Come and Share My Passion for History

Coming to Terms with Oral Family History and My Family’s Origins

I am not immune to the quirks and ills of modern society.

Growing up, I always felt as if I did not belong to modern society. I felt at home in the forest or by a lake, but never in the city or a house. There always seemed to be a hole inside that needed to be filled. I felt like someone or something was calling to me to vanish into the forest with them. I thought this was due to Native American ancestry. My mother and my aunt said there was some Native on their dad’s side. I had no reason to believe they would fib to me about such a thing. It made sense and it filled the emptiness, so I believed it. I embraced it and naively believed I had a right to declare myself a Native American Person.

A mid-life crisis got me thinking – about everything but mostly about my personal beliefs. At this same time the local school system offered an adult ed class about the Native People of Maine and I eagerly signed up. I met lots of interesting folks with similar stories to my own. We bonded. We decided to form an organization and share what we learned in class with the general public. We named our organization Dawnland Alliance and held monthly meetings for a number of years. We prepared educational materials and a “Learning Booth” which traveled around to Pow-Wows and public festivals. Our organization had no membership criteria, no dues, and no paid employees, just a bunch of volunteers trying to spread the word about how cool Native culture was. We tried not to be too New Age, but it happened. We had many programs that were generic Indian in nature. We had some speakers that were Native, some that shared their knowledge of the natural world, and some that were phony-balonies making it up as they went along. It took time for me to figure out the difference between the three.

One of the things this social club liked to do was give members “Indian” names. It was a fade and oh so cool at the time 😉 When it was decided I needed a name, I was invited to a naming ceremony. We sat in a circle and everyone shared their thoughts about me until a name was decided on. I started using my new nickname, Canyon Wolf, as a pen name in my writing and I continue to use it today. Sometimes it seems silly, but I expect most folks think the same way about any nickname they didn’t chose themselves.

Dawnland’s president (chief?) was Louis and he was the only member that I recall who could actually trace his Native heritage back to a real Native Community. Unfortunately, we didn’t spend much time visiting local tribes to learn from them directly. Instead we took the easy path of learning from books, tapes, presentations, and self-proclaimed Abenaki such as the Bruchac family and Tsonakwa (who boast of being Abenaki, but research says otherwise). We believed we were doing a good thing, but in the end it seems we were very naive and perhaps did some damage as well. The Dawnland Alliance was what is referred to today as a culture club. The organization eventually disbanded and the nonprofit corporation was formally retired in 2005.

I became dissatisfied with the politics that eventually crept into the Dawnland Alliance and decided to start a separate nonprofit organization with a focus on historical & genealogical research and public sharing of the results. Ne-Do-Ba was born in March of 1997 and maintains an active presence on the internet with a website and research blog. In the beginning I believed oral family history was trustworthy and dutifully recorded hundreds of “Indians” in the Ne-Do-Ba database. With almost 2 decades of research under my belt, I  have learned the vast majority of oral history concerning Native ancestry is not true. I keep weeding, but it seems I will never get all the self-proclaimed Indians out of our database and website. Oh well, live and learn.

I (and Ne-Do-Ba) do not claim to speak for the Wabanaki People or to be an expert in Wabanaki History and Genealogy, but I have been at it a while and have collected a fair amount historical documentation concerning the Wabanaki. By publishing historical documentation, Ne-Do-Ba is able to provide a forum in which the Wabanaki of the past can speak for themselves through the documents they left behind.

Ne-Do-Ba does not now and never has received state or federal grants, nor any other money ear marked for Native Peoples. We do not get involved with modern day Native concerns, politics, or tribal registration issues. However, personally, I do try to stay informed of and sensitive to the issues faced by Wabanaki People today.

Throughout all this, there were times when I dressed up and played Indian. I made some regalia, but only wore it a couple of times – just didn’t feel right. I danced in a circle once or twice but it wasn’t pretty. I became a pretty good Native story-teller and this felt right. But alas, the story-tellers I leaned from turned out to be phony indians, so I decided to leave the story telling to others.

As the educational director for Ne-Do-Ba, I worked as a consultant with Norlands Living History Center to adapt some school and summer programs to include a Native character. I learned the craft of re-enacting from a variety of experienced 18th & 19th century historical re-enactors. As a costumed interpreter, I played the part of the historical character, Hannah Susap, and the fictional character, Sophie Wood. I was part of a team acting out scenes written by people interested in history and public education. The re-enacting felt like a good fit for me. Unfortunately, my health forced me to stop re-enacting.

