Chapter 6: The Civilized Tribes of North Carolina

Chapter 6: The Civilized Tribes of North Carolina Croatan Indians, Croatians, Armenians, Italians and Others

Jamie Oxendine (Lumbee Native American) of Toledo (left) and U.S. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (right) during the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. (2004). Public domain.

Fast forward to the 1500s. It is the first century when admixture is not only probable but provable. The old tribes and nations are now being completely transformed and reshuffled. In many locations less than one-tenth of the indigenous population survives. At some points whole native groups completely vanish. All Native Americans withstanding the onslaught of the “scum of the Eastern Sea,” as Tecumseh called whites, experience rapid, systematic admixture, violent cultural assault and traumatic identity loss.

In the first post-Columbian century, the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida are Spanish territory, part of the worldwide Hapsburg empire. The coast is contested in places by the English and French. It is beginning to be infested with pirates and freebooters. Simultaneously, two other powers hold wild cards in the game of empire, namely Venice and the Turks. Both are foes of the Spanish and Austrians, as are the English, Dutch and French. The Republic of Ragusa is a neutral and strategic player. From its central location on the Adriatic at Dubrovnik, this maritime city-state in Croatia enjoys the rare advantage of being able to trade freely in both directions, with the Ottoman East and Italian and Spanish West. Like Venice, however, it is an urban island republic dependent on trade, manufactures and finance, devoid of natural resources, without an agricultural hinterland of rural inhabitants to bolster its size or influence.

With a single turn of the page we are firmly in the domain of the written word. Everything now is about admixture. Our representative for this period is C. D. Brewington of a famous Lumbee[1]  family. He wrote The Five Civilized Indian Tribes of Eastern North Carolina in 1952.[2] Brewington was a teacher and minister and served in the Croatan churches of Sampson and Robeson counties, the Lumbee heartland. Brewington was a strong original spokesman for American Indian heritage, but he was more. He happened to be an Indian himself. The moral imperative he felt is in keeping with our policy of privileging native sources, and allowing descendants to speak with their own voices and evidence.

Fig. 0. Illustration of entwined and entangled Lumbee genealogies from Brewington’s book.

Brewington was certain of the fact that tribes in the mixed confederacy around Robeson County in North Carolina included descendants of the famous Lost Colony. He was also positive they had never intermarried with blacks. Of the Croatans or Croatoans, he says:

There is an abiding tradition among these people that their ancestors were the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island, amalgamated with the Five Civilized Tribes of Eastern North Carolina. It is impossible to point out one particular tribe of Indians as their sole ancestors. This tradition is supported by their looks, their complexion, straight black hair, their eyes, by the manners, customs and habits, and by the fact that while they are, in part, of undoubted Indian origin, they have no Indian language and know but little of Indian customs and habits (p. 15).

The five “civilized” Indian tribes with whom the Croatans “amalgamated” are named as the Cherokee, Tuscarora, Meherrin, Waccamaw and Saponi (Haliwah). The last two joined the Saxapahaw to form the Eno-Chicora Confederation. The Cheraw were related but distinct. They were called the Sara or Judah tribe by the Spanish and Portuguese. All were to be classed as Old Cherokees and distinguished from the more primitive Algonquian tribes along the coast. Of these, the Cohaire on a tributary of the Cape Fear were also important. They were also of Iroquoian or Cherokee-speaking stock. Their name is found in New York state where the Tuscarora migrated after 1700 (Schohairie County). It means driftwood in the Tuscarora language and was synonymous with beaver-dams and the term “wet ass” (p. 26). Brewington does not mention the Catawba, Creek, Shawnee, Euchee or Powhatan tribes.

Fig. 1-3. CROAT TYPE:  From left, a) Lumbee Indian educator C. D. Brewington (1925, Mutual Life Insurance Company of Baltimore, Maryland), b) Croatian native Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac, Archbishop of Zagreb (1898-1960, official Roman Catholic Church portrait of 1938), and c) the Cherokee Oukah Ulah (Second Chief), of Tassechee, one of a party of seven Cherokees who accompanied Sir Alexander Cumming to England to meet King George II (1730, engraving by Isaac Basire after a lost “painting of Markham”).[3] Note Jewish Orthodox style sidelocks in the Cherokee man, who is dressed for the occasion in a fine suit of clothes given by the king. All have similar physiognomy, skin and hair color, ears, noses, lips, chins, eyebrows and hairlines, even though they are separated by two centuries and an ocean apart.

The Hatteras Indians were observed by the English adventurer John Lawson around 1700. Lawson had as his guide Enoe Will, a Coree Indian born about 1630-1640 on Enoe Bay. Will reportedly asked Lawson to “talk in his book” (i.e., read his Bible) and “make paper speak.” The Carolina coastal Indians had the tradition, he said, that “their ancestors were white people…and could talk in a book… and valued themselves extremely for their affinity to the English and were willing to do them all friendly offices.” Many of these Indians had gray eyes and fair skin.

