About Me

Roberta EstesRoberta Estes has been a professional scientist and business owner for 35+ years, (MS Computer Science, MBA, graduate work in Geographic Information Systems), as well as an obsessed genealogist since 1978.

In 2005, reflecting her interest and expertise in genetics for genealogy, she formed DNAeXplain, a company providing genetic research, analysis, and consulting services.

Roberta is a National Geographic Society, Genographic Project affiliate scientific researcher and became part of the design team in 2012. Roberta has authored multiple academic papers, provided content and consultation to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the History Channel, National Geographic Magazine, and other organizations and businesses.

The Million Mito Project

In 2020, Roberta launched the Million Mito Project, a collaborative scientific effort to rewrite the tree of womankind for all of humanity in partnership with Dr. Miguel Vilar, Lead Scientist for the Genographic Project, Dr. Paul Maier, Population Geneticist at FamilyTreeDNA, and Goran Runfeldt, Head of Research and Development at FamilyTreeDNA. 

In June 2022, the Million Mito Team published a paper announcing the discovery of a 100,000-year-old branch of the human tree.

Early Years of Genetic Genealogy

In 2000, thanks to FamilyTreeDNA, the infant scientific field of DNA for genealogy emerged, allowing DNA to be used to trace individuals to common ancestors. With traditional genealogical records already researched to no avail, and several brick walls needing to fall, Roberta was one of the early DNA project administrators and pioneer adopters of DNA analysis for genealogy. Roberta manages over 20 DNA projects with an emphasis on Native American heritage.

Roberta’s blog, Native Heritage Project documents early evidence of Native people in records and can be found at www.nativeheritageproject.com.


Roberta wrote the book, DNA for Native American Genealogy. She authored or co-authored several scientific academic papers and appeared in the History Channel documentary, In Search of: The Lost Colony of Roanoke.

Products and Services

You can purchase Roberta’s book, DNA for Native American Genealogyhere for people ordering within the US, or here for people outside the US.

Roberta speaks and writes widely about DNA and genealogy and has provided keynotes at several major international conferences. Her educational webinars are among the most-watched in the industry.

Follow Roberta’s activities and available educational resources by subscribing to this free blog.

Currently, Roberta is not accepting private clients but is pleased to recommend Legacy Tree Genealogists.

You can e-mail Roberta at roberta@dnaexplain.com.

467 thoughts on “About Me

  1. I have been working on trying to solve my 3rd great grandfather Berry H Williams’ mystery. yDNA testing shows that the inferred brotehr and father are not his as the yDNA haplogroup differs (R-M269 for the inferred Williams relatives, E-M2 for Berry’s male descendant). How do I find out which was his line? He has exact atches at level 12 markers to Powell, Warwick, Sweat, Scherer. He is an almost identical match with one marker difference to an Ephraim Sweat at 37 level. At 67 level he matches a R Sweat, J. Sweat and M. Scherer but the others have not tested beyond 37 markers. No matches at the 111 markers yet (we upgrded the Williams descendant to 111, it’s still in progress). The weird thing is Berry’s wife was Martha Giddens Sweat which just adds to the confusion – maybe Berryw as a Sweat and theyw ere cousins or Martha had the kids by a Sweat (but census records show her and Berry as together with all the kids from 1 months old). They were in Bulloch County, GA.

    • You are doing the right things. I’d the other 12 marker matches have tested above that and don’t match, they have eliminated themselves.

    • Intersting just found this question. I am descendant of an Ephraim Sweat (Free Colored)
      B:1750 Morgans, Burke County, North Carolina, USA D:May 1830 Evangeline Parish, Louisiana, He wa a descendant f Robert Sweat an indentured white man and “Margaret Cornish” an Ndongo women was born in the Ndongo Kingdom area of Angola West Africa c.1600-1609 . She died on Hoggs Island is presumed to be buried there. She was kidnapped and in route to the West Indies when another vessel “The White Lion” a Dutch Man O War took them from that ship and then to Jamestown arriving in 1619 to be traded for corn.
      5. “October 17, 1640 “Whereas Robert Sweat hath begotten with child a negro woman servant belonging unto Lieutenant Sheppard, the court hath therefore ordered that the said negro woman shall be whipt at the whipping post and the said Sweat shall tomorrow in” etc .The Sweats along with the Perkins and a few other Gens de Couleur Libres were well established and affluent in Rapides


  2. Hi, I have haplogroup R-BY39347. Genetic research on the skeletons of those Vikings shows that one of them has the same haplogroup. Would that mean he is a distant ancestor of mine ? Greetings from Belgium, Johnny Couck.

  3. !! I am an Overlease. But I have had much frustration getting past my greatgrandmother. Most Overlease’s are found in Missouri.I really now think the Bartlesville, Oklahoma connection may be is the one I should be looking into. Thank you for a wonderful detailed trip back in time.

