The Cherokee Mother of John Red Bank Payne

John Red Bank Payne

There is nothing I love more than a happy ending.  Second to that perhaps is to know that my blog or work helped someone, and in particularly, helped someone document their Native heritage.  In doing so, this confirms and unveils one more of our elusive Native people in early records.

I recently received a lovely thank you note from Shawn Potter.  We had exchanged notes earlier, after I wrote “The Autosomal Me” series, about how to utilize small segments of Native American (and Asian) DNA to identify Native American lines and/or ancestors.  This technique is called Minority Admixture Mapping (MAP) and was set forth in detail in various articles in the series.

Shawn’s note said:  “I’ve been doing more work on this segment and others following your method since we exchanged notes.  I’m pretty sure I’ve found the source of this Native American DNA — an ancestor named John Red Bank Payne who lived in North Georgia in the late 18th and 19th centuries.  Many of his descendants believe on the basis of circumstantial evidence that his mother was Cherokee.  I’ve found 10 descendants from four separate lines that inherited matching Native American DNA, pointing to one of his parents as the source.”

Along with this note, Shawn attached a beautiful 65 page book he had written for his family members which did document the Native DNA, but in the context of his family history.  He included their family story, the tales, the genealogical research, the DNA evidence and finally, a chapter of relevant Cherokee history complete with maps of the area where his ancestors lived. It’s a beautiful example of how to present something like this for non-DNA people to understand.  In addition, it’s also a wonderful roadmap, a “how to” book for how to approach this subject from a DNA/historical/genealogical perspective.  As hard as it is for me to sometimes remember, DNA is just a tool to utilize in the bigger genealogy picture.

Shawn has been gracious enough to allow me to reprint some of his work here, so from this point on, I’ll be extracting from his document.  Furthermore, Elizabeth Shown Mills would be ecstatic, because Shawn has fully documented and sourced his document.  I am not including that information here, but I’m sure he would gladly share the document itself with any interested parties.  You can contact Shawn at

From the book, “Cherokee Mother of John Red Bank Payne” by Shawn Potter and Lois Carol Potter:

Descendants of John Red Bank Payne describe his mother as Cherokee. Yet, until now, some have questioned the truth of this claim because genealogists have been unable to identify John’s mother in contemporary records. A recent discovery, however, reveals both John Red Bank Payne and his sister Nancy Payne inherited Native American DNA.

Considering information from contemporary records, clues from local tradition, John’s name itself, and now the revelation that John and his sister inherited Native American DNA, there seems to be sufficient evidence to say John Red Bank Payne’s mother truly was Cherokee. The following summary describes what we know about John, his family, and his Native American DNA.

John Red Bank Payne was born perhaps near present-day Canton, Cherokee County, Georgia, on January 24, 1754, married Ann Henslee in Caswell County, North Carolina, on March 5, 1779, and died in Carnesville, Franklin County, Georgia, on December 14, 1831.

John’s father, Thomas Payne, was born in Westmorland County, Virginia, about 1725, and owned property in Halifax and Pittsylvania counties, Virginia, as well as Wilkes County, North Carolina, and Franklin County, Georgia.  Several factors suggest Thomas travelled with his older brother, William, to North Georgia and beyond, engaging in the deerskin trade with the Cherokee Nation during the mid 1700s. Thomas Payne died probably in Franklin County, Georgia, after February 23, 1811.

Contemporary records reveal Thomas had four children (William, John, Nancy, and Abigail) by his first wife, and nine children (Thomas, Nathaniel, Moses, Champness, Shrewsbury, Zebediah, Poindexter, Ruth, and Cleveland) by his second wife Yanaka Ayers.  Thomas married Yanaka probably in Halifax County, Virginia, before September 20, 1760.

Local North Georgia tradition identifies the first wife of Thomas Payne as a Cherokee woman. Anna Belle Little Tabor, in History of Franklin County, Georgia, wrote that “Trader Payne” managed a trading post on Payne’s Creek, and “one of his descendants, an offspring of his Cherokee marriage, later married Moses Ayers whose descendants still live in the county.”

Descendants of John Red Bank Payne also cite his name Red Bank, recorded in his son’s family Bible, as evidence of his Cherokee heritage.  Before the American Revolution, British Americans rarely defied English legal prohibitions against giving a child more than one Christian name.  So, the very existence of John’s name Red Bank suggests non-English ethnicity. On the other hand, many people of mixed English-Cherokee heritage were known by their Cherokee name as well as their English first and last names during this period.

Furthermore, while the form of John’s middle name is unlike normal English names, Red Bank conforms perfectly to standard Cherokee names.  It also is interesting to note, Red Bank was the name of a Cherokee village located on the south side of Etowah River to the southwest of present-day Canton, Cherokee County, Georgia.

While some believe the above information from contemporary records and clues from local tradition, as well as John’s name Red Bank, constitute sufficient proof of John’s Cherokee heritage, recently discovered DNA evidence confirms at least one of John’s parents had Native American ancestry. Ten descendants of John Red Bank Payne and his sister Nancy Payne, representing four separate lineages, inherited six segments of Native American DNA on chromosomes 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, and 18 (see Figure 1 for the relationship between these descendants; Figures 2-7 for images of their shared Native American DNA; and for an explanation of this method of identifying Native American chromosomal segments).

Upon careful reflection, there seems sufficient reason to believe John Red Bank Payne’s mother truly was Cherokee.

Roberta’s note:  I have redacted the surnames of current testers.

