Friday, July 3, 2009

Proving Your Native American Heritage with DNA

Successfully Using Y-Line, Mitochondrial and Autosomal DNA Results

Written by MHS Board Member Roberta Estes , Copyright 2007-2009
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Many American families carry oral histories of Native American heritage. Most often, we think of either the Western tribes who still reside in or near their indigenous homes, or the Cherokee who were displaced in the 1830s, forced to march from Appalachia to Oklahoma in the dead of winter, an event subsequently known as the Trail of Tears.

In truth, the history of Native American heritage in North America is much, much more complex. It is probable that many of the people who carry oral history of “Cherokee heritage” are actually descended from a tribe other than the Cherokee initially. The Cherokee were well known for accepting remnants of other tribes whose members and numbers had been decimated by disease or war. Sometimes these alliances were created for mutual protection.

The Cherokees were not the only tribe in the Eastern United States. The Eastern seaboard was widely populated by varying tribes, some related and affiliated, and some not. There were in fact three major language groupings, Algonquin, Souian and Iroquoian scattered throughout the Eastern seaboard northward into Canada, westward to Appalachia and south to the Gulf of Mexico.

People from Africa were also imported very early, often, but not always, as slaves. Jamestown shows evidence of individuals of African heritage. Those who were later brought specifically as slaves sometimes ran away, escaping into the Native population. Conversely, Indians were often taken or sold by defeating tribes into slavery as well.

In the early years of settlement, European women were scarce. Some men immigrated with wives and families, but most did not, and few women came alone. Therefore, with nature taking its course, it is not unreasonable to surmise that many of the early settlers traded with, worked alongside and married into indigenous families, especially immigrants who were not wealthy. Wealthy individuals traveled back and forth across the Atlantic and could bring a bride on a subsequent journey.

Further complicating matters, there were numerous “lost” individuals of varying ethnicity in the very early years of colonization. Specifically, Juan Pardo established forts in many southern states from Florida to Tennessee and back to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean beginning in 1566. In 1540, deSoto ventured all the way across the South to the Mississippi, northwards as far as Tennessee, introducing the Indians along the way to Spanish savagery.

The Spanish settled Florida and explored the interior beginning in 1521, settling Santa Elena Island in present day South Carolina from 1566-1576. Their forays extended as far North as present day East Tennessee. In 1569, 3 English men arrived in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia having set out on foot with 100 men 4000 miles earlier in Tampico, Mexico. The notorious Capt. Drake rescued and subsequently possibly released 400-500 or more African, Portuguese and Moor galley slaves likely on or near Roanoke Island in North Carolina in 1586. [For a very different and well-researched view of the likelihood of this having actually occurred: Click Here.] These individuals are in addition to the well-known Lost Colony of Roanoke, and the less well-known earlier military expeditions on which several individuals were “lost” or left behind.

What does this mean to the family historian who is trying to prove their genealogy and understand better just who they are and where they come from?

To continue reading this very informative article: Click Here.

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