person who was physically closest to her always. He slept outside her quarters, protecting her. Two very powerful men became jealous enemies of Raleigh; Walsingham, of course, and now the Queen’s rumored former lover, Sir Richard Dudley, Earl of Leicester.

1587 – The Colonists Embark

Wasting no time, Raleigh appointed John White Governor of the Cittie of Raleigh on January 4, 1787 and began preparations for his settlers to leave for Virginia. Each settler would receive, among other enticements, 500 acres of land. Land was impossible to purchase in England, so for anyone who was not in the line of inheritance, meaning a first son of a family with land, the only hope for land ownership was outside of England. 500 acres was a massive amount of land, by English standards.

John White later said that he personally recruited many of these people, and because of that he felt a great deal of responsibility for their predicament after they became stranded.

John White may have been related to Cuthbert White a colonist, and he may have been related to the Paynes as well. In 1788 an original collection of White’s paintings turned up in the hands of Thomas Payne, a London bookseller. How they managed to be in Payne’s possession 200 years after the colony was “lost” has never been determined.

On April 26th, 1587, the colonists left for Roanoke. On July 27th, three months later, they arrived on “Hatterask Island” to leave their Indian friend, Manteo and to inquire about the 15 men left by Grenville the previous year on Roanoke. Towaye had died in England.

1587 – Arrival!!!

Note the wrecked ships along the Outer Banks island in White’s map of the arrival of the Englishmen. Is this a warning, or does White know that shipwrecks lie there? Ships wrecked before the colonists arrival might explain some Native American/European admixture that is not as a result of the colonists’ survival.

When the colonists first arrived in Manteo’s home village, Croatoan, on Hatteras Island, the people were fearful and seemed to want to fight until Manteo called to them. Initially pleased to see Manteo, they then recognized Stafford, a man who was along in 1584 and had plundered their food supplies. They became afraid and begged the English not to “gather or spill” any of their corn, because they had but little. The English were then told that the “Grenville 15” were set upon by Wingina’s men and men from the village they had burned, that two of the men were killed and the rest escaped in a boat from Hatterask Island. This of course raises the question of where they obtained a boat, or if they quickly built something resembling a raft. Maybe Grenville left a small boat with the 15 men.

This means that the total of lost colonists (so far) is reduced to 16, assuming that the 13 who left in a boat had some prayer of survival.

White tried to repair the relationship with Manteo’s people and they debate what to do about the damage done the previous year by Ralph Lane whose men destroyed the two villages.

About August first, the colonists decided to continue north “for the Bay of Chesepiok where we intended to make our seat and fort, according to the charge give us among other directions in writing under the hand of Sir Walter Raleigh.” This translates to the Chesapeake Bay, not Roanoke. In other words, they never intended to actually settle on Roanoke Island.

The ships stopped at Roanoke at the fort and indeed find the skeleton of one person and the fort quite abandoned and overgrown, but not destroyed or burned. They stayed for a few days.

On August 7th, one of the colonists, George Howe was on the beach, alone, crabbing and was brutally killed by the remnants of Wingina’s men.

The next day, August 8th, 24 colonists, Stafford and John White set out for the village of Dasamonquepeuc, Wingina’s village directly across from Roanoke Island on the shore of the mainland, to seek revenge for the death of Howe. In a nighttime raid, after killing one man, they discovered that they have killed their friend, a Croatoan Indian, not Wingina’s men after all. After killing Howe, Wingina’s men had retreated inland and Manteo’s people had been scavenging in their deserted village.

Virginia Dare is Born and the Colony is Stranded

Ten days later, on August 18th, Virginia Dare was born, granddaughter of John White and a few days later, another child, a Harvie, was born as well.

The colonists needed to sail for the Chesapeake Bay because their food had been destroyed in route and supply ships would be arriving in the Chesapeake, where the colonists were expected to settle.

Our old friend, Simon Fernandez, a captain of one of the ships, announced that he was stranding the colonists on Roanoke Island, that he would not take them further and he will not return them home. What better way to assure that the colony fails? Stranded with no food among enemy Indians in a place no one will look.

Why John White, the Governor, did not override Fernandez is unknown. Perhaps he knew he could not win a fight with the pirate, who physically controlled the ships and the sailors, and decided to make the best of the situation at hand.

All three trips, the 1584, the 1585-86 and now this venture have had their food destroyed in route. On this trip, the Indians are hostile and without much food themselves, and the supply ship in route will never look for the colonists on Roanoke Island, but will instead search the Chesapeake.

Finally, Fernandez relents a bit and says he will transport one person to England to seek resupply, leaving the rest on Roanoke Island, full well knowing that by the time he arrives in England, it will be too late in the year to send a supply ship until late the following spring and the colonists will likely have perished by then of starvation or at the hands of the hostile Indians.

The colonists persuaded White to return to England as the “one person,” although White was reluctant, wanting to remain with the colonists. Fernandez puts White on the slowest boat which arrived weeks after the rest of the fleet, and not in England, but in Ireland. In the mean time, Stafford and Fernandez reported to Raleigh that his colonists are in their “wished seate.” An amazingly blatant outright lie.

War!

In October 1587, just as the ships arrived in England and as John White was trying to arrange for the resupply of the colonists, the undeclared war between England and Spain escalated. The Queen who had no British Navy conscripted all vessels regardless of their type, so fishing and merchant vessels were impressed into service and a moratorium was placed on shipping so that all vessels remained in port and available to defend England against the anticipated attack of the Spanish Armada.

In March of 1588, Grenville, having obtained permission, was ready to leave on a rescue or resupply voyage when the rumors of Spain and the Pope’s alliance to attack England were combined with a lunar eclipse and an alleged earthquake at Glastonberry Abbey that supposedly revealed Merlin’s prophesy of the end of the world. Walsingham of course reported these events to Queen Elizabeth, strongly advising her to prepare for imminent war. She revoked the permission given for Grenville to leave, at Walsingham’s insistence.

French Pirates and the Spanish Armada

A month later, White obtained the services of two small ships, recruited 15 new colonists and prepared to leave. In May, after departure, they were attacked by French pirates, robbed, their food stolen, but their lives spared. White was injured in the battle. The ship limped home, the passengers nearly starved. These colonists are the lucky ones, for they aren’t “lost.”

English and Spanish ships engaged in the 1588 sea battle.

In July of 1588, the long anticipated and feared Spanish Armada inched up the English coastline in a frightening arc.

Raleigh’s flagship attacked “thunderously and furiously” and he destroyed the Armada with the help of heavy seas. The painting above looks tranquil, but the descriptions of the battle was anything but. The panoramic painting below which includes watchtowers and Queen Elizabeth’s address at Tilbury conveys more of the confusion and heavy seas, conditions endured for days by both the Spanish and English leading up to the sea battle at Gravelines which signaled the beginning of the end for the Spanish fleet.

The English were both lucky and resourceful. The English set ships afire and launched them into the Spanish galleons. Heavy winds blew the burning ships into the Spanish, forcing them against the European coastline.

The Search for the Colonists

That battle was over, but the colonists were still without supplies and the Spanish were humiliated and angry. They set their sights on revenge.

In 1588, the Spanish settled in Florida to search for the English settlement up and down the coastline, not to rescue them, but to destroy the colony. Capt. Vicente Gonzalez found the fort on Roanoke Island, but it was deserted, and the Spanish only found casks buried in the sand, which is how fresh water was collected and stored. The English had clearly been there but had departed by that time. A year had elapsed since White had left Roanoke for England. It must have seemed like an eternity.

In March of 1589 Raleigh recruited 19 merchants to fund a new venture to Roanoke, but no trip was forthcoming. Scandal and slander haunted Raleigh.

In February of 1590, another Spanish scare in England brought shipping once again to a halt, but in March, Queen Elizabeth approved Raleigh’s request to send one ship to Roanoke. Ironically, the only ship Raleigh can find is a pirate ship, the Hopewell, who is leaving for the Caribbean under the guidance of the notorious pirate (and eventual Lord Mayor of London,) John Watts. The pirates agree to allow John White to join them, but he can only bring one chest, and they are going to privateer first. Given that this is his only option, White reluctantly agreed.

As the summer wanes, White became frantic as the men pirate in the Caribbean and petitioned the captain daily to leave for Roanoke. White knew that they needed to leave the Outer Banks by mid-August as Atlantic winter crossings had not yet at that time been attempted. 

Hurricane

On August 12th, the Hopewell finally arrived at the end of Croatoan Island in the midst of a hurricane. By the 15th they had inched their way further to Hattorask Island, then on to Port Fernando where they could see Roanoke Island itself.

They saw smoke, which White jubilantly assumed was the colonists, but it was probably just a natural fire. The ships set off artillery hoping to attract the attention of the colonists or Manteo’s tribe, but no one responded. Another fire was spotted in the opposite direction on Hattarask Island. They set out in that direction, found the location, but no people were there. Something was very wrong.

On August 17th, anchored on the Outer Banks in very rough seas, they decided to try for Roanoke Island. Two smaller boats left the larger ship, the first boat to hunt for fresh water. That boat returned to the main ship as White’s boat left. The second boat followed, but had waited too long and the seas were too rough.

“Directly into the harbour so great a gale, the sea breaks extremely.”

The Captain made a mistake, left his mast up, and was swamped. Of the 15 men in his boat, 11 drown and 4 were rescued. As amazing as it sounds, most sailors didn’t know how to swim. The rest of the men watched in horror. White said he felt particularly badly, because one of the men who drown was not a sailor, but was Robert Coleman, family member of Thomas Coleman and his wife, two colonists.

At that point, the superstitious sailors no longer wanted to go to Roanoke Island to look for the colonists, but White and Capt. Cocke persuaded them. The group arrived on Roanoke after dark, overshot their destiny, then tromped around in the dark backtracking a quarter mile. They saw a fire and headed in that direction, finding nothing. They sang English songs, they chanted, they did anything they could think of to attract the attention of the colonists. Finally, they slept in their boats, awaiting morning when they found bare footprints in the sand, but no colonists.

Gone!

The next day, in the daylight, White found the location of the fort where he had left the colonists, but the village was removed. Disassembled, not destroyed. But gone nonetheless.

On a tree, White found the letters “CRO” carved, and further on, to the right of the entrance to the fort on the palisade, he found the word “CROATOAN” carved.

The photo above shows a reproduction at Roanoke Island Festival Park, flanked by Dawn Taylor and Anne Poole, LCRG volunteers, as the original tree and stockade post no longer exist.

White agreed with the colonists before he left that if they were to move, they would carve the location where they were going where he could find it. White said they were discussing moving “50 miles into the main,” although neither he nor anyone else tells us that location. That distance would adequately protect them from the marauding Spanish.

Furthermore, White made a secret pact with the colonists that if they were distressed or in danger when they left, they were to carve a “cross formee,” similar to a Maltese cross, above the word.

There were no crosses and furthermore, the village was not destroyed, but taken apart and moved, so there was no sign of a hurried departure or distress. The pinnace left for the colonists was also gone, and only heavy useless items remained. White was overjoyed because he knew the colonists had moved to be among their friends the Croatoan, Manteo’s village, which he interpreted to mean that they were safe. He had to be thinking of his daughter.

Bad Luck Turns Even Worse

By this time, the weather was again worsening, and the men returned to the Hopewell anchored on the Outer Banks. White said they were afraid their anchors and cables would not hold, and indeed they were right. Three of four broke during what must have been a terrifying night, nearly wrecking the ship on the shoals. The men soundly refused to go to Roanoke Island again, or to Croatoan Island to look for the colonists. The men who would brave privateering would not brave the Outer Banks islands.

White, being a smart man suggested that they go back to the West Indies for the winter and privateer, returning in the spring to Hatteras, a strategy which would allow them to return to the Outer Banks 60 days earlier than if they had to sail from England. The men quickly agreed, but Mother Nature had something else in mind. By now a full-fledged hurricane, the ship was literally blown back to England, against the will of the crew.

Raleigh’s fortunes were not improving in England. In February of 1592 he was charged with being an atheist. Worse yet, in July of 1592, Raleigh was rumored to be betrothed to Elizabeth Throckmartin, one of Queen Elizabeth’s maids of honor. Enraged, Elizabeth threw the couple into the Tower of London. She may have been the Queen, but she was still a woman spurned – and a very powerful one.

In October, Raleigh was released from the Tower but banned from court. Walsingham did not live to see this day, as he had died in 1590, although he surely would have thoroughly enjoyed this turn of events.

White’s Final Letter

On February 4, 1593, John White, in Ireland, wrote one last letter to historian Richard Hakluyt detailing the 1590 rescue attempt. White says:

“Thus may you plainly perceive the success of my fifth and last voyage to Virginia which was no less unfortunately ended that forwardly begun, and as luckless to many, as sinister to myself. I leave off from prosecuting that whereunto I would to God my wealth were answerable to my will. This committing the relief of my discomfortable company the planters in Virginia to the merciful help of the Almighty, whom I most humbly beseech to help and comfort them, according to his most Holy will and their good desire, I take my leave from my house at Newtowne in Kyulmore the 4 of February 1593.”

White had clearly given up any hope of rescuing the colonists and is never heard from again. His letter was not published until 1600.

White clearly wanted to believe that his daughter, son-in-law and grandchild were still alive.

Seven Years Later

In the spring of 1594, 7 years after White’s son-in-law, Ananias Dare left for Roanoke, his estate was probated in London, as it appears that Ananias was presumed to be dead or at least unresponsive. This is particularly interesting in light of White’s 1593 letter. You would think that if White had information that the colony or his son-in-law had perished, his letter would have read differently.

Ananias Dare had a son, John, from a previous marriage for whom a guardian was appointed.

England: Canterbury – Administrations in the Prerogative Court of
Canterbury, 1596-1608, Index to Acts of Administration in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 1596 – 1608 County: General – Country: England:
Dare, Ananias, St. Bride, Lond. To Jn. Nokes, k., dur. min. of Jn. D., s.,
(by Decree), (prev. Gnt. Apr 1594, p 95), Jun 1597 p213

Robert Satchfield and John Nokes were named as “next of kin” to Ananias Dare in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury Probate Acts of 1594 and 1597 respectively.  They wanted to also become administrators of John’s estate and guardians of Ananias’ his son John. The outcome is unknown, as is what happened to Ananias’ son, John Dare. Neither is the “next of kin” relationship of Nokes and Satchfield to Ananias Dare described.

Also in 1594, Florida Governor Gonalo Mendez de Cancio reported that two relief boats went to Roanoke with planters, clothing, supplies and tools. If this is indeed true, they too were lost.

In May of 1597, 5 years after his “transgression” with Elizabeth Throckmartin, Raleigh was forgiven by the Queen and returned to court. However, the rumors were true, and indeed Raleigh and Elizabeth had married and Raleigh had a young son.

Rescue Missions, Treason and Jamestown

By 1602, 5 rescue attempts had been undertaken and Raleigh outfited a 6th. In May of 1603, two more expeditions were launched, for a total of 8 attempts, one to the Chesapeak and one that missed Hattorask Island completely. If the colonists were still alive, Virginia Dare would have been 15 years old.

One school of thought suggests that these aren’t actual “rescue attempts,” but that the colony location is known and the colonists were producing products for trade, such as silkgrass and sassafras. The ships were visiting to load the products, not rescue the colonists.

In March of 1603 Queen Elizabeth died and King James became King of England. James was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, Queen Elizabeth’s cousin whom she had executed when Mary threatened Elizabeth’s right to the throne. Mary Queen of Scots held the Scottish throne for James as he was underage at the time. Queen Elizabeth’s death with no heir reverted the crown to James, but left Raleigh in a terrible predicament.

In July, Raleigh was arrested for High Treason. Subsequently convicted without evidence or witnesses, Raleigh was eventually executed for his “crime,” but not until 1618 and only then after a failed 1617 expedition to South America during which his son was killed.

In January of 1606, the London Company was formed by Chief Justice Popham, the man who convicted Raleigh and in April 1607, the London Company settled Jamestown with 115 colonists, just a few months shy of the 20th anniversary of the Lost Colony’s settlement on Roanoke Island.

Hints of Survival

Did the Colonists survive? They may have. Several tidbits of information exist that suggest that they did, but we have no proof.

From the paper, “Where Have All The Indians Gone? Native American Eastern Seaboard Dispersal, Genealogy and DNA in Relation to Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony of Roanoke,” published in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy in the fall 2009 issue, I discussed information that points to the possible survival of the colonists. In addition, I prepared a timeline which is included as well.

A surveyor, John Lawson, worked on Hatteras Island and on the coastline of North Carolina in the late 1600s and early 1700s when the area was first being settled. Lawson reported that the Hatteras Indians were the tribe living on Hatteras Island in 1701, 110 years after the colony disappeared, and they included light skinned, light-haired, grey-eyed people who claimed to descend from white people. 110 years is roughly 5 generations.

The oral history of the Hatteras included stories of Raleigh’s ships and a ghost ship that regularly appeared looking for the colonists.

“A farther Confirmation of this [Lost Colony ancestry] we have from the Hatteras Indians, who either then lived on Ronoak-Island, or much frequented it. These tell us, that several of their Ancestors were white People, and could talk in a Book, as we do; the Truth of which is confirm’d by gray Eyes being found frequently amongst these Indians, and no others. They value themselves extremely for their Affinity to the English, and are ready to do them all friendly Offices.” – John Lawson, (1709) A New Voyage to Carolina, page 43-44.

Lawson further stated: “Hatteras Indians these are them that wear English dress.”

Lawson was given chickens by the Hatteras, which are not native to America.

Lawson’s Indian guide, Enoe Will, told Lawson he knew about “talking books and speaking papers” and that some of his ancestors, the Hatteras, were white.

Various records indicate that the Hatteras Indians integrated with the Mattamuskeet Indians who lived on the mainland directly across the sound from Hatteras Island. During this timeframe, significant tribal “reorganization” and warfare was taking place. The tribes divided and many moved to other locations, further inland to safer swamplands that were also less desirable to Europeans. By this time, post 1650, land and other records begin to be kept and are available for research. In addition, oral histories of the various tribes and the history of several families exist independently who claim to be descended from the colonists.

Circumstantial evidence suggests that some of the Colonists did survive. If they did, their only opportunity for survival was to assimilate into the Native culture. They could not remain as separate “colonists.”

In 1888, 1891 and 1914, historians and North Carolina legislators determined that the Lumbee were likely the descendants of the Colonists based upon their own oral history, the Lumbee language which incorporated 300 years old English (Elizabethan) words, their last names and their countenance. However, there was also political motivation for doing so and no records have been found prior to McMillan’s 1888 mention of a Lumbee/Lost Colony connection.

Some of the colonists may have been victims of warfare and killed by the Powhatan just before Jamestown was settled, or became slaves, or both. There were several reports from those in Jamestown who were searching for the colonists that some yet survived.

Sightings

While the Jamestown fort was being built, in 1607, George Percy reported: “We saw a savage boy about the age of 10 years which had a head of hair of a perfect yellow and a reasonable white skin, which is a miracle amongst all the savages.” Jamestown and Roanoke Island are roughly 150 miles apart, with Hatteras Island being another 50 miles south.

Percy’s report was only 20 years after the Lost Colony was left in 1587, so if this were in fact a child of (or related to) the colonists, he would surely have told his parents or other colonists that he had indeed seen non-Native strangers and perhaps their rescue was imminent. If this wasn’t a child of the colonists, who was this child?

It should also be noted that the colonists weren’t the only white people in the region:

  • There was at least one other failed settlement on the James River in 1570 by the Jesuits
  • There were earlier shipwrecks
  • The Spanish were sailing the coastline
  • European vessels were fishing off of Nova Scotia. The typical sailing path was south with the trade winds to the Caribbean and up the Atlantic Coast. As early as 1474, the Portuguese and Danish had discovered and were fishing “the land of Codfish” which has been interpreted to mean Newfoundland. The way to Newfoundland was typically up the Atlantic coastline and ships had to stop to resupply, especially for water.
  • Raleigh’s two military expeditions in 1584 and 1585/86 could have been responsible for fathering children

The Hatteras Indians were already using metal tools salvaged from a shipwreck that occurred about 20 years before Raleigh’s expeditions. Maritime traffic wasn’t new and European sailors could easily have left their DNA behind.

According to a Jamestown report, the Powhatan chief eventually “confessed” that he did killed most of the colonists just prior to the settlement of Jamestown in 1607/8. The colonists had, according to the Powhatan chief, been living with the Chesepian tribe who refused to join the Powhatan confederacy. There is other information that conflicts with this and indicates that the colonists had split, or had been split, and colonists elsewhere still survived, some as slaves.

Some scholars believe that the chief’s confession was either fabricated or enhanced by Powhatan to intimidate the Jamestown colonists. Although Powhatan did display a musket and other artifacts from the colonists, supposedly from the massacre, he could also have obtained those items through trade or other means.

More than three dozen of these survival reports exist, including maps.

A clandestine map, known as the Zuniga Map was sent to the Spanish king through an intermediary spy but originated in Jamestown in 1608. (North is not at the top. I believe it’s to the right.)

The map was later found in the Spanish archives and translated. A redrawn version shown below showed 3 colonist locations, one at Jamestown and two further south.

Reports suggesting colonist survival include:

  • 1588 – The Spanish governor in Florida reports to the King that the British are living on an island at 43 degrees.
  • 1599 – Recounting his time while captive in the hands of the Spanish, David Glavin claims that two additional Spanish ships were provisioned to go to Jacan (Roanoke Island) in 1594, carrying supplies of people, ammunition, clothes, implements, axes and spades for the settlers there. A report from the Florida governor to the king confirms his report, but the outcome is unknown.
  • 1603 – Captain Martin Pring sailed to North America and returned with holds full of sassafras. They were reported to have landed north of Roanoke Island. At the same time, many accounts that Sir Walter Raleigh’s colony had again been contacted were reported from several sources in England.
  • 1603-1604 – David Beers Quinn (1985) reports a 1603 rumor in England that contact with the colony was made. Capt. Mace was sent to Virginia in 1603 and again in 1604 to obtain sassafras along with a French-English expedition.
  • 1604 – George Waymouth presented a treaty called “Jewel of Artes” to King James because he thought the Lost Colonists had been contacted. It appears that Waymouth assumed that King James was already familiar with that information.
  • 1605 – Waymouth led a rescue expedition but by accident or design was not reported to have gone to Croatoan.
  • 1605 – In England the play “Eastward, Ho,” produced by George Chapman, Ben Johnson and John Marston stated “a whole country of English is there, men bred of those who were left there in “79.” Yes, the 79 is confusing but artistic license perhaps?
  • John Smith at Jamestown reports survivors at Panawioc, Pakerakanick and Ocanahowan.
  • 1608 – John Smith returns to Jamestown from a meeting with the Pamunkey Indians. Of his meeting, he reported, “What he knew of the dominions he spared not to acquaint me with, as of certaine men clothed at a place called Ocanahonan, clothed like me.”
  • 1608 – Later in Smith’s travels into the interior at a place called Weramocomoco, the local Indian chief or “Emperour” as Smith described him gave still more information. “Many kingdoms hee desribed mee…The people cloathed at Ocamahowan, he also confirmed; and the Southerly countries also as the rest that reported us to be within a day and a halfe of Mangoge, two dayes of Chawwanock, 6 from Roonock to the south part of the backe sea: he described a countrie called Anone, where they have abundance of brasse and houses walled as ours.” It was thought to be about 10 days or 100 miles through the swamp.
  • 1608 – As a result, Smith pursued the lead and the King agreed to provide guides. Unfortunately, the results were as follows: “We had agreed with the king of Paspahegh to conduct two of our men to a place called Panawicke beyond Roonok where he reported many men to be appareled. Wee landed him at Warraskoyack where playing the villaine and deluding and for rewards, returned within 3 or 4 days after without going further.”
  • John Smith made yet another reference to the search for the lost colony in his Description of Virginia, published in 1612. “Southward they went to some parts of Chanwonock and the Mangoages, to search them there left by Sir Walter Raleigh; for those parts of the towne of Chrisapeack hath formerly been discovered by M. Harriot and Sir Ralph Layne.”
  • 1609 (Dec. 14) .… “Intelligence of some of our nation planted by Sir Walter Raleigh, (yet alive) within 50 miles of our fort…as is verified by two of our colony sent out to seek them, who, though denied by the savages speech with them, found crosses and letters, the characters and assured testimonies of Christians newly cut in the barks of trees.” Note that crosses were a sign of distress, per White’s agreement with the colonists. Had that information not been shared with the Jamestown colonists?
  • 1609 – A Spanish expedition by Captain Francisco Fernandez de Ecija on the eastern seaboard ransoms a Frenchman and carries on trade and social interaction with the Indians south of current day Roanoke/Hatteras Island. An Indian woman named Maria de Miranda, who is married to a Spaniard, translates for the Spanish/Indians and tells them that she knows where the French and English are settled but she does not state the location.
  • One of the most telling pieces of information was contained in a series of instructions sent from England in May 1609 by the council of the Virginia Company to the governor at Jamestown that clearly indicates the belief that at least four of the colonists are alive. The council proposed establishing a “principal and chiefe seate or headwaurters” of the permanent Virginia colony near “a towne called Ohonahorn seated where the River of Choanock devideth itself into three branches and falleth into the sea of Rawnocke.” Extolling the virtues of this site, generally conceded to have been on the west side of the Chowan River in what is now Bertie County, NC, the council concluded as follows; “besides you are neere to riche cooper mines of Ritanoc and may passe them by one braunche of this River and by another Peccarecamicke where you shall finde foure of the englishe alive, left by Sir Walter Rawely which escaped from the slaughter of Powhatan of Roanocke, upon the first arrivial of our colonie, and live under the proteccon of a wiroance called Gespanocon, enemy to the Powhatan, by whose consent you shall never recover them, one of these were worth much labour.”
  • Another clue in the literature of the Jamestown settlement appeared in a report prepared by several leaders of the colony and published in 1612 under the title “The Proceedings of the English Colony in Virginia.” In referring to one of Capt. Smith’s journeys mention is made of his dealings with an Indian chief. “The Captain thanked him for his good counsel, yet the better to try his love, desired guides to Chowanoke where he would send a present to that king to bind him his friend. To perform this journey was sent Michael Sicklemore, an honest, valiant and painefull soldier, with him, two guids, and directions howe to search for the lost company of Sir Walter Rawley and silke grasse.” The results of Michael Sicklemore’s journey are given later in the report, together with reference to yet another search party. “Mr Sicklemore well returned from Chawanock but found little hope and lesse certainetie of them that were left by Sir Walter Rawley.” And then he goes on to say…
  • “So that Nathanell Powell and Anas Todkill were also, by the Quiyoughquohanocks, conducted to the Mangoages to search them there. But nothing could we learne but they were all dead.”
  • The Powhatan told John Smith to search among the Chowanoc for the colonists.
  • The Powhatan say the colonists settled at Ohanoac, in Chowanoc territory, slightly more than 50 miles inland.
  • Powhatan’s servant named Weinock told William Strachey that “Houses are built like ours, which is a ten days march from Powhaten.”
  • A notation in the margin of a volume entitled Hakluytus, Posthumus or Purchas His Pilgrimes. “Powhatan confessed that he had been at the murder of the colony and showed a musket barrel and a brass mortar, and certain pieces of iron which had been theirs.”
  • Gates (at Jamestown) was instructed to find the colonists who “escaped from the slaughter of Powhaton of Roanoke.” It is believed that the Mandoag, a hostile tribe, attacked the Powhatan and took some colonists as slaves.
  • 1612 – Strachey’s report: “At Peccarecamick and Ochananoen by the relations of Machumps, the people have howes built of stone walls, and one story above the other so taught them by those English who escaped the slaughter at Roanoke…At Ritanoe, the Weroance Eyanoco preserved 7, of the English alive, fower men, twoo boyes and one young maid (who escaped and fled up the River of Chanoke) to beat his copper of which he hath certain mynes at the said Ritanoe.” Ritanoc may be the mines of Chaunis Temoatan, controlled by the Mandoag, 20 days journey overland.
  • Arrohattoc (Powhatan confederacy) was reported to have one boy.
  • Panawiock was reportedly housing many lost colonists.
  • English, a man and woman, are rumored to be alive among the Tuscarora. North of the Roanoke, it is noted that men have beards and the people have copper. (Native men generally can’t grow beards and have very little body hair.)
  • 1614 – A group of deserters from Jamestown head for the Tuscarora village of Ocamahawan, where the inhabitants had built two-story stone houses, raise tame turkeys, and used brass utensils.
  • 1621 – Expedition to the Potomac River, in a native King’s house a china box is seen. The King says it was sent to him from “a king that dwelt in the west, over the great hills, some 10 days journey away, he having that box from a people as he said that came thither in ships, that wear clothes, crooked swords and somewhat like our men, dwelt in houses and were called Acanack-China.”
  • 1622 – John Pory of Jamestown, brother to Anne who married colonist Robert Ellis, continued to look for the colonists. He was told they live “10 days journey westward” but Pory cannot pursue the lead due to fighting between the Powhatan and the English.
  • 1650 – Merchant Edward Bland acting upon a rumor that Englishmen are alive to the south deep in the interior in a village called Hocomawanank hires an Appamattoc guide. This could possibly be the location of the Occaneechi trading village located on the Roanoke River. This is now 63 years after the colony was left, so these Englishmen, if they were related to the colonists, had to have been their children or descendants.
  • 1669 – Historian James Sprunt says, “The Cape Fear Coree Indians told the English settlers of the Yeamans colony in 1669 that their lost kindred of the Roanoke colony, including Virginia Dare …had been adopted by the once powerful Hatteras tribe and had become amalgamated with the children of the wilderness. It is believed that the Croatans of this vicinity are descendants of that race.” This is 32 years before Lawson reports about the Hatteras having light hair and being descended from the colonists.
  • 1671 – First expedition to the Blue Ridge Mountains in Tutelo Indian Territory, initials MA and NI (or J which was an indistinguishable letter from I at that time) are found carved into trees. Morris Allen and Nicholas Johnson? Five days to the west they again find MA and other scratchments on the trees.
  • 1701 – John Lawson reports the Keyauwee to be a “nation of bearded men.” Native men have little or no facial or body hair. It is believed that this location is near current day Ashboro, NC. These bearded men were first described by Lederer in 1670 but not encountered until 1701 by Lawson. These individuals could also have been descendants of early Spanish explorers in the 1500s that traversed the southeastern US.
  • The Cora (or Core) tree, 1000 years old, stands in Frisco on Hatteras Island with another message engraved. Cora or Core is thought by some to be another message from the colonists as to where they were relocating on the mainland.

