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The Lost Colony Research Group

Genealogy ~ DNA ~ Archaeology


December, 2010


To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before

William Shatner - the Starship Enterprise


Indeed, who among us has not heard this phrase before?  There is just something terribly exciting about an adventure.  Who doesn't want to go exploring?  Remember as children what fun adventures were - even if they were only pretend?


I've wondered what it is about the Lost Colony project, or more specifically, the search for the Lost Colonists and their survival that intrigues us.  The answer is simple.  It's a mystery, an adventure.  It hasn't been solved, and there are new tools and techniques becoming available to use to use in the search.  And indeed, we can go where none have gone before.


We're not the first ones to be bitten by this bug - and by the way - I do believe it's incurable.  It's not fatal, well, not to us - maybe to a few of the colonists - but it seems to be a lifelong affliction.  David Beers Quinn and his wife, Allison, can attest to that, as can Dr. William Powell.  Dr. Powell began his flirtation with the colony as a young man, and now in his 90s, it continues.  He spent many months in England methodically going through the records then available to him.


What has changed since Dr. Powell's visits in the 1950s and 1960s, and lebame houston's in the 1980s, and today?


There are four primary changes, and a fifth ancillary difference.


First and foremost, the internet.  Internet and online communications allow collaboration in ways never before dreamed of. 


Communications paves the way to the second item, records availability.  As more and more records become available remotely, and this is happening, albeit way more slowly than any of us would like to see, distant research become more feasible and available.  In particular, as parish records, wills, probate packets and even just plain vanilla court records become available, it's akin to giving genealogists the keys to the kingdom. 


Third is DNA testing.  2010 is the ten year anniversary of DNA testing for genealogy.  DNA testing requires good genealogy records to go along with the testing for proof of line.  One without the other is incomplete.  The fact that DNA testing and collaboration is maturing at the same time carries great promise.


Fourth, the tools available for archaeologists.  Not only is our research pointing at very specific locations where we may indeed find the colonists, the tools we have at our disposal to analyze our finds have increased dramatically within the past decade. Not only does this relate to DNA, but also to other types of scientific testing and analysis.  Furthermore, the Lost Colony project has attracted the attention of world class institutions and is moving forward rapidly with a team of specialists.  No longer is an archaeology dig considered parochial in nature, but is approached with a team of specialists.


And fifth, we are indeed gathered together with the intention of and commitment to doing what has not been done before.  We formed the Lost Colony Research Group in 2007 with this specific goal, with the right people and skill sets to accomplish this goal.


When I began this journey, I asked myself why the local and original records had not been thoroughly combed and analyzed.  Part of the answer was probably that many of the American records have not been extracted and published, so the research is not "easy".  Part of the answer is likely that it's terribly time consuming.  I'm on year 4 now, and not nearly done.  I'm also not alone.  We have several individuals working on differing portions of the project.  We have embarked to do just this - use the records - all of them.  Of course, having the best team imaginable is most helpful.  So I'm glad that once the bug bites - it's a "forever bite", kind of like the "forever stamps", because I'm assured of having top notch assistance for a very long time.


Where else can you join a group, for free, participate in archaeology digs, walk along the beaches that the colonists frequented and dig in the records where their secrets are waiting to be revealed like a giant jigsaw puzzle?  Where else can you, indeed, go were none have gone before?  Where else can you make such a difference in the search for the truth about the founding of America?  Who knows, today could be the day you find the nugget of truth that will lead to the answer.....


Sir Richard Grenville

Roberta's Note -Sir Richard Grenville played a significant role in the Lost Colony of Roanoke, but little is known about the man.  Our first historical article this month is by Andy Powell, retired Mayor of Bideford, England.  Andy held the same position as Mayor of Bideford 437 years after Sir Richard Grenville, Bideford's founder.


Article by Andy Powell


Mention the name Sir Richard Grenville to anyone, and chances are that apart from a vague recollection that he had something to do with Bideford and died fighting a losing battle in the Azores, few will be able to add more detail, yet add more detail we must, for Grenville’s life had far more influence in Elizabethan history than he has ever been given credit for.


Grenville’s date of birth is a mystery in itself, with various sources quoting anything from 1540 to 1543. The truth lies in a portrait painting hanging in the National Gallery, a later copy of which hangs in Bideford’s Town Hall. Upon this painting is an inscription that tells us the painting was produced in 1571 “in the year of his life 29”, meaning Grenville was 29 in 1571 and thus was born in 1542. Where he was born remains a mystery though, as does much of his early life, but there is evidence that he was raised at Clifton House near St. Germans in Cornwall as a Ward of Court. Why a Ward of Court? Few people realize his father was Captain of the Mary Rose which sank so catastrophically off Portsmouth when our Grenville was only 3 years of age.