  4. I’m a woman that was in the forced assistant right now I’m going to be 65 years old and still don’t know neither one of my parents I would love to get a DNA could you help me out and by the way I’m dyslexic so I have problems doing things so please help me out thank you so much

  5. I have done ancestry DNA. I would love to know where to go from here to finding if any native ties. What do I do. I need help.

  6. Hi Roberta, I’m a direct descendant of Lytle Hickerson and Amelia Gwyn (not so far back either: I’m 81). Just wondering if my cousin Felix Hickerson’s second book, “Echoes of Happy Valley” published with some new material about 20 years after the first one, would be of any help in solving the Hickerson conundrum you’ve written about in such fascinating detail and which I’ve only just now come across and read with enormous interest.

    And can you give me some advice on how to find how fairly distant cousins are related? In my 23andme list of relatives I’m seeing both sides of my family turning up in a single relative’s list. But don’t know how to reconcile how and when they conjoin. My parents grew up in totally different place and were very different sorts of families. Thank you!

    • Someone must have some common ancestors. I don’t recall if I have the second book and I’ve moved so everything is still packed.

      I would suggest uploading your DNA file to FamilyTreeDNA because lots of Hickerson relatives there too. 23andMe limits your matches and I’d love to know if we match.

  7. Hi Roberta, So I sent my dna to 23 and me awhile ago and the first iteration resulted in a variety of admixtures (italian, french, north african to mention). Then about 1yr or so ago, get an email saying that the admixtures were recalibrated and suddenly I am 100% italian. Ok. not sure what happened ( I can trace both sides of my family to the same town in Italy and we have been there for 300+ years). This year I used my heritage and suddenly I have 2.9% Ashkenazi genes in addition to the majority Italian/Middle Eastern, North African etc. I am trying to make sense of the wildly divergent results. What gives? thanks, josephine

    • Every vendor has a different algorithm. I’ve written several articles about this. Search for the term “ethnicity.” You’ll find helpful articles.

  8. Recently I decided to join Ancestry since I have close family on this site as well. In doing so I have hit a bump and have been trying to find some answers to why my mothers DNA results are only 29%. We have 2,035cM across 53 segments (Fact: She is my biological mother).
    I have read about invisible DNA, could she be a carrier? Or are there any other explanations? I’m just trying to understand, since there is not much information on this type of outcome.
    Thank you

    • Using this tool, you can see the only possibilities for 29%. https://dnapainter.com/tools/sharedcmv4
      I have seen people send in multiple tests at the same time from multiple family members and get the vials confused. I don’t know if this is possible in your case or not. There is no “invisible” DNA, but someone may have been talking about untested regions. These tests test the same locations for everyone, and specific relatives fall into predictable and confirmed ranges. If you feel there is an error, transfer you and your mothers results to either FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage or GEDmatch and take a look there. If you still feel there’s an error, test again from scratch at FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage or 23andMe. Best of luck to you.

  9. Female has male match at 1962 cM and X match of 83 cM and believed to be 1C 7 years apart in age; probability tools suggests half siblings. They are children of a brother and sister. I think the X match tells me that they share a mother. Could the X come from a sister of the mother through a unusual adoption situation? Where can I turn for help figuring this out? Thank you.
    Susan (who may know enough to get it wrong!)

    • A male’s X comes from his mother. I recommend Legacy Tree Genealogists for assistance. Tell them I referred you.

  10. I was born and raised in Robeson County, NC and identify as Lumbee and descend from the Locklear and Lowery family on my mother’s side and Locklear, Carter and Bell on my Father’s side of the family. I grew up in the community of Saddletree just outside of Lumberton, NC and after taking a DNA test I discovered I am related to most of the neighbors I grew up with. My DNA shows 14 different world regions (last week Ancestry actually listed 16 world regions) , my father shows 15 and my mother shows 10 compared to my husband which shows 6. What does it mean to show such diversity in your DNA and how common is this? What does it reveal about ancestors? Thank you

  11. Roberta,
    I enjoyed they way you wrote. I have tracked down living Mercers that are directly related, paper trail entact to David Mercer b 1784, son of Moses Mercer. The YDNA will be posted soon on Familytree.

  12. Roberta,

    I found your article very interesting since my family originated in the Baltic’s.

    I just wanted to see if you might be able to assist me in determining if I am possibly related to VK422.

    My confirmed Y-DNA is R-PH1800 looks to be downstream from VK422
    MY confirmed mtDNA is J1b1a1 looks to be upstream from VK422

    This is all new to me and would appreciate any insight at all

    Curious in Miami

  13. Roberta, my wife’s great grandfather was a Galvanized Yankee and served with the 6th Regimental Vol. Infantry for 1 year, 6 months and 16 days. My question for you is approximately how much of a pension would he have gotten in 1889?

