“Joshway Collin,” 1736

JoshwayThe Norfolk County tithe lists are available from Binns Genealogy and have been invaluable to me.

Today, I discovered this tiny clue: “Joshway Collin” was listed in the household of John Staford in 1736 in the Western Branch district. One can see William Bass and Thomas Bass just a household away.

This is an interesting find for two reasons. The first is that William Collins was listed in the household of John Staford in 1732. The second, is that Joshua Collins was also the name of a free person of color living in Princess Anne County from 1790 to 1803. This is likely a descendant or relative of the man named in the 1732 tithe list. My own ancestor, Thomas Collins, appeared in this same Western Branch district until 1770, when he made the move to Gates County, North Carolina, where he surfaced in the 1780s.

Interestingly, John Stafford was probably involved in the Indian trade. He was named in a 1738 court case involving a Chowan Indian named Robert Abrams.  The John Stafford at Western Branch was trading to the Chowan Indians in what is now Gates County. The Native American Collins family living with him might have been involved in the trade.

I also looked for any links to the Collins families living on the Eastern Shore. I made an interesting discovery, the 1720 will of a man named William Collins naming sons Abel, Thomas, Joshua, and others in Worcester County, Maryland. Thomas was the name of my ancestor, and Abel was the name of another family member. These are rather unique personal names. (Note: Joshua Collins was also the name of a Pamunkey Indian in King William County in the 19th century).

These names lead back to the Snow Hill area and then over the border into Accomack County, Virginia, in and around Chincoteague, which is where I had also found people named Lemuel Collins, another name that was also used among the Norfolk and Princess Anne families and among the family in Gates County. If this is the case, then the origin of the Native Collins family would likely be among the tribes that settled at Askiminokonson, an Indian town outside of Snow Hill, Maryland, in the 17th century.

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A Little Fishing Expedition

fish

A stretch of my grandmother’s chromosome 13 showing Amerindian ancestry.

SOME TIME AGO already, I happened upon the idea of looking at what parts of my grandmother’s chromosomes were being painted as Amerindian or Siberian, and seeing who matched her on those segments. Then I would look at their family trees and see if there were any common ancestors.

What I found challenged some of the core aspects of what is referred to as the Indian Princess myth. According to this myth, there is one indigenous ancestor — an Indian princess, of course — who married a colonist and produced children of mixed ancestry. These children were thus 50 percent indigenous, and their children a quarter and so on.

Any traces of indigenous ancestry could be assigned to that one person in your tree.

This did not reveal itself to me via my genetic fishing expedition at all. I can give you an example. I found a good chunk of chromosome 13 that GEDmatch tools painted as Amerindian (see above). I checked this across multiple calculators. Then I used tools that allowed me to see who matched my grandmother on that segment. I identified one match, who now lives in the western US, and looked at his tree. It turned out he had one family that went back to the region of the US where my grandmother was from. In particular, he descended from an Owens-Hunter marriage in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1816.

Apparently, this Owens family was of mixed race and originated in Princess Anne County, Virginia, just like the Collins family from which I most likely descend. So I was able to hone in on a cluster of mixed-race families living in a very specific region, but I was not able to tie that segment back to a particular ancestor. This was ancestry that was shared across multiple families, regardless of surname. There was no single ancestor.

In an earlier post, I had described my use of a similar approach, highlighting a stretch of chromosome 20 that showed my grandmother’s Amerindian and Siberian ancestry. However, in looking at people who matched on that segment, I was able to determine they all had Rogers in their family trees. Many descended from a Byrd-Rogers marriage in Gates County in 1814. Others descended from a Lloyd-Rogers marriage. Both the Lloyd and Rogers families were present at Indian Woods, ostensibly as Tuscarora, but the name Rogers was also on the Nansemond Reservation deeds, and some Rogers moved to the Nottoway Reservation. Again, I could not trace that segment back to a specific ancestor. Instead, I found a family, or cluster of families that appeared to share that ancestry.

This is hardly a scientific approach, but it allows you to debunk some ideas about inheritance and ancestry. It also enables you to identify other families of interest in your research. You can be sure that I will keep my eye out for these families going forward.

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Joseph Russell, Indian

masepung

A 1685 map of North Carolina. “Masepung” is visible at left.

