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One of the questions I hear most often is regarding American Indian Heritage.  Families have a portrait, photo, or story of an “Indian”ancestor.  Many mention the “CHEROKEE” tribe.  As I built out our own direct pedigree there was a LOVE ancestor in the late 1800s who applied claiming Indian heritage.  The application was rejected.  The family hailed from Cumberland Co, very close to the Coharie Indians, a tribe which claims a special relationship with the Lost Colony.  I am still trying to locate the actual application.

Some historians and professional genealogists have offered that many families who think or claim Native American heritage actually are confusing or trying to mask African heritage.  I have done over 80 kits so far and the DNA does not support the historian’s arguments.  There is no African heritage being identified.  It is a window of opportunity where more DNA is needed to solve.

All NC JORDAN researchers will reach a point where DNA is a necessity.  Some may believe they have a paper trail but the reality is if your ancestors called NC home in the 1700s, records are incomplete. Native Americans did not keep paper records.  All of the records we have for them are second hand.  They passed down information orally. So, when it comes the early NC Native American Indian heritage our own bodies carry the information from our ancestors forward and DNA is a way to bring this information to light.  But,

The reality is genealogical DNA has NOT advanced enough to provide us answers regarding OUR North Carolina (AKA CARALANA) Native American heritage.


I know you say “WAIT a MINUTE!  I saw a commercial for Ancestry.com or a segment from Genealogy Roadshow or Finding Your Roots and they said Native American Ancestry was possible”.

Let me see if I can explain where we are regarding North Carolina Native Americans and DNA.

First it is natural to hear about Native Americans being found in pedigrees for early NC families. There are terrific blogs and articles now on the internet one can read to understand this subject better.  There are links sprinkled through this post and a couple at the end I recommend.

There were over 30 named tribes when the first settlers appeared in North Carolina. Today North Carolina has the most Native Americans east of the Mississippi. The State has recognized only eight tribes:

  • Eastern Band of Cherokee
  • Coharie, Lumbee,
  • Haliwa-Saponi, Sappony
  • Meherrin
  • Occaneechi
  • Waccamaw-Sioun

Only the NC Cherokees are recognized by the Federal Government.  The majority of Indians in NC choose not to live on reservations.  Some sociologists and American historians claim that the avoidance of reservations can be traced to the sad chapter when the Trail of Tears occurred.  Many Indians from the South were marched to the Plains. But I would offer there are accounts specific to eastern North Carolina about how some European settlements lived harmoniously with Indians in the 1600s and 1700s. There were even Indian landowners in VA and NC. Reaching even further back there are 1500s ship captains’ diary accounts of Indians joining their crew to help them navigate particular rivers.  A few even ventured with these sailors to other islands or countries! For so many reasons there is much history waiting to be learned via DNA where our North Carolina Native American heritage goes but it requires participation and kits being submitted to FTDNA!

If you look closely the earliest chapters of history for the Carolina Coastal Plains is murky. You can find history books offering the South Carolina perspective and you can find history books offering the North Carolina perspective.  And there are plenty of holes within each.  The land in the early 1700s was not divided into North and South. So why the differing accounts?  DNA will offer us clues!

Every single family historian who called NC home during or before the 1700s has the same questions.

When and who in my family arrived in the American Colonies first?

Why did he move here?  

How do our direct family ancestors relate to neighbor JORDANS?

Are we related to JORDANS who  lived elsewhere in the colonial landscape?

There is also a question which many families who called North Carolina home during or before the 1700s have.


I believe the long term answer is YES.  I confess I am an optimist but my reasons are sound.  And I am not alone.  There are DNA Projects specific to American Indian ancestry at this time.  So there are actual families who come through Indian branches who are establishing their branch.  However, when it comes to NC.  And especially the counties in the Coastal Plains there are many missing branches for families who have lived in NC for over 250 years.

