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Do You Know Your European Origins?

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Do You Know Your European Origins by Country?

Review of European DNA Testing

By Donald N. Yates

Most people who buy a DNA test want to know what countries in Europe their ancestors came from. But the favored approaches of major companies like 23andMe have so far not yielded entirely satisfactory results, at least to judge from consumer feedback. This review article explores the reasons for this failing and proposes that DNA Consultants’ EURO DNA database based on forensic population data may be a more accurate measure of nationalities in our background than complicated and expensive microarray genotyping.

Since the beginnings until 1960, over 50 million immigrants settled in what is now the U.S., most of them from Europe. Before 1881, about 86% of the total arrived from northwest Europe, principally England, Wales, ScotlandIreland, Germany, the Low Countries and Scandinavia. Under the New Immigration that followed between 1894 and 1914 immigrants from southern, central and eastern Europe accounted for 69% of the total. Many of those were Russian, Polish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Romanian and Galician Jews.

Despite their strong European roots, most Americans know little about what nationalities contributed to their family tree. Many families single out one country of origin and ignore others. In the 2013 American Community SurveyGerman Americans (14.6%), Irish Americans (10.5%), English Americans(7.7%) and Italian Americans (5.4%) were the four largest self-reported European ancestry groups in the United States, forming 38.2% of the total population.

And then there are those who report just being “American." Often of English, Scottish, Scotch-Irish and/or Welsh ancestry that they cannot trace, given its predominance in the upper South (such as Kentucky and Tennessee), they amounted to nearly 10% in the 2010 Census, with this trend growing rapidly. Also, according to a Wikipedia article, two-thirds of white Americans have two or more different European nationalities, often four or more, and many "American" respondents may be cases where the person does not think any one ancestry is dominant enough to identify with.


Present-day European countries and major cities (Wikivoyage). Russia east to the Urals and five-percent of Turkey’s landmass fall in Europe. The broadly linguistic regions were similar as early as the sixteenth century and have been reaffirmed by DNA studies: British Isles (lilac), Scandinavia (blue-green), Russia (blue), Baltic (light green), Central Europe (green), Balkans (light blue), Greece and Turkey (purple), Caucasus (violet), Italy (orange), Low Countries (yellow), France (brown) and Iberia (rose).

An important article published last year by geneticists at Harvard and 23andMe drew back the veil on Americans’ European ancestry. It was titled “The Genetic Ancestry of African Americans, Latinos, and European Americans across the United States” and appeared in the prestigious American Journal of Human Genetics. The authors found a higher degree of genetic mixing among all groups than previously suspected. “This study sheds light on the fine-scale differences in ancestry within and across the United States and informs our understanding of the relationship between racial and ethnic identities and genetic ancestry,” according to the authors Katarzyna Bryc et al.

According to the 23andMe study, African Americans had about one-quarter European genes (Y chromosome studies had put the figure as high as 30%), and some had significant amounts of American Indian ancestry (Oklahoma blacks led the country). Latinos carry an average of 18% Native American ancestry, 65% European ancestry (mostly from the Iberian Peninsula) and 6% African ancestry (compared to 3.5% for European Americans).  

Such fine-scale genetic analysis was made possible by affordable microchip technology involving more than 800,000 SNPs tracked longitudinally through cohort groups. But the analysis did not distinguish between different European ancestries, certainly not on a country-specific scale, and 23andMe’s European results—just as much as Ancestry.com’s or those of other companies using the “genetic strand” approach—have not exactly received a conqueror’s welcome in the ancestry market.

Chronology of European DNA Tests
Foundational to emerging European DNA studies was a 2008 article by Oscar Lao of the Department of Forensic Medicine in Rotterdam and co-authors: “Correlation between Genetic and Geographic Structure in Europe.” Current Biology 18/16:  1241-48. This study found that valid and meaningful genetic populations in Europe were defined by linguistic boundaries, which were largely in turn coincidental with modern national borders. This thesis makes sense:  people throughout history have usually married someone nearby who spoke the same language. The work of the late Martin Lucas of DNA Tribes underscored this bedrock population structure, at least on a regional basis, if not a country-specific one.  A burst of studies over the past five years have begun to paint in the genetic histories of various countries, such as England, Ireland and Belgium. Most of these ask for participants with four grandparents of the same local ancestry.

Previous European analyses had been content to match your Y chromosome or mitochondrial type to countries of origin reported by customers. The advantages of autosomal DNA are apparent if one considers that sex-linked tests target only two of your lines (your father’s male line and mother’s female line), whereas if you go back even five generations you have 16 male ancestors and 16 female ancestors (your 3rd great-grandparents). According to uniparental schemes of ancestry I should be 100% English. The diversity and surprising variety come in only if you dig beneath the surface and sift back through the generations.

It is suspected that the results even of “autosomal” (non-sex-linked) testing have not been entirely rid of skewed results and sample biases. The fact that samples often come from medical studies and the purpose of genetic research is largely aimed at medical studies, not ancestry, introduces an unavoidable bias, not to mention the suspicious preponderance of countries like England, German and the U.S. to the detriment of the nations of Eastern and Southern Europe. What about a truly autosomal method that completely ignores the gender of the tested person?  What about a database of European countries that is equal, comprehensive and unequivocal? What about a method that compares you only to Europeans, not European Americans? In short, what about a good European DNA test plain and simple that gives genealogy enthusiasts what they want?

Just such a product is available for under a hundred dollars with the EURO DNA Ancestry Test from DNA Consultants. It forms part of the company’s atDNA autosomal ancestry database, now in version 7.0, released in late June (N = 9,983). Since 2009, we have worked with Professor Wendell Paulson at Arizona State University, Mathematics Department, to develop a 10-loci STR frequency database for European countries/populations, forming part of our DNA Fingerprint Test. The 10-loci are: D81179, D21S11, D3S1358, THO1, D16S539, D21338, D19S433, VWA, D18S51 and FGA. On this basis, we have incorporated data for the following 39 populations from publications or online sources:


Albania/Kosovo (n = 136)

Austria (n = 222)

Belarus (n = 176)

Belgian - Flemish (n = 231)

Belgium  (n = 206)

Bosnia and Herzegovina (n = 171)

Croatia (n = 200)

Czech Republic (n = 200)

Denmark (n = 200)

England/Wales (n = 437)

Estonia (n = 150)

Finland (n = 230)

France (n = 208)

France – North (Lille) (n = 200)

France – South (Toulouse) (n = 335)

Germany (n = 662)

Greece (n = 208)

Hungary (n = 224)

Ireland (n = 304)

Italy (n = 209) (Replaced Italy n = 103)

Lithuania (n = 300)

Macedonia (n = 100)

Montenegro (n = 200)

Netherlands (n = 231)

Northern Ireland (n = 207)

Norway (n = 202)

Poland (n = 206)

Portugal (n = 150)

Romania (n = 243)

Russia (n = 184)

Scotland - Highlands (Dundee) (n = 228)

Scotland – Lowlands (Glasgow) (n = 494)

Serbia (n = 100)

Slovakia (n = 247)

Slovenia (n = 207)

Spain (n = 449)

Sweden (n = 424)

Switzerland (n = 402)

Turkey (n = 500)

This covers all European countries of significance in genealogy with the exception of the Ukraine and Latvia. The former appears in the World Matches part of reports, and while we are unaware of strictly Latvian data commensurate with the European standard, the neighboring countries of Estonia and Lithuania are represented in our current list. Minor countries like Iceland and Malta are not included, though data were available for them. The 39-country basis replaces the earlier 22-country basis limited to ENFSI (mostly European Union members) and goes beyond the partially updated Strbase 2.0.

How good is the EURO DNA Test? One customer, Jonah Womack, wrote to us in 2012: 

I just wanted to compliment everyone at DNA consultants. My father had always said our ancestors were from Czechloslovakia, and I was curious enough to put it to the test. Within one week of mailing my sample, I had the answers I was looking for. I was so happy to share the news with my father; the top 3 matches were all from eastern Slovakia. That objective evidence led to him sharing family stories I would have likely never known. All I can say is thank you, and this was money well spent.

With the new version of atDNA 7.0, I naturally raced to input my own DNA profile and check my EURO results. An early analysis with ENFSI (available online since 2004) gave me the following Top Ten results:





















The mystery of Finland and Estonia may be explained by the large Native American admixture in my genes:  recent research has suggested that Finno-Ugric peoples and Native Americans share a wide degree of deep ancestry in the so-called “ghost populations” of Stone Age northeast Europe or Ancient North Eurasians (ANE).[1]

But I was unaware of any Swiss, Swedish or Danish ancestors and felt dissatisfied with the list.

After improvements and additions, my new EURO results look like this:


Scotland - Highlands (n = 228)


England/Wales (n = 437)


Netherlands  (n = 231)


Finland (n = 230)


Estonia (n = 150)


Belgium - Flemish (n = 231)


Scotland - Lowlands (n = 494)


Romania (n=243)


Northern Ireland (n = 207)


Portugal (n = 150)

The listing continues with Italy, Czech Republic and Germany. The median falls between #30 France and # 31 Denmark. This “most on a par with each other with a few extreme outliers” picture seems to suggest that my European origins are a lot more diverse than the Top Ten would indicate. The countries below average frequency were Denmark (n = 200), Croatia (n = 200), Russia (n = 184), Belgium (n = 206), Belarus (n = 176), Austria (n = 222), Bosnia and Herzegovina (n = 171), Macedonia (n = 100), Lithuania (n = 300). On the face of it, I was less likely to have ancestry in any of these countries, and sure enough, I was not aware of any from my genealogical research. Statistically, I am ten times more likely to have Scottish, English or Dutch ancestry than Macedonian, Bosnian/Herzegovinian or Lithuanian.

DNA Analysis Checked by Surname
I next wanted to see how the top countries tallied with a surname count. Both parents had English surnames (Cooper and Yates), and this seemed to be reflected in the prominent position of England/Wales, while a Scottish grandmother (McDonald) and Dutch grandmother (Goble) seemed to justify Highlands Scotland and the Netherlands. We have already explained Finland. But what about the other countries?

Looking at the surname origins of my thirty-two 3rd-great-grandparents, I obtained the following statistics:

34% Scottish (Mitchell, McDonald, Johnson, Kitchens, Mason, Forester, Pickard, Proctor, Lackey)

25% English/Welsh (Barnes, Yates, Thomas, Goodson, Kimbrell, Cooper, Blevins, Wooten)

13% Dutch (Hooten, Goble, Shankles)

9% Irish (Ellard, Denney)

6% German (Graben, Redwine)

6% Portuguese/Jewish (Storer, Bondurant)

3% Hungarian (Sizemore)

An effective 3% percent, my 3rd-great grandmother Yates, who was a Creek Indian, had no surname. So that accounts for all strains and fits well with the new EURO results. The top three ancestries both in terms of autosomal DNA frequency and my Ahnentafel were Highlands Scottish, English/Welsh and Dutch. These were the most familiar ethnic origins mentioned in family stories and traditions.

