Roberta lectures widely, has written a number of
papers, articles and a monthly column for a
technology magazine, has authored books in the
technology arena and is in the process of writing a
book about her experiences with DNA and Genealogy.
Her most recent articles include; “Where Have All
the Indians Gone? What We Know and What We Don’t
about Native American Eastern Seaboard Dispersal,
Genealogy and DNA”, which is scheduled for
publication in JOGG, the Journal of Genetic
Genealogy in late 2009.
Another publication currently in the academic
review process prior to publication is; “Revealing
Minority Heritage using Y-line, Mitochondrial,
Autosomal and X Chromosomal Testing Data”.
This article was published in the
Journal of Genetic Genealogy in April of 2012.
The Melungeons were a group of individuals found
primarily in Hawkins and Hancock Counties of
Tennessee and in the far southern portion of Lee
County, Virginia which borders Hawkins and Hancock
counties in Tennessee. At one time isolated
geographically on and near Newman's Ridge and
socially due to their dark countenance, they were
known to their neighbors as Melungeons, a term
applied as an epithet or in a pejorative manner.
As the stigma of a mixed racial heritage dimmed
in the late 20th century and was replaced by a sense
of pride, interest in the genealogy and history of
the Melungeon people was born. With the advent of
the internet and popular press, the story of these
people has become larger than life, with their
ancestors being attributed to a myriad of exotic
sources: Sir Walter Raleigh's Lost Colony, Ottoman
Turks, The Lost Tribes of Israel, Jews, Gypsies,
descendants of Prince Madoc of Wales, Indians,
escaped slaves, Portuguese, Sir Francis Drake's
rescued Caribbean Indians and Moorish slaves, Juan
Pardo's expedition, De Soto's expedition, abandoned
pirates and Black Dutch, among others. Melungeon
families themselves claimed to be Indian, white and
Furthermore, as having Melungeon heritage became
desirable and exotic, the range of where these
people were reportedly found has expanded to include
nearly every state south of New England and east of
the Mississippi, and in the words of Dr. Virginia
DeMarce, Melungeon history has been erroneously
expanded to provide "an exotic ancestry...that
sweeps in virtually every olive, ruddy and
brown-tinged ethnicity known or alleged to have
appeared anywhere in the pre-Civil War Southeastern
This paper first defines the Melungeon population
study group, then uses Y-line, mitochondrial and
autosomal DNA to evaluate their ancestry in
conjunction with existing documentary records.
As a project administrator of several
historically based genetic genealogy projects, such
as the Lost Colony, Cumberland Gap, Melungeon,
Carolina Native Heritage and Hatteras Island
projects which involve thousands of participants, I
routinely receive questions from individuals who
have an oral history of Native American heritage and
would like to use genetic genealogical tools to
prove, or disprove, their oral history. This paper
documents the various discovery steps and processes
using different types of DNA testing for a typical
individual participant and appropriate family
members who carry an oral Native history combined
with genealogical evidence that has been forthcoming
during the elapsed years since genetic testing for
genealogy first because available. Each test along
with associated benefits and detriments are
discussed in relation to the analysis of minority
ancestry. The conclusion combines the information
from all the various tests, pedigree analysis and
genealogical evidence, discussing which tests are
beneficial and most accurate, and which ones are not
useful, and why.
This paper was academically published in the Fall
2009 Issue of the
Journal of Genetic Genealogy
The characterization of Y-chromosome and mtDNA
haplogroups in Native Americans and other
populations is allowing important new information to
be brought to bear on the question of what happened
to the 115 colonists who came to the Roanoke colony
in 1587, now known as the Lost Colony, because there
years later, in 1590, all the colonists were gone.
DNA projects for Lumbee and other Native American
tribes, along with DNA projects for Melungeon,
Waccamaw, and other groups who might have taken in
Roanoke survivors are providing important
information that bears on the subject of what
happened to the colonists. Information on the native
tribes just before and just after first contact with
Europeans is reviewed, along with diaries and other
contemporary accounts of early English explorations
and settlements. Much of the available information
provides tantalizing evidence that some of the
colonists survived and were assimilated into local
Native American tribes.
Working with DNA
A composite of the series, "The Autosomal Me,"
www.dna-explained.com blog. This series includes
detailed instructions for people with small amounts
of minority admixture to determine which of their
genealogy lines contributed that admixture.