Croatoan was the name of an Indian village in 1585. It lay on the North Carolina coast at the time Raleigh’s colonists were planted there, being told to take refuge with them if anything happened.[4] When Gov. John White sailed past on his return from England in 1590 the site was ransacked and deserted. The colonists were gone. Presumably, they joined Croatian colonists nearby. By the seventeenth and eighteenth century, the same “Indians” were found further inland on the banks of the Neuse, Cape Fear, Lumber, Coharie and South Rivers in Sampson and adjoining counties, where they are living to this day, and nowhere else.

The first U.S. federal, state and county records list numerous surnames that have been traced to the Lost Colony. Prominent are Dare, Harvey, Cooper and Berry. Other “Indian names” are claimed to be Jacobs, Goodman, Simmons, Ammons, Brewington, Mainor, Manuel or Emmanuel, Jones, Bledsole, Faircloth, Harding and Warrick. The counties where these mixed-blood peoples have significant roots are: Sampson, Robeson, Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Scotland, Richmond and Hoke in North Carolina, and Sumpter, Marlboro and Dillon in South Carolina. There they are sometimes called Red Bones or Sumter Turks [5]

Lumbees have genetic, genealogical and cultural similarities to Melungeons, but we must stick to our theme.

Firewater and Flamenco Indians

Brewington may not look Indian, and the name seems perfectly Anglo-Saxon, but the Brewingtons were accounted to be “the largest of any Indian family in Sampson County.” According to “Sketch of the Brewington Family,” the name is “a pure English word, which means a brewer of drinks, and we would also add, one that likes such drinks after they have been made, which is one of the characteristics that followed this family for several generations.” The name was adopted by an Indian and did not originate with a white man:

This name was first given to an Indian who was considered by the white settlers of what is now Sampson County as an excellent maker of “fire water,” as the Indians called it. They called him Bill Brewington. His Indian name was dropped, and he was taught the language of the English.[6]

Bill Brewington, who lived in the eighteenth century, was apparently of Cohaire extraction. His wife was a “Cherokee Indian” named Jane. They had a daughter, we learn, Hannah Brewington, born about 1776. The oldest residents described her “as being a true specimen of the original Cherokee . . . of a copper-reddish hue, with prominent cheekbones, straight black hair and black eyes.” She bought land in Clinton in 1807, but “her people lived on the banks of Coharee, without any need of buying, as the land was held in common by the Indians of those days.” Hannah married an orphan from Cohaire named White Simon, a servant and evidently free person of color or untaxed Indian. He was remembered as half Indian, half white. Their children were given the Brewington surname because White Simon had no last name. Raiford Brewington, a venerable figure in the county, was their son and married Bashaby Manuel.

So Brewington is a double false lead. Do not look for it on the lists of colonists. But the name is quintessentially Lumbee:

The Brewington family for seven generations with one or two exceptions, have not intermarried with persons of negro [sic] blood, and have retained their racial status to a remarkable degree (p.79).

Vital records demonstrate that since their appearance in the eighteenth century the Brewingtons intermarried only with other old core Lumbee families like Jacobs, Goodman, Strickland, Jones, Bledsole, Simmons, Emmanuel, Ammons and Chavis. C. D. Brewington married Bessie Chavis, a cousin. Sometimes a Brewington married a Brewington. The common denominator was always Croatan. Was that the same as Croatian? Or are the vast majority of historians and anthropologists correct in saying that the word carved on the tree in Roanoke was an Indian word referring to the Croatoan-Croatan Indians of Algonquian culture living on a neighboring island on Cape Hatteras?

The Croatian theory has been very well served by Adam Eterovich. In a book published in 2003, this one-man cultural attaché summarized the evidence for Croatan Indians being the same as Croatians, or Croats. The same nationality, he reminded us, is sometimes identified in documents as Hungarian, Venetian, Austrian, Turkish, Italian-Venetian, Schiavon, Slavonian, Illyrian, Dalmatian or from the Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik). We can bullet point his findings as follows:

