Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Team hopes DNA is clue to Lost Colony mystery

The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, VA, June 11, 2007
Written by Catherine Kozak

A DNA testing company and a genealogy enthusiast say they're trying to achieve what archaeologists have so far failed to do: find out what happened to the Lost Colony, the 1587 settlement on Roanoke Island that disappeared without a wisp of evidence.

"The Lost Colony story is the biggest unsolved mystery in the history of America," said Roberta Estes, owner of DNA Explain, a private DNA analysis company based in Brighton, Mich. "I don't know what we'll find in the end. Part of the big question for me is did the Lost Colony survive? Who is their family today? And where did they go?"

Estes will manage a multidisciplinary approach to tracking roots from a "most-wanted list" of people who might have connections to the Roanoke colonists or to the 16th century American Indians - or to both.

Estes said the team includes a professional genealogist, an anthropologist, a geneticist and a family tree DNA expert.

"It's a 5,000-piece puzzle, and we don't have the picture on the box yet," Estes said. "But we know what the process will be to put those pieces together."

By testing a cheek swab, two DNA lines can be traced - the paternal Y-line and the maternal mitochondrial line. Markers on the lines serve as addresses on the chromosomes. Genealogy then tries to fill in the blanks.

"In our case, with the Lost Colony, the only way we're going to trace who was who and if they survived is to use DNA," Estes said.

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