Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Long but Very Interesting Genealogy Stuff

I recently started helping my Sister-in-Law, my brother's wife, trace her genealogical roots.
She gave me some grandparent and parent info and let me loose to hunt down her family tree.
She had 2 incidental things to tell me, both on her paternal side of things.....one was that she was curious if her father's paternal line led back to English royalty, and the other was whether there was Native American blood somewhere back in her line on her father's maternal side.  She told me of stories that had been passed down telling of one of her great x 2 or 3  grandmothers being Native American by blood.

So I hooked Sis-in-law into the tree and started plugging away.
I knew at the start that the SIL's hopes to being related to Princess Diana was pretty much nil, but her father's paternal line seemed to go back to an American Revolutionary War General/Hero.  But upon further investigation, some of the dates/names didn't match up, so I cut it lose and decided to concentrate instead on the father's line which led to the Native American great grandmother stories.

With the help of Censuses and birth records I was able to make a clear trace back to her 3 x Great Grandparents, Cornwallis(or Wallis as he was known) Twiford and Nancy Payne(or Paine) Twiford.  I found evidence of a few other oral histories, from other descendants of this line, talking about Nancy being Native American.
The story goes that Wallis was married previously with 3 children when an epidemic of some sort took his wife and children before 1830.  Wallis wanted a new wife and found Nancy sitting under a tree, fell in love and took her home to be his bride.  Nancy was said to be "mean as a snake" and not a very good housekeeper.  Wallis & Nancy went on to have 8 children.
I even found a picture of Nancy online.....

She sure looks like a dour old thing to me. ;-)

While I have hard records going forward for this line, there is little documentation pre Nancy.  There are census records for 1790 so her father is known but beyond that, no one has substantiated much yet.
I don't have any "hard" documentation at this point for the Native American angle yet, just the stories.  Proving the oral tradition correct may take much effort, research and time, even if it is true, and at this point I don't have the time or knowledge to follow this trail any further back.

And just when I was about to close this effort down and try some other branches, the story got a whole lot more interesting.

You see, these ancestors of my SIL lived their lives on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  The county was Tyrrell County, NC until the eastern chunk of the county was separated and made a county all it's own called Dare County in 1870. The Alligator River basically was used as the dividing line between the two counties.  This area includes the Outer Banks barrier Islands(including Hatteras Island), the island of Roanoke(which is located due west of the barrier islands, in the Croatan Sound), and the lands due west of the mainland, which the Alligator River bisects.  Nowadays, most of these lands are National Wildlife Refuges.

If you haven't guessed where I was going with this yet, here it is.
Everyone has heard about the mystery of the "Lost Colony".  The English colony founded on Roanoke Island where the colonists all disappeared and it's some bigtime mystery about what happened to them all.
That's what the people who make a living off of keeping the fate of the colonists a mystery want you to believe.   

Some background before we move on and a little accurate history in the clip.

So the 4th Voyage was the one carrying the settlers/planters now known as the Lost Colony.
Gov. John White left in 1587 for England to obtain more supplies for the colony.  The following year in 1588, with only two too small ships, he set off for Roanoke Island.  But the ships Captains bent on plundering enemy vessels attacked some Spanish ships and were themselves captured and their cargo seized.  Without supplies, the ships returned to England for bigger ships and more supplies.

Due to England being at war against Phillip II and the Spanish Armanda, Elizabeth I denied Sir Walter Raleigh and John White's requests for a ship.  There were simply none too spare because of the war.
A vessel was approved in 1590, almost 3 years later.  Gov. John White returned to American with supplies in Aug. of 1590 to the garrison on Roanoke Island.  As everyone knows, no sign of the colonists was found, along with their houses inside the garrison.  There was no evidence the houses had been burned down as you'd expect if the colony had been invaded and destroyed. 
The colonists had been instructed, if there had been a problem or disaster to mark a palisade with a Maltese cross.  It was marked with the name of the nearby Croatoan(Hatteras)Island instead, meaning nothing untoward had happened to the colonists at the settlement.
John White planned to venture down to Croatoan  and the colonists the following day.
However he never made that journey to Hatteras, as a large storm was coming in and the captain of the ship insisted on returning to England immediately.  He refused to wait for Gov. White to go there and return for the supplies once he found the colonists.
John White never returned to the New World.

Over the next two hundred or so years, there are entries from journals and diaries of various English and French explorers to the coastal areas of this part of North Carolina of European Caucasian , reports of peoples living among  the natives, and later of native American inhabitants with fair skin, grey or blue eyes, and even blond hair.  One explorer remarked how he found houses using known European building techniques among the Croatoan, they claimed some of their ancestors had been "White" and they could read and write English.
In later years, one isolated tribe was found to have words that sounded strikingly like obsolete English terms in their vocabulary.

Because of the likelihood that Europeans lived and intermarried with the Native population, a group is currently conducting a DNA Project, using the Surnames of the 150 colonists to investigate these claims that the colonists did not perish at Roanoke Island.
And one of the original colonist surnames is......
John Pain(Payne).
He is possibly the Y-DNA ancestor of Nancy Payne.
If they find a living male Paine descendant of John with maternal Native DNA and paternal European DNA, and he is related directly to my sister-in law's Nancy Payne, this will prove that sis is part Native and a direct descendant of a "Lost Colonist".

A link to this DNA Project on Facebook HERE.

I think this is pretty neat!




  1. Interesting stuff. She's so lucky to have you as a resource. Good work!

    1. Thanks HK. Genealogy is such fascinating stuff....frustrating as hell most times, but fascinating. ;-)

  2. I think this is fascinating. How neat that your sis-in-law is a descendant of them.

    1. It would be neater if "I" was descended from them! lol

  3. Those are interesting facts about maybe her ancestors being from Croatan. She must be thrilled with your research.

    Now, if I could just trace both sides of my family
    to Native American roots. It is family lore.

    Plus, my grandmother came from PA. I always wonder if she (Greaff/Graf/Graff) was related to builder and owner of Graff House.

    Do you pay for the sites you search?

    1. The only place I pay for is Ancestry dotcom.

      Email me privately your grandmother's maiden name and dates of life and her parent's names and I'lll see what I can find.

  4. Cool!!! And what a looker that girl is!

    1. I guess compared to "someone somewhere" she really might be a looker. lol

  5. I always figure these old dour looking women have led a hard life, too much sun, lost teeth, and are doing the best they can with what they had. Besides, a person had to be still forever for cameras, not like we have had for most of a century. Most of the women are so gaunt looking--lost teeth, hard work, not enough food. I suspect they are not just in shape because they watch their figures. If there were no estrogen replacement, I would not just look dour, I would look dangerous.


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