Payne chart

Chromosome 2, Segment 154-161

In this segment, Bert P, Rosa P, Nataan S, Cynthia S, and Kendall S inherited matching Native American DNA described as Amerindian, Siberian, Southeast Asian, and Oceanian by the Eurogenes V2 K15 admixture tool, and as North Amerind, Mesoamerican, South America Amerind, Arctic Amerind, East Siberian, Paleo Siberian, Samoedic, and East South Asian by the Magnus Ducatus Lituaniae Project World22 admixture tool. Since their common ancestors were Thomas Payne and his wife, the source of this Native American DNA must be either Thomas Payne or his wife. See Figures 2a-2g.

Note: Since Native Americans and East Asians share common ancestors in the pre-historic past, their DNA is similar to each other in many respects. This similarity often causes admixture tools to interpret Native American DNA as various types of East Asian DNA. Therefore, the presence of multiple types of East Asian DNA together with Native American DNA tends to validate the presence of Native American DNA.

Payne graph 1

Payne graph 2

Payne graph 3

Payne graph 4

Payne graph 5

Roberta’s Summary:  Shawn continues to document the other chromosome matches in the same manner.  In total, he has 10 descendants of Thomas Payne and his wife, who it turns out, indeed was Cherokee, as proven by this exercise in combination with historical records.  These people descend through 2 different children.  Cynthia and Kendall descend through daughter Nancy Payne, and the rest of the descendants descend through different children of John Red Bank Payne.  All of the DNA segments that Shawn utilized in his report share Native/Asian segments in both of these family groups, the descendants of both Nancy and John Red Bank Payne.

Shawn’s success in this project hinged on two things.  First, being able to test multiple (in this case, two) descendants of the original couple.  Second, he tested several people and had the tenacity to pursue the existence of Native DNA segments utilizing the Minority Admixture Mapping (MAP) technique set forth in “The Autosomal Me” series.  It certainly paid off.  Shawn confirmed that the wife of Thomas Payne was, indeed Native, most likely Cherokee since he was a Cherokee trader, and that today’s descendants do indeed carry her heritage in their DNA.

Great job Shawn!!  Wouldn’t you love to be his family member and one of the recipients of these lovely books about your ancestor! Someone’s going to have a wonderful Christmas!


About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
This entry was posted in Cherokee, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to The Cherokee Mother of John Red Bank Payne

  1. Carla G. Potter says:

    I am Shawn Potters’ mother. It has been a great experience to follow his exciting journey through
    researching and study of the family. Thank you for your encouragement and your great research.
    I am looking forward to many hours of wonderful reading. I am nearly eighty years of age now and
    enjoy all this new information as time goes by. Thank you again. Carla G. Potter

  2. Debbie Addison Jenkins says:

    Research tells me that I am descended though this line. I am currently awaiting the results of my DNA ethnicity test, It will be interesting to find out if I do. I know so little about these tests, I only hope that I will be able to figure it all out. lol

  3. Steve Arrington says:

    I have documented evidence of a Thomas Payne in Franklin Co, TN in 1820. Seems to have passed away between 1820 and 1830. My autosomal DNA has matched me to a few others with Thomas “Trader” Payne being an obvious common thread. Any suggestions how I would go about looking at my DNA results to determine more? Is the MAP technique something that can be performed with the autosomal DNA results or is it too restrictive? There is no obvious match with any of the Thomas Payne’s listed on the internet that come from this line. Now I’m starting to wonder if this could have been Thomas “Trader” Payne and a third wife. No reason to believe this other than the location and lack of evidence with the others. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks. Great work by the way!

  4. Sheri Reck says:

    I think my DNA matches. This woman showed up in my research on Ancestry. Would love to know more. My family are The Payne’s of Sequatchie Valley Tennessee. My phone is 812-878-0049 and my e-mail is Thank you for your time.

  5. Sheri Reck says:

    Also, was she the wife of John Logan, Cheif of Skillimus?

  6. Sandy Hooton says:

    I am a descendant of Thomas Payne and his 2nd wife, Yanaka Ayers. I was so excited to read your paper, disappointed to not having the Cherokee connection. I am in a small DNA study group, trying to improve our understanding. In our last meeting I shared what I had learned after reading the article and found others had interest as well. I was unable to obtain a copy of Shawn and Carol Potters work through the email address posted, is there another way to get a copy? Love “The Autosomal Me” series. Thank You!

    • Debbie Gambrell says:

      Geni has Yanaka Ayers as the mother of John ‘Red Bank’ Payne. Shawn or someone who has worked on all this should check the Geni connections and make any necessary corrections so misinformation isn’t perpetuated and bad connections made on Geni.

      My son has Payne on his paternal line and when I ran his kit with the segment search, he matches thousands on Ch 2 @ 154-161. So now I just have to figure out how they’re connected. I ran mine and don’t match a single one.

  7. Renee DeBose says:

    I show all these minority admixtures,Indian Amerind, Siberian, Asian, etc. Should I add the practices together to represent total native American?? Your arrival has been the best explanation of my testing to date. Thank you!!!

  8. PAULA Gossage says:

    She is my great great great great Annagrandmother Anna Red Bank little tabor.

  9. PAULA Gossage says:

    She is my great great great great grandmother Anna Red Bank little tabor. is John Red Bank payne son Eva Mae Bolt is his daughter

  10. Len Alley says:

    My grandmother was Ruth Payne, daughter of John Payne.
    Thank you.for sharing.

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