Autosomal Population Analysis versus Genetic Strands
Let us compare these EURO results to 23andMe’s tabulation, expressed as percentages instead of a country breakdown ranked by likelihood. First of all, 23andMe has me as 99.2% European, with only 0.4% East Asian and Native American, in contradiction to the 8-25% Native American found in other tests from companies employing a percentage score. Of the 99.2% European, 46.7% is British and Irish—in agreement with my highest-ranked countries according to atDNA (nos. 1 and 7 Scotland, 2 England/Wales, and 9 and 16 Northern Ireland and Ireland).  40.1% is “broadly Northern European. Minor amounts are “broadly Southern European” (0.3%) and “broadly European” (2.8%), while <0.1% is “unassigned.” Of the Northern European, there is 5.3% French and German and 4.0% Scandinavian.

There is an air of scientific certitude about 23andMe’s EURO analysis. The listing of ancestry composition appears comprehensive and exhaustive. It adds up. But it is important to point out that the categories are regional, not country-specific. The only countries mentioned are France and Germany, which are not distinguished but lumped together—a choice that would create consternation in most Frenchmen and Germans. There are obvious flaws and limitations in their data and its interpretation.

One limitation is the special inclusion of “Ashkenazi” (of which I am said to have 0.0%) without a mention of “Sephardic,” historically the more numerous branch of Judaism. The DNA Fingerprint has discrete data for four Jewish populations in the World Populations (Israeli Sephardim, Hungarian Ashkenazi Jews, Chuetas, Majorca), as well as four ethnic markers, one of which is strong in Ashkenazi Jews and the other in Sephardic Jews.

The 23andMe approach could be called the omnium-and-gatherum method, with numerous blind spots. It is not, strictly speaking, evenly valid or consistent. It leaves a good deal lacking in reliability, too. Throughout history, Jews have converted or hidden their ancestry. We cannot expect them to come pouring out in the 21st century to self-identify for DNA surveys even if they retain knowledge of their Jewish past. Yes, perhaps some Ashkenazi Jews will sign up for the program and so identify, but one wonders about a medical motive and bias.

Unsurprisingly, Ancestry.com produced similar results for me—99% European, 0% Native American, with 61% coming from “Great Britain,” 15% Ireland and 0% “European Jewish” (equivalent to 23andMe’s Ashkenazi apparently). Presumably, Ireland comprehends only the country by that name, Northern Ireland being a part of Great Britain, although I have no knowledge of that much Irish in my family tree and Ireland ranks only 16th in my DNA Consultants results. Both Ancestry and 23andMe use high-throughput next-generation sequencing (NGS) from Illumina, involving as many as 800,000 SNPs.

The Illumina HumanOmniExpress BeadChip platform is also used in Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder autosomal DNA testing service (which I have not taken). A good description of the microarray process for genotyping technology can be found on a page at 23andMe, with a link to further information on the Illumina website.

In sum, next-generation genotyping technology seems to be accurate enough in assessing the broad picture of your European ancestry, but it is incapable of giving you a country breakdown. Only DNA Consultants’ EURO test, part of its DNA Fingerprint Plus ($279) and available separately for as little as $99, can list and rank the countries of Europe where your ancestors likely originated. It does this not on the basis of genome-wide assessment of hundreds of thousands of SNPs but by comparing your DNA profile to the scores of 10,000 Europeans identified according to 37 actual country names, from Albania to Turkey.

My EURO results matched amazingly well with what I knew from extensive genealogy research about my European forebears, beginning with all the English and Scottish lines right down to minor lines from Portugal and Hungary. With its “false Finnish” match it also indirectly confirmed the Native American ancestry that was evident in abundance in my world matches. Now if I could only find the elusive Romanians (no. 8) in my tree . . . .

[1] Lazaridis, I. et al., “Ancient Human Genomes Suggest Three Ancestral Populations for the Present-day Europeans." Nature 513/7518{2014):409-13 (known as the Reich article after David Reich of the Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School); A. Seguin-Orlando et al., “Genomic Structure in Europeans Dating Back at Least 36,200 years,” Science 346/6213 (2014):1113-1118 (known as the Willerslev study after Eske Willerslev of Centre for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen).


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Jewish Descendants Return to Iberian Roots with DNA

Saturday, March 28, 2015

“The story of the crypto-Jews is still the biggest secret in the Jewish and general community,” said Rabbi Stephen A. Leon of the Conservative congregation B’nai Zion in El Paso, Texas. His remarks about the phenomenon of Sephardic descendants rediscovering and reconnecting with their Jewish ancestry were part of a long article on the b’nei anousim  or children of forced converts in Hadassah Magazine this month.

            Writer Rahel Musleah looked at several case histories from the millions of descendants whose ancestors were lost to Judaism through forced conversion during the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition, and who are returning to their roots in greater and greater numbers, from Costa Rica to Cuba, from El Paso to Santa Fe.

            For those who successfully find their way back, the journey can mean “a lot of drama, a lot of tears, a lot of joy,” observed Alia Garcia-Ureste, a returnee in El Paso. The daughter of a Lebanese Muslim father and Native American mother, she was a practicing Christian until a DNA test showed her father had the Jewish haplotype G. Upon being questioned, her mother confessed a range of crypto-Jewish practices in the family, from lighting candles at Hannukah and planting a tree in spring to covering mirrors when a relative died.

            Another returnee is Genie Milgrom, president of the Society of Crypto-Judaic Studies. She traced one family line in unbroken maternal lineage back to a Jewish family in Fermoselle, Spain that was forced to go underground five hundred years ago. She documented her findings in two books:  My 15 Grandmothers and How I found My 15 Grandmothers:  A Step by Step Guide.

Milgrom converted from Roman Catholicism to Orthodox Judaism when she was 35. She is now 59. “Milgrom is one of the few who has received a certificate of return (granted to born Jews) from the Israeli rabbinate after her research was verified by Inquisition scholars.” 

Despite her fervor and legitimacy, however, Milgrom was not joined on her path by any of her family. Her children from a first marriage did not convert with her, and her mother rationalized her conversion as an individual whim. “The genealogical journey created a conflict because it involved the entire family’s identity.” Says Milgrom:  “You come to this place alone, without your family.”

Gustavo Ramirez Calderon, a Costa Rican, experienced having his neighbors break his windows and paint swastikas on his walls after he adopted a Jewish lifestyle. One of his ancestors founded the town where he lives four hundred years ago and he refuses to flee today. “I want to walk with my head held high as a free Jew,” he says.

To Colombian-born Luis Lozano-Paredes, the return process was all about proving his Jewishness apart from a religious process. “I wanted to be a Jew by blood. Logic didn’t apply here.”

Many returnees believe that the ingathering of crypto-Jews represents a precursor event to messianic times. But there is only a handful of rabbis in the United States or in Israel who are truly welcoming to them, and Judaism has not been a prosetylizing religion since Roman times.  Organizations like Bechol Lashon and Kulanu advocate for Jewish diversity and are powerful forces for setting the historical record right, while two rabbis, one a Conservative and one Reform, have established outreach efforts on the Internet, Juan Mejia and Jacques Cukierkorn.

Read Rahel Musleah, “Retracing Old Footsteps," Hadassah Magazine, Feb./Mar. 2015, pp. 19-24.

Photo:  Genie Milgrom displays her family tree. Hadassah Magazine. 

Jewish Products at DNA Consultants

Jewish DNA Fingerprint Plus $299

Jewish Marker Test $99

Jewish Upgrade $199

Blog Posts of Interest

Validation Notes on Jewish Markers

Daniel Defoe, Jew

Virginia Surnames with Possible Jewish (and Muslim) Roots

When Wales Was Jewish

When Ireland Was Jewish

Signs of Crypto-Jewish Heritage




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Admixture in Pima Includes Greek and Sardinian: Genetic Signature of the Minoans, Sea Peoples and Other Mediterranean Peoples in the Southwest?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

By Donald N. Yates 

As shown by an explosive article in Science last year, "A Genetic Atlas of Human Admixture History," the genetic signatures of historical admixture events are persistent, even on a fine scale. Among 100 cases of historical admixture involving two distant, separate populations coming together, the authors detected the genetic impacts of the Mongol empire, Arab slave trade, Bantu expansions and European colonialism in the Americas.

But many, if not most of the admixture events occurring since 2000 BCE turn out to be unrecorded and previously unknown. They can be reconstructed and established only by genetics and the tell-tale survival of segments of distinctive DNA in descendants. 

A Major Signal of Mediterranean Ancestry in Pima Indians
Of interest to us is admixture in the Pima Indians of southern Arizona and northern Sonora, long held by anthropologists to be a classic "Amerind" population (see vintage photo of Pima man). 

The Pima case study from the genetic atlas of admixture by Hellenthal et al. is a simple instance of one-time collision between two interbreeding populations. A "Turkish-like" Side 1 is one of the parent populations of the mixture. Its largest distinctive element is Greek and Sardinian. Side 1 joined together with Side 2, a Maya-like population. Their union is estimated to have occurred around 1754.

We suggest this date corresponds to the spread of Spanish Missions in Sonora (to which southern Arizona then belonged), which brought slaves and workers from within Mexico to work in the mines (Side 2). This means the Mediterranean-like Side 1 corresponded to the existing number of about 2,000 Pima and Papago Indians. Their distinctive marks, genetically speaking, were resemblances to Greeks, Sardinians and related Mediterranean populations. 

A Greek Athlete and a Pima Indian
The Pima man shown above has a physiology and facial features unlike many other American Indians; for instance, he has a Roman nose, thin lips, non-Asiatic eyes and a heavy musculature. He evokes the Doryphorus, a canonic statue by Polyclitus, a Greek sculptor who dominated the art of ancient Libya, the eventual home of the Sea Peoples. The features of the Doryphorus were considered the ideal of male beauty.

Barry Fell was perhaps the first to suggest that Minoans, followed by the Sea Peoples, Libyans and Phoenicians, discovered the rich metals of the American Southwest after 2000 BCE and developed its first civilizations, for which the cultural earmarks were pithouses, adobe, trade centers like Snaketown, fortresses and walled cities, painted pottery and irrigation systems. Thus, the Coyote Chant of the Pima Indians, which the Smithsonian interpreted as a crude invocation of a totem spirit, Fell translated as a Libyan version of the Aesop fable about the Fox and the Grapes, one commonly used in ancient schoolrooms. (See especially, Saga America, Epilog:  Sunset at Cyrene, pp. 387ff.)

It would appear that the Pima and Papago Indians, whose ancient name was Hohokam ("Sea Peoples") long stood apart from other Indians and preserved their ancient roots until the mixing and melding of Indian populations that occurred under the Spanish. 

The presence of 7-10% Greek and related DNA in Pima populations today also explains the survival of the labyrinth symbol, diagnostic of Minoan civilization, and early legends about the Earth Doctor, who founded their tribe coming from the other side of the world. Their spiritual leaders are called Siwani, after the Siwa oasis in Libya. Snaketown and Tumamoc Hill overlooking Tucson, two of their principal towns, allude to the Water or Snake Clan or ships of the Sea People and the horny toad or armored figure in their mythology. Tumamoc literally means "Mound of the Magician," as armored, advanced navigators and miners were considered magicians by the primitive "Indians" they encountered. One of the original names of the Hopi was Moki ("magicians, magi"), and the real name of the Zuni is Shiwi, another reference to the sacred site Shiwa and universal principal god Shiva (both of which predate Egyptian, Hebrew and Greek religion).  

