Discovering Pocahontas: A family surprise

I never get tired of saying that it’s been the women in my family tree who have revealed my most profound and memorable genealogy surprises.  This shows no signs of abating. Yet another lady in my tree has revealed something remarkable.

Fugate-Clark

I discovered a new Martin family line when I began triangulating my DNA results in order to identify the father of my 2x great grandmother, Margaret Clark (please see the image above). Mary Martin is part of Margaret’s enormous white Fugate-Clark family.

As soon as I saw the surname Martin, I was all excited. I have a sizeable group of Quaker Martins in my family tree. While they were largely based in Chester and Delaware Counties in Pennsylvania, there were members of this Quaker family who migrated to Baltimore County, Maryland. They also spread out throughout Virginia. Naturally, I was keen to connect Mary Martin to the other known Martin branches in my family tree.

The problem was, I keep coming across a Mary Martin, born in Baltimore County, Maryland, who was always described as being ‘part-Indian’. There were no references to this Anglo-Native American Mary  being a Quaker. Nor were there any indications that her father’s Martin family were Quakers. If anything, her family were Anglicans. So, I dismissed her.  And began to get more than a little annoyed because this Mary that I kept coming across wasn’t the Mary I was seeking.  At one point, I just looked at my laptop and said “Enough already.  You’re someone’s ancestor to be sure. But you’re not my ancestor! Please get out of my way!”

Silly me.

I became so frustrated that I made the decision to put Mary Martin on the back burner.

Two days after I made that decision, a DNA cousin, whom I will call Mike, reached out to me on Ancestry.com. He said he had some family history information about my Fugates and Clarks – and would I like to chat on the phone about them?  Like I ever need an invitation to talk about family history stuff.

I phoned him in due course and he picked my brains about what I had uncovered at that point in my research.  Naturally, I relayed my frustration about the difficulty I was having in researching Mary Martin.  He laughed out loud.

“You mean you don’t know about Mary?”

I told him that I knew about the Mary who was part Native American…and that I knew nothing about my Mary, who would have been a Quaker.

Mike laughed out loud again. And then proceeded to tell me that I had already found the right Mary Martin. The Mary Martin who was the ancestor of Margaret Clark wasn’t a Quaker. The Mary Martin in my tree was the grand-daughter of Pocahontas.

My reply was classic, and worthy of Larry Wilmore: Whaaaaaat? Wait, what!?!  Can you say that again, one more time?

Mike thought that was hilarious. He then sent me some links to some essential reading just to seal the deal.

d0cbb8fe93e980e219420671e75df73a

Pocahontas

To put this into perspective, my Sheffey line is the one family line I have that never, and I mean never, laid any claims to Native American ancestry. No quiet whispers. Not even a murmur. No family rumours. No family myths or legends. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Turns out, it’s the one family line with a verified, bona fide, Native American Ancestor. And it’s Pocahontas to boot. She’s my 12x great grandmother via Ka Oke “Jane” Powhatan, her daughter by her first husband, Kocoum.

One source was the Patawomeck Tides, a newsletter that tribe sends its members (https://www.nps.gov/jame/learn/historyculture/upload/Patawomeck-Tides-2009.pdf). Once I began reading, the pieces rapidly fell into place.  Mike was right (not that I had any doubts, Mike!).

I had to phone up my genetic genealogists in the UK. My question was pretty straightforward. I have such a negligible amount of Native American results in my DNA, it’s pretty much non-existent. Naturally, I wanted to know how this was possible.  Could this mean that maybe some of the family stories about Native Americans in the other branches of my family weren’t bedtime stories after all?

The team explained a fairly complex theory about Native American DNA inheritance. Basically, whatever Native American ancestry I have was so far back in time that only a minuscule amount is present in my autosomal DNA results. It’s called the “Wash Out” theory. Apparently, it doesn’t take very long for Native American DNA to wash out of DNA results when it comes to non Native Americans. That’s the grossly simplified version. The article NATIVE AMERICAN DNA Is Just Not That Into You (http://www.rootsandrecombinantdna.com/2015/03/native-american-dna-is-just-not-that.html) delves into this in far greater detail.