  • John Cabot, the discoverer of North America, had ties to Venice and Ragusa as well as England. His true name was Giovanni Caboto. He sailed for Venice and then England, for Henry VII, Elizabeth’s grandfather. About twenty percent of Cabot’s crew was Croatian.
  • Verrazano, who discovered New York and may have had Croatian or Dalmatian roots, called the surrounding region New Dalmatia in 1524. In the 1540s, a cape near the port of Charleston was named Saint Blas after the patron saint of Dubrovnik in Croatia.
  • Spain would not allow on her ships Jews, Greek Orthodox, Protestants or Moslems, except as galley slaves. Dalmatians and Croatians, on the other hand, were prized, not only because of their navigation skills and knowledge of the seaman’s life but because they were Roman Catholics.
  • “Sir Walter Raleigh and Nikola Gozi-Gucetich held meetings in 1585 in London, prior to the voyage, with the admiral Lord Charles Howard of Effingham. Croatoan Island was first called My Lord Admirals Island in honor of Lord Howard of Effingham. Nikola Gozi-Gucetich of Dubrovnik was the second largest foreign banker in England. His nephew, Paolo Gondola-Gundulich, wrote letters to a friend in Florence from London of Drake and Raleigh in Virginia and other voyages. The Dalmatian-Croatian colony had a Fraternity in London. They probably were venture capitalists in a number of English voyages of exploration.”[7]
  • At the Lost Colony, “cante-cante” meant to sing and dance (as in flamenco dancing, cante, which came from Andalusian Gypsies), “cipo” was mullet (Italian, used of the Adriatic fish genus), and “sat” was time (Croatian sati “hours”).
  • Place-names in North Carolina of Croatian derivation include not only Croatoan Sound and Croatoan Island but Croatamonga and Croatamung Island.
  • Cape Hatteras variants are Hatarask, Hotoras, Hatorask, Hatorsack, Otterasco and Ottorasko. The last mentioned was the earliest name given to the island south of Port Ferdinando. Southward from it was Croatoan.

There are many other signs, says Eterovich. Gray eyes and blondish hair was noted among Indians in the region. What is atypical of Indians, however, is typical of Croatians. “Gray eyes and light hair is found in Croatia in great numbers and not found in any other Mediterranean people.” We can confirm this from a trip to Dubrovnik in 2009. Our taxi driver had the requisite gray eyes and blondish hair, but we also noticed a lot of the same in Venice. There is a reason the main embankment, where the Doge’s Palace is located and gondolas tie up for St. Mark’s, is the Riva degli Schiavoni (Quay of the Slovenes). Slovenes was just another designation for Croats or Croatians.

Interestingly, one Roanoke and Lumbee name is Goss, evidently from Gozi, while Gandy/Gundy appears to be a rendering of Croatian Gundić.

More coincidences are cited by others:

  • According to British admiralty records, a majority of mariners and pilots on the king’s or queen’s ships were foreigners, with Ragusans usually listed first, Venetians second.
  • The name of Long Island corresponds, it is said, to the Croatian island called Dugi Otok (=long island).
  • Marco Polo was allegedly a descendant of Croats (Marko Pilich). His ancestral house on Korcula Island is pointed out to tourists.
  • Several Croat nationals appear among the crew members of Columbus in 1492, notably Martin de Araguis and Pedro de Arague, both meaning “of Ragusa.”

As long ago as 1960 the question was raised, “Were Some Croats Present at the Discovery of America?” In the pages of the Annual Review of the Croatian Academy of America, George J. Prpic described how the obscure little merchant state of Ragusa “realized achievements that bordered on the miraculous” in the seafaring history of Europe.[8] Its merchant marine enjoyed a world reputation, its banks and financial instruments were blue-chip, and its patricians models of sagacity and morality. They abolished slavery in 1416, one of the first governments to do so, and sacrificed enormous profits in later centuries by refusing to ship African slaves to America. One of their citizens sailed with Columbus to the New World and returned with a fortune, building a showpiece in Dubrovnik known as the Palace of Ronda. The city-state operated its own seafaring “argosies,” or treasure ships, and built hundreds of large transoceanic vessels for Spain at Dubrovnik and at wharves on the peninsula of Pelješac.

Ragusa signed a commercial treaty with Spain in 1494 and “now more than ever developed its seaborne trade… soon the first emigrants from there sailed for the New World.” According to records in the Dubrovnik archives, Croatians started emigrating to ports of call in the West Indies, South America and Mexico “in the decade following 1510.” On all sides except the sea, Dubrovnik was surrounded by Turkish territory “from whence thousands of refugees fled to this small island of prosperity.” It is known that the families Basiljević, Divoćić and Skrabonja “were among the first Croatian immigrants to America,” and in 1520 two brothers Mate and Dominko Konkendović spent thirty years in Mexico, bringing home some 13,000 gold ducats. Significantly, there was a large enough Ragusan colony in London to merit its own cemeteries.

Over time, the manhunt for Croatians by North Carolina historians narrowed to two known wrecks, one in 1558 near Secotan, 26 years before the first Virginia colony, and another in 1564 involving the nearby island of Ocraoke, which appears to be from the Croatian. We believe the name of the friendly Croatoan Indian Manteo commemorates the Croatian presence. Manteo, which has no meaning in any Algonquian Indian language, seems most likely to come from Croatian mantija, cognate with Spanish manto and Italian manto or mantello. All mean “cloak, mantle.” The word was used at this time especially of the thick woolen cloak worn as a badge of office or status symbol by Ragusan merchants and senators (see Fig. 4). Mantija began as the name for a piece of occupational clothing but soon took on pejorative connotations, as in our expressions “cloak and dagger operation” and “under the mantle of peace.” Did a Croatian merchant give a local Indian a mantija, and that word became his name, Manteo? Manteo without doubt appears to be a Croatian word, not Spanish, Italian or English.