JOSEPH RUSSELL was one of the men who signed their name to land deeds for the Mattamuskeet Reservation in Hyde County, North Carolina.

He first appears in a 25 February 1749 deed involving John Mackey. Mackey is described as a planter in the document, though from other documents it’s clear that he was one of the Indians at Mattamuskeet. Mackey deeded land to “Joseph Russell Mackea” on Wysocking Creek.

He is not described as an Indian in this earlier deed, but in another, dated 25 April 1756, he is called “Joseph Russell Indian” when he deeded some of his land to George Turner. Turner was a “justice of the peace” in Hyde County, and described as “George Turner, Esq.” in a 1745 tax list, and “Capt. George Turner” in a 1748 list for Hyde County.

Joseph Russell last appeared in a 8 June 1761 deed involving the heirs of John Squires, who deeded land to William Cummings, Esquire, and Bartholomew Cain.

It seems that the Squires, Mackeys, and Russells at Mattamuskeet were at least close neighbors, if not related. Patrick Garrow in his 1975 paper, “The Mattamuskeet Documents” suggests that Joseph Russell “was in actuality a Mackey” based on the 1749 deed. However, it appears to me that this may be residual Algonquian naming custom. His mother, perhaps, was a Mackey.

After the 1761 sale, it’s possible that Joseph Russell left the area. There are white Russells recorded in the 1786 State Census and 1790 US Federal Census for Hyde County, but these are slave-owning families with a traceable pedigree. However, Joseph Russell might have taken his name from that family.

Something else that catches my eye in the Hyde County censuses is that Eborn was a common family name in Hyde County. I recalled that Henry Eborn Sears was one of the men who acquired land in Gates County in the 1780s, and that Lemuel Collins witnessed that deed. Eborn is a distinct name. This area of Hyde County is also the same neighborhood where a man named Graham Collins appeared in the 1860s: the same exact name as my ancestor from Gates County. So, something is apparently up here.

It’s a lot of circumstantial evidence, but it leads one back to the coastal Indian communities of North Carolina. At the same time, I have been led astray by names before. Joseph Russell left no will, appeared in no tax lists, and therefore cannot be traced to any other families, even if they were of mixed race and had the same surname.

A short note: the tribal origins of the Mattamuskeet are clouded. The Raleigh-era colonists called the Natives in this area the Secotan and the area Secota. As noted in historical accounts, the people in this area suffered from disease outbreaks that decimated their populations. It wasn’t until 1685, that maps show the word “Masepung.”

The Machapunga were an entity in colonial records prior to the Tuscarora War, but after the war, the area around Mattamuskeet became a haven for war refugees from various groups, the Machapunga and Core Indians among them, as well as the Tuscarora. As early as 1718, the names Squires and Mackey were present among the Mattamuskeet.

Upon Reading the petition of King Squires and Mackay its ordered and declared that all entrys and surveys and pattents that heretofore have been or hereafter shall be made or granted or any sales by them made without leave from the Goverment and Council by them and their people of the Lands appointed for the Settlement of the Marmiskeet Indians shall be invalid and of no Effect to all intents and purposes as if the same had never been made or granted and to prevent all further complts its ordered that the Secty and the Surveyor General be acquainted herewith

After the Tuscarora War, therefore, one heard less of the “Machapunga” Indians and more of this group that coalesced at Mattamuskeet, who became the Mattamuskeet Indians. Mattamuskeet is often translated, in Algonquian, as “place of a moving swamp.”

The origins of John Squires name are unknown, but Squire Hooks, also called “Ouskininorsee” or “Ounskininorese” was named as a warrior in a November 1712 treaty with the Tuscarora. The -ese suffix suggests an Algonquian name, but it’s a guess.

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Chowan Men Named in Court Cases

Chowan court

A 1733 promissory note from John Robins Indian to Thomas Durin Indian

I CAME ACROSS this 2006 paper from the The North Carolina Historical Review last night. It was written by Michelle LeMaster, an associate professor of history at Lehigh University. It contains references to multiple court cases involving Indians in the Chowan Precinct, and expands the list of known Chowan Indians in the records.