As Grenville reached teenage years and finally inherited the Family estates at Stowe and Bideford, fragments of his life start to come to light. We know he was evidently an intelligent lad for he was admitted to the Inner Temple of London, whilst still a minor. We also know that not long after he was returned as an MP (Member of Parliament) for Dunheved (Launceston); the position of MP being something he was to spend his lifetime serving as.


By 1563 Grenville had married Mary St. Leger, daughter of the St. Legers of Annery near Weare Giffard. Having married her, there is some evidence that he promptly left to fight the Turks in Hungary (!) the motive for his involvement though appears more based on gaining experience of military operations than for the romance of being there. He was landed Gentry after all and the historical forte of the Grenville’s was land based military command.


Whatever he learnt in Hungary was to stand him in good stead when, through that marriage he found himself embroiled in plans to subjugate the province of Munster (Southern Ireland) with his now in-law, Sir Warham St. Leger during the 1568 to 1570 campaigns. It was during this time that his wife narrowly escaped being butchered at the hands of the Desmond uprising that beset the City of Cork. (Mary was evidently a doughty match for Grenville and outlived him to die peacefully in 1623, probably aged over 80 at the time. She lies in the churchyard of St. Mary’s Bideford, her grave unmarked.)


Nevertheless, Munster was an expensive campaign for Grenville and by 1570 he had largely withdrawn from or simply lost interest in his Irish estates; an interest that was to only briefly resurface twenty years later.


What took his interest now though was the town of Bideford, for in 1572 as Lord of its Manor, he applied for and obtained a Charter to create the Borough of Bideford. It is interesting to note that the date is exactly 300 years after his ancestors first applied for the right to hold a fair and market in the town.


An intriguing prospect of Grenville’s actions to create the Borough is that he would have had to obtain the agreement of the owners of the town to give the Council adequate rights to govern. In effect, those owners became its first council. We can be quite certain therefore that being one affected by its creation, Grenville would have been one of Bideford’s original Councillors (or Burghers) and thus took part in the vote for John Salterne our first Town Mayor.


Having created the Borough of Bideford and probably still residing in the house his ancestors must have built there (and of which traces may have recently been rediscovered under Bridge Street car park;) Grenville prepared a petition to the Queen to allow him to search for a route across the ‘South Sea’ (the Pacific Ocean) He submitted the petition in 1574, three years before Drake, who, almost certainly having read Grenville’s petition, was allowed to do precisely that and thus achieved the fame which should perhaps rightfully have been Grenville’s.


It seems certain though that Grenville was declined because relations with Spain in 1574 where leaning towards a truce, and any activity such as that proposed may well have been viewed with suspicion by the Spanish. Any doubt as to the authenticity of Grenville’s plans can be dispelled by the fact that on the reverse of Grenville’s petition are the words “Grenville’s South Sea Voyage” written in Lord Burghley, the Queens chief advisor’s own hand.


Such was Grenville’s increasing dislike of Drake that in 1580 shortly after Drake returned from his round the world adventure, Grenville abandoned the estate of Buckland Abbey and sold it via an intermediary to him for £3,400. It is a sad fact that despite the Grenville’s being singularly responsible for what you see at Buckland today there is virtually no mention of their efforts in turning the Abbey into what Grenville called his “Castle of Comfort”.


By 1585 Grenville had become involved in Raleigh’s attempts to settle an English Colony in America, some 33 years before the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth. Indeed it was Grenville who led the Military Colony to build the first fort on Roanoke Island, the site on which lies the town of Manteo (NC) today.


When Grenville returned in 1586 with supplies for the Military Colony he had left the previous year he found it had vanished. It had in fact been relieved by a certain Francis Drake who had decided to pass by the colony on his return from the successful ransacking of the Spanish West Indies. Quite what exchanges must have taken place between Grenville and Drake when Grenville returned to England is not recorded! It was on this voyage of 1586 though that Grenville skirmished with some of the Native American Indians and brought home the one christened ‘Rawley’ and who now lies buried somewhere in the Churchyard of St Mary’s Bideford; unquestionably the first American buried on English Soil.


Grenville spent 1587 in London organizing what became the so called ‘Lost Colony’ of Roanoke but was evidently too busy to deliver them himself. He planned to return though in 1588, when, having prepared a fleet of five ships at Bideford he was commanded to take these ships, along with two volunteer ships from Barnstaple and a fleet from Bristol, to fight the Spanish Armada at Plymouth. Grenville was not disposed to serving under Drake and returned to Bideford, where he organized a further attempt to supply Roanoke barely a few weeks later.