Other smaller contributors to Side 1 admixture in the Pima are Tunisian, Mozabite, Druze and Bedouin DNA, reinforcing the North African component of the seaborne civilizers who built the Southwest's first "Indian" towns. The stone structures atop Tumamoc Hill have been securely dated to at least third century BCE. The three story tower that originally stood on the summit is gone now, but there is an inscription near the highest point facing modern-day Tucson in ancient Phoenician letters. It is an offering to Tanit and Baal, the gods of the Sea Peoples. A similar inscription is at the top of A Mountain or Signal Hill just to the east of Tumamoc. 

Pima Indians a Relatively Pure Population
Before modern times, if a Pima woman was impregnated by an Apache, white man or any non-Pima male the child would be killed at birth. Such measures preserved the integrity of the Pima population.

Both Side 1 and Side 2 share South American Indian DNA (Columbian Indian, Karitiana). Side 1 is further marked by a different type of Maya, Daur (a Khitan or Turkic/Mongol type), Xibe (a Mongolian people formerly known as Shiwei--a coincidence?) and the She people, an important coastal Cantonese Chinese ethnic group (were they some of the ship owners?). 

Side 2, the "Amerind" partner in the admixture, in addition to being about two-thirds Central and South American Indian in DNA segments, had significant strips of recombinant genetic material matching Japanese (2.9), Han Chinese (2.3), Oroqen, a Mongol or Turkic people (1.9), Hazra, an important Afghan people (1.6), Chuvash (Turkic, Central Asian, 1.4), Yakut (Turkic from Lake Baikal, 1.0), Burushko (Phyrigian or Macedonian or Anatolian people who migrated to Pakistan with Alexander the Great, 1.0) and Hezhen (a tiny Altaic Turkic minority today in northeast China, 0.8). 

The diverse list of contributions on both sides of the admixture equation shows that the Pima were formed from a complex scenario of three or more admixture events in history, not just a simple case from the mid-eighteenth century. All the constituent populations can still be picked out today with admixture analysis. The Pima Indians' genetic characteristics are compound admixture over time, with key events occurring in the second millennium, about 225 BCE, 600 CE, 900 CE, 1100 CE and 1750 CE. 

The original Greek origin of the settlements in Arizona may have been apparent to other pre-Columbian visitors and settlers, including the Romans, who claim to have created the records known as the Tucson Crosses or Calalus Artifacts. Is it a coincidence that a property marker midway between Tucson and Phoenix in the lower Santa Cruz river valley has a large inscription in ancient Roman capitals that reads, "Greeks" (Attii). 

Petroglyphs with snake imagery, ship and meanders along with Phoenician inscription on Tumamoc Hill.

Santa Cruz Valley Petroglyph Site with AT inscription. 

Hohokam bowl with bird-prow ships (compare to Tumamoc inscription above).

Byzantine-era soldier depicted on Mimbres bowl ca. 1100. He has a helmet, metal-tipped arrows, scale armor, and shield carrying a rose (rhoda). Rhoda was the name of a mining colony founded in Calalus ca. 790. The lizard stands for the Water Clan, or those who originated overseas. The same rose is found as a territorial mark on Sentinel Hill and Cocoraque Bluffs in the Silverbell Mountains north of Tucson.

Related posts
Who Were the Hohokam?
On the Trail of Spider Woman
Haplogroup N in Europe, Asia Minor and the American Southwest

This article is excerpted from a work-in-progress by Donald N. Yates, The Tucson Artifacts:  A Paleographical and Photographic Edition of the Roman Jewish Artifacts in the Arizona Historical Society Collection


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Bigger Question Mark Looms Over Origin of American Indians

Saturday, November 29, 2014

In an article in this week's Science magazine (246/6213:1113-18), the origin of American Indians is linked to that of archaic Europeans rather than Asians. The title of the article is "Genomic Structure in Europeans Dating Back at Least 36,200 Years," and the lead author is Andaine Sequin-Orlando, with Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen as the corresponding author. The team sequenced the DNA from one of the oldest fossils of anatomically modern humans from Europe and found "that Kostenki 14 (the name of the fossil) shares a close ancestry with the 24,000-year-old Mal'ta boy from central Siberia, European Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, some contemporary western Siberians, and many Europeans, but not eastern Asians."

"Our findings," the authors went on to say, "reveal the timing of divergence of western Eurasians and East Asians to be more than 36,200 years ago and that European genomic structure today dates back to the Upper Paleolithic and derives from a metapopulation that at times stretched from Europe to Central Asia."

The study also showed that the the Kostenki and Mal'ta genomes contained more Neanderthal DNA than modern Europeans and shared roots with the Middle Eastern population that would much later become European Neolithic farmers.

It would seem that the simplistic "Peopling of the Americas" theory taught in American schools has encountered a surprising death blow from Russia.

Native Americans Have Deep Ancestry in Europe: Yes, It's Official (blog post)

Ancient DNA shows earliest European genomes weathered the ice age, and shines new light on Neanderthal interbreeding and a mystery human lineage   (research news from University of Cambridge)


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Rare Original Portrait of Sequoyah Published in New Cherokee DNA Studies Book

Sunday, November 23, 2014

© Tony Holman. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission. You may look and link, but do not copy or download.

I got a call last year from a relative in north Alabama telling me he had an oil portrait of Sequoyah standing and reading from a book and a white woman kneeling and tracing Cherokee characters in the sand. It turns out to be the only surviving contemporary portrait of Sequoyah.

The owner purchased the painting in an antiques shop in the 1980s and is fully aware of its value, historical and otherwise. He believes it is the work of Henry Inman (1801-1846), who went through the Southeast repainting portraits destroyed when the famous Indian gallery in Washington burned. Among those lost was one of Sequoyah that served as the model for the lithograph in McKenney and Hall, a much reproduced album published 1836-1844. The McKenney and Hall portrait has long been the only known contemporary likeness of Sequoyah (see below).

Charles Bird King’s work makes up the bulk of the Indian portrait collection prepared for the War Department, with more than 143 paintings done from 1822 to 1842. The Inman portrait, curiously, depicts Sequoyah as somewhat younger than the Bird painting. The Indian Cadmos, as he has been called, is shown full figure dressed in buckskin with feathers in his long hair and wearing a bone and claw necklace. 

The detail shown here appears as a vignette on the back cover of Cherokee DNA Studies:  Real People Who Proved the Geneticists Wrong, published this month by Panther's Lodge Publishers ($19.95). Written by Donald N. and Teresa A. Yates of DNA Consultants, the new book focuses on the hundred-plus participants in the company's Cherokee DNA Project. It also has chapters on Cherokee history, genealogy and genetics. A full black-and-white version is found on page 154.

Donald N. Yates
November 23, 2014

Charles Bird King's much reproduced lithograph from McKenney and Hall.




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Where Do I Come From: Jim Stritzel

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

James Stritzel, participant no. 8 in Phase II of the Cherokee DNA Project, was interviewed by Vice President of Communications Teresa Yates on October 20, 2014. His story appears in Cherokee DNA Studies:  Real People Who Proved the Geneticists Wrong. 

I live in Washington State, and grew up all over the Western United States, including Alaska. My dad, John Rolland Stritzel, was in the Army. His father, Albert Stritzel, was born in Austria, as was his mother, Marie Mauser. My mother and my maternal aunts said our ancestors were fur traders of both French and Native American ancestry (Metis, Mohawk, Cree), but I had no proof of my Native American ancestry until participating in the Cherokee DNA Project.  I am now sixty-six and one of my earliest memories as a very young child is trying to do broom dancing to fiddle music. Recently, I have built on the base of family oral history I heard as a child concerning my American Indian heritage. I have taken DNA ancestry tests and started following a beginning paper trail. I have also begun making pipes with the permission of a sixth-generation Lakota Nation Pipe Maker. At his request, I spent part of the summer with him and learned a lot about carving pipes. In the picture, I am carving a Deer pipe from Minnesota red pipestone. I also carve animals and natural scenes using soapstone, alabaster, sandstone, and limestone. 

My mother was Kathleen Ena Walsh (her birth name). She was born in 1926 in Birmingham, Alabama. Her mother was Eunice Mabel Ahearn (born 1896/97 or 98) per Eunice’s 1917 New York wedding license, and my maternal great grandmother was Anna Elizabeth. My family’s oral history was that Eunice was adopted and either full or at least half Native American, with Metis, Mohawk, Cree/French and Cherokee further back. Until I did DNA testing with the project, this was as far as I could get on the paper trail, as New York is a closed adoption record state. However, I found a proven relation from DNA testing that seems to confirm our oral history of her. Our oral history of this line is Metis in the fur trade, and this relation is not far from where I thought my great-grandmother was from in Montague, Massachusetts, so I now believe I have her name down and have found her line to either Tighe or Terry. Moreover, I am now starting to verify this with a paper trail as well.

In sum, my family’s oral history of the line has been confirmed as Native American through mitochondrial testing and some close matches. My Native American DNA Ancestry Test from DNA Consultants shows that my maternal line is a unique J with no exact matches in Mitosearch though my mutations did closely match someone else in the Cherokee DNA Project.  My mtdna haplotype J is unmatched in the world according to Dr. Yates. Despite it generally being viewed as a type reflecting Jewish lineage, my particular line, according to his company’s analysis, is Native American. The closest match to my mother’s J line was a lady in Australia that I have emailed, but we found no common ancestors. I believe Dr. Yates said the match may be of ancient origin.

The company report says my maternal line is American Indian despite being an unaccepted mitochondrial type:

Although not one of the classic Native American lineages (A, B, C, D, and X), J has been discovered in the Cherokee Indians (Schurr, Bolnick, and Smith). Most investigators attribute this to recent European admixture. But J haplotyes without Old World exact matches and with only New World exact matches or unique occurrences could just as well be considered Native American. Since this does appear to be the case with the subject’s type, it probably is Native American.

I am continuing to learn more about my family history and would be interested in comparing the autosomal results of members of the Cherokee Study to each other on gedmatch.com. If anyone has uploaded their autosomal results there my gedmatch number is F301307.

DNA Consultants was also able to show I had Native American markers (I and II) which led me to further explore DNA testing.  I further corroborated my Native American ancestry after Dr. Yates kindly referred me to the (now retired) Family Tree’s Acadian Amerindian study.  There I matched autosomally with people of Metis, Mohawk, and French ancestry from near the Montreal area and possibly with Cree as well.  This led to a beginning paper trail, and I now have the strength of knowledge of not only my family’s oral history, but DNA and genealogies. I now have some actual names.

Thanks to DNA Consultants I possess a strong base to find more ancestors. I believe there is a lot of resistance to admitting Native American haplotypes can go beyond the standard A, B, C, D and X haplotypes because a lot of professional people have their careers staked on perpetuating this dogma. However, it runs deeper than this. If you want to conquer a people, you’ve got to make them other than you, not as civilized as you; otherwise, you cannot call them savages and yourself superior. What the study has done for me is this: through it, I have found my people on Mother Earth. I am thankful to all concerned for that.