Merchant’s cloak

Fig.4. Merchant’s cloak from a costume-book published in Venice in 1664, Habiti Antichi: Raccolta di Figure. “Almost all Italian merchants wear them, the pure wool ones being for the highest classes.” The woodcuts are claimed to be by “the Great Titian” (d. 1576) and his associate Cesare Vecellio (d. 1601) but were in fact by the German artist Christoph Krieger, who died in Venice in 1590. The style is therefore of the sixteenth century.

Modal and Submodal Lumbee DNA Profiles

Can Croatian roots be proved through Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA analysis? There is a public Family Tree DNA project whose member stories and DNA data could conceivably provide some answers, although it is curated by administrators who believe that only ABCD lineage can be American Indian. The project title is Robeson North Carolina Native American; it used to carry the words “tribal” and “Lumbee” in its name.

We point out in Chapter 2 the similarity of the Lumbee pattern of mitochondrial haplogroup distribution with our Cherokee DNA Project. Both populations are surprisingly admixed and diversified. Some researchers have attempted to pick out specific clues and even genetic signatures from the summary Robeson County Native American data. They’ve made claims about Croatian, Jewish, African and other ancestries in the Lumbees. But this sort of exercise is problematical. For instance, it is a mistake to reason that T2 is the same as the “Sephardic Signature.”[9] This is a very minor T2e1 haplotype which has been traced back to a probable Jewish founder female, and which has only a small number of carriers today.[10] Our approach focuses rather on precise haplotype analysis and detailed genealogy instead of broad haplogroup matches.

Autosomal DNA is the key to overcoming these challenges. Maybe some of the ethnic roots were handed down unequally in male or female lines, such as the DNA of shipwrecked sailors. This might be detectable in Y chromosome lines or surnames, but it would be invisible in female lineage analyses, since males do not pass mitochondrial DNA, only inherit it. We have therefore constructed an artificial STR profile called “Modal Lumbee” and put it into our autosomal database of 550 world populations (Fig. 5). It represents an average Lumbee’s ancestry, mother’s side, father’s side, all lines, with the leading matches to forensic reference samples.

Rank World Population Matches
1 U.S. Chippewa Indians (n = 22)
2 Native American – Lumbee (n = 106)
3 Iberian Peninsula – Catalans (n = 50)
4 Turkish (n = 198)
5 Melungeon (n = 40)
6 Colombian-Andean-Amazonian-Orinoquian (n = 846)
7 Jewish (n = 124)
8 Spanish – Minorcan (n = 100)
9 Native American – Saskatchewan (n=105)
10 Colombian – Northeastern – Santander (n = 99)
11 Portuguese – Madeira (n = 100)
12 Chamorros – Guam (n = 97)
13 Argentinian – Corrientes (n = 43)
14 Colombian – Bogata (n = 150)
15 Yemeni – Sanana (n = 100)
16 Azerbaijan (n = 285)
17 Colombian – Antioquia (n = 400)
18 Polish – Northern (n = 145)
19 White – California (n = 75)
20 Argentinian – Buenos Aires (n = 143)
21 Bavarian (n = 155)
22 White – Florida (n = 117)
23 Native American – Saskatchewan (n = 40)
24 Hispanic – North Carolina (n = 157)
25 White – Minnesota (n = 160)
26 White – New York (n = 71)
27 Native American – Minnesota (n = 203)
28 Colombian – Boyaca (n = 120)
29 Russia – Vody (n = 60)
30 Native American – Minnesota (n = 100)
31 U.S. Cherokee Admixed (n = 92)
32 Polish (n = 125)
33 Polish (n = 136)
34 Native American – Minnesota (n = 191)
35 Polish (n = 870)
36 Brazilian – Bahia (n = 150)
37 Russia – Altai Turkic (n = 68)
38 Paraguayan (n = 168)
39 White – Florida (n = 123)
40 Eastern Turkey (n = 802)
41 Spanish – Cantabria (n = 158)
42 Ukrainian (n = 900)
43 Dubai (n = 224)
44 Hispanic – U.S. (n = 497)
45 White – Michigan (n = 80)
46 Spanish – Balearic Islands (n = 113)
47 Venezuelan – Maracaibo (n = 203)
48 Mexican – Northeastern – Mestizo (n = 143)
49 Mexican – Nuevo Leon (n =143)
50 Spanish – Northeast (n = 204)

Fig. 5. Top ancestries reported among Lumbee Indians according to autosomal DNA (N=550).