Later, as the Spanish Armada moved around the British Isles and the West coast of Ireland in an attempt to get home, the Privy counsel considering the possibility of an attack on the Bristol Channel gave Grenville the command to secure the Western Approaches. Sadly, the chance of fame yet again passed him by as the Spanish Armada destroyed itself against the Irish shores.


1591 was to be Grenville’s year of fame, one until recently, wrapped in the inaccuracies of Raleigh’s reports and the poetry of Tennyson. Details of that famous battle of the Revenge are the preserve of the forthcoming book but what can be said is that Grenville was not tardy leaving Flores as is widely thought, but remained there refusing to abandon the English sailors who were still ashore; (whilst of course the Admiral Howard fled with the remainder of the English Fleet).


He was trapped in a pincer movement and despite the most extraordinary resistance; a resistance that caused the Spanish Commander to answer a great many embarrassing questions in the Spanish Court about how one ship could destroy so much of the Spanish fleet; the Spanish took Grenville on board their flagship, patched him up as best they could and served him a meal; a meal at which many of the Spanish Captains paid homage to him.


He died en route to Terceira and was buried at sea, fittingly being joined by the Revenge at about the same time.


It was left to none other than Francis Bacon to comment in his book “Considerations touching a war with Spain” to say of Grenville “that memorable fight of an English ship called the Revenge, memorable I say even beyond credit, and to the height of some heroic fable.”


On the Lighter Side

While genealogy and historical research is certainly a serious endeavor, it isn't meant to be dry or boring.  And sometimes, you stumble across something just too funny not to be enjoyed.  That happened to Jennifer Sheppard while researching in Martin County.  She shared the story in her Everything is Relative column, which she has graciously allowed us to reprint here.


Newspaper Research Reveals Case of Mistaken Identity for Martin County Man


When I was asked to do research regarding trials that took place in the Old Martin County Courthouse, in Williamston, NC, I had no idea what interesting and sometimes amusing articles I would find in microfilmed copies of The Enterprise.  I haven’t spent much time doing newspaper research but it a very useful tool for the genealogist and historian.  A friend of mine has done extensive newspaper research and when she’s asked about it she replies “newspapers contain genealogy gold.” 


Not only will you find obituaries, birth announcements and weddings in those wonderful old issues of the newspaper but they also contain some very interesting and surprising information that shows us just how “human” our ancestors were. 


Forty-year old Tom Boston’s last journey was a long and unnecessary one and it was a trip over which he had no control.  Poor Tom was sent to prison in Atlanta, Georgia from federal court in Washington, NC in October of 1926.  He had pled guilty to a charge of “manufacturing liquor.”  Since that was his second offense, Judge Meekins sent him to Atlanta for two years.  But that was not to be, for Tom developed pneumonia and died on 20 January 1927.


On that same day Samuel Isaacs of Ticonderoga, New York received a telegram from the Federal penitentiary in Atlanta, GA where his son, Joseph Isaacs, was serving a sentence for “rum running.”  The telegram read “Your son, Joseph died last night of pneumonia.  Do you wish the body given a Christian burial here or shipped home at government expense.”  Mr. Isaacs wired back, “return it home.” 


The grave had been dug and relatives and friends gathered from far and wide.  The home was filled with flowers and a preacher engaged for the service.  In the morning, on 24 January, the casket arrived.  John F. Gunning, the funeral director, removed the casket lid and what a surprise!  “That’s not my son,” exclaimed Mr. Isaac and low and behold it wasn’t, the casket contained the body of a Negro man.  Mr. Isaacs hurried to the phone and demanded an explanation from John W. Snook, warden of the Atlanta penitentiary.


At that point, Mr. Isaacs was advised “that the body was that of one Tom Boston who was from North Carolina.  Not long after that Mr. Isaacs received a telegram from the warden which read “Your son is alive and well.  Clerical error on our part.  Sorry.  Hold body of Boston for further instructions (Signed) John W. Snook.”  “So the body of the Negro man was sent to the Ticonderoga Station, the flowers relegated to the sidelines, and relatives and friends rejoiced.” (Source: The Enterprise, Tuesday, April 5, 1927).


Now for the rest of the story – The headline in The Enterprise, Tuesday, February 1, 1927 reads: “Special Car for Negro’s Body, Body Billed to Jamesville Goes to New York Town First.”  Tom Boston’s body was shipped directly to Ticonderoga, NY where it evidently remained while federal authorities checked and discovered their mistake. The casket was rebilled and the 40-year-old Negro’s body began to roll south. “When it reached Rocky Mount the second time the body’s condition was almost unbelievable. So from that point on to Jamesville Tom’s body occupied a special car to itself.”


