Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Jennifer Sheppard, LCRG Genealogist, presents program to Martin County Historical Society

Jennifer Sheppard, Genealogist for the Lost Colony Research Group, presented a program to the Martin County Historical Society at their meeting on September 23rd in Williamston, NC.  Jennifer described how the Lost Colony Research Group is using Genealogy and DNA testing to prove the oral histories that there are living descendants of the Lost Colony living in north eastern North Carolina today.  DNA kits were on hand for testing and she assisted one person, Chris Smith, shown in the photo, with collecting his DNA following the presentation.  Brenda Monty, another attendee and a reporter for the local newspaper, the Enterprise, photographed Chris taking the DNA test.

Another program on the archaeology portion of our Research Group, will be presented at a later date to be announced.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

1580's Snaphaunce Gunlock Found on Hatteras

Permission of Phelps Archaeology Laboratory, East Carolina University

Article by Baylus Brooks.

This past summer, I have worked with a really fine group of people who actually are friends with one another and do some darned fine research... together, as a group. They include REAL professionals, an Archaeology PhD candidate, an expert on Indian migration and DNA studies, an author of a book on the Croatoan Indians,  a Maritime History MA candidate (myself), many specialists in many different fields, including a mayor from Bidford, England!  Serious questions are being answered, folks.

During my own research, I have sought other experts to help me understand the significance of certain finds, namely a gunlock that may date to the late 16th century (which would be highly significant!) and the Kendall ring (an artifact that may relate to one member of the Roanoke voyages, can be viewed here: ).  These items were found by the late Dr. David S. Phelps, Professor Emeritus at East Carolina University.  An ECU report on this archaeological site is available at http:///  I have made the resources available to all for the sake of unbiased opinions.  

This gunlock was examined previously by Dr. James D. Lavin of William & Mary University in Virginia.  Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to locate the professor, who is retired and we know nothing about what he found.  He may have had previous experience with research groups that turned him off to the Lost Colony project.  That would be unfortunate.  However, Dr. Lawrence Babits, director of the Maritime History program at ECU told me to contact Bly Straube of Jamestown Rediscovery who happens to be a published expert on snaphaunce mechanisms, which this piece is believed to be.  My first email to her included this photo that you see above without mention of where it came from (I did not want to bias any opinions that she might give).  Her immediate response was that it looked like “1580s snaphaunce” and she sounded mightily excited about it. 

Since then, I have taken extra photos of the interior of the gunlock for her to get a better idea of the date and put her in touch with our own resident archaeology expert, Louisa Pittman.  I have no information on what has happened since then.  I’m sure that Louisa has to get back to ECU before she can view Phelps data and determine context on the piece to later share with Straube. 

Meanwhile, I’ve been hunting for photos on the web for any snaphaunce (there’s quite a few actually) that might look like our friendly gunlock here and have come across one that looks VERY similar.  The real point between these is a square firing pan cover on the side… the ONLY one I have been able to find like ours. 

Top: English snaphance gun dated 1584 - National Museum, Copenhagen ( )
Botton: Phelps Archaeology Laboratory, East Carolina University

This English snaphaunce is located in a Copenhagen museum (I’ve contacted them for any information on a maker) right now and has been dated to 1584.  The owner of this website is Brian Godwin and he is a foremost English expert who has been in touch with Dr. Charles Ewen at ECU about this very piece, now housed in ECU’s Special Collections Department in Joyner Library.  It is part of the “Croatan Archaeological Site” collection that also includes the Kendall family signet ring made famous of late.  

My opinion: The square pan cover is significantly different than all known snaphaunce except this one in the Copenhagen museum.  It is indicated in pink on the photo, but other similarities have been marked as well and are distinct from other snaphaunce or flintlock mechanisms that are presently known (with the exception of the red arrows that point to a feature indicative of snaphaunce as opposed to flintlocks).  The only significant difference in my opinion is the straight line of the bottom of the mounting plate.  Ours is slightly curved.  Mind you, I’m only guessing because I am not the experts in this, Godwin and Straube are.  Once the data is fully collected and analyzed, I have no doubt that we will know, too.   But, that does not mean that I have stopped looking for the maker of this piece, whom I believe has the initials “CDS” or “CUS” (located on the side of the pan cover).  I’m checking English makers since the earliest makers in America were in Jamestown and none of them (that I know of) have those initials. 