  14. Roberta
    I-Y4751 Paternal haplogroup via my Greatgrand father William Rice born in Eglish County Offaly 1853 any help as I’m new to this DNA and try to find anything on my Irish Ancestry
    My maternal haplogroup is T2e with Ashkenazi Jewish 1.4%

  15. Just a couple of corrections. Not all tribes require a blood quantum. I’m enrolled Muscogee Creek 1/32. Also some tribes do pay entirely for college. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians pays for all college for it’s members.

  16. Helloo
    We need help in identifying the age of common ancestor
    We have both family trees and dstimated age of birtg

  17. I am helping someone with her maternal grandfather’s line. She had two male first cousins take the Big-Y. Their results showed “2 steps” difference between each other. Their grandfather had a younger brother James, and his descendant also took the Big Y and showed “4 steps” distance. However, at “3 Steps”, there were two men, 1st cousins, 1X with a different surname to her first cousins and James’ descendant. Another match at “5 Steps”, has the same surname as “3 Steps”. Other than James’ death certificate listing his father’s name, there is no other record of the paternal line.
    She does not understand DNA and I have never worked with FamilyTree YDNA. When I was using and solving Y DNA, I had used Ancestry’s test. I understand about mutations, etc.… but I am trying to “dumb it down” so she gets it. When I had seen the “2 Steps” for first cousins, my first thought was a generational difference. I can also see this difference for James’ descendant. However, other than the generic term “non-paternal event”, I would like to be able to explain the “3 and 5 Steps”.

    • I’m having a hard time following this. I know you know what you’re talking about, but it’s just too easy to misunderstand with a narrative like this. I suggest you call FamilyTreeDNA and talk to one of their Big Y specialists. Based on what you said, I’m not at all sure you’re looking at an NPE.

  18. Hello, I have done 23andme for myself and thought it would be fun to do one for my older sister who looks different to the rest of the family. 23andme reported we share 1773 cM and 23% DNA shared. She has 50% Irish, Welsh and Scottish and I have 0%. We are in disbelief as being full siblings is all we know our whole life. We repeated another test with MyHeritage and it says we are half sibling again with 1610 cM and 22% shared DNA. In this test it was shown I have 1.3% Scottish, Irish and Welsh. Is there any possibility that we are actually full siblings, not half siblings? Hope you can help.

      • Yes, I have read that article and that is how I found out about you. Based on the article I feel we are half siblings but I would like a confirmation from someone who are experts on this before I bring this information to my parents. Do you think there is any possibility I could be wrong? Thanks again for your quick reply.

        • I never provide opinions on anything this critical without seeing the data myself. I no longer take private clients. I recommend Legacy Tree. Please see the link at the bottom of my posts.

  19. Hi Roberta. I would like to make a purchase to have a Ancestry Dna results consulting with you. Please get back to me as soon as you can.

    • I’m sorry, but I don’t take private clients. I do refer to Legacy Tree Genealogists. They provide a discount if you tell them I referred you.

  20. Hi!! I am a Berry, and I’m trying to solve our family’s mystery…we’ve been told we are at least 25% Native and my great grandmother was full blooded, have old photos of ancestors that look very Native. Recently tested my DNA, turns out it came back 2.5% Indigenous not near 25%, what would 2.5% mean…a 4X great grandparent? How do I check halo types to see the Berry line we descend from? Thank you so much!!

  21. I recall a list of Rootstech classes you provided in the past. I found the list very valuable in structuring my learning for the year. Grouping and organizing to my needs. The printed list was wonderful. Did you do the same for Rootstech 2023?

  22. Hi Roberta,

    I have a photo of one of my North Carolina Native ancestors Eliza Ann Buck (maiden name Taylor) so I’m not looking for DNA as proof of Native heritage. But I am trying to establish my Taylor’s tribal affiliation. Eliza’s mother was Molcie Taylor (1807-1876). In her life time, Molcie appears in the census for Craven County, Beaufort County and Chocowinity all in NC. I saw the Taylor sir name in your list of NC Tuscaroras. If my Taylors were Tuscarora then obviously they stayed in NC and did not go north.

    Are you aware of any remaining records, rolls etc. for the Tuscarora reservation or those Tuscarora who stayed behind or any other ways to link my Taylor Native ancestors to the Tuscarora?

    Tim Lucas

  23. I have records directly to Gottfried Rühle, a brother of Adam Rühle on the same ship (Zee Ploeg, wondering if the y-line has been recorded/traced yet, thank you for sharing the stories you have!

    A. Reeley

    • We have one sample that we believe comes from this line, but no confirmed lineage. I’d love for you to do a Y DNA test if you’re a male. I’ll email you.

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