Before I proceed, a brief recap of Indians from the Chowan Precinct listed in records:

  • John Hiter (also spelled Highter, Hitaw, Hoyter, Hoyle, etc.) — He petitioned the colonial government for a survey of the Bennetts Creek Reservation in 1714
  • Thomas Hiter — Deeded Indian land in the 1730s.
  • Jeremiah Poshon (also spelled Jerome Pushing, Pushin) — Took part in the deeds in the 1730s. Also deeded land in Surry County in 1745 as one of the Nansemond Indians
  • Thomas Poshon — Also deeded land in the 1730s.
  • John Redding (also spelled Reding) — deeded land in the 1730s. There were actually two John Reddings listed in documents.
  • Charles Cosby (also spelled Cosboy) — also deeded land in the 1730s.
  • Nuce Will (thought by some to be Neuse Will) — deeded land in the 1730s.
  • Hull Will — on the 1730s land deeds.
  • Charles Beasley (also spelled Bearley, Beasel, Beardsley) — appeared on the 1730s deeds.
  • James Bennett — on the 1730s deeds
  • James Bennett, Jr. — called a “Bennetts Creek Indian” in a 1763 deed
  • Amos Bennett — called a “Bennetts Creek Indian” in a 1763 deed
  • Joseph Bennett — described as a chief man of the Chowan Indian Nation in 1790
  • George Bennett — called an Indian boy in a 1781 apprenticeship
  • John Robbins (also spelled Robin, Robins) — listed on the 1730s deeds.
  • Benjamin Robbins — who together with Joseph Bennett and James Robbins sold the last 400 acres of the reservation in 1790
  • James Robbins — described as a Chowan Indian head man on multiple records. Other Robbins family members were described as Indians on deeds into the 1820s.

This is quite a list of names. It includes Hiter, Poshon, Redding, Cosby, Will, Beasley, Robbins, and Bennett as families with Chowan Indian background.

In LeMaster’s paper, a few other Chowan Indians are named. These include:

  • John King — an Indian named in a 1695 court case.
  • Willowby — an Indian named in a 1720 court case involving James Hiter
  • Jonathan White — a “Chowanoc” Indian charged in 1719 with selling liquor without a license
  • Robert Abrams — called an Indian in a 1738 suit involving John Stafford (note: was this the same John Stafford who was living with William Collins at Western Branch in 1732?)
  • Thomas Durin — an Indian who brought suit against John Robbins in 1736. Note that Thomas Durant was also the name of one of the Yeopim Indians. The promissory note upon which the case was based, dated February 1733, was witnessed by John Martin, James Buros (Burroughs?), and Charles Beasley.

***

SOME OBSERVATIONS. First, we know from census records that the Hiters, Bennetts, and Robbins had moved to Currituck County in the mid-18th century and were living, in some cases, in the area of the Poteskeet town described on the 1733 Moseley Map.

Here we see the case of Chowan men, like Jeremiah Poshon, also acting on behalf of the Nansemond Indians, or Yeopim men, like Thomas Durin, suing John Robbins in court. Billy Bennett was named on a 1766 Tuscarora deed, and as has been noted, in 1733, many of the Chowan Indians moved to Bertie County. It’s possible that some of these families, the Willoughbys, Kings, or Cosbys, relocated there as well. What it also reveals is the rather fluid relationships between the Tuscarora, Nansemond, Chowanoke, and Yeopim Indians. People moved rather easily between these various Indian communities.

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Admixture Insights

bari

Bari, visible on the Italian peninsula, across from Albania, Macedonia, and Greece

DNA TESTING COMPANIES are doing brisk business ahead of the holidays, and no one can doubt that by late January or February, the databases of firms like 23andMe and AncestryDNA will swell with new cousin matches.

I’ve had my DNA run at various companies including AncestryDNA, 23andMe, National Geographic’s Genographic Project, and Insitome, while uploading the data to Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage, DNA.Land, and, of course, GEDmatch, to make use of their free tools. One has to ask, with all of that experience, can I communicate anything to newcomers?

The first thing I would advise is, know the history of the places your ancestors lived.

My mother’s father, Francis Abbatecola, was born in New York, but both of his parents were born in villages outside of Bari, Italy. Bari is a port city, and history tells us that it absorbed waves of Greek and Balkan settlers, as well as refugees from points farther east, in addition to Norman adventurers at a later date. Even today in Adelfia, the village where our relatives still live, one hears both French and Greek words in the local dialect.