Nancy Lake commented on 06-Feb-2015 11:23 AM

I hope to do DNA research like you. My line is Cherokee, and specifically, the Wild Potato Clan of Alabama. There might be another very ancient unique DNA answer. If Atlantis existed as the Greeks maintain...some boats went toward the Mediterranean and some to the Americas. In other words...the Hebrew people might have traveled a long way to their promised land and we know from Noah flood story they came by boat. The other group went to the Americas and traveled as well. It is a long shot theory. I am itching to get accurate DNA results when I can afford it.

Nancy (Woods) (Bell) Lake

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Did Chinese Ships Transport the Cherokee to America?

Monday, November 03, 2014

Thruston Tablet Revisited

Our book Old World Roots of the Cherokee (McFarland, 2012) describes an expedition from Ptolemaic Egypt that brought the original nucleus of the Cherokee people across the Pacific to America. One of the key pieces of evidence is the Thruston Tablet, also known as the Rocky Creek Stone.

This engraved limestone tablet was exhumed in a Mississippian Period mound near Castalian Springs in Sumner County, Tennessee by archeologist Gates P. Thruston in 1870. It depicts scenes of warfare, a peace treaty, marriage and trade relations involving a Cherokee chief, dressed in a Greek hoplite's armor, and a local foe with a Mohawk hairdo, feathers and large square shield with "sky-serpent" design.

The obverse side shows how the two tribes sue for peace and smoke the calumet in a longhouse. The Cherokee chief, plainly identified by his topknot, sun-skirt and lunette around his neck, then gives his daughter in marriage to the opposing chief . She carries a wampum belt signifying peace, wears a plaid kilt and has a star of David on her breast (pp. 80-81).

Writing on the Thruston Stone includes ogam (a type of stick alphabet), Tifinagh  (a North African script) and some pictograms that have not been identified . . . until now.

Thruston Tablet (obverse).

We recently sent scans of both the reverse and obverse to John Ruskamp, author of
Asiatic Echoes-The Identification of Ancient Chinese Pictograms in pre-Columbian North American Rock Writing (Kluwer, 2013). The unidentified writing system turns out to be Chinese.

"It appears to me that there could be three Chinese based symbols involved with this item," reports Ruskamp. "First, within the red outline the four horizontal lines may be for the number four 'Si.' If so, this is one of the oldest styles of Chinese script used for writing 4.

"Second, within the green outline the stylized X-shaped stick-man could be a figure of 'Wen,' which in this case looks as if it is holding a fishing pole with a forked end of the line. Or it could just be a drawing of a stick-man, as this is a difficult image to work with because of its artistic nature.

"Finally, within the blue outline there appears to be the Chinese symbol 'Mi' for thread or rope (a couple of twisted fibers). This may be a separate drawing, or it could relate to the larger depictions."

In addition, we note that there are similar pictograms on the front in the upper right, as well as a Chinese seal script mark in the upper left.

Thruston Tablet (reverse, detail)

Putting it all together, although much still remains to be elucidated, the Thruston Stone appears to record contracts between the Cherokee, Shawnee and a third party who used Chinese writing. Since the principal figure is shown wearing ceremonial attire appropriate for the ancient world (500 BCE to 500 CE), and given the use of Chinese seal script and primitive pictograms, not to mention the ogam and Tifinagh, could the Thruston Tablet be a lot older than its archeological context suggests?

Could it in fact commemorate the original expedition of the 3rd cent. BCE in which Chinese ships helped transport the colonists to the New World? Were the Chinese pictograms made by the hand of a Chinese trade partner or simply by someone on these shores familiar with Chinese writing? Did the Algonquian tribes (to which the Shawnee belong) use Chinese writing? Does the pictogram of the rope (Mi) stand for the Twister Clan (Cherokee Haplogroup B), whose name, like that of Hilo, is derived from the twisted navigational ropes emblematic of Hawaiians? And finally, is the central symbol on the obverse really a rooster? If not, what is it?


cristina commented on 09-Nov-2014 02:33 AM

A very interesting (and also open) final question...

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More Anomalous Mitochondrial DNA Lineages in the Cherokee - Part Four

Friday, October 10, 2014

Part Four is the conclusion to our series of reports on the "anomalous Cherokees." Depicted left is author Donald Yates in Rome.

Read the full paper
More Anomalous Mitochondrial DNA Lineages in the Cherokee

J, a Major Jewish Haplogroup

Haplogroup J, termed Jasmine in the scheme of Oxford Ancestors, is believed to have originated in the Old Near East and to have moved north and west into Europe, especially after the spread of agriculture beginning 5000-3000 BCE. It is found throughout Europe with particularly high concentrations around the eastern Baltic Sea and Russia, as well as in Bedouins and Yemeni, where it reaches frequencies of 25% or higher. J is a major Jewish female lineage (Thomas 2002), being a strong maternal contributor to Jewish, Arab, Greek and Italian populations. J is also the apparent carrier of congenital longevity and a host of “Jewish” diseases that are just beginning to be understood by medical science.

There were 6 J's in Phase II (nos. 3, 8, 32, 35, 41 and 63, composing 9%), 4 in Phase I and 17 in the CBC data, making for an aggregate of 10.7%, somewhat less than the level for the Middle East and Europe (12%).

There were multiple matches between participants. An example is James Richard Stritzel (8), whose form of J1b1 matched No. 63  on HVS1 with several mismatches on HVS2. Stritzel's grandmother, Eunice Mable, was adopted out of the Mohawk tribe and given the last name Ahern abt. 1900. His rare haplotype is similar to five J's reported in Phase I. Of these, Nadine Rosebush's type is not matched anywhere in the world. In other words, these J types seem to be specific to the micro-population in which they are found today and are not widespread. One might make an argument of inferred ancestry as follows, although other interpretations are also possible. The germ line and enclosing population may have originated in classical antiquity. Instances survived to the present in North America only because they were part of the discrete and continuous existence of a "people." This "people" had spread intact by discontinuous, long-distance migration from its point of origin, where in the course of centuries its presence became extinct.

Rarest of the Rare:  I, N, V and W

Turning now to the four haplogroups that first cropped up in Phase II, we have one or two individuals each with I (54 Swinney, 48 Francisco), N (2 Kellam), V (39 Ponder) and W (30 Carpenter, 31 Sponenburgh). Percentages, phylogeny and phylogeographic patterns are probably not meaningful. Let us note, however, that one of the I's (54) had no matches anywhere, while the other (48) matched Dicie Gray, born 1828 in North Carolina. For haplogroup N, the sole example Norma Kellam (no. 2, N1A) traces her mitochondrial line to Roanoke, Virginia. She had several unique SNPs and matched only a handful of other people. In medieval times, N gave birth to one of the four major Ashkenazi Jewish founder lineages, probably in the Rhine Basin.

Fig. 14. James Stritzel (8) was told by previous labs that in “no way” could his DNA be Native American. His mother’s line, however, was confirmed as Cherokee (or Mohawk) despite being an unusual type. Here the Manchester, Wash. resident carves a Deer Pipe after spending part of last summer training under a sixth-generation Lakota Nation Pipe Maker. 

Fig. 15. Norma Kellam (2) of Westminster, Calif. has maternal line ancestry in Virginia and matched only five Mitosearch users, two of whom also traced to Virginia. The other three pointed to Tennessee, Mississippi and unknown origins. Her maternal grandmother was Daisy Brooks (b. 1894, m. Cronk) and great-grandmother, Nancy Ann Tingery (m. John Sellars Brooks).

African L Haplotypes

Surprisingly, there were 6 L haplotypes in Phase II (9.0%). In Phase I, there were 3 (5.8%), and the CBC data include 7 (5.2%), bringing the total across all datasets to 16, or 6.3%. The most common haplogroup was L3, the oldest African lineage, associated with and most common today in East Africa. If the African DNA were the simple effect of gene flow into the Cherokee from historical-era slaves and freemen, one would expect West African centered L2 to dominate the results, as this is far and away the most prevalent type carried by African Americans (as much as 50%). L3, on the other hand, is characterized by a relatively greater presence in circum-Mediterranean and European populations. According to one authority, "L3 is more related to Eurasian haplogroups than to the most divergent African clusters L1 and L2" (Maca-Meyer et al. 2001). Sub-Saharan African L lineages account for 10% of the population in Saudi Arabia, and L3 occupies a prominent position (72% of them; Abu-Amero et al. 2008). It has also been observed in Slavic or East European populations, especially among Ukrainian Jews, possibly vestigial admixture from ancient slaves in the Roman Empire and Islam. L3 accounts for only one-third of L lineages within Africa.

We will highlight three L3's. Shelia Maria Wilson (52), who lives in New Mexico, has 20 mutations on mitochondrial control regions 1 and 2, the highest number we have ever studied. Generally, the more mutations, the more ancient the type. There was, however, not even a remote match in databases, making hers a unique type reported only in North America. Wilson knows her genealogy only as far back as her great-grandmother, Mrs. Julia Adams. The surname came from the Georgia slave master of her father Harry Adams. Harry, who called himself "Mali blasta," was kidnapped in Mali as a pre-teen shortly before the Civil War. Shelia's mother Willie Mae Adams, born in 1927, remembered seeing the whelps on her grandfather's back where he was whipped. "I had been informed by some relatives," writes Wilson, "that my great-grandmother was at least part Native American and White."  Another L3 (47, Lovancia Francisco) matched a historical Native woman, A Te Anu, Muscogee.


Fig. 16. Willie Mae Adams was born June 2, 1904 in Butler County, Ga. She was the youngest girl of seven children. Her mother was a mix of black, Caucasian and Native American.

Fig. 17. Shelia Maria Wilson (participant 52) carries an old and rare form of L3 that apparently left no descendants except for her and her family.


Gregory Damon Haynes (no. 16) has another unique and otherwise unreported L3 haplotype, with a SNP found in no other person (16163G). His father had a rare American Indian Q haplotype with relatives on two Indian census rolls. His maternal grandmother was Lily Marie Benjamin (Blythe), born October 15, 1922 in North Carolina. Could his maternal line have been Cherokee? The question remains open, as it is extremely difficult to investigate the lines of ex-slaves.


Fig. 10. Haplogroup Distribution versus Europe and Other Populations, Based on Richards et al. 2000.

































































If we are to accept our sample as valid for its purposes, several salient parameters of the study population labeled "Anomalous Cherokees" seem to leap out from the table of haplogroup frequency comparisons (Fig. 10).

1) The first striking feature is the high amount of T lineages evident in Cherokee descendants. T is the leading haplogroup (23.1%), with a frequency on a par with modern-day Egyptians (23.4%) and Arabs (24.4%). That is elevated by a factor of 4 over the East Mediterranean levels, three times that of Europe and the United States and twice that of the Middle East. T is thus a defining mark of Cherokee ancestry. Where did it come from? We can safely rule out recent European admixture.  As we have discussed again and again, there was no available source for a huge, sudden influx of female-mediated Middle Eastern DNA on the American frontier.  Even Sephardic Jews (11-14%), many of whom were also Indian traders, could hardly have accounted for such admixture. Moreover, had it occurred in the colonial period or more recently the diversity, age and unique characteristics of the T haplotypes would not have yielded the patterns noticed in this paper. Most T's would have matched people in the Old World and we would simply be looking at an effect of migration. Instead, we have a North American branch of T with peculiar SNPs which is evidently a cross-section of a very old population originating in the Old World. The thesis of Donald Yates' study of Cherokee history is that an expedition of Ptolemaic Egyptians and others in the 3rd century BCE served as the nucleus of settlers that became the Eshelokee (Cherokee). If this historical model is correct, there was a severe bottleneck of DNA accompanying the establishment of the Cherokee, with many founder effects—something suggested by the frequent cross-matches, high degree of interrelatedness and clustering of types in our data.

