Meshack W Green
Ethnicity and DNA
Notes from the research of Orville Boyd Jenkins, gr gr gr gr great grandson of Meshack W Green
Family Name: Green
There are several claims in genealogies or discussions that Meshack W Green (1720-1799) and/or his wife Lucretia Franklin were "fullblood" Cherokee. This may reflect a popular folk concept that DNA indicators can tell us what ethnicity someone was.
It also reflects a longstanding mystical association of "blood" with ancestry or ethnic loyalty, in the strong metaphor that associates "blood" with life and thus heritage. Modern understanding of DNA and genetic creation of a new individual from parents changes our concept of ancestry or at least adds a new aspect. This seems to be confused in the popular mind with ethnicity, which is about social and personal identity and family relationships, not about genes.
I found that Meshack W Green's name appears as an ancestor in a Green Surname DNA report. Connections to DNA results of living Green descendants in such surname projects is based on reported ancestors of individuals who have had their DNA tested. Meshack is reported as the male ancestor of at least one of the Green descendants tested. Meshack's name shows up in the Y-DNA12 marker group.
The broader group of the Y=DNA12 marker includes sub-groups based on actual gene sequences. Meshack W Green (1720-1799) is reported in the same Y-DNA sub-group as one David Howell Green (1824-1863). They are listed in the Family Tree DNA Green Surname Project under R1b1a2a1a1b3c, as relatives of Thomas F and Winifred (Seybourne) Green, St Marys, Maryland.
It happens that this David Howell Green is also in my genealogy, in another Green line related in several ways by marriage to my wife's paternal line of McSwains, and the related Padgetts, Bridges, Hamricks and others in Cleveland and Rutherford Counties in North Carolina and neighboring areas of South Carolina, where Meshack W Green is from.
DNA versus Ethnicity
Discussion of DNA or genetic heritage is not identical to cultural identity or family relationships and definitely not related to language or personal lifestyle. The commercial promotion of DNA comparison often, if not usually, leaves the impression that once you have your DNA report, you will suddenly know what your "real" ethnicity is.
Ethnicity is a very different phenomenon from DNA genetic heritage. Culture and familial relationships may very well be associated with a historical kinship group, but there is no necessary connection. Many societies have very mixed ancestral and geographic origins, with peoples migrating, moving in a swirl of overlays through history.
So it is good to avoid throwing around the loaded term "fullblood" with historical personages like our ancestors. Many who were rightfully members of a Native American tribal society, irrespective of the technical amount of genetic heritage, were denied membership on technicalities determined by the US or state governments for their own reasons. These are points of insights and caution from history and Cultural Anthropology. (I am an anthropological linguist.)
Meshack and Lucretia may very well have considered themselves fully Cherokee, while being totally unaware of the technical detail of origin or ethnicity of their individual ancestors. It is good to restrain ourselves from imposing very recent understandings and technical knowledge on an earlier time and situation, when those factors would never have been part of any identity awareness or claim of the individuals and families themselves.
There is a good indication that a native American genetic line from the Caribbean is involved in the Cherokee Greens, but there