When AncestryDNA revised my mother’s admixture results, her father’s side was rendered as 34 percent Italian and 18 percent French. MyHeritage, however, said she was just 9 percent Italian and 39 percent Greek. Other services tease a small amount of Scandinavian heritage out of her results, which makes sense, if she has a significant amount of Norman ancestry. This is part of her French ancestry. The fact is, the average “Italian” from Bari is likely to have Italian, French, Greek, Balkan, and other origins.

These admixture results are therefore not fixed in stone. My mother isn’t actually 34 percent Italian, or 9 percent.  Her grandparents, however, were most definitely born outside of Bari. These results reflect and support the diversity of their deep ancestry. If she had roots in another part of Italy, she might have a different combination of ethnicities. An Italian from Bolzano, in the north, might show more Austrian heritage. An Italian from Calabria, like my father’s father, might have Iberian from the era of domination under the Aragonese. So these results tell you quite a bit about the deep past.

Something else I would advise for newcomers is to pay attention to your minor results. They might be telling you something.

Many advise just the opposite. They say these tiny amounts of Central Asian or Finnish are just “statistical noise.” That could be true, if you only see it once. But if you see it repeatedly, across many analytical tools, it’s likely it’s real. 23andMe, for instance, shows that not only do I carry a small amount of West African heritage, but so does my mother, and so do two of my daughters (I haven’t tested the third yet). Scientific studies confirm the presence of a small amount of West African ancestry across Southern Italian populations. We have every reason to believe that we do have West African heritage.

Likewise, I have seen South Asian turn up in some results. The earlier version of AncestryDNA had both me and my mother as 2 percent South Asian. Some say this is from having Romani heritage. DNA.Land informed me that I was 2.2 percent “Gujarati.” We already knew Southern Italy was a genetically diverse place. It’s most likely real.

But this leads me to my third and final point. If you are an admixed person — someone with ancestors from a variety of places — you can and will look, genetically, like a completely different person. 

Consider my Genographic results. I was 46 percent Mediterranean, 31 percent Northern European, and 21 percent Southwest Asian by their reckoning. My matching population, though, was Bulgarian. When I ran matching population algorithms at GEDmatch, I inevitably would get something similar. I was Bulgarian, Albanian, Macedonian, Serbian. On occasion, I would get Tuscany.

What was going on here?

First, I had more Northern European than your average Southern Italian due to my Irish and British ancestry. This raised the location of my signal from the south of Italy to somewhere just north of there. My deep Balkan ancestry, meantime, pushed me east. This is how someone of mostly Italian and British Isles ancestry becomes Bulgarian. There was no secret in the sauce here. My ancestors were not actually Bulgarians. Genetically, however, I looked like a Bulgarian.

The same is true for my daughters. Of mostly Italian and Estonian ancestry, the GEDmatch calculators have determined that they are in all likelihood Croatian.

It’s also why my paternal grandmother came to look “Eastern European” thanks to her Siberian and Amerindian ancestry. Not one of the major vendors were able to distinguish this signal. However, most of them did give her an Eastern European result that was unbelievable, according to her family history. She did have a grandfather from eastern Germany, but that still could, in no way, account for her 40 percent Eastern European result at Family Tree DNA. 23andMe told me she was about 2 percent Finnish and Estonian. DNA.Land told me she was 6.7 percent “North Slavic.” When I ran my father at DNA.Land, it said he was about 2 percent Amerindian and had no Slavic to speak of.

It was the calculators at GEDmatch that consistently separated this 2 percent Amerindian result in the data, something that Doug McDonald also detected in her Geno 2.0 kit data.

When I actually looked at the spreadsheets at GEDmatch though, I could see what was going on. Running Dodecad World9, which is widely considered to be a benchmark, workhorse calculator, I could see that in their reference populations, the average German person might show 0.5 Amerindian ancestry. The average British person has 0.2 percent. It wasn’t actually until you reached the Russian Far East — the Yukagir people of northeastern Siberia — that you found people who had as much Amerindian ancestry as my grandmother. Even the Ukrainians and Finns did not break the 1 percent threshold.

However, a related Siberian signal is present to a low-extent in these populations. Ukrainians have about 2 percent Siberian ancestry. This is how a woman of British and German ancestry wound up looking like a Ukrainian or Finnish person to the algorithms. Combinations of multiple ancestries made her look, genetically, like someone else.