This chart contains some expected and some unexpected matches. Lumbees would be pleased to see that the top two matches and eight others are Native American. Of course, it is hardly a mystery that Lumbees match Lumbees (no. 2), but it is counter-intuitive that Chippewa Indians sampled on the U.S.-Canada border[11] should be the No. 1 match. The reason for this may be that the Chippewa (also called Ojibway and Anishnabe) are one of the largest and oldest American Indian groups in North America, although they are not known to have ever lived south of the Great Lakes. Perhaps the match simply indicates “bedrock” indigenous DNA? In the top echelon, Lumbee DNA also matches South American Indians (6), Saskatchewan First Peoples (9, 23), three other Chippewa/Ojibway samples (27, 30, 34), Cherokee (31) and Northeast Mexican Mestizos (48). American Indian is the third strongest ethnic match, following Melungeon and Jewish and preceding European megapopulations. If our hypothetical average Lumbee were to show these results to a Senate committee, the adjudicators of recognition would have a hard time denying they are Indians just as Chippewas and others are Indians, right?

In what is undeniably a mixed bag, we note some of the usual suspects in Lumbee history and genealogies, along with a few new faces. Any one of them deserves a chapter—or better, a book—to itself.

Jews. Jewish is no. 7 in the world matches, Hungarian Ashkenazim no. 7 on an extended loci basis, no. 5 in the metapopulations (just ahead of Native American, and below Catalan and Caucasus) and no. 2 in the megapopulations. Israeli Jews (n=163) is no. 5 in the European-only lineup. Yet contemporary Lumbees seem to have no knowledge of Jewish ancestry, despite the fact that many of their oldest surnames are clearly of Jewish or crypto-Jewish origin. As an example, Revel/Revil is a Sephardic surname from Majorca and Marseille (Ravel).[12] Cloeraly, which appears on the 1790 census in Sampson County with many other Lumbee names, is Clerle, a Venetian Jewish family.[13] As I suggested in Jews and Muslims in British Colonial America, Brayboy and Braveboy may come from the Jewish surname Brébois (“from Brabant”). Much more research needs to be done along these lines.

Morocco. Moroccan ancestry has been shown to be characteristic in refugees from the Spanish Inquisition after 1492, and again after 1580, when Spain and Portugal united, and again in 1610 after persecutions were increased dramatically by the new branch in Cartegena, Columbia. This event brought thousands of wealthy, but fearful conversos to the Carolinas and Georgia. They came by the shipload. Their addition to the gene pool seems to explain the matches we see with: Venezuelan – Maracaibo (n=203), Colombian – Northeaster – Santander (n=99), Colombian-Andean-Amazonian-Orinoquian (n=846), Colombian – Antioquia (n=400)m Colombian – Boyaca (n=120) and Brazilian – Bahia (n=150).

Tunisian (n=196). A good example of how autosomal DNA can pinpoint the exotic is this Tunisian match that pops up. The Barbary Pirates were long headquartered in Tunis. The clear and present danger these Ottoman corsairs posed to the United States as soon as it received its independence from Great Britain led to the new country’s first war with another power in 1801. These pirates preyed upon the Spanish treasure fleet and other shipping that sailed past the treacherous waters of Cape Hatteras. Often they had settlements or hideouts on shore. Note supportive matches in Muslim countries like Turkey, Greece, Morocco, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Malaysia, Dubai, Arabia, Iraq, Cyprus and Morocco.

Catalans. While just about every Spanish or Portuguese population in the database scores a high rank in our Lumbee “skeletons in the closet” ancestry, it is Catalan that heads the list. Why? Columbus had many Catalan connections and may have been Catalan by origin. Catalan sailors and navigators were widely considered the best of the best. One must bear in mind that the first white inhabitants of North Carolina were overwhelmingly Spaniards. The region was long part of the province of Spanish Florida.

Croatian (n=200). There are several populations so named, as well as a host of related ones. Croatia comes out at position #24 in one lineup, followed at #25 by Slovenian. Italian matches are also medium high, including Sicily and Western Sicily. The latter two seem to point to the increasing role of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (1442-1713) in the military, mining and trade of Spain, and perhaps to the relocation and emigration of Sicilians in those walks of life. There was a considerable flight of Jews and Conversos to Sicily and Italy in the sixteenth century.

Armenian. Here is our old bugbear! We started this work with questions about Armenian matches in the Cherokee. On one search basis now, Armenia – Gardman (n=95) emerges as high up in Lumbee matches. Neighboring countries corresponding to Armenia’s traditional borders are also salient:  Eastern Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Kurds and Azerbaijan, while a high incidence Caucasus DNA has been reported in both male and female lines as well as autosomally. To link just one of these to a plausible historical cause, a half-million Armenians were relocated during the Ottoman-Safavid War of 1603-1618 to an area of Isfahan called New Julfa. We know of similar large-scale relocations to Ukraine (no. 10 metapopulation).

