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The Lost Colony Research Group

Genealogy ~ DNA ~ Archaeology




June 2011


Where are we Going?  How are we Getting There?  

I recently received a letter from a gentleman with a very basic question.  Where are you going and how are you getting there?  I referred him to the website, but that still did not answer his question, so I have decided that perhaps it's time for an update for the Lost Colony project.

Where are we going?  

The question of what happened to the Lost Colonists is deceptively simple.  The answer is terribly complex.  In a nutshell, if the Colonists did survive, they did so not as Englishmen, but as Indians.  If some or all of them survived, they would have been assimilated into the Native culture.  They probably would NOT have retained their English surnames past a generation or so.  If they did retain some memory of their English surnames, it was likely NOT in the context of paternally associated names.  Most of the colonists were men. If the men survived, which they may not have, they would have necessarily married Native women.  The Algonquian and the Iroquoian cultures were both matriarchal, meaning that kinship was through the maternal side.  The father was almost considered unrelated to his children.  The woman's brothers and uncles were who fulfilled what in our society today we think of as a father's role.  This means that if surnames did initially survive, that within a generation or so, it would not be the father's surname that the children took, but the mother's. 

What are we looking for?


One thing is for sure, the Hatteras Indians that John Lawson encountered in 1701, who claimed to have descended from the colonists, did NOT carry surnames.  Had they carried surnames, they would have told Lawson and he assuredly would have mentioned it.  By this time, some 114 years after the Colony was lost, or about 5 generations, the memory and history of their ancestors being colonists was very much alive, but the names were not.  To put this in perspective, what was the name of your great-great-grandmother's father?  Bet you can't tell me without looking it up on your computer.  They didn't have computers or written history - so for them to know the name of their great-great-great grandparents would not be something we could expect of them.  However, the history of those people was intact.  They were English, colonists, and they watched forever for Raleigh's ship in the mists off the coast. 

To answer the question, we are looking for DNA, genetics, combined with genealogy, to solve this mystery.

How are we getting there?

Given that we know the Natives had a matriarchal society, and that there were no Native surnames in 1701, how will we ever find these people?

Our colonists are among the natives.  Unfortunately, for many reasons, Native people are difficult to find and to track.  Let's talk a bit about the culture of the times and what happened to the Native people.  

First, the male colonists might not have survived.  There are two distinct possibilities. 

One possibility is that the colonists did exactly what they said, they went to live with the Croatoan Indians on Hatteras Island, and the people of Hatteras in 1701 that Lawson met were their descendants.  If this was the case, then the men likely did survive, or were not systematically killed because they were men.  The Hatteras would have welcomed their guns and metal objects and the colonists would have strengthened the Croatoan tribe and provided them much needed strength against their enemy tribes.  

The Tuscarora carry a legend that indicates that most of the colonists did not survive.  They killed the men and adopted some of the women.  A few of the people with blonde and red hair were sent to live with the Indians of the area now Mattamuskeet.  This legend will be portrayed at length in another article, but if this is true, some of the colonists survived, but few, if any, men.  This makes the genetics significantly more difficult.   

Given the Hatteras Indians history, and their physical traits which included hazel eyes and light colored hair, certainly not Indian traits, it's clear that they were mixed with Europeans from some source.  Given their oral history, the best candidates are indeed the colonists.


How did the Indians obtain last names?  

Native people began to take, or were given, English names in the late 1600s and early 1700s in some cases.  For the most part, I suspect that these were nicknames given to Natives that the English traded with.  We know about Core Tom, for example.  English couldn't very well say words like Garanganimeo, so they shortened them to something that sounded familiar to them, and the Indians, wishing to trade, learned their new names.   

For example, in 1650, a Virginia exploring party set out to reach the Tuscarora settlements. On the way they secured a Nottoway Indian guide named Oyeocker.   

In 1662, the first deed from the Indians was signed.  The purchaser was George Durant and the chief who signed it was Kilcocanen or Kistotanen who stated that he was "King of Yeopim" who was selling the land on behalf of his people.  He could obviously not write in English and signed with a mark.  In 1773, John Durant was King of the Yawpim Indians.   

By the time that treaties arose and needed to be signed, some of the men had taken English names, and some had not.   

In 1699 a man named "Sothell" was king of the Bear River Indians as noted in some articles of agreement with settlers.  Seth Sothell had been the governor of NC, dying in 1692 in Bertie County.  In 1701, John Lawson refers to Southell as King of the Bay River Indians, likely the same tribe but by a different name.  

By 1705 Tom Freeman is noted as the chief of the Chowan.  