The short term answer is no.  You may have seen commercials for folks who did an Autosomal DNA test (Family Finder) through Ancestry.com and the results included Native American heritage. There are no disclaimers for what generation this mystery ancestor was found and what tribe or Nation the ancestor belonged, etc. Since Ancestry’s Family Finder only has a reach back to the 4th cousin and the age of the tester appeared to be in her thirties or forties, the ancestor for this particular tester is far different from the quest of many North Carolina families who are interested in locating information about Indian ancestors who reach far back in their pedigree work well past the 4th cousin range!  And I personally wish Ancestry would include a disclaimer about Native American Ancestry to their advertisements.

When it comes to early North Carolina and Native American heritage it is a logical question.  North Carolina had over 30 recognized tribes when settlers made their way to our land. (and that number is debatable. There may have been more!)

The United States’ earliest chapters speak of shires including one called ROANOKE. Most associate ROANOKE with the Lost Colony.  Most historians claim there were no established ports in NC and migration to early NC occurred when folks migrated from other colonial regions to NC. Many historians skip over the Natives or Indigenous population.  And the Indigenous people did not keep written records.  Their histories were passed orally.  You may have a faded tin type or an account written by a great+ uncle but any researcher knows a single document or claim is not evidence enough to draw conclusions.  So if you have a story or old faded tin type. Make sure you do your best to establish the branch that the Indian ancestor belonged in the FTDNA.com database.

We have the Philadelphia Road, the King’s Highway, and the mysterious Green’s Path. Some historians claim it began as an Indian trail in the 1600s but there is nothing more specific.  So much in NC held onto Indian names, why would Green’s Path change?  Was there a family of Indians named Green who lived in NC during the 1600s?  Or did an European family claim the path and as more folks used it and passed by the family’s residence, the name stuck? There is no mapping of the early Indian Trails to reference. Only a few maps include where Indian settlements were located and the maps don’t include the name of the tribes.

Look at the NC coastline and you will find two or three navigable rivers and over 300 miles of coastline! Many of the waterways were named for Indian Tribes or using Indian names.  The dispute of the VA-NC dividing line was chronicled by William Byrd and it involved a reference point in King’s Charter of 1665, a creek at that time of the 1665 survey called Weyanoke Creek – the word is an Algonquin word meaning land of sassafras.   John Lawson’s early account (1709) of ship congestion in Currituck and the many ship diaries regarding Brunswick and naval stores. And let’s not forget the Lost Colony’s direct connection to a region I call CHOWAN CENTRAL (1584).  I believe we need to consider the opportunity the many lost early records creates, especially where a distinct ethnic group goes.  We each have a walking repository in our DNA.  The information left to us by our direct ancestors will help to clarify our pedigree work AND it will help clarify the earliest chapters of not only North Carolina history but also Early American History.

Genealogical DNA testing did not happen overnight.

It is an ongoing evolving scientific set of tests developed to help isolate segments of our DNA which give up specific information.

So you think “WELL, if it can’t do it now I’ll just wait until they can!”  This would be such a mistake.  Let’s look at how genealogical dna has developed.

The first test developed was the Ymarker test.  When the first Ymarker tests were done the scientists could only identify 12 markers, a single panel.  However, as more folks participated and submitted kits the scientists were able to improve that very test.  We now have the opportunity to discover 37, 67, or 111 markers!   The improvements only happened because of degree of participation achieved.

Let’s look at the HAPLO work – a boy can order both a Ymarker test and a mTDNA test and each assigns a  distinct designation (haplogroup) or what I call tags or flags for placement on the world migration path. The Ymarker gives you your paternal tag. The mtDNA gives you your maternal tag.  They may be in entirely different parts of the world. The tags denote the trail where your paternal or maternal ancestors traveled.  This is actually anthropological in nature more than genealogical since it is more macro than micro at this time.  Genealogists work from today back in time,  the anthropologist works in the opposing direction.  If we each work cooperatively our research should intersect at some moment in world history.  But it is critical for us to work together. And this is why the development of genealogical DNA tests is a blessing and tool no NC Jordan or any NC family or Colonial/Settlement family descendant must include in their family history work.  It is no different if there is a claim or suspicion of American Indian ancestry.