2) The second glaring figure is the relatively low amount of H (12%), which is the leading haplogroup in Europeans (~50%). If the admixture were attributable to European women in the colonial period we would expect it to be much higher.  

3) The third observation we can make is the similarity of haplogroups strongly associated with Jews (J, K at 14.5%) to European levels (15.3%). At whatever time period admixture occurred, whether in ancient or modern times, Jewish women likely formed part of it.  Men cannot pass mitochondrial DNA. Like other contributions to the gene pool, J and K came from a feeder population or sub-population that had families on board. In other words, JK haplotypes could not have been the result of shipwrecked Portuguese sailors, Arab or Jewish merchants, soldiers or any of the other suspects often trotted forth. Judging also from the uniqueness of JK types and their diversity, we are looking at a Jewish signal deeply embedded in the structure of Cherokee populations.

4) L haplogroup frequency (7.7%) is about half that of Egypt (15.6%). East African-centered L3 predominates, not West and Central African-oriented L1 and L2 haplogroups, which are twice as abundant, and which define the majority of slaves and their descendants in the New World. We are unsure how to read this. It may be that in the nature of things, African American lines were under-sampled. Federal regulations and the controversy embroiling the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma in their on-again-off-again rejection of freedmen as citizens might have served as a disincentive to blacks' testing their DNA. Blacks are also hampered in tracing genealogies, unlike whites or Hispanics, or indeed Native Americans. 

Certainly, however, our data suggests there has always been a constant African component in Cherokee DNA, one that resembles North and East African populations rather than West and Central Africans. Beginning around the start of the Common Era, the Bantu expansion swamped all Africa with L1 and L2 genes. A high proportion of L3 could mean that admixture with the Cherokee predates that event. We have records of Phoenician colonization efforts as massive as the "30,000  desert-dwelling Moors from the hinterland of Carthage" in about 500 BCE (Yates 2012, p. 32). Mining operations then and now used a large number of women slaves, who were prized for their agility in negotiating small openings as well as their becoming inured to cruel conditions (this is still the norm in Egypt, India and Bolivia, though the workers are no longer legally considered slaves; see Del Mar 1902). The clan that specifically included black-skinned people among the Cherokee was called the Blue Paint or Panther (Ani-Sahoni; see Panther-Yates 2013, pp. 30-31). It was related to the original (Red) Paint Clan, named for the Paint People, or Phoenicians (Ani-Wodi).

5) Finally, we might remark on the minor (I, N, V, W), unknown (I 33, 36, 37, 40; II 33) and missing haplogroups (G, HV, pre-HV, M and other Asian types).  I, N, V and W are minimally adduced in Egyptian, Palestinian, Arab and Turkish populations.  They round out our picture of the original genetic inputs to the Cherokee, showing that the source of "admixture" was deep seated and diverse. The Cherokee population structure seems to be rather an effect of long-distance travel and conquest than of gradually developing encroachment, migration or genetic drift.     

Admixture, just like the word "anomalous," is a relative term. Its use depends on one's perspective. Geneticists, as we have seen, tend to privilege a rather narrow body of recent U.S. and European scientific literature. It is time to de-colonize the human past and open our eyes to the diversity of American Indian peoples. The personal genealogies of over one hundred Cherokee descendants contradict popular and professional received wisdom about Indian nations.


Addendum:  Begging the Question

For science to be separated from pseudoscience, its findings must obey the rule of falsifiability. This term has often been misunderstood, but what it means according to philosophers of science is that empirical statements such as "All swans are white" must be "such that to verify them and to falsify them must both be logically possible" (Popper 2005). Otherwise, as Wolfgang Pauli famously remarked, an argument "is not only not right, it is not even wrong."

In plain language, we could say that so far from barking up the wrong tree, that dog don't hunt.

"All swans are white" is a falsifiable statement. It can be tested by observation and shown to be generally true (though false in cases of black swans). But such statements as "All American Indians descend from haplogroups A-D and sometimes X" is not falsifiable. Neither this generalization nor its converse is testable in any experiential way. No amount of corollaries, exceptions to the rule or qualification will fix it.

"A woman of haplogroup A (or B, or X, or T, or W) founded a Cherokee matriline," on the other hand, is falsifiable. It is scientifically true in certain individual cases and datasets, as claimed in the present study ("experiment"), just as it is scientifically false in other instances.

Much of the surmises of science about the peopling of the Americas can be said to be on the wrong track. It can neither be proved true nor decided false that ancestors of American Indians crossed a hypothetical Bering land bridge at some time in the unknown past. Let us hope that the growing demand for truth from amateur roots-seekers and test takers will force professionals to predicate their research agendas and phrase their findings more carefully in the future. If they do not, they will be failing the public trust. There is also a need for science reporters and writers to frame their stories more responsibly. We have always said, "There are Indians and Indians."


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Project data available upon request from dpy@dnaconsultants.com.

Anomalous Mitochondrial DNA Lineages in the Cherokee (Phase I)



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More Anomalous Mitochondrial DNA Lineages in the Cherokee - Part Three

Thursday, October 09, 2014

We continue the series of reports on Phase II of our Cherokee DNA Project with case histories for the various haplogroups in the study. 

Read the full paper
More Anomalous Mitochondrial DNA Lineages in the Cherokee

Case Histories:  Where There's Smoke

Non-anomalous Types A-D and X

Of the eleven cases of classic Native American haplotypes, none knew beforehand they had an "approved" type. None belonged to a Federal tribe or lived on on a reservation, although two (Michael Joseph Little Bear, Sr., participant 17, A, and Tino De la Luz Thundereagle, participant 10, D) had Native American names. The majority joined the project just like the others to confirm genealogical rumors or traditions of having an Indian ancestor somewhere in the family tree (usually a distant unknown grandmother). Their primary motive for testing, in other words, was to find the truth, not to qualify for tribal enrollment or benefits. Many came from Latino or Hispanic backgrounds. Among American Hispanic people, at least, Indian ancestry or identifying as indio has historically not been seen as a socially desirable family trait, though a nationwide trend in recent years has witnessed Hispanics using "American Indian" to identify themselves on census forms (Roth 2012; Decker 2011).  

The results of the test, according to Jesse Montes, a third generation American (20, C, photo above), were both surprising and galvanizing. "I always had a gut feeling that I was Native American, and it was such a relief to find out I have a strong line of it from my mother. I am usually a very quiet person, but I am so excited about this that I want to be recognized. This is me!" His mitochondrial type had five unique SNPs and fully matched four Puerto Rican matrilines, and no other type in the world. His mother's maternal grandmother was born in the southern part of Puerto Rico near Ponce. Family traditions mentioned Taino in both his mother's and father's lines. "I am hoping to now be able to connect with some of my ancestors online on my mom's side to discover even more from the Native American DNA test," said Montes. "It has given me a golden key." (See interview by Teresa Panther-Yates, September 23, 2014, on DNA Consultants Blog, "Jesse Montes:  Where Do I Come From.")

Leroy James (25, D) had a rare mitochondrial type that matched the descent of just three people worldwide (HVR1 only), Kitty Prince of Bear River Athabaskans (Mattole), an anonymous Caucasian American (Twygdam 69) and an unknown line in Mitosearch (7MP7K). Katherine Frances-Prince was the wife of James Prince of the Mattole and a member of the Bear River Band of Rohnerville Rancheria located south of Eureka, in Loleta, California.

Fig. 3. Kitty Prince in 1921. Native American Indian - Old Photos Facebook Page (public domain photos). Kitty Prince's DNA (haplotype D) matched that of participant 25.

Fig. 4. Nancy Ward Statue. See Yates (2012) 107. Nancy Ward's DNA matched that of Patricia Gurule of Denver, Colorado. © D. Ray Smith. Used with permission.

Patricia Gurule (66) was a walk-in client at Denver DNA Center, an affiliate of DNA Consultants. She knew "absolutely nothing" about her heritage before taking an autosomal ancestry test from us and then joining the Cherokee DNA project. Her type of C matched, among several New Mexican , Sonora, Zacateca and Chihuahua lines, the DNA of Nancy Ward, the Cherokee Beloved Woman and Tribal Mother (ca. 1738–1822 or 1824; Mitosearch record 8U6AP and CBC 115669, Allene Gay Kearney; see Yates [2012], Chapter 8, pp. 106-117 on Ward). It also matched Gayl A. Gibson Wilson, an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and participant in our pilot project, Southern U.S. Native American DNA. Wilson, who is Wolf Clan, has traced her descent to Sarah Consene, a daughter of Dragging Canoe, born about 1800 in the Cherokee Nation East (see Yates [2012] 48-49, 158). This is evidently an ancient and widespread haplotype in Mexico and the United States, linked in Cherokee genealogies with the Wolf Clan, the traditional clan of war chiefs and most prevalent affiliation of Cherokees since the nineteenth century (Panther-Yates [2013] 4-10). In "Nancy Ward DNA" we have a clear example of exact correspondence between genetic matriline and a historically documented, genealogically proven, tribally specific clan. 

Haplogroup H: Thorn in the Side of Theory

Before our studies, haplogroup H had been reported in small frequencies in surveys of the Cherokee but routinely explained as post-Columbian European admixture (Schurr 2000). As noted in "Anomalous Mitochondrial DNA Lineages" (2009), it is the quintessential European haplogroup, responsible for about 40% of European populations today (Sykes 2001). If our sample reflected non-native women settling among the Cherokee and not the genetic trace of pre-Columbian founder types, one would expect the H to dominate the scene. Instead, we found H in only 16% of the samples in Phase II and 8% in Phase I. In the CBC data, on the other hand, it occupied the top position with 40%—exactly as we would expect from a cross-section of European Americans.

There were 11 subjects with H in Phase II. These were about equally divided between haplotypes that were unmatched or rare, judged to be possibly ancient Native American on the strength of the matches (5), and haplotypes of very probable recent European origin, several of them in fact corresponding to the CRS (6). All of the latter failed to submit convincing genealogies linking their form of H with descent from a Native American woman. The former (9, 11, 12, 27, 33), on the other hand, invariably had unique, unmatched SNPs (Fig. 1) combined with compelling genealogies. For instance, Joel Kenneth Harris, Sr. (11) had several unique mutations, including the rare 16319A, also occurring in haplogroups D, A and J*. Add these 5 to 3 similar cases of H from Phase I and the true percentage of likely Native American H matrilines project-wide appears to be 6.7%.

