Blackwater Swamp

blackwater-swampI WAS ABLE to get a hold of Pocahontas’s People, Helen Rountree’s 1990 book on the Powhatan Indians of Virginia. This is a highly influential book, because in it she creates the narrative of the “Christianized Nansemond” (in reality, the extended Bass family), and the traditionalist Nansemond, also called the “Pochick.”

The link between the “Pochick Nansemond” and the “Christianized Nansemond” is rather key in establishing the link between the Native people of Hertford County and Norfolk County. For those who use surnames as tags, there was a definite flow of people between these sites. Names like Weaver, Hall, and Nickens, are found in both locations.

At the same time, I wanted to see the original source material on which Rountree based her narrative. In this 1707 deposition of local planter Benjamin Harrison, it is made clear that the Pochicks and the Nansemond are the same people.

1707 1

I find this fascinating because it shows that Tuscarora were also in the Chowan River area in 1707. This is four years before the Tuscarora War. It gives the location of the last settlement of the Wyanoke Indians as being in the Blackwater Swamp. There is actually a place called Wyanoke in the general area of this last settlement. I have yet to visit it. I have been to the Sandbanks, just south of that area. It is wild and remote to this day. Apparently, it was the site of some pretty brutal turf wars among refugee Indians.

wyanoke

So here we have, in a 1707 document, information that shows that the Pochick and Nansemond were the same people. The Nansemond Indians of this region later had surnames like Turner and Rogers, the names found on the sale of their reservation in 1786. Recall that the name Turner was also found at Princess Anne County linked to the Poteskeet or Yeopim Indians. It’s these kinds of connections that show the real link between the Hertford and Norfolk Indians was between the “Pochick” and “Poteskeet.”

As such, one might claim that the Nansemond, Pochick, Poteskeet, and Yeopim, were all, more or less, the same group of Indians. They had also allied themselves with the Nottoway, Meherrin, and Tuscarora, which, as it seems, was a pretty smart thing to do. Unless you wanted to wind up like the Wyanoke. There was some more interesting information packed in those 1707 depositions related to the border question.

1707 4

This is related to the incursion of the Meherrin Indians, Iroquoian speakers from Virginia, into the Meherrin River area. It states that that area where they settled, on the west bank of the Chowan River, “a long time before the memory of man … in ye right full possession of the Chowanohs Indians, by virtue of a grant from the Yampims Indians and no other Indians (as plainly appears by Successive Treaties of that nation).”

This shows that the Yeopim-Poteskeet-Pochick-Nansemond people had allowed the Chowanoke to settle in the river basin that to this day bears their name, at some point in the past. It lends a bit more evidence to my theory that the Yeopim & associated nations, were Wabanaki people, kin to the Wampanoag of Massachusetts and Abenaki of Maine, and originally settled this part of North Carolina and Virginia, and that the Chowanokes were actually Shawnee people who had arrived to the area at some later date.

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Whither the Pretendians?

ShilohBaptistChurcheditedhistory3

Shiloh Baptist Church, Camden County, North Carolina – 1895

 

THIS TOPIC is in the air, so I might as well address it. It so happens that a great many people in the US claim to be descended from indigenous people, and some maintain this as their primary identity or outlook.

This is opposed to people who grew up in native communities and had no way around it. If there is one thing I have learned in my 38+ years on this planet is that identity is not only something you choose for yourself, but something that is assigned to you.

This was part of the process of becoming an Italian-American, for me. The awkward questions about having some connection to organized crime, or having your name mispronounced. Understanding that for most of America, the Easter holiday does not mean a food-induced coma brought on by steaming heaps of manicotti and braciole.

Actually, I have no idea what the rest of America eats on Easter.

There is of course great pride in being an Italian. Yet there is also shame. I noticed that when Silvio Berlusconi was prime minister of Italy, I felt ashamed of him. Others laughed at his behavior, but I felt personally ashamed, because I knew that, in some way, he was connected to me. I imagine native people similarly grapple with the problems in their communities. There is no way around these things. You take the good and the bad.

The ‘pretendians,’ as I understand it, are a different category of people. These are people who, upon discovering some native ancestry, undergo a complete makeover in identity.  Maybe they join the American Indian Movement, or start trading in handcrafted fidget spinners. For me, doing what I do out of a genuine, personal interest in the history of a swampy region where one quarter of my ancestors eked out a living for at least 300+ years, the idea of completely changing my identity from what it has always been to something else has not yet occurred to me. It’s not in the cards. At the same time I refuse to challenge anyone else’s identity because I do not believe it is my place to do so.