The Haplo work is an offshoot of National Geographic’s effort to create a population migration map for people.  Their evolutionary starting point, ironically labeled ADAM and EVE, was and is located in Africa. The consensus of most anthropologists is Africa was where the first couple first appeared and called home. (one does not have to agree with this premise to include genealogical DNA tests in their work.  Remember the Genealogist is working from today back in time.)   National Geographic through its GENO Project is going around the globe, with partners – many times men and women from Universities- and they are collecting DNA samples from both the living and dead in particular regions. They pay careful attention to bones discovered during anthropological digs and populations which have long lived in the region, often times referred to as indigenous.


One facet of their migration map effort is they also include recognized published histories in their efforts.   As they work they develop clusters of data for locations and the scientists claim they can identify the ethnicity. The scientists next plot points on a map creating migration patterns for people from one early locale to another.  As more DNA is found and analysed the ribbon may split with some folks moving to one place and others moving to somewhere else.  (it is not as simple as just two places) but as their work progresses they have developed migratory patterns unique to particular sets of people. When our kits are submitted FTDNA uses the information gathered to plot where our DNA says we match the identified ancestral population clusters.

Several years ago FTDNA, a partner with National Geographic, used a feature called Population Finder.  It produced a map much like My Origins today.  But the clusters were not nearly as well defined.  There is a relatively new cluster on the My Origins map to represent NEW WORLD aka Native American Indians. But they are not called Native Americans or even American Indians any more.  A scientific term PaleoAmericans is used.  American Indians fall into an unique Pre-Colombian population. And the cluster is on the opposite side of our Continent along the Pacific.  What about the Atlantic side of the US?  It is as though no one lived here!    We know this is false.  Why is it represented this way?  Because there is not enough data to properly identify, establish, and confirm Indians in our region or for the anthropologists to have completed the migration maps in the Old Countries.

Right now most of us are working to create migration ribbon connections for our European and African and Asian branches. It would serve both sets of researchers to collaborate!

The simple facts are many of the early tribes in North Carolina have not yet been isolated. Some are actually extinct. But they left information to their descendants. The mtDNA and Ymarker DNA tests can trace over 10,000 years BUT again remember DNA is a comparative tool and there has to be enough DNA submitted for comparisons to be made. Family Finder tests have a much shorter window but there may be enough for scientists to develop a new test or enhance an existing one IF ENOUGH people provide DNA.

In fact according to National Geographic’s and FTDNA’s My Origins maps there are still too missing missing families in order to properly plot and tag in our region of the world for just about anyone!  There has been a great deal of immigration from other continents and the tests we have available now have limited reach and isolation.  It is a progression. And participation needs to occur now, not later.

When you do a Family Finder test you are provided an ethnic classifications (they recently created seven classifications. The classifications are based on the cocktail of autosomes you inherited from your dad’s and mom’s side.


The simple facts are many of the early tribes in North Carolina have not yet been isolated.  That doesn’t mean it will never be possible.  One of the reasons to use FTDNA is because they are on the forefront of genealogical test advances.

If you have read some of the other pages you are familiar with this chart below.  Family Finder tests cast a net back 5-7 generations (if you test at FTDNA).  That means the reach of these kits is limited.  We are working alongside micro biologists who are developing tests to help us.  They don’t work in a vacuum.  They need data to do their work.  And we have a finite window to capture the best DNA samples for their efforts.

Anyone who has or believe they have Native American Indian heritage needs to submit DNA kits NOW.  Our youthful country may help the genealogist and the anthropologist find that intersection quicker than it is taking in other older parts of the world.  I would urge you to order several Family finder tests from both girls and boys whose pedigree includes the mystery Native American connection.

And for families like the Durants and the Bass whom we know had special relationships with the Indians along the Chowan, it is critical to get all branches of those family trees, especially those who have remained in the Chowan region or Coastal Plains of Carolina established in the FTDNA database. And the Coharie tribe needs to their families in the FTDNA database.