James Eric Walker (9) was one of the strong cases. He started family research only in 2010. Born in North Carolina, the 57-year-old, 6-foot-five-inch-tall Walker lives in Mobile, Alabama. "There was a lot of so-called dark stories, as in my Jewish-Cherokee Walker and James lines," he said. "So my inner drive sent me into the world of paper trail ancestry . . . I found so much sadness with my mother's side, but the stories were true . . . DNA did in fact put my mother's line to bed." In autosomal testing he matched a Native American forensic population labeled Brazilian Belem Amazonians (n=325). His documented and published family tree verifies direct descent from Nancy Beacham, born about 1845 in Virginia, the wife of an emigrant born 1837 in Russia (both died in Mobile).

Mary England (12) had the reference series on sector 1 but a rare mutation in sector 2 that caused her to match only four users in Mitosearch, all of whom reported unknown origins for the type. She traces her maternal line securely to Sally Bingham, born 1833 in Knox County, Kentucky (and tentatively beyond). An intertwined line in her family tree goes back to Hatchet Grey Letty Durham, a reported full blood Cherokee, born in Wilkes County, Georgia, who died September 1, 1843 in Floyd County, Kentucky. Another Cherokee line she has assiduously traced zigzags back to Aaron Brock (Chief Red Bird, born 1727, died February 10, 1787, Clay County, Kentucky.

Fig. 5. Great-grandmother Beulah David Cane was born March 16, 1878, the daughter of Nancy Beacham, born about 1845 in Virginia.

Fig. 6. Grandmother Beulah Alexandra deFleron (married name Soderquist) was born November 7, 1905 in Mobile, Alabama.

Fig. 7. Participant 9, James Eric Walker, has H ancestry that may be Native American. His grandmother and great-grandmother were known as Seminole-Cherokee.

A third H is Sharon Rebecca Chatterton (nee Toms). Her unique configuration of mutations brings up no one in the Cambridge Mitochondrial Concordance and produces only a very few exact matches in Mitosearch, all from North America (4U6K5, GECV7, Y9UQC). One of her maternal ancestors was a Frazier.

Fig. 8. Grandmother Peramelia Vaughn was born September 22, 1901, in Coffee County, Tennessee. After marriage she went by Amelia Vaughn Street. She died October 7, 1987 in San Pablo, Calif.

Fig. 9. 68-year-old Sharon R. Chatterton, participant 27, of Lady Lake, Florida, is an H who traces the line to 3rd-great-grandmother Lucinda Gilley, born 1801 in Franklin Co., Ga. Lucinda's mother was named Dorcas. She married Zachariah Bush in Rutherford Co., Tenn.

The earliest female ancestor's identity in all these cases support the phenomenon I have described elsewhere of an Indian trader, typically Jewish or crypto-Jewish, marrying the daughter of a Cherokee chief or headman (Yates 2012:46ff.). The mitochondrial evidence tells us that H was part of the pre-contact Cherokee population. H did not enter the Native American haplogroup array with a colonial English woman marrying an Indian ("admixture"). While it is fashionable, and even politically ordained, to dismiss the Cherokee grandmother "myth," which can be traced to a single, suspect source in the literature, and which grew legs on the Internet so that it now seems unassailable, the uncomfortable truth seems to be that a goodly number of families who do not deserve to be called "Indian wannabes" have a bona-fide Cherokee matriarch corresponding approximately to that description in their family tree (Martin 1996).

T Haplotype Diversity and Sephardic Motifs

Our initial report remarked on the high incidence of haplotype T and compared its frequency to that of Egypt (25%). Phase II produced T's amounting to 19.4% of haplogroups in the sample, bringing its overall presence project-wide (n=119) to 24.4%, exactly the same number to three decimal points reported in Iraqi and Iranian Jews (n=217, see Bedford, Table 4). Compare the high level in Cherokee descendants and Egypt together with Misrahi Jews to the much lower frequencies of T in Northwest Spain (6.9%), Portugal (9.2), Ashkenazi Jews (4.8), Sephardic Jews (11-14%), Great Britain and Ireland (9.1), North Central Italy (13.7), Western Saudi Arabia (12.5), Mitosearch (mostly U.S., 9.1) and National Geographic (8.7), and the T-intensive populations can be seen surpass all the others by a factor of 2 to 5. On the basis of this comparison, we can safely call the T in aggregate among the anomalous Cherokees Middle Eastern in scale and importance.    

In 2012, attention focused on T5, renamed T2e, and Felice Bedford of the University of Arizona published her article, "Sephardic Signature in Haplogroup T Mitochondrial DNA" (2012). "It was found that the rare motif [in subhaplotype T2e] belonged only to Sephardic descendents (Turkey, Bulgaria), to inhabitants of North American regions known for secret Spanish–Jewish colonization, or were consistent with Sephardic ancestry [sic]," Bedford wrote of the new Sephardic signature, T2e5. She dated the founder of the signature back to "one woman from Iberia who lived between 500 and likely 2000 years ago." So were there any instances of the new Sephardic signature, defined by mutations 16114T and 16192T, in our anomalous Cherokees? No, unsurprisingly, since Bedford found only 12 in an exhaustive search of world databases, but there were two cases of the parent sub-subhaplotype T2e, defined by mutations 16153A and 150T. They are Cheryl Green (Phase I participant 34) and Evie Nagy (Phase II participant 22). And as Bedford reminds us, "Suspicion of a signature in a minority ethnic group can be initiated with as little as a haplotype match in two unrelated individuals from that group." 

The sheer diversity of T types in Cherokee descendants, just like their high ratio, would seem to point to a source in the Middle East, not Europe. Although the phylogeny of T subclades and nomenclature is still somewhat unsettled (Pike et al. 2010), the prevalence and absence of subhaplogroups across different studies show strong similarities between the Cherokee sample and Iraqi and Irani Jews. Thus, T2b, which occurs at an almost non-existent level in Iraq, and reaches a high of 4.2% in Great Britain, is completely lacking in the Cherokee sample. T2e (6.9%) has a relatively high presence, as in the Ottoman Sephardim, Western Saudi Arabia and Italy. T1 (5.8%) is about the same as in Iraqi and Irani Jews (5.1%). Finally, there is a large amount, one-third of T subclades, categorized as T*. Their prevalence could be read as a sign of the antiquity of the Cherokee sample, with many T types which are common in the source population, but which have died out, not survived or have escaped being studied in standard contemporary genetic surveys. This inference is strengthened by the numerous unmatched T mutations, although a caveat should be added that the branches and sub-branches of T, as already noted, have not been completely dissected. Some of the T* haplotypes may be falsely assigned or need re-assigning.

Apropos of matching population contours, let it be noted here that many of the T's in Phase II volunteered information that they are Jewish by faith and/or descent.

Tara in the New World

Kathleen Rogalla of Panama City, Fla. (49) joined the project in July 2010, after learning family secrets from her 92-year-old mother (Fig. 11) and receiving "disappointing" results from other companies. Of one, she wrote, " My test results came in a few days ago and I was shocked and dismayed by the results. They have me as 100% European with no chance of being Native at all. That also means that there is little chance of being matched with others who have Native blood." Subsequent testing revealed "a trace" of Asian ancestry. Her maternal line traces to Elizabeth Hensley of Stafford County, Va. But her genealogy on file with the project also identifies Deborah Cook(e), wife of William Chisholm (born 1720 in Amelia County, Va.) as a remote ancestor. Amy or Annie, no last name, was Deborah's mother. Both Deborah and her husband were associated with the Cherokee in historical documents. Rogalla descends from their daughter Sarah, who married Thomas Tinsley. Another daughter, Margaret, married her first cousin John Chisholm, and their daughter, Annie, married John Walling of the well-known long hunter family in Tennessee. A son of William and Deborah Chisholm, John D., was a friend and advisor to Doublehead.

According to Rogalla's research, "A descendant's wife, Mary Ann Roberts filed an application to the Dawes Commission on behalf of her children. They were rejected. She said 'My children have Indian blood that comes from their father Eli Roberts who gets his Indian blood from his mother Joanna Tinsley (daughter of Thomas Tinsley and Sarah Chisholm) and her from her mother(Sarah Chisholm). Her mother was the sister of Absolom and William Chisholm whose names should appear on the Old Settler's Rolls west of the Mississippi River."

Another excellent witness for Cherokee enrollment, B.W. Alberty, testified: "I am a resident of Tahlequah, Cherokee Nation. I met Dave and William Chisholm near Belview Texas and they lived there on the [illegible] and I was introduced to them as living Cherokee's by George Harnage and also by William Harnage that is I know about them said they were kin of old Tom Chisholm of the Cherokee Nation (Thomas Chisholm was the interim 3rd Chief of the Western Cherokee Nation in Arkansas). Hornage told me they were relatives of old Tom Chisholm. That was the year of 1852 or 53. I would judge Dave Chisholm to be about 45 years old and William I think was the younger of the two."


John Ratling Gourd testified: "I am a resident of Tahlequah District, Cherokee Nation and am about 65 years old. I was acquainted with Absolom and William Chisholm when they lived low down in Georgia. This was about the time the Cherokee came to this country. They were among the first who left country and came west. They were Cherokee's by blood in at least that was looked upon as such. I first saw Absolom and William Chisholm at a council on the fork called by John ross in regard to the division of some money. These parties voted to not divide the money. They looked like Cherokee's and appeared to be half or three fourth. I saw William Tinsley several times. I understand he married into the Chisholm family."

These historical accounts are given here in detail to document the early Cherokee affiliation of the line. More could be added. Suffice it to say that the Chisholms and all their marriage partners were well known to Cherokee leaders from the 1760s on, first in the East and later, continuously in the West. The famous Chisholm Trail was named for the family. All the names are well documented in Cherokee and Melungeon genealogies, as well as U.S. Indian treaties, chiefs-lists and agency records. If we estimate the earliest named Cherokee's birthdate to be around 1700, we are in a period when the first intermarriages between English settlers and Indian women took place. It is unlikely that Amy or Annie was the daughter of an English woman, and the line she founded was "admixture." There is every reason on genealogical grounds to regard her T* haplotype as Cherokee, not Eurasian.

Amy-Annie apparently produced many direct descendants in the United States and Canada and had distant genetic cousins in Europe. Her prolific form of T* (16126C  16294T 16296T  16519C 73G 263G 315.1C) exactly matched individuals with origins in England, Cornwall, Quebec, France, Mississippi, California, North Carolina, Russia, Texas and Florida. Many of the haplotype assignments and origins were "unknown." As it turned out, they also matched Timothy Joseph Benjamin (18), an adoptee residing in Alva, Florida, who subsequently was able to have the Catholic  charity unseal his adoption records, and who learned that he was born in Burlington, Vermont, his given name at birth Joseph David Ward.

The verdict in Rogalla's report stated: 


Although not one of the classic Native American lineages (A, B, C, D, and X ‐‐ Schurr), T has been discovered in the Cherokee, Choctaw and other East Coast Indians (data on file; see DNA Consultants Blog, “Anomalous Mitochondrial DNA Lineages in the Cherokee”). Most investigators attribute this to recent European admixture. But T haplotypes without exact Old World matches (we exclude T2 matches from consideration) could just as well be considered Native American if as prevalent as the subject’s is in North America. The majority of the T* matches in Mitosearch are possibly Native American in our estimation. In the presence of a genealogical tradition of the female line being Native American the haplotype should therefore be pronounced Native American. The matches in Mitosearch to Tennessee, North Carolina and surrounding states point to the Cherokees, although matches in Canada suggest a Canadian indigenous woman (where T has also been identified). The T* matches that are truly European (such as V2DER, Russia) may represent a remnant of the original Middle Eastern lineage that survived in Europe, but the largest expansion of the lineage was clearly in North America.