Everyone has the right to explore the story of their own family, a family that is actually connected first to them before it is connected to anyone else. As an aside, I will say the burden of “proof” on Native Americans is extremely high. Both my mother and I have 2 percent South Indian ancestry. That is, ancestry from the Indian subcontinent. This apparently arrived via my maternal grandfather’s family, which was Italian, the Y haplogroup of which, L2A, is found in Pakistan and India. I don’t think anyone would dispute this, because it is generally accepted that southern Italy was a melting pot of refugees from the Middle East and elsewhere. Yet, by the same token, my grandmother’s Amerindian/Siberian ancestry result is treated with far more skepticism.

This is because it challenges two myths. One, there was no intermarriage between Europeans and Native Americans in the colonial period in North Carolina. Two, all the Carolina Native Americans died out, left to join the Iroquois or other nations, or married Africans and “became black.” The second myth has been pushed by Paul Heinegg of Free African Americans in particular.  DNA results and claims of ancestry therefore challenge these powerful myths. No one wants to reassess history to actually provide an accurate representation of history. They really want to cling to their stories of what happened.

None of this flies with the actual histories of people in this region. I included in my post a photo of the Shiloh Baptist Church congregation from Camden County, North Carolina. Most scholars agree that the Yeopim people, whose reservation bordered this settlement, assimilated into the local European and African populations. Among these families were the Brays and the Sawyers. I have posted photos of these people on this site before.

Carolina Faces

Yet if a descendant of these families was to raise their hands and say, “We have Native ancestry,” they might get called out as “fakes,” or dismissed as “Pretendians.” Which is actually beside the point. There’s a difference between reassessing your own family history and adopting a new identity or outlook, and then espousing that perspective in public.

To sum up, my interest here is incredibly myopic. I’m not here to join AIM or talk about Elizabeth Warren, or whatever. I want to find out more about the Yeopim, the Chowanoke, and the Tuscarora. I want to learn more about the British settlers, and the refugee Africans. I want to learn more about the flat, hot, sometimes wretched, sometimes beautiful corner of North Carolina that my grandmother came from. She did send me home with a bag full of cornbread every time I saw her. I didn’t always eat it all. Now that she’s gone though, when I get some cornbread in my hands, I devour that stuff.

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Algonquian Families

1729 mapWHEN I WAS DOING my own family’s genealogy, I started to look into what researchers call ‘collateral lines,’ other branches of the family, to see into what families the siblings and cousins of my ancestors married.

I was surprised to see that even though my grandmother’s family was living on the other side of the Great Dismal Swamp, on the border of Suffolk, Virginia, and Gates County, North Carolina, they continued to marry into families from Camden County and Currituck County, North Carolina, as well as Norfolk County, Virginia, and Princess Anne County, Virginia.

This was of interest to me, because one of my main theories is that even though Indian groups disbanded as ‘nations’ and married into European and African communities, they retained their kinship groups, which is why you find the same families orbiting indigenous sites from Bennetts Creek to Mattamuskeet. Geographically, it’s hard to grasp why someone would travel across the Great Dismal Swamp, or down to Lake Mattamuskeet for that matter, to find a spouse. But if the Collinses of Gates County had deep kinship links to, in our case, the Weavers, Sawyers, and Doziers of the old Yeopim and Poteskeet areas, then these marriages make more sense. The Indian identities had been submerged by the Anglo colonial culture, but the family links remained.

This is why I call these “Algonquian families.” Not because they were still practicing coastal Algonquian culture into the 19th century, but because to understand their trajectories as families, you have to familiarize yourself with the remaining indigenous communities in the region, which had various Algonquian names — Chowan, Yeopim, Poteskeet, Mattamuskeet. Then you know where to look for different families. This is how I found men with the same name as my ancestor — Graham Collins, whose family was living near the Chowanoke Reservation — at the site of the Mattamuskeet Town.

At this point, I think there was also an Algonquian component at the Tuscarora Reservation at Indian Woods in Bertie County, North Carolina. Most scholars agree on this. I have noticed that many of my DNA matches with indigenous ancestry descend from the Pierce and Butler families from the Indian Woods areas. Both of these families have been cited as being Indian in various studies — The Mattamuskeet Documents, for instance — yet neither appears on the deeds related to the Indian Woods Reservation. Perhaps they were not on the deeds because they were not Tuscarora. That is a guess. Not the truth, so far.