Things to keep in mind as you anxiously await those admixture results. Just don’t get into a fight with a sibling about which of you is “more French” or “more Irish.” Not worth it.

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Kinner Shoecraft Collins (1758-1823)

Kinner

Princess Anne County, Virginia, 1820

WHEN I FIRST CONTACTED Paul Heinegg about 13 years ago while researching my ancestry, he pointed me in the direction of Princess Anne County, Virginia. I had just found a record for a relative named Elvy Collins (1806-1870) in Gates County, North Carolina, that described him as being of color, whereas all the other records I had found so far described him as white.

This was the first time that I became acquainted with the Native American Collins family of Norfolk County and Princess Anne County. The key figure in this family was named Kinner Shoecraft Collins (1758-1823). Paul has a good account of this individual on his site. While Heinegg stylized the family as “free African American,” members of this family were actually described as white, Indian, and free negro in records.

Often, when given the opportunity, they described themselves as Indian.

Kinner Collins was the son of William Shoecraft and an unnamed woman. In 1774, he was taxable in the household of his grandmother Lucy Shoecraft in Norfolk County.  Lucy was the widow of Simon Shoecraft, who had moved to Norfolk from Lancaster County, Virginia, earlier in the 18th century. The family apparently held property in St. Bride’s, a parish close to the North Carolina border.

st bride

He was variously called Kinner Shoecraft and Kinner Collins during his entire adult life. While recorded in later censuses as a “free colored person,” Kinner Collins actually wasn’t referred to as a “free black” until 1820. Before that, he was recorded as a white person. This is important when we get to other branches of the family.

At least three sons are named in the records: Cary Collins, William Collins, and Presley Collins. Descendants of all three called themselves Indians.

  • Cary Collins, perhaps named for Kinner’s relative Cary Shoecraft, was the ancestor of the “Kerry Collins” listed in the 1907 census of the Nansemond.
  • William Collins was most likely the grandfather of John Bembry Collins, who listed his family as Indian in the 1900 US Federal Census of Hertford County, North Carolina.
  • Descendants of Presley Collins moved to Pennsylvania in the 19th century, where they were recorded as Indian in 1860, and white thereafter.

Heinegg speculated that Kinner Collins’ mother was a member of the Collins family. He notes there was an Elizabeth Collins who was taxable on a horse in Princess Anne County. A look at the 1774 tax list where he is first listed though shows that there was a John Collins resident in the same district. My ancestor, Thomas Collins, had previously appeared in the same list until 1772, after which he apparently moved to Gates County.

It is therefore not possible to say with any certainty who Kinner’s mother was, though she was, in all likelihood, a member of the Collins family. There was apparently a continuous back and forth between a settlement at Western Branch, near Portsmouth, and the community that was taking root in Saint Bride’s Parish, and on the opposite side of the county line in Princess Anne. As Heinegg notes, Lucy Shoecraft was taxable in St. Bride’s in 1765, taxable in 1770 in Western Branch, and then taxable again in St. Bride’s in 1774.

These communities were home to a variety of families from different places around the Chesapeake Bay. In addition to the Shoecrafts and Collinses, neighbors included the Harmons, Weavers, Nickenses, Halls, Turners, and Newtons, and, of course, the Basses.

By 1807, Kinner Collins had acquired land in St. Bride’s adjoining the county line north of Indian Creek.

indian creek

There may have been an overlooked but longstanding indigenous community in this area. The name Indian Creek was in use at least since the end of the 17th century.

July 6, 1692
SOLOMON WHITE, eldest son and heir of PATRICK WHITE—it was father’s desire that my brother PATRICK WHITE have 350 acres called Indian Creek Woods and 200 acres in Norfolk Co. on the North River. Wit: Lemuel Phillips, Patrick Angus

It’s unclear what community this was. It was most likely comprised of the same Algonquian-speaking Nansemond, Yeopim, or Poteskeet people who lived in the area.

By 1820 in Princess Anne County, there was a similar cluster of free colored or Indian families, Kinner Collins’s among them. Kinner Collins neighbored Uriah Collins, as well as Weaver, Harmon, Smith, Cuffee, and other families.