Fig. 11. Mother of Kathleen Rogalla (T*), Ethel Estell Caywood Christian, about 1930.

Fig. 12. Karen Worstell's grandmother Odessa Shields Cox (shown with her husband William M. Cox and Karen's mother Ethel as a baby about 1922) was born about 1904 in Indian Territory. She was known as Dessie. "My mother cut off all connection with her own mother sometime before I was born," says Worstell. "My grandmother has strikingly Indian features and I do wonder if perhaps she was an adopted Indian child." 

Fig. 13. Karen Worstell (56) tested as having a rather widely distributed T2c that matched Cherokees on official rolls, even though T is universally considered a non-Indian type. "There was tremendous secrecy about anything related to my Indian background," says Worstell. My grandfather used to call me 'squaw,' which would infuriate my mother."

Ward is a common Cherokee surname. A T2 who also happened to have the birth name of Timothy Benjamin (18) was Deann Ward of Vincennes, Indiana (19). Ward traced her unbroken female descent to a 3rd-great-grandmother, Olive Thompson, born about 1800, died 1850 in Lincoln County, Tenn. Her parents are unknown. Olive Thompson married Garrett Merrill of Rowan County, North Carolina, a locale bordering on the Cherokee. Ward's great-grandmother, Emily Roper (a surname common on Cherokee rolls), was born in Tennessee, February 19, 1848, the daughter of Joseph Roper. 

Karen Freeman Worstell (57) is a risk management professional in Gig Harbor, Washington, who wrote on April 24, 2010, "I just learned of the potential link between Cherokee and Eastern European Jews this morning. I was told I am Cherokee by my mother, and Scottish/Irish on my father's side. I am also deeply involved in the Messianic Jewish movement."  Her rather widely distributed T2c haplotype exactly matched two participants in Phase I of the DNA Cherokee Project. Patrick Pynes, a professor of indigenous studies in Arizona, was a descendant on Mitosearch, traced the line to Mildred Gentry (1792-1852) and Nancy Gentry Little (b. 1801). "According to oral tradition, Nancy Gentry was of Cherokee descent," he wrote for the record. "She moved with her family from Tennessee to Clark County, Arkansas, in 1817. During the 1830s she lived with her husband James Little and children in Washington County, Arkansas. Several of her neighbors were of documented Cherokee descent or had family connections with documented Cherokees. Nancy's mother's name was possibly 'Delilah Clark.' Her father was likely Tyre Gentry of South Carolina."

Worstell says her mother passed away after a lengthy illness at the age of 90 and kept her family origins a secret. "Once when I asked her why, she said, 'I want you to have friends to play with.'" Worstell never met her maternal grandparents but always heard stories of Cherokee relatives. One of her ancestors was on the Trail of Tears. She has published an elaborate family tree on Ancestry.com but continues, like Patrick Pynes, to find the earliest link.  Her maternal line research comes to an end with direct maternal ancestor Catherine Reed, born in 1776 in Loudoun County, Va. She married John Carlin on November 13, 1799, in Harrison County, (West) Virginia and died in Barbour County. Several of the figures she has identified in her research were labeled as mulatto in local records. Her mother's paternal grandmother was Choctaw. Says Worstell, " I don't know if I am chasing a myth or not."

Haplogroups U, U2, U5 and K

Haplogroup U is very old and deep seated in Eurasian populations. Its top-level subclades can all be seen as haplogroups in their own right. Those uncovered in this phase of our study consist of U, U2, U3, U5 and K (formerly U8). There were no examples of U4, characteristic especially of Balto-Slavic countries and Finland; U6, associated with Berbers; U7 primarily from the East Mediterranean to India; or U9, spread from Ethiopia and the Arabian Peninsula to Pakistan.

The complex mega-haplogroup was born on the edge of Northeast Africa and Arabia some 60,000 or more years ago, when the first Homo Sapiens exited the African continent. Complex human societies began with U. In Europe, where U types today (11%) are the second most common after H (40+%), U was the first lineage to encounter and interbreed with the declining Neanderthals. U was identified as a minor haplotype in surveys of Cherokee and other Southeastern Indians (Schurr, Bolnick), although its presence was attributed to "admixture." It has also reported in Mexican Indians (Green). U2 was the mitochondrial signature of a link between archaic Europeans and modern-day Native Americans discovered in the 24,000 year-old Ma'lta skeleton whose DNA was recently sequenced from near Lake Baikal (Raghavan et al. 2014).

Vivian A. Santos-Montanez (14), a Hebrew School teacher in DeLand, Fla., took a combination of Jewish and Native American DNA tests for herself and several family members. Her mitochondrial mutation set produced only one exact match in the world: Mercedes Rivera-Rivera, born about 1915 in Utuado, Puerto Rico. Based on family traditions, Santos believes her maternal line could have come from Cherokees sold into slavery during the Spanish colonial period who joined Taino Indians living in the remote mountainous region of her native Puerto Rico.


U5, U5a and U5b samples include 5 participants from Phase II and 6 from Phase I, totaling 11 for the project, the bulk of all U's. U5 is of interest because of its important role in the peopling of Europe (Malyarchuk et al 2010). It is the oldest mtDNA lineage in Europe which is human, with an estimated age estimated at 50,000 years ago, greatly predating the expansion of agriculture. In the new three-fold scheme of European ancestry, U5 is the largest contributor to the component known as WHG or Western European Hunter Gatherers (Lazaridis et al. 2014). U5 is also found in significant levels, however, in the Middle East, Northern Africa and Central Asia.

Elizabeth DeLand (67), who tested her mother Juanita L. Sims, a U5a1, had an unreported set of mutations in the Cambridge Concordance, but matched five persons in Mitosearch, all three different haplogroup assignments, U5 (Ireland), U5a1* (Alabama, Ireland) and Unknown (Ireland). DeLand reported that her grandmother and great-grandmother spoke Cherokee. The mother of Pamela Bowman, Juanita Wilson (65), was another U5a1, with no exact matches on both sectors.  Her rare/unique 16526A was reported in a single case by Van Oven and has been discussed sporadically on Internet boards. Bowman is a member of the CBC.  She shares her rare SNP with William Zachary Dylan Sizemore (179989), who traces his line to Lucinda Lusk, born January 31, 1823. The SNP also appears in the U5a1a* mutations of Dr. Bruce Dean (Phase I, no. 19), whose genealogy goes back to Jane Rose, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and who matched Marie Eastman, born 1901, Indian Territory.

Turning now to U2, we have an interesting U2e haplotype in Carol Myers Rymes, a genealogist, Melungeon descendant (her uncle is a Sizemore) and CBC member who has pursued her mitochondrial line for several years. In Mitosearch, her single match was a descendant claiming descent from Bridget Garrity, born about 1816 in Ireland. Rymes also matched her own record in CBC data, plus Brian Voncannon, a Williams descendant. Rymes has been active in restoring the Occoquan Burying Ground in Prince William County, Va., and wrote a book on the descendants of Samuel Rymes. There were six U2e's in Phase I.

With Charlotte Walker (36), U3, we have an exotic haplotype that seems to match only Native American lines. U3 is a minor haplogroup centered around the Black Sea, with a strong presence today in the northeastern part (Colchis, Scythia, Transcaucasus, the Steppes). It could be related to ancient Indo-Europeans. There were two exact matches in Mitosearch, one from Alvina (or Elwina), born about 1820 in South Carolina and thought to be Native American, and another from Sarah Elizabeth Snyder, born 1828, origin unknown. The information from all three congeners is incomplete and uncertain. And as textual transmission experts say, "One witness, no witness." Participant 36 is the only instance of U3 to date. There are two examples in CBC data.

K (formerly H8) is an important Jewish haplogroup, and it has a small, but significant presence across all datasets. There were 2 (3.0%) in Phase I and 4 (nos. 13, 29, 34, 53, 7.7%) in Phase II. The CBC data shows 11 K's (8.1%). Haplogroup K is represented by 17 samples in a grand total of 252 participants (6.7%), a lower incidence compared both to European populations (10%) and Ashkenazi Jews (32-50%).

Three of our K's (Ashley Nielsen 29, Earl Dulaney 34, Ann Pyle 53) had such rare haplotypes, all with unique, partly overlapping mutations, that no exact matches could be found in the databases. It was felt that this specificity spoke for types that died out and were no longer reported in the rest of the world but survived in an exotic North American population, where they had been implanted in the remote past. By comparison, the chances of a large number of unmatched modern types dating to European admixture in the Colonial window of history were estimated to be slim. 

To be continued...


Diana McDargh commented on 12-Oct-2014 12:36 PM

This is all fascinating. I just wish I could figure out my own native American. Census lists show my great grandmother as being white. Birth records aren't available as they were just beginning to be kept in some of the Ky. counties. I have an African American proved on one paternal side and native American proved on the maternal side, through DNA. I just can't line it up according to the records.

Elizabeth commented on 12-May-2015 01:27 PM

I've recently purchased a few books written by Donald N. Panther-Yates and wished I would have known of the Cherokee DNA Project he was conducting. I would have loved to have been included in it. I recently had a Full sequence MTDNA test done at FTDNA. My haplogroup came back C1c with my mutations on HVR1 & HVR2 matching exactly to Nancy Ward. My Mother always said that her Grandmother was an Indian, but never more than that. This is the reason I decided to look into doing the autosomal and mtdna tests. I wanted to know. I love reading the blogs.

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More Anomalous Mitochondrial Lineages in the Cherokee - Part Two

Sunday, October 05, 2014


Peramelia Vaughn was born September 22, 1901, in Coffee County, Tennessee. She was the maternal grandmother of Cherokee DNA Project Phase II participant Sharon Rebecca Chatterton of Lady Lake, Florida. Chatterton is one of the H's in the project.

This installment in the series describes the sample and summarizes haplogroup findings.

Procedure and Methodology

The purpose of the Cherokee DNA Project is to sample and investigate the genetic heritage of persons who may be of Cherokee descent and establish a reference collection of their DNA results and genealogies. Enrollment in Phase II began in October 2009 following the release of Phase I results in the blog post "Anomalous Mitochondrial DNA Lineages in the Cherokee" (August 31, 2009). Data were published in Yates (2012) pp. 161-62.

As in Phase I, a notice of the search for volunteers was publicly displayed on the company's website. Holli Starnes has acted as administrator throughout. All candidates signed up when they purchased either a mitochondrial DNA HVS1+2 ancestry test or a mitochondrial "report only" based on previous testing. After receiving fulfillment of their personal order, they were requested to execute and mail back a standard informed consent form. Participation was at no extra cost. Open enrollment via the website lasted until August 31, 2014, at which time 67 candidates were verified and accepted into the final sample. All had learned in their personal report that they probably had direct female descent through mitochondrial DNA from a Native American woman.