I think one of the reasons that Algonquian kinship groups survived is not because Indian culture was so strong, but because the British or African cultures were so fragmented and weak. Much of the British settlers had come from places like Wales or Scotland, and were joined by French Protestants in the swamps. There was no centuries-old family structure to cling to. The common denominator for Anglo families was land ownership. Yet if they were squatters or poor farmers, this too became a rather tenuous social link.

Owing to the swampy climate, there never developed here a large plantation economy, which meant that in the colonial era, there was not a large, localized African population that could sustain a specific African-American culture. Also, given the nature of the terrain, immigrants were forced to live, in part, as Indians. William Byrd observed as much in his Histories of the Dividing Line betwixt Virginia and North Carolina.

The Men, for their Parts, just like the Indians, impose all the Work upon the poor Women. They make their Wives rise out of their Beds early in the Morning, at the same time that they lye and Snore, till the Sun has run one third of his course, and disperst all the unwholesome Damps. Then, after Stretching and Yawning for half an Hour, they light their Pipes, and, under the Protection of a cloud of Smoak, venture out into the open Air

It reminds me of the possessions listed in the 1791 estate file of my ancestor George Russell. A gun. A side of bacon. Beehives kept on the properties of two wealthier local men. In that environment, the survival of Indian kinship groups makes a lot more sense.

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‘Where It Divides in Two’

currituckCOLONIAL RECORDS are packed with references to different Native American groups, often named according to their place of residence. Modern-day narratives take these fragments and construct trajectories for people based on land deeds, surnames, and tenuous links afforded in old records. This is much of the science behind previous work on some indigenous people living on the Currituck Banks referred to as the Poteskeet.

I have seen a few articles and papers that specifically address the Poteskeet people. One, authored by Jay Hansford C. Vest attempts to link the coastal indigenous people of the Currituck Banks to the Siouan Monacan people of the Virginia Piedmont via some consolidation of stray Nansemond, a band sometimes call “Pochayick” or “Pochick” at Fort Christanna. Another, by Penny Ferguson, links the “Poteskeet” and “Pochayick” to the “Portugee” of the Melungeon settlements in Tennessee.

A third, by Whitney Petrey, shows using records that the Poteskeet of the Currituck Banks and the Yeopim people of Camden County were the same, as people calling themselves Yeopim sold land to William Reed in Currituck, and these same people involved in that sale were described as Poteskeet in other records.

I would suggest Petrey is right, in that the Pochick/Poteskeet were actually a band of Yeopim that originated in the Currituck Banks area, the same way the Wampanoag of Massachusetts included bands at Nantucket, Aquinnah, Mashpee, or Nauset. These bands are now known as the Mashpee Wampanoag, the Aquinnah Wampanoag, and so forth.

Similarly, there were likely Poteskeet Yeopim, Paspatank Yeopim, etc. They were all one people, Wabanaki/Wampanoag/Weapemeoc — “People of the Dawn Land” — with different bands named after locations.

Given the similarities between the New England Algonquians and the Carolina Algonquians, it makes sense that they might have had a similar affiliation. The meaning of the names “Poteskeet” and “Pochayick,” shortened to “Pochick,” might be linked to the Natick Algonquian word pohshaog, “where they divide in two.”

There is a reef off Nantucket called Pochick because of this, as well as a bluff in Siasconset on the same island, and an avenue in Nantucket. As such, the “Pochick” and “Poteskeet” were probably just more Wabanaki, coastal Algonquian peoples, from the place “where the land divides in two,” the Currituck Banks.

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Cate Collins, an Indian woman

Cate Collins

THE NAME COLLINS is not listed on any of the deeds associated with the Mattamuskeet Indian Reservation in Hyde County, North Carolina, such as Squires, Barber, Mackey, and Longtom. However, in March 1765, a woman named Cate Collins made an appearance in the Hyde County court minutes.

On motion Patrick Gordan ordered that William Gibbs be summoned to next court to shew cause if any he has why Cate Collings an Indian woman now in his service should not be set free.

In June 1765, there was another mention of this Indian woman.

Ordered that William Gibbs have timely notis [sic] that he shew cause why Cate Collins an Indian woman be not set at liberty.

I was curious as to where William Gibbs was living at the time he had Cate Collins as his servant. Apparently, they were living at Indian Ridge in Mattamuskeet, in the vicinity of the Indian settlement there. Patrick Garrow, in The Mattamuskeet Documents (1975), also noted that the Collins name was absent from the reservation deeds and speculated that the family might have originated on the Outer Banks before moving to Mattamuskeet, suggesting an origin at Hatteras or Roanoke Island. This family remained at Mattamuskeet, and many people of Indian ancestry probably descend from Cate Collins.