This is a very significant piece and could have been a part of three different phases in the Roanoke story that included Hatteras Island.  Or, it may have been brought to Hatteras island by natives from elsewhere.  This is one question that needs to be answered. 

Useful publications:

·       English Snaphance Firearms – a loan exhibition, Spring 2006 London Park Lane Arms Fair catalogue.
·        Godwin B.C., “The English Snaphance Lock”, Spring 2006 London Park Lane Arms Fair catalogue, pp.28-63.
·        Straube B.A., “A Re-examination of the English Lock”, American Society of Arms Collectors, Bulletin No.63, 1990.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lost Colony Research Group featured on WRAL -TV

If you can't view the video CLICK HERE

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lost Colony Featured in Special TV Segment

We're pleased to announce that the Lost Colony Research Group and DNA project are being featured on WRAL-TV out of Raleigh/Durham this coming Monday, September 20th at 5:55 PM.  Scott Mason interviewed our own Dawn Taylor and Scott Dawson of the Croatoan Archaeological Society a few weeks ago for this segment.  For those not in the viewing area, it will be posted on their website at later the same night. 
Our thanks to Scott Mason and WRAL.  

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Using a Blog for Genealogy Record Keeping

  From the Dear Myrtle Blog:

Using a blog for research note-taking

"A blog can certainly be used to plan a research project and to document progress. The added benefit when traveling to research facilities is that these blogged research notes can be accessed through any computer with internet access. "

 by Janet Crain

There are some very good points here. For one, blogs such as Blogger are so configurable that you can store records for years. You can keep records in draft or make your blog in whole or part private. And you can access these records anywhere you have Internet access.

I am experimenting now with using blogger to host the LEWIS Surname DNA Project website. It can be updated on the fly and used to host static pages of info as well. The Internet is evolving. Genealogy presentation and record keeping will also. 

There are expensive programs to do this with. But Blogger is FREE. And no ads. Check it out.

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hatteras Island Hurricane, Roberta Estes

1936 Hatteras Island Hurricane

In the next few days, I'll be writing a book review for an absolutely lovely book titled Confessions of an Outer Banks Filly by Sybil Skakle who was raised on Hatteras Island. She brings the island of her childhood in the 1930s to life for us.  However, today, with the impending hurricane, Earl, about to descend on Hatteras Island, I want to share with you Sybil's description of the 1936 hurricane on Hatteras.  For those who have never experienced such, well, you're fortunate.  Those who lived there on that remote island with no roads or bridges were in essence trapped.  You fared better to open your doors and let the angry sea roar through your home on the ribbon of land in the Atlantic called Hatteras.....but let's let Sybil tell the story in this excerpt from her book...

