Lost Colony DNA Project
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The Lost Colony of Roanoke DNA Project was founded by a group led by Roberta Estes in 2007 in order to solve the mystery of the Lost Colony of Roanoke using historical records, migration patterns, oral histories and DNA testing.
In 1587, Sir Walter Raleigh sent out over 117 men, women, and children to establish the City of Raleigh on Roanoke Island in present day North Carolina as the first English colony in the New World. The vessel sailed to England three weeks later with the colony's Governor, John White, to obtain desperately needed supplies, but it was unable to return until 1590. When the supply ship finally returned, the colony was gone, apparently not destroyed, but removed. The only clue was the word "Croatoan" carved into a tree.
John White, whose daughter, son-in-law, and grandchild Virginia Dare, were among the colonists, believed this message meant they had gone to Croatoan Island where their friend Manteo was Chief of the Indians. Some historians say they perished, but clues and rumors persisted for decades that they did not, that they were either captured by or assimilated into the native population. The Lost Colony of Roanoke DNA Project seeks to discover whether the colonists perished or survived as part of the indigenous culture.
DNA project plan
The project plan includes the following steps:
- Locate and test individuals closely associated with local families whose history implies they are of Native American ancestry, specifically those who lived on the land that is historically associated with Native villages where the colonists would have located.
- Perform DNA testing descendants of these early inhabitants to determine whether their deep ancestry indicates Native American or Indo-European origins.
- Work with administrators of the DNA surname project to determine whether English families of surnames matching those of the Lost Colonists have already been DNA tested.
- Connect English families of the same surname to Lost Colonists genealogically.
- Using DNA, genealogy and history, attempt to connect living descendants to colonists and local Native American tribes.
- Certify the genealogy of those believed to be connected to the Lost Colony.
- Reconstruct families of interest using DNA results and genealogy.
- Track population migration using DNA to discover what happened to the colonists and the native population, who their descendants are, and where they live today.
- After development of the above data base, perform DNA testing of archaeologically excavated skeletal remains to determine who they match.
Types of DNA testing
The Lost Colony of Roanoke DNA Project uses the following types of DNA tests:
Y chromosome DNA Testing follows the paternal ancestral line. The paternal line follows the surname. The Y chromosome is passed from father to son, so this kind of testing is conducive to surname projects. This type of testing will be used with those believed to be descendants of those whose surnames are of interest to this project. This type of testing not only links people genealogically, but can indicate individuals of Native American and African ancestry.
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) testing follows the maternal line and has long been used to track patterns of human migration. It was originally believed that only women pass their mtDNA to their children of both sexes. It has since been proven that paternal transmission of mtDNA does very rarely occur in human beings. It is possible that knowledge of paternal mtDNA was not available when this project was first started; in any case paternal mtDNA transmission is extremely rare and highly unlikely to affect tests except when the sample size is unduly small. Mitochondrial DNA is also usually the last surviving DNA, because it is present in larger amounts than nuclear DNA, and so it would likely be the type of testing to use on the skeletons most likely to yield robust results.
Autosomal DNA testing is different from yline and mtDNA. Autosomal DNA is the DNA where offspring receive 50% from each parent (as opposed to yline and mtDNA where there is no DNA from the other parent involved). Because of this 50% mixture rate from each generation, autosomal DNA testing today is not reliably relevant for genealogical testing. The data bases available for autosomal comparison for genealogical purposes are not yet mature. The Lost Colony DNA Project is not actively pursuing autosomal testing, but will include those tests in its records for those who have already been individually tested.
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- A Land as God Made It by James Horn Copyright 2005
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- Woman hunts for secrets of the lost colony Daily Press & Argus, Livingston, MI, July 17, 2007
- Diggers Search for Lost Colony Clues The Coastland Times, Outer Banks, NC 07/11/06
- Researchers seeking DNA link to fate of Lost Colony, The Associated Press, June 12, 2007
- Research Group seeks local DNA to help solve mystery of Lost Colony, The Enterprise, Williamston, NC, July 12, 2007
- Team hopes DNA is clue to Lost Colony mystery, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, VA, June 11, 2007
- Lost Colony: Can a New Dig Solve The Mystery?
- DNA Used in Search for Lost Colony
- Old Mystery May be Solved by Brighton DNA Expert
- Lost Colony Research Group
- Researchers Search for Lost Colonists