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Lost Roanoke Colony Is Found: Evidence in Maps, Artifacts and DNA

Ms. Inglish has 30 years experience in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, history, and aerospace education for USAF Civil Air Patrol.

A word was carved into a tree at the Roanoke colony's fort palisade. The word was left for the Governor returning from sea: "Croatoan."

A word was carved into a tree at the Roanoke colony's fort palisade. The word was left for the Governor returning from sea: "Croatoan."

Where Is Old Roanoke?

Research Evidence

The Roanoke Colonists: Lost, and Found? By Theo Emery in The New York Times; 8/10/2015

My Summary and Comments:

DNA research had already found some links between the lost Roanoke Island Colony settlers and their present-day descendants that also have indigenous bloodlines and are living in North Carolina today. Evidence shows intermarriage between English immigrants and Native Americans.

Merry Hill, North Carolina or Site X is the "here" in the researcher's discovery declaration that involves about a dozen colonists. This place is on Albemarle Sound and labeled as Site X.

A strong supporting x-ray spectrograph analysis by the British Museum of an old map belonging to Governor John White lends credence to this second inland site of Roanoke adventures.

Evidence shows intermarriage between English immigrants and Native Americans.

The Native American Manteo was baptized into the Church of England in Roanoke Colony.

The Native American Manteo was baptized into the Church of England in Roanoke Colony.

Chocowinity - Merry Hill - Albermarle Sound Evidence


The Chocowinity community located southwest of Merry Hill was determined to be a possible settlement site of the missing settlers, based on artifacts found that included ceramic ware.

Increasing numbers of specific border ware pottery artifacts found there provided a marker for the presence of the Roanoke colonists. The site researcher, Mr. Luccketti, gained an additional 15 acres for additional excavation.

Several archaeological sites around Albermarle Sound may prove to have been home to the 100 lost colonists. The group may have split into two or several smaller groups.

My opinion is that some of the 100 likely died of harsh weather and disease, but that several survived.

Border-ware is an English ceramic pottery common to London in the 16th and 17th centuries. It was lead-glazed, sandy colored and fired in kilns to produce two types: whitewares and redwares.

Border ware from around the 15h or 16th century.

Border ware from around the 15h or 16th century.

We have evidence from this site that strongly indicates that there were Roanoke colonists here.

— Nicholas M. Luccketti of the First Colony Foundation

Important Evidence Found by Research Triangle Professionals

Organized research from the renowned Research Triangle Park points to a link between the Roanoke Lost Colonists and the current descendants of early Native American peoples they met in and around the present town of Chocowinity, North Carolina. Evidence is found in maps, archaeological artifacts and DNA markers (Find some names of descendants living today and follow the research at

Most importantly:

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  • A one-word code was found carved into a log in a fort wall as a message to Governor John White upon his return from the sea, as the colonists under his authority fled their home. This was done in the prearranged fashion established by White and the single word was Croatoan. It was the key for White to understand where they went. The word refers to the Croatan Band of natives.
  • There is no Maltese Cross carved through or after the word in the log. A cross added would have meant that an attack was underway. Thus, there was no attack and the people moved.
  • The Croatans are not extinct as many reports state. They no longer have an official band, but their descendants live in Northern Carolina today, proved by Research Triangle professionals..
  • Croatan Island on maps used at the time of the colonists' disappearance is today's Hatteras Island, a nearby barrier island that contains Route 12 and is 42 miles long.
  • Per National Geographic (Tanya Basu, December 6, 2013), a large wooden structure surrounded by a palisade fence was found buried on Hatteras island.
  • English artifacts in a sizable number were unearthed on the current Hatteras (formerly Croatan) Island. This means that the likely lived there.
  • The lost colonists most likely joined the Croatan band of natives.
Parts of Hatteras Island, some under water in 2003.

Parts of Hatteras Island, some under water in 2003.

The Research Triangle Examines Local History

The colony of Roanoke Island disappeared sometime between 1587 and 1590 during three years' time and the absence of their governor.