If some of the colonists did survive to reproduce, it would have been within a predominantly matrilineal Native culture. Given that there were only 17 female colonists and 97 males, the balance of 80 males would have taken Native wives. What results would be expected when Y-line DNA of the descendants is sampled today?

The first thing that might be expected is that not all of the surnames survived, but some may have. It’s unlikely that after 5 generations, or more, of living in a Native matrilineal culture without surnames that colonist surnames were once again adopted intact, meaning down the direct paternal line. However, it’s also not impossible. If John Lawson (1709) was correct, the Indians took pride in their English heritage.

Just who are we looking for?

How Many Colonists Were There?

You’d think with a readily available roster, there would be agreement on how many colonists there were, but numbers from different sources vary from 110 to 117. One of John White’s own records says there were 150 men, but the roster certainly doesn’t reflect 150 people in total, let alone 150 men.

The roster itself includes 115 individuals, excluding the ship’s captains who were not expected to remain. Two infants were born before John White left for the return trip to England, Virginia Dare and a Harvie child whose name and gender were not recorded. So that’s 117. John White was recorded on the roster, and he returned to England, so now we’re down to 116. George Howe was on the roster but was killed by Indians while crabbing alone along the beach, so he wasn’t “lost.” This brings us to 115.

The number of colonists who were left on Roanoke Island during the 1587 voyage was 115. However, we know they were not the only folks who were lost.

Who Else Was Lost?

At least 3 men were left behind when the military colony abruptly left for England with Sir Francis Drake in 1586. Sir Richard Grenville left 15 men behind a month or so later to “hold the fort.” Skeletal remains of one individual was found and the Indians tell us of between 2 and 4 others who were killed. Another source says Grenville actually left 18, not 15. In any event, we know that at least 18 men, possibly 21 in total were “left” from these expeditions, and that at least one was killed.

Sources from the Spanish archives hint that Captains Amadas and Lane may have left two English hostages as an exchange of good will with the Natives in 1584 when they returned with Manteo and Wanchese to England. If so, we have no record of what happened to these men.

The Spanish archives also state that at one time 2 hanged bodies were found, one Indian and one English. Was this one of the men left behind? The record isn’t clear about when this event occurred. Native people typically didn’t execute by hanging.

During the Grenville expedition of 1584, Captain Stafford “set down” thirty two men on Croatoan Island and a month later, two of them were brought to Roanoke Island. What happened to the other 30? Were they lost too? Did they stay behind of Croatoan to be retrieved later, did they die, or did they remain forever?

In case you’ve lost track, we have the following:

We know that at least 133 Europeans were left, abandoned in one form or another on the Outer Banks. There may have been as many as 158.

In addition, we haven’t even discussed the possibility that Sir Francis Drake did in fact deposit some of his South American Indians, slaves and Moors that he had “rescued” during his privateering with every intention of leaving them on Roanoke Island with the military colonists. Instead he found the colonists in desperate straits, not having enough food for themselves, let alone additional individuals. I doubt that Drake would have expended the resources in a hurricane to put the Indians, slaves and Moors into a boat and risk both the boat and his men to transport them to the mainland from the shoals. Not to mention, the Moors were valuable as ransom to exchange for Englishmen being held captive in Moorish jails after being captured by Barbary pirates.

The only record we have of Drake’s bounty of humans is that the Turks were returned to England and ransomed back to their home country. The rest are unaccounted for. Some scholars feel that the majority of Drake’s captives drowned during the hurricane. Others feel that some or many were deposited on either Roanoke or Hatteras Island, although just five days after Drake’s departure, Raleigh’s relief voyage arrived, found the area deserted, and left. Grenville arrived another three weeks or so later and found the area completely devoid of humanity, including Indians. That’s when he left his 15 men to “hold the fort,” meaning that they would count towards inhabiting the area to preserve Raleigh’s patent.

Who Were the Colonists?

We don’t have a complete list of names of the English who were left on the shores of Roanoke and the mainland.

We have 3 or 4 surnames of the Grenville 15:

  • Chapman
  • Cofer/Coffin
  • Stucley

The first three were reported by Pedro Diaz, a Spanish pilot who was with Grenville, who said the number of men left behind was eighteen, not 15, two of whom were called Cofar (Coffin) and Chapman, and as his recollection is direct evidence, it may be the more reliable. Diaz said that Grenville left with them four pieces of artillery and supplies for eighteen men for one year.

Andy Powell, during research in England for his book, Grenville and the Lost Colony of Roanoke, discovered the surname of Stucley. Andy’s research further revealed three previously unknown colonists as well.

I am particularly grateful to the now deceased Dr. William S. Powell for contributing his research from his research trips to England and Ireland that were focused on identifying the colonists.

Other historical record researchers over the years contributing to the body of colonist evidence in England have been Andy Powell (not related to Dr. Powell), Nelda Percival and Nancy Frey.

We have at least partial names of 122 colonists and men from the exploration expeditions who were left behind. Of those, two were children born in 1587 shortly after arrival. I have included any information or hints about the identity of the colonists in the comments field. Keep in mind that spelling was not standardized at this time, so surname research is particularly difficult.

  Surname First Name Gender Position Comments
1 Allen Morris male
2 Archard Arnold male Archard’s lived in the riverside parish of St. Mary-at-the-Hill in London and are found in the All-Saints-Barking records within sight of the Tower of London.
3 Archard Thomas male child Thomas Archard is born in 1575 at St. Mary-at-the-Hill in London. Dr. Powell – In the parish register of All Saints Barking, within sight of the Tower or London, regularly for between 30 and 70 years will be found the following names represented among the Roanoke Colonists: Archard, Backhouse, Bailey, Borden, Chapman, Constable, Cooper, Deane, Dymoke, Evans, Fullwood, George, Platt, Pratt, Hardin, Harvye, Harriott, Ireland, Nichols, Powell, Sampson, Sares, Snelling, Stone, Stevens, Wade, Wright, John White.
4 Archard Joyce female See above
5 Arthur Richard male
6 Bailie Roger male assistant Bailey surname found in All-Saints-Barking records. A Roger Bailey is born 1578 in St. Clement Danes in Westminster, London to Francis Bailey. Dr. Powell – In the parish register of All Saints Barking, within sight of the Tower or London, regularly for between 30 and 70 years will be found the following names represented among the Roanoke Colonists: Archard, Backhouse, Bailey, Borden, Chapman, Constable, Cooper, Deane, Dymoke, Evans, Fullwood, George, Platt, Pratt, Hardin, Harvye, Harriott, Ireland, Nichols, Powell, Sampson, Sares, Snelling, Stone, Stevens, Wade, Wright, John White.
7 Bennet Marke male Some Bennetts are members in the tile and bricklayers guild.
8 Berde William male Possibly a Devon family, also Berd and Burd are found in St. Andrews Parish, Somerset.
9 Berrye Henry male Devon families, but none that connect so far. Presumed brother of Richard.
10 Berrye Richard male Presumed to be brother of Henry Berrye.
11 Bishop Michael male
12 Borden John male Dr. Powell – In the parish register of All Saints Barking, within sight of the Tower or London, regularly for between 30 and 70 years will be found the following names represented among the Roanoke Colonists: Archard, Backhouse, Bailey, Borden, Chapman, Constable, Cooper, Deane, Dymoke, Evans, Fullwood, George, Platt, Pratt, Hardin, Harvye, Harriott, Ireland, Nichols, Powell, Sampson, Sares, Snelling, Stone, Stevens, Wade, Wright, John White.
13 Bridger John male
14 Bright John male
15 Brooke John male
16 Browne Henry male Possible related to William Browne.
17 Browne William male Common surname, but a William Brown was a London goldsmith prior to 1587. William Brown married in 1572 and 1580 at St. Michael Cornhill, London. Possibly related to Henry Browne.
18 Burden John male
19 Butler Thomas male
20 Cage Anthony male Anthony Cage had been sheriff of Huntington in 1585. The Cage family was large, prominent in a number of endeavors, and wealthy. Anthony was a favored name for many generations. Anthonys lived and had businesses in Friday Street and were members of St. Matthew’s Parish there. They appear to have been related to the Warren family with lost colony connections, and Ananias Warren was Cage’s grandson, suggesting a Cage/Dare association. Later there were also Cage connections with Jamestown and New England.
21 Chapman John male Bideford shipbuilding family. Presumed to be married to Alis. Dr. Powell – In the parish register of All Saints Barking, within sight of the Tower or London, regularly for between 30 and 70 years will be found the following names represented among the Roanoke Colonists: Archard, Backhouse, Bailey, Borden, Chapman, Constable, Cooper, Deane, Dymoke, Evans, Fullwood, George, Platt, Pratt, Hardin, Harvye, Harriott, Ireland, Nichols, Powell, Sampson, Sares, Snelling, Stone, Stevens, Wade, Wright, John White.
22 Chapman Alis female Also found in the parish register of All-Saints-Barking. Dr. Powell – In the parish register of All Saints Barking, within sight of the Tower or London, regularly for between 30 and 70 years will be found the following names represented among the Roanoke Colonists: Archard, Backhouse, Bailey, Borden, Chapman, Constable, Cooper, Deane, Dymoke, Evans, Fullwood, George, Platt, Pratt, Hardin, Harvye, Harriott, Ireland, Nichols, Powell, Sampson, Sares, Snelling, Stone, Stevens, Wade, Wright, John White.
23 Chapman male Grenville 15 Probably related to John and Alis. Dr. Powell – In the parish register of All Saints Barking, within sight of the Tower or London, regularly for between 30 and 70 years will be found the following names represented among the Roanoke Colonists: Archard, Backhouse, Bailey, Borden, Chapman, Constable, Cooper, Deane, Dymoke, Evans, Fullwood, George, Platt, Pratt, Hardin, Harvye, Harriott, Ireland, Nichols, Powell, Sampson, Sares, Snelling, Stone, Stevens, Wade, Wright, John White.
24 Cheven John male May be Chavis today.
25 Clement William male Omitted on many rosters, present in McMillan’s 1888 roster taken from Hawk’s history of NC and also from Hakluyt, Vol 3, p 280. Dr. Powell – James Hynde and William Clement, according to contemporary manuscripts in the Essex Records Office, had been in prison together in Colchester Castle near London, a general jail, for stealing. This should not be unexpected as Ralph Lane referred to his company as “Wylde menn of myne owne nacione”.
26 Cofer/Coffin male Grenville 15
27 Colman Thomas male Robert Coleman, related to Thomas, was with White and drown in 1590.
28 Colman unknown female Presumed wife of Thomas.
29 Cooper Christopher male assistant Lived in St. Dunstan’s Stephney, a large parish east of London, possibly a relative of John White’s wife, 3 children under 5 and 2 teenage sons (Horne). Dr. Powell – Surname in the parish register of All Saints Barking, within sight of the Tower or London.
30 Cotsmur John male
31 Dare Ananias male assistant Married John White’s daughter, Eleanor, January 24, 1583 at St. Clements Dane. Presumed or confirmed dead in 1594, guardian assigned to his son, John. Daughter Thomasin left in London and buried in 1588. Tiler, bricklayer.
32 Dare Elyoner female Daughter of John White, wife of Ananias Dare.
33 Dare Virginia female child Born on Roanoke a week after landing.
34 Darige Richard male
35 Dimmock Humphrey male Added per Andy Powell’s research from Raleigh’s Assignment of 1589 which lists the colonists in Virginia. Dr. Powell – In the parish register of All Saints Barking, within sight of the Tower or London, regularly for between 30 and 70 years will be found the following names represented among the Roanoke Colonists: Archard, Backhouse, Bailey, Borden, Chapman, Constable, Cooper, Deane, Dymoke, Evans, Fullwood, George, Platt, Pratt, Hardin, Harvye, Harriott, Ireland, Nichols, Powell, Sampson, Sares, Snelling, Stone, Stevens, Wade, Wright, John White.
36 Dorrell Henry male
37 Dutton William male Dr. Powell – May well have been the William Dutton, Esq., whose license to marry Anne Nicholas of St. Mildred, Bread Street, was issued October 2, 1583. She was the daughter of Sir Ambrose Nicholas, sometime Lord Mayor of London. William Dutton, armiger, of Gloucester, possibly the father of the lost colonist, contributed 25 pounds toward the defense of England on the eve of the expected attack by the Spanish Armada.
38 Earnest John male
39 Ellis Robert male child A Robert was born in November 1576 in St. Clement Dane, son of Thomas Ellice. See below.
40 Ellis Thomas male Lived in St. Clement Dane’s parish in London, near Ananias Dare (Horne). Horne speculated that perhaps the wife stayed back and planned to join him later. He traveled with what is probably a son. Dr. Powell – One phase of my study which I have yet had only an opportunity to think about is to consider any possible relationships which may have existed between the Roanokers and the settlers at Jamestown twenty years or so later. One instance of a possibility, I will cite, however. John Pory, secretary of the Virginia colony, came down into what is now Gates County in 1622. I had often wondered just why he made the journey and I have now discovered that his sister was married to a man named Ellis and that Thomas and Robert Ellis, the latter a boy, were among the Lost Colonists. I’d like to establish that a relationship existed between the various Ellises concerned. Before leaving home in Exeter Thomas Ellis had been a member of the vestry of his parish church, St. Petrock, which still stands on the main business street of Exeter. The boy Robert Ellis is likely his son. The apparently unattached boy, William Wythers was possibly the vestryman’s nephew as one Alice Withers had married a Hugh Ellis in 1573. An infant William Withers was christened in St. Michael Cornhill on March 25, 1574, making him 13 at the time of the lost colony. The plot further thickens however. Adjacent to St. Michael Cornhill was St. Peter’s, the parish of the prominent Satchfeilde family of bakers and grocers and next of kin to Ananias Dare. Moreover, John Withers, a merchant-tailor of St. Michael’s who died in 1589 was the son-in-law of John Satchfeilde of Guildford, Surry. This there appears to be a viable three or even four family connection between Dare, Ellis, Satchfeilde and Withers.
41 English Edmond male
42 Farre John male
43 Florrie Charles male Lived in St. Clement Dane parish in London near Ananias Dare.
44 Gibbes John male
45 Glane Elizabeth female
46 Gramme Thomas male
47 Harris Thomas male Thomas Harris was a fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, from 1579 to 1586. He held the master’s degree from the same college.
48 Harris Thomas male
49 Harvie Dyonis male assistant Possibly a relative of Sir James Harvey, a former Lord Mayor of London and ironmonger per Horne’s book. Dr. Powell – Surname in the parish register of All Saints Barking, within sight of the Tower or London, regularly for between 30 and 70 years. See below.
50 Harvie Margery female Andy Powell – Dyonis born 1562* Margery born 1567* married 1584* (*=LDS submitted), Harveys records found at St. Michael Cornhill and in Kent.
51 Harvye unknown unknown child Born a few days after arrival on Roanoke. Parents are Dyonis and Margery, above.
52 Hemmington John male
53 Hewet Thomas male Shown as Hewett in McMillan’s 1888 list taken from Hawks History of NC and Hakluyt vol 3 p 280. Dr. Powell – Thomas Hewet may have been the Lost Colonists’ lawyer. At any rate he held the degree of Bachelor of Civil Law from Oxford.
54 Howe George male assistant Dr. Powell – George Howe was one of the “Gentlemen of London” who was made an assistant in the government of the Cittie of Raleigh in the 1587 Lost Colony. Also present was a boy George Howe, most likely his son and certainly not yet of age. The senior Howe was killed by Indians on July 28, 1587 just 6 days after the arrival of the colonists, when he was crabbing and strayed away from the settlement. One George Howe was a member of the painter-stainer company as was Gov. John White, which suggests that had events developed more favorably, there might have been even more watercolors to delight us. An interesting possible family connection is that one of the Lane colonists, Thomas Rattenbury was married to one Elizabeth Howe. Howe’s born in Derby, Suffolk and Devon of the age to be the father or son, also at St. Mary Cornhill.
55 Howe George male child
56 Humfrey Thomas male child IGI – Thomas Humphrey (christened 20 Oct. 1573 – Saint Clement Danes, Westminster, London, England), son of Christopher Humphry. See St. Clement Danes records for several Humphreys, including a Thomasin, which is the same first name as John White’s purported wife and the daughter of Ananias and Eleanor Dare.
57 Hynde James male Born in St. Giles Cripplegate per Horne. Dr. Powell – James Hynde and William Clement, according to contemporary manuscripts now in the Essex Records Office, had been in prison together in Colchester Castle near London, a general jail, for stealing. This should not be unexpected as Ralph Lane referred to his company as “Wylde menn of myne owne nacione”.
58 Johnson Henry male Johnson surname records found at St. Michael Cornhill, including a 1588 Johnson/Withers marriage.
59 Johnson Nicholas male
60 Jones Griffen male Jones records found at St. Michael Cornhill.
61 Jones John male
62 Jones Jane female
63 Kemme Richard male
64 Lasie James male Possibly Lacey?
65 Lawrence Margaret female
66 Little Peter male Birth record for a Peter Little in 1553 in London
67 Little Robert male Birth records for a Robert Little in 1547 and 1550 in Wiltshire and London.
68 Lucas William male
69 Mannering Jane female Dr. Powell – All I can find is that Jane was a common given name in the Mainwaring family of Peover and Newton and that the grandmother of Humfrey Newton, another of the Lost Colonists, was named Katherine Mainwaring. Were Jane and Humfrey related? Perhaps first cousins, grandchildren of Katherine.
70 Martyn George male Surname shown as Martin in McMillan’s 1888 list taken from Hawks History of NC and Hakluyt vol 3 p 280.
71 Merrimoth Emme female Shown as Emma in McMillan’s 1888 list taken from Hawks History of NC and Hakluyt vol 3 p 280. Andy Powell – London born 1558* (*=LDS submitted)
72 Myllet Michael male Dr. Powell – In 1590 Henry Millett was with White and undoubtedly hoped to find Michael Myllet.
73 Mylton Henry male Mylton surname records found at St. Michael Cornhill.
74 Newton Humfrey male Dr. Powell – All I can find is that Jane was a common given name in the Mainwaring family of Peover and Newton and that the grandmother of Humfrey Newton, another of the Lost Colonists, was named Katherine Mainwaring. Were Jane and Humfrey related?
75 Nicholes William male Possibly related to John Nichols. Shown as Nichols on McMillan’s 1888 list taken from Hakluyt vol 2 p 280 and Hawks History of NC. Dr. Powell – Lost Colonist William Nicholes may have been a tailor. A “clothworker” of that name was married in London in 1580 and in 1590 we find the grant of a license to someone else “to occupy the trade of a clothier during the minority of George Nicholles, son of Wm. Nicholles.” I wonder if a place was being held for the orphaned son of a lost colonist. William Dutton was one of the lost colonists. He may well have been the William Dutton, Esq., whose license to marry Anne Nicholas of St. Mildred, Bread Street, was issued October 2, 1583. She was the daughter of Sir Ambrose Nicholas, sometime Lord Mayor of London. William Dutton, armiger, of Gloucester, possibly the father of the lost colonist, contributed 25 pounds toward the defense of England on the eve of the expected attack by the Spanish Armada. In the parish register of All Saints Barking, within sight of the Tower or London, regularly for between 30 and 70 years will be found the following names represented among the Roanoke Colonists: Archard, Backhouse, Bailey, Borden, Chapman, Constable, Cooper, Deane, Dymoke, Evans, Fullwood, George, Platt, Pratt, Hardin, Harvye, Harriott, Ireland, Nichols, Powell, Sampson, Sares, Snelling, Stone, Stevens, Wade, Wright, John White.
76 NIchols John male Added per Andy Powell research from Raleigh’s Assignment of 1589 which lists them in Virginia. Possibly related to William Nichols. Dr. Powell – In the parish register of All Saints Barking, within sight of the Tower or London, regularly for between 30 and 70 years will be found the following names represented among the Roanoke Colonists: Archard, Backhouse, Bailey, Borden, Chapman, Constable, Cooper, Deane, Dymoke, Evans, Fullwood, George, Platt, Pratt, Hardin, Harvye, Harriott, Ireland, Nichols, Powell, Sampson, Sares, Snelling, Stone, Stevens, Wade, Wright, John White.
77 Pattenson Hugh male
78 Payne Henry male Lots of Paine records including a marriage to a Drake. Many at St. Clement Dane and some at St. Michael Cornhill.
79 Payne Rose female
80 Phevens Thomas male
81 Pierce Jane female Peers, Pearce, lived in St. Clement Dane’s Parish in London near Ananias Dare (Horne). Dr. Powell – What can we say about the single woman Jane Pierce? In Ireland, Henry Piers who died in 1623 was the husband of one Jane Jones. Could this Jane Pierce have been their daughter and therefore related to Griffin, Jane and John Pierse who were also along the same body of colonists? Yet another possibility exists. In 1568 one Jone Pierse a Portuguese was registered as an alien in London. She was identified as the sister of men named Simon and Fornando and the tenant of one Frauncis White. When we see the names Simon, Fornando and White in connection with the Roanoke colonists, they immediately suggest a relationship. This Pierce woman lived within sight of the Tower of London in the parish of All Saints Barking. Andy Powell – London born 1560* (*=LDS submitted)
82 Powell Edward male On McMillan’s 1888 list spelled Winifred, taken from Hawks History of NC and Hakluyt vol 3 p 280. Edward and Winifred Powell married Jan. 10, 1585 in Deptford (Horne). Dr. Powell – Another member of the Lane colony was Thomas Philips, chief agent of Walsingham, and Beale’s and Philip’s names are included together in the list of colonists. To add further to the interest in association is the fact that pilot Simon Fernandez was described as “Mr. Secretary Walsingham’s man.” This all remains to be sorted out, but I have a feeling that in time we’re going to have a lot of new things to say about the significance of the Roanoke ventures. The question has been raised as to whether some of these people might have been “spies” for Walsingham. In 1587 a Roger Beale married Agnes Powell and Edward and Wenefrid Powell became lost colonists. What kind of network might have been laid? Is the answer to the riddle of the Lost Colony concealed in family or business relationships? In cases where a man and woman bore the same surname it has been assumed that they are husband and wife. Edward and Wenefrid Powell are examples. The baptism of one Edward Powell is recorded in the register of St. Margaret’s, Westminster, Jan. 2, 1563 and another baptism of an Edward Powell occurred at St. Martin-in-the-Field, Westminster, on March 13, 1569. The marriage of Edward Powell and Wenefred Gray is recorded in St. Nicholas Church, Deptford, Kent, just outside London on Jan. 10, 1584. While Edward is a common 16th century name, Wenefrid is not and the combination of Edward and Wenefrid Powell makes it rather likely that they are indeed the Lost Colonists. An Edward Powell was with Sir Francis Drake on the West Indian voyage of 1585-1586 that stopped at Roanoke Island to relieve the Lane colony. Edward Powell was the scribe and recorder of the Tiger journal and was probably in the personal service of its captain, Christopher Carleill, who just happened to be Sir Francis Walsingham’s stepson. Perhaps Edward decided in 1586 that he liked America and returned in 1587. Powell surname is in the parish register of All Saints Barking, within sight of the Tower or London, regularly for between 30 and 70 years.
83 Powell Wenefrid female Assumed to be wife of Edward. Dr. Powell – In the parish register of All Saints Barking, within sight of the Tower or London, regularly for between 30 and 70 years will be found the following names represented among the Roanoke Colonists: Archard, Backhouse, Bailey, Borden, Chapman, Constable, Cooper, Deane, Dymoke, Evans, Fullwood, George, Platt, Pratt, Hardin, Harvye, Harriott, Ireland, Nichols, Powell, Sampson, Sares, Snelling, Stone, Stevens, Wade, Wright, John White. See above.
84 Prat John male child Dr. Powell – Surname is in the parish register of All Saints Barking, within sight of the Tower or London, regularly for between 30 and 70. Prat record found in Kent. Possible son of Roger Prat.
85 Prat Roger male assistant Possible father of John Prat. Dr. Powell – Surname is in the parish register of All Saints Barking, within sight of the Tower or London, regularly for between 30 and 70 years will be found the following names represented among the Roanoke Colonists: Archard, Backhouse, Bailey, Borden, Chapman, Constable, Cooper, Deane, Dymoke, Evans, Fullwood, George, Platt, Pratt, Hardin, Harvye, Harriott, Ireland, Nichols, Powell, Sampson, Sares, Snelling, Stone, Stevens, Wade, Wright, John White.
86 Rufoote Henry male On McMillan 1888’s list shown as Rufotte taken from Hawks History of NC and Hakluyt vol 3 p 280.
87 Sampson John male assistant Surname found in records of St. Michael Cornhill and All-Saints-Barking
88 Sampson John male child Dr. Powell – In the parish register of All Saints Barking, within sight of the Tower or London, regularly for between 30 and 70 years will be found the following names represented among the Roanoke Colonists: Archard, Backhouse, Bailey, Borden, Chapman, Constable, Cooper, Deane, Dymoke, Evans, Fullwood, George, Platt, Pratt, Hardin, Harvye, Harriott, Ireland, Nichols, Powell, Sampson, Sares, Snelling, Stone, Stevens, Wade, Wright, John White.
89 Scot Thomas male
90 Shaberdge Richard male Also spelled Shabedge on McMillan’s 1888 list taken from Hawks History of NC and Hakluyt vol 3 p 280. Dr. Powell says this person is not British. Andy Powell shows LDS submitted born in London in 1556.
91 Smart Thomas male child
92 Smith Thomas male Smith surname found at St. Michael Cornhill
93 Sole William male
94 Spendlove John male Dr. Powell – John Spendlove, later a Lost Colonist, was described on a 1585 muster list as a “gentleman” and reported present with his horse.
95 Stafford Edward master Added per Andy Powell research from Raleigh’s Assignment of 1589 which lists the colonists in Virginia. Stafford was also on the earlier expeditions too.
96 Starte John male
97 Stevens Thomas male assistant Bailie and Stevens surname records at St. Clement Dane and a Stevens with a William Nichols in Shropshire. Dr. Powell – In the parish register of All Saints Barking, within sight of the Tower or London, regularly for between 30 and 70 years will be found the following names represented among the Roanoke Colonists: Archard, Backhouse, Bailey, Borden, Chapman, Constable, Cooper, Deane, Dymoke, Evans, Fullwood, George, Platt, Pratt, Hardin, Harvye, Harriott, Ireland, Nichols, Powell, Sampson, Sares, Snelling, Stone, Stevens, Wade, Wright, John White.
98 Stilman John male
99 Stucley male Grenville 15
100 Sutton Martyn male Shown as Martin on McMillan’s 1888 list taken from Hawks History of NC and Hakluyt vol 3 p 280. Andy Powell shows LDS submitted born 1560 in Plymouth.
101 Tappan Audry female Thomas and Audrey Tappan were from All Hallows, Lombard Street in London (Horne). Dr, Powell – Two of the single women among the Lost Colonists are interesting as they have surnames very much like those of two of the men. Because of the absence of uniformity in handwriting and spelling it may be that Audrey Tappan and Thomas Topan were husband and wife as were Joan Warren and Thomas Warner. Further support for the latter case exists in the 1584 marriage record of a mariner named Thomas Warner and Johanna Barnes.
102 Taverner Richard male
103 Taylor Clement male Dr. Powell – John Taylor, with White in 1590, who surely knew the country well from his stay of a year with Lane, must have been deeply moved to have to turn away without finding Clement and Hugh Taylor, and perhaps the boy, William Wythers, who might also have been a relative. The boy William Wythers may have been associated with the Tayler (Taylor) family. John and Thomas Taylor had been with the Lane colony. Clement and Hugh were with the Lost Colony and John returned in 1590 with John White to search for the Lost Colony. The implied family association continued in 1592 when one Robert Taylor married Elizabeth Wythers. William Taylor was a ship builder in Bideford in early 1800s. There may have been some prior connection or at least acquaintance among the members of the two families.
104 Taylor Hugh male William Taylor ship builder in Bideford in early 1800s. Taylor surname records found at St. Clement Dane. See above.
105 Tomkins Richard male
106 Topan Thomas male Thomas and Audrey Tappan were from All Hallows, Lombard Street in London (Horne). Dr. Powell – Two of the single women among the Lost Colonists are interesting as they have surnames very much like those of two of the men. Because of the absence of uniformity in handwriting and spelling it may be that Audrey Tappan and Thomas Topan were husband and wife as were Joan Warren and Thomas Warner. Further support for the latter case exists in the 1584 marriage record of a mariner named Thomas Warner and Johanna Barnes.
107 Tydway John male
108 Viccars Ambrose male child Perhaps also Vickers. See below.
109 Viccars Ambrose male Ambrose Viccars married Elizabeth Phillips on 23 Apr 1582 – Saint Clement Danes, Westminster, London, England [IGI Batch No. M041608], Andy Powell – Ambrose born 1556* married 1582; Ambrose born 1583 (*=LDS submitted). Surname found at St. Clements Dane as well as elsewhere.
110 Viccars Elizabeth female
111 Warner Thomas male mariner
112 Warren Joan female
113 Waters William male
114 White Cutbert male White surname records found in Devon, also at St. Clements Dane. Possibly related to John White.
115 White John male governor John White did not stay in Virginia and was not lost. Dr. Powell – In the parish register of All Saints Barking, within sight of the Tower or London, regularly for between 30 and 70 years will be found the following names represented among the Roanoke Colonists: Archard, Backhouse, Bailey, Borden, Chapman, Constable, Cooper, Deane, Dymoke, Evans, Fullwood, George, Platt, Pratt, Hardin, Harvye, Harriott, Ireland, Nichols, Powell, Sampson, Sares, Snelling, Stone, Stevens, Wade, Wright, John White.
116 Wildye Richard male Dr. Powell – It is also possible that one of Lane’s men did a bit of recruiting for his alma mater. Both William White and Richard Wildye were graduates of Brasenose College, Oxford, and we find that young Thomas Hulme, a member of the same expedition, entered the same college the year following his return home. Hulme later studied law. Another young man in the same group, Richard Ireland, entered Christ Church, Oxford, two years later and eventually was Headmaster of Westminster School.
117 Wilkinson Robert male
118 Willes William male John and William Wyles (Willes) were twins from Christ Church Greytfriars, Newgate (Horne).
119 Wood Agnes female Dr. Powell – Let’s look at some of the other and more obviously single women, however. Agnes Wood. In 1549 one Robert Woode of St. Bride’s Church, London, to which at least one other member of the colony also belonged, married Johanna Toppam. Was our Agnes their daughter and therefore related to the Tappans? Or was she perhaps the Agnes Traver who married John Wood in London in 1577? John Wood had come to Roanoke in 1584. There may have been some reason for his wife to come. Several Agnes Wood records, including one particular interesting marriage at St. Clements Dane.
120 Wotton Lewes male
121 Wright John male Wright surname found in All Saints Barking parish records.
122 Wyles Brian male Shown as Bryan on McMillan 1888’s list taken from Hawks History of NC and Hakluyt vol 3 p 280. Possibly related to John Wyles. See below.
123 Wyles John male John and William Wyles (Willes) were twins from Christ Church Greyfriars, Newgate (Horne). Possibly related to Brian Wyles. See above.
124 Wythers William male child Note the many Withers records at St. Michael Cornhill and the connections with many other Lost Colony surnames there.