In 1711, John Hancock and Tom Blount were the chiefs of the upper and Lower Tuscarora groups of villages.  Cor(e) Tom as also noted as a chief.  

In 1739, the Indians Charles Eden and John Squires sold part of the Mattamuskeet lands.  Charles Eden was the governor of NC from 1713 to 1722.  John Squires was also a successful white man living in this area as well.  In the 1739 transaction, we know positively these men were Indians because they are identified as such, but they have the same names as white men living at the same time in the same area.  The differentiating factor is that the Indians cannot sign their names and the white men can.  

Many times Indians took names of people they respected or those with whom they were establishing kinship bonds.  Kinship is what connected the Indian world, and when one created a treaty or bond, as an Indian, you were creating a kinship of sorts.  

How do we find Indians?

Unfortunately, many times Indian surnames did not get passed paternally, as we would assume.  Therefore, we must find Indians by tracking hints.  In some cases, we know where they were.  They lived in family groups.  We can look at court records, tax lists and other types of legal records today to find listings of "free people of color", or sometimes "mulattoes".  They were never listed as white and were seldom listed as negro.   

We can still watch for surnames, especially in groups, but we cannot assume that the surname passed paternally.  Therefore, we are looking for relationships that look like illegitimate children.  Furthermore, the Indians and the English had very different ideas of morality and marriage.  The English required a marriage license (which was not free) and a preacher.  The Indians did not require either of those things and people were married "in the Native way", which was much less restrictive.  Much of the English law was based on inheritance - who was a legitimate son, meaning born within wedlock, and would inherit the father's land.  Indians didn't have to worry about such things.  They had no understanding of ownership in that context, and if Indians did own something, it was generally as a tribe, not as individuals.   

Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule.  In 1701, we find the first known deed where an Indian sold land personally,  Peter Cornelas (Cornelius) sold land to Peter Ganst on the Cashie River, very near to what would eventually be the Tuscarora Indian Woods Reservation.  Cornelius is a known Tuscarora name and is later found signing deeds for the Tuscarora in 1766 and then in New York.  However, once the Indians began to own land personally, they entered the world of signed legal documents and the English-based legal system where ownership and inheritance was indeed determined by wills or the laws of the system, primogeniture. From the point where the Indians transitioned from traditional Native ways to English law, we can generally track their surname, but we can't be sure just how the surname was passed to the male offspring.

Another way of finding Indians is a long-standing oral history that is corroborated by some documentation.  It seems that everyone has the "Indian Princess" story in their family, but finding the story plus some other piece of evidence is quite different than a general disconnected oral history.

For example, we know the Machapunga Indians lived on the Alligator River.  Indeed, recently, we have a documented Native American haplogroup from a woman whose family originates in that area and carries the oral history of a Native ancestor.

How can DNA work if the names changed?

Remember at the beginning of this article I said that the question was deceptively simple and the answer very complex.  Well, now we're to the complex part - but it's not the genetics that is making the answer complex.  It's the surname changes.  

We know that the eastern portion and the northern portions of North Carolina were settled by Virginians, many from the Jamestown area, beginning in the mid-late 1600s.  We can positively track many of our early Hatteras Island settlers, for example, down from Virginia to the Carolina counties.  There were four groups of folks who arrived.  First were the aristocratic Virginians.  They brought with them their money, their lifestyle and their slaves.   

Second were the white poorer people.  These people were not land owners in Virginia, may have been indentured servants, and were often looking for a new beginning, or just a beginning at all.  Some of these people would own land in North Carolina, but most were not in the first wave and did not own land in the early counties.  Many of these folks came later, after 1700, and by 1771, North Carolina had its own private war, East against West, the haves vs the have-nots.  But that history will have to wait for another time.   

Third were the slaves that came with the Virginians.  Slaves were divided into two groups for purposes of this discussion.  There were of course African slaves who were either directly imported or who had been here for a generation or two.   

Fourth were the Indian slaves.  These slaves were captured by the tribes from Carolina and Virginia and sold to the traders who sold them to the Virginia planters.  Often the males were killed, as was the custom in intertribal warfare, and the women and children were sold into slavery.  If the males were not killed, they were often sent to the West Indies as they were considered unmanageable otherwise.  At this time, the Indian slaves knew they were Indian, and at a later time in the late 1700s and 1800s, many of their descendants would sue for their freedom as having been improperly enslaved.  But at the time NC was being settled, these Indians were enslaved, disconnected from their tribes, and would remain in that condition for generations.  For the most part, these Indians were not coastal tribal Indians, with some possible exceptions due to the Tuscarora War in 1711-1713.  These Indians were from tribes further west and further south.  Most of those captured Tuscarora were taken to South Carolina.  However, once enslaved, the Indians lost their continuity and connection with the tribe and their home geography.   