The second strand of my conversation with the genetic genealogists had to do with DNA sampling from Native American tribes. They weren’t sure what percentage of Native Americans have undergone DNA testing. Which meant that were unsure about the size of DNA population data sets the big DNA testing services use to determine a person’s admixtures. Put another way, AncestryDNA, for instance, may not have a large Native American DNA data set to match DNA test results against. If it doesn’t then there really isn’t much Native American DNA to compare test results with. The American Indian and Alaska Native Genetics Resource Center website (http://genetics.ncai.org/tribal-enrollment-and-genetic-testing.cfm)  is an excellent place to learn more about this subject.

Pocahontas

This part of the tree takes us from Mary Martin (Margaret Clark’s 4x great grandmother) back to Pocahontas. Click for a larger image.

As soon as I connected Pocahontas to Margaret Clark on my Ancestry.com hosted family tree – the AncestryDNA shared matches shaky leaf hints started popping up – seemingly all over the place.  All of a sudden, family names like Bolling, Rolfe, Pugh, Lewis, Powhatan, and Pettus made sense. I could see who our common ancestor was.  All roads lead back to Pocahontas. And to Varina in Henrico County, Virginia, where a number of Pocahontas’s Anglo-Native American descendants resided.

My father’s enslaved maternal Roane family was also based in Varina. My 3x grandfather, George Henry Roane, married Susan Price, who is beginning to look like a Price by blood. The white Price family in Varina claimed descent from Pocahontas via Thomas Rolfe, the son she had with her husband, John Rolfe. If true, this would also make Susan Price her descendant.

So it looks like Pocahontas isn’t done with me just yet.

That’ll teach me about making assumptions when I’m looking for ancestors.

My head is still spinning a bit. Taking three of my ethnic groups into account – African, European, and now Native American – I have DEEP roots in America. My Goins/Gowing and Cumbo ancestors are believed to have been among the “Twenty and Odd” Africans who were taken from a Portuguese slave ship and indentured in Virginia in 1619. My West family were among the European founders of Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. And Pocahontas puts my ancestry in America before the arrival of Europeans.

As I mentioned to my nephew, our family is about as American as it gets.

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12 thoughts on “Discovering Pocahontas: A family surprise

  1. Wow, what an amazing and fascinating read. I haven’t done my AncestryDNA yet, but I’m hoping to this year, and I look forward to finding out my results. Thank you for sharing your story.

  2. I’m curious about your ties to the Pugh family? I’ve been trying to track that side of my family and it’s more than beyond confusing I’ve decided.

    • I hear you, Amanda. It’s not the easiest family to research. It’s been pretty slow going for us. Feel free to have a look at the Genealogy Adventures tree on Ancestry.com. I hope there’s something there that will give you some leads.

  3. Before I discovered this webpage, I found this page on Pocahontas: https://www.pallasweb.com/blog/am-i-descended-from-pocahontas.html. I had already made a link to Pocahontas by following links on my family tree on Ancestry.com, but didn’t really believe it. My first link to Pocahontas was through my grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Cooper and eventually to the Rolfe’s, and finally Pocahontas. After taking various DNA tests with Family Tree DNA, AncestryDNA, and now Living DNA (waiting test result with them), I tried to find a DNA link to Pocahontas. That’s when I discovered, “Native American Ancestry DNA – am I descended from Pocahontas?” webpage, operated by Robert David Atchison. As I read the information, I saw he listed Ann Fugate (1716 – 1772) daughter of Mary Martin. I said to myself, “Hey I have Fugate in my tree, let me go to my tree and research this”. I went to my 4th great grandmother “Sarah Martha Fugate” and expanded her line and WOW it lead to Randolph Fugate 1719–1776 son of Mary Martin, brother of Ann Fugate (1716 – 1772), to Christian Pettus 1636–1701, to Ka Okee “Jane” Patawomeck 1609–1645, and finally to Pocahontas. Wow, that makes two lines leading to Pocahontas. After I changed some of the default settings at GEDmatch, my DNA matched Robert David Atchison, with a distant match over the default settings. So, I am thinking more positive now that my family does have a Native American connection. genealogyadventures, would you agree that this is true?