Also anyone from the Tuscarora Tribe or who has a Tuscarora ancestor  needs to participate too.  The Tuscaroras were supposedly run out of North Carolina by General Barnwell in the early 1700s.  The tribe lived along or near the Neuse River and wound up if the history books are correct in what would become New York.

Remember your genealogy efforts will equal the cooperation and participation you achieve.

There are few Indian mounds in eastern Carolina.  The weather cycle here forces the land to remain relatively flat.  If you are skeptical look at what happened to Jockey’s Ridge!  The soil and the weather patterns have created flooding and some our opportunities to photograph and record history have passed.  Were there mounds at one time?  Where were they?  How do the Indians of NC relate to the Indians who pushed west or were run north of Carolina?  Is there an effort to actually collect information specific to North Carolina Indians?  I hope so.  I do know the Lost Colony Consortium is hoping the Coharie Indians to do FTDNA kits!  Funds are so limited when it comes to research.

This is why family history and the efforts we each make now will not only help us do our best family history work today, if we do our best now we can reap dividends in the future.

The history books don’t tell us a lot about the 1500s explorers who actually used Indians as guides to help their work parties both on water and land. A few captains’ diaries include sharing how some Native Americans ventured to other lands with them.  Some returned home. Some did not.  North Carolina historical accounts relay the Spanish came with fierce killing parties and determined our land was not suitable and left as quickly as they arrived, leaving many Indians dead in their wake. Fast forward to today and we now have archaeological digs happening near Morganton down to where the Cape Fear and PeeDee Rivers flow. WHY?  A series of Spanish forts/settlements where miners left here in NC in the 1500s collected gems and minerals for the Spanish Crown.  Records were found about Spanish ships pirated off our shores on route home with our gems and minerals. Science is not static.  Our work cannot be restricted to the classic model where we ignore genealogical tests that allow us to gain access to information we cannot obtain any other way!

When it comes to the French, there is more and more evidence that there were pockets of French settlements (whether this meant the French Crown coordinated or French Ships deposited men and possibly women from France or elsewhere to claim land for France is still vague) in the same general region the Spanish (or hired/slave/indentured help on assignment for the Spanish to be more precise) along the Cape Fear known at that time as the Rio Jourdan the mid to late 1500s.  English court records show there was concern about the growing French population in that region of our State.  I could go on and on about this… but this is about NATIVE AMERICAN INDIANS.

The kit I submitted to anchor our Matthew Jordan branch was done in 2011.  At that time there was 1 percent UNKNOWN.  It remains that way to this day.  Is it because there was an Indian connection in our LOVE or JOHNSON family ancestry as fragmented records reflect?  At that time the Population map generated from my Family Finder test offered only a gray shaded cluster encompassing most of European.  There was no way to plot 1 percent of an unknown.  And still there remains a window of opportunity.  That window may close for some families if they do not submit kits for their patriarchs and matriarchs. The eldest living members of their families can help us create the best cluster of DNA possible for us to establish and confirm the families who make up our pedigree and can help the scientists improve the science.

When it comes to William Byrd’s Dividing Line account, he used aliases which is disappointing but allowed him to write without fear of legal action.  I believe there were Jordans who lived along this line.  And I have evidence that suggests they were more Normand than English and they got along with their Indian neighbors.  Then again there are Jordans who are recognized as descendants of Indians.  These Jordans are missing from the But it is all speculation and bits and pieces of research.  It will take DNA to help prove or clarify any family history including any with INDIAN ancestry.

The tests we now have may not be able to isolate the specific Indian tribes connected to our families.  But if enough North Carolina families who have Indians in their pedigree work or the family lore claiming a Native American connection submit their eldest living family members to the FamilyTreeDNA.com’s database, our efforts will allow scientists to fine tune or advance the science and their efforts in turn will help us advance our work!

For further reading I suggest:

Native American and First Nations DNA Testing – Buyer Beware


Finding Your American Indian Tribe Using DNA