Record Problems

Searching for the Lost Colonists uses the same methodologies as any other genealogical research. The goal is to gather enough information to prove that an individual found in records in England is the same individual that became a colonist.

This could be achieved in myriad ways. Ideally we would find documents such as wills or estates saying that the colonist had disappeared, was presumed or confirmed dead, and their assets were distributed to relatives in England. This would do two things – identify the colonist and tell us who their family members were.

To date, we have only one of those types of records, that of John Dare, son of Ananias Dare, who had a guardian appointed in 1594 and shortly thereafter disappears from the records.

One of the reasons for the lack of records is likely that the colonists expected to settle in Virginia permanently. They were encouraged to take enough supplies for a year, anticipating of course that within a year they would be farming and crops would be forthcoming. This meant that the colonists did not anticipate returning to England, as they were establishing a “Cittie.” They sold their goods and liquidated their resources to finance their existence in Virginia. Therefore, they wouldn’t be expected to have any assets remaining in England. If the colonists prepared wills or legal documents, they have remained stubbornly elusive.

This is particularly frustrating, because, for DNA testing to be utilized as a genealogical resource to prove that the colonists survived, we need to identify the correct families in England and find a direct line male descendant carrying the colonist surname to test.

Birth or christening records could be compelling resources as well, especially if the surname is somewhat unusual and/or we have more than one individual on the roster with the same surname that matches the birth records.

Unfortunately, we have few of those. The ones we do have can’t be confirmed as a colonist, meaning that the person in the birth record is actually the colonist. In many cases, we can find nothing that ties them to their family. The best we could do, with unlimited resources, would be to prove that the person doesn’t appear in further records of that family in that location, including death records. It would be helpful if the colonists were from one location, but that certainly doesn’t seem to be the case.

Perhaps our biggest problem is lack of records. Some records have perished over time through loss, destruction, natural disasters, and warfare. Some still exist, scattered throughout parishes and archives in England, not indexed and not available unless you actually visit, by appointment, and know where to look.

Given that the colonists arrived on Roanoke Island in 1587, that means the adults were born before 1566.

Records of births, baptisms, marriages and deaths were not kept in early England. In 1538, King Henry VIII issued an order that records were to be kept of every wedding, christening and burial in a box with two locks. Unfortunately, this wasn’t always done. When it was, the records were often kept on loose sheets, with no organization, and written from memory, sometimes long after the event happened. In 1558, upon ascending the throne, Queen Elizabeth issued a duplicate order which resulted in better compliance, but the records were considered the property of the minister and often left with him.

Finally, in 1597, ten years after the colonists were stranded on Roanoke, Queen Elisabeth issued another more explicit edict that registers were to be kept on parchment and maintained in books, not as loose papers. Copies were to be sent to the bishops annually, which today are known as the Bishops Transcripts which give us two opportunities to find that elusive record. Unfortunately, in some places, the earlier documents were then destroyed.

While some records do exist before 1597, they tend to be sporadic and incomplete.

DNA

When I began this journey of exploration in 2007, I felt that DNA held the potentially of solving the riddle of whether the colonists survived, at least if they survived to present day.

After all, we have people with the same surname in various Native American tribes and locations that claim descent from the colonists. How tough can this be? Right.

Tough.

Very. Very. Tough.

There are three types of DNA that can be utilized for historical research, although all 3 are not useful in this project.

In the graphic above, the Y DNA follows the blue paternal line, the mitochondrial DNA follows the red matrilineal line and the autosomal DNA follows all lines, including the Y and mitochondrial DNA paths.

Think of Y and mitochondrial DNA as deep and of autosomal DNA as wide.

Y DNA

The Y chromosome, which is what makes males male, is passed intact from father to son without being mixed with any DNA from the mother.

The Y chromosome also tracks the paternal surname, meaning that if we had been able to find direct paternal line male descendants of John Dare, Ananias Dare’s son, we could test their Y DNA and their Y DNA would be the same, or very nearly, as the Y DNA of Ananias Dare and any other Dare men who descend from any direct Dare male line of this family.

In other words, the Y DNA of Ananias Dare’s paternal male descendants would continue to match (perhaps with a few mutations) many generations into the future.

Lost Colony DNA Project

I established the Lost Colony Y DNA project in 2007 at Family Tree DNA with the intention of identifying male colonist lines in England, testing two men descended from different sons to confirm that their Y DNA is the same and an adoption has not taken place. That would form the baseline for that English family surname line.

The project hoped to attract men with the colonist surnames that were found in eastern coastal North Carolina in the earliest records or from the Native groups claiming or suspecting descent from the colonists.

Of course, one of the challenges is that if the colonist did survive, they would have had to assimilate with the Native people. There was no other way to survive, not to mention that the men would have wanted wives. Therefore, the English surnames may have faded from memory, or at least from usage, because the Native people did not utilize surnames when later contact was made with the tribes. This means that today, a Native man with the surname of Smith could be a direct male line descendant of Ananias Dare. If we could find a direct line Dare male descended from Ananias’s son, John, his Y DNA would match that of the Native Smith male. The surname change doesn’t matter – the DNA recognizes the descendant. Conversely, males with the same surname that don’t match can be eliminated as descending from the same paternal ancestor.

DNA alone is not enough in this case, because it’s also possible that an unknown descendant of Ananias Dare (or his brother, uncle, grandfather, etc.) immigrated and settled in Virginia or North Carolina after the colonists. The paternal line Dare descendants of that man would match both John Dare’s descendants and the descendants of any male child born to Ananias Dare, regardless of their surname.

Therefore, IF we find a colonist family line in England, and IF they have a direct line male or males to test, and IF they match someone in coastal NC in the US, we can’t automatically presume that they descend from the colonist. We would have to take other factors into consideration and research their potential colonist line thoroughly to look for other ancestor candidates – meaning other early settlers in North Carolina or Virginia. In other words, the GPS (Genealogical Proof Standard) needs to be utilized in this research. Unfortunately, we haven’t found any colonist line in England to bring forward in time to test, so at this point it time, it’s a moot point.

For several years, I researched the Jamestown settlers because it has been reported that at least a few had connections to the colonists. Specifically, a Pory colonist was reported in Jamestown to search for his sister, the wife of Lost Colonist Robert Ellis. I was certainly open to any avenue or hints to identify our colonist families in England.

While Y DNA could be extremely useful in identifying matches in male lines because it never mixes with any DNA from the mothers – autosomal DNA which is diluted by half in each generation, doesn’t share that same promise. Autosomal DNA is great at finding relatively recent cousins, but poor at deep ancestry.  Y and mitochondrial DNA are great at deep ancestry and telling you who you match in common on those lines, but has few tools to determine time and is only relevant to one particular line.

Autosomal DNA

Autosomal DNA, which tests DNA from all of your chromosomes, not just the Y, is used to match people with their cousins. This type of DNA does not have the capability to reliably reach back far in time. We know today that all second cousins share enough DNA from a common ancestor to match each other on at least some segments. Third cousins will match about 90% of the time, fourth cousins 70%, and so forth. By the time you’re back to 6th cousins, only about 10% of 6th cousins match each other. Using 4 generations per hundred years, today’s male Dare descendants would be approximately 16 generations removed from each other, or 14th cousins.

There is a small possibility that 14th cousins could match autosomally, but autosomal DNA matching is complicated by the need to have trees proven to each generation to rule out that a match is from a different ancestor in common. That’s not difficult to do in closer generations, but by the time you are a few generations removed, even the best and most thorough genealogists have holes in their tree with unidentified individuals. Therefore, utilizing autosomal DNA for the Lost Colony is a very unlikely proposition.

I did establish a Lost Colony Family DNA Project at Family Tree DNA several years ago in order to facilitate discussion and participation among individuals who don’t descend directly through Y DNA so that they can be included. Plus, when working with DNA – you truly don’t know what you don’t know – so having the Lost Colony Family DNA Project as a resource as a “genetic Lost Colony library” may eventually prove useful.

Mitochondrial DNA

Mitochondrial DNA is passed from mothers to all of their children, but only females pass it on. Therefore the mitochondrial DNA of every male colonist died with them, meaning there is no mitochondrial DNA of the male colonist lines to test, even if they survived.

The female colonists would also need to be identified, along with their families, and an individual descended through all females to the current generation, which could be male, would have to be located for DNA testing. This research is complicated, of course, by surname changes in each generation which makes utilizing mitochondrial DNA for colonist descendant identification even more difficult.

The only mitochondrial DNA known to have potentially survived would be that of Virginia Dare, the female child born on Roanoke Island. If the Harvie child born within days of Virginia was a female, that person would be a candidate too, but only if we could find the family in England to test for comparison.

Of course, if the colonists survived and any of the females had female children, their mitochondrial DNA could potentially be used as one piece of evidence to identify a colonist descendant today. The chances are fewer, because there were fewer women colonists, and the required genealogical research to find an appropriate family line descendant to test is more complex.

What About the Archaeology?

If the colonists told us that they were going to Croatoan, which is present day Hatteras Island, why don’t we look there?

Good question.

We did.

For several years, beginning in 2009, The Lost Colony Research Group sponsored archaeological digs on Hatteras Island in cooperation with the local residents, Dr. Steve Claggitt, now retired Director of the North Carolina Department of Archaeology and the University of Bristol.

Some of the area on Hatteras Island is still quite rugged and infested with ticks and other wildlife like alligators. A machete was standard operating equipment, required to chop through the jungle-like vines and undergrowth. (Not the wildlife, however, a few ticks did die.)

Over the period of a decade, we excavated several locations on Hatteras Island. To protect the locations and property owners from looters and treasure hunters, the dig locations have never been publicly identified.

The land, above, which stood atop a significant midden was for sale and we knew that if we didn’t dig it while we could, the opportunity would forever be gone.

Middens are trash heaps, full of wonderful clues. The one above held lots of shells and bones which told us that the Indians on the island did not only inhabit island seasonally, but year-round.

Other areas are now developed, precluding archaeological digs, although some residents were very welcoming of excavations in their yards. Still, much history has been destroyed in the construction process.

While the area is stunningly beautiful and inviting, Mother Nature also reminded us of exactly how dangerous the elements can be with these photos. The location above and below were taken a little more than 24 hours apart. What a difference a day makes.

The photo below from a webcam was the morning after an unseasonal mid-November hurricane that rearranged the sand dunes, closing the single road and with it, all access off of the island. In places, the road was covered entirely by shifted dunes of sand, requiring road graders and front end loaders, and in other places, the road was gone entirely, swallowed by the sea. In many locations, this threadlike road is only separated from the sea on both sides by a few feet of sand that is very vulnerable to erosion. “Washouts” happen regularly, but where there is only one road, the effect is devastating.

My rental car had the paint finish sand-blasted off of the seaward side of the car by the sand-filled abrasive winds the evening before as I evacuated. The drive after dark was terrifying. By that time, sane people were already off the island or hunkered down for the duration. Many couldn’t leave for weeks until the road and bridge were repaired or the ferry service to the mainland resumed service. Hatteras residents take this in stride, as it’s a regular occurrence. Not so much for anyone else.

Over the years, during our archaeological digs, we weathered two hurricanes and a third which was reduced to “only” a tropical storm when it hit. These misadventures instilled in us great respect for what White and crew endured in those ships on the shoals – not to mention the Indians and the colonists. I have to wonder if the colony perished someplace in a hurricane. There is little warning, certainly not enough for the colonists to do anything, and the island flooding is intense, with waves often washing entirely over parts of the island – destroying everything in their path.

Some days on Hatteras, you feel like you’ve been cursed, but others are incredibly productive and you feel blessed, both in terms of artifacts and Mother Nature. The Outer Banks is a land of extremes.

These homes are built on stilts to withstand storms, breaking monster waves, flooding, tidal surges and they sway in storms, not crumble – a feeling I never got used to. My land-lover brain thinks that houses should not sway back and forth. If the flooding gets too bad, you open the doors and windows so the water will run through the house, not wash it away. You’ll find circular holes about an inch across drilled in the floorboards for that exact reason.

Taking the above photo, I’m standing on the deck of the house where we hunkered down to withstand the storm that was downgraded from a hurricane to “only” a tropical storm. The house swayed back and forth for three days (and sleepless nights) and was extremely unnerving. That rainbow was certainly a welcome sight! The flooding was minimal, although we took our vehicles to the “highest” place on that end of the island, just a few feet above sea level, as a precaution.

In 2012, the Lost Colony Research Group changed university partners and formed an alliance with Eastern Carolina University (ECU) in part because they have experts with a variety of specialties along with three archaeological laboratories where artifacts are properly inventoried, evaluated, preserved, documented and available for future researchers.

Over the years, many artifacts were unearthed, some potentially relevant to the colonists, and many that were more contemporary in nature.

Some pottery from various digs could be identified as to the source of it’s manufacture, but even pottery manufactured pre-1587 when found in a dig doesn’t mean that it arrived with the colonists. It could have arrived with the Jamestown colony, for example, and was subsequently traded to the Native people, or kept for generations by the settlers themselves until they settled on Hatteras Island. It could have arrived on a shipwreck and was scavenged by whoever the local residents were at the time, or simply washed ashore to be discovered years later.

All dirt had to be sifted to assure that we didn’t miss anything. Anne Poole, co-founder of the Lost Colony Research Group and me, sifting.

Andy Powell fitting two pieces of a broken tobacco pipe discovered during the excavations back together. Tobacco pipes were made by both the Native people and the English.

More than once, we excavated human remains, at which point we immediately contacted the State Archaeologist, asking for guidance, per protocol.

A small round musket ball was discovered inches away from these remains. Is this how this individual died?

The remains consisted only of fragmented bones, including a partial cranium, but were badly degraded. There were, however, some teeth that we had hoped to utilize for DNA testing.

An abandoned hand-dug well was found within a few feet of the remains. The age of the well was determined to be later than the remains based on construction techniques, indicating that the family who dug the well was unaware that they were digging a well in an earlier cemetery. These burials and well were not known to local families, and even the earliest cemeteries have been identified and inventoried when any headstones remain. This burial location predates Hatteras land ownership.

This area was clearly someone’s home, before early maps would have noted either a village, residences or a cemetery. There is a older home on this property today, but not on or near this location, nor do early maps show a homestead or cemetery here. The same family has owned this property for generations and were also unaware of the well or former homestead.

Wattle and daub, shown above, found in this same excavation level is clearly a building technique of the early English settlers and would have been used by colonists building homes.

This tiny thimble tells us the women were among the earliest people who lived in this location.

Contemporary records begin on Hatteras Island in the 1690s in the Frisco area, not the Buxton area where the remains and well were excavated. However, Buxton is where one of the Native villages was located according to the earliest maps, and where the military colonists are believed to have camped, based on the discovery of their fire pits in earlier archaeological digs.

John Lawson’s visit to the Hatteras Indians occurred in 1701 where they told Lawson that their ancestors were white. Ancestors in this context likely would not have meant parents, but at least 2 to 3 generations prior, if not earlier. An adult in 1701 would have been about 30 years old, born in roughly 1670, prior to European land ownership on Hatteras Island. Two generations before that would have been roughly 1630 which would have been the birth year of the grandparents of the adult being interviewed in 1701. Admixture between the two groups, Native Americans and European colonists would have occurred sometime between 1587 and 1701 and probably between 1587 and 1630. Men who took Native wives would have begun having admixed children probably by 1590, roughly 110 years before Lawson’s visit.

If the Hatteras Indians’ statements to Lawson were accurate about their ancestors being white, confirmed by his observation about their lighter hair and grey eyes, there would have been no Europeans other than the descendants of colonists, shipwrecked sailors, or people journeying outwards from Jamestown by about 1630. However, there was still plenty of time to have white “ancestors” between 1630 and 1650 when grandparents of the adult Native people living on Hatteras Island when Lawson visited would have been being born.

According to another archaeological dig by Dr. David Phelps in 1998, Europeans and Native people were participating in the manufacture of trade goods in the Buxton area between 1650 and 1720, so yet another admixture opportunity exists before European land ownership on Hatteras began.

The excavated human remains were transported to the State Archaeological Department in Raleigh where Anne Poole and I requested that they be evaluated by an anthropologist. We hoped to receive permission to perform DNA extraction and analysis on the bones to determine the age of the burial as well as any haplogroup or matching information that could be extracted.

If the remains were Native, the Y and mitochondrial DNA haplogroups would be Native as well. If the age of the burial was before Hatteras was settled, but post-Lost Colony, and either of the haplogroups were European, that information would tell us that either the Y or mitochondrial lineage was European, not Native, and admixture had in some way occurred.

The musket ball tells us that whether or not the person died of a gunshot wound, the ball itself acts as a time marker telling us that the burial was after European contact. However, the musket ball itself was not conducive to dating.

If we were lucky enough to be able to extract Y DNA STR markers, we would be able to see if the remains matched anyone with a colonist surname or one of the early settlers, perhaps the first landowner.

If we were win-the-lottery lucky, we would find that the remains dated from maybe 1610 and carried a Native American mitochondrial haplogroup along with European Y DNA matching a colonist surname. That would have told us that the colonists survived at least for some period of time and didn’t perish immediately.

The anthropological analysis by Dr. Billy Oliver indicated that the remains were in very fragile condition and male based on the large square mandible.

Furthermore, and much to our surprise, Dr. Oliver also found evidence of bones from at least two adults mixed in with the remains of a child who was less than 10 years of age when they died. We did not find separate burials, so this tells us that these individuals were literally buried together, possibly in one grave at the same time. They were not buried in a fetal position, typical of many Native burials of this time. We don’t know the circumstances of the burial, but there was no evidence of any type of formal positioning of the bodies, such as the European prone on the back “coffin” position in separate graves. This jumble of combined bones suggests a mass grave of some sort, perhaps dug hurriedly, or perhaps multiple burials in the same location, on top of each other.

Based on the teeth present, Dr. Oliver concluded that one of the adult teeth that was shovel shaped belonged to an individual “of Native American ancestry.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean that everyone in the gravesite was Native American, nor does it mean that the tooth owner was 100% Native – only that they had a Native American ancestor.

A second anthropologist that we retained to review the remains suggested that at least one of the individuals was probably admixed.

Strontium isotope testing of the teeth would have been able to tell us where the individuals lived as children. If the answer was England, the age was right, and Y DNA testing matched a colonist surname, then we very likely had solved at least one of the Lost Colony mysteries – meaning where the colonists went after Roanoke.

However, that wasn’t to be.

Permission Denied

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) was passed in 1990 with the goal of ending the desecration of Native graves and returning artifacts and burials to the affiliated tribes. While it was a much-needed law, there are issues.

Burials found in a specific location may or may not be affiliated with modern-day tribes in that same area. In the case of the Hatteras Indians, the original tribe is believed to be extinct, and historical records indicate that indeed they were, but today a group of individuals who believe themselves to be descended from the Hatteras exist and have attempted to reestablish the tribe.

There’s a difference between a tribe, which is a specific social construct and/or a legal entity being extinct and the descendants of Native people who may have once belonged to that tribe being extinct.

More relevant to the excavation is the fact that since 1888 when politician Hamilton McMillan wrote a book titled “The Lost Colony” in an attempt to prevent the Lumbee from having to attend “black schools,” the Lumbee have claimed that they descend from the Lost Colonists. McMillan did successfully argue that the Lumbee, being Native and white through the colonists should have their own schools. The Lumbee live in Robeson County, NC, about 235 miles distant from the closest mainland location to Hatteras Island, after crossing the sound between Hatteras Island and the mainland.

Documents do exist that indicate that the few remaining Hatteras in 1756 had intermarried with the Mattamuskeet Indians that lived by Lake Mattamuskeet in Hyde County, below. However, the Mattamuskeet male lived on Hatteras Island with the Hatteras female, not the opposite.

Given that the Lumbee’s descent from the colonists would come through their English ancestors, if in fact they do descend from the people of Hatteras Island where the burial was found, it’s unclear as to whether NAGPRA would apply to these remains in relation to the Lumbee. Furthermore, the remains were excavated on private property, not public land, so technically, NAGPRA didn’t pertain to these remains. However, if the Native tribes that believe that the Hatteras Indians were their ancestors granted permission to proceed, the details wouldn’t matter and no one would be unhappy.

Dr. Claggett reached out to Gregory Richardson, the North Carolina Director of the Commission of Indian Affairs, who reached out to the Lumbee, who expressed concern with DNA testing, in essence disallowing any scientific evaluation of the remains.

While I fully support the NAGRPA act, I find this decision extremely disheartening, given the items found in and near the remains in the burial and the fact that analysis, if successful, could potentially have provided insight into the fate of the colonists. Additionally, if the Y DNA extraction had been successful, it’s also possible that the legend of the Lumbee descent from the colonists could be one step closer to being proven. The Lumbee do carry some of the colonist surnames.

No amount of logic had any persuasive effect, although Mr. Richardson was very cordial. At that point, our only recourse for reconsideration would have been legal proceedings based on the fact that the burial was on private land, which would have been expensive and painful, at best, and non-productive at worst.

Furthermore, after evaluating the remains, the degraded condition seemed to preclude a successful DNA extraction, so we were concerned that even if we could raise the funds for a legal challenge, and won, that eventually, it would be for naught.

Did the Colonists Survive?

I’ve spent more than a decade trying to answer this question with a team utilizing a number of tools, including:

  • DNA
  • Historical records in England
  • Historical records in the US
  • Family history
  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Genealogy

The answer to the question of whether the colonists survived is really three questions.

  • First, did they survive until when?
  • Second, does the question mean survive as a colony, or survive as an individual?
  • Third, does survive mean having descendants today?

Not surprisingly, there are probably different answers to these questions, so let me share my opinion and corresponding research.

I believe that the colonists did survive at least initially. The fact that the houses in the fort on Roanoke Island were systematically removed, the fort wasn’t burned, the carved message was present for White, and there were no crosses tells me that the colonists planned and executed an orderly move.

I believe that the colonists, or at least some of them, went to Hatteras Island, known then as Croatoan, at least for awhile. It’s where they said they were going, and it would have been considered safer than other locations. Croatoan may have been a way-station while they waited.

The wattle and daub structure in Buxton suggests strongly that early English people lived there, as do the burials in a previously unknown cemetery, buried in a hurried fashion. Further evidence is that the early Hatteras maps do show a Native village in Buxton, and do not show a cemetery (ever) nor settler houses until significantly later and not in the location of the well. Land grants of where the excavation and burials were found did not begin until 1738 and 1740. By that time, no Indians lived there in the Buxton location.

Maritime historian, Baylus Brooks spent a significant amount of time with the Lost Colony Research Group reconstructing the early land grants, patents, surveys, cemeteries and homes on Hatteras Island. Working with Baylus, we were able to reconnect the pieces of the earliest European habitation of Hatteras Island, and identify the locations of the three Native American villages identified on the 1591 White/DeBry map by three circles, also reflected later by Lawson’s 1709 map and Moseley’s 1733 map which may not have been based on an actual visit to the island.

On White’s map, note the three Native villages on Hatteras Island, then called Croatoan, indicated by circles. Note that North is at right. The circles today correspond today to Buxton, Brigand’s Bay and near the Village of Hatteras.

Transcribing every early land transaction for Hatteras Island further revealed the history of the land where the Native villages were located.

Working with marriage, court and estate records, we found no indication that the European population had intermarried with the Native people, despite many family stories to the contrary. Tracking the families back in time in a project called the Hatteras Neighborhood Project, by utilizing various types of records, we were able in most cases to track the lines back to the mainland and often, back to Virginia.

Many stories of Hatteras families founded by shipwrecked sailors taking Native wives were disproven as well – at least the part about the men being initially shipwrecked on the island. Many early wives are unidentified and could be from the local Native population.

The Last Hatteras

A 1759 land grant was made from the state of North Carolina to one sole Indian man, Thom King Elks, who was still living in the Brigand’s Bay area, the location of the middle circle on White’s map. At that time, Elks had a daughter who was married to a Mattamsukeet man. In a report by a Hatteras islander to the governor, Job Carr reported that “Thomas Elks (is not) intitled to the royalty for he is but a son in law to the late King Elks desesed and part of the Maromosceat (Mattamsukeet) line of Indians for the true line of the Hatteras Indians are mostly dead.” Elks wife was Hatteras.

In other words, not long after the English began to settle the island, the Native population was entirely either dead or displaced. The reason stated by Elks that he had requested a patent is because his European neighbors were in fact encroaching on his land and the only way Elks knew to prevent that was to request to the government to grant him the land that included the village of his people.

Archaeological digs in multiple locations in the Brigand’s Bay area found no trace of the colonists.

Archaeological digs up the road about 3 miles in the Buxton area, where the Native people were no longer living by 1738, did produce relics of pottery, wattle and daub and other items, including the burial with the musket ball that indicates death after European contact. We know who lived there according to land grants, and no Native people were involved or present in that location at that time the land was granted.

The last reference to more than one Native village was in William Reed’s land grant of 1712 along a ridge between Buxton and Brigands Bay which mentions that it is located between the two Indian towns.

The Tuscarora War occurred in 1711 and 1712, and the Colonial Records of North Carolina state that the war had reduced the Hatteras Indians to great poverty and they were petitioning the government for corn, as they did again in 1720. The Hatteras had sided with the settlers, not the Tuscarora.

Baylus’s paper titled John Lawson’s Indian Town on Hatteras Island, North Carolina, available here, details many of the findings along with the history of the archaeological digs. He overlaid the original surveys onto a contemporary GIS map.

Baylus Brooks Hatteras reconstruction from deeds showing land grants prior to 1760. In the Buxton area, where Phelps excavated the workshop, was the one of the Indian towns, the second being the location at King’s Point, today Brigand’s Bay.

The Buxton area, where the cemetery, wattle and daub homestead and well were excavated is near the location of the a workshop site where the Europeans and Native people had cooperated to produce trade goods between 1650 and 1720, excavated in 1998 by archaeologist David Phelps. Whaling may have occurred in that area as early as 1663, but these activities would not have led to permanent settlements that included European women, as suggested by the thimble discovered in the remains of the wattle and daub homestead.

The Hatteras, between 1650 and 1701 when Lawson appeared on the scene could indeed have intermarried or had children with the European whalers or men involved with the manufacture of trade goods. We have no knowledge of when the Indian Village in Buxton disappeared entirely, but based on land grants, there is no question that the primary and only village was near Brigand’s Bay by 1738, not Buxton. The Buxton location had clearly been settled by whites on the original Indian town there, sometime between 1712 and 1740.

If the Native people on Hatteras island intermarried with the European settlers who were the ancestors of the current day population, one of two things has happened:

  • The male colonist/native female lines that intermarried have not descended through a direct paternal line to current day as evidenced by Y DNA testing.
  • The lines do descend to current day, but have not yet Y DNA tested.

There are candidate families found near the old Indian town, two of which were labeled in the 1790 census as “mulatto,” one of which has DNA tested and does not carry a European Y DNA haplogroup.

I believe it’s quite possible that at least some of the colonists did survive and did intermarry with the Hatteras Indians. However, by the time that the Europeans arrived sometime after 1650 to produce trade goods and whale, the original colonists would have been dead and their descendants would probably have been considered Indian.

Assimilation Opportunities

There would have been three distinct periods of opportunity for European male intermarriage with the Hatteras.

  • If the colonists survived, then English/Native intermarriage would have occurred from 1587 until about 1630 when the last totally “European” person had probably died. The next two generations, by 1630-1650 would have been significantly admixed. Depending on the size of the tribe, there could have been more English than Native people. The males from this admixture would carry the Y DNA of the male colonists.
  • The second period when admixture could have occurred was during the period from 1650 to 1720 when Phelps dig revealed that trade goods were being produced in Buxton by both Natives and Europeans. These Europeans were likely all men, so they would have intermarried with the Native women. If the Hatteras were already admixed, this would have created further admixture. The males from this admixture would carry the Y DNA of the Europeans.
  • The third period when admixture could have occurred was during the period from about 1700 until 1756. We know that the Hatteras fought for the English in the Tuscarora War, and that the English grants on Hatteras Island began in 1711/1712. From that time forward until the Hatteras were extinct, the European men could have taken Native wives. The Hatteras may have been so admixed by this time that they looked more European than Native. The males from this admixture would carry the Y DNA of the Hatteras Island families.

It’s possible for all three events, above to have occurred, meaning that it’s also possible for each successive “wave” of admixture to appear in the shrinking Hatteras male population.

Timeframe Admixture Whose Y Surname Matches
1587-1630 Colonist males with Native females Colonist Y DNA surname matches
1650-1720 Unknown European males with Native females Unknown European males, unknown surnames
1712- circa 1750 Hatteras Island males with Native females Hatteras Island Y DNA surname matches

By the time Europeans actually settled Hatteras Island around the time of the Tuscarora War (1711-1712,) the colonists had been dead for 80 years, if they lived out their lives on Hatteras Island, and their descendants 4 or 5 generations later were viewed as Indians, not Englishmen. Many Native people were killed during the Tuscarora War, and the Hatteras suffered greatly during that time. Their population shrank, their lands were settled by whites and between 1712 and 1756, they were diminished to two men, one woman and a child who were Mattamuskeet, not Hatteras.