All during my “Indian Journey”, I have been researching my own family – all my ancestors, not just ones that might be “the indian”. So far, I have found no good candidates for my family’s indian. It was Mom and one of her sisters with vague knowledge of an Indian ancestor (full disclosure — 2 other sisters and 5 brothers didn’t know anything about it when I asked). Their mother was Irish, so it must be on their father’s side if the story is accurate. The identity of Grampa’s mother is a problem because I have conflicting information. Until I solve this mystery I can’t say much about my grandfather’s ancestry. However, in all the lines I have been able to research, there are no indians in sight.

Through all of this I have learned two important things about being Native. First, I am not Native. I have no right to claim I am Native just because someone in the family has a story. Until I can prove it, it is just a family legend. Even if I am able to document it in the future, I am still not Native based on the second thing I have learned. And that second thing is that being Native is not about yesterday, it is about today. It is about belonging to a current family group that has endured centuries of persecution in order to protect their identity, culture, and historical communities. These Native families did not hide from the public or give up their identities to make it easier to survive. For generation after generation Native families have chosen the hardest road of all – to be Indian in an environment that was constantly attempting to exterminate them one way or another. My ancestor (if there really is a Native in the tree) chose a different path and I am here today as a result of that choice. I have come to terms with my family myth.

In hind sight, some of the things I have done on my “Indian Journey” seem pretty naive today, but it was part of my life journey and therefore an important part of who I am today.

Haplogroup R1b

In a previous post I explained about our family mitochondrial or mt-DNA and the haplogroup many of us belong to. The mt-DNA tells us about our mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s … origins. Today I will share a little bit about our y-DNA haplogroup. The Y chromosome is passed from father to son, to son, to son, to son … and it mutates very slow over time. So, our y haplogroup tells us about our ancient male origins. All the men in the Stevens family, their sons, their grandsons, and so forth will share the same y chromosome. And it takes us thousands of year into the past.

Our Stevens’ Y chromosome is haplogroup R1b. Oh how boringly common. The R haplogroup is the most common in all of Europe! We descend from the same ancient male that the majority of other European men do. I am oh so jealous of the people  with uncommon haplogroups that are able to learn a great deal about their ancient migration routes. But nothing exciting for us since just plain old European. Well, maybe there is something of interest now that I think about it. R is one of the youngest haplogroups in the human male family tree. How did the youngest become so abundant? The scientific explanation is that they were “very fit”. In layman’s terms – they bred like rabbits  Winking smile

Y-DNA can also tell us about things a bit more closer to home. It can be used to verify the surnames of men. Since y-DNA is passed from father to son the same way a surname is, y-DNA follows the surname back in time about 500 years or so in many European cultures. Surnames are a recent human invention so we are limited to modern times. Most non-European cultures have different naming practices so this does not help non-Europeans.

Whose your daddy? Y-DNA testing can be used to determine paternity. But I need to stress the home test used for genetic genealogy can not be used in a court of law because there is no chain of evidence. It is just your word that you are the one who spit in the tube or swabbed your cheek. However, the results are still valid and useful. Y-DNA testing has become very popular with male adoptees and other folks who have reason to question the identity of their fathers.

I am pleased to report that is no question of paternity with our Stevens family. We match a whole lot of other guys with the same surname. We also match many men who have their family tree extended back to the 1600s and they have the exact same results as I have. A feather in my cap, since it tends to prove I didn’t goof up anywhere in my research Winking smile

Project Update

Test kits went out (thanks to a huge sale) before Christmas to 3 more cousins; R M, P H, and our first male cousin T S. Two of the kits have been returned and are now being processed. The kit for P H has not made it back to the lab yet. Hope she didn’t change her mind.


Xmas comes early

I must have been a very good girl this year. Look what Santa brought me.


Low maintenance and low living costs – Ya hoo!

Will be moving to North Belgrade as soon as the ground dries out in the spring.

Goodbye Lewiston, goodbye city politics, goodbye traffic noise, goodbye city taxes, goodbye light pollution that blocks the stars, Hello county living!

And it is only 10 miles from camp instead of an hour drive!

Today I will cover our ethnicity as calculated by the Eurogenes K9b admix utility found at This calculator is designed to mimic the ethnicity results of the National Genographic Project’s Geno 2.0 test. These results are based on an entirely different set of data and criteria from the results I showed previously, but they are still nothing more then scientific guesses.

Here is a table of our results by generation.



The first thing I notice is the results do not vary a great deal between the siblings, whereas the FamilyTreeDNA results I posted previously showed wide differences between the siblings. The second thing I notice is the 2nd generation is much more inline with the results of the first generation. The Geno 2.0 test was designed to provide information about our more ancient ancestors and the FamilyTreeDNA test is more about our current ancestry. This difference in focus may explain the difference in results.