The Indians we are looking for are those who were not enslaved and who were able to remain in their home geography, or close, at least long enough for the family to become trackable as they migrated outside of the Eastern North Carolina area.  

These areas would be Hatteras Island, Dare County, Hyde County, Tyrrell County, Currituck County, Bertie County and some of Martin County.  Of course, the Lumbee are found in Robeson and surrounding counties as well.  

The Y chromosome is passed from father to son, unmixed with any DNA from the mother.  So no matter how the male obtained his surname, his DNA is still the DNA of his ancestors on his father's side.  Therefore, we should be able to match the DNA to the ancestral family if enough markers have been tested and enough genealogy has been done by the people the participants match.


Genetic Situations

Speaking now only to the Y chromosome project, we find ourself with the following situations.  

1.  If the male colonists did NOT live, we are looking for a needle in a haystack that cannot be found.  We can never prove they did not survive, only that they did survive, if they did.  In order to increase our chances, we are very focused on Hatteras Island, which I will discuss shortly.  

2.  If the male colonists did live, it's very unlikely that they correctly recalled their paternal surname through 5 or 6 generations of matrilineal culture (to 1700) or longer to readopt it later.  We see that when Native people adopted surnames, they took the names of a white person with whom they had contact, establishing a "tribal" kinship with them.  Therefore, the people who carry the Lost Colonist surnames from this area are probably NOT the descendants of the colonists.  Having said that, there is the ever-present exception to the rule.  In this case, it may be the Berry family who has the oral history that they descend from both of the Berry colonist males.  They were even introduced at the 1937 premier of the Lost Colony play in Manteo as the colonists' descendants.  Unfortunately, we do not have a male Berry from that family line yet who has tested.  There are a few other names who may well be candidates, Gibbs being one of them.  

However, if the individuals who are found early in NC by these surnames are not from the colonists themselves, they may well be from the same families in England.  We know there were connections between the Jamestown group and the colonist group, and there may well be far more connectivity that we know.  So we still need the people with the colonists surnames from eastern NC and Virginia to test, as we need to establish the English genealogy.  

3.  If the colonists did survive and assimilate into the Native tribes, we need to test as many people as we can identify who were Native and identified as such in the early records.  While these people have non-colonist surnames, they may indeed carry colonist DNA.  If, for example, a descendant of John Durant, King of the Yaupim, tests and we discover that he does not carry Native paternal DNA, but matches the Dare family, that's pretty conclusive evidence that Ananias Dare survived and his descendant was John Durant of the Yaupim Indians.  The challenge here is twofold. 

First, finding provable descendants of Native people is difficult.  They were often impoverished and lived on the fringe of society, not participating in traditional church or social systems such as marriages, deeds and courts.  However, our saving grace may well be early tax records and searching not so much for individuals but pockets of "free people of color" that include known Native surnames.   

Second, many people who are Native today, who have not entirely lost their culture or their tribe, are very reticent to take a DNA test.  Some are concerned that somehow it will be used against them.  Some are concerned that they will be found to be "not Native" genetically.  Certainly that is a possibility on the paternal line with all of the trader activity and social cultures within the Native community that supported the trader networks.   

4.  The last situation is much more difficult to work with.  It's the situation where someone does not match their paternal surname but does match a colonist surname.  Unless they are from Eastern NC, they are very unlikely to know about the Lost Colony, or the Lost Colony project, and these people may well escape our notice, even though they may hold a very big clue as to the fate of the colonists.  In the genetic world, the situation where a person does not genetically match his surname line is called a non-paternal event.  I prefer to call them undocumented adoptions.

Why is genealogy important?

In our project, genealogy in two locations is very important for different reasons.

English genealogy is important in order for us to establish the identity of the colonist families. Once we can determine who the families were, we can discover whether anyone from that family line has tested, and if not, attempt to find a candidate.  We need to know who the colonists were in order to know if people here matching those surnames are matching the colonist family.  

We have an ongoing project with both Andy Powell and Nancy Frey who are both very focused on tracking down our English colonists.  While we have some very compelling tidbits today, we don't yet have both a confirmed genealogy and a confirmed genetic test from that family line.  The problem is that the colonists sold everything in order to be a part of the Lost Colony, so when they were declared dead, or at least Ananias Dare was, in 1594, we have only been able to find one person with any estate to be probated.  Ananias had a son, John, in England and apparently some property or holdings there as well, and John had a guardian established to protect his estate interest.  Of course, tracking John Dare forward in time, and being able to prove that people descended from this John Dare is another challenge altogether, and not something we've yet been able to do.  

