Denise Smith has researched the story of Jenny Wiley, a white woman who was captured and held by the Shawnee Indians. How long Jenny was held and what happened is a story that has many versions. Denise tells the story, attempts to sort out the facts utilizing traditional genealogical research methods and shares her extremely indepth research in a series of articles on her website. Thank you Denise.
The story of Jenny Sellards Wiley is one of great Appalachian lore. She was a pioneer woman who with her husband Thomas Wiley resided in Bland County, Virginia, was taken captive by American Indians in 1789 and taken to Kentucky. According to the story, several of her children and her brother were killed at the time. She then lost 2 more children while in captivity before she could escape.
There are even those that believe that Jenny Wiley had a Native American child by Black Wolf, when she returned from captivity. This part of the story in the day of DNA testing would not be hard to prove or disprove. I would love for the descendants of Jenny Wiley to get their DNA tested for their common ancestor.
In the story of Jenny Wiley, the length of her captivity is going to play a role as to when this would have happened. Very few cite the true amount of time she was held captive. In reality it was only a few months. In that short time period she had one baby and became pregnant again? If these two groups have a DNA test or begin a Thomas and Jenny Sellards Wiley DNA data bank, that could weed out the truth and also show how they are related.
Shifting now to the Cornstalk family website, we find the following:
Black Wolf fathered a child with Jenny Sellard Wiley, captive white woman. She reportedly gave their son to Black Wolf as ransom to return to the whites, then reported the Indians had tomahawked the child. That child is Chief John Black Wiley, Wiley’s Cove now Leslie, Arkansas.
There is a bit of confusion here. If Jenny Sellard Wiley was referenced in a letter in 1790 as being released from captivity, her son cannot be Chief John Black Wiley, alive today. He might well be her descendant.
Let’s look at the possibilities that DNA testing offers.
There are four kinds of DNA testing that apply.
The first, Y chromosome does not apply here because women don’t have or give a Y chromosome.
The second, mitochondrial DNA is given by women to all of their children, but only passed on my female children to their offspring. So Jenny’s female children would be passing on her mitochondrial DNA, but a male child would not. Unless a male or female in the current generation is descended from Jenny through all females between the current generation and Jenny, mitochondrial DNA will not be of use. If a male or female in the current generation is descended through all females from Jenny, then DNA testing would tell us a haplogroup even with no one to compare to. If there are others of Jenny’s descendants who carry her mitochondrial DNA, they can be compared against to see if the mitochondrial DNA matches.
Lastly, autosomal DNA could show common segments between Jenny’s known children and Chief John Black Wiley or other purported descendants through Black Wolf. If these common segments don’t show through traditional means, utilizing www.gedmatch.com and lowering the match threshold could be useful. Also, the minority admixture mapping technique utilized in “The Autosomal Me” series can be utilized.
I agree with Denise, I’d love to see the life and times of Jenny Wiley confirmed, especially whether or not she had a child with Black Wolf. I hope that the descendants will indeed proceed with DNA testing to verify the truth, whatever it is. It’s the least we can do for the memory of the captive white woman who lost so much. Family Tree DNA offers both mitochondrial DNA testing and autosomal and it’s easy to download their raw data files after testing to utilize other tools.
Here is a link to all of Denise Smith’s Jenny Wiley research.
If you’d like to take a DNA test, click here.