Tuesday, August 28, 2007

DNA Pro at Work on an Old Mystery

Brighton area woman a part of Lost Colony research

Monday, August 27, 2007
News Special Writer

It's one of the most haunting and tantalizing mysteries in American folklore.
The 115 souls who in 1587 constituted the first English attempt at a permanent colony in the New World, on Roanoke Island, N.C., disappeared within three years' time, leaving scarcely a trace.

Archaeologists, historians and scholars have been trying for years to determine what became of the members of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, to little avail.

Now, a Brighton area DNA expert may hold the key to unraveling the 400-year-old mystery.
Robert Estes, owner of DNA Explain, a private DNA analysis company, is managing a multidisciplinary project, incorporating DNA tracking, geography, geology, history, biology, anthropology and oceanography to track possible descendants of those lost colonists.

"The question we're setting out to solve is, 'Did any of the colonists survive?''' said Estes.

Some researchers believe all the colonists perished, while others believe they were assimilated into friendly Native American tribes in the area. Others believe the truth is a combination of those two theories.

"One account says colonists were taken as slaves by Indians,'' Estes said. She and other researchers believe they can ferret out the real story using DNA comparisons.
The project will test the DNA of people who have similar or the same last names as the colonists or those on a list who had land patents or deeds in the Roanoke Island area, and also people who are known to descend from any of the Native American tribes in the area. The DNA test results, in combination with genealogical and historical information, are "the only way to trace whether any of them survived,'' Estes said.

Armed with bachelor's and master's degrees in computer science, 30 years' experience in genealogy and six years in DNA-genomics (the study of the DNA in the human genetic structure), Estes is working with researchers at the Lost Colony Center to look for matches between the DNA of interested participants and the DNA of families known to be related to the Lost Colonists.

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