Genetic Traces of the Indian Traders

FAMILY TREE DNA has introduced a new feature called Chromosome Painting. While it does not show my grandmother as having genetic Amerindian ancestry, the segments it has tagged as Eastern European in general line up with the ones I have tagged as being Amerindian or Siberian in origin. My theory here, is that when a person presents with mostly European ancestry and a small amount of Siberian or Amerindian ancestry, they are computed as having East European ancestry. My grandmother would sometimes be called Finnish, Ukrainian, or Russian using GEDmatch tools because of this.

Using these marked segments as potential tags and targets, I then set out to see who else has these segments and what I can learn about their genealogies. One segment that immediately caught my eye is on chromosome 22 from 17 cm to 22 cm. This I had noticed early on in my research, because the admixture by chromosome result would say that my grandmother’s 22 chromosome was about 8-10 percent Amerindian.

Using Segment Search, I was able to find one kit that matched in this region, belonging to a man from Louisiana. He descends from some families I have seen before while doing this work, specifically the marriage of Mary Whitmell (1692-1743) to Thomas Harrington (1690-1744) on one line, and Obediah Bryant and Sarah Redding of Tyrrell County on another.

I decided to look at AncestryDNA to look at shared matches to see if I could gain any additional insight. One common match descends from John Vann (1735-1815) of Gates County. This person also descends from a William L. Bryant of South Carolina. This same person also descends from Jacob Colson who died in Bertie County in 1749. This individual is interesting, because he was an Indian trader who lived alongside the Harrington and Whitmells in Bertie County in the 1720s. To make things slightly interesting, the Bryan or Bryant family was also a Native American-linked settler family also living on Roquist Swamp by the Indian Woods Reservation.

I looked at another match on this segment. This person descends from someone named Lewis Bryant born in 1805 in South Carolina. And a final match descends from Jacob Colson, mentioned above, but also Yelverton and Melton, who were also living in the same neighborhood. So I have not been able to trace this segment to a particularly family yet, but I can say the names involved are Harrington, Whitmell, Bryant, Melton, Colson, and Yelverton, the families of Indian traders who were living on the periphery of Indian Woods in the 18th century.

It’s my opinion that this is inherited via my Williams line, which was also co-located in that area at that time. Here is an excellent map where you can see the Meltons, Whitmells, Yelvertons, and Williams all living on the periphery of the Tuscarora at Indian Woods. I seriously doubt this “Eastern European” genetic influence is coming from some stray Siberian who ventured into Bertie County, and is more likely from the relationship between the traders and local Indians.

To make things more confusing, the Collins and Bass families also inhabited this place at the same time.

16 Dec 1741 Bertie County, NC Deed Book F, p. 368: Susannah COLLSON and John COLLSON (her son) to Thomas BLOUNT and Thomas WHITMELL, 16 December 1741. 19 June 1742. 500 pds. for 600 acres “…Executors of the Last will and Testament of John COLLSON, Sen Dec’d . . . except for thirty two pounds quit rents Deducted to us paid by Thomas Collins . . . ” Land on SS Rocquis Creek. Part of tract to Luke Meazle and conveyed to Timothy Trulove and by Trulove to George Clark Glover Dec’d. And by Jonathan Taylor, legatee, and James Williamson, administrators, ” . . . by and to this s’d George Clarks will conveyed by deed to John COLLSON Sen Dec’d . . . out of this COLLSON sold three hundred acres . . . ” Land adj. John Stevenson, ____ Hays. Wit: Edward Collins, Mary Collins. August Court 1742. Henry DeLon C/C.

The Whitmells, in particular, as well as the Bryants owned land either on or near the Reservation, and were said to be fluent in the Tuscarora language. It is curious to me that there is no historical remark about them being of Tuscarora descent. Modern day descendants do not claim this, though it is possible they could have been. There is some evidence that the Williams family was mixed race and it is said that some of them had Tuscarora wives.

In March 1721 brothers John Williams, Theophilus Williams, and James Williams traveled to Queen Anne Town [Edenton] and on March 30th 1721 they registered several deeds for lands on the west side of the Cashie River. John Williams III* patented 640 acres “between Cassia [Cashie] and Morattuck {Roanoke], joining James Blount, a reedy pocoson, and a great swamp.” He also claimed 250 acres in “ye woods betwixt Cassia and Morattock river, joining ye Village pond, James Blount, John Williams and a Great swamp.” James Blount was a Tuscarora Indian who later became king of that nation and was a close friend to the Williams family. A deed dated 7 November 1721 shows that James Blount the Tuscarora lived near Theophilus Williams’ father-in-law Thomas Busby. “James Blount to John Yelverton 20 shillings for 211 acres at Thomas Busby headline.” Another deed dated 10 February 1723 [1724] between Francis Parker and John Parker stated the property in the transaction was by lands of James Blount and Thomas Busby.

So this segment opens up a lot of questions and provides some insight into the mixed ancestry of a community that existed about 300 years ago in North Carolina. This segment could be tied to some intermarriage between early settlers around Indian Woods and the Tuscarora living there. This is the “blood of Blunt” I have referred to in previous posts.