However, this was not the only instance of people with this surname being referred to as Indian in records. The Norfolk County Register of Free Negroes and Mulattoes contains the following references:

Douglass Collins, 23 yrs, 5 ft 11-3/4, Indian complexion, Indian descent, 16 Sept. 1850

Douglas Collins’ full name was Presley Douglas Collins. He descended from Kinner Shoecraft Collins, who left a will in Princess Anne County, Virginia, in 1823. Later, as I have shown, he moved to Pennsylvania, where he was counted as Indian in 1860, and white in 1870. Kinner Shoecraft Collins named six children in his will. These were Presley, perhaps the father of Presley Douglas Collins, William Collins, Cary Collins, Patsy Newton, Lucy Turner, and Sarah Collins.

Kinner Collins’ land, I should note, was located along Indian Creek Road in Saint Brides Parish in Norfolk, which also runs into the southern limits of Princess Anne County.

William Collins was probably the father of the William Collins who was listed in the Norfolk County Register of Free Negroes and Mulattoes as a “light mulatto” in 1831. This is the same William Collins who married Jane Bissell and moved to Hertford County, North Carolina. Jane was also from a family that was recorded as Indian. The same Norfolk registry in 1851 listed the following:

Nathan Bissell, 23 yrs, 5 ft 4, Indian complexion, Indian descent, 22 April 1851

Their son John Bembry Collins also listed himself and his family as Indian in 1900:

The family of Cary Collins also retained an Indian identity. Descendants of Cary Collins were included in the 1907 Smithsonian “census” of the Nansemond Indians.

This is interesting as when the BIA reviewed the Meherrin’s application, they stated that there was no evidence to support John Bembry Collins’ claim of Indian descent in 1900. This is clearly not the case. There is ample evidence to support it.

However, the Collins family did not originate at Meherrin Indian Town on the Potecasi in Hertford County, nor at Chowan Indian Town in Gates County. Moreover, it is not listed in early documents with the Bass family, the so-called “Christianized Nansemond” who recently received federal recognition.

Rather, Garrow might have been correct in assuming the family originated on the islands.  These two deeds in Currituck show a man named Thomas Collins appointing Nicholas Lund as his representative to sell land on the Outer Banks, specifically at the “North Banks,” roughly the location of Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.

[Deed Book 3, pg. 5] Thos. COLLINS to Nickles LUND. Jan. 22, 1738/9. Thos. COLLINS of the precinct of Pasquotank power of attorney to Nicklas LUND to appear at next court in Currituck and “acknowledge in my Name one certain parcell of Land called Rowly park lying on the North Banks”. /s/ Thos. (x) COLLINS. Wit: Robert (x) PAUL. Proved April 3, 1739. Registered Sept. 25, 1739.

[Deed Book 3, pgs. 5-6] Thos. COLLINS to Joseph MIDYETT. Jan. 19, 1738. Thos. COLLINS of the precinct of Pasquotank…planter…£50. Land…on the North Sand Banks…Beginning at the Southern line or creek & N.E. to John ARESES line…150 acres. /s/ Thos. (x) COLLINS. Wit: Nichlas LUND, Robert (x) PAUL. Acknowledged April 3, 1739. Registered June 28, 1739.

The land he deeded was known as “Rowsepock,” the Indian name for Kill Devil Hills. Thomas Collins meantime had become a “planter” in Pasquotank County, which then also included modern-day Camden County. He also signed with a mark. It is unclear how this Thomas Collins obtained land on the North Sand Banks. While he is not referred to as an Indian, he shares the surname of people later identified as Indian in the same area.  It is also important to note that those same people were often not described as any race. They were likely of mixed European ancestry as well, as both Kinner Collins and his grandson Douglas Collins were recorded at times as white. Moreover, I can find no deed in Princess Anne County or Currituck County that mentioned the granting of this land.

Where did he get the land from?

There was a Collins family that later lived at Indian Ridge in Currituck County, in the vicinity of Yeopim-associated families like the Ferebees, Gregorys, and others.

A woman named Euphan Collins paid 5 pounds for a parcel of land on the border owned by William Reed and his wife Lucy of Princess Anne County in 1782.