It’s certainly probable that some of the Hatteras had intermarried with the European settlers after 1712 and before 1756, but if that occurred, it isn’t noted in any of the records.

If that did occur, it’s likely that the female Indians married the male settlers, and not vice versa. That means that their male offspring would carry the Y DNA of the Hatteras Island families arriving after 1712.

With the diminishment and eventual extinction of the Hatteras Indians in the 1750s, if the colonists on Hatteras Island did assimilate, those male lines may have died out, leaving only colonist lineages through female “Indians” who had colonist ancestors. The Hatteras land records tell us that there are no male Hatteras left. If that’s the case, we can’t detect those colonist lines through either Y or autosomal DNA today, at least not through the Hatteras.

As we’ve already discussed, mitochondrial DNA doesn’t confer the advantage of being recognizable immediately by being associated with a surname, not to mention that there were few females among the colonists, and most of those were probably married to other colonists.

For Y DNA to be useful, we need to be able to connect the lineage with records in England.

As more people test their DNA, I continue to be hopeful that within a known, proven Native or Hatteras family, a Y DNA match to a colonist surname will appear, with a known location in England that we can search for records.

Safety in Numbers?

Some people who study the Lost Colonists believe or at least hope that the colonists split into multiple groups. Splitting up would improve the odds that one of group might survive, and would have been easier to feed, but it also means that there was less safety with fewer people to defend the group. Splitting into groups could account for the reports of colonists near Jamestown who were massacred as well as colonist reports in other locations.

There is no actual evidence of colonists in another location, with one exception. The reason I feel this one record is specifically important is because, after the Croatoan message on Roanoke, this is the only other direct communication that may well be from the colonists themselves.

While we do have evidence that the colonists survived long enough to leave Roanoke, we have nothing concrete after that except for the December 1609 Jamestown record in which during an expedition to find the colonists, they were told that colonists survived, but they were not allowed to speak with them. However, the men found initials and crosses carved into the trees outside of where the Lost Colonist survivors were supposedly held, which they misinterpreted as “assured testimony of Christians newly cut in the barks of trees,” not signs of distress from their fellow countrymen. In 1609, many colonists could still have been alive, 22 years after being stranded. Virginia Dare, if alive, would have been 22 years old.

If at least some of the colonists were being held within 50 miles of the fort, they died in captivity, because they were never “found” and rescued.

50 Miles into the Main

Another possibility is that the colonists did move 50 miles into the main, and not as captives.

White’s map also contained a fort that was covered as if in error on his map, and speculation abounds that this fort is actually the site where the colonists settled, 50 miles into the main. The distance is about right.

John White’s original map above and the same map with the covered fort location revealed, below. Comparison from the First Colony Foundation report.

First Colony Foundation sponsored archaeological digs at what has become known as Site X, producing this report. Pottery was found, but pottery could also have been trade goods.

No compelling evidence that the colony settled here has emerged.

What’s Next?

We’ve learned a lot about DNA and genetic genealogy over the past 11 years. I’m equally as sure that we will learn even more in the next decade.

Today, the Lost Colony DNA projects will continue to build membership, waiting on that break we need. I’m hopeful with every new person that joins the Y DNA project that they are the one!

I anticipate that English records will continue to be transcribed and be added to online databases, becoming accessible to everyone through services like Ancestry, MyHeritage and FindMyPast which focuses exclusively on British and Irish genealogy.

Identifying the colonists and their families in England remains the key to solving the mystery of the fate of the Lost Colony. Those records won’t do it alone, but without that information to use in order to track descendants forward in time, at least today, we probably can’t solve the mystery.

However, there is one possibility. Given that the colonist surnames are reported among the Lumbee, it’s possible that the Y DNA of those families could point the way back to their English roots. That road sign just might tell us exactly where to look in England for those missing records, which of course might lead us right to the colonists themselves.

Is this wishful thinking? Of course, but it’s also possible.

Of the various Hatteras, eastern North Carolina and Native associated families who have tested, to date, there are a few interesting finds, but not yet compelling.

  • The Berry family remains promising although several distinct Berry lines have been identified to date.
  • A descendant of Jonas Squires born about 1705 in Hyde County matches a Topham at 37 markers with 4 mutations. Given that Jonas Squires is first mentioned owning a mill in Hyde County in 1728 and as a “planter” in 1738, it’s very unlikely that this man originated in the impoverished Native community. The Topham match is probably simply circumstantial.
  • The Gaskill line, found on Ocracoke Island by 1787, but not earlier, matches a Bright male at 37 markers with three mutations. This could be nothing or could be significant. We need additional Gaskill men from the Outer Banks line to test. The Gaskill line is found in early records in Carteret County and likely migrated to the Outer Banks from that earlier location.

For Hatteras Island families and their descendants only, we have established a Y DNA project at Family Tree DNA.

Right now, I’m waiting for Y DNA test results for a man with the hope that maybe, just maybe, his DNA will shine a light into the crevice we need to chip a hole into at least one family line in that 400-year-old brick wall!

If you would like to contribute to the Lost Colony Y DNA Project to enable testing, please click here.

Are You The One???

If you are (or know of) any of the following:

  • A male with a colonist surname with early roots in eastern coastal North Carolina
  • A male descended from Hatteras Island or the Outer Banks and carrying a Hatteras Island surname
  • A male affiliated with a Native American tribe from North Carolina, Virginia, or the Tuscarora
  • A pre-1800 Lumbee surname and match Y DNA at 37 markers or above to a colonist surname.
  • A male with a family oral history of descent through your paternal line from the Lost Colonists
  • A male in England with one of the colonist surnames

Please purchase a 37 Y DNA test at Family Tree DNA through this link or contact me if you have reason to think you’re a colonist descendant.

You never know, you may be just the person who solves the mystery!

References and Resources

Bolnick et al (2006) Asymmetric Male and Female Genetic Histories among Native Americans from Eastern North America

Brace, Sharron (April 2013) Journal of Spangenberg’s Voyage to North Carolina, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Brace, Sharron (January 2014) Berry Project Compiled Records, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Brasser, T. J. (1978) Early Indian-European Contacts by Bruce G. Trigger (editor) of Northeast, Volume 15 of the Handbook of North American Indians published by the Smithsonian Institute

Britt, Morris (2008) Implosion, the Secret History of the Origins of the Lumbee Indians by Morris Britt (unpublished)

Brooks, Baylus (September 2010) Hatteras Place Names Map, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Brooks, Baylus (February 2011) The Hatteras Snaphaunce Find (Phelps 1998), Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Brooks, Baylus (September 2011) From Roanoke to Hatteras: A Two-Day Hunt for Clues to the Lost Colony, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Brooks, Baylus (December 2011) Hatteras Island 1704 Visitor, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Brooks, Baylus (March 2012) Col. Thomas Bryd, the Hatteras Indians and More Quakers, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Brooke, Baylus (April 2014) “John Lawson’s Indian Town on Hatteras Island, North Carolina,” North Carolina Historical Review

Brown, Kathleen M., Associate Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania, Virtual Jamestown Essay, Women in Early Jamestown at http://www.virtualjamestown.org/essays/brown_essay.html (2009) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamestown,Virginia (2009)

Bureau of Ethnology of the Smithsonian Indian, The Pamunkey Indians of Virginia, Published June 2011 in the Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Byrd, William L. III (2002) Villainy Often Goes Unpunished, Indian Records from the North Carolina General Assembly Sessions 1675-1789

Byrd, William L. III (2007) Against the Peace and Dignity of the State, North Carolina Laws Regarding Slaves, Free Persons of Color and Indians

Byrd, William (1728) Histories of the Dividing Line betwixt Virginia and North Carolina first published as a portion of the Westover Manuscripts available electronically at http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/byrd/byrd.html (2009)

A second book which includes Byrd’s “Secret History of the Dividing Line” publishes William Byrd’s secret journal alongside the “official” published version in the book “William Byrd’s Histories of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina”, by William Byrd, contributor William Byrd and Percy G. Adams, published by Courier Dover, 1987

Dial, Dr. Adolph and David Eliades (1996) The Only Land I Know

DeLuna Expedition Information http://www.de-luna.com/pal.html (2009)

DeMarce, Virginia, (1992) “Verry Slitly Mixt, Tri-Racial Isolate Families of the Upper South, A Genealogical Study”, Genealogical Society Quarterly 80.1 (March 1992): [5]-35.

Dobyns, Henry F. (1983) Their Number Become Thinned by Henry F. Dobyns with the assistance of William R. Swagerty, University of Tennessee Press

Duffy, John (1951) Smallpox and the Indians in the American Colonies, Bulletin of the History of Medicine Volume 25: 324-341

Eirlys Mair Barker (1993) Much Blood and Tears: South Carolina’s Indian Traders, 1670-1775, (a thesis)

Estes, Roberta (2009) Where Have All The Indians Gone? Native American Eastern Seaboard Dispersal, Genealogy and DNA in Relation to Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony of Roanoke, published Journal of Genetic Genealogy, Fall 2009

Estes, Roberta (2011) Following the Croatoan

Estes, Roberta (2009) Beechland: Oral History versus Historical Records

Estes, Roberta (2009) Lost Colony Indigenous Groups

Estes, Roberta (May 2009) Dare Records, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (May 2009) Dr. William Powell’s Papers, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (May 2009) Berry and Payne Families, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (May 2009) Buxton Research, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (September 2009) How Many Colonists Were There? Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta, (September 2009) Who Else Was Lost? Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (September 2009) The Problem with Surnames, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (September 2009) Needle in the Haystack – Finding the Colonists in England, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (December 2009) Land Patents Including Machepungo and Mattemuskeet, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (January 2010) Origins of the Lost Colonists Intro, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (January 2010) Hamilton McMillan’s Lumbee/Colonist Surname List, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (May 2010) Hatteras Island Family Reconstruction Project, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (June 2010) Archaeology Dig – April 2010, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (August 2010) Jamestown Colonist Pory and the Lost Colony Ellis Family, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (August 2010) Who Was at Jamestown? Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (September 2010) Roanoke Island’s First Post-Jamestown Visitor – Francis Yeardley, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (September 2010) Earliest North Carolina Exploration and Settlement, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (January 2011) The Pierce Family of Tyrrell County, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (February 2011) Dr. David Phelps Hatteras Island Excavations, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (February 2011) Hurricanes Reshape the Outer Banks, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (February 2011) The Chowan Indians, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (March 2011) Dr. Arwin Smallwood’s Tuscarora Research – Another Lost Colony Scenario, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (April 2011) Frank Speck’s Remnants of the Machapunga Indians, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (April 2011) James Sprunt, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (April 2011) Range of the Mattamuskeet and Coree Indians, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (April 2011) Archaeology Dig 2011, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (May 2011) Old Time Hatteras, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (May 2011) Colonists Found, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (June 2011) Where Are We Going? How Are We Getting There?, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (August 2011) The Kinnekeet Bible, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (August 2011) The Kendall Ring, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (September 2011) Croatoan Barber, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (October 2011) Casting the Net Wider – The Jamestown Charters, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta with Kay Midgett Sheppard (December 2011) Whibey-Midgett Headright Records, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (December 2011) Hatteras Island in the 1750s, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (January 2012) The Dare Stones, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (January 2012) The Inglis Fletcher Dare Stone Letter, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (January 2012) “The Lost Rocks” by David La Vere, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (February 2012) ECU and LCRG Collaboration, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (March 2012 Special Edition) Lost Colonists – Found, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (April 2012) Missing Colonist Families in England, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (May 2012) The Meherrin and the Susquehanna Indians, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (June 2012) Does CRO = Chowan, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (June 2012) Raleigh’s Lost Fort Found? Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (June 2012) More About the Chowan Fort on the John White Map, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (August 2012) Riven Coffins, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (September 2012) What’s in a Name? The Tuscarora in Transition, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (October 2012) Bertie County Potential Fort Location, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (October 2012) The 2012 Dig, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (November 2012) Lost Colony, Hyde County and Lumbee Berry Families, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (January 2013) Acanahonan Found on Jamestown Map in Dutch Archives, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (January 2013) 1606 Hondius Mercator Map of “Virginia and Florida”, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (January 2013) Tom King, Woccon Indian, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (March 2013) The Lost Colony in Clarksville, Virginia???, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (March 2013) The Colonists and Edward Bland’s 1650 Expedition, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta and Brace, Sharron (April 2013) Indians in North Carolina in 1754, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (May 2013) Yardley Sees Raleigh’s Fort, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (May 2013) Where Did the Colonists Come From? Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (May 2013) Lost Colonist Sightings, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (August 2013) Lost French Manuscript Found, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (September 2013) The Meherrin in 1728, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (October 2013) William Edward Fitch – Raleigh’s Colony Was Not Lost, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (November 2013) McMillan Revisited, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Estes, Roberta (March 2014) Lost Colony Found? Dig at Avoca, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Flores, Milagros (2008) Spain and Roanoke Island Voyages (unpublished)

Florida State Archives (Florida Memory) (2009)   http://www.floridamemory.com/floridahighlights/mapstaug.cfm

Freeman, Fletcher (June 2012) Chowan Indians, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Freeman, Fletcher (June 2012) John and Thomas Hoyter, the Chowan Indian Chiefs, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Freeman, Fletcher (December 2012) William Taylor, Tuscarora Indian?, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Fullam, Brandon (2017) The Lost Colony of Roanoke: New Perspectives

Fullam Brandon (August 2013) “The Slaughter at Roanoke” Reconstructing William Strachey, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Fullam, Brandon (August 2013) Lost Colony Clues and Early 17th Century Powhatan-Algonquian Oral Tradition, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Fullam, Brandon (December 2013) Simon Fernandez: Master Pilot, Convenient Scapegoat, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Fullam, Brandon (April 2014) The Lost Colony: Departure from Roanoke, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Fullam, Brandon (May 2014) The Lost Colony: Searching for Oconohonan in Martin Co., NC, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Fullam, Brandon (June 2014) The Lost Colony: Roanoke and Croatoan in 1590, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Fullam, Brandon (June 2014) The Lost Colony and the Intriguing CORA Tree on Hatteras Island, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Frey, Nancy (April 2011) Conditions in England Before the Departure of the Lost Colonists, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Frey, Nancy (August 2011) The Parish of St. Clement Danes in the City of Westminster, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Frey, Nancy (April 2013) Governor White of Roanoke, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Garrow, Patrick H. (1975) The Mattamuskeet Documents: A Study in Social History http://www.ncgenweb.us/hyde/ethnic/MATTA1.HTM (2009)

Grey, Edward and Fiery, Norman (2001) The Language Encounter in America 1492-1800

Harriott, Thomas (1588) A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia by Thomas Hariot, 1588.

Hatteras Island Y DNA Project

Horn, James (2011) A Kingdom Strange: The Brief and Tragic History of the Lost Colony of Roanoke

Hudson, Charles (1990) The Juan Pardo Expeditions, Exploration of the Carolinas and Tennessee, 1566-1568

Kupperman, Karen Ordahl (2000) Indians and English

LaVere, David (2011), The Lost Rocks: The Dare Stones and the Unsolved Mystery of Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony

Lawson, John (1709) New Voyage to Carolina Containing the Exact Description and Natural History of that Country Together with the Present State thereof and A Journal of a Thousand Miles, Travel’d thro’ several Nations of Indians Giving a particular Account of their Customs Manners, etc. by John Lawson, Gent. Surveyor-General of North Carolina, London, Printed in the Year 1709.

Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter, Roberta Estes, Editor, 2007-2014

Lost Colony Y DNA Project

Lost Colony Family DNA Project

Lumbee Tribe and tribal history,http://www.lumbeetribe.com/index.html (2009), http://www.lumbeetribe.com/History_Culture/100_year_quest.pdf (2009)

Mann, Rod and Estes, Roberta (March 2013), Purported Gravestone of Ananias Dare Found, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

McMullan, Philip Jr., (undated, unpublished) A Search for the Lost Colony in Beechland by Philip McMullan, Jr.

McPherson, O.M. (1915) Indians of North Carolina, Senate Document 677, 63d Congress, 3d Session, Washington, DC, 1915.

Miller, Lee (2001) Roanoke, Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony

Native Tribal History http://www.sciway.net/hist/indians/keyauwee.html (2009)

Northern Plains Archive Project, www.hiddenhistory.com (2009)

Oberg, Michael Leroy (2000) Between ‘Savage Man’ and ‘Most Faithful Englishman’ Manteo and the Early Anglo-Indian Exchange, 1584-1590

Pilford-Allen, Mary (August 2012) Virginia Dare, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Powell, Andy (2011) Grenville and the Lost Colony of Roanoke

Powell, Andy (2009) Colonist Family Locations, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Powell, Andy (January 2010) Origins of the Lost Colony, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Powell, Andy (January 2010) English Demographic Summary by Colonist Surname, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Powell, Andy (December 2010) Sir Richard Grenville, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Powell, Andy, (March 2011) The Harveys and the Greenwich Connection, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Powell, Andy (March 2011) Survivors from the Ship John Evangelista Alive and Well on Hatteras Island…?, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Powell, Andy (May 2013) In Search of John White, Governor of the Lost Colony in Roanoke, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Powell, Andy (June 2013) Andy Powell on “Where Did the Colonists Come From?”, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Powell, Dr. William S. (1920-2015) Generously provided his research notes from his research trips to England to search for the Lost Colonist.

Parramore, Thomas C., (1983) Lost Colony in Fact and Legend

Quinn, David Beers (1985) Set Fair to Roanoke: The Voyages and Colonies of 1584-1606

Sauer, Carl Ortwin (1971) Sixteenth Century North America: The Land and the People as Seen by the Europeans

Sheppard, Kay Lynn (March 2013) Hyde, Beaufort and Pasquotank County, NC Records Pertaining to Indians and Surnames of Suspected Indian Origin, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Smithsonian Papers, http://www.smithsoniansource.org/display/primarysource/viewdetails.aspx?PrimarySourceId=1182. (2009)

Smithsonian (1978) The Handbook of North American Indians (a multivolume set published over a period of several years)

Sprunt, James (1896) Tales and Traditions of the Lower Cape Fear

Sprunt, James (1896) First White Settlement

Sprunt, James (1896) Cape Fear Indians

Stannard, David E. (1993) American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World

Stewart, Alexander (March 2013) Attamuskeet, Hatteras and Roanoke Indians Baptized – 1763, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter

Stick, David (1983) Roanoke Island, the Beginning of English America

Strachey, William (1612) The Historie of Travel into Virginia Britania

Swanton, John (1953) Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 145

Swanton, John (1985) Final Report of the United States DeSoto Expedition Commission

Thomas, Robert K. (January 2013) A Report of Research on Lumbee Origins, Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter (Extract from his original publication.)

Thornton, Russell (1987) American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History Since 1492

Tribal History and Maps (2009) http://www.hiddenhistory.com/PAGE3/swsts/virgnia1.HTM#Saponi

Virginia Indian Tribes (2009) http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/virginia/index.htm

Wright, Leitch J. Jr. (1981) The Only Land They Knew: The Tragic Story of the American Indians in the Old South

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Conrad Heitz (before 1645-1684/1692), “In War Service for the Palatine,” 52 Ancestors #199

The first hint of Conrad Heitz is found in the Miesau, Germany church records on April 17, 1684 when his daughter, Irene Liesabetha, married Michael Muller, a widower. The Miesau records of this time held the records from Miesau, Steinwenden and Ramstein.

Entry No. 23 – 17 April 1684 – Recorded in Miesau parish

Michael Müller, legitimate son of the late Heinsmann Müller, resident of Schwartzmatt in the Bern region with Irene Liesabetha, daughter of Cunrad (Conrad) Heitz, who was at this time in war service for the Palatinate in Churpfalz (Kurpfalz), were married in Steinwenden.

My original assumption was that Conrad Heitz was living in Steinwenden when his daughter was married to Michael Muller there, but after significant analysis by me and my two German experts, it looks like my assumption was probably incorrect.

Conrad Heitz never appears in any Steinwenden (or nearby) record except by reference. In fact, we do not know where he was living in 1684, although Churpfalz would be a good place to look.

What we do know is that Conrad was a soldier, probably a professional soldier.

Conrad Heitz wasn’t found on the 1684 Steinwenden tax list, but that wasn’t terribly unusual because Swiss immigrants weren’t taxed. His absence on the tax list didn’t set off any alarms. Michael Muller wasn’t on that list either and he’s know to be Swiss.

Therefore, because Irene lived in Steinwenden, and as we shall see, so did (at least some of) Conrad’s other children, my assumption had been that Conrad did too. I should have already learned about assuming anything with my German ancestors. They lived in uncertain times, even after the 30 Years War, and they never fail to prove me wrong every time I assume anything is “normal.” My family is NEVER normal.

To be clear, we know that Conrad’s young children lived in the Steinwenden area. We just don’t know if he lived there, and it seems likely that Conrad was an absentee father, although perhaps not willingly, and possibly tragically.

Daughter Irene

Conrad’s daughter, Irene’s story is quite interesting, given that her name seemed to change throughout her life. She was known as Irene Elisabetha, Irene Charitas, Regina Loysa, Regina Elisabetha and maybe a few other variants.

Recently one of my readers who has been transcribing German records mentioned the following:

I recognized the name Irene Charitas and for awhile could not figure out why, but then I remembered that I came across it multiple times in my current project, transcribing entries from the earliest church books of Zweibrücken and Hornbach. It’s not a name you forget! I first saw it in the family of Herr Superintendent Michael Philipp Beuther, who had a daughter baptized Irene Charitas.

In my experience, it was common in Pfalz-Zweibrücken for church officials, administrators, and educators to have their church book entries recorded in a mixture of Latin and German, hence the wild, uncommon names like Irene Charitas. It was by virtue of that family’s prominence that the name spread in Zweibrücken, seeing how Irene sponsored many baptisms.

Since you have a combination of ceremonial Latin and German, it would not surprise me a bit if your Irene occasionally went by a more Germanic name as an adult, or if minister’s made mistakes in recording her name. For example, Irene in German sounds a lot like Latinate “Reina,” derived from Regina, so it’s very possible that a minister assumed that “Rene” or “Irene” was short for a Christian name of Regina. The flip-flopping of the Rufname, though is something to watch carefully. Given the records you’ve provided, I would presume that “Irene Elisabetha” was her preferred German name and that the others are either derivatives or hiccups, but I would keep investigating.

However, it was digging for every detail about Irene by all her names that revealed Conrad Heitz and what we do know about his life. In fact, it was by tracking daughter Irene/Regina, all over this part of Germany that we found evidence of her siblings. That was no small feat, believe me, especially with her periodic name changes combined with social upheaval of the time.

The Hoffman Connection

Irene Heitz’s brother was named Samuel. Given his name and Irene’s, along with other records, it seems that the Heitz family was close to the Samuel Hoffman family.

Samuel Hoffman was probably the first minister of the church in Steinwenden and his wife, Irene Charitas Buether, died in Miesau in 1684. At that time, Steinwenden and Ramstein deaths were recorded in the Miesau church records.

According to the Geneanet site by R. K. Morgenthaler, Samuel Hofmann, husband of Irene Charitas born Beuther, was a minister in Weilersbach, close to Steinwenden, from 1657 onwards. We also know that Samuel Hoffmann and Irene Charitas Beuther married in 1657 in Weilerbach since this is stated in her 1684 burial record.

Weilerbach and Miesau are both equidistant of Steinwenden by about 9 miles in either direction.

We do have a 1684 Steinwenden tax list that shows Samuel Hoffmann residing in Steinwenden which also includes closely adjacent areas. Based on this, we may conclude that Samuel Hoffmann was a minister in Steinwenden in at least 1683-1684, and perhaps earlier. He may thus have been the first minister in Steinwenden after the war. Since Samuel was taxed, he probably wasn’t Swiss.

Given that two of Conrad Heitz’s children were named Samuel and Irene, it’s possible, perhaps even probable, that Samuel Hoffman and his wife, Irene, stood as their godparents and that the children were named in their honor. But when was that, and where?

Where was Samuel Hoffman after his 1657 marriage and before 1670 or so when Samuel Heitz was born? It stands to reason that Rev. Hoffman remained in the Steinwenden area, since he is found there in the 1680s.

In 1684, Irene Charitas Buether Hoffman, born in 1613, died in Steinwenden at the calculated age of 71. That means she had been 44 when she married Samuel Hoffman, probably past childbearing age.

As the minister, Samuel would have recorded church member’s deaths in his own handwriting after he preached the funeral service and comforted the mourners. When the last prayer was said, as the grave was covered, the good reverend retreated into the sanctuary of the church to do one final thing – record the burial date in the church books. Some ministers also recorded the gospel passage they chose to read, or noted that the church bells were rung. Samuel Hoffman wrote the simplest of notes, taking care of business, but nothing more. I have to wonder if he wrote the death record for his own wife into the register after they buried her in the churchyard, sitting alone, surrounded by the stone walls echoing happier times. Both a labor of grief and of love. Such it was in 1684 in Steinwenden.

Samuel Hoffman Remarries

In 1685, Samuel Hoffman, then a widower, remarried. German genealogist, Tom, notes the burial of Herr Samuel Hoffmann recorded in neighboring Konken parish on January 5, 1718. Tom feels that this would indicate that Samuel Hoffmann was probably about 10 years younger or more than his first wife Irene Charitas Beuther and at his death, would have been in his 90’s. If Samuel had been about the same age as Irene, that would put his age at death at 105.

Given his age at remarriage, between 62 and 72, I was quite surprised when Samuel Hoffman began having children with his new wife. I wondered if this Samuel is the son of the original Samuel who married Irene Charitas Beuther, but records confirm otherwise.

Marriage: 13 January 1685

Herr Samuel Hoffman, widower, p.p. (all proper titles assumed) with Maria Magdalena, legitimate daughter of Hans Cunrad Hepp, servant innkeeper? in Winden.

Samuel Hoffmann and his 2nd wife Maria Magdalena Hepp are found in many Steinwenden links to the Muller and Heitz families. Samuel’s new wife was clearly at least three if not four decades his junior.

Samuel Hoffman served as a godparent for a son born to Johann Michael Muller and Irene Heitz in 1687. Clearly Irene Heitz Muller was close to Samuel Hoffman too, not just Irene who had died.

A decade later, Irene Heitz Muller had remarried to Jacob Stutzman and moved to Krottelbach, but returned to Steinwenden to be the godmother of a child born to Samuel Hoffman and his wife Maria Magdalena. At this time, Samuel would have been 70 or older.

Landesarchiv Speyer > Steinwenden > Taufe 1684-1698, Taufe 1698-1738, Taufe 1724, 1738, Trauung 1684-1780, Beerdigung 1685-1780, Konfirmation 1685-1779, Bild 17 www.archion.de

Baptism: Entry No. 221

Child: Irene Elisabeth

Date of Baptism: 3 February 1697

Parents: H(err) Samuel Hoffmann & Maria Magdalena from Steinwenden

Godparents: Irene, Jacob Stitzmantz wife from Brodelbach (Krottelbach); Elisabetha, wife of Balthasar Jolage; Dominicus Stutzman, unmarried.

The baby was named for Irene and if anything happened to the parents, Irene Heitz Stutzman would raise her namesake.

This 1697 record ties Herr Samuel Hoffmann & Maria Magdalena (his 2nd wife) with Irene Heitz Muller Stutzman, Jacob Stutzman’s wife from Krottelbach and with Dominicus Stutzman, Jacob Stutzman’s brother!

At this point, I have to ask myself how Samuel Hoffman knew Jacob Stutzman’s brother, Dominicus well enough to ask him to stand up for his child as a Godparent. Dominic is the Stutzman sibling that never moved to Konken area where Jacob Stutzman lived. Instead Dominic lived and died in Zweibrucken. How did he know the Reverend Samuel Hoffman?

Tom notes that Hoffman may have known Dominic from Zweibrucken which is about 25 miles from Steinwenden, or 32 miles from Weilerbach. Zwiebrucken is where Samuel Hoffman’s first wife, Irene Charitas Beuther was from. It’s also where the Stutzman family was found before 1682. Did the Hoffman, Miller and Stutzman families all know each other from Zwiebrucken?

Furthermore, I would still like to figure out how Cunrad Heitz, a solder from Kurpfalz, near Mannheim, came to name his two children after a minister in Weilerbach, 32 miles distant. There seem to be some critical puzzle pieces missing.

Let’s look at our Heitz records.

Heitz Records

After the 1684 marriage of Irene Heitz to Michael Muller, additional Heitz records begin to be found in 1692 in Steinwenden and continue there except where otherwise noted. Irene’s marriage was the first Heitz record found.

  • June 4, 1692 – Samuel Heitz, tailor along with Irene, Michael Muller’s wife (and others) are godparents to Johann Samuel Lantz, child of Ludwig Lantz and Esther Barbara from Steinwenden.

This tells us that Samuel Heitz is an adult because he has an occupation.

  • Christmas 1692 – Confirmation of Cunrad Heitz, brother of Samuel Heitz, tailor.

This is an important record, because it suggests the age of Cunrad Heitz to be about 12 or 13, so born about 1680. Cunrad was actually born in 1676, so he was confirmed at age 16. It also confirms that these two men are brothers. Conspicuous in this record is the absence of a parent.

  • June 21, 1693 – Elisabeth Catharina, wife of Philip Heintz and Michael Muller of Steinwenden are godparents (with others) for Catharina Margaretha, daughter of Hans Jacob Schmidt and Elisabeth from Dittweiler.

I originally thought that this Heintz record was probably a Heitz record. However, there were no additional records found, and Tom found the Philip Heintz marriage to his wife: “Philip Heintz, son of Jost Heintz (deceased) from Alsenz marries 1687 11 Nov. in Steinwenden to Elisabeth Catharina, dau of Hans Caspar Christman of Schwander?”