Poland, Ukraine and Romania. We have already drawn attention to the fact that with the Turkish expansion into Crimea in 1475, Armenians were forced to move west as refugees into Moldavia, Transylvania and mainly to Galicia, now southern Poland.

Forgotten Ancestors

Another way to study the buried treasure of a population’s ethnicity in the past is to search for matches to the sub-modal or next most common readings. The Lumbees are an optimal target of this strategy since they are of mixed origins. Many of them even proclaim that this or that tribe member is “half-white, half-Indian,” as though one parent were white and the other Indian. The matches for the “junior partner” in this mix are shown in Fig. 6. As one can see, Croatian is at the bullseye of the European hits, while Armenian is the leading megapopulation. Minus the Indian side, it’s as though an Armenian businessman took a Croatian bride and this was their child’s DNA test. The American Indian fades into the background and we get a clear picture of the primary non-American Indian strain that “amalgamated” with it.

Rank in


Country/ Population and

Number in Study

Strength of Match
1 Albanian – Kosovo (n = 136) 49
2 Croatia (n = 200) 26
3 Italy (n =103) 25
4 Turkish (n = 500) 20
5 Bosnia and Herzegovina (n = 171) 20
6 Macedonian (n = 100) 14
7 Montenegro (n = 200) 14
8 Serbia/Vojvodina/Montenegro (n = 100) 12
9 Western Sicily (n = 120) 11
10 Spain (n = 449) 10


Fig. 6. The “minority report” for Lumbee ethnic origins.

Six of the top 10 European populations are Balkan. Italy and Turkey could be counted if we recall that until modern times they were in possession of Croatia, Serbia and others, or at least parts of them. The only match that does not fit is Spain at the bottom. Albanians in Kosovo, the most Turkish part of the former Yugoslavia, with over 95% registering Sunni Muslim as their religion, is no. 1. Albania was a populous, jealously defended colony in the Venetian Republic’s Stato dà Mar (Domain of the Sea, Overseas Possessions), which lasted from 1463 to 1797 and included the coasts of Dalmatia and Istria in the north and islands of Korfu and Kefalonia in the south, as well as Cyprus, Greece and some of the other countries that make an appearance in Lumbee results. Albanians in Kosovo (who were likely Christian, not Muslim)[14] constituted twice as strong a match for Lumbee ancestry as the next tier of matches, Croatia, Italy, Turkey and Bosnia/Herzegovina.

If we look at another measure of ethnic origins and analyze the sub-modal profile’s megapopulations, Armenian is far and away the strongest match, followed by Middle Eastern (e.g. Turkey and North Africa, Ottoman lands in the past), Mediterranean European (e.g. Italy) and Northern European (e.g. England). The Lumbee melting pot was composed of English, American Indian, Spanish, Balkan, Turkish, Armenian and other exotic ingredients. Among the latter was a pinch of Berber, Jewish, Arab and even Malay. Some of these populations seem to have a marked male bias, such as the presumed pirate-originating Tunisians, and to be invisible in mitochondrial studies. The Armenian and Jewish contributions to Lumbee mixing, on the other hand, seem to have included forefathers and foremothers of the same ethnic origin. In other words, some early emigrants came as single men and some in family groups. Not all colonists came over two by two like the biological specimens on Noah’s ark.

The most striking consequence of these analyses to our mind is the fact that only the English heritage remained in the living memory of Robeson County old-timers. Lumbees seem to have largely forgotten they had Middle Eastern, Jewish, Balkan, Spanish and Italian roots until they purposely, and perversely according to some, researched these strains in their heritage. Many Lumbees today are not quite prepared to acknowledge such findings, even when hard science weighs in.

Could Armenians and Croatians have settled in large numbers together in early North Carolina? The shadow of both ancestries looms large in both the Lumbee and Cherokee, and we have already noted the movement of large numbers of peoples through Dubrovnik. Were Armenians and Croatians ever fellow travelers? The answer is suggested by an article titled “Armenia-Croatia Relations.”[15] In it, we learn that Dubrovnik was the nerve center of Croatian-Armenian connections, particularly at the time of the Italian Renaissance (1400s and 1500s). Among inhabitants of the Adriatic city-state was a number of Armenians. Saint Blaise, the patron saint of Ragusa, was a fourth-century Armenian saint. There was considerable cross pollination between Croatians and Armenians in matters of religion, philosophy and business. The Ragusans took a special interest in learned Catholics in the Ottoman Empire, leading to the establishment of the Mekhitarist Order in Vienna. The latter institution has published over 200 books in the fields of humanism and the natural sciences in the Croatian language. A Croatian, Father (1802-1884), published the first modern history of Armenia in the West, plus an entire library of works on Armenian geography, national biography, customs and politico-religious subjects.

