Researchers to test Lost Colony theory

Published 11:06 pm Saturday, September 8, 2007

By Staff
Event runs through weekend
Staff Writer
WILLIAMSTON — Jennifer Sheppard doesn’t think that finding the Lost Colony would change the allure of what she calls a “mystery for all Americans.”
She and a group of researchers gathered in Williamston on Friday night hoping science will prove what they say has already been established with family trees — that the descendants of the Lost Colony have been found in Chocowinity.
Starting with a list of 168 names, the research could mushroom to include thousands of people, because everyone who is related to them is also related to the Lost Colony, she said.
Fred Willard, director of the center, which is hosting the ongoing gathering today and tomorrow, was no less enthusiastic that the center’s research could be verified with DNA evidence.
Using the list of 168 surnames, the center mapped a progression of land ownership from Manteo to Chocowinity. Center leaders said the progression proves the colony’s descendants moved there after disappearing from Manteo between 1587 and 1590. Using DNA, which is collected by cheek swab from people today with those surnames, the center hopes to scientifically prove its hypothesis.
Sheppard was responsible for the paper trail that led the team from Manteo to Chocowinity. Tracing the names of colonist descendants through deeds has proved that progression, she said. Of her first project involving DNA, Sheppard said science can now solidify what she has already established on paper.
The main attraction during the first night of the weekend-long symposium was the “Eleanor Dare Stone.” About the size of a dinner plate, the stone is inscribed on both sides with Old English and is purported to be a message for John White, the colony’s governor, who had returned to England for supplies at the time the colonists vanished.
As to Southerland’s belief in the authenticity of the relic, he calls himself a “healthy skeptic.” Southerland teaches history at Brenau University in Gainesville, Ga., which owns the stone and the 49 others that have proved to be fakes.
Willard said he was on the fence about the stone’s authenticity, but said, “I want it to be real.”