  • August 22, 1694 – Samuel Heitz, tailor, godparents (with others) for Johana Agnetha, daughter of H(err) Samuel Hoffmann and Maria Magdalena of Steinwenden.
  • December 12, 1694 – Samuel Heitz, tailor, godparent (with others) to Johan Samuel, son of Hanss Georg Berny and Anna Elisabeth from Obermohr.
  • July 22, 1696 – Samuel Heitz, tailor, godparent (with others) to Johann Samuel, son of Hanss Georg Deysinger & Catharina from Steinwenden.
  • February 5, 1697 – Samuel Heitz, son of the late Cunrad Heitz, from Ramstein marries Catharina Apollonia, widow of the late Michael Schumacher. (Note that on November 10, 1693, Hans Michael Schuhmacher, son of Niclaus Schumacher from Rohrback married Catharina Apollonia, legitimate daughter of the late Burchard Schafer from Turckheim (Bad Durkheim.)

I am unclear whether the “from Ramstein” note refers to Samuel Heitz or the late Cunrad Heitz, but this is not the only reference to Ramstein. Ramstein is less than 2 miles from Steinwenden. This record indicates clearly that Conrad Heitz is deceased by this time.

In fact, the road from Miesau to Weilerbach runs directly through Ramstein. Steinwenden is a side trip, literally, “off the beaten path.”

This record tells us that Conrad Heitz died sometime between April of 1684 when Irene was married and February of 1697. He was probably deceased by the 1692 confirmation, given that he wasn’t mentioned. I wonder why there is no death record for Conrad in the church books. Given that he was a soldier, perhaps he did not die in this region, or maybe because he did not live in this region.

I suspect, based on the entry from 1698 for Conrad Jr. that the reference to Ramstein refers to Samuel, not the deceased Conrad Sr.

  • May 9, 1697 – Samuel Heitz from Steinwenden godparent (with others) to Johann Samuel, son of Johan Simon Fries and Maria Elisabetha from Steinwenden.
  • December 26, 1697 – Johann Adam born to Samuel Heitz and Catharina Apollonia from Steinwenden, Hans Adam Schumacher godfather (with others).
  • January 17, 1698 – Death of Cunrad Heitz, Ramstein, unmarried son of the late Hans Cunrad Heitz, former soldier in Manheim. Age 20 to 23 years. This death of Cunrad Heitz is from Steinwenden church book.

This entry about Hans Cunrad Heitz, where it indicated he is a “former soldier,” meaning that he is dead, and gives the location specifically as Manheim may be more important than it seems. It may actually be giving us Cunrad’s death location.

  • March 1, 1699 – Maria Magdalena baptized, daughter of Samuel Heitz and Catharina Appollonia from Steinwenden. Godparents: Magdelena, wife of Herr Samuel Hoffmann, Jacob Stutzman from Weylach and Anna Maria, daughter of Hans Cunrad Ausinger from Turckheim (Bad Durkheim).

This again ties to Bad Durkheim. What is the connection between Bad Durkheim and Steinwenden? The name Hans Cunrad also makes me wonder about an earlier generational connection. Was Hans Cunrad Ausinger named for Hans Cunrad Heitz, or were they both named for someone else? Are they connected, specially given that Bad Durkheim is not close?

  • September 1, 1700 – Anna Elisabetha baptized, daughter of Johann Samuel Heitz and Catharina Apollonia from Steinwenden.
  • October 9, 1701 – Samuel Heitz from Stenweyler godparent (along with others) to Johann Samuel, son of Simon Wolff and Anna Maria from Steinwenden.
  • June 12, 1702, Kallstadt– Samuel H(eitz) (margin) from Stenweiler im Westrich, Elisabeth, wife of Hanss Michael Schum (margin) from Ramsen, godparents to son of Hanss Jacob Stotzmann, farm administrator at Weilach and his wife Regina Elisabetha.

It appears that Samuel Heitz made his way from Steinwenden to Kallstadt to be a godfather to his sister’s child. Clearly, they were close.

Note that Kallstadt is about a mile north of Bad Durkheim, a name we repeatedly find in these records.

Chris points out that the Ramstein church records are scattered. Reformed records from 1591 to 1657 can be found in the Spesbach church books, from 1657 onwards in Miesau, and only from 1698 onwards in Steinwenden. Tom spread the net further, checking each location, but no additional Heitz records were found before 1684.

The next group of records are again from Steinwenden.

  • August 7, 1703 – Hans Adam buried, son of the local Samuel Heytz.
  • August 14, 1703 – Johann Henrich buried, son of Samuel Heytz.

Every time a see two deaths in such close proximity, I always wonder what happened. Was this a community issue, or just within this family? We don’t have birth records for these children, so it’s possible that they were twins, especially given that the next children we find were born just 11 months later.

  • July 13, 1704 – Eva Catharina baptized, daughter of Samuel Heitz and Catharina Appollonia, godparents Jacob Ringeisen from Reichsbach (with others).

This tells us where Jacob Ringeisen, Michael Muller’s cousin, is living in 1704. Reichenbach is 6 km from Steinwenden, about a 10 minute drive today. I wonder if Jacob’s only connection is as the cousin of Irene’s deceased husband. These families may have a connection from before they settled in this area.

  • October 31, 1706 – Maria Margreth baptized in Steinbruch, daughter of Samuel Heitz and Catharina from Steinwenden (mayor from Steinbruch was one of the godparents).
  • 1712 Confirmation of Maria Madl, daughter of Samuel Heitz, tailor of Steinwenden.
  • September 24, 1713 – Catharina Barbara baptized, daughter of Samuel Heitz and Catharina from Steinwenden, died on October 29th.
  • January 15, 1715, Kallstadt – Catharina, daughter of Conrad Heitz from Ram (margin) married to Johannes Schumacher, legitimate son of Jo (margin) Schumacher from Golding?

This record was certainly a surprise! Another daughter of Conrad?

It looks like Catharina is another sibling of Irene, especially when combined with the following record where Catharina is living on the Weilach estate with Irene/Regina and her husband, Jacob Stutzman.

  • January 7, 1716, Kallstadt – Nicholas Schumacher, cow herder at the Weilach farm and wife Catharina, a young daughter Susanna Elisabeth was born, godparents Regina Elisabeth, wife of the farm administrator and Jacob Stutzman.
  • 1717, Steinwenden – confirmation of Eva Catharina, daughter of Samuel Heitz, censor (church guardian of morals) from Steinwenden.

Note Samuel’s new occupation.

  • April 5, 1721 – Johann Ludwig, son of Johann Michal Muller and wife Susanna Agnesa, baptized. Godparent (with others): Eva Catharina, daughter of Samuel Heitzen, citizen in Stannweiler.

Irene (Regina) and Samuel Heitz are siblings, so Eva and Michael are first cousins. Johann Ludwig is the great-grandchild of Conrad Heitz. Eva Catharina is Ludwig’s first cousin once removed. (Yes, I had to draw a picture!)

  • January 6, 1728 – Catharina Apolonia, surviving widow of the late Samuel Heitz, former master tailor here, Steinwenden. Age 56 years minus 3 months and 6 days.

Irene’s brother, Samuel Heitz, died sometime between April 1721 and January 1728.

  • July 27, 1728, Kallstadt – Eva Catharina, surviving legitimate daughter of the late Johann Samuel Heitz, former resident of Sennweiler, to Johann Nicholaus Schwind, surviving legitimate son of the eldest member of the court, Jost Rudolph Schwind.

Apparently Eva Catharina went to live with her aunt Irene/Regina and Jacob Stutzman in Kallstadt after her parents’ deaths. She would have been age 24 when she married.

It appears that Irene/Regina and Jacob Stutzman had become the anchors of that family.

Ramstein

We find neighboring Ramstein mentioned repeatedly in these records.

Today, Ramstein-Miesenbach is a combined city. Ramstein Air Base now occupies part of what was the city of Ramstein. You can see contemporary and historical photos here.

Ironically, one of my family members was stationed here in the late 1980s and my mother wanted to visit. Had I ANY idea, I would have visited myself – mother in tow. I’m sure that family member had absolutely no idea that they may have literally been on top of our ancestral family home. The population of the base personnel and dependents at about 23,000 dwarfs the population of Ramstein-Miesenbach with about 7,500 residents.

Ramstein is literally a hop, skip and a jump down the road from Steinwenden. Literally walkable.

Ramstein was so small that their church records were incorporated into the Miesau, then Steinwenden records. Remember that in 1684, there were only 9 families in that entire region due to the depopulation resulting from the 30 Years War. By 1802, Ramstein had all of 302 people living there.

Apparently both Conrad Heitz Jr. and Samuel Heitz at some point lived in Ramstein, which suggests that the family may have lived closer to Ramstein than Steinwenden, or maybe between the two, although typically people lived in villages at that time. Farmers tended to walk to their fields and home again at night, with village houses and walls clustered together, providing protection. So there would have been no isolated farms in-between and there still aren’t today.

If the Heitz family wound up in Ramstein and Steinwenden, where did they come from?

Mannheim Baptisms

Tom found two baptism records of Heitz children in Mannheim, although I can’t include the images because they are from Archion who does not allow usage of their images.

The death record of Cunrad Heitz (Jr.) in Ramstein (Steinwenden Ev Ref parish) on January 17, 1698 says his age is 20-23 years, which puts his birth about 1675-1678. The record also gives his deceased father’s name as Cunrad as well, and states that he was a soldier from Mannheim.

The first Mannheim birth record is for Hans Conrad Heitz on August 6, 1676 which would make Cunrad 22 at his death.

1676 6 August

Child: Hans Conrad

Parents: Hans Conrad Heitz, soldier under H(err) Hauptmann Schaben(ger) Company and Anna Margaretha, his lawfully wed wife.

Godparents: Conrad Keller, ?, under said Company and Elisabetha ?

Bild 105 Mannheim Evangelical, Archion image

The second birth record is for a brother, Johannes, although we find no additional records for Johannes in either Mannheim or Steinwenden.

1679 21 May

Child: Johannes

Parents: Hans Conrad Heitz, soldier under Herr Hauptmann Schaben(ger)’s Company & Margaretha, lawfully wed wife.

Godparents: Johann Schwartz, soldier under Herr Hauptmann Schaben(ger)’s Company and Catharina, his lawfully wed wife.

Bild 149 Mannheim Evangelical, Archion image

I wonder what happened to Johannes.

Chris commented:

The entries indicate that Conrad Heitz was a member of Captain Johannes Schabinger’s Company.  Johannes Schabinger was from Bavaria.  He was in Bretten and Mannheim, Baden and probably in other places in Bavaria.  This might help us.

Mannheim is maybe 50 miles from Steinwenden.

Finding information about the “Shabinger Company” might be enlightening, indeed.

Schabinger’s Company

Chris’s search continues:

A web search for “Hauptmann Schabinger” (the two words in combination flanked by ” “) returned one book page, confirming that this Schabinger was from Bavaria.

Furthermore, I found out that there is a small booklet especially about the life of this Johannes/Hans Schabinger, see no. 5 below “Sonderhefte” on the following page: http://wiki-de.genealogy.net/Badische_Familienkunde

There is another publication by the same author: “Freiherr von Schabinger”:

“Der Pfeiferturm. Beiträge zur Heimatgeschichte.” Beilage in Brettener Nachrichten im August 1949: Hauptmann und Kommandant. Johannes Schabinger (1620-1654) von Karl Friedrich Schabinger Freiherr von Schowingen

If these life dates are correct, then Johannes Schabinger seems to have died already in 1654! Accordingly, I am not sure how helpful a search for him would be to locate Conrad Heitz, who certainly was still alive in 1684.

Further research into Johannes Schabinger revealed two baptisms of his children in Bretten in the 1650s, and the death of his wife there in 1671 where she is mentioned as a widow and that he died in 1654.

Ah, the FamilySearch index for the 1671 death of Susanna Schabinger states she was widowed. So Johannes Schabinger was not alive anymore in 1671. Strange enough, the Heitz records make no mentioning of this. It seems possible to me that Johannes Schabinger was famous at least locally at the time and this was the reason that Conrad Heitz having been a soldier below Schabinger was mentioned even after Schabinger`s death.

Tom, our German genealogist, feels that Schabinger was prominent enough that the company was named in his honor, even though Schabinger was deceased at the time.

Unfortunately, searching for more information about Schabinger won’t help with the search for Conrad Heitz. Sometimes you just have to go down the rabbit hole.

Kurpfalz

In 1684, Cunrad is mentioned as being in the service in Kurpfalz. I thought Kurpfalz was a specific place, but according to Wikipedia, Kurpfalz is German for the Elector Palatinate, a fragmented territory that was administered by the Count Palatine of the Rhine. This region stretched from the left bank of the Upper Rhine, from the Hunsruck Mountain range in what is today the Palatinate region of the German federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate and the adjacent parts of the French regions of Alsace and Lorraine (bailiwick of Seltz from 1418-1766) to the opposite territory on the east bank of the Rhine in present-day Hesse and Baden-Wurttemberg, up to the Odenwald range and the southern Kraichgau region, containing the capital cities of Heidelberg and Mannheim. The old map below drawn by Johannes Janssonius in 1650 depicts the Palatine. Mannheim is just slightly below the center and to the right.

Based on the other pieces of information we have gathered, it seems like the most important clue is the mention of Mannheim. In three other documents, we know that Cunrad is mentioned in conjunction with serving in Mannheim.

Mannheim History

The history of Mannheim itself may shed a bit of light on the subject.

The Encyclopedia Britannica provides us with information about what was happening in Mannheim during this timeframe.

The area of Mannheim is marshy, lying at the confluence of the rivers Rhine and Neckar. In the 8th century, the site belonged to the abbey of Lorsch and to the south lay the castle of Eicholzheim.

In the beginning of the 17th century, elector palatine Frederick IV founded a town based on gridded streets where Mannheim sits today, populated chiefly with Protestant refugees from Holland. The strongly fortified castle made the city a target in the Thirty Years’ War and Mannheim was mostly leveled, being five times taken and retaken beginning in 1622. By 1688, Mannheim had recovered from its former disaster, but was captured by the French during what was known as the Rhine Campaign, falling on November 11, 1688 to 30,000 French Catholics, soldiers of King Louis XIV. In 1689, during the Nine Years’ War, Mannheim was burned to the ground. (It’s unclear how some of the church books survived.) Ten years later, Mannheim began to be rebuilt.

Did Conrad die in Mannheim in 1688 or 1689 in the service of the Palatine, protecting protestant religious freedom and defending Germany from the French?

Conrad’s Death

The church books in Steinwenden are maddening silent about the death of Conrad Heitz, Irene Elisabetha’s father. We know from other records that he died between 1684 and probably 1692, but when and where?

We also know that he was a soldier, probably a professional soldier. Chris mentions that many Swiss men were mercenaries for other countries, including Germany. Did Conrad die away from home, buried someplace in an unmarked grave? Was he buried under the rubble of Mannheim in 1688 or 1689?

Were the deaths of men who died away at war recorded anyplace? What records exist of the men killed in the Nine Years’ War? Were the families notified? How were the families even located if they evacuated Mannheim for outlying areas?

Chris found a 1694 death for a Conrad Heitz in Dudenheim.

Dudenheim is no place close to Steinwenden.

Steinwenden is about 50 miles from Mannheim where the 1670s baptisms took place.

Dundenheim is significantly further away, but Conrad was a soldier.

However, further searching by Chris revealed that the burial on January 16, 1694 was for a man who was a shoemaker. A Conrad Heitz was also born in Dundenheim in 1647, so it’s unlikely that this shoemaker was the same man as our Conrad who was a solder.

Rats, another rabbit hole and a wrong rabbit.

Sometimes you have to sniff out a lot of wrong rabbits before you stumble upon the right one.

Where was the Heitz Family From?

The short answer is that we don’t know. The long answer is that there are hints.

The association with the Samuel Hoffman, Stutzman and Miller families might be a clue. Zwiebrucken might be a clue.

Samuel Hoffman was the minister in Steinwenden and also at one point lived nearby in Weilerbach where he married Irene Charitas Beuther in 1657. How Irene Charitas Beuther got from Zwiebrucken to Weilerbach is unclear, but that migration path might be how others from Zwiebrucken arrived in Weilerbach and nearby villages like Steinwenden.

Samuel Hoffman was apparently NOT Swiss, because he was on the 1684 Steinwenden tax list.

We can’t tell if Conrad Heitz was German or Swiss, because we don’t know that he ever actually lived in Steinwenden. His absence from the tax rolls there tells us exactly nothing.

Conrad Heitz was living in or near Mannheim in 1676 and 1679 when two of his children were born. His daughter Irene was probably born in the 1650s or early 1660s, but her baptism is not found in Mannheim.

Given the references to Conrad Heitz being a soldier, in 1676/79 in Mannheim, in 1684 (present tense in Kurpfalz which incorporated Mannheim) and in 1697 (past tense in Mannheim,) 21 years apart, this suggests that he was likely a career soldier. His unit may have moved around, and of course, Conrad and family probably moved with it. The fact that two of his unit members stood as godparents when he baptized his children suggests that the other families in the unit became surrogate family as the unit was uprooted as they moved from place to place. The families most likely to be present to fulfill Godparent responsibilities if something happened to the parents? The families of fellow soldiers, of course. Your fellow military families were the only constant in a continually changing landscape.

If you were in an unfamiliar church, the Reverend himself or his wife might stand up with you as Godparents when you were baptizing your children. What better guarantee if you went to meet your maker early that your children would be raised in the church?

A history of the Shabinger unit would be most helpful, but alas, that isn’t to be found, at least not online.

Originally, Chris found evidence of a Heitz family in Alsace, France which is quite close to Germany. Chris’s own family descends a French Reformed family in Mannheim, so we know that there were French Reformed living in Mannheim, at least in 1712 when Chris’s ancestor arrived.

However, it appears much more likely that Conrad Heitz was Swiss, in part because he is associated with protestant reformed churches and other Swiss immigrant families.

Swiss Heitz Family

Chris found an immigrant Heitz family from Zurich, Switzerland. This find is particularly interesting because this man was a pastor and was of an age to potentially be Conrad’s brother. If indeed, Conrad Heitz was Johannes’ brother, that might well explain why he knew the Samuel Hoffman family well. Chris also wondered if it’s possible that Conrad Heitz was a minister himself, and that’s how he was serving the military.

Johannes Heizius/Heitz 

  • born in Zurich 1 July 1632
  • married in Knonau, Switzerland on 7 September 1659 to Magdalena Wirth (* ca- 1632, daughter of Jakob Wirth)
  • both of them emigrated to Sinsheim, Wurttemberg, Germany in 1659
  • 1659-1661 Johannes Heitz was diaconus in Sinsheim, Wurttemberg, Germany
  • 1661-1667 priest in Waldmichelbach, Hesse, Germany
  • from 1668 onwards priest in Mittelschefflenz near Mosbach, Wurttemberg

Three children of this couple Heitz-Wirth:

1) Anna Elisabeth, baptized 17 August 1661 in Waldmichelbach

2) Johannes, baptized 3 February 1664 in Waldmichelbach

3) Elisabeth, baptized 3 December 1667 in Waldmichelbach

This above information is taken from the book “Schweizer im Odenwald” – “Swiss in the Odenwald region,” page 115.

Chris looked up the three known baptism records in Waldmichelbach, but no other Heitz family member is listed among the godparents so this Heitz family may or may not be connected to the Conrad Heitz in Mannheim.

This site shows the Johannes Heitz family, but doesn’t show siblings for Johannes.

Sincheim is about 50 km from Mannheim.

Chris: At the very least this tells us that the family name Heitz existed in Switzerland in the 17th century! If Irene Liesabetha Heitz who married Michael Müller was of Swiss origin, then this would be enough of a connection for me (same country of origin and same religious belief).

Steinwenden Church and Cemetery

Given that the Heitz family records are recorded in the Steinwenden church, it’s clear that they attended this church. Marriages took place there, baptisms, confirmations and yes, funerals too. Ramstein records are also found in the Steinwenden records from 1698 forward.

The deceased were probably buried outside in the churchyard.

Where was the churchyard in Steinwenden?

During earlier research, my cousin, Richard Miller had kindly provided pictures of an old “bell tower” in Steinwenden that he was taken to. I had questioned whether or not the current church was the old church. How did the bell tower connect, and where was the bell tower?

Chris to the rescue:

Remember, when I sent you that information on the “old cemetery hill” in Steinwenden along with the Google map of its location?

Remember, Roberta, how I was not able to answer, where the “bell tower of the old church” was, that your cousin Richard Miller was guided to?

Well, it is the same location!

The present Steinwenden reformed church was built in 1852, but the old church was not at the same place (as I assumed, since this is how it is usually done). The old church, which was constructed much earlier and first mentioned in 1377 was located a bit further south [of the new church]. As you can see from the construction date, this church was originally a Catholic church, later changed to one of Reformed belief. While this old church was demolished in 1822, its bell tower remains to date. It is called “Römerturm” – “Roman tower”, although it is certainly not from Roman times, but much later. However, there are remainders of an old Roman building nearby (the so-called “Villa Rustica”) and it is thus speculated that this old church was built on the fundaments of a much older tower from Roman times

Anyway, now I know you would like to see some pictures. In addition to the book – from which I will scan and send pictures later on –  they are available on the internet, if you look for example at the following page: http://www.gemeinde-steinwenden.de/steinwenden.html

Using the browser, Chrome, and Google Translate, I was able to read the text, and is it ever interesting!

If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you find a slideshow of four old postcard pictures.

Look at the first picture: You see the present church in the center and the remaining bell tower (Römerturm) of the older church to the right.

On the second of the four pictures you have an aerial view. The present church is on the top in the center, the old bell tower a bit to the right further down. Here it is easy to see that the old church was located on a hill. On the third of the four pictures you have another view of both church locations.

Thankfully, the aerial allowed me to use Google Maps to locate that area today. The current church is at the arrow near the top and the area that houses the old tower and the cemetery is indicated by the second, lower, red arrow.

In the aerial above, the actual tower is just slightly to the left of the tip of the right red arrow. If you look closely, you can see the tower roof.

I have cropped this image to just about the edges of the original circle which was on the top of a hill, and the square tower roof is clearly visible in the middle.

But Chris wasn’t finished with his research:

When I tried a Google search for “Steinwenden Römerturm,” I also found a coloured picture of this old church tower on a genealogy page in the US: http://www.dysinger.us/genealogy/index.php

Photo of church tower courtesy of Eric Dysinger.

This Dysinger page may be interesting for other reasons as well: On this page you will also find an English translation of a book chapter from the book by Roland Paul: http://www.dysinger.us/genealogy/documents/Steinwenden_History.pdf

I’m so grateful for the Dysinger documents published after Eric’s 2012 and 2013 trips to Steinwenden. In those documents, Eric Dysinger tells us that,” The wall surrounding the former church was used for centuries as a burial place for the dead of the village. At times, it was even used for dead from towns around Steinwenden. After the creation of new cemeteries in Steinwenden and Weltersbach in 1905, funeral services here became sporadic with the last funeral serviced in 1921. In 1955, a de-dedication ceremony was performed on the graveyard and soon after the tombstones were leveled.” I have never heard of a de-dedication ceremony.

As an American, and as a genealogist, this is agonizing to read, but it is the European custom.

Eric also tells us that, “The original Catholic church, mentioned in 1377, probably constructed between 1150 and 1250, became Reformed. The main building of the church was connected to the south side of the tower. The church fell into ruins in 1788 and was demolished in 1822.”

Map courtesy Eric Dysinger.

Also, he has pictures from his visit to Steinwenden in 2012, including an old Steinwenden map: http://www.dysinger.us/genealogy/documents/Steinwenden_Information.pdf

The map Chris refers to above is newer than 1850 and older than 1955. Someplace, in one or some of those houses, our family lived. The Heitz and Muller family, and in that graveyard, shown on the map, at least some of them are buried.

This implies that Michael Müller and the rest of the village would have attended church services in the old church and when their turn came, were buried on the hill in circles slowly radiating out from around the old hilltop church as the bell in the tower rang.

Yes, I understand that leveling old cemeteries is something that must seem very strange for you. I think it is simply a matter of space, since the population density in Europe is much higher and living space is limited.

I still wonder if maybe, maybe, some of these tombstones from the old cemetery in Steinwenden have been conserved somewhere… (No information on this in the book.)

…and even more detailed present-day pictures of the old church tower in the document “Steinwenden – the Return” on the Dysinger page: http://www.dysinger.us/genealogy/browsemedia.php?mediatypeID=documents

Of course, because genealogists never run out of questions, I want to know if Eric, or anyone else has any idea what happened to those tombstones. I suspect my burials are too old to have had tombstones remaining in 1955, but if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

Eric indicated that Roland Paul, the local historian, knew nothing about the fate of the tombstones. He did, however, know that none of the early houses remain – nothing before 1760. I had hoped to be able to identify the house/property in which various ancestors lived, even if the current house wasn’t the old house, but Roland also indicates that there are no property records this old either. Apparently, the tombstones are gone, the houses are gone, and so are the records.

Eric was kind enough to send this snippet from a 1785 map, 100 years after Irene Heitz and Michael Muller married. The old church is shown at left and was still in use at that time, just three years before it fell into disuse. I wonder if the old building simply got too old and cumbersome to maintain.

Courtesy Eric Dysinger

A drawing in the book, 800 Jahre Steinwenden, (800 Years of Steinwenden) by local historian Roland Paul, shows a map of the church interior. I’ve drawn the outline, below, roughly to scale, based on Roland’s research. Apologies for my lack of artistic ability.

The entire church was 6 times the length of the tower, left to right. The width, top to bottom (north to south) seems to be twice that of the tower on the right half, and two and a half times that of the tower on the left half. The tower was tucked into a cranny.

The graves surrounded the original church. After the structure was torn down in 1822, I’m sure that the land that the original church occupied was then utilized for additional burials, but the oldest burials would have been clustered around the original church, probably expanding from near the church outward until the yard was full.

If this church was in use in the 1100s until the 30 Years War depopulated the region in the 1620s-1660s, there would have been a lot of burials. Let’s say, for example that there were 300 people living in the village and surrounding area at any one time, and 4 generations per hundred years. That would mean that there were at least 1200 people buried per century, and probably more when you account for babies born that died. Over a period of 500 years, that would mean approximately 6000 people buried in this churchyard. This explains the European custom of “reusing” graves. In the Netherlands, we found several generations of family members had been buried in the same grave plot. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Move grandpa over and make room.

My ancestor Johann Michael Mueller Sr. (1655-1695), Irene Lisabetha Heitz’s first husband, along with their first 5 children are assuredly buried here. I hope Michael was buried alongside his children and they are resting together for eternity, even if it is under another structure today.

While we know that at least two of Conrad’s children, Conrad Jr. and Samuel, are buried here, and several of Conrad Sr.’s grandchildren, we still don’t know what happened to Conrad himself. But, I have a theory…

Theory

After sifting through these records again and again, I have a theory about Conrad Heitz, his wife, Anna Margaretha and the Heitz children.

We know that the first Heitz record in the region was the 1684 marriage between Irene Lisabetha Heitz, Conrad’s daughter, and Michael Muller, a widower. That marriage took place in Steinwenden and in that record, Conrad is referred to as follows:

“Conrad Heitz, who was at this time in war service for the Palatinate in Churpfalz.”

This says absolutely nothing about Conrad living in or near Steinwenden, although the record does say that the marriage took place there and that Conrad’s service was “In Churpfalz.”

If Conrad is in Chrupfalz, which we’ll interpret to mean near or in Mannheim, based on other information, how did his daughter come to be married in Steinwenden? Typically marriages take place in the bride’s home church.

Given that two of Conrad’s children were named Irene and Samuel, and Samuel Hoffmann’s wife was named Irene Charitas Beuther, we either have a huge coincidence on our hands, or pieces of evidence.

Conrad Heitz’s wife, Anna Margaretha is never mentioned after the 1679 birth of child Johannes recorded in the Mannheim church records.

We know that at that time, Conrad was a soldier and regardless of where he is, his wife is giving birth in close enough proximity to Mannheim for two births to be recorded in the Mannheim church records three years apart. Other soldiers and their wives stood up as godparents, so apparently the unit is stationed here, at least part of the time. Perhaps they were guarding Mannheim from invasion. Clearly, Conrad and Anna Margaretha were in the same place at least occasionally.

Irene and Samuel were the older children, based on the records we do have.

Five years after the last recorded birth in 1679, in 1684, daughter Irene is marrying Michael Muller in Steinwenden, and her father is still referenced as being in the service near Mannheim.

How and why did Irene get to Steinwenden? Young women simply didn’t travel alone then, nor did they have occupations. They either lived with their family members or their husbands after marriage.

Never is the mother from the 1676 and 1679 birth records mentioned in Steinwenden. Nor is Conrad, except by reference.

Were the children taken to Steinwenden for their safety, as their father continued to fight the Nine Years’ War. In 1688, Mannheim fell. Did Conrad perish in that campaign or when Mannheim burned in 1689?

If the wife of a professional soldier died, what happened to the children?

My bet is that they were raised by the Godparents, because a soldier father clearly couldn’t decide to stay home and raise children. And if he wasn’t being a soldier, how would he earn a living? Presumably, he hadn’t been honing other skills.

If two of the Godparents were a minister and his wife, who had no children of their own, it wouldn’t take much speculation to suggest that the minister and his wife would raise all of the children if the mother died, not just the two they stood up with as Godparents.

So far, we’ve identified five of Conrad’s children, all found in Steinwenden or with their siblings.

Name Birth/Baptism Confirmation Marriage Death Other
Irene Lisabetha ~1654/66 1684 Michael Muller 1729 Remarried to Jacob Stutzman in 1696
Johann Samuel Circa 1670 or earlier 1697 1717/28
Johann Conrad 1676 1692 1698 unmarried
Johannes 1679 No further mention
Anna Catharina <1684 1715 Kallstadt

Given that Conrad Heitz Sr. is referred to as a solder in 1676, 1679, 1684 and 1698, I suspect that he was a professional soldier, perhaps a mercenary. Given that any reference to his wife, Anna Margaretha disappears after the 1679 baptism, as does that child, I suspect that they both died. The next time we find any trace of this family, it’s 1684 and Irene is marrying Michael Muller in Steinwenden.

By 1692, we know that Samuel Heitz is a tailor and that Conrad, still a child, is being confirmed in Steinwenden. We don’t discover the existence of Anna Catharine until 1715 when she marries, clearly living with her sister Irene and Irene’s second husband.

My theory is that Anna Margaretha died between 1679 and 1684, and that Samuel Hoffman and his wife, Irene, were raising the Heitz children.