    Matoaka Pocahontas (Rebecca) Powhatan (1595 – 1617)
    11th great-grandmother

    Thomas Rolfe (1615 – 1680)
    son of Matoaka Pocahontas (Rebecca) Powhatan

    Jane Rolfe (1650 – 1676)
    daughter of Thomas Rolfe

    JOHN (Maj) FAIRFAX BOLLING I (1676 – 1739)
    son of Jane Rolfe

    Elizabeth Bolling (1709 – 1775)
    daughter of JOHN (Maj) FAIRFAX BOLLING I

    Louisa (Lucy) Bannister (1720 – 1807)
    daughter of Elizabeth Bolling

    John II Bays (1741 – 1811)
    son of Louisa (Lucy) Bannister

    John III Bays (1762 – 1855)
    son of John II Bays

    Isham Bays (1795 – 1874)
    son of John III Bays

    Mary Jane Bayes (1829 – 1891)
    daughter of Isham Bays

    William Green Cooper (1857 – 1891)
    son of Mary Jane Bayes

    Mary Elizabeth Cooper Hale (1888 – 1947)
    daughter of William Green Cooper

    John Junior Hale (1927 – 1986)
    son of Mary Elizabeth Cooper Hale

    John Hale Jr. ME, the son of John Junior Hale

    Ka Okee “Jane” Patawomeck (1609 – 1645)
    10th great-grandmother

    Christian Pettus (1636 – 1701)
    daughter of Ka Okee “Jane” Patawomeck

    John Martin Jr. (1659 – 1694)
    son of Christian Pettus

    Mary Martin (1692 – 1757)
    daughter of John Martin Jr.

    Randolph Fugate (1719 – 1776)
    son of Mary Martin

    Josiah Fugate (1740 – 1824)
    son of Randolph Fugate

    Sarah Martha Fugate (1763 – 1832)
    daughter of Josiah Fugate

    Celia Prater (1805 – 1844)
    daughter of Sarah Martha Fugate

    Thomas B. Cooper (1824 – 1901)
    son of Celia Prater

    William Green Cooper (1857 – 1891)
    son of Thomas B. Cooper

    Mary Elizabeth Cooper Hale (1888 – 1947)
    daughter of William Green Cooper

    John Junior Hale (1927 – 1986)
    son of Mary Elizabeth Cooper Hale

    John Hale Jr.
    ME the son of John Junior Hale

    • Hello cousin. I’d say you don’t have anything to worry about. You’ve done the due diligence via the paper trail and DNA testing. The information you have for Ann matches what i have, and other researchers have. There are many reasons why your Native American results are so low. This article does a good job of explaining the main reasons for this in layman’s terms: http://www.rootsandrecombinantdna.com/2015/03/native-american-dna-is-just-not-that.html

      Basically, we need to remember that just like African DNA will diminish if there are no additional/new African-descended people in a family’s line, so too Native American DNA will diminish.

      However, while the Pocahontas link is brilliant, there’s another Fugate-Clark family DNA trait I find even more fascinating: The Blue People of KY and TN. Have you heard of them? This is our family. Basically, there’s a gene that turns the skin blue. And I mean really blue. It all has to do with too many 1st cousins getting married and enhancing a recessive gene down every single Fugate-Clark line. It’s an interesting read if you Google it.

