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

  1. My great-grandmother’s maiden name was Melton. Her people were from Hunting Quarters, Carteret Co., NC and have a strong oral tradition of Native American ancestry. My mother & aunt do show a small amount of Native American in their DNA results. We simply cannot trace our Meltons (sometimes spelled Milton) back past the early 1810s. Interesting that one of the Lost Colonists was named Mylton.

  2. I love these mysteries, and I can’t help believing that there will eventually be a way of untangling them. There’s a similar, albeit smaller-scale, mystery involving La Pérouse’s expedition to the South Pacific in the late 1700’s. Did the French cabin boy really survive and marry a Murray Island woman? Could DNA testing help to prove it?
    ( https://reporter.anu.edu.au/finding-la-pérouse )

  3. Roberta, your incredibly hard work and selfless contribution to discovering our heritage is so inspiring. Thank you for being the wonderful human being you are, and exceptional role model for those of us who wish to pass on a bit of historical legacy to our children. The world is a better place because of you. J Denton

  4. Very exceptional article. Thoroughly enjoyed reading and learning from all perspectives. You have brought so many threads together in an understandable fascinating way.

  5. Thank you, The Lost Colony information is world class. Link together from all sources those small cmorgan strings, UID them, and wait for more. The dead shall rise from the grave. (Bible)

    As I once told you, my grandmother born in 1895 believed we came from Virginia Dare. She, we, also claim Pocahontas ( whose name was Matoaka, Meta the name used). My great aunt was a Meta. Pocahontas was a nickname for a wayward young lady . One given to fun in the grass. We now have a paper trail to Matoaka. It’s not what the PF claims.

    Thomas Rolfe b 1614-d 1667/8 m. Jane or Joan Poyce, not Poythress. Even Robertson said as much in his original book. Rolfe had several children, not just one. Thomas Rolfe is buried on Fort James II as is his wife. A Virginia University dig in the late 50s or 1960, found him , her and a child and a head stone. So we have what we need to solve this genealogy. Please help us who really descend from that lineage to get to the facts. I have the Bolling line several times, and two lines or more of them, so my DNA , while broken in small bits might link into larger autosomal cmorgans. Most are group 6 Bolling’s who are the real descendants by way of Barnett. I once talked to a person who said there were no knife wounds on Thomas Rolfe’s bones, but many men killed by knife show no knife wounds on the bones.

    Check for an unpublished “READERS DIGEST” early 1960 or earlier.

    1. Thomas Rolfe, b 1614, married Jane or Joan Poyce (old English is Peirce), as did his dad before him. Capt. Thomas Rolfe died in 1667/8, records exist. 2. Anne Rolfe bc 1648-1650 m +Rev. William Barnett, bc 1643, m 1670 at Fort James II in by then New Kent County, VA, on the Chickahominy River.

    Rev Wm Barnett was a head right into Pamunkey region in 1670. His and Anne’s children began about 1670. The list of their children’s names is very long.

    The problem is the Pocahontas Foundation is supported by the State of Virginia and they will not produce a serious genealogy. It’s more about the rich elite and social belonging than about genealogy. Their error lies in who the first John Bolling was. They got it wrong, but some still hit us cousin wise. John Bowling (aka) Bolling was a common name in early Virginia, the first one of that name was John Bowland , a headright of E. Lawson in 1650. He’s ours. One of them.

    Kenneth Boyd Poole =============== KBP ==================

    • Unfortunately, those small cMs aren’t useful in this type of situation. For cMs to identify an ancestor, we need to be sure they aren’t IBC, they are from a common ancestor and that there are no other common ancestors. With 15+ generations back in time, we just can’t hit that threshold.

  6. Your research on so many things is unbelievable! Beyond amazing. This Roanoke one was wonderful. I was startled to see the Edward Bland link. Knowing that I descend from Theodoric Bland circa 1650 in VA…I went to Edward Bland in Wikipedia, and he was actually there. It listed Theodoric as his brother…so now I am pleased to have a
    “Bland explorer” story from that time and place. Gracias…Georgeann Johnson, mexico

  7. What a great article! Thank you Roberta. I hope there is a breakthrough in the mystery in our lifetime. Thank you for your dedication.

  8. Loved the article! I grew up in North Carolina, and I loved reading more about this story–you’re right, we were only taught the “basics” in school!

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