In 1679, if Irene was the eldest, she would have been between 13 and 24. Her brother Samuel was probably a few years younger. Conrad was still a baby, and Catharina’s age is unknown although based on when she gave birth to children, she was likely born between 1677 and 1684.

If Anna Margaretha died, Conrad would have been mostly an absentee parent, and while Irene could care for her siblings, she certainly could not run a household and do everything an adult would have done – especially not with two infants.

Therefore, the family as well as the church would look to the godparents. The godparent of Conrad was also a soldier, so that person might not have been in much of a position to help if he was even yet alive.

If Irene and Samuel were Godchildren of Samuel Hoffman and Irene Charitas, who were childless, it stands to reason that they would have raised all 4 Heitz children – not just the two for whom they served as Godparents.

Hence, the children would have lived with the Hoffmanns in Weilerbach, near Steinwenden, and would have attended the Steinwenden church when Samuel Hoffman began preaching there. We know that Hoffmann was in Steinwenden by 1684 because not only was he on the tax list, but his wife, Irene, died there.

Furthermore, if Irene Charitas Beuther Hoffman was a “foster mother” to Irene Lisabetha Heitz, having raised her for some time, it would be understandable why Irene Lisabetha might be called Irene Charitas in the church records after Irene Charitas Beuther Hoffmann’s 1684 death.

Everyone connected the two Irene’s together, including Samuel Hoffman who was still the minister in the Steinwenden church and probably wrote the records that referred to Irene Lisabetha Heitz as Irene Charitas. Perhaps she reminded him of his wife, and he didn’t even realize he had written his deceased wife’s name.

Can we prove this? Very unlikely. But it’s the most logical explanation for the evidence we have found.

DNA

I know this is really, REALLY a longshot in the dark, but there’s always a chance, right?

Conrad Heitz would have passed his Y DNA down to his sons, who would have passed it on to their sons. If sons continued to descend in a straight line until today, a Heitz male would carry a copy of Conrad’s Y DNA.

Conrad had 3 sons, as best we can tell. We know that Conrad Jr. died without having married. Johann and Samuel could have had sons, although I suspect that Johann died young.

  • Johann was born in 1679 but there are no further records of him. I presume he died, but maybe not.
  • Johann Samuel Heitz, on the other hand, lived in Steinwenden and had several children with wife Catharina Appolonia. They had two known sons who died as children; Johann Adam and Johann Henrich. They also had 5 daughters; Maria Magdalena (1699), Anna Elisabetha (1700), Eva Catharina (1704), Maria Margaretha (1706) and Catharina Barbara (1713).

The birth records are somewhat spotty for Samuel’s children. For example, we have two death records for male children without corresponding birth records.

There is also an obvious gap between October of 1706 and September of 1713. Following earlier patterns, we would expect a child to have been born to Samuel and Apollonia in January of 1708, June of 1709, December of 1710, June of 1712 and then of course the 1713 recorded birth.

Those spaces give us 4 opportunities for unknown male children.

There’s also the potential for Conrad Heitz and Anna Margaretha to have had additional male children that we aren’t aware of today.

If you:

  • Descend from any of the known Heitz children
  • Descend from any of the male Heitz men through all men and carry the Heitz surname today
  • Are a Heitz descended from this area and this time
  • Descend from the Rev. Johannes Heitz and Magdalena Wirth line
  • Descend from the Johann Kasper Heiz (1594-1636) and Magdalena Lavater (1601-1637) line
  • Have an unidentified Johann Conrud (Conrad) Heitz in your family records, born sometime before 1645

I’d love to hear from you.

Acknowledgements

I’d like to thank my friend and cousin, retired German genealogist, Tom, along with our Native speaking German research partner, Chris. This research would not exist without these two amazing men.

I would also like to extend my deep gratitude to Eric Dysinger for sharing the fruits of his labor so that others from Steinwenden can see and better understand our common history.

I’d also like to thank Roland Paul for documenting Steinwenden. While his book is no longer available, I did find one on the used book market and I’m looking forward to translating sections with the help of online translators. Yes, that’s difficult BUT much better than not having the information, right? I’m sure our immigrant ancestors felt equally as frustrated when they arrived on the shores of America not speaking one word of English. I’m sure that our ancestors never anticipated that their descendants would be equally as frustrated with not being able to read their language, especially not when written in combination scribbles, um, I mean script, of German and Latin.

I’d also like to thank my blog commenter for enlightenment on how the names of Irene Charitas, Irene Lisabetha and Regina Loysa might have become conflated.

This isn’t the first time commenters have helped me immensely.

It takes a village😊

Dateline: Father’s Day – The Unexpected Gift

On Father’s Day, NBC’s Dateline aired a full segment about what happened to one family as a result of DNA testing. And it’s not at all what they expected.

A woman tested her DNA, but the family she found was not the family she was looking for.

“I knew everybody, right???”

“She’s just been waiting for us all these years….”

“A moment 50 years in the making…”

“It was a gaping hole…”

Put another way, by Bennett Greenspan, CEO, Family Tree DNA, “History may get righted.”

“DNA is like a history book written into your cells and only now in the beginning of the 21st century are we learning how to read the book.” – Bennett Greenspan

“It was the middle of the night.  He told her he found me.  I can hear her crying…”

“He couldn’t hardly talk…”

“We watched pain turn into joy.”

Poverty and prejudice is evil. In all of its incantations.

Two families about to become one.

There is absolutely no way on this earth that you can get through this dry-eyed, so just get the box of Kleenex now and click the link to watch the segment.

https://www.nbc.com/dateline/video/fathers-day/3745516

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DNA Painter – Touring the Chromosome Garden

This is the third article in a series about DNA Painter. To know DNA Painter is to love DNA Painter! Trust me!

The first two articles are:

The Chromosome Sudoku article introduces you to DNA Painter, it’s purpose and how to use the tool. The Mining Vendor Data article illustrates exactly how to find the segments you can paint from each of the main autosomal testing vendors and GedMatch.

This article is a leisurely tour through my colorful chromosome garden so that, together, we can see examples of how to utilize the information that chromosome painting unveils.

Chromosome painting can do amazing things: walk you back generations, show visual phasing…and reveal that there’s a mistake someplace, too.

If you’re not willing to be wrong and reconsider, this might not be the field for you😊

Automatic Triangulation

Chromosome painting automatically mathematically triangulates your DNA and in a much easier way than the old spreadsheet method. In fact, triangulation just happens, effortlessly IF you can determine which side is maternal and which side is paternal. Of course, you’ll always want to check to be sure that your matches also match each other. if not, then that’s an indication that maybe one or both are identical by chance.

The definition of triangulation in this context means:

  • To find a common segment
  • Of reasonable size (generally 7cM or over)
  • That is confirmed to a common ancestor with at least two other individuals
  • Who are not close family

Close family generally means parents, siblings, sometimes grandparents, although parents and grandparents can certainly be used to verify that the match is valid. The best triangulation situation is when you match those two other people through a second child, meaning siblings of your ancestor.

Different matches, depending on the circumstances, have a different level of value to you as a genealogist. In other words, some are more solid than others.

The X chromosome has special matching and triangulation rules, so we’ll talk about that when we get to that section.

Don’t think of chromosome painting as “doing” triangulation, because triangulation is a bonus of chromosome painting, and it just happens, automatically, so long as you can confirm that the segment is from either your maternal or paternal line.

What does triangulation look like in DNA Painter?

Here’s what my painted chromosome 15 looks like.

Here, I’ve drawn boxes around the areas that are triangulated. Actually, I made a small mistake and omitted one grey bar that’s also part of a second triangulation group. Can you spot it? Hint – look at the grey bars at far right in the overlapping triangulation group boxes where the red arrow is pointing. The box below should extend upwards to incorporate part of that top grey bar too.

Triangulation are those several segments piled up on top of each other. It means they match you at the same address on either the maternal or paternal chromosome. That’s good, but it’s not the same as an official “pileup area.”

Ok, so what’s a pileup area?

Pileup Areas

Certain locations in the human genome have been designated as pileup regions based on the fact that many people will match on these segments, not necessarily because they share a common relatively recent ancestor, but instead because a particular segment has a very high frequency in the general human population, or in the population of a specific region. Translated, this means that the segment might not be relevant to genealogy.

But before going too far with this discussion, it doesn’t mean that matches in pileup regions aren’t relevant to genealogy – just consider it a caution sign.

Aside from chromosome 6, which includes the HLA region, I’ve always been rather suspicious of pileup regions, because they don’t seem to hold true for me. You can view a chart that I assembled of the known pileup regions here.

DNA Painter generously includes pileup region warnings, in essence, along a chromosome bar at the top indicating “shared” or “both.”

Please note that you can click to enlarge any image.

Pileups regions are indicated by the grey hashed region at right. In my case, on chromosome 1, the pileup region isn’t piled up at all, on either the paternal (blue) chromosome or the maternal (pink) chromosome.

As you can see, I have exactly one match on the maternal side (green) and one (gold) on the paternal side (with a smidgen of a second grey match) as well, with both extending significantly beyond the pileup region. There is no reason to suspect that these gold and green matches aren’t valid.

If I saw many more matches in a pileup region than elsewhere, or many small matches, or DNA that was supposed to be from multiple ancestors not in the same line, then I’d have to question whether a pileup region was responsible.

Stacked Segments

DNA Painter provides you with the opportunity to see which of your ancestors’ segments stack. Stacking is a very important concept of DNA painting.

Before we talk about stacking, notice that the legend for which segments are color coded to specific ancestors is located at right. You can also click on the little grey box beside “Shared or Both,” at left, to show the match names beside the segments.  This is very useful when trying to analyze the accuracy of the match.

I wish DNA Painter offered an option to paint the ancestor’s names beside the segments. Maybe in V2. It’s really difficult to complain about anything because this tool is both free and awesome.

I’m using Powerpoint to label this group of stacked matches for this example.

This is a situation where I know my pedigree chart really well, so I know immediately upon looking at this stacked segment group who this piece of DNA descends from.

Here’s my pedigree chart that corresponds to the stacked segment.

We attribute each DNA segment to a couple initially based on who we match. In this case, that’s William George Estes and Ollie Bolton, my grandparents. The DNA remains attributed to them until we have evidence of which individual person in the couple received that DNA from their ancestors and passed it on to their descendant.

Therefore, the pink people are the half of the couple who we now know (thanks to DNA Painter) did NOT contribute that DNA segment, because we can track the DNA directly through the yellow line until we’re once again to another genetic brick wall couple.

My father is listed at left, and the DNA path runs back to William Crumley the second and his unknown wife who is haplogroup H2a1, the yellow couple at far right. How cool is this? One of those ancestors (or a combined segment from both) has been passed intact to me today. This is not a trivial segment either at 23.3 cM. I would not expect a segment passed to 5th cousins to be that large, but it is!

Also, note that the grey segment of DNA from Lazarus Estes (1848-1918) and Elizabeth Vannoy (1847-1918) is sitting slightly to the left of the dark blue segment from William Crumley III, so part or all of the grey or blue segment may originate with a different ancestor. Perhaps we’ll know more when additional people test and match on this same segment.

Double Related

I have one person who is related to me through two different lines. I need a way to determine which line (or both) our common DNA segment descends from.

I painted the segment for both of our common ancestor couples. The pink is George Dodson (1702-1770) & Margaret Dagord. The bright blue segment is William Crumley III (1788-1859) & Lydia Brown.

Those two lines don’t converge, at least not that we know of.

Now, as I map additional people, I’ll watch this segment for a tie breaker match between the two ancestors. The gold is not a tie breaker because that’s my grandparents who are downstream of both the pink and blue ancestors.

Painted Ethnicity

23andMe does us the favor of painting our ethnicity segments and allowing us to download a file with those segments. Conversely, DNA Painter does us the favor of allowing us to paint that entire file at once.

I already know my two Native segments on chromosome 1 and 2 descend through my mother, because her DNA is Native in exactly the same location. In other words, in this case, my ethnicity segment does in fact phase to my mother, although that’s not always the case with ethnicity.

Multiple Acadian ancestors are also proven to be Native by both genealogical records and maternal and/or paternal haplogroups.

Therefore, I’ve painted my Native segments on my mother’s side in order to determine exactly from which ancestor(s) those Native segment descend.

Confirming Questionable Ancestors

One very long-standing mystery that seemed almost unsolvable was the identity of the parents of Elijah Vannoy (1784->1850). We know he was the son of one of 4 Vannoy brothers living in Wilkes County, NC. Two were eliminated by existing Bibles and other records, but the other two remained candidates in spite of sifting through every available record and resource. We were out of luck unless DNA came to the rescue. Y DNA confirmed that Elijah was descended from one of the Vannoy males, but didn’t shed light on which one.

I decided that the wives would be the key, since we knew the identity of all four wives, thankfully. Of course, that means we’d be using autosomal DNA to attempt to gather more information.

I entered one candidate couple at Ancestry as Elijah’s parents – the one I felt most likely based on tax records and other criteria – Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson.  I also entered Sarah’s parents, Charles Hickerson (c 1725-<1793) and Mary Lytle.

I began getting matches to people who descend from Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle through children other than Sarah.

The grey segment is from a descendant of Lazarus Estes & Elizabeth Vannoy. The salmon segments are from descendants of Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle.

These segments aren’t small, 12.8 and 16.1 cM, so I’m fairly confident that these multiple segments in combination with the Elizabeth Vannoy segment do indeed descend from Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle.

At Ancestry, I have 5 matches to Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle through three of their children. However, only two of the individuals has transferred their results to either Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage or GedMatch where segment information is available to customers.

Finally, the thirty year old mystery is solved!

Shifting, Sliding, Offset or Staggered Segment Groups

Occasionally, you can prove an entire large segment by groups of shifting or sliding segments, sometimes referred as offset or staggered segments.

The entire bright pink region is inherited from Jacob Lentz (1783-1870) and Fredericka Reuhl (1788-1863.) However, it’s not proven by one individual but by a combination of 6 people whose segments don’t all overlap with each other.  The top two do match very closely with me and each other, then the third spans the two groups. The bottom 3 and part of the middle segment match very closely as well.

I can conclude that the entire dark pink region from left to right descends from Jacob and Fredericka.

Two Matches – 7 Generations

Two matches is all it took to identify this segment back to George Dodson and Margaret Dagord.

The mustard match is to my grandparents (22cM), and the pink match is to George Dodson (1702-1770) and his wife (22cM) – 7 generations. These people also match each other.

Additional matches would make this evidence stronger, although a 22cM triangulated match is very significant alone. Future might also suggest ancestors further back in time.

First Chromosome Fully Mapped

I actually have chromosome 5 entirely mapped to confirmed ancestors. I’m so excited.

Uh Oh – Something’s Wrong

I found a stack that clearly indicates something is wrong.  The question is, what?

The mustard represents my paternal grandparents, so these segments could have come through either of them, although on the pedigree chart below, we can see that this came through my grandfathers line..

There is only a small overlap with the magenta (Nicholas Speak 1782-1852 and Sarah Faires 1786-1865) and green (James Crumley 1711-1764 and Catherine c1712-c1790,) which could be by chance given that the Nicholas segment is 7.5 cM, so I’m leaving the magenta out of the analysis.

However, the rest of these segments overlap each other significantly, even though they are stepped or staggered.

As you can see from the colors on the pedigree chat, it’s impossible for the green segment to descend from the same ancestor as the purple segment. The purple and orange confirm that branch of the tree, but the red cannot be from the same ancestor or the same line as the green ancestor.

I suspect that the purple and orange line is correct, because there are 4 segments from different people with the same ancestral line.

This means that we have one of the following situations with the red and green segments:

  • The smaller segments are incorrect, false positives, meaning matching by chance. The green segment is 14 cM, so quite large to match by chance. The red segment is 10 cM. Possible, but not probable.
  • The segments are population-based matches, so appear in all 3 lines. Possible, technically, but also not probable due to the segment size.
  • The segments are genuine matches, and one of the lines is also found in one of the other lines, upstream. This is possible, but this would have to be the case with both the red and green lines. To continue to weigh this possibility, I’ll be watching for similar situations with these same ancestors.
  • Some combination of the above.

I need more matches on this segment for further clarity.

Visual Phasing – Crossovers

A crossover point is where the DNA on one side of a demarcation line is descended from one ancestor and the DNA on the other side is descended from another ancestor, represented by the pink and blue halves of the segment, below.

Crossovers occur when the DNA is combined from two different ancestors when it is passed to the child. In other words, a chunk of mom’s ancestors’ DNA is contributed by mom and a chunk of dad’s ancestors’ DNA is contributed as well. The seam between different ancestor’s DNA pieces is called a crossover.

In this example, the brown lines confirmed by several testers to be from Henry Bolton (c1759-1846) and Nancy Mann (c1780-1841) is shown with a very specific left starting point, all in a vertical line. It looks for all the world like this is a crossover point. The DNA to the left would have been contributed by another, as yet unidentified, ancestor.

The gold lines above are matches from more recent generations.

Naming Those Unnamed Acadians

My Acadian ancestry is hopelessly intertwined, but chromosome painting may in fact provide me with some prayer of unraveling this ball of twine. Eventually.

When I know that someone is Acadian, but I can’t tell which of many lines I connect through, I add them as “Acadian Undetermined.”

There’s a lot of Acadian DNA, because it’s an endogamous population and they just keep passing the same segments around and around in a very limited population.

On my maternal chromosome, all of the olive green is “Acadian Undetermined.”  However, that blue segment in the stack is Rene de Forest (1670-1751) and Francoise Dugas (1678->1751).

In essence, this one match identified all of the DNA of the other people who are now simply a row in the Acadian Undetermined stack. Now I need to go back and peruse the trees of these individuals to determine if they descend form this line, or a common ancestor of this line, or if (some of) these matches are a matter of endogamy.

Endogamous matches can be population based, meaning that you do match each other, but it’s because you share so much of the same DNA because you have small pieces of many common ancestors – not because a particular segment comes from one specific ancestor. You can also share part of your DNA from Mom’s side and part from Dad’s side, because both of your parents descend from a common population and not because the entire segment comes from any particular ancestor.

On some long cold winter weekend, I’ll go through and map all of the trees of my Acadian matches to see what I can unravel. I just love matches with trees. You just can’t do something like this otherwise.

Of course, those Acadians (and other endogamous populations) can be tricky, no matter what, one click up from a needle in a haystack.

Acadian Endogamy Haystack on Steroids

At first, our haystack looks like we’ve solved the mystery of the identity of the stack.  However, we soon discover that maybe things aren’t as neat and tidy as we think.

Of course, the olive green is Acadian Undetermined, but the three other colored segments are:

  • Pink – Guillaume Blanchard (1650-1715/17) & Huguette Goujon (c1647-1717)
  • Brown/Pink – Francois Broussard (c1653-1716) & Catherine Richard (c1663-1748)
  • Coffee – Daniel Garceau (1707-1772) & Anne Doucet (1713-1791)

Looking at the pedigree chart, we find two of these couples in the same lineage, so all is good, until we find the third, pink, couple, at the bottom.

Clearly, this segment can’t be in two different lines at once, so we have a problem.  Or do we?

Working the pink troublesome lines on back, we make a discovery.

We find a Blanchard line consisting of Guilluame Blanchard born circa 1590 and Huguette Poirier also born circa 1690.

Interesting. Let’s compare the Guillaume Blanchard and Huguette Goujon line. Is this the same couple, but with a different surname for her?

No, as it turns out, Guillaume Blanchard that married Huguette Goujon was the grandson of Guilluame Blanchard and Huguette Poirier. That haystack segment of DNA was passed down through two different lines, it appears, to converge in three descendants – me, the descendant of the pink segment couple and the descendant of the brown/burgundy segment couple. This segment reaches back in time to the birth of either Guilluame Blanchard or Huguette Poirier in 1590, someplace in France, rode over on the ship to Port Royal in the very early 1600s, probably before Jamestown was settled, and has been kicking around in my ancestors and their descendants ever since.

This 18 or so cM ancestral segment is buried someplace at Port Royal, Nova Scotia, but lives on in me and several other people through at least two divergent lines.

The X Chromsome

Several vendors don’t report the X chromosome segments. I do use X segments from those who do, but I utilize a different threshold because the SNP density is about half of that on the other chromosomes. In essence, you need a match twice as large to be equivalent to a match on another chromosome..

Generally, I don’t rely on segments below 10 for anyone, and I generally only use segments over 14cM and no less than 500 SNPs.

Having just said that, I have painted a few smaller segments, because I know that if they are inaccurate, they are very easy to delete. They can remain in speculative mode. The default for DNAPainter and that’s what I use.

The great thing about the X chromosome is that because of it’s special inheritance path, you can sometimes push these segments another 2 generations back in time.

Let’s use an X chromosome match in conjunction with my X fan chart printed through Charting Companion.

On the paternal X, I inherited the gold segment from the couple, William George Estes (1873-1971) & Ollie Bolton (1874-1955.) However, since my father didn’t inherit an X from William George Estes (because my father inherited the Y from his father,) that X segment has to be from Ollie Bolton, and therefore from her parents Joseph Bolton (1853-1920) and Margaret Claxton (1851-1920.)

The segment from Lazarus Estes (1848-1918) and Elizabeth Vannoy (1847-1918) that’s 14 cM is false. It can’t descend from that couple. Same for the 7.5 cM from Jotham Brown (c1740-c1799) & Phoebe unk (c1747-c1803.) That segment’s false too. The green 48 cM segment from Samuel Claxton (1827-1876) and Elizabeth Speak (1832-1907)?  That segment’s good to go!

On my mother’s side, there’s a 7.8 cM Acadian Undetermined, which must be false, because Curtis Benjamin Lore (1856-1909) did not inherit an X chromosome from his Acadian father, Antoine Lore (1805-1862/67.)  Therefore, my X chromosome has no Acadian at all. I never realized that before, and it makes my X chromosome MUCH easier.

How about that light green 33cM segment from Antoine Lore (1805-1862/67) & Rachel Hill (1814/15-1870/80)? That segment must come from Rachel Hill, so it’s pushed back another generation to Joseph Hill (1790-1871) and Nabby Hall (1792-1874.)

I love the X chromosome because when you find a male in the line, you automatically get bumped two more generations back to his mother’s parents. It’s like the X prize for genetic genealogy, pardon the pun!

Adoptees

Some adoptees are lucky and receive close matches immediately. Others, not so much and the search is a long process.

If you’re an adoptee trying to figure out how your matches connect together, use in-common-match groupings to cluster matches together, then paint them in groups.  Utilize the overlapping segments in order to view their trees, looking for common surnames. Always start with the groups with the longest segments and the most matches. The larger the match, the more likely you are to be able to find a connection in a more recent generation. The more matches, the more likely you are to be able to spot a common surname (or two.)

Painting can speed this process significantly.

Much More Than Painting

I hope this tour through my colorful chromosomes has illustrated how much fun analysis can be. You’ll have so much fun that you won’t even realize you’re triangulating, phasing and all of those other difficult words.

If you have something you absolutely have to do, set an alarm – or you’ll forget all about it. Voice of experience here!

So, go and find some segments to paint so all of these exciting things can happen to you too!

How far back will you be able to identity a segment to a specific ancestor?  How about a triangulated segment? An X segment?

Have fun!!! Don’t forget to eat!

PS – If you’d like to learn more about Phasing, Triangulation or hear my keynote speech, consider signing up for the Virtual DNA Conference June 21-24. I’ll be presenting on both of those topics. You can sign in anytime for the next year to listen to the sessions, not just during the conference days. The keynote will be recorded and available afterwards as well.

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The Farm – 52 Ancestors #198

I didn’t grow up on this farm, at least not for most of my childhood, yet it’s still a place of warm memories, comfort and safety – even all these decades later.

When I opened my Mom’s “Suitcase of Life,” I expected to find the photo albums and scrapbooks I had looked through as a child and perhaps a few other things. Mostly items reflective of her life before me. What I didn’t expect to find was a photo of the farm that my step-father owned more than two decades before he and Mom married.

This aerial photo looks a lot like the farm I came to know and love, but on closer inspection, there are several differences.

It’s a “younger” farm than I remember. The giant maples that held the rope swing for my children in the 1970s and 80s are maybe 20 or 30 years old in this picture, to the right of the house.

The well pump tower is visible between the house and the tree outside the back door, minus the windmill. Upon closer inspection, I can see that the tower sported a TV antennae, which answers the question about whether or not the house had electricity. Truthfully, I think the antennae tower simply shielded the pump out back. I only thought it was a “well tower” built for the windmill because there was no antennae by the time I was introduced to the farm – and there was a windmill.

The chicken house behind the garage, had, well, chickens running around, and the chickens were also milling around the garage. A few chickens had taken shelter underneath the propane tank on the north side of the house. It looks like there were chickens everywhere, probably escapees from the chicken yard.

By the time I knew the chicken house, this particular chicken house had been replaced by a much larger one, but chickens were only a memory. The chicken house was used to store “stuff” and ferns were growing under the propane tank known as a “pig,” not to be confused with the pigs that lived in the barn and maternity hog houses in the fields.

The one-car wooden-shingled garage that was barely large enough to hold a car was just like I remembered, some 30+ years later. If you had a passenger, they had to get out of the car before the driver pulled the car into the garage, or you couldn’t get the car doors open. Passenger or driver, your choice, could exit inside the garage – but not both! Actually, that was just as well, because someone had to slide the garage door open, which slid to the right on a track, so the passenger clearly needed to get out of the car anyway.

The outhouse, shown in this 1970s photo, was hidden behind the garage but there was a well-worn path. By the time I lived there, we had an inside bathroom but still used the outhouse for spillover. It wasn’t bad since it was seldom used. There was never any waiting out there and no one cared how long you stayed!

The house itself was built by the Amish as a simple square, maybe 30 by 40 or 50 feet, long before my step-father’s first wife’s father purchased the farm about the time they married. The original front door is still visible and was never removed but was slightly covered over later, both inside and out.

The window to the right of that old door was my bedroom, and the room to the left was my step-brother’s room. The original house was small. I think my room had been the original living room.

It’s difficult to tell if the kitchen I knew had been added in this picture. There appears to be something behind the main roofline, but the chimney is in the wrong place. It could be a small porch. Come to think of it, I don’t know why there’s a chimney in that location at all, because the “stove” that heated the house was elsewhere.

The original part of the house had an upstairs that was “heated” by a simple vent between the first floor and the second. It was sweltering in the summer and freezing, literally, in the winter. The steps going up were extremely steep. No one ever slept there when we lived in the house, but it had clearly been bedrooms at one time. Amish families tended to be large, and I’d guess this large two room “attic” had at one time been the children’s bunkhouse rooms. One for boys and one for girls.

The four original downstairs rooms were the living room, the kitchen, the parent’s bedroom and perhaps a second bedroom, or the living room originally extended the width of the house. It’s difficult to tell what was meant to be a bedroom, because none of the rooms were built with closets. People used chifforobes and dressers. Dad build a closet in his and Mom’s bedroom.

The large addition, probably 15 by 15 feet, extending to the south (right) was the living room and judging from the roof, wasn’t new in this photo. The porch looked the same years later, even down to the white spindles, although by the time I lived there, the porch had shifted with time and listed a lot to left. On farms, the front porch didn’t much matter since the front door was never used anyway – but Mom opened it once a year or so just to be sure it would still open. The old stove used for heating used to sit in the corner that had been the original kitchen, I think, in the “old” corner of the “new” living room.

Dad always used to say that you could tell when farmers had a good year by the room additions.

I don’t know when this house was originally built, but it looks “old” in this photo, labeled October 1955 on the back. When it was originally constructed, there was no inside plumbing or electricity and it had a hand-dug dirt basement under only part of the original house.

Dad concreted part of the basement floor and installed a shower head in the basement wall. If you weren’t afraid of spiders or creepy crawleys, it was a cool place to shower in the summer. The basement had two small ground level windows, and yes, I caught my step-brother’s buddies spying on me once when I was showering. Little did they expect a furious, dripping-wet female to emerge and administer a sound verbal thrashing, threatening to kick their behinds, as they quickly departed running down the road with their tails between their legs. They even left their car behind. Compared to what my Dad did when he found out, that was mild indeed. Hell hath no fury like a man who catches males peeping into his windows at his naked daughter. Let’s just say they never came back and a shower “surround” was installed in the basement. Their disabled, abandoned car sat there for months as a silent reminder to anyone else who might get any bright ideas. Dad finally hauled it, or what was left of it, up to the road with the front end loader, and one night, it disappeared.

The barns and farm part of the photo look much the same as it did when I last saw this place as I drove away for the very last time in 1995. My last good memory was Father’s Day 1993 when I surprised Dad by arriving unannounced. That was just days before our life would change dramatically, once again. After Dad’s death, the auction, and Mom’s move to town, I swore I’d never go back, because the leaving was just too heart-wrenching and painful. Four years later, my step-brother, Gary, would die there, in the kitchen the day after Thanksgiving.

Humble Beginnings

My step-dad, Dean, married his sweetheart, Martha Mae, on July 5th, 1950 and three years later, Gary was born. In October of 1955, when this picture was taken, Gary would have been a rambunctious toddler, in the midst of the terrible-twos, and probably raising Cain. I feel obligated as a typical sibling to say he never really got over that raising Cain part, and maybe not the terrible twos either.😊

As the airplane flew over on that October day, Martha Mae had probably finished feeding the chickens and was cooking lunch, the biggest meal of the day on the farm. Judging from the mist and shadows, it looks to be morning.

It’s fall and harvest had begun. The wagon filled with corn is standing next to the fence in the few rows that have been combined and my Dad’s tractor can be seen in the distance. It looks like he has been out feeding the livestock, perhaps, or doing something in the “back 40.” I’d wager he was riding that same old red International Harvester tractor that he was still patching together and repairing 40 years later. And it wasn’t new in the 1950s!

The hog houses were in the fields in just about the same configuration as I remember them years later. The hog houses and the fields planted in corn and soybeans were rotated. Cows were standing beside the back barn. Dad’s truck was angled into the front barn and even the gas pump and tanks were in the same location.

This photo was taken about 15 years later, in 1969 or 1970, and shows Dad standing by the back door. That extension is the kitchen and mud room.

Little changed on the farm in 40 years – except the people.