Speculation has been wide:

  • A disease, floods (earning the Roanoke River the nickname River of Death among natives), or fire may have destroyed the colony. However, no fire remains were found in 1860, according to records.
  • The colonists were attacked by Croatan or Roanoke "Indians." No hard evidence proves this notion.
  • The colonists were attacked by the Spanish and killed or kidnapped. No evidence exists for this notion.
  • The colonists ran out of supplies, experienced failed crops and drought, and went to live with the Croatan Band of Native Americans. Interestingly, some of the settlers were from Wales and a hundred years after the colony was lost, new English settlers found Croatan People on Hatteras island that could speak Welsh and read books.
  • The entire colony moved southward to another island.

Problems at Roanoke

Approximately 90 men, 17 women, and 11 children sailed by ship sent by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1587 to a point north of Roanoke Island to build a fort and settlement called the Cittee of Raleigh.

Those people were put off the ship by the Spanish Captain after a strenuous voyage of mishaps across the Atlantic Ocean before they reached their destination.

Captain Fernandez put the English off with the excuse of returning south to warmer waters and his privateering business. However, he anchored off shore, watching, as the stranded people tried to construct a village.

A previous attempt in 1556 to colonize Roanoke Island ended badly. The 1587 settlers found a bleached human skeleton on the beach as soon as they were stranded. They found a fort that had been destroyed. They found wildlife eating the garden produce left behind, still on the vines.

One of the men went into the waters off shore to gather crabs and was killed and mutilated by some Native Americans.

Researchers found through tree-ring analysis in the late 1990s that the most severe drought in eight centuries hit Roanoke Island between 1587 - 1589. Thus, the colonists fought bad weather, fears of the Spanish, hunger, and some real Native Americans.

Hatteras Island is Croatoan Island on Old Maps

The English had their first baby in America when Virginia Dare was born just a few days after the explorers landed on Roanoke Island in August 1587.

Governor John White was Virginia Dare's grandfather. He found it necessary to return to England for supplies in September 1587.

Fearing attacks by Native Americans or the Spanish, the Governor developed a code to use in case the colonists fled while he was absent.

They were to carve a word into the bark of a tree and the word was to be a key to their new location. The addition of a cross over the word would indicate that an attack had taken place.

John White did not land on Roanoke again until 1590. He found the single word "Croatoan" carved into a tree that had been used in the colonists' fort palisade.

Scientists and historians discovered that the word means a specific location, leaving a message as a clue. This new site is south of Roanoke Island on the 42-mile long Hatteras Island, a part of Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

This journey today from Roanoke Island to Hatteras (Croatan) Island is short and Hatteras Island is very long. The colonists and Croatans had plenty of room to hide from any attacks.

Hatteras Island is marked as "Croatoan Island" on an old map of the region.

The Two Islands Today

Hatteras Island is at the lower right (southeast) corner of the photo and the island is at least 42 miles long, leading to Cape Hatteras. Arrows and letters a.b.c.d. indicate possible boat or canoe routes. Route 12 extends down to the cape.

Hatteras Island is at the lower right (southeast) corner of the photo and the island is at least 42 miles long, leading to Cape Hatteras. Arrows and letters a.b.c.d. indicate possible boat or canoe routes. Route 12 extends down to the cape.

Croatan and Roanoke Bands of NC Natives

Genealogists and geneticists are actively examining DNA markers for links between the missing colonists and their part-indigenous descendants in North Carolina.

The Croatan Band lived all along the Outer Banks long before English settlers landed. They likely were related to the Roanoke Band that also lived there. Today, approximately 250 of these indigenous peoples' descendants live near Greenville.

The Lost Colony Center for Science and Research found many English artifacts on what is now Hatteras Island. DNA studies continue long-term to match European DNA markers among today's Croatan descendants, with notable success.

European DNA markers include Hispanic and English groups, requiring further examination.

By 1710, the Farrows, O'Neals, Hoopers and Wahabs were reported to be 'half Indian and half English.'