For me, the most interesting item in this table is the “Native American” category. We all have segments of DNA that match with Native Americans more closely than Europeans. In addition to the Native American category, the “Northeast Asian” category is of interest and I will explain why in a minute. Oh yes, and the sub-Saharan African and Oceania (Australia etc.) is seriously unexpected and pretty far out there. Does this mean we have African, Native American and Australian ancestry. Not really, but you never know for sure.

The African is easy to explain. Since all modern humans originated in Africa the results are merely showing that we still retain some DNA signatures that are more than 70,000 years old. Pretty cool! The other unusual results are not so easy to explain in a  group of people that should be all British Isles or at least all European. To understand why, I need to provide a little history lesson.

Modern humans originated in Africa. About 70,000 years ago the climate and geography allowed humans to begin migrating out of Africa. Once they left the continent they began moving in all directions. The groups that would eventually become “European” moved in different directions than the groups that eventually found there way to Australia, the far east, and the Americas. It is common for Europeans to show Mediterranean and south or west Asian because these groups were never completely isolated from each other and would have some gene flow between the populations. The Oceania results are low enough percentages to be random coincidence. However, theoretically, as Europeans we should not have any significant DNA in common with Northeast Asians and Native Americans except for our most ancient common ancestry in Africa.

Native Americans came from Northeast Asia before crossing over into America. So if I combine the Native American and NE Asian results, they become a rather significant amount (over 2% average and at least 1.5% for each of the siblings). So the question becomes, how come we show these results? And the answer is, no one knows for certain, but it might be because we actually do have a Native American ancestor somewhere in the last 500 years. My job as group administrator for the family DNA project is to figure out if this is modern Native DNA or really ancient African DNA disguised as Native American.

One thing I found surprising in these results is that the 2nd generation has significantly more Native then the 1st generation. The results suggest the 2nd generation received additional Native segments from these non-Stevens parents. The non-Stevens parent for each member of the 2nd generation appear to be European on paper. I really doubt we have a bunch of Indians on both sides of our trees. So, this may be a indication that all this Native stuff is really not Native at all just Native impostors.

So who gets the booby prize today? No one in the first generation really stands out in any specific category. For the 2nd generation, the prize goes to NL with over 4% combined Native and NE Asian results.

Stay tuned for more Winking smile

DNA & Ethnicity


DNA can tell us a little bit about our ethnicity, but it’s more theory & speculation than hard fact. Never the less, it is fun to see what the scientists have to say about who we are. Today I am going to share the ethnicity (also referred to as admix) of the Stevens family as calculated by FamilyTreeDNA’s MyOrigins app. In another post I will show the results from other apps.

According to MyOrigins the 4 Stevens siblings are 100% European, which is certainly not surprising since my genealogy suggests our ancestors on both sides of the tree came from the British Isles. In the table below I am showing the results for each sibling as well as their average for comparison with the 2nd generation.



These are just predictions and they do not mean that we have recent ancestors that came from Northern Siberia. What this is saying is that 2% of Rose’s and 4% of Geo’s DNA signature has more in common with the current population of Finland & Northern Siberia than it does with the current population of the British Isles. It also shows that Roy and Gene do not share enough DNA markers with the current population of Finland & Northern Siberia to matter.

Each company has its own scientists and its own DNA database used for making these predictions. Therefore each company produces somewhat different ethnicity results. In addition to testing companies there are groups of scientists who have created their own prediction apps using differing methods. Many of these prediction apps are available to use for free at the website. Scientists are still working to refine their predictions. As more and more people test we will learn more about our place in the modern world and as more ancient DNA sequences become available we will learn more about our place in the ancient world.

So, why is the 2nd generation results so much different then the 1st generation.There are two basic reasons. One has to do with cross-over which I will discuss in a bit. The biggest reason for the difference between the 1st and 2nd generation is caused by the 50% contribution of the non-Stevens parent. The 2nd generation received an equal amount of DNA from each parent and will reflect the ethnicity that goes along with that non-Stevens DNA contribution. The 2nd generation is also European but there is much more diversity within that classification.

Two things stand out in the 2nd generation. First, NL and PC have significantly less British Isles then the prior generation. This is surprising because the non-Stevens parent in both cases appear to have British origins. The second surprise is the 2% non-European results for SG despite the fact the non-Stevens parent appears to be British.

So who gets the booby prize today? In the 1st generation I vote for Roy with the least amount of diversity and in the 2nd generation I vote for SG with the most surprising diversity. Where is that Central Asian coming from?

Why the Difference?