For these types of situations, surname projects are particularly helpful as the volunteer administrators tend to know a lot about the various family lines and can often be very helpful.  That is certainly the case with the Dare family.  

Genealogy in the states is equally as important in order to establish that the person in question was indeed found in the correct proximity to have been a colonist descendant.  If not a colonist descendant, then at least a descendant of an individual from very early NC or Virginia, so associated with the early adventurer families who have shown they were likely to engage in that type of exploration and settlement. Often it's the genealogy and DNA of these families that connects them genetically to the correct English family.


How do we know a Native Durant from an English Durant?

The situation we have in early NC is that we have both Native and English individuals with the same surnames, and we have to be able to tell them apart.

Often we can track English people on their journey from Virginia to North Carolina.  In the case of the Farrow family, we find three records that are compelling and tell much more than the records themselves.  

Oral history on Hatteras Island is that Francis Farrow was native, but he was not.  We find a record that Francis Farrow bound himself at age 16 in 1683 to sail from Middlesex County England to Maryland.  Then, in 1696, we find another record of Francis in old Albemarle precinct in North Carolina and in 1706 in Old Bath County.  Albemarle was the first area to be settled and was settled almost exclusively by Virginians.   

In 1716, Francis obtains a land grant on Hatteras Island.  He dies in 1721, leaves a will in which he leaves items to numerous individuals, but maddenly, does not directly identify his children.  Based on what we do know about Francis, he was born about 1667.  His wife Barbery in his will was given both real and personal estate and was made executor, all of which would have been illegal at that time if she were Native or a "person of color".  Furthermore, we know that the mother of Francis' children would have been married to Francis long before he arrived on Hatteras Island, just 5 years before his death.  We don't know who Francis's two proven sons married, and they may have married a Native person or mixed Native person from Hatteras Island, but Francis did not live on Hatteras Island when his children were being born, so his wife was not Native (based on the will) and not from Hatteras Island.  

But let's say we have a John Farrow who is found on Hatteras Island in the early1800s.  We can't connect him to the Francis Farrow line, who has now had several generations to expand, but of course, with the surname Farrow, we assume that John descends from the Francis Farrow line.  However, given what we know about the way Native people adopted surnames, that might just not be true.  Perhaps John Farrow was Native or his ancestors were, and the family adopted the Farrow surname.  The only way to sort this out is through DNA testing.  

If a proven male descendant of Francis Farrow tests, we have a good idea of the genetic pattern of the Farrow family.  If a second male from a second son of Francis tests and matches the first (or closely), then we have a confirmation of what the genetic Y chromosome of Francis Farrow looked like.  If these folks match other Farrow or similar surnames in England or elsewhere in the British Isles, it tells us where the Farrow family originates.  

Let's say John Farrow's proven descendants test as well.  If they match the Francis line, then end of discussion.  But let's say instead that John's descendants carry Native DNA.  At this point, it doesn't give us any information about the colonists, but it would provide us with information about the DNA of the Hatteras tribe, a wonderful gift.  If John 's descendant doesn't match the Farrow line, isn't Native, but does match a colonist certainly raises the possibility that John is "Native", but through the colonists that assimilated into the Hatteras tribe.   

This is why it's important, especially in areas known to have been the home to a strong Native population to test every line possible.  We don't really know what will be found until the testing is done.

How do we put the pieces together?

Obviously there are a lot of pieces to this puzzle.  In order to positively find the colonists, various pieces of research must come together including:

·        English genealogy

·        North Carolina/Virginia genealogy

·        Historical Research

·        Genetic testing  

Not only do these very general topics need focus, but within them, there are well over a hundred surnames.  We obviously cannot do this work alone.   

Our website is how we've chosen to make available the information that is contributed by various family researchers as well as our own.  We don't have the answers to this puzzle yet, but there is a lot of valuable information to learn along the way.

How do I use the website as a resource?

First, there is a site map here where you can see everything on the site.  I use this often, as I can't remember where things are.  

There is also a site search on the home page that is extremely useful:  

I write newsletters monthly.  These are actually more in the form of a journal, as they contain original research performed by our volunteer staff as well as a large number of contributed items and research.  Nelda, our webmistress, has linked these by article for easy access.  This is how you follow along as to our current research and where we are focused, as well as our Yahoo group.  

There are two surname links.  The first is alphabetical and clicking on those surnames connects you to any research we may have about the surname.  

The second surname link, which is "Surnames, why we use them", provides the surnames associated with the voyages or if they are a surname of interest, meaning they were not a colonist surname or on a related voyage, but they are either from Hatteras Island or suspected of or known to be Native.  

