Deeper Roots Genealogy

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Myths and Mythstakes – Part 1

The young man was out farther than was safe…but he either didn’t know or didn’t care. He was captured by Cherokee Indians that day in 1790. He married a Cherokee woman with whom he had two sons.  When she died, he took his two sons Elijah and Isaac back to live with the white settlers of West Virginia.  Even after his return to ‘civilization,’ he wouldn’t use plates and insisted on sleeping on the floor.

At least, that’s the family legend!  Too far back to be verified by DNA testing (as of today; in 10 years it might be different), there is very little documentation around that could prove or disprove this story.  One person said there was proof on a census record, but examination of said record revealed not only no proof, but not even any hints at the legend.

There are several common myths and mythstakes that percolate in families and among genealogy enthusiasts. One of them is that so-and-so was a Cherokee princess.  Maybe.  What documentation do you have for it? Keep in mind that Cherokees did not have princesses. Doh!

for beautiful images of Cherokee over the years, check out Gina McKelvey’s page – A Gallery of Historical Cherokee People and Cherokee Chiefs (click picture to visit)

Native-languages.org gives several benefit-of-the-doubt explanations for existence of this legend in any family which are both interesting and plausible. My personal favorite is that, much like fathers often call their daughters princess, your 2nd great-grandpa may have called his wife his ‘Cherokee princess’ because he loved her so much.  (Awwwww!  That’s so sweet!)

Whatever your family legend is, the phrase ‘we don’t have any proof but…’ should accompany it when shared. And if the truth interests you feel free to give me a call!

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3 comments on “Myths and Mythstakes – Part 1

  1. currentdescendent
    30 April 13

    Also, according to what I am seeing, if you have Native American ethnicity it would show up as clearly as Asian ancestry in a caucasian.

  2. currentdescendent
    30 April 13

    Great photo! I’ve never seen one that I can remember with the loose hair, but I guess I’ve been looking at the wrong ethnicities!
    But I have a question. What do you mean it can’t be verified by DNA testing? I took the 23andme test and it shows ethnicity in countries which have got to be many many many generations ago.

    • KC Reid
      3 May 13

      Great comment! You are correct. Mitochondrial DNA testing goes along the maternal line (mother’s mother’s mother’s mother, etc.); since the mitochondrial DNA is passed down unchanged, it is highly reliable and goes back seemingly forever. The Y chromosome DNA is passed down nearly unchanged from father to son, so we can also trace the paternal line back seemingly forever.

      If, however, you are trying to trace anything apart from father-to-son or mother-to-daughter — like your father’s mother’s mother’s father’s mother — you are in the in-between world where autosomal DNA (atDNA) is tested. The percentage of autosomal DNA shared with each successive generation diminishes by half. So I have 50% from each of my parents, but only 25% is shared with my grandparents; likewise, 12.5% with my great-grandparents, and so on. By the time you get to 6 generations ago, you will only share 1.5625% of your autosomal DNA. Origins are given by comparing the frequency of an atDNA marker with many population groups; its reliability is based on population size, number of markers tested (usually around 700,000), whether the genetic change provides information of ancestral utility, and the how ethnically mixed the persons’ background is. Thus, it is not nearly as reliable as the mDNA and Y-chromosome tests. DNA testing companies I’ve spoken with regarding this particular legend and its verification informed me testing is not advanced enough yet to be good for less than 3% shared DNA. YET!

      With regard to the family legend above, the eldest living descendent is 6 generations away. Dang! Here’s hoping for amazing progress in the next few years…and maybe by then this story will have a different ending!

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