Did you watch “Birth of a Colony: North Carolina”?

Hope you did.  For me, “Birth of a Colony” is beautiful to watch. However, as always when it comes to the earliest days of North Carolina I found myself with unanswered questions as I watched.  How about you?  I decided to take some time and write about this program. I hope if you have not watched it you will.

The program starts from an Indian perspective and narrative about strangers arriving.  It is now widely accepted that the term INDIAN was coined by Columbus due to an error of where he actually landed!  Terms now used are indigenous people or Natives.   The date stamp is 1524. The program even provides a month,  May!  The program focuses on a particular stranger Giovanni da Verranzo, an Florentine (Italian) explorer hired by the French to find a better trade route to the Far East.   The show states he lands at Cape Fear.


The Program has just begun and already I have questions.  First, who hired Giovanni?  The Crown of France? Or was it a group or particular merchant/importer?   The program mentions the CAPE FEAR but that moniker did not apply to that body of water until the early 1700s when an English Sea Captain coined the name CAPE FEAR.  The history books tell us Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon, a Santa Domingo Administrative Judge or Francisco Gordillo the man de Ayllon hired to explore and map named the river better known as the Cape Fear named the body of water the Rio Jourdan.    de Ayllon arrived in the region four years later to start the first colony San Miguel de Guadalupe.  He died in South Carolina along the PeeDee River in 1526.  His story includes being hired by King Charles I of Spain to find a strait to the Spice Islands.  Most explorers of the day when they happened upon new land or bodies of water named them. Gordillo had a habit of using Biblical names.  The Rio Jordan remained the name until the land was conveyed to England in the early 1700s, part of the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht and the English changed the name.  If you watch very closely at 4’27” you will see a historical map of the region and on it you can see “R.Jordan”.  The program does not identify which historical map it used.  If someone has the specifics please contact me.  

The program next explains that da Verranzo traveled along the North Carolina coast and made landfall near Hatteras and mistook the Pamlico Sound for an ocean and named it Verranzo’s Sea, a mistake the program claims led to confusion.  

The next segment of the program is one which early North Carolina researchers who have any suspicion or claim of early Native American ancestry should watch.  I did a separate post about Native American Indians – now routinely referred to as Paleo-Ingenious Peoples- to help folks NOT be misled by Ancestry.com’s (or any other site/company) claims they could provide you specific results about Native American genealogical DNA connections.  They may be able to provide some people who live in the heartland of the USA or the Western part of the USA but when it comes to the East Coast and specifically the Carolinas the Birth of a Colony does a terrific job showing the vast number of tribes and offers a primer about the differences and locations.

One of the setbacks with any of us learning more about potential Native American ancestry is many tribes died, some moved, and some blended into other tribes.   Keep in mind Indians lived on the land long before any European set foot here also had conflicts among themselves and would take prisoners.  Some of these prisoners would be adopted by the tribe. Others might be enslaved.   So the DNA of Indians by the time any Europeans made their way across the Atlantic was complex at that moment and arrival of the Europeans just added a new layer of complexity!  Add to this that many Native American tribes today fear genetic genealogy.  They believe the account of their history passed on orally is sufficient and they worry that if they include genetic genealogy they will somehow lose their history. Their fear is baseless.  Using genetic genealogycannot take anything away.  Genetic genealogy is factual information passed from one generation to the next so it provides truth.  It simply confirms existing known information or adds new information to use in concert with what is existing.  Learning a truth enriches and enlarges the knowledge base.  It is my hope that with time genealogists, historians, and anthropologists working in concert will be able to help us uncover more information about the lost tribes of the Coastal Plains.  It all depends on the amount of participation!  And anyone who believes their pedigree includes a Native, it is essential that kits are submitted via FTDNA to establish the line of the Native ancestor.