The River of Life

In October of 1955, I was just a baby and lived with my parents in town. Mom’s life would come unraveled a few years later and my father would die. In another world, 20 miles away, Dean’s life would lay in tatters too.

In the fall of 1955, Linda Kay, his baby girl had yet to be born. She would arrive in July of 1958 and grace this farmhouse full of love.

Martha Mae was 35 when Linda was born. The family was adamant that “nothing was wrong with Linda,” but she was never able to hold her head up, sit up or function as a normal baby or child. Mother said that judging from the photos that Linda might have had Down’s Syndrome. Linda contracted pneumonia, was taken to the hospital on Christmas Day and died on December 27, 1959, just 17 months old. The day after Dad’s 39th birthday.

My Dad was devastated. Heartbroken. By the 1950s, antibiotics prevented many childhood deaths. No one expected children to die anymore. But his baby girl died anyway.

Gary would have been 6 when they buried his little sister and probably didn’t understand what was happening.

Dad could never speak of Linda without choking up and gave me her little bedspread from her crib when my daughter was born. This is one of the gifts I cherish most – given straight from his heart.

Dad and I always had a special bond. A man of very few words, he once told me that when he married my mother, he got his little girl back.

For the next few years after Linda’s death, Martha Mae became increasingly ill, and finally, in about 1966, she was diagnosed with a rare disease. At that time, very little was known about systemic Schleroderma. For years, Dad carried an article about it around in his wallet. He explained to me that “she petrified from the outside in.” Those years were horrific for him – helplessly watching his wife perish slowly from an unknown demon that he had no weapons to fight.

Just over 40, Martha Mae lived in incredible pain. That’s when Dad added the large indoor bathroom in the corner between the kitchen and bedroom. It was a very early version of a handicapped bathroom, because he built wooden frame “aids” and helped her in and out of the bathtub.

In addition to farming, he also began cleaning and eventually, cooking and taking care of both Gary and Martha Mae too.

The medical profession didn’t understand nor have the drugs to treat the disease, and in 1968, Martha Mae lapsed into renal failure. Dialysis didn’t yet exist, so eventually she became comatose and on July 25th, passed away at 45 years of age, leaving behind a grieving husband and heartbroken 14-year-old son who had spent his childhood witnessing his mother die terribly.

Within a few months of Martha’s death, Gary was hospitalized for what was then called a “nervous breakdown.” That pattern would punctuate the rest of Gary’s abbreviated life. He died younger than his mother, not from the same disease, although Schleroderma does appear to have an autoimmune genetic aspect.

The farmhouse became a place of loneliness and sadness for Dean, haunted with broken dreams. In the space of a few years he had gone from living his dream, down the road from his in-laws on his own farm with his wife and two children, to a widower raising one desperately ill teen.

I’ve often wondered if the disease that took Martha’s life was actually beginning before Gary was born and affected both of her children – the younger child, Linda, the most.

New Beginnings

After Martha’s death and Gary’s institutionalization, Dean joined the Parent’s Without Partner’s Club in town where he met Mom. I met him about 1970 or 1971, and Mom and Dean were married on September 22, 1972, four years and a few months after Martha’s death.

When they married, Mom sold our house in town and spent the money to “update” the farmhouse. Let me translate. She painted, paneled the plaster walls, had central heat installed and the rooms wired with more than a single lightbulb hanging from a wire in the middle of the ceiling. Drapes, curtains, light switches and light fixtures were added. The kitchen had wooden cabinets installed and the metal ones were reused in the mud room where a washer and dryer were installed. The uneven wooden floors were carpeted and linoleum laid in the kitchen, bathroom and mudroom. Mom bought a modern stove and refrigerator for the kitchen. A microwave was considered a luxury and wouldn’t be added until I bought one years later as a gift.

Mom lovingly packed up both Linda’s and Martha Mae’s clothes and things (at Dad’s request) and stored them away for Dean and Gary. Dad just could never do it.

I remember first meeting Dean and how desperately lonely he was. He spent his days farming and the rest of his time volunteering and helping others.

The man who married my mother had changed dramatically. He was happily smiling, beaming with newfound love and welcomed us into his life. So did Gary, who was home again by the time Mom and Dad married. Even Dad’s dog, Spot and our cat, Snowball got along, or at least agreed to ignore each other. Mom and Dean merged lives and homes, including two teenagers. Miraculous that any of us survived, but we not only survived, we thrived. We all needed and wanted a family again, although the transition wasn’t without a few, mostly humorous, bumps in the road.

My Dad had a wicked sense of humor and was the silent prankster, always looking for an opportunity.

Here’s Dad “pregnant” (in orange) at a fundraiser in 1978. Let’s just say Dad wasn’t above wearing a stray bra left behind in the bathroom as earmuffs. That was his tongue-in-cheek, or maybe better stated, ear-in-bra-cup way of reminding you to pick up after yourself. Dad had never lived with a teenage girl before and I had never lived with men.

Happiness had returned to the farmstead in Indiana, although it would be episodically punctuated by crisis’ caused by Gary’s illness. That too, we faced as a unified family.

Fruits and vegetables were once again being canned in blistering summer heat, laundry was hung on the clothesline to dry in the breeze and lunch was being cooked for Dad and whoever else was working on the farm that day. Church was on Sunday.

Family and neighbors came and went up and down the driveways. The family dogs barked both a warning and a greeting. We could often tell who was arriving by the sound of the vehicle and the dog’s voices.

I helped Dad tend the livestock and worked the fields. I loved our solitary time in the barn together, the tractor, and walking the freshly plowed furrows, looking for rocks and arrowheads. He liked the company and showing me how to do things.

The chickens were long gone. I loved the shuffling animal noises and soothing clank clank of the barn. I adored the cats and the critters, along with my Dad’s barn workshop and handiwork. I swear, that man could build or fix anything, generally out of scraps from something else. It might not look great, but was quite functional. On the farm, that’s all that mattered.

I didn’t realize it then, but that time spent alone with Dad was golden. No one ever intruded into our barn world. Few words, sometimes an easy silence – but I’d often catch him watching over me and looking at me dotingly when he thought I wasn’t looking. I would smile and so would he. Pure, unvarnished adoration for each other. There is no truer love.

Soon, Dad walked me down the aisle and I added grandchildren to the mix, as did my half-brother and step-brother.

The winters were cold with mountains of snow, and the summers hot. Dad grilled burgers on the old barrel that served as a charcoal grill, ice cream was cranked and kids played in the hose.

Life was no longer bleak for our blended family. The seasons drifted one into the other.

Life was good and no one thought that it wouldn’t last forever. In the winters, we looked forward to spring. In the spring we looked forward to school being out for the summer. In the summer, we looked forward to carving the pumpkins we planted in the spring and had watched grow, inch by inch, and ripen throughout the summer. In the fall, we looked forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas when our family would gather. Then, we looked forward to the warmth of spring and flowers all over again as the seed catalogues arrived with their tempting pictures of perfect gardens.

The maple trees had grown and once again held a child’s rope swing with a board for a seat, providing shade for peals of laughter. We planted the garden, weeded the rows, then snapped green beans sitting in the shade on the metal glider outside the back screen door. If you let that door slam, the next thing you would hear from Mom inside the kitchen would be, “Don’t slam the screen.” Everyone else laughed, but not loud enough for Mom to hear!

The blue glider and Dad’s chair have long been “retired” on my patio, one of my two purchases at the end-of-the-road auction. Their mere presence makes me smile, reminds me of Dad and brings me comfort – although there was never anything comfortable about sitting on them except that family was sitting right there next to you, equally as uncomfortable. A lot of talks took place in those chairs.

You Can Take the Girl Off of the Farm, But You Can’t Take the Farm Out of the Girl

Martha Mae’s purple Iris, growing beside the garage and driveway had become Mom’s Iris. One of the neighbor boys got too close with the tractor and plowed them into oblivion. Mom was furious, seeing the shredded bulbs laying in the dirt. Dad was sad. I’m sure he remembered far more about those Irises than he said. A little bit more of Martha Mae was gone. I wish I had bought some replacement bulbs and pretended that not all of the Iris had been killed, but I didn’t realize at the time.

Dad’s ferns, plentiful, but not visible in the farm photos, now grow in my garden, as do his phlox plants, below. I’m now passing them on to the next generation as well.

The farm may be a memory now, but a whole lot of the farm lives on in me. Someplace along the way, I became a farm girl – and Daddy’s girl. I will always carry those wonderful sundrenched days on the farm with my Dad etched into my heart.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

You’re Invited to a Virtual DNA Conference

Great News! If you’ve ever wanted to attend a DNA Conference at your convenience and in your jammies – your wish has been granted.

Please join me, Shannon Combs-Bennett, Blaine Bettinger and Diahan Southard for a 4-day Virtual DNA Conference June 21-24th through Family Tree University.

The pre-recorded workshops are available anytime during the conference dates, and for a year afterwards for registrants, but I’m giving the keynote, What’s New and News live at 4:30 EST on Saturday, June 23rd. The keynote will be recorded and available afterwards for those enrolled in the conference, but you’ll miss the opportunity for live Q&A.

The 4-Day Virtual DNA Conference includes:

  • Live keynote and Q&A with Roberta Estes (30 minutes)
  • Phasing with Roberta Estes (30 minute video presentation)
  • Triangulation Tools with Roberta Estes (30 minute video presentation)
  • Deep DNA Analysis Tools with Shannon Combs-Bennett (60 minute recorded webinar)
  • DNA Solutions to Real Life Research Problems with Blaine Bettinger (30 minute presentation)
  • DNA Mismatch: Conflicts in Your Family Tree with Blaine Bettinger (30 minute presentation)
  • Plus, 4 PDF research guides by expert DNA consultant, Diahan Southard.
  • Discussion boards and more!

If possible, I would suggest that you listen to my two sessions on Phasing and Triangulation before the keynote, as it may make some parts of the keynote easier to understand if you’re already familiar with those concepts.

Here’s how the online courses work. The great news about online courses is that you can start and finish them anytime – based on your schedule. You can also listen, again, if you need to. And, there are no travel expenses or hassles!

Here’s the link to read more about the Virtual DNA Conference and sign up!

I hope you can join us. Looking forward to “seeing you” there!!!

Family Tree DNA Names 100,000 New Y DNA SNPs

Recently, Family Tree DNA named 100,000 new SNPs on the Y DNA haplotree, bringing their total to over 153,000. Given that Family Tree DNA does the majority of the Y DNA NGS “full sequence” testing in the industry with their Big Y product, it’s not at all surprising that they have discovered these new SNPs, currently labeled as “Unnamed Variants” on customers’ Big Y Results pages.

The surprising part was twofold:

Family Tree DNA single-handedly propelled science forward with the introduction of the Big Y test. They likely have performed more NGS Y chromosome tests than the entire rest of the world combined. Assuredly, they have commercially.

Originally, in the early 2000s, a new SNP wasn’t named until there were three independent instances of discovery. That pre-NGS “rule” didn’t take into account three men from the same family line because very few men had been tested at that point in time, let alone multiple men from the same family. This type of testing was originally only done in an academic environment. A caveat was put into place by Family Tree DNA when they started discovering SNPs that the 3 individuals had to be from separate family lines and the SNP in question had to be verified by Sanger sequencing before being considered for name assignment and tree placement. At that time, they were pushing the scientific envelope.

In recent years, that criteria changed to two individuals. With this new development, the SNP is being named with one reliable occurrence, BUT, the SNP still is not being placed on the tree without two high quality occurrences.

Naming the SNPs early while awaiting that second occurrence allows discussion about the validity of that particular finding. Family Tree DNA was not the first to move to this practice.

Some time ago, two other firms began analyzing the BAM files produced by Family Tree DNA for an additional analysis fee. Those firms began naming SNPs before three occurrences had been documented, a practice which has been well-accepted by the genetic genealogy community. Everyone seems to be anxious to see their SNP(s) named and placed on the tree, although there is little consensus or standardization about the criteria to place a SNP on the tree or the line between high, medium and low quality SNP read results.

The definition of a new haplogroup, meaning a high quality named SNP, is a new branch in the Y tree. Every new SNP mutation has the potential to be carried for many generations – or to go extinct in one or two.

As the industry has matured, SNP naming procedures have evolved too.

How SNP Names Are Assigned

The lab or entity that discovers a SNP gets to name the SNP. That means that their abbreviation is appended to the beginning of the SNP number, thereby in essence crediting that entity for the discovery. Clearly more conservative namers can’t append their initials to nearly as many SNPs as aggressive namers.

Here’s a list of the naming entities, maintained by ISOGG.

In 2006, the first year that ISOGG compiled a SNP tree, the number of Y DNA haplogroups was 460, including singletons, not tens of thousands. No one would ever have believed this SNP tsunami would happen, let alone in such a short time.

Naming SNPs

Family Tree DNA waiting to name SNPs until 3 were discovered in unrelated family lines, and requiring confirmation by Sanger sequencing allowed the analysis entities to “discover” and name the SNP with their own preceding prefix by implementing less stringent naming criteria. It also increased the possibility of dual naming, a phenomenon that occurs when multiple entities name the same SNP about the same time.

Some people who maintain trees list all of these equivalent SNPs that were named for the exact same mutation, at the same time. Family Tree DNA does not. If the same SNP is named more than once, Family Tree DNA selects one to name the tree branch – in the example below, ZP58. Checking YBrowse, this SNP was also named FGC11161 and ZP56.2.

However, you can see, that SNP ZP58 has several other SNPs keeping it company on the same branch, at least for now.

The FGC SNPs above are only assigned as branch equivalents of ZP58 until a discovery is made that will further divide this branch into two or more branches. That’s how the tree is built.

Sometimes defining a unique SNP is not as straightforward as one would think, especially not utilizing scan technology.

While YFull doesn’t do testing, Full Genomes Corporation does. All of the YFull named SNPs are a result of interpreting BAM files of individuals who have tested elsewhere and naming SNPs that the testing labs didn’t name.

Today, YBrowse, also maintained by ISOGG in conjunction with Thomas Krahn shows the following three organizations with the highest named SNP totals:

  • Family Tree DNA – BY and L prefixes, (L from before the Big Y test) – 153,902
  • YFull – Y prefix – 133,571 (plus 6447 YP SNPs submitted by citizen scientists for verification)
  • Full Genomes Corporation – FGC prefix – 81,363

Just because a SNP is named doesn’t mean that it has been placed on the haplotree. Today, Family Tree DNA has just over 14,100 branches on their tree, with a total of 102,104 SNPs (from all naming sources) placed on their tree. That number increases daily as the following placement criteria is met:

  • Read quality confirmed by the lab
  • Two or more instances of the SNP

SNPs Applied to Family History

All SNPs discovered through the Big Y process and named by Family Tree DNA begin with BY, so my Estes lineage is BY490. This mutation (SNP) occurred since Robert Eastye born in 1555, because one of his son’s descendants carries only BY482 and the descendants of another son carry BY490.

In the pedigree above, kit 166011, to the far right is BY482 and the rest are all BY490, which is one mutation below BY482 on the haplotree.

This means of course that the mutation BY490, occurred someplace between the common ancestor of all of these men, Robert Eastye born in 1555, and Abraham Estes born in 1647. All of Abraham’s descendants carry BY490 along with BY482, but kit 166011 does not. Therefore, we know within two generations of when BY490 occurred. Furthermore, if someone descended from one of Abraham’s brothers (Robert, Silvester, Thomas, Richard, Nicholas or John,) represented on this chart by Richard, we could tell from that result if the mutation occurred between Robert and Silvester, or between Silvester and Abraham.

Unnamed Variants Versus Named SNPs

As it turns out, reserving a location for the Unnamed Variants in the SNP tree is much like making a dinner reservation. It’s yours to claim, assuming everyone shows up.

In the case of Unnamed Variants, Family Tree DNA reserved the SNP name and the SNP will be placed on the tree as soon as a second occurrence is discovered and the SNP is entirely vetted for quality and accuracy. Palindromic and high repeat regions were excluded unless manually verified.

While this article isn’t going to delve into how to determine read quality, every SNP placed on the tree at Family Tree DNA is individually evaluated to assure that they are not being placed erroneously or that a “mutation” isn’t really a misalignment or read issue.

Currently, Family Tree DNA is working their way through the entire haplotree, placing SNPs in the correct location. As you can see, they have more than 100,000 to go and more SNPs are discovered every day.

In the case of the Estes men, you can see their branch placement in the much larger tree.

As we learn more, sometimes branch placements move.

Is Your Unnamed Variant on the List?

ISOGG maintains an index of BY SNPs. BY of course equates to Big Y.

Before using the index, you first need to sign on to your Family Tree DNA account and look at your Unnamed Variants on your Big Y personal page.

If you don’t have any Unnamed Variants, that means all of your Unnamed Variants have already been named. Congratulations!

If you do have Unnamed Variants, click on the position number to take a look on the browser.

This unnamed variant result is clearly a valid read, with almost every forward and reverse read showing the same mutation, all high-quality reads and no “messy” areas nearby that might suggest an alignment issue. You can read more about how to work with your Big Y results in the article, Working With the New Big Y Results (hg38).

Next, go to the ISOGG BY Index page and enter the position number of the variant in the search box – in this case, 13311600.

In this case, 13311600 is not included in the BY Index because YFull already beat Family Tree DNA to the punch and named this SNP.

How do I know that? Because after seeing that there was no result for 13311600 on the ISOGG page, I checked YBrowse.

You can utilize YBrowse to see if an Unnamed Variant has previously been named. You can see the SNP name, Y93760, directly above the left side of the red bar below. The “Y” of course tells you that YFull was the naming entity. (Note that you can click on any image to enlarge.)

YBrowse is more fussy and complex to use than doing the simple ISOGG search. You only need to utilize YBrowse if your Unnamed Variant isn’t listed in the BY ISOGG search tool.

To use YBrowse successfully, you must enter the search in the format of “chrY:13311600..1311600” without the quotation marks and where the number is the variant location, and then click search.

The next Unnamed Variant, 14070341, is included in the ISOGG search list, so no need to utilize YBrowse for this one.

To see the new name that this SNP will be awarded when/if it’s placed on the tree, click on the link “BY SNPs 100K.” You’ll see the page, below.

Then, scroll down or use your browser search to find the variant location.

There we go – this variant will be named BY105782 as soon as Family Tree DNA places it on the tree! I’ll be watching!

Where will it be located on the tree, and will it be the new Estes terminal SNP, meaning the SNP that defines our haplogroup? I can’t wait to find out! It’s so much fun to be a part of scientific discovery.

If you’re a male and haven’t taken the Big Y test, it’s on sale now for Father’s Day. You can play a role in scientific discovery too. Does your Y DNA carry undiscovered SNPs?

A big thank you to Family Tree DNA for making resources available to answer questions about their new SNPs and naming processes.

___________________________________________________________________

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Suicide – 52 Ancestors #197


Those.

Those are flashing red neon warning words.

We’ve all been there one time or another. The question is, do we stay there? Is that a momentary thought, or perhaps something that motivates us to create a better life? The abused spouse who leaves, and takes with her the children also condemned to an abusive father. Those end-of-the line words in that situation are actually positive.

But in other situations, they aren’t positive at all.

My Story

Yes, this is my story, that of my father, and the story of other family members too.

I’ve never shared this before, not even with close friends and family. I’ve hesitated over and over before pressing the “publish” button.

Why haven’t I shared?

Because there didn’t seem to be any reason to dig up old dead history. Ironic words for a genealogist, right?

There is a lot of shame, prejudice, embarrassment and misunderstanding about suicide and the process of getting to that point.

If you think, for one minute, that suicide hasn’t touched you, you’re wrong. You may not know. Some suicides are hidden as accidents, either intentionally by the victim or by the embarrassed family. Some suicide attempts fail (thankfully) and are either disguised or simply not discovered. If you haven’t been touched yet, you will be, because suicides are sharply on the rise.

I’m telling my story now because there are ways to help if you recognize the signs – and ways to “not help” too. Sometimes that’s a fine line.

If this story helps even one of you, or your loved ones, it’s worth telling.

There is far too much shame surrounding suicide, which often prevents discussion, so today, I’m telling you these stories in their bare naked truth with the hope that we can lift the curtain of shame and embarrassment, thereby saving people in desperate pain.

Why Now?

Why am I telling this story now?

One of the suicide predictors to watch for is other suicides. Two suicides of famous people have hit the airwaves this week, and people who might be on the edge may be “inspired,” or pushed over the edge by these suicides.

So anyone already at risk is now more at risk.

It’s time to tell this truth.

I hope you’ll take the time to read and listen, because the life you save may be the life of someone you love.

Danger Signs and Resources

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline reports the following danger signs:

  • Withdrawal
  • Alcohol and drug use, both of which are high risk in and of themselves
  • Comments about killing oneself – 50-75% of people say something to someone first
  • Insomnia
  • Losing interest in things that previously interested them
  • Finding ways to kill themselves such as hoarding medicine or buying a gun
  • Other suicides

I would add other things to that list:

  • Illness
  • Self-harm, like cutting
  • Dramatic life changes such as divorce, severe illness or death of a close family member
  • Suicides among peer groups, including online acquaintances
  • Negative self-image activities, such as bulimia or purging

If there is any question in your mind, please seek help or advice for yourself or your friend or family member at:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
  • Veterans Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255 and press 1
  • LGBTQ Suicide Hotline 1-866-488-7386
  • Teen Suicide Hotline 1-800-872-5437
  • Christian Suicide Hotline 1-888-667-5947
  • International Resources

Please read this article, What to Do When a Loved One is Severely Depressed.

Where to Start

I almost don’t even know where to start, because, looking back to the two primary events I’m going to share with you, the beginnings were vastly different. There are many paths.

My father’s probable suicide began years and years before his death with poor choices that led to a life spinning out of control, exacerbated by alcohol addiction.

My own desperation journey began with my former husband’s stroke, which turned my life and that of my children entirely upside down.

Two very different situations, and two very different outcomes.

I probably need to say at this point that I am writing this article with very little editing. I am not a social worker or mental health counselor. I’m sharing my rather raw experiences. They may or may not be politically correct. They are my truth and written in my stream-of-consciousness “unedited voice.” There are sentence fragments and opinions. And yes, I swear:)

Suicide and Depression

Before I sought (and attended) counseling, I thought of depression only in the context of what I was personally familiar with. I thought of depression as something rather temporary, fleeting and “curable” with time. Meaning that one could be “depressed” over something at work, or the loss of a spouse through divorce, but those things are curable by a different job or a different spouse.

In other words, depression was a result of a life event, but escapable in most instances. I was young and depression then wasn’t diagnosed as a disease, per se. Mental health diseases were things like schizophrenia which was somewhat treatable, but not escapable. My former mother-in-law was afflicted with that disease and I had horrible first-hand knowledge.

During the counseling process, I learned that there are two types of depression.

One type of depression, which my counselor termed clinical depression, seems to others and sometimes to the person affected to appear “out of no place” or “for no reason.” It’s a mental health disease. Diseases don’t necessarily have “reasons.” They just are. Depression seems to be genetically linked, but it’s a complex disease with many factors. Regardless of why, it’s horrible for those affected.

Two suicides in the past few years have affected me greatly, for two entirely different reasons.

The first was the death of Robin Williams in 2014. Just ripped my heart out. So tragically sad.

I knew Robin Williams, but not well. Before Robin was famous, he made training videos for Hewlett Packard. He also occasionally participated in training sessions for new employees. That’s how I met Robin Williams. He was funny, warm, genuine and never would I have expected this man to carry the demon of depression. He was inspirational. When someone that inspires you dies by their own hand in such obvious misery, it rocks your boat. Shakes you to the core.

It’s somehow ironic that the comedian who related to so many and made us laugh joyfully was so horribly tortured and unhappy himself. To the point of death. Where death was preferable to torture. No one, but no one, would ever have expected Robin Williams to die by suicide.

The second suicide of a public figure happened earlier today, June 8, 2018 (as I write this) with the death of Anthony Bourdain. I didn’t know Anthony personally, but it seems like those of us who watched Anthony over the years felt like we did. He was incredibly outspoken, the consummate bad boy who had “made it” in spite of what seemed like insurmountable odds. His tough life and substance addition were well known.

While I liked Robin Williams immensely, I connected with Anthony Bourdain on a different level. Anthony seemed like one of us, plus food is always connected with comfort. Food, travel and a non-drama-free mince-no-words unapologetic survivor. Who didn’t want to watch? And watch we did, in droves. Now, we’ve watched his demise too.

Both Robin and Anthony were known to battle depression.

Not all people who are depressed have suicidal thoughts, and not all people who end their life by suicide are depressed.

I know that sounds odd, but it’s true.

Types of Suicide

When a person who has a reasonable expectation of life left to live dies by their own choice, that’s the kind of suicide that might have been preventable. That’s where recognition and prevention efforts need to focus.

The other type of suicide, which I wish desperately was called by a different name is when a person who does not have a reasonable expectation of a quality life left to live chooses their own time, place and way to exit.

In my mind, that’s entirely different. I strongly feel that it’s the epitome of inhumanity to force a person who will die miserably to live through that death when we have other, quick and pain-free choices. And if you’re about to tell me that hospice does just that, I will beg to differ with you until the cows come home. Been there, done that with multiple family members and it’s just not the case. We don’t force our pets to suffer at their end of life, but we subject our family members to torturous deaths.

My step-father somehow mustered enough strength and removed his own ventilator in order to end the misery of a prolonged death. Was that suicide? Probably, technically. He certainly ended his own life on his terms. He removed his first wife’s life support too when there was no hope and she was permanently comatose and brain dead. I guess, technically, that makes him a murderer too.

In reality, he was a humane hero. I would want him at my bedside because I know MY best interest would come first.

I certainly missed him when he died, but he had lived his life to the fullest and prolonging the inevitable was only cruel.

My Father

But that’s not the father whose story I want to tell. My biological father, my Daddy, William Sterling Estes, died in a car accident in 1963. That’s the official story. The one everyone told. The one I believed. Until one day when I was an adult and the accidental truth arrived in separate pieces from different people and the truth dawned on me like an unwelcome storm.

Losing a parent when you are a child is exceedingly difficult. My father was the third close death in as many years. My maternal grandmother and grandfather, followed by my father.

My parents were divorced and my father had remarried. I loved going to visit my father and step-mother, Virgie. She was a lovely woman. She and my mother got along just fine.

I didn’t see my father often, so he was something of an absent hero. I was always extremely excited when he appeared, often bearing some kind of small gift. My mother, of course, who bore the brunt of everything everyday while he was absent was chronically irritated at this turn of events. He was no hero to Mother, in fact, just the opposite, a scoundrel, but their story is one for another time.

As a result of having lived with him for half a decade, ending just three years before his death, it was a piece of information from her that eventually explained part of the answer to the question of why he might have chosen suicide.

The Day Before

How my father came to work at a funeral home is also a story for a full article, but let’s just say that he had previously worked as a physician and apparently dead bodies didn’t bother him. He worked with the local funeral director as needed. At that time, funeral homes were owned by local families. It took two strong men unbothered by death and body fluids to lift bodies, a task which had to be accomplished multiple times between the removal of the body from where they died and the funeral.

At that time in small-town Indiana, the hearse also performed a second duty as an ambulance. If this strikes you as funny today, it did me too. I can just imagine waking up in the hearse after an accident of some sort and not knowing if you were on the way to the hospital or morgue, or worse yet, the cemetery. Dark humor, I know.

My father was backing the hearse into the funeral home garage, the day before his “accident,” and the funeral director asked him why. My father replied, “Because you’re going to need it this weekend.”

I learned of this about 50 years after the fact, in a happenstance conversation. I had called the funeral home to see if they had any additional information about my father’s funeral – not knowing that he was working there at the time – and certainly unaware of the conversation the day before his death. Imagine my shock!

The man I spoke with 50 years later was the son of the director and was present at the time of the conversation. He took over the family business from his father. The son retired shortly after that conversation and sold the funeral home to a corporate interest. I’m glad I accidentally talked to him when I did, because that opportunity was forever gone shortly thereafter.

The man said that at the time, his father had mentioned that my father’s comment was “odd,” but after the “accident” the following day, the funeral director told his son that he believed my father’s death was suicide. That tidbit may not have been shared with anyone else, but when I heard it, and then combined it with additional puzzle pieces, it made sense. Terrible sense.

Although I can tell you, it was one hell of an electric shock wave to learn as an adult that your father actually committed suicide. It changed the death narrative entirely and caused me to ask questions and reflect on the consummate question, why.

And it hurt.

Accidental death and intentional death is very different for the survivors.

The “Accident”

God this is hard to write.

Even all these years later.

My father had a long history of alcohol abuse.

Before you judge him too harshly, he and his siblings were fed alcohol as children. Their father, William George Estes, was a bootlegger, and apparently not a great one or they wouldn’t have wanted for food. When there was no food, they were given alcohol to make their hungry bellies stop hurting and to make them sleep. My aunt revealed these sordid, heartbreaking details in a letter to my step-mother. Then other family members corroborated. I was horrified and hurt terribly for my father as a child. His parents may not have doomed him, but they certainly started him down a terrible path.

My grandmother, Ollie Bolton, eventually left my grandfather after she caught him cheating, but according to various family resources, she didn’t want her two sons who hopped a freight train in Indiana and found their way to their grandparents in Tennessee. And Ollie wasn’t painted as the villain in the story, William George was worse.

I try desperately not to judge my grandparents, neither of whom I ever met.

In any event, my father learned very young that alcohol was the answer to everything and it made you feel better. For all I know, he may actually have been addicted before he was even a teenager. Regardless, it’s horribly sad.

Dad certainly was an alcoholic by the time he was an adult – his drink of choice being whiskey or moonshine. He was also a veteran of two wars, and according to both my mother and my step-mother, he checked himself into VA hospitals more than once to “dry-out,” but then would fall off the wagon again after release. Sometimes the wagon event took weeks or months, but it always happened.

Clearly, his undependability affected his relationships with women and probably with others as well. The exception was my step-mother, Virgie, who knew him when he was young, married him when he was old, and loved him for who he was. It’s somehow ironic that it was in that supportive relationship that he decided to exit the world.

My father’s military records were burned in the National Personnel Records Center fire in St. Louis in 1972. The VA attempted to help me reconstruct them from different records that existed elsewhere, but medical records were entirely absent.