— Hatteras Island DNA Projects

DNAeXplained Progress in Roanoke Cases

DNAeXplained company is searching for any male descendant of the Lumbee Berry line in North Carolina to take a DNA test to connect that line up with the Roanoke Colony families that disappeared.

There are two Berry families who claim descent from the Lost Colonists of Roanoke Island in 1587, Henry and Richard Berry, who are presumed to be related to each other.

— DNAeXplained

Migration of the Lost Colony of Roanoke

English Sightings and Migratory and Language Evidence

Between 1590 and 1610, several sightings were reported of whites that explorers claimed must be members of the Lost Colony.

One sighting was a white boy with yellow hair living among the Croatan Band. Another might have been a teenage Virginia Dare. Officials of the First Colony Foundation and of the British Museum in London UK conferred in early May 2012 about Governor White's map of the Roanoke region of the outer banks in what become North Carolina and Virginia.

The Research Triangle's University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is involved long-term in finding descendants of the original settlers. Researchers find that two patches placed on the map indicate

  1. a corrected error and
  2. a different sort of fort than was usually built by the English in America in Bertie County.

The second patch seems to mean that the Lost Colony traveled west and north to the intersection of the Roanoke and Chowan Rivers. To do so, the colonists needed a ship and perhaps used the wood from their houses, since Governor White found them demolished in 1590.

Archaeologists plan to excavate in Bertie County, but the area lies under a popular golf course and a housing development. Regardless, the Bertie County migration point does not explain the traditionally Welsh-speaking Croatan people on Hatteras Island, which is a shorter distance from Roanoke Island than is Bertie County.

How do Native Americans learn Welsh and speak it for hundreds of years?


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Patty Inglish MS


Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on February 21, 2019:

That's interesting, Doris. The Cherokee of the five tribes separated from the Mohawk long ago so there is a distant link there. Perhaps the five nations intermarried with the Welsh; meanwhile, DNA in the indigenous peoples of Northern Europe was found in people groups all the way around the entire Arctic Circle, even Iceland most recently. The group most held up as an example is the Lapplanders (Saami), but the Welsh perhaps should be included.

A single book once in my university library called "Black Irish" insists that the early Welsh were migrated Africans and it included research tracking blood types and other markers; but, the book disappeared and the research was never duplicated, except for the part that insisted that stones from Wales were transported and used at Stonehenge. That was recently in the news.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on February 21, 2019:

Wow, Patty, 38%, that's wonderful. I purposefully avoided using the terminology "five civilized tribes" because I admire and respect all Native American tribes. I was speaking specifically of them in my description of the Eastern tribes. I'm still trying to find that scholarly research article (that I've misplaced) on which I was basing my statement about "Eastern" tribes' DNA. That article and several shows I've viewed on the History Channel.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on February 20, 2019:

Hi Doris - It's all interesting. As a descendant of Eastern Woodlands groups, specifically Mohawk, my DNA shows about 38% Native markers, many the same as some Pacific NW groups, with a link to Zulu Nation as well.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on February 20, 2019:

Patty, this is a fantastic article, well-researched and well-written. I'm so glad that we are opening our minds to realities that might have happened to our forerunners in this country. This sounds like some real answers may have been found already.

About the Welsh. I'm waiting to see what comes of the evidence that produced the theory that a Welsh colony was established on this continent long before Eric the Red, who for years was theorized to be the first European to walk on our shores. It also makes me wonder if our Eastern Native Americans descended from them. They do not carry the same "native" DNA as the western "Indians" who are purported to have come across the Bering Strait. I've observed that people who claim to have descended from the Eastern tribes, including my family, are often found to have 100% European DNA. Are we being lied to, or is there more here than historians are willing to admit?

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on July 17, 2017:

stevarino - I bet you had a very good time in all your visits! DNA testing is being performed for more of the likely descendants and then Smithsonian or other history site will probably do a new film about it all. I remember Andy Griffith speaking about his youth, when he went to work in a playhouse in Roanoke that produced an ongoing play about the story. I wonder what their conclusions were back then, probably in the 1940s?