Real life examples of how to use the time to Most
Common Recent Ancestor (MCRA) calculations.
More than five quick tips to help anyone with
their genealogy. This is the modern day equivalent
of leaving a trail of bread crumbs.
This paper explains how autosomal testing works
and provides examples of the various tests and
For those who are hoping to prove minority
heritage, creating a personal pedigree chart is
essential. It’s a useful tool for anyone who is
interesting in documenting the DNA heritage of all
of their ancestral lines. Includes a color DNA
pedigree chart to start the process.
This paper explains the basics of DNA testing for
genealogy. This is THE paper for beginners and those
wanting to understand how DNA testing works and who
to test for the best results.
A handout for conferences and speaking
engagements that provides a list of resources for
This provides a one paragraph quick and basic
description of each mitochondrial DNA haplogroup.
This article explains about how the time to the
most common recent ancestor is calculated, how
mutation rates are involved, and how the generation
length affects these calculations. This is most
useful for those who are trying to understand how
they match others with the same or different
Ten easy tips for what to do with DNA results and
how to better use them for genealogy. This is
focused on the results of Family Tree DNA customers.
This provides a one paragraph quick and basic
description of each Y-line.
This paper takes a critical look at Hamilton
McMillan's work with the Lumbee and uses historical
resources not previously available to confirm or
refute his theories and writings.
This paper provides research tools for those
seeking to document and prove Cherokee heritage.
Also applies in a limited fashion to the other 4
"Civilized Tribes", Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and
This paper was written for the Melungeon
Historical Society and focused on DNA testing for
Melungeon heritage. The Melungeons were a tri-racial
group of individuals who were primarily settled in
Hancock and Hawkins Counties in Tennessee and Scott
and Russell Counties in Virginia in the early 1800s.
Recently, autosomal testing has been construed to
“prove” exotic ancestry for the Melungeons, and this
paper discussed the various tests used, what they do
and don’t prove, and why.
A short article about ethnic heritage.
This paper is a summary of a conference
presentation given by Roberta at the Melungeon
Historical Society conference in Rogersville, Tn. in
June of 2009. This discusses who the Melungeons are,
who they are not, and what DNA testing has shown to
date. Roberta is the DNA Advisor for the Melungeon
Core DNA project, the Melungeon Historical Society
and is a board member as well.
An entertaining and enlightening story about
Roberta’s early memories of Native American heritage
and the social ramifications of carrying that
ancestry. As an adult, she discovered her African
roots as well. Join her on her journey.
A new Native American haplogroup was discovered by a
research team in late 2010. Read how it was
discovered, who was involved, and how genealogy
played a large part. Sometimes scientific
breakthroughs result from a combination of newly
developed scientific techniques, synchronicity and
opportunity. In other words, being at the right
place at the right time, sprinkled with a little bit
For the tens of thousands of
Americans today who seek their Native American
ancestors via Y chromosomal DNA testing, that search
just got a little bit easier, thanks to Roberta
Estes, Leonard Trujillo, Thomas Krahn at Family Tree
DNA and Rebekah Canada, the haplogroup Q project
This paper explains the various tests available
to genealogists who are seeking to prove their
Native American or other minority heritage, how they
work, what they mean and how to interpret the
Historical - Lost Colony Related Category
This award winning paper follows the evolution of
the Croatoan Indians on Hatteras Island into the
Hatteras Indians and documents what eventually
happens to the tribe.
This paper takes a look a the oral history of
Beechland (NC) that includes the Lost Colonist and
Native American families, and compares that history
to available records to determine if the records
confirm of disprove the oral history.
Article and references related to the Native
American tribes and other groups associated with the
Lost Colony and the area where the colonists may
have located, if they in fact survived.
This includes the Roster of the Lost Colony, a
list of others involved in the earlier preparatory
military colonies and a list of families believes to
be Native and are considered to be “of interest” as
possible descendants of the Lost Colony in North
How did 117 English people come to be lost on the
North Carolina Outer Banks in 1587? What events in
Europe led up to the first English colony in the New
World? Why were they abandoned for three years? How
did John White attempt to find the colonists, and
what efforts were made to locate them after 1590?
Did they survive?