      • genealogyadventures, thanks for your kind words. It seems to have taken I lifetime to track down the Native American in our family. My father always told us we had Cherokee blood, as his great grandmother (my great great grandmother) he said was either full or part Cherokee. I have spent many years trying to track the Cherokee connection, but could never find any proof. Then just expending my tree within the last 5 years Pocahontas came through. I started googling Pocahontas and eventually, your website, and the other website I mentioned above came up. Are you on GEDmatch.com or any other DNA site? So, I have another cousin, that is linked to Pocahontas, very cool. I thank you for reviewing my links and other information above and confirming my link to you and Pocahontas.

      • I’m on AncestryDNA, FamilyTreeDNA and Gedmatch. My Gedmatch kit number is A850867. our match goes back further than what Gedmatch was designed for. So we need to look at the cMs and SNP parameters. We do this because we’ll only share small DNA segments. Try dropping the SNP to 300 and the cM to 3.2. I’d also sugest reading articles from the Genetic Genealogist about working with, and interpreting small DNA segments. She provides some excellent information and guidance on this subject.

      • I am also on AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA, and GEDmatch. My GEDmatch number for AncestryDNA is A190737, number for FTDNA Family Finder is T583981, number for FTDNA Y-DNA is T227213
        I set the numbers at GED match to 250 SNP and 2.0 cM for KIT # A190737 with the following results:

        GEDmatch.Com Autosomal Comparison – V2.1.1(c)

        Comparing Kit A190737 (John Hale) and A850867 (Brian Sheffey)

        Minimum threshold size to be included in total = 250 SNPs
        Mismatch-bunching Limit = 125 SNPs
        Minimum segment cM to be included in total = 2.0 cM

        Chr Start Location End Location Centimorgans (cM) SNPs
        8 12,970,419 14,963,849 2.6 467
        8 17,458,742 18,572,415 2.4 366
        10 54,342,190 56,292,137 2.0 353
        15 65,020,701 66,757,541 2.3 251
        Largest segment = 2.6 cM
        Total of segments > 2 cM = 9.3 cM
        4 matching segments

        403228 SNPs used for this comparison.

        Comparison took 0.02537 seconds.
        Ver: May 24 2017 20:18:13

        The following results are with the same settings for Kit # T227213:

        GEDmatch.Com Autosomal Comparison – V2.1.1(c)

        Comparing Kit T227213 (John Hale) and A850867 (Brian Sheffey)

        Minimum threshold size to be included in total = 250 SNPs
        Mismatch-bunching Limit = 125 SNPs
        Minimum segment cM to be included in total = 2.0 cM

        Chr Start Location End Location Centimorgans (cM) SNPs
        1 14,160,706 14,923,111 2.2 270
        1 17,792,742 18,369,865 2.2 256
        1 73,951,767 76,899,022 2.5 669
        3 72,056,339 72,856,056 2.1 274
        3 192,066,622 193,243,145 2.6 289
        4 38,642,470 40,199,309 2.6 347
        4 40,538,045 41,918,768 2.6 317
        4 68,302,872 71,024,813 2.2 538
        5 31,702,661 32,507,866 2.2 291
        5 37,354,052 38,572,072 2.5 312
        7 142,267,304 144,334,920 2.3 375
        7 147,611,859 148,907,978 2.2 291
        8 12,970,419 14,944,695 2.6 773
        8 17,458,742 18,572,415 2.4 660
        9 27,697,666 29,585,826 2.1 602
        10 54,342,190 56,292,137 2.0 609
        10 61,201,049 63,289,715 2.1 510
        15 65,020,701 66,761,321 2.3 401
        16 15,535,539 16,878,868 2.4 377
        Largest segment = 2.6 cM
        Total of segments > 2 cM = 44.0 cM
        19 matching segments

        656958 SNPs used for this comparison.

        Comparison took 0.03080 seconds.
        Ver: May 24 2017 20:18:13

        The following results are with the same settings for Kit # T583981

        GEDmatch.Com Autosomal Comparison – V2.1.1(c)

        Comparing Kit T583981 (John Hale) and A850867 (Brian Sheffey)