A Dalmatian legend tells how ships from Dubrovnik sailed westward around 1540 with a large number of refugees fleeing from the Turkish army. There was nowhere for them to go but abroad, but wherever the Slavic multitudes ended up they immediately tried to revive their traditional way of life. This included zadruga, a social institution practically innate in South Slavic peoples. Generally embracing one extended family or clan, the zadruga held property, herds and money in common. Its members shared the fieldwork, proceeds therefrom and tribute or military service owed to the overlords, which during the war-torn years of the sixteenth century were often various, changing and in conflict. Usually the oldest patriarch ruled and made decisions for the family, though at times he would delegate this right at an old age to one of his sons. Because the system was patrilocal, when a girl left her parents’ zadruga when she married and joined that of her husband. Within the zadruga, all of the family members worked to ensure that the needs of every other member were met.

Can we detect any of these old Croatian lifeways in the Lumbee? Was the zadruga behind their much-remarked upon custom of owning and working land in common long after land grants and severalty came to be the rule? Was frequent cousin-marriage and fierce clannishness because of these ties? Did the Croatoan Indians, Cohaire, Tuscarora and others manage to survive where other tribes failed because they could easily count on local fighting men to form a tightly organized, mercenary-free and well-disciplined army?

A final thought is that there may be a trace of Croatians on the Carolina coast under our very noses. As pointed out at a Congressional hearing in 1957, the Croatian author Vlaho Vlahović (d. 1872) weighed in on the controversy in one of his books with the following testimony:

The oldest known grapevine in America, still producing delicious grapes, is located on the island close to the spot where the lost colony is believed to have landed. Governor White noted that this grapevine was bearing abundant fruit in 1590, which supports my contention that those preceding the Colonists could have been Croatians…. Transporting grapevines is a custom with Dubrovnikian and Dalmatian navigators…. When a Dubrovnikian or Dalmatian sailor embarked on a long voyage he frequently took with him seedlings, roots, and plants, especially grapevine cuttings. These he would sow or transplant into the soil of whatever country he visited. When returning home he would bring back seeds, shrubs, and strange fruit trees.[16]

The first historical record of the presence of Croats in North America—the inscription “Croatoan” carved in Elizabethan letters on a post at Roanoke—has moldered away. But the grapevine of a Croatian mariner, I daresay, lives on. And Croatian and Italian genes from across the Atlantic continue to propagate and bear fruit in North Carolina Native Americans, noticeably the Cherokee and Lumbee.

[1] George Edwin Butler, The Croatan Indians of Sampson County, North Carolina; Gerald M. Sider, Lumbee Indian Histories: Race, Ethnicity, and Indian Identity in the Southern United States (Cambridge UP, 1993); Adolph L. Dial and David K. Eliades, The Only Land I Know: A History of the Lumbee Indians (Syracuse UP, 1996).

[2] C. D. Brewington, The Five Civilized Indian Tribes of Eastern North Carolina, ed. Oscar M. Bizzell (Newton Grove: Sampson County Historical Society, 1994).

[3] Donald N. Panther-Yates, “A Portrait of Cherokee Chief Attakullakulla from the 1730s? A Discussion of William Verelst’s ‘Trustees of Georgia’ Painting,’” Journal of Cherokee Studies 22 (2001), pp. 4-20.

[4] For an overview of the Roanoke colony, along with speculation that it may have included several Jews or crypto-Jews, see Elizabeth Caldwell Hirschman and Donald N. Yates, Jews and Muslims in British Colonial America (Jefferson: McFarland, 2012), pp. 45-51. The surname and other evidence, however, does not rise to speaking about a Sephardic Jewish “settlement,” as in Elizabeth C. Hirschman et al., “DNA Evidence for a Colonial Jewish Settlement” in Ethnic Studies Review, Vol. 42 No. 1, (Spring 2019), pp. 95-116; DOI: 10.1525/esr.2019.421008. For one thing, Jews did not identify as “Sephards.” For another, the few settlers and emigrants who might be “proved” to have Jewish names or ancestry or religion were certainly not in the majority. Hirschman is grandstanding.

[5] Butler, pp. 21-29.

[6] Butler, p. 76.

[7] Adam S. Eterovich, “Croatia and Croatians and the Lost Colony 1585-1590,” online book notice at The book was published in 2003 by the Ragusan Press.

[8] George J. Prpic, “Early Croatian Contacts with America and the Mystery of the Croatans,” Journal of Croatian Studies I (1960), based on his Ph.D. diss. The Croats in American, Department of History, Georgetown University (1959), available online at:

[9] Elizabeth C. Hirschman et al, “”DNA Evidence of a Croatian and Sephardic Jewish Settlement on the North Carolina Coast Dating from the Mid to Late 1500s,” International Social Science Review 95/2, p. 13. The errors in explaining DNA do not instill faith in the claims and conclusions either.

