Thursday, September 13, 2007

Summary of DNA Symposium and Onward with Our DNA Projects

I wanted to take a minute to mention the Lost Colony Symposium this past weekend and how successful it was. More than a day was focused on DNA and associated genealogy. I also want to preface this by saying that the Lost Colony DNA project is no longer associated with the Lost Colony Center for Science and Research. Their focus is not on DNA and our DNA project needs to be affiliated with several organizations and universities, not related solely to one organization.
The symposium was a two and a half day event held in Williamston, NC, near where the colonists are thought to have moved. The first day was primarily history having to do with the Lost Colony. There was much intrigue in England at the time and it unfolds like the plot of a good mystery, pirates, sabotage, was all there. The second presentation and one in the afternoon
by Phil McMullan were about searching for the colony's location in coastal NC and various theories about where they went, when and why. One thing is widely agreed upon and that is that they did not perish on Roanoke Island at the original fort site, if they perished prematurely at all. As we move through the history of the area and early maps, including one from John Smith at Jamestown (found in the Spanish archives, sent to the Spanish King by a spy), there are many, many historical reports that lead us to believe that at least some of them survived and that they probably split into two groups.
In the afternoon, we had Jack Goins, the Melungeon project co-administrator, present a wonderful paper with maps on the Melungeon migrations through Virginia and North Carolina before their arrival in east Tennessee. He has done a huge amount of early records research and we find the early Melungeon families (before they were called Melungeons) in the some of the same areas as we find native tribes who moved inland who may be associated with the Lost Colonists.
This was followed by a professional genealogist, Jennifer Sheppard, who gave a wonderful and humorous talk about documentation of genealogical evidence.
The last presentation of the day was by the current keeper of the Eleanor Dare Stone,
Dr. James Southerland from Breneau University, and he brought the original stone with him. The stone was found in 1937 in a woods and purports to be from Eleanor Dare to her father John White. It tells that Ananias Dare and Virginia Dare, his daughter, the first child born to the colonists, died in 1591. It also on the back tells that they were attacked and that some survive. Whether it is legitimate or a fraud has never been conclusively determined, although it has been highly studied, but regardless, it and the surrounding controversy too are part of the history of the search for the Lost Colony.
We had a nice reception with snacks and local wine from the local vineyards and later that night, we had "birds of a feather" sessions where people just came back to the room to talk about whatever they wanted to discuss. Many of the speakers came as well.
The second day was a full DNA Day. It began with an intro by Bennett Greenspan. I have to tell you, I normally am the DNA speaker at conferences, and it was really a great treat to see someone else give that presentation. He is so comfortable in front of crowds and they loved him.
Following that, I did Y line DNA case studies.
Rob Noles presented about his Lumbee and Wiregrass Georgia projects which were very interesting. Perhaps most interesting to those of us interested in the DNA results is that in his Lumbee project so far there is only one person who returned a Native American haplogroup. This is suggestive relative to the colonists because the Lumbee are reported to be the tribe that the Croatoan morphed into. The Croatan became the Hatteras who became the Mattamuskeet and the Lumbee, and possibly others as well. There is so much overlap in this project that Rob has graciously agreed to become a co-administrator of the Lost Colony
DNA Project as well, in addition to me and Penny Ferguson. Penny also co-administers the Melungeon Project. Unfortunately, she could not attend the conference because her husband has the bad judgment to break his leg:)
Following that, I presented about working with mtdna and case studies. I must say of everything I present, people just love the case studies. I present them as stories and I think it harkens back to our love of stories and mysteries as children.
Bennett then presented again about Deep Ancestry.
Jason Eshleman with Trace Genetics presented about Forensic DNA testing and his work with skeletal remains. For those who don't know, he worked on Kennewick man. He also talked a little bit about what is coming and Neathderthal DNA. I wish I hadn't been in and out of the room so much for this presentation, but as the "hostess", I was up and down a lot.
Following Jason's presentation, we discussed the project plan for the Lost Colony project which involves historical research in NC and England, genealogy of course and DNA.
Throughout the day, we had been educating people, gathering a basic pedigree chart and swabbing them outside in the hallway. You would not believe how hectic that became. On Friday, NBC came and filmed and it was on TV Friday evening and Saturday morning. They broadcast that this event was taking place at the Holiday Inn but they neglected to say that you had to register, and that the DNA testing was not free. Well you can guess what happened on Saturday and Sunday. We were mobbed. Now the good news is that many of those who came were great candidates and most were very gracious about discovering that the DNA testing was not free. When Bennett wasn't presenting, he was swabbing and working with people all day, along with Dr. Ana from our list who was also in attendance, but not in the sessions, in the hallway. Had it not been for their help and some other volunteers, I don't know what we would have done. It was a sea of people in that hallway, each with their own interesting story to tell.
So late in the afternoon, we made history by having a Lost Colony DNA "Swab-In" with lots of folks swabbing together. That too was filmed, for posterity, but I haven't seen the film yet.
We were also visited unexpectedly by members of the Mattamuskeet Tribe during the day, in full regalia. I wasn't sure if I should introduce them or duck. They were wonderful folks and came to share with us their traditions.
In the evening, after dark, we had storyteller
and ghost-hunter, Anne Poole, tell us about Lost Colony Ghosts poolside. That was extremely popular as well.
Sunday, we only had morning sessions which included an archaeologist
, Will Moore, discussing digs, finds and Native American tools and a professor , Dr. Malcolm LeCompte from Elizabeth City State who specializes in satellite imaging and remote sensing. He discussed the likely locations of habitation and these images are how they are determining where to focus their archaeological efforts. That session was extremely interesting.
The symposium was wonderfully successful, especially given that we only had about two months to put it together. I'll also tell you that I don't know that we will do another one, and if so, it may well not be next year. It was a huge amount of work, especially coordinating it remotely from Michigan.

Now, on with the Lost Colony DNA Project

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Roberta Estes
Director of the Lost Colony DNA Project