Nov. 10, 1782 – William REED & his wife Loosey (Lucy) of Princess Anne County Virginia for and in consideration of the sum of 5 Pounds paid to us by Euphan COLLINS for a percel of land adjoining the province line of North Carolina various courses to the first beginning. Witness: William MULDER, Willoughby READ, Malachi READ; Registered May 21, 1783

Euphan Collins apparently married Butler Turner, who was listed in the 1787 Princess Anne Personal Property List, along with the Weavers and Shoecrafts, as well as Kinner Collins and his son Cary Collins.

Nov. 29, 1788 – I Butler TURNER & Euphan my Wife of Princess Anne County Virginia for the sum of £5 paid to us by William REED for a tract of land adjoining the province line of North Carolina various courses to the first beginning.  Witness Ked. MULDER, Malachi READ, Archalous MORSE; Registered Aug. 13, 1789

The Turners are listed as “other free” in the early Currituck County censuses. This is another surname that is found spread among the Algonquian-descended people of the coasts. The name is found on the 1786 sale of Nansemond Indian Reservation in Southampton County, Virginia, as well as at the Nottoway Indian Reservation.

In the aforementioned Norfolk register, one finds the following record:

Mary Turner, 42 yrs, 5 & 1/2, a bright Indian complexion, Indian descent, 15 Sept. 1851

So apparently the Collinses and Turners living on both sides of the border in Princess Anne and Currituck were of Indian descent. This provides some evidence that the Collins family found across the region had its origin in the coastal borderlands between Virginia and North Carolina, which was originally populated by the Nansemond and Yeopim.

I also descend from this family. My ancestor Thomas Collins is named on this will in Norfolk County from 1803, along with Stephen Price, another Nansemond/Yeopim man. The same year, he witnessed the transfer of 10 acres to Sarah Butler in Gates County.

ellis will

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Thomas Bennett, an old Indian man

YawpimTHE NAME BENNETT appears on multiple documents related to Native Americans in northeastern North Carolina. These include the following:

  • James Bennett, on the Chowan Indian land conveyances in 1733-1734
  • George and Josiah Bennett, described as Indian boys in Gates County apprenticeships in 1781
  • George and Joseph Bennett, described as “chief men and representatives of the Chowan Indians” in the 1790 sale of reservation land in Gates County in 1790
  • Billy Bennett, described as a Tuscarora chief in a 1766 letter to William Tryon

To this list can be added “Thomas Bennett, an old Indian man,” described in the following 1810 deed in Currituck County.

May 31, 1810 – I Caleb ETHERIDGE Sheriff by Writ of Fieri Facias issued out of the Court of Pleas & Quarter Session commanding me out of the goods, chattles & lands of Pleasant YOUNGHUSBAND to cause the sum of £120 with interest which was recovered by Lessdid YOUNGHUSBAND againgst him for damages also the sum of £5, 18 Shillings & 4 Pence for cost. In obedience of Writ I took into possession a tract of land which Pleasant YOUNGHUSBAND claimed on Powels Point. Beginning at Thomas WHITE land adjoining Charles GRIGGS land various courses to the land formerly belonged to Thomas BENNETT an old Indian man to the first, being the land that Thomas YOUNGHUSBAND bought of Jonathan CASE containing 50 acres. After legal notice land was exposed for sale when John WILLIAMS SEN. appeared & bid the sum of 8 Shillings per acre & was highest bid. By virtue of Writ & the sum of £22 in hand paid by John WILLIAMS SEN. I Caleb ETHERIDGE Sheriff doth convey & grant unto him the said property.  Witness: T. BAXTER, Thos. WILLIAMS; Registered Aug. 20, 1810

I decided to highlight Jonathan Case’s name in addition to Thomas Bennett’s, because in the 1790 US Federal Census of Currituck County, Thomas Bennett and Joseph Case are listed side by side.

bennett

Thomas Bennett’s name is mentioned in other deeds, yet this is the only one that specifically identifies him as Indian. He was living at Powells Point, an area that was inhabited by the “Poteskite Indians” on the 1733 Moseley Map. Families mentioned in the other deeds, such as Griggs, Ferebee, Gregory, Case, and Bright, were all found around the old Yawpim Indian Town, also depicted on the 1733 map. So here we have one family, the Bennetts, that are described as Tuscarora and Chowan in records, and are found at sites occupied by the  Yawpim and Potoskite Indians.

Interestingly, Thomas Bennett and Joseph Case are listed as white in the 1790 census, but Rachel Bennett, who is listed with Joseph Case in this 1805 Currituck deed is categorized as “other free” in the 1800 census of Currituck, as is Joseph Case.

Just another friendly reminder that those racial categories are often meaningless.