The one in 1933 - before hurricanes had names- frightened me most. It had no parallel in my memory. In more recent years there have been more devastating ones to Hatteras Island.  However, It is that one I remember best.
Wind was gusting up to 100 mph, taking railing and chimney off the Weather Bureau, which we could see from the Pamlico side of our house, across Aunt Martha Oden's yard.  It had blown out the window in the upstairs hall, at the top of our stairs and water rose to the third stair step in our house before it began to recede.
Frightened by the advancing tide, recalling the story of Noah's Ark (but not the promise of the rainbow) I buried my face in the ruff of our small, white dog Dobby's neck and cried and prayed that God would save us. When I came down stairs, the tide had lowered on the steps. My prayer had been answered.
Able-bodied men had volunteered or been recruited to raise the piano and our kerosene-run refrigerator with wooden bottle crates from Daddy's store. They had been raised to the ceiling, bottle crate by bottle crate.  Other furniture that could be transported up those inside stairs had been moved to the upper floor. But up there, every pot and pan or chamber pot that could be found was situated beneath a leak from the cedar-shingled roof, which did not leak with ordinary showers. Wind whistled under the eves and around the windows, which rattled in their casings. The house swayed in the wind.
We had seen the hurricane light signals the night before. Now the two square red flags with black square centers flapped furiously in the wind.
Following is an account by my mother, Inez Daniels Austin from Hatteras, dated September 17, 1936:
All day the storm has threatened. Radio reports warn us to move out of the storm area. Lots they know how slim our chances of making a single move to save our lives. The only thing we can do is open our homes to the strangers within our storm-closed gates.
The people who live nearer the shore may move in nearer the center of the beach land to homes that are no safer perhaps than those right along the sound or ocean front. One little pitiful mile is the width at the widest point that separates us at this very moment from a very uncertain end.
There is one thing more we can do. We can keep on praying that a Heavenly Father will help us to be sane and sensible at this time and help us to be brave.  He calmed the storm on the wind-tossed Galilee. He can do the same today.
Or are we so sinful that we must be shown the power through the elements of a Father's mighty hand?
We hope with every passing moment that the intensity of the storm may lower. We have been given by last report a slim hope that the storm may veer out to sea. Perhaps the land will not get it quite so intensely as we now fear.
May the hand that rules us all wave a gentle wand over the troubled waters and still their tempestuous tossing.
How relieved each heart - how grateful- should the wind quietly lower and no damage come to us and our poor earthly possessions.
The last reports says 11:30 is the time set for the most dangerous hour of the storm at this point. We wait with bated breath, hoping against hope that we may not get it so terribly bad here. The tide is over the land, still rising higher and higher.
The Coast Guardsman reports by phone that he is being rocked to sleep in the tower as he watches. They have seen so many storms, so they seem unafraid.  (The phone was in Austin's Store.)
At 12:30 the water is now 14 inches deep in the down stairs rooms.
We have the piano 24 inches off the floor, also a davenport on two chairs (wooden).  (Sewing) machine is on the desk; refrigerator on boxes, Victrola and upholstered chairs on the tables.
The wind is still very strong and flurries seem to indicate that it is increasing in velocity.
Mr. Poe (Rev. John Poe) has gone to bed, also, Shanklin. Decatur (cousin) and Josephine look like ostriches on their nest, lying on couch about halfway up to the side of the wall. Mr. (Marion) Holland (Hatteras school teacher) in another corner on davenport, on a high perch.  Andrew sits on a high chair on first stair step, feet propped on second step.  I am sitting on a stool, water sloshing up under same.
We had eaten breakfast with our feet in the tide beneath the dining table; had watched the wind drive the tide across the top of the cistern beyond the windows. The demands of the storm had kept us all busy through the day. Later, when the tides had receded, Jo, an older sister, had been among the brave and curious who went to observe the damage and take pictures.
The Northern Methodist Church building and many homes had been washed off their foundations, helped by the wind. Our father's freight boat Cathleen had been driven aground and left high and dry near scaffolds where nets were hung to dry. Trees had been uprooted and blown down. Fences were blown over or floated away. Vegetation was destroyed. Caskets and the Hatteras School cistern, which must have been empty, floated out of the ground.
To reduce the likelihood of our house floating, we opened the doors for the tide. As the tide began to recede, every available broom had someone sweeping the silt out with the tide. Water contamination was one of the worst threats to our health. Water in the cisterns, no longer fit to drink, could only be used to clean the remaining mud and grime from the floors. Everything, wet from the tide or the rain, needed time to dry. It took weeks to be rid of the smell of mud and mold.

And so it was in 1936 and has been before and since on Hatteras Island.  Today we pray for our island friends as Earl approaches and know that they are better prepared than the colonists or Indians were in the past to survive a major assault from Mother Nature.

You can purchase Sybil's book, Confessions of an Outer Banks Filly at Manteo Booksellers in Manteo, NC or at

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