        Minimum threshold size to be included in total = 250 SNPs
        Mismatch-bunching Limit = 125 SNPs
        Minimum segment cM to be included in total = 2.0 cM

        Chr Start Location End Location Centimorgans (cM) SNPs
        1 14,160,706 14,923,111 2.2 270
        1 17,792,742 18,369,865 2.2 256
        1 73,951,767 76,899,022 2.5 669
        3 72,056,339 72,856,056 2.1 274
        3 192,066,622 193,243,145 2.6 289
        4 38,642,470 40,199,309 2.6 347
        4 40,538,045 41,918,768 2.6 317
        4 68,302,872 71,024,813 2.2 538
        5 31,702,661 32,507,866 2.2 291
        5 37,354,052 38,572,072 2.5 312
        7 142,267,304 144,334,920 2.3 375
        7 147,611,859 148,907,978 2.2 291
        8 12,970,419 14,944,695 2.6 773
        8 17,458,742 18,572,415 2.4 660
        9 27,697,666 29,585,826 2.1 602
        10 54,342,190 56,292,137 2.0 609
        10 61,201,049 63,289,715 2.1 510
        15 65,020,701 66,761,321 2.3 401
        16 15,535,539 16,878,868 2.4 377
        Largest segment = 2.6 cM
        Total of segments > 2 cM = 44.0 cM
        19 matching segments

        656958 SNPs used for this comparison.

        Comparison took 0.02445 seconds.
        Ver: May 24 2017 20:18:13

        It looks like we have better results with FTDNA. 🙂

      • ok it looks like we have a few things going on here. The first thing is a high degree of endogamy within this family group – especially when you add the Bolling and Pettus family. lol it’s the degree of endogamy that makes a person related to themselves. In all seriousness, though, it would require a seasoned professional genetic genealogist to segment and cycle through these results to determine the true and false-positives among these. To expalin, when you have really small cMs and SNPs, here is the risk of false-positives – results that could be applicable to anybody.

        I also just realized we very well may share another family too – the Hales of Virginia. The Hales had a high degree of endogamy too. I will admit, I’ve only done an initial review of the Hale family in Virginia. It’s a massive family and a research project all its own.

      • Does this mean we are less likely to be related? As for the Hale’s of Virginia, my gg grandfather John Hale is thought to have been born about 1815 in Wythe County, Virginia. I had a Y-DNA test performed by Family Tree DNA (FDNA) hoping to find Y-DNA matches with other Hale’s at the Hale DNA project at FTDNA. The only Hale I matched was a known cousin. My cousin and I DO NOT match any other Hale at the project. FTDNA notified my cousin and I that we matched the following surnames: Acker, Aker, and Akers. Another cousin I found through ancestry research said her mother told her and her brother that they were not really Hale, they were Aker. This cousin’s mother said an Aker was taken in by a Hale family and changed their Aker name to Hale.

        I contacted an Aker that I match, and he has no info on any Aker that may have been adopted, indentured, or apprenticed to a Hale family. Interestingly. his Aker ancestors resided in Wythe County, Virginia at the time of my gg grandfathers birth there. I also have a match with two men whose last name is Auker, who trace their ancestors to the same Aker who moved from Pennsylvania to Augusta County, Virginia, to Wythe County, Virginia.

      • It means we’re even more related. We’re cousins in a couple of different ways. Which kind of proves my point about Wythe County – everyone is related to one another, and in more than one way.

        Thank you for sharing that information about John Hale. You answered a question I’ve had for a while. I wondered why I match other Hales but not others. The details you gave about an Aker becoming a Hale answers that perfectly. I match Akers too and didn’t understand how. While I have a handful of Akers in my tree, they were relations via marriage, and not blood relations. yet, I have solid Aker DNA matches, and could never figure out how or why. Now I do. It’s certainly something I’ll be looking into. Thanks again for that tip.

      • Gald I could give you a tip that might help with a brick wall. If you discover anything that you think might help with my brick wall could hou share your finds.

        John Hale

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