According to Virgie and Mom, Dad had once again checked into the VA hospital in Fort Wayne and dried out. He was dismissed and went back home, once again hopeful and upbeat. All I can say is that my heart aches that Alcoholics Anonymous didn’t yet exist ubiquitously – because he might had stood a fighting chance.

Virgie told me that he was stone-cold sober after his release and at the time of the accident, but years later, her daughter told a different story.

Apparently, either the day before, or the morning of the accident, he was seen in the local park intoxicated. Perhaps he wasn’t. Perhaps he was and Virgie didn’t know. Perhaps she was in denial. Perhaps she wanted to spare me thinking about my father’s last few hours as an alcoholic who had fallen off the wagon again, a drunk in the park.

The stories vary somewhat, but the essence of the situation was that at the time of the accident, he was either going to pick the preacher up to go fishing, or had dropped him off after fishing. My father loved to fish and judging from the time of day, I’d guess they had already been fishing.

My father was also a master of disguising his alcohol use and abuse, and alcohol consumption wasn’t viewed as negatively at that time as it is today. My recollection was that he always had an unobtrusive flask in his tackle box.

About 7:30 that evening, Dad was driving Virgie’s 1960 Rambler, and at a T-road, with a telephone pole at the intersection, he pressed the gas instead of the brake and hit the telephone pole head on, more than 100 feet from the road. That’s a huge distance and he could have easily maneuvered enough to avoid the pole. Instead, he hit it dead on. No skid marks – no evasive maneuvers. Full on throttle.

Genealogists, please note that the relationships are incomplete and my name is incorrect. Virginia Little is a half-sister, not step-sister and other relatives were omitted.

Today, that transmission pole still seems to be in place, to the right of the small grey pin at the left side of the picture below. It pains me to look, but I had to. I bet no one today knows that someone died there in 1963 – 55 years ago this summer.

The official diagnosis was that Dad had an angina attack and accidentally stomped the gas instead of the brake. Until the other pieces of evidence came to light, no one questioned that.

Indeed, the very hearse he had backed into the garage the day before transported him from the accident scene to the hospital, just as he had predicted. Then the next day, it drove him to the funeral home, and then after the funeral, to the cemetery.

He died at Mt. Auburn and Main, he lived on Hickory and he is buried in the IOOF (Oddfellows) Cemetery in the upper left hand corner on the map below, within sight of where he lived – everything within a mile.

A nice tidy bundle. But it wasn’t tidy at all.

Why?

Why would Dad have committed suicide?

Three possible reasons come to mind.

  • He had once again disappointed his spouse by falling off the wagon. Except this time, it wasn’t a spouse who was threatening to leave him if he didn’t sober up, but one that loved him unconditionally. He may have realized that he truly was not in control of his life – that alcohol controlled him and had controlled his entire life. Maybe he was just done trying.
  • Maybe Dad was depressed because of his relapse and could have succeeded if he had tried again. This was his rock bottom, when other rock bottoms hadn’t been rock bottom enough – but he didn’t survive this rock bottom.
  • Maybe Dad knew something else. As Mom aged, she told me things she would never have told me earlier. Dad had consumed alcohol his entire life. He was about 62 when he died. We don’t know exactly which year he was born, because his birth year on his delayed birth certificate and other identifying information varied by what he wanted/needed his age to be at the moment. His liver was very probably a hot mess. Mom thought he had cancer. She told me rather explicit details about the “messes she had to clean up” which certainly do sound like someone with an internal issue.

If Dad knew he had cancer, suspected he had cirrhosis of the liver (which often precedes cancer) and had disappointed his wife once again, maybe Dad decided it was better to just check out. Maybe he knew what was coming and was afraid. Maybe medically, he was worse than anyone, except him, knew. Maybe his drinking by then was to medicate physical pain.

No Goodbye

I never got to say goodbye.

It was bad enough when I thought his death was an accident.

Maybe he couldn’t bring himself to do that, to say goodbye to me. Maybe he wanted to spare me.

Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

So many maybes and no answers.

He did leave a message for me with Virgie when he was in the hospital, before he passed away. According to his death certificate, he died of internal bleeding sometime after midnight, about 6 hours after the accident.

And then, 50 miles away, in my bedroom, a shadowy silhouette of my father sat on the edge of my bed. I felt his weight as he sat down and the mattress moved as he touched me. I woke up, seeing his silhouette with the streetlight behind him – so glad that he had come to visit.

In the morning, I leaped out of bed when I heard the phone ring. I knew that Daddy had arrived late the night before and would be there this morning, drinking coffee with cream and sugar at the kitchen table with Mom, waiting for me to get up. Like so many other times before.

I ran up to mother, who was just hanging up the phone, and excitedly asked her where Daddy was.

I didn’t see him.

Mother didn’t say anything, at first, then asked me what I meant.

I told her that I knew he was there because he came and sat on my bed the night before. I was confused, because I didn’t see him anyplace in the house.

She turned ashen and began to shake.

Mother asked me to come and sit beside her on the couch. She put her arms around me, like she wanted to shelter me.

She explained to me that not only was Daddy not there, but he hadn’t been there and that he would never be there again.

I didn’t believe her.

I cried gulping sobs. Unfortunately, I understood death all too well. I didn’t know what to think. I was just sure that she had sent him away, and I was very angry with my mother. I asked many questions and the only answers she had for me were, “I don’t know.”

The phone call had been Virgie and Mom simply didn’t have any answers yet.

For a change, Mom didn’t seem angry with him. She was crying too. I was very confused. Then I talked to Virgie and I was just heartbroken. I can still feel that searing pain ripping through my little body, sitting here today.

I grieved my father’s death terribly and never obtained closure as a child. I’m still not entirely sure that I ever did, although I finally accepted that he had died. As an adult, I arranged for his military headstone myself and had it set.

I wasn’t allowed to attend his funeral, or those of either grandparent. Children then were “spared” grief as much as possible. That would have helped me a lot – to at least see him one more time, even if it was in a casket.

Death became a thief in the night, a stealer of those I loved. Death was an enemy and without any of the positive benefits of group grieving and comfort. Everything about death and funerals had a very negative connotation. To this day, I abhor funerals.

My Step-Father

A few years later, my mother married my step father, Dean Long, whom I completely adored. He and I had a symbiotic relationship because his daughter, who was about my age had died, and I had lost my father. We healed each other’s wounds and formed a bond that not even death could sever.

I did what kids do. I went to school, made mistakes and got called on the carpet. My Mom was the disciplinarian and my step-father was a quiet man of few words. He didn’t need many. I listened to him without reservation.

It was my step-father who encouraged me to stretch my wings beyond what “girls” were supposed to be able to do back then, and beyond Indiana. It was he who told me I could be and do anything I set my mind to. It was him that told me never to let anyone tell me otherwise.

When I found myself married to an abusive spouse, it was Dad that encouraged me to leave. I use the word “encourage’ loosely. He literally put his life on the line for me, more than once. Abuse is a terribly intimidating cyclic phenomenon and without his support, I don’t know that I would have been able to break free of that cycle alone.

I did, moved and remarried. He saved me, or more succinctly, helped me to save myself.

My Turn in the Hot Seat

Fast forward.

Years later, in 1993, I was in my prime. I had finished multiple college degrees and a few years earlier, left a lucrative professional position in the computer industry to found a consulting company. Things were going well, at home and at work – until Sunday, June 20st.

When I woke up that morning, my husband couldn’t get out of bed and his speech was quite slurred. I knew there was a problem, and immediately called 911. My husband and son were both volunteer firefighters and paramedics, although my son wasn’t home at the time.

I had never been so glad to see those men arrive. They were at the house within a couple minutes. My husband’s best friend was the first to arrive. I had to leave my husband in the bedroom to go outside to explain to Chuck what was happening.

“I think he had a stroke.”

And then I began to sob, because I knew.

That stroke, he might have recovered mostly from, but the devastating stroke that followed a week later destroyed much of his brain.

He was hospitalized for months with complication after complication, hovering near death anew every day.

Needless to say, he not only couldn’t work, he would never be able to work again. I couldn’t be at the hospital managing his daily health crisis and work at the same time. Not only that, but I suddenly needed to make as much money as we both had made together previously. The bills didn’t go down, they went up with his skyrocketing medical bills during his 6 month hospital stay.

I vividly remember the night that I walked into the house after working all day and then going to the hospital to deal with a crisis of some sort and saying to myself, “I need a beer.”

Then I heard what I said, especially the word “need.” I knew in that instant that if I had one beer, I would never stop. I did need that beer. It’s called self-medication – and it’s a hallmark of depression. I didn’t have that beer that day, nor did I allow myself to drink anything alcoholic for several years. Alcoholism clearly has a hereditary component and I knew that I was susceptible. I do occasionally have a drink now, but they are few and far between, and never, ever on a “bad day.”

A few months later, when it was determined that my husband wasn’t going to die, at least not immediately, focus shifted to his hospital release. Our home was not handicapped accessible for a wheelchair. Not only that, but he could never be left alone with his cognitive judgement impairments. Insurance does not pay for home modifications. No one pays for home modifications for handicapped access. Neither does anyone pay for home assistance nor residence in a facility. I had no good options.

By December, we were scheduling his release from the hospital. I had taken a loan to convert the garage into a handicapped bedroom/bathroom and make the kitchen and living room handicapped accessible. I had hired an aide to stay with him while I worked, but in the next few months, I would go through aides like water because he was “difficult” in many ways, including sexually inappropriate.

His “executive function” that prevents normal people from doing things like grabbing women by the genitals had been destroyed in the stroke. I understood that he couldn’t help himself, but understanding and living with the situation are two entirely different things.

Our daughter was a teenager at this time and suffice it to say that this situation pushed her into behaviors that were not healthy for her. That’s her story to tell, not mine, but it was living Hell on earth for everyone involved.

My son, an older teen, couldn’t cope and left the family and would remain estranged for many years. However, my daughter and I were trapped there.

My step-father was in failing health with COPD and would die in September of 1994.

My mother was a wreck between my step-father, my husband’s stoke, me and my children. She wanted to help, but couldn’t leave Indiana to do so.

My step-brother lived in another state and had a host of serious issues. He was in no condition to help anyone, not even himself.

There was no one to depend on, other than my daughter who was too young to have that kind of responsibility foisted upon her.

When you’re in that kind of a situation you learn very quickly who your friends and family are that care. Many you think you can depend on simply disappear into the shadows. Sometimes people you don’t expect step forward too.

Of my husband’s three brothers, two were ministers and they were “too busy” to help. All I can say is “bless their hearts.” You southern people will know exactly what that means.

The third brother, the official “black sheep” of the family, condemned by the ministers, came with his wife periodically to help us. I’ve always liked black sheep.

My husband’s parents were in their 80s and couldn’t really grasp the situation. They thought that if he could talk, he was fine. Never mind that he made no sense. My mother-in-law had advanced Parkinson’s disease and my father-in-law had congestive heart failure. They really couldn’t help much, but they could certainly criticize everything I did, or didn’t do. Both died within a few years.

My half-brother couldn’t be bothered and never offered to help. So much for family.

A couple of my husband’s fire-department buddies came to help from time to time, as did my quilting friends. Chuck was here regularly trying to help me get things in order, but after my husband came home, few could deal with him. I was extremely, extremely grateful, but the need so far outweighed the available resources.

Eventually, I was at the end of my rope – 18 months progressively descending into the fires of Hell.

The Christmas from Hell

It was Christmas 1994.

I had decorated the Christmas tree, not that I cared, but because that’s what I was “supposed to do.” I was still trying to make everything as normal as I could. I sat down and cried, but then I was just too tired and hopeless even for tears. There was no beauty in that tree, no beauty in Christmas, no beauty in life.

I was terribly, chronically sleep deprived and had been for months. I worked in the day, and was my husband’s caregiver the rest of the time. 24X7X365 with no break. His care meant looking after an incontinent 260 pound 2 or 3 year old that is never cute, never grows up and you can’t take anyplace because of his behavior. His weight increased and he was very difficult for me to manage.

My son was gone and had been gone throughout the entire episode. My daughter had run away from home. My step-father had died. My mother was coming the next day, Christmas Eve, and the week after Christmas, we had to take my husband to live in a care facility because I had lost the final aide and couldn’t find anyone willing to take care of him while I worked. My job was hanging on by a thread, through the extreme generosity of my customer, but that wouldn’t last forever. I had to do something and I felt like an abysmal failure on every level.

My husband was going to be crushed that he had to live someplace else. I dreaded trying to explain to someone who couldn’t understand why that had to happen. I dreaded driving away that day. I dreaded every single day.

All of that money spent on handicapped remodeling was for naught. I couldn’t stay home and take care of him, because someone had to make the house payment, pay the utilities, the car payment, buy the groceries, arrange, transport to and pay for his therapy, etc.

When my mother arrived the next day, I was going to have to explain to her what had happened with my daughter, and that she had run away. My mother had born so much heartbreak over the past few months with my Dad’s prolonged death that I didn’t know how she would withstand this final straw.

I didn’t know how I was going to withstand this final straw.

Everything seemed entirely and completely hopeless.

My husband was not a man I knew. He had become abusive and inappropriate as a result of the stroke. In hindsight, I should never have brought him home and subjected me and my daughter to his behaviors, but I didn’t know, and the medical professionals certainly didn’t explain that. I thought I could make it work, and wanted to, but in the end – I couldn’t.

My children were gone. My step-father, whose last words in this life to me were, “I love you. You’ll make it, Honey. I’ve been so lucky to have you in my life,” was gone.

The creditors were calling about my husband’s hospital bills, and if you’ve never spoken to a professional bill collector – you’ve never been bullied. They are professionals at lies, fear and intimidation. May they rot in hell.

I finally learned to turn the tables and I took out my long-pent-up frustration on them when they began their bully routine. One actually had the AUDACITY to tell me my husband was LUCKY to have had a stroke so he didn’t have to pay his bills. Huh? He had the medical bills because he had the stroke. Some people are pure evil. My friend who was also a nurse overheard one of those conversations and bought be a pin that said “psycho bitch from hell.” Let me tell you, I wore it proudly as a badge of honor. It meant that maybe, just maybe, I was mad enough to survive.

Crossing the Line

It was late that December 23rd night or maybe very early morning the 24th by then. I sat down on the couch after I finished decorating the tree. I knew neither my son or daughter would be there for Christmas. I didn’t know where they would be, but it wasn’t at home. I needed to see them, but that wasn’t going to happen. I couldn’t even get ahold of them in the days before cell phones.

My husband was too impaired to realize they were absent, but my mother would be devastated. I was devastated. Christmas would be a day of sorrow, the first holiday since Dad’s death and so much loss. I wanted to sleep through it. I wanted to sleep forever and never wake up.

The Christmas tree was a catalyst. The ornaments handmade in happier times, those hopes and dreams now entirely dashed. No hope. No dreams. Nothing. That life ripped from me. And seemingly, no way out.

I had finally gotten my infant-adult husband to sleep. The house was silent. The lights were out except for the Christmas tree lights, flickering Christmas colors mockingly, and the tree which had been the center of so much happiness and joy for so long represented everything lost forever.

And I thought:

“I can’t take this anymore.”

It wasn’t a shout, but a whisper.

But it was the crossing of a line.

I also realized what was happening.

I suddenly understood that suicide wasn’t about wanting to be dead.

It was about wanting the pain to stop.

The chronic unending pain.

That there was no other way to make stop.

Death seemed far more reasonable and attractive than THAT life.

You don’t hurt after you’re dead.

Three things stopped me.

My love for my mother, my hope and love for my daughter and my responsibility towards my husband, in no particular order.

  • Without me advocating for my husband and watching over him, not to mention paying his bills, he would have wound up in an abusive welfare hell-hole. He was not a nice man, but I remembered the man before the stroke and I couldn’t do that to him.
  • Without me, my daughter, no matter how difficult she was being, would have had no hope of recovery. I wasn’t exactly her best friend at the time, but I was a resource when she was ready.
  • I think my death would have killed my mother.
  • Which would have killed my son.

I couldn’t live and I couldn’t die. It was that simple.

I had to get help. At that moment, death would have been easier, far easier, believe me.

I never told my mother about this. I may have told my children since, but I certainly didn’t tell them at the time. Even if they had been there, I wouldn’t have wanted to burden them. My husband wouldn’t have understood or cared. He had lost all capability to care about anyone but himself.

After Christmas, I found a counselor whose husband was also wheel-chair bound. The difference was that her husband was not mentally impaired as well, but she fully understood the challenges I faced. She saw me weekly, on a sliding scale, for years.

The Uphill Battle

Life improved, slowly. With my counselor’s approval, I declined depression and anxiety medications, because I was concerned about addiction. My family was already too full of that and I knew I had a history with both my father and grandfather.

With my husband living in a specialized facility where he received good care and constant supervision, I was once again able to sleep and work with regularity – which means the bills were much easier to pay. Good thing, because his living situation was extremely expensive.

However, putting him into a care facility came with a huge dosage of guilt, dealt out freely by his family and others who had no clue.

“You put your husband in a home?”

Yep, I did, for his good and everyone else’s too. I finally told anyone who thought otherwise that they were welcome to take him for a day. A couple of people took me up on that offer, and I never, ever heard another word like that out of them again – nor did anyone ever take him a second time. Walking a mile in someone’s moccasins is truly the best teacher.

My daughter eventually recovered, but that took another decade.

My son returned to the family about the same time my daughter recovered.

Healing was slow and difficult for everyone and still isn’t complete.

My step-brother died under “suspicious circumstances” at Thanksgiving in 1999. The case was never closed. That situation caused my mother an extreme amount of grief and anxiety.

My mother moved near my half-brother and passed away in 2006. She never really recovered after my step-father’s and step-brother’s deaths. I’m sure she had undiagnosed depression, but she never told me – just like I had never told her or my children. I found many flyers about seniors and depression in her belongings after her death. I felt just awful. I would have done something had I known.

Keeping depression a secret was a mistake on my part and hers as well. Sometimes the depressed person can’t reach out, so it’s up to the rest of us to reach in.

I became officially single in 2000, remarried in 2003. Those years are scars, not open wounds any longer.

It was a very long, very ugly decade of descent into Hell followed by an uphill battle of gargantuan proportions – but I made it. I would not have made it without my counselor, my friends and the part of my family that actually cared. I found strength in the memory of my step-father that often sustained me in difficult times. I have since added grandchildren, a son-in-law, daughter-in-law and new family-of-heart members to my family that was dwindling.

Needless to say, my life changed in the instant of that stroke. That life was forever broken, shattered into a million unrecognizable pieces and was never whole again. I rebuilt a new life out of a few salvageable pieces, namely my children, but not without a huge amount of pain and effort – on their part as well as mine. Those relationships were indelibly changed too.

Had I exited, my children would have been much more permanently damaged, perhaps irreparably. I’m so glad I didn’t do that in my darkest moment. They were that oh-so-tiny spec of light.

So many times, it was the little blessings from people that told me they cared that meant so much and kept me going. That’s also part of the reason why I make care quilts today and have since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 when my friend and I made quilts for the children and husband of Rebecca Anderson who gave her life rescuing victims. It’s my way of giving back by paying it forward.

If you find someone in a depressing situation, what can you do, even if they won’t admit to depression? I honestly didn’t realize the severity until that December 23rd when I was at the end of my rope.

How to Help

My rule of thumb is that I will make every effort to help someone who is truly trying to help themselves, or who can genuinely not help themselves but would if they could. This means that I’m not interested in high-drama situations where people are looking to benefit from their situation, for attention or to manipulate others. I also draw the line at substance abuse. Tough love. I will help them, but they MUST help themselves too.

For people suffering from clinical depression, meaning depression as a disease that is not related to a specific trigger event:

  • Offer support. Tell them you love them, if appropriate. Love is powerful medicine.
  • Listen, empathize, and ask questions.
  • Tell them you understand and offer helpful suggestions. Don’t begin the sentences with, “Why don’t you…” which implies criticism, or with, “You should…”
  • Do NOT tell them that they shouldn’t feel the way they do – i.e. do NOT say, “But you have such a good life. You shouldn’t be depressed.” Or worse yet, “Just get over it.” You may not mean that as judgmental, but it feels that way and will only drive a wedge between you and depress them further.
  • Encourage or help them to seek appropriate assistance. Assistance could be in the form of counseling, advocating for them to receive some sort of assistance program or in severe cases, intervention if self-harm is a potential issue.

For people suffering from situational depression – like the stroke scenario:

  • Offer support. Tell them you love them, if appropriate.
  • Listen, empathize, and ask questions.
  • Tell them you understand and offer help. Don’t say, “All you need to do is ask” because they may not be able to ask. Asking feels like begging and imposing yourself on other people. It also opens up the opportunity for rejection.
  • Figure out what they need and help make arrangement to meet those needs. My quilt sisters brought food frozen into meal sized portions for months – without me asking. I was so incredibly grateful. My neighbor occasionally brought over a pot of chili. Someone anonymously dropped off Thanksgiving dinner on the porch when my kitchen was torn apart to make it handicapped safe and accessible – bless them. My EGA chapter took up a collection. My brother-in-law and his wife would occasionally come to relieve my daughter and I so the two of us could do something together like shop for clothes. I would have given anything for someone to mow the lawn or plow the snow.
  • Do NOT say things like “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” What I heard was that my husband and family were being punished because I was a strong woman. Secondly, those people NEVER offered to help. I guess from their perspective, God was going to do it all. Well, let me tell you, God doesn’t shovel snow. I thought if I heard that phrase one more time I would explode. Say what you really mean, not that platitude. Trust me, it’s not comforting even though you mean it to be, especially to the person who has heard it hundreds of times and there is no food in the house and the furnace doesn’t work. If you don’t know what to say, say, “I’m sorry. What do you need?”
  • Don’t rely on the person to voluntarily tell you what they need, because no one wants to be THAT PERSON who asks for help and for assistance from others. Especially when you’ve been told over and over that God is supposed to be providing, but you’re still in need. It’s especially difficult for people who have been giving assistance their entire lives. Accepting charity or being in the position that you need to is very embarrassing and often humiliating. It makes people feel weak and vulnerable. It was extremely difficult for me then and even discussing it today, this many years later, is uncomfortable.

If you feel any person is a danger to themselves, call a suicide hotline with them or call 911. Don’t interpret a threat or discussion of suicide as an idle threat. It may not be. You could be dead wrong.

If you live with someone who takes medication for depression or anxiety, watch to be sure they are taking their medication. Often people want to stop when they feel better, but they feel better because they are taking the medication. Then they become too depressed to take their medication. It’s a downward spiral.

Be on the lookout for either words or actions that say:

If you hear those, or see those, be their light. Make the difference.

  • Tell them everything is better in the light of day.
  • Tell them that you are THERE for them, and mean it. Follow through and follow up. Nothing is worse than feeling completely irrelevant and then having someone make hollow promises about how they are going to help you – and then they don’t.
  • Tell them that when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired, life looks bleak. So HALT.
  • Tell them you can fix hungry, angry, lonely and tired, but you can’t fix gone.
  • Tell them what a bright spot they are in the world and why you believe that.
  • Tell them how much they mean to you.
  • Tell them about the darkness that will replace their light in the lives of the people who love them if they leave.
  • Tell them you will help them and begin the discussion to solve the problem any way other than by leaving permanently. Make a plan.
  • Tell them that you love them, because if you don’t, you may never get the opportunity again.
  • If they have tried before to solve problems like addiction that seem unsolvable, encourage them to try again, with help, one day at a time.
  • Strongly discourage the use of alcohol or drugs, other than under medical supervision. You can’t deal with life’s issues when you don’t face them. You can’t overcome what you don’t confront. You need all of your mental faculties to slay those dragons.

You may not be able to stop them, because ultimately, the choice is theirs, but you can damned sure try. Sometimes trying means the world, and life, to someone who sees only a very dark tunnel and no light.

There is light, but they may need your hand to reach it.

Milestone! 1000 Articles About Genetic Genealogy

Today is a big day for DNA-eXplained. I christened this blog on July 11, 2012 with an invitation for the world of genetic genealogy to follow along. Wow, what a ride!

Today, about 5 weeks shy of the blog’s 6th birthday, I’m publishing my 1000th article – this one. I don’t even want to know how many words or pages, but I do know I’ve gone through two keyboards – worn the letters right off the keys.

My original goal in 2012 was to publish one article per week. That would have been 307 articles this week. I’ve averaged 3.25 articles a week. That’s almost an article every other day, which even surprises me!

That’s wonderful news for my readers because it means that there is so much potential in the genetic genealogy world that I need to write often. Even so, I always feel like there is so much to say – so much that needs to be taught and that I’ll never catch up.

I wonder, which have been the most popular articles?

Most Popular Articles

The most popular article has received almost a million views.

I’m not surprised that the article about Native American heritage and DNA testing is number one. Many people want to verify their family stories of Native American ancestry. It was and remains a very large motivation for DNA testing.

One link I expected to see on this list, but didn’t, is my Help page. Maybe because it’s a page and not an article? Maybe I should publish it as an article too. Hmmm….

What Do These Articles Have In Common?

Four are about ethnicity, which doesn’t surprise me. In the past couple of years, one of the major testing companies has pushed ethnicity testing as a “shortcut” to genealogy. That’s both a blessing and a curse.

Unfortunately, it encourages a misperception of DNA testing and what it can reasonably do, causing dissatisfaction and kit abandonment. Fortunately, advertising encourages people to test and some will go on to get hooked, upload trees and engage.

The good news is that judging from the popular articles, at least some people are researching ethnicity testing – although I have to wonder if it’s before or after they receive their test results.😊

Three articles are specifically about Native American heritage, although I suspect people who discover that they don’t carry as much Native as they expected are also reading ethnicity articles.

Two articles are specifically not about autosomal results, which pleases me because many autosomal testers don’t know about Y and mitochondrial DNA, or if they do, they don’t understand what it can do for them or how to utilize results.

Several articles fall into the research category – meaning an article someone might read to decide what tests to purchase or how to understand results.

Key Word Searchable

One of the things I love about WordPress, my blogging platform, is that DNA-eXplained is fully keyword searchable. This means that you can enter any term you want to find in the search box in the upper right-hand corner and you’ll be presented with a list of articles to select from.

For example, if you enter the phrase “Big Y,” you’ll find every article, beginning with the most recent that either has those words in the title, the text or as a tag or category.

Go ahead, give it a try. What would you like to learn about?

More Tools – Tags and Categories

Tags and categories help you find relevant information and help search engines find relevant articles when you “Google” for something.

If you scroll down the right-hand sidebar of the blog, you’ll see, in order:

  • Subscription Information
  • Family Tree DNA ad
  • Award Received
  • Recent Posts
  • Archives by date
  • Categories
  • Tags
  • Top Posts and Pages

Bloggers categorize their articles, so if you want to view the articles I’ve categorized as “Acadians” or “Art,” for example, just click on that link.

I use Tags as a more general article categorization. Tags are displayed in alphabetical order with the largest font indicating the tags with the most tagged articles.

You can see that I categorize a lot of articles as Basic Education and General Information. You can click on any tag to read those articles.

My Biggest Surprise

I’ve been asked what’s the most surprising thing that I’ve learned.

I very nearly didn’t publish my 52 Ancestors series because I didn’t think people would be interested in my own family stories about my ancestors and the search that uncovered their history.

Was I ever wrong. Those stories, especially the research techniques, including DNA of course, have been extremely well received. I’ve learned that people love stories.

Thank you for the encouragement. This next week will be the 197th article in that series.

I encourage everyone to find a way to tell the story of your ancestors too. If you don’t, who will?

My Biggest Disappointment

I think my biggest disappointment has been that not enough people utilize the information readily available on the blog. By this, I mean that I see questions on Facebook in multiple groups every day that I’ve already written about and answered – sometimes multiple times in different ways.

This is where you can help. If you see questions like that, please feel free to share the love and post links to any articles. With roughly 12 million testers today and more before year end – there are going to be lots of questions.

Let’s make sure they receive accurate answers.

Sharing

Please feel free to share and post links to any of my articles. That’s the purpose. You don’t need to ask permission.

If you would like to reproduce an article for any reason, please contact me directly.

Most of all, read, enjoy and learn. Encourage others to do so as well. The blog is free for everyone, but any support you choose to give by way of purchasing through affiliate links is greatly appreciated. It doesn’t cost you more, but a few cents comes my way from each purchase through an affiliate link to help support the blog.

What’s Coming?

I have a few articles in process, but I’d like to know what you’d like to see.

Do you have suggestions? Please leave them in the comments.

I’ve love to hear from you and I often write articles inspired by questions I receive.

Subscribe

Don’t miss any articles. If you haven’t already, you can subscribe by entering your e-mail just above the Follow button on the upper right-hand side of the right sidebar.

You can also subscribe via an RSS feed, or follow me on Twitter. You can follow DNAexplain on Facebook, but be aware that Facebook doesn’t show you all of the postings, and you won’t want to miss anything. Subscribing via e-mail is the most reliable option.

Thank You

There’s so much available today – it’s a wonderful time to be a genealogist that’s using DNA. There used to be a difference between a genealogist and a genetic genealogist – but I think we’ve moved past that stage and every genealogist should be utilizing all aspects of DNA (Y, mitochondrial, autosomal and X) as tools.

Thank you for subscribing, following or however you read these articles. You’re an amazing audience. I’ve made the unexpected wonderful discovery that many of you are my cousins as well.

Thanks to you, I’ve unraveled mysteries I never thought would be solved. I’ve visited ancestral homelands as a result of your comments and assistance. I’ve met amazing people. Yes, that means YOU!

I’m extremely grateful. I started this blog to help other people, never imagining how much it would help me too.

I love writing for you, my extended family.

Enjoy and Happy Ancestor Hunting!

_____________________________________________________________________

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Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 900 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA, or one of the affiliate links below:

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MyHeritage Data Breach

If you are a MyHeritage customer, change your password. Now. Here’s how.

This is late breaking news.

If you were a MyHeritage user before October 27, 2017, your e-mail was included in a data breach at MyHeritage. MyHeritage was informed of this breach less than 6 hours ago.

MyHeritage is doing the right thing by making the breach public immediately. It appears that no financial or DNA information was involved, but the investigation is just beginning.

Read the MyHeritage blog article here.

TechCrunch reports here.

Change your password now.