[10] F. L. Bedford, “Sephardic Signature in Haplogroup T mitochondrial DNA,” European Journal of Human Genetics, 20,4 (2012), pp. 441-48 and F. L. Bedford et al, “Clarifying mitochondrial DNA subclades of T2e from Mideast to Mexico,” Journal of Phylogenetics and Evolutionary Biology, 2, 4 (2013), pp. 1-8. Actually, there are two Jewish signatures, neither common at all, distinctive as they each are. Bedford labels one Converso/Sephardic and the other Sephardic/Ashkenazi. Both are defined by mutations within T2e1. See her “Jewish motifs”:

[11] Ng, J et al. “Native American Population Data based on the Globalfiler autosomal STR PCR Amplification Kit,” Forensic Science International, 12-13 (2016); doi: 10.1016/j.fsigen.2016.06.014.

[12] Hirschman and Yates, Jews and Muslims, p. 50; cf. DSS, p. 370.

[13] Ibid., 255, n. 19; cf. DSS, p. 227; the Clerle family numbered among the last Jews to be deported to the death camps under Mussolini; see Liliana Picciotto Fargion, Il Libro della memoria: Gli ebrei deportati dall’ Italia 1943-1945 (Milan: Mursia, 1991); Samuel Schaerf, I Cognomi degli ebrei d’Italia (Israel, 1925).

[14] M. Kubat, “Population Genetics of the 15AmpF/STR Identifiler loci in Kosovo Albanians,” International Journal of Legal Medicine 118/2 (2004), pp. 115-18.

[15] World Heritage Encyclopedia, “Armenia-Croatia Relations,” available at

[16] Prpic (see above), citing Congressional Record, Appendix (April 8, 1957), p. A2798, and Zajedničar (newspaper of the Croatian Fraternal Union of America, in Croatian, Pittsburgh, Pa.), June 12, 1957.


  Comments: 8

  1. Richard Thornton

    You are on to something. One of the towns in NE Tennessee in the 1684 map by Jean Baptiste Franquelin was Catalou. Cataloochee in Haywood County, NC is not a Cherokee word, but a Creek word meaning Descendants of Catalou. In their 1674 journey to NE Tennessee, Gabriel Arthur and James Needham visited a town built of brick that was inhabited by white Christians. The church contained a massive bell, which was rung three times a day as a call to prayer. That is still the custom among Anatolian, Armenian and Balkan Orthodox Christians. Croatian Catholics could have practiced the same tradition. Take a look at Tennessee Earnie Ford. He claimed to be part Cherokee, but does not look Native American at all. He grew up in Bristol, Tennessee.

    • Very astute, Richard. The only thing I would differ with is where the town with bricks and white Christians and bells was… I thought we agreed this was down the Coosa River in south Central Alabama. The whole puzzle is in Chapter 1 and Appendix A.

  2. I seem to skirt around all these but never quite match. I do have some of the surnames from the list on the Robeson county site but many are common like Brown, Bell, Miller or spelled differently and the closest name and place to there is a Miller in Rowan, NC. Or maybe Neal (ONeal) instead of Neel. They were in and out of Barbados and Jamaica to VA and NC.

    I have an ancestor who was recorded as a nephew of Sir Walter Raleigh but they are hundreds of years apart so multiple great nephew at best… and I have not found that connection to confirm. His name was Raleigh Travers so perhaps he was making that up, hard to say.

    My sister her only Native match on the Cherokee test was Lumbee, it was the lower of my top 50 Native results.


  3. Great insights! My own ancestry is to Croatans who migrated to the Robeson/Sampson/Hoke area of NC, then into the Cheraw District of SC, then across the border into Georgia by 1800. In 1910, the Croatan community was declared Cherokee and renamed by the NC government, and the main remnant group was merged into the Lumbee nation in 1956.
    There is a tradition that the Croatan descended from the Roanoke colony survivors, and were of two factions: one that intermarried with local Indians but not Africans, and one that intermarried only within their own European group. They anticipated the return of their ancestral people from across the ocean (Gov. White’s delayed re-supply voyage?), and want to be recognizable when they met. They also continued using an archaic form of English in 1701, using the Saxon “-en” suffix to pluralize nouns rather than the modern “s”. Thus the plural of house was housen, not houses.
    While my documented genealogy goes back to Hungarians, Slovenes, Serbs, and Croatians, it had never occurred to me that the DNA matches for these might reflect pre-Jamestown North American populations.

  4. Linda Buchholz

    I would like more info on this statement as I am of Old Cheraw & Cherokee Descent. “The Cheraw were related but distinct. They were called the Sara or Judah tribe by the Spanish and Portuguese”

    I have worked extensively with the Old Cheraw Historian and knew about Cheraw previously being called Sara or Saura, but never heard of them being called Judah Tribe.

  5. Sabrina Jamison

    I’ve only seen chapter 6 of this. How do I got to read chapters 1_5?

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