In 1823, Kinner Collins left a will, naming children Cary Collins, Sarah Collins, Lucy Turner, Franky Turner, and Patsy Newton.

Uriah Collins might have been the son of Joshua Collins, perhaps a brother or cousin to Kinner Collins, who was also taxable in Princess Anne County. Born in about 1776, Uriah Collins is in the 1820 and 1830 censuses for Princess Anne, where he heads households of free colored persons. By 1840, he had removed to Greene County, Tennessee, where he was counted as white in 1850 and again in 1860.

This is yet another example of a member of this family being able to change their racial status by moving out of their area of origin where their ancestry was perhaps better known to neighbors. It may also explain why my relatives were, with a few exceptions, counted as white in late 18th century and 19th century documents.

The origins of this family are still elusive. There is no definitive document connecting the Collins family to the Eastern Shore, although the names suggest a link, particularly in the area of Magothy Bay, at the southernmost tip of Northampton County, Virginia. It is here that you will find Thomas Collins listed in a 1666 tax list that also named the Harmon, Driggers, Webb, Archer, and other mixed-race families.

However, the use of the name Uriah Collins might point to a more southern origin for this family. Uriah Collins was also the name of a major landowner and planter in Hyde County, North Carolina, in the early 18th century. He left a will there in 1751/52, and witnessed deeds in Swan Quarter, which is where the Mattamuskeet Indians were living.

A decade later, Cati Collins was described as an Indian woman in a 1765 Hyde County court case.

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The Sign of Four

nanticoke'

A Nanticoke vocabulary, collected at the request of Thomas Jefferson in 1792

MAKING SENSE of the few word lists collected from indigenous people in Virginia and North Carolina has captivated at least a handful of scholars for well over a century. A common misconception is that all of the coastal Algonquian languages, called Eastern Algonquian, represent a continuum of varying dialects, where geography more or less indicated linguistic distance. However, this was not always the case.

One example comes from a book by anthropologist John Strong, The Unkechaug Indians of Eastern Long Island. He reports how in the 1770s, Jacob Fowler, a Montaukett Indian, from Eastern Long Island overheard Western Abenaki speakers at a school in Lebanon, Connecticut, and could understand and interact with them without a translator.

Other scholars, such as Jack Forbes, have similarly demonstrated that in some aspects the dialect spoken in Virginia and North Carolina, called Renape, was more similar to the dialects in New England than to the adjacent Lenape. One theory is that the New England and Virginia and Carolina Algonquians represented an early migration along the coasts out of the Abenaki homeland, whereas the Lenape had arrived from the west at a later date, migrating around the Great Lakes.

I have personally looked at the word lists collected and it’s not easy to rush to conclusions. However I did notice that the word for four differs greatly between Lenape and the New England and Virginia and Carolina dialects.

In Lenape and Munsee,  the word for four is written as newa.  In fact, variations of this word are found across the Eastern and Central Algonquian languages. In Mahican, it’s náwa. In Shawnee, it’s nyeewaa. And in Cree, the word for four is newo.

In Western Abenaki, however, the word for four is yaw.

This is more or less the same among the southern New England Algonquians. The Wampanoag word is yaw and the Narragansett word has been rendered as yoh.

The Mohegan-Pequot word for four is, predictably, yáw.

In the word lists collected from peoples south of the Lenape, we see this word for the number four reappear. The Nanticoke word for four is yaguh. The Powhatan word lists from the 17th century render their word for four as yough. Similarly, the Pamlico word for four recorded during the Roanoke expeditions in the 16th century was yau-ooner.

In the word list collected from William Weaver, a Nansemond, in the 19th century, the word for four was toisiaw, the ending of which, -iaw, might be like the Abenaki yaw.

It’s possible the the people living south of the Lenape, from the Indian River in Sussex County, Delaware to the Pamlico River in North Carolina, were from similar background to those in New England and had their deep roots among the Abenaki of New England and Canada, rather than being the southernmost extensions of the Lenape people.

This is guesswork, for sure, and I am not a linguist. However, using primary numbers is an easy way to gain insight into the relationships between languages. In Europe, it’s rather easy to sort languages into Germanic or Slavic language groups based on primary numbers alone, and to distinguish Indo-European languages from, say, Finno-Ugric ones.

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