Steve Dowell from East Central Indiana on July 17, 2017:

So glad to read this. I spent 6 years in my youth in Durham and our family visited many of the historic sites around the state. We ventured to Edenton and that area around Arbermarle Sound back in the 1960s. The theory back then, was that the settlers migrated with friendly natives further inland, since no evidence was found at the original site of the colony on Roanoke Island of their fate, except, of course, for the word "Croatoan" etched on a tree trunk.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on February 06, 2017:

@Dolores J. Rush - How interesting! Those DNA results should be very informative - are you all related to the Roanoke folks? I wonder if records in the UK could help trace the O'Neals?

Dolores J. Rush on February 05, 2017:

Interesting article. I've been researching my ancestors and I'm descended from three of the surnames mentioned in the article above -- White, O'Neal, and Berry. The Berry's were said to have been Scotch/English, but we do not know where our O'Neal's came from earlier than Nashville, TN. ( 1811) or the White's earlier than Montgomery County, KY. (1802). I have White cousins who live in North Carolina and he has had his DNA tested -- I will be sharing this article with them.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 12, 2015:

@Thomas Gary Earnest -- Look at the three links in the article under "The Roanoke DNA Studies." visit those pages and ask about your DNA and matching it up with what they have.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 12, 2015:

How wonderful to find all these things in your background! Happy hunting for more :) And you have the proof that some Roanoke settlers intermarried with Native Americans.

Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on August 12, 2015:

Patty, after my comment here yesterday I researched a bit more and found out my earliest ancestor in the Carolinas --so far--was married to an Indian maiden from the area. Indeed, what fun! :)

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 11, 2015:

@Phyllis Doyle - I am also excited! Right now, I'm attempting to find all the dig sites and I hope at least some will become National Monuments or National Archeological Sites.

@Randy Goodwin - You might be related to some of the original colonists as distant or not-so-distant cousins. You must tell us what you find out. What fun! Thanks for reading a voting, btw.

Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on August 11, 2015:

Fascinating and well written, Patty. A few years ago I was doing research on my mother's side of the family and found the first of her relatives arrived in North Carolina in 1699.

After reading the various records left behind--some legal transactions and wills--I discovered one of my ancestors owned land on Roanoke Island at the time. Needless to say, I was thrilled and excited to find such info and it further interested me into the Roanoke Colony. I now plan to visit the region as some of my relatives still reside in the area.

Enjoyed and rated up, of course. :)

Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on August 11, 2015:

This is exciting news, Patty. I hope the mystery will finally be cleared up. I am anxious to hear more about it. Thank you for this latest.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 11, 2015:

More of Roanoke Colony found -- In August 2015, additional digging in North Carolina returned up evidence of Roanoke Colony individuals having moved inland and possibly having split into smaller groups. DNA matches hold and new matches are being collected. All of the accumulating and final evidence, including that of a new 15-acre dig that researchers hope to begin soon, will be peer reviewed at the Research Triangle in NC. Latest evidence was transported to the RT for review on 8-11-2015.

Robert Sacchi on November 30, 2014:

Thank you. It is good to know technology and persistence may come up with some solid proof to solve this centuries old mystery.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 03, 2014:

Thanks very much! I hope the DNA research holds well and scientists find more of it.

Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on August 02, 2014:

This is a very well-written and informative hub, Patty. This mystery has interested me for many years and I finally did some deep research and wrote a hub on it. I really enjoyed reading yours. Voted up, UI. Well done!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 01, 2013:

On my mother's side of the family was a branch of Millers. Their oldest male member was from Germany, if that is any help to you - they settled in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and a few went further south. Keep searching and let me know what you find!

Charles E. Miller,Jr. on October 01, 2013:

Dear Ms Inglish,

I wish to thank you for your response. I have been in contact with the State Library in Raleigh. They have been very kind and have found Jonathan Miller, Sr. mentioned many times in the colonial records; however, there is no mention of his ethnic background. My Grandmother Miller's history is easy to trace; however, the Millers are a puzzle. I wish to thank you for your suggestion.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on September 05, 2013:

Hi, Mr. Charles Milleer, Jr. -- It's a possibility, I think. Have you contacted geneological societies in Bertie County? Church records can give us other clues and evidence as well.