The link beside the surname provides a link to the surname research itself.  If there's nothing much listed for your surname, please contribute information.  

For example, I'm showing Dare below.  This link takes you to any information we have about the Dare surname genealogically.  There is often a wealth of information under these links, as it is where we "store" our research.

In the case of Dare, there are several printed items.  Then, scrolling down, there is an informational menu that is present for every surname. On this menu we find the following selections:

·        Dare Family Association

·        Dare Parish Records (England)

·        Dare Wills (England)

·        Dare Timeline

·        Extracted records from the IGI in England

·        Extracted records from the IGI in Ireland

·        William Powell's Dare Records

·        Dare English Demography

·        Dare Court Records

·        Dare Family Timeline (contributed)

·        Genealogy Records

The genealogy records take you to the genealogy information provided by every individual who is a member of the project.  This is why we ask each person to complete a genealogy form.  Here's the info provided by our Dare participant:  

If you want to access this information alphabetically, click on the "Surname Research" link and it will take you to the same menu as the "Surnames by Voyage" above.  

If you want to look at the various DNA projects at Family Tree DNA, click on the project links.  When arriving at their web page, you can read about the group or click on the Y-DNA results.  

This is available for any of our surname projects.  

If you are interested in the DNA or associated genealogy having to do with any particular surname or DNA tests, click on either the mtDNA kit numbers link at, or the YDNA kit numbers link at and you can use your browser's search function to find any surname in our projects.   

The mitochondrial kits are listed by their ancestral surnames.  Some individuals have not provided their genealogical information.  I'm working on gathering this information.  Our policy for the past several years has been that until a participant provides their genealogy info, they join request does not get approved.   

If you're interested in historical documents or research, you can click on "Publications" to find articles, academic publications and tools for you to use in your research.  

The "Research Materials" link provides a number of resources and links for your use, primarily in genealogy research.  

Heinegg Extractions is another type of research on early free people of color.  

On the site map, there are several area of interest.  

The "History of the North American Continent" hold many files and articles of interest including the sale of Roanoke Island in 1669.   

The "County Research Information Files" contains various county information, both in NC and in England.  

The "Early Land Grant Files" are just that.  

"Maps and Articles" is one of our richest historical sections.  The original Zuniga map showing the purported locations of colonist survivors according to the Jamestown settlers is here along with the Hatteras Place Names map created and contributed by Baylus Brooks.   

"Native Americans, Slaves and Free Persons of Color" is another very rich section. 

"Genealogy Research Source Files" includes all kinds of links and helpful articles, including the "5 Quick Steps to Genealogy Success".  

The next two sections are "Primary and Secondary Research Documents".  The secondary documents are generally transcriptions of primary documents.  These are the original documents we work with daily to understand the life and potential fate of the colonists including the original ships journals.  

A very under-utilized resource is the "My Interest List" where individuals sign up to be listed with the surnames they are interested in.  Take a look and sign up for your surnames.


The Bottom Line

Solving the question of whether the colonists survived or not is a difficult challenge.  Aside from the ongoing research I've discussed, we are also sponsoring archaeological excavations.  April 2011 marks the fourth expedition.  If we continue to research historically and genealogically, DNA test as appropriate and work with the archaeological finds, we hope to eventually solve the mystery of the Lost Colony.  We need everyone to contribute in whatever way they can to the cause.  DNA testing and contributing genealogy and surname information is of primary importance.


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The Lost Colony Research Group is in NO WAY affiliated with The Lost Colony Center for Science and Research.  The Lost Colony Y-DNA and MT-DNA projects at Family Tree DNA are NOT IN ANY WAY  affiliated with The Lost Colony Center for Science and Research, regardless of what their links imply.


"Please notify us of any claims to the contrary."


There is no fee to join our group and no donation of monies or objects are needed to participate in "The Lost Colony Research Group".


As with any DNA project, individuals pay for their own DNA testing, but the
group itself  - is strictly volunteer and free to join, upon approval of membership.


Neither, myself, nor the Lost Colony Research Group together or individually are  responsible for the personal content submitted by any individual to this website.


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Copyright © 2008 Last modified: January 05, 2012



The art work on this website is my (Nelda L. Percival) original art work and has not been released to any person or organization other then for the use of Lost Colony Research Group and the store front owned by the same. My art work has never been part of the Lost Colony Center for Science and Research's property. My art used here and at the store front was drawn precisely for the projects run by Roberta Estes and ownership has not been otherwise released. This project also uses the artwork of Dr. Ana Oquendo Pabon, the copyright to which she has retained as well. Other art works are the copyrights of the originators and may not be copied without their permission.
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