So why is there a difference in the ethnicity of these four siblings? They all have the same parents so they should have the same ethnicity shouldn’t they? Well, yes, kinda sorta.

Even though each sibling gets 50% of their DNA from the mother and 50% from the father, chromosome pairs get mixed up when egg or sperm are produced by a parent. Because of this mixing no two siblings will get exactly the same 50%. This is why siblings don’t all look the same. This mixing is random and occurs with each generation back through time. Therefore, each sibling has a unique combination of DNA from the parent and there is no guarantee any two siblings will share a specific sequence. So Rose & Geo received pieces of DNA from an ancestor with Northern Siberian like  DNA and the other two did not get that piece.

For those of us that are visual learner I have created this illustration to show how DNA segments from a particular ancestor get smaller and smaller with each generation. At about the 5th generations most segments become too small to accurately detect which ancestor they originated with. However, the ethnicity of small pieces may remain detectable for a much longer period.

DNA Recombination Illustration

Today I am posting links to two excellent articles I found discussing Native American genealogy research in the US.

Please note that these articles do not cover the Wabanaki People of the Northeast. Why is that? Because the Maine tribes were not under the umbrella of the Federal Government (BIA) until the land claims case of the 1970s. Prior to that, the Penobscot & Passamaquoddy were wards of the State of Maine under a specific agreement created in 1820 when Maine separated from the state of Massachusetts. Of course the politicians never asked the Native People if this was agreeable to them. The other two Maine tribes (Maliseet & Mi’kmaq) had been classified as Canadian Indians prior to the land claims case, despite the fact they have resided on the Maine side of the border for generations. Other Wabanaki groups are from Native communities in Canada and therefore have an entirely different political history and record set for research purposes.

You can find some tips for researching Wabanaki ancestry on the Ne-Do-Ba website.

Results for K M are in and now we are just waiting on B A‘s results.

Today I will explain about the mitochondrial  DNA (mt-DNA) results for the female line of my family. Rose has her complete mt-DNA results. She is haplogroup V17.

Mitochondrial DNA  is a special type of DNA passed from mothers to their children and it mutates at a very slow rate, Because of this slow mutation it tells us about our ancient female roots on the human tree. My mother passed this on to me and she got it from her mother, who got it from her mother, who got it from her mother, all the way back to the beginning. So my mt-DNA traveled to me by way of

  1. Rose
  2. Florence Burns
  3. Catherine Sullivan
  4. Margaret O’Sullivan

This is as far as I can go at this time because I do not know what part of Ireland Margaret came from and Ireland has lost much of it’s records for the time period of her birth. With any luck, this DNA project will eventually take me back additional generations.

All of my first cousins (male & female) who descendant from Stevens women will have this same haplogroup. The Stevens boys (my uncles) will have this mt-DNA haplogroup from their mother, but they do not pass it on to their children. So me, S G, and K M are all mt-DNA haplogroup V17, but P C did not receive mt-DNA from Dad, so we do not know the haplogroup of P C.

The V haplogroup is primarily European in origins. V is a relatively young branch of the mitochondrial family tree. It is about 13,500 year old. What this mean is that the mutation I and several of my cousins carry that separate us out as member of the V haplogroup occurred about 13,500 year ago. Today the V haplogroup is most commonly found in Scandinavia.

We received this mt-DNA from our Irish great-great-grandmother, yet V is not very common in Ireland. Since the Vikings of of Scandinavia are know to have looted and pillaged Ireland for decades, one explanation for our mt-DNA results might be that we descend from a female Viking line.

I’m not sure if that is good news or bad news 😉

And that’s the end of today’s DNA lesson and fun fact.

Update 5-Nov-2014
I found this interesting graphic that shows the likely migration route of our V ancestry.

DNA Results Update

I am pleased to announce that all four of my “1st round” DNA test kits have been received by the lab. Two kits have completed processing (P C & S G) and I have started working with them. K M’s results should be available any day now but I will have to wait about 4 weeks before B A’s (our Burns cousin)  results are available – he kept forgetting to do it before he ate 😉

Once B A’s results are back I will be able to do all sorts of analysis and begin the process of separating our Irish DNA from our old New England DNA. Once that project is underway, I can start working on the mystery of Grampa Stevens’ mother.

The DNA testing company I use, FamilyTreeDNA, is experiencing a lot of growing pains at the moment and many parts of their website are currently broken. I will be in touch with my cousins to give them passwords for their DNA accounts as soon as things settle down and there is something to actually see and do once you log-in to your account page.

I am now ready to recruit a few more cousins for another round of testing. The more the merry!

Welcome to my new website.

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