[Deed Book 9; pg. 63-64] Mar. 4, 1805 – Benjamin TAYLOR, SEN. to Charles GRIGGS, both of Currituck, for 1800 silver dollars, land in Currktuck County beginning on the North River Swamp and bounded by where Silbey BARCO now lives, Hadley WOODHOUSE, Rachel BENNETT , Joseph CASE, YOUNGHUSBAND. “To land Formerly owned by Sarah SMITH”. Bounded also by Thos. WHITEs land.  Witness Thomas POYNER; Registered July 2, 1805.

 

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A quick one

I’LL MAKE THIS BRIEF. One of the most frequent questions that people, particularly of mostly European descent, have about their admixture results is where their purported Native American ancestry disappeared to. Some actually have documented ancestors, some are enrolled members of tribes. I’ve seen the results of people from Virginia tribes that show almost 100 percent European ancestry. Where did it go?

This came to the fore recently because I received back my grandmother’s Family Tree DNA results. According to FTDNA, the little old lady from Virginia, most of whose ancestors were from the British Isles and Germany, was 40 percent Eastern European. I’ll add here that I was not surprised, because when I ran Oracle on her result on GEDmatch I would get back results like Ukrainian, Belorussian, etc. At the same time, the calculators on GEDmatch were reporting back a result of about 2 percent Amerindian ancestry, across the board, from MDLP (1.7 percent Amerindian), to Eurogenes (1.3 percent Amerindian, 0.4 percent Siberian), to Dodecad (1.8 percent Amerindian) to PuntDNAL (1.5 percent Americas, 1 percent Siberia).

PuntDNAL also provides the following results when you run Oracle.

1 French + French_Basque + German_South + Mordovian @ 2.010765
2 French_Basque + Mordovian + Norwegian + Spaniard @ 2.109148
3 Belarusian + French_Basque + German_South + German_South @ 2.119651
4 French_Basque + Orcadian + Slovak + Utahn_European @ 2.139321
5 French_Basque + Scottish + Slovak + Utahn_European @ 2.143707

Why is she getting these results? The answer lies in the spreadsheets. Most populations are charted out across a number of components that, essentially, locate a population relative to others geographically. A North German, for instance, is 53 percent Northeastern European on the PuntDNAL spreadsheet, while a South German is only 46 percent. A Finnish person is 71 percent, while an Estonian, directly south of Finland, is 67 percent.

Meantime, an English person typically charts 0.5 percent Americas and 0 percent Siberian in PuntDNAL. An Irish person has the same result, as do Germans. Western Europeans typically do not carry more than half a percentage point of Americas or Siberian ancestry. However, Finnish people carry 7.5 percent Siberian ancestry. Ukrainians have 1 percent Siberian ancestry and Belorussians have 1.5 percent. Mordovians, a people living southeast of Moscow, have 1 percent Americas and 7 percent Siberian. The farther east you go, the higher your Amerindian and Siberian result rises. So if you are a person of mainly Northern European descent, if you have 2 percent or so Native American ancestry, from persons who lived in the late 18th or early 19th century, then you look, for all purposes, the same genetically as someone from Kiev or Kazan.

Something else to factor in is that the indigenous people of North America likely had more Siberian ancestry than their counterparts to the south who, interestingly, have provided the bulk of indigenous reference populations that our samples are run against.

GEDmatch’s MDLP K23b, gives my grandmother a result of 1.2 percent Amerindian and 2.3 percent South Central Asian. Its Oracle tool approximates her ancestry as 50 percent Belarusian East and 50 percent Spanish Cantabria.

It also has Cree and Algonquian reference populations both of which are just half Amerindian and 15 percent “Arctic” or Siberian. The farther north you go, the more the “Arctic” element increases. Athabaskans are 34 percent Arctic. Mayans are 92 percent Amerindian and 0.7 percent Arctic. Considering many people of mainly European and African descent are descended from tribes that expanded south out of Canada, such as Algonquian speakers along the coast, it’s not difficult to see that their indigenous ancestors likely had a significant amount of Siberian ancestry, perhaps slightly less than the Cree and Algonquian reference populations.

So in short, if you are getting some inexplicable results back that say Finnish/Northwest Russian, East Asian, Asia Central, Eastern European, and you have no ancestry from these areas, its worth plotting out your results in GEDmatch to get a more granular look at those values. Of course, having genetic ancestry does not make you culturally indigenous. However for many people whose ancestry had been purposefully denied for generations due to a climate of hostile racism against anyone not of European descent, it can bring some feelings of validation and clarity when it comes to family stories.

 

 

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