The Europeans arrived at varied times.  Some Europeans were free and some were indentured, i.e. enslaved when they arrived.  Slaves from various other parts of the globe made their way to our land. And after making it here, the opportunities for European, Native North American, African, and various Island indigenous DNA connections began!  Vague histories may offer a few explanations for when and why.  Many of us know of the purging or expulsion of some people from Maryland during the 1600s and some of these families landed in the Carolinas.  Some of us know of the practice by owners to use black slaves to rape white indentured workers because the law at the time allowed the child to be immediately considered property and the white indentured worker because of bearing a child of mixed race would have her indentured time extended.  As researchers we need to not be quick to bring our current sensibilities and morays to what happened centuries ago.  It is quite easy to be sickened by what passed as normal and acceptable centuries ago. We can’t change the past. Each of us is living proof of the strength and fortitude of our ancestors.  And DNA only brings the particulars of the strength into focus.

The program next speaks of the Spaniards.  They were the most brutal when it came to colonization per our history books.  We are told they were invaders who destroyed any one in their path in their efforts to clear land so Spain could send and create their own settlement. And they were the first to establish and control the island sugar  Spain began their colonization efforts of North America in 1521 when Ponce de Leon set out to establish the colony of  Florida.  I have included a screenshot of La Florida.  It shows part of North Carolina was included where the Spanish were concerned.   I isolated the Rio Jordan (aka Cape Fear).

screenshot from historical map used in Birth of a Colony.

Here are my next questions!  First, the Spanish timeline begins in 1565?  There is no mention of San Miguel de Guadalupe or Lucas de Ayllon or his agent,  Note the region mapped includes the Rio Jordan.  de Ayllon was not just a one time explorer.  He spent most of his life away from Spain acting as Judge or Administrator for Spain’s Crown.  He commissioned Francisco Gordillo to explore the coastal regions of what became known as Caralana. It was Gordillo who named the rivers.  One in Florida was named St Johns (in honor of John the Baptist), the river in North Carolina was named the Rio Jordan (for the Biblical namesake).   

DNA results (I am referring to Ymarker information) for the JG3 Jordans shows heavy concentrations in South Carolina and Georgia and of course the Coastal Plains of North Carolina – though there are still many missing branches in all states!  So if you are reading this and you are a FL, GA, SC, or NC Jordan please order a FamilyTreeDNA.com DNA kit to establish your line!  When it comes to Ymarker data the reach is 25/26 generations.  That means a man born during the 1900s who does a kit can learn his father’s father’s father’s line back to the 1100s.  So programs like this which are exploring the 1500s are very relevant! 


Please note at 14’12” there is mention of a Huguenot settlement along the St. John’s River destroyed in September 1565 by the Spanish who had apparently just landed.  Where exactly did this occur along the St John’s?  That river is the longest river in Florida and it has a peculiarity. It flows from South to North!  The main mode of transportation during this period was waterway travel.  The way a river flowed would influence travel and therefore migration. 

The program says the Spanish eliminated the French colony.  I couldn’t help but recall how I had read in early days of research how the Tuscaroras were run out of Carolina and forced to settle in New York State!  Years later I was at an event in Wilmington and I met a Tuscarora man whose lines had never left NC!  I did more digging and found General Barnwell’s removal of the Tuscaroras was more fiction than fact.  The truth was when conflict came, people scattered.  So as I heard about this mystery Huguenot settlement I couldn’t help but wonder.  Were all killed?  Or did some scatter and make their way elsewhere to avoid the Spanish?  The Spanish moved north all the way to what is now Parris Island South Carolina to establish their capital.  I believe there is much to be learned from men in France and other neighboring countries on the Continent who carry the Jourdan surname.  Too many who do genealogy work race to find their way to Colonial Virginia and Jamestown.   They focus on family connections from England or Scotland.  A few consider Ireland only because of the SCOTS IRISH coined term for some early 1700s settlers in the Cumberland region of NC.  When it comes right down to it  this problem opens the door for all of us, especially anyone who carries a name with a French origin, need to use Ymarker 37 and greater tests to determine the CLAN indentification. 

This program proves to us the dateline for Carolina exceeds the reach of the Family Finder test.  So please please please do NOT only submit Family Finder tests.  And please please please start with the right lab/company which offers the full range of genetic genealogy tests, FamilyTreeDNA.com. 

Just some thoughts about this particular program…