PS. I did find this record using Paul Heinegg’s site:

William1 Bryan, Jr., born say 1740, was a taxable “Malletor Servant” in Thomason Bass‘s household in the 1769 Bertie County tax list of David Standley, and in John Standley’s 1770 tax list [CR 10.702.1]. He was head of a Charleston District, St. Bartholomew’s Parish, South Carolina household of 5 “other free” in 1790.


NEXT I WILL LOOK at two smaller segments on chromosome 16 from 84 cm to 88 cm, and chromosome 15, from 79 cm to 87 cm.

There are three kits that match on the chromosome 16 segment. Two belong to BC and TC, who are also descendants of Martha Lydia Collins (1877-1945), through whom we trace our indigenous ancestry. Martha Lydia Collins was my great great grandmother. TC and BC descend through her daughter, I descend from her son. The third match is named RL, but I can’t find a tree for this kit.

There are only partial matches on 15 and nothing much to report here. One person descends from someone named Arrington Sewell, which reminds me of the Harringtons named above. But not enough to go on. This person also has the name Parrish in their family. This is a name I have seen before in this genetic research.

There is also a segment on chromosome 8, from 106 cm to 118 cm. One person who matches here, DP, also has Parrish in his tree, another has Justice. These are names I know from the Charles City area of Virginia, as they were living alongside the Weyanoke Indian Town as was, I should mention, Melton. William Justice is mentioned as patenting land near the Weyanokes in 1665, as is Richard Melton at “Great Weyanoke Town” in 1638. John Parrish made a claim regarding a runaway Indian named Hector in 1689 in Charles City County.

There are two segments on chromosome 2 described as Eastern European. These are from 11 cm to 16 cm, and 154 cm to 160 cm. There are no good leads on the second segment, but a person who matches on the second segment on 2 also descends from this same Parrish family. How is that for interesting? So perhaps some of this ancestry is from the Weyanokes?

This might not be the case. There is also a Parrish-Bunch marriage in Chowan County, North Carolina, and I am matching people who descend from Richard Parrish and Fereby Bunch. They lived in the district north of Edenton towards the Gates County border in the 18th century.

Chromosomes 12 and 20 have two larger segments of interest. Chromosome 12 actually has four segments running from 20 cm to 115 cm. There are a lot of Collins and Russell descendants matching on these segments, as well as Bass descendants. SF, one of the matches, descends from John Bass and Love Harris. Another match, JS, descends from a woman named Christian Bass who was born in Alabama in 1825. Another person also descends from John Bass and Love Harris. My best guess is that the indigenous ancestry on 12 is coming from the Bass via the Collins or Russell lines, and could have some relationship to the Nansemond, who neighbored the Weyanoke on the James River in Virginia.

The segment on 20 is long and runs from about 18 cm to 41 cm. In looking at matches on this segment over time, I have repeatedly encountered not only the Bass but also the Bunch names. Other names that come up are Harrell and Wiggins from Bertie County. Three different people on this segment descend from John Wiggins Parker and Martha Byrd of Nansemond County. She was the daughter of William Bird and Nancy Rogers, who were the neighbors of my ancestors Thomas Collins and James Russell. Again, this could reflect Virginia Algonquian ancestry via the Bunch family.

The Bunches have gone down in genealogical history as a mixed race free African family. This is because the Y haplogroup is found predominantly in West Africans. But it is worth noting that Paul Bunch, an early settler to the Chowan River area, originally held land on Cohoke Creek, which is immediately east of the Pamunkey Indian Reservation in King William County, Virginia. When I say immediately east, I mean immediately east.

‘If there is indigenous ancestry in this family, it could have been acquired there, perhaps via Paul Bunch’s wife. He acquired a “mulatto servant” named John Russell in King William County, and these Russells ventured with him into North Carolina, where his daughter Elizabeth Russell was mentioned in his 1726 will.

The Bunches were extensively intermarried with the Basses and Collinses in Bertie County. A large amount of endogamy was at play here. Some of my grandmother’s indigenous ancestry is coming from this group of people.

Interestingly, of these segments, the only ones I inherited were on chromosome 12. All of the others were not passed on to me. Two of the segments on 12 were passed to one of my daughters, but not the other. That shows you how much heritage can be lost from generation to generation.

There is one more tiny segment on chromosome 6 that is shared by NS an BC, who as mentioned, descend from Martha Collins through her daughter, as well as by me. There is one other kit that matches here belonging to a woman named SM who has ancestry out of Southampton County, Virginia. This person descends from the Hicks and Green, as well as Artis, families living near that Nottoway Reservation that, I believe, that could be in some way connected genetically to the Indians at Indian Woods or the Bass-Bunch-Collins cluster. I have wondered if this reflects the Nansemond Indian absorption into the Nottoways in Southampton.

As I see it, currently, there are two potential origins for this ancestry. One is via the Tuscarora at Indian Woods via my Williams family, as I descend from Jonathan Williams (1747-1816), perhaps via an Arthur Williams of Bertie County. The rest is potential Algonquian ancestry inherited through the Basses, Bunches, Collins, and others who settled early in the Chowan River area.

Some photos of people who descend from these families, including my father, grandmother, and great grandfather.