About 10 years ago I found a paper trail back through my motherís line to Pocahontas. It is not carefully verified but it appears to be correct. Iíve done autosomal testing with FTDNAís Family Finder. I have not found anything to indicate Native American or Asian influence in my ancestry. I have found that although the ancestors of my parents seem to come from roughly different parts of the UK, they seem to both originate from a common gene pool. The ancestors of both lines seemed to have socially isolated themselves from surrounding populations and intermarried among a set of families that shared their social status and geographical region. Because of this, any Native American DNA should either stick out like a sore thumb or be completely washed out of my own profile. Due to the length of time involved, in my case a separation of 12 generations from Pocahontas, it seems likely that Native American DNA would have disappeared long ago.
But there are a few other things we might consider. Because of the intermarriage among a limited number of families in Virginia, the DNA passed down from Pocahontas might be shared by many cousins who, themselves, married each other. This might preserve stretches of DNA for longer periods of time because children might get roughly the same sequence from both parents. These children might pass on the longer, better preserved stretch to their own children. Descendants of these families might share more DNA in common over more generations and have longer sequences in common than would be expected when doing predictions based on descendants who do not come from a common gene pool.
What have I found while reviewing my own Family Finder results? I now have about 100 matches. Almost all of these matches are 5th cousin or greater with a few predicted 4th cousins. The only relationship I know of for sure is that with my son. Of the others with whom I have found a common ancestor, almost all of these connections come from the late 17th or early 18th century. I do not have a family tree complete enough to know whether or not this is our true most recent common ancestor, but it appears to be a common time frame with everyone with whom I have found a paper trail match. This suggests that social isolation and intermarriage may well be preserving marker value sequences for much longer stretches of time than would be expected. Would it be possible to isolate a sequence that could be identified with Pocahontas?
I have recently sent in a sample to FTDNA Family Finder for my mother. This will allow me to separate matches from my fatherís side which is very unlikely to be connected to Pocahontas from my motherís side which should be connected. It may also push back the date for a common ancestor a few more years. Will it be far enough back that a trace of Native American DNA from the late 16th to early 17th century might be found? Since my family tree is not complete by any stretch of the imagination for 12 generation, it would be impossible to rule out Native American DNA from other sources. I am not ready to write off the possibility of finding one or many small sequences of DNA that would indicate descent from Pocahontas, but I am also hesitant to attribute any Native American DNA sequence to her either. It must also be remembered that if there are sequences attributed to Pocahontas, which can be uniquely identified as hers and not due to other sources, a lack of these sequences does not mean an individual is not descended from her.
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