The sample selected for Phase II is composed of 39 female (58%) and 28 male (42%) subjects. Two husband-wife couples enrolled. Sometimes the subject's test was ordered by a family member, but no participants knew they were closely related a priori. Ages varied from 30 to 90. Participants mostly lived in the United States and Canada, where they were residents of scattered locations, from New Hampshire and Florida to California, Texas and Hawaii. One joined from as far away as New Zealand. No single state (such as Oklahoma or Tennessee) stood out in the demography.

Of the 67 subjects, eleven of them (16%) tested with other companies first, including Family Tree DNA, Ancestry.com and DNA Diagnostics Center. About half (47%) got first-time test results from DNA Consultants' service lab, Genex Diagnostics of Vancouver, British Columbia, and about one-third tested with Sorenson Genomics of Salt Lake City, Utah. Two participants did not want to reveal the identity of their lab. Enrollment was fairly evenly distributed over five years. The largest number of tests (27) was taken in 2010, at the beginning of the study.

The numbers above are provided to emphasize that though the study is purposive in nature, its scope has proved random with regard to geographical location, date, age, sex and other factors. The sample size (n=67) is similar to that of Phase I (n=52). There are no known biases in the sample. No public or private funding was sought or obtained, no volunteer was paid, and no commercial interests were involved.

Motives, Customer Profiles and Report Fulfillment

Typical in respect to approach, background, motives and process was Sharon Benning of Roseburg, Oregon. "My grandmother and her family always said we were Cherokee and I know that they were afraid of looking too brown and would always stay out of the sun," wrote Benning in a customer inquiry on April 4, 2010. "They didn't want to be connected to Native Americans at all. I feel like I have missed part of my heritage and would like to know if this story is true." After purchasing a Native American DNA Test on April 5, she received and returned her sample collection kit. Sorenson Genomics of Salt Lake City, our service lab at the time, released her results to us in a "Certificate of Mitochondrial DNA Analysis," dated April 29, 2010. Staff then fulfilled her Native American DNA Report, which was signed by Donald N. Yates, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, on June 16, 2010.

In it, the customer was informed of hypervariable region sector 1 and 2 or control region mutations, matched to other instances of her haplotype and provided with an evaluation of its origin, history and distribution. Standard databases consulted were the Cambridge Mitochondrial DNA Concordance (version 2.0, 1998), Richards et al. (2000), mtDNA Population Database, incorporating "sequence data from the scientific literature and the GenBank and European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) genetic databases (Monson et al. 2002, also known as Swygdam and FBI) and Mitosearch, a free online research tool from Family Tree DNA, Houston, Texas.  

The basis for all testing and comparisons was the revised Cambridge Reference Sequence of the Human Mitochondrial DNA, described in Anderson et al. (1981) and Andrews et al. (1999) 

Haplogroup H is not one of the six classic Native American female lineages A, B, C, E, and X, although it has been identified in the Cherokee, where it is usually ascribed to admixture with Europeans (Schurr). Haplogroups T, J, K and U have also been found in Southeastern tribes (data on file, Bolnick). The subject’s particular haplotype, with one exception, only matches descendants of women born in North America. It is probable, although still ambiguous, then, that it is Native American or indigenous to North America. In conjunction with a family tradition that the maternal line was Native American, it should be considered Native American. The subject is encouraged to join Phase II of our Cherokee DNA Studies.

Benning volunteered for Phase II and became participant No. 43. Pending the completion of the project, she was issued a certificate that specified "Female Lineage:  H, Prob. Native American."

Typical of participants who submitted previous mitochondrial results for evaluation and possible inclusion, in other words who tested with another lab, was Juanita Sims. Her niece, Elizabeth DeLand, contacted Dr. Yates in July of 2014 and succeeded in enrolling her aunt as participant No. 67—one of the last to be accepted in Phase II. "Aunt Juanita originally had the test done because her grandmother and great-grandmother spoke Cherokee and she is trying to find it in her DNA," wrote DeLand. "She is U5 haplogroup and was told it was not Native American." Sims became one of six U5's in the second phase, joining six others in Phase I. Additionally, 9 of 135 in the old Family Tree DNA Cherokee Project were U5's. Sims' form of U5 exhibited two unmatched single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), 16291T and 272G, although it loosely matched four other U5's in the study.

Juanita Sims was originally tested by Family Tree DNA and thus received no certificate from DNA Consultants, as hers was a "report only." Family Tree DNA did not certify her mitochondrial line as Native American but as Eurasian. Under its rules at the time, "Native American mtDNA Haplogroups are A, B, C, D and X," tout court. The Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and United Keetoowah Band adopt similar definitions for what they consider "true" American Indian DNA types. Our study made no presumptions about the ethnicity or affiliation of haplogroups.

Note on CBC Project

In addition to cross-references within the project, all participants were compared to 135 mitochondrial records from the Cherokee DNA project begun in 2002 under the late Chief Joe White of the Central Band of Cherokee of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. The project met with a large response and remained active until 2011 under administrators June Hurd, Marcy Palmer and Holli Starnes. It was closed for unknown reasons in 2011. Members' records and administrators' names were all peremptorily removed. Its replacement project at Family Tree DNA shows 51 records, has the same name and lists Roberta Estes as administrator, but is not to be confused with the original project. Fortunately, the CBC generously gave access and granted permission to DNA Consultants to make a study of this valuable collection before it was taken offline.

Summary of Phase II Results

Haplogroup Distribution

To tabulate haplogroup assignments from Phase II, 57 individuals (85%) proved to have anomalous haplogroups and 10 (15%) A-D or X. These proportions are quite consistent with Phase I. In the project to date overall (n=119) there have been 101 anomalous types (85%) and 18 (15%) A-D or X. The CBC mitochondrial data (n=135) show 97% anomalous (H, I, J, K, L, T, U, W, no N or V) versus 3% non-anomalous (C, X, no A, B or D).

In Phase II as in Phase I, the largest haplogroup represented was T. This was the haplogroup of 13 individuals, or 19.4%, in Phase II (n=67). In Phase I (n=52), there were 14 T's (26.9%). Project-wide (n=119), the T's number 27 and account for 22.7% of participants.

Haplogroup U made the second highest appearance. Phase II had 10 individuals (14.9%). There were rather more U's (13, or 25.0%) in Phase I, bringing the total for both phases to date to 23, or 19.3%.

H was represented by 11 subjects in Phase II (16.4%) and 4 (7.7%) in Phase II. The total number of H's in the project is 15 (12.6%). In the CBC data, H is the largest haplogroup, accounting for 40.0% of individuals. The top three haplogroups (T, U and H) thus covered about half of participants across the two phases of the project.

Second tier anomalous types in Phase II were J (6, or 9.0%), L (6, or 9.0%) and K (4, or 6%). These moderately well represented haplogroups (J, K, L) accounted for about 21.8% of all participants and about 25% of anomalous types. The leading haplogroups T, U and H made up an average 45% of the anomalous samples.

At the bottom frequencies, anomalous haplogroups with 2 or fewer individuals were I (3.0%), W (3.0%), N (1.5%) and V (1.5%). These minor types accounted for 7.6% of the anomalous results in Phase I. They did not appear in Phase I. Project-wide, they represent 5% of results, and combining with CBC, which had 1 I and 2 W's, the minor anomalous types amount to 3.5% of haplogroup assignments. In addition, there have been four unknown haplogroups, all in Phase I, totaling 1.6% of the greater sample (n=254).

Fig. 1 Haplogroup Distribution Phase II




A-D, X




































Unique Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms

In Phase II, comparisons in all readily available worldwide databases (chiefly the Cambridge Mitochondrial DNA Concordance, Monson et al. and Mitosearch) produced 55 rare, unreported or unique SNPs on HVR1 and HVR2. A list of these mitochondrial DNA mutations of interest along with the haplogroups in which they occurred is provided in Fig. 2. A number of these yield matches within the project, or by comparison with CBC tested individuals, but there remain many individuals with such rare mutations that they do not match anyone in the world or at best only partially match others in the three samples (n=254).

The results of our analysis seem to implicate a specific, coherent and diverse gene pool of ancient structure and origin among present-day Cherokee descendants. Such a characterization is supported by the distribution of female haplotypes; invariable pattern of matches leading to mitochondrial linkage in North America, often to persons identified as Native American, and sometimes even as Cherokee; occurrence of very old mutations; and presence of unique SNPs that match with others in the sample, if with anyone.

The role of admixture depends on what population one  "privileges." From the perspective of entrenched models and theories of genetics, the finding of H or any of the other anomalous haplogroups in the Cherokee, no matter how many or in what proportions, should naturally be explained as the result of post-1492 European intermarriage or "random mating" with Native Americans. In the scheme "A-D and sometimes X," the presence of T, U, J or any other anomalous type in the Cherokee must be attributed to recent admixture.

Fig. 2. Unique and Rare SNPs



Phase II

Phase I


C, L

20, 51


H, L





11, 12, 13, 14, 16












T, L

5, 6, 16

24, 25, 26, 32, 50





U, T, B

23, 56, 58

2, 11, 16, 51, 52


U, T, B

23, 56, 58

2, 11, 16, 51, 52


H, K, L, T




H, L




21, 59


T, L


24, 25, 26, 32, 36, 50





U, H, T

14, 42, 44

6, 41


U, H, T

14, 42, 44

6, 41


L, A, J

47, 61






8, 63


J, K







T, H

21, 32, 59


T, U




8, 63, unknown









U, L

36, 64



L, H










A, H, U

33, 36



N, L

2, 51





U, B, I

4, 46, 48, 54, 60









C, L






J, L, Unknown

35, 52



J, U, Unknown

3, 32, 41

4, 8, 15, 16, 36, 45


H, W, L, J

12, 30, 31, 47, 63



D, H, W

25, 30, 31, 62


N, I, L, U

2, 48, 51, 52, 54



J, W, L

8, 30, 31, 54








I, T, L











20, 66



48, 54



20, 66



20, 66


J, K

35, 53

We have seen, however, that cracks and whole chasms have been developing in the formerly tidy, tied-up-with-ribbons "peopling of the Americas" hypothesis. Even if anomalous population components are ascribed to admixture, though, we still want to determine what time or times in the past, and from what source or sources, did that admixture enter into the picture. The condition that mitochondrial-line admixture is female-mediated, not male-mediated or autosomal, demands that we have a source population with a great number of women. Moreover, the female genetic founders must approximate the distribution, age and diversity of haplogroups in the study population (Cherokee descendants in the strict female line).

Gene flow into Native American populations historically has been almost exclusively the result of privileged European men taking lesser status American Indian female partners. Very few European women in colonial times bore the babies of Native American men. In the conquest of North America, Indian male lines were preferentially reduced and extinguished, while Indian women often became the prizes of war or simply an inevitable choice in a world overflowing with single males. If Native American women had children with European men, their daughters and maternal granddaughters perpetuated Native American mitochondrial DNA.

It bears repeating that only women can pass down trans-generational mitochondrial markers. The corollary is also true:  men cannot be responsible for mitochondrial ancestry. All present-day mitochondrial haplotypes must trace back to a woman, usually to a mother who had at least two daughters.

Can our admixture be explained as coming from other time frames and possibly non-European origins? If it is ancient rather than recent, does it even make sense to regard it as admixture? These are the questions we will address in the next section of our report. 

Sharon R. Chatterton (nee Toms). 


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