Charles Miller, Jr on September 04, 2013:

I forgot to mention that my family was from Bertie County, North Carolina not far from Mars Hill Baptist Church.

Charles Miller,Jr. on September 04, 2013:

I am a descendant of Jonathan Miller, Sr. He was my grandfather eight generations back. He was born in 1710 and died in 1779. He purchased a thousand acres of land on which my father was born in 1928. No one could agree what his origins were. He was a Christian and followed English traditions. Could his family have been part of the 1587 colony? His origins are obscure.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on July 15, 2013:

You'd need to access the DNA and family research links in the article and call University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, then visit those websites to find out your specific information. The University might have information to give over the phone - look up the general university number and tell them what you want. Much success to you!

Walton Stevens=Charlton on July 15, 2013:

There was a Thomas Stevens in the 1587 colony attempt.There is a long chance possibility that Nicolas Stevens (a great nephew or cousin ? ) and my antecedent came to the colonies to find family [Thomas ] Nicholas's father and mother were in Jamestown in the early 1600's.Have any Stevens' genes been identified in the studies as yet. My 111 markers with FTDNA are available for comparison . Walton E. Stevens

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on May 05, 2012:

That's probably true, isn't it? How many of us would tear down a house to make a boat - well, perhaps on TV's Survivor.

Angie Jardine from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... on May 05, 2012:

Fascinating hub, Patty ...

My bet is that the settlers went to live with the Native Americans and that one day the DNA will prove that.

One thing we can be sure of is that all these early settlers were incredibly brave people ... few of us today either have or perhaps even need that sort of bravery.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on May 05, 2012:

Thanks for voting, UnnamedHerald!

I am thinking now about the difficulties of building a boat or series of smaller vessels and sailing northwest, or even of walking overland from Hatteras Island to the river confluence inland. The settlers were cabinet makers and other craftsmen, so I wonder what sort of boats they'd design? The Native Americans had their own canoes, which would have been faster.

The people probably did not have horses unless the Spanish had left some in the area, but I think that did not occur. The English would have had to make litters to drag things behind them, with the help of dogs if the Native Americans had them, which is more likely.

Still, the descendants of the Croatoan Band live even further west of the confluence of rivers and common surnames are found in their ancestry with the settlers of Roanoke. There was definitely intermarriage and working together.

David Hunt from Cedar Rapids, Iowa on May 05, 2012:

Very interesting article about a great historical puzzle. Hopefully we will find the answer one day. Can't even imagine what they went through. Voted up and interesting.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on May 04, 2012:

Thanks very much! I kept wanting to type Civil War years for some reason. lolz

Maren Elizabeth Morgan from Pennsylvania on May 04, 2012:

Patty - Fascinating mystery. Also, you may want to check a date transposition in the first paragraph under Unfortunate Mishaps.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on May 04, 2012:

I was just looking at the patch on the map that Governor White used, in close up - the fort that the researchers think is different from the first fort built by the English at Roanoke looks exactly like For Orange/Fort Nassau forts in New York circa 1614. They were built by the DUTCH.

Karla Iverson from Oregon on May 04, 2012:

The DNA information will be interesting if they ever sort it out.

I just love a good mystery - a real one! Thank you for the update. It was a great read.

kelleyward on May 04, 2012:

I always learn something new from your interesting hubs! Voted up, interesting, and useful. Also sharing this one. Take care, Kelley

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on May 04, 2012:

Interesting, isn't it?

I just don't quite accept that the settlers tore down their own houses, built a boat and sailed to Bertie County. It was simpler and shorter to join the Croatans to the south and all of them move due west to the Greenville area where they are today.

Jose Velasquez from Lodi, New Jersey on May 04, 2012:

Wow, so Croatoan wasn't a virus unleashed my the minions of Hell to erase humanity after the Apocalypse. Geez when you can't trust TV to give you the answers to these things who can you trust. LOL. It's great that a mystery like this could be solved so many years after.

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