  The body was removed from the car late Sunday afternoon, in Jamesville, after having been on the road for approximately 10 days.  Although in terrible condition, the body lay in state at the old home Sunday night and into Monday afternoon when it was finally interred in its final resting-place.  The paper also stated “While it is not definitely known, it is understood the body was shipped unprepared for the long ride.” I should think so! (Source: The Enterprise, Tuesday, February 1, 1927). 


This is the beginning of what I see as a lucrative source for some very interesting stores.  Until next time happy hunting!  




This enlightening note was sent by our member, Van Harris.


I live about 4 miles south of Hamilton, NC., on the Roanoke river.  One of the early settlements, called Hogtown is on a farm owned by a friend of mine.  He found a mug that was dated back to between 1580 and 1590.  In a paragraph in the book, The First Colonists by Quinn, there is a quote that says that “after 4 days of hard rowing up the Roanoke, we came on the high bluffs”.  That would be Hogtown in my opinion.


Henry Windslow found the cup when he was diving in the Roanoke River about 15 years ago.  The cup is distinguished by having pebbles in the molding clay. Another person named Harry Thompson, who is curator of the artifacts collection in Plymouth, N.C., went with Henry to Williamsburg, Va., to a very reputable potter, who after examining the mug, said to them, "Yes it's real easy to date this mug...between 1580 and 1590, English potters added pebbles to their work to see if it would add strength to their pottery. They decided after that 10 year period that it didn't, so they discontinued the process."


The cup in now on display at the Museum of The Albemarle, in Elizabeth  City ,N.C.   The Port of Plymouth Roanoke River Museum is the official title and the phone no. is 252-793-137.  


By the way, I did get to go to the Hogtown site last year... it's only a washed out road down to the river itself.   The distinguishing factor as x-army person is that it has a spring coming out of the hill.  You can go a long time hungry, but you can't go for long without clean drinking water.  So that's where I would chose to bed down...plenty of deer and fish to cook if you have clean water



Henry O'Berry Land Grant

The following information comes primarily from Linda Dial and Stephen Berry.  A big thank you to both of these contributors.


One of the long standing legends in the Lumbee Tribe is the story of the earliest Lowery/Berry family members.


James Lowry Jr. settled in Southern VA and was in the fur trade. He learned Indian dialects including Cherokee and Tuscarora. His son, James III helped the Cherokee with the Treaty of 1705 as an interpreter. He married Priscilla Berry who was supposedly a direct descendant of Henry Berry of White's lost colony. She was supposedly 1/8th Tuscarora.


Our ancestor, Henry O. Berry, was granted land next to James Lowery, in 1730/2, which is now the Lumbee Indian land. There are some research documents that list Henry O. Berry as being part Tuscarora but the Lumbee tribal office thinks that he was probably Croatan since the Tuscarora would probably have killed his family not cohabited with them.


Some of the Berry family moved about 10 miles south into South Carolina. Henry Berry had a relative, Priscilla, who married the son of James Lowery. They had a grandson, Henry Berry Lowry, who is known in the Lumbee tribe as “Robin Hood”. He is idolized in the tribe and has many buildings etc. dedicated to him. His actual house has been moved to the site of a park named “Strike the Wind” where there is an amphitheater showing the history and actions of Henry Berry Lowery. His family and “gang” were all killed but he escaped through the swamps in 1872 and was never seen again. Reports are that his wife, Rhoda, made trips to Tennessee and Alabama several times after 1872. 


In fact, we now have confirmed descendants of the Lowery "clan" family as well as a Middleton family who matches the Lowery line DNA, complete with an oral history of descent from Henry Berry Lowery.  And yes, you guessed it, they are from Tennessee.


The Berry and Lowery family prior to this land grant have proven impossible to track.  Were they Indians living in the swamps?  Traders? Virginians?  Perhaps future DNA connections will tell us more than we know today.  Priscilla Berry Lowery is not known to have had any daughters, although it's certainly possible that she did have some and they are simply not yet documented.  Testing the mitochondrial DNA of Priscilla's descendants, were there to be any descended entirely through a female line, might be very interesting. 


We would also be very interested in comparing DNA with an O'Berry who might be from the same area in southern Virginia or North Carolina. 


On the following page, the original land grant of Henry OBerry for 100 acres in 1750 is shown in Anson County.  There was obviously an earlier grant as well, as it says it borders "his own land", but the earlier grant has been reported as existing in the 1730s, but has never been produced.  Is he really Henry O'Berry, Henry O. Berry or simply Henry Berry with a flourish.  Was he consistently called one or the other, or was this a "transient" type of name?  Has he recently adopted a surname and was perhaps illiterate, relying on the spelling of the various clerks.  In many early documents, names were misspelled multiple ways within the same document. Although our perception of "misspelled" and the colonial perception are dramatically different.  Regardless of the surname, this land was most assuredly in current Robeson County, Lumbee land, on Drowning Creek. 





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