Family Tree DNA Conference 2012 – Native American Focus Meeting

Wow. Talk about drinking from a firehose. From the minute we arrived in the lobby Friday afternoon until we got back to the airport Sunday evening, we barely had time to breathe.

This was an amazing conference in many ways. I’ll try to hit the high points in a separate blog at, but in this posting, I want to cover the Native American Focus meeting and talk a little bit about the interests of the different attendees.

The first conference event, at 4 on Friday afternoon, was a small meeting of people who are administrators of Native related projects or have a specific interest in Native American heritage.

Unfortunately, many projects that are focused on or include Native results did not have a project administrator here and were not represented.

Peter Roberts is the administrator of the Bahamas project. The Bahamas are rich with Native history, but evidence they existed in the DNA record is slim. The Lucayan Indians were removed from the Island by the Spanish. While we know they existed, their results, surprisingly, are not showing up directly in the yline or mtdna results. We also know that some Seminoles arrived later from Florida and others came from the mainland as well. Low levels of Native heritage are showing up in autosomal testing.

David Pike discovered his Native heritage quite by accident. His father turned out to be 3.4% Native. He believes it is probably MicMac (Mi’kmaq) or perhaps Beothuk, a now extinct tribe, in Newfoundland, but is still researching. Dave mentioned an opportunity for tribal membership in Canada for those who can prove Micmac heritage and will be providing that information. I will blog it when that arrives.

Marie Rundquist is the administrator of the AmerIndian Ancestors out of Acadia project which began in 2006. I love this project, somewhat from a selfish perspective, since I’ve connected so many of my Acadian ancestors, and Native ancestors, through this project. This is also one the most successful mitochondrial DNA projects, if not the most successful, there is. Marie’s project has served to prove or disprove several Native rumors, and has found other Native people quite by accident. She wrote a book, titled Revisiting Anne Marie and I’ve blogged about her success with the Doucet results. This project is not just for Acadians in Canada, but reaches to Louisiana, and families with Acadian heritage outside of the primary relocation areas.

Kathy Johnson’s cousin came back with haplogroup Q, Native, results. Subsequent testing revealed 4 new SNPS (genetic locations) in her sample, previously unknown markers. This Pembrook family is believed to be from the Mohawk River area in New York.

Georgia and Tom Bopp, administrators of the Hawaii project, from Hawaii, attended. Frankly, I had never thought about them and Native ancestry, but certainly Hawaii did have a Native population. They had a very interesting situation where one of their early tester’s mitochondrial results came back as haplogroup B. They were told they were Native American, then they were told they were Polynesian. Native was reasonable, but Polynesian somewhat confounding given that their ancestor was a slave in Maryland. Eventually, it was discovered their maternal ancestor was from Matagascar. Georgia will send the information and we’ll do a blog about this in the future. How very interesting.

Rob and Dyann Noles administer the Lumbee Tribe and Wiregrass Georgia projects. Rob maintains a data base of over 250,000 individuals related to these projects. While the Lumbee project is named as such, it is not endorsed by the Lumbee tribe itself. However, numerous individuals descended from those who are early tribal founders have tested.

As haplogroup Q project administrator, Rebekah Canada has been instrumental in the ongoing testing of haplogroup Q individuals. Many members have been SNP tested and more than a few have participated in the WTY (Walk the Y)) which has resulted in many new haplogroup subgroups being discovered. We’ve made more progress in the past two years than in the previous 10 in haplogroup Q. Someday, I hope we’ll be able to identify at least members of different Native language groups by results. Maybe I’m dreaming here, but goals are good!

I shared my work with the Native Heritage project and my ongoing transcriptions into the Native Names data base. We now have over 8,000 different surnames and well over 30,000 people, and I’m no place near “done.” Of course, it’s always a great day when I find a proven Native surname of someone who has tested Native in our haplogroup Q project.

We discussed the reluctance of recognized tribes to test and their concerns. We all respect their decisions, although from a genetic genealogy perspective, we are glad when descendants test.

I suspect that many of the Native genetic lines have become extinct. The Native people, aside from having to survive in a harsh, cold climate upon arriving from Asia, have had to endure multiple genocidal attempts (Native as well as European) in addition to many epidemics. Some epidemics wiped out entire tribes. In 1838, a smallpox epidemic took half of the powerful Cherokee. No one was immune. That combined with intermarriage, assimilation, and adoption through either traditional cultural means or kidnapping have caused the “Native” DNA results to not always be what we expect.

We are hopeful that ancient DNA will shed a light on extinct lines as well as answer the ever-present question about whether European or perhaps African DNA was present in the Native population before the traditional dates of European contact

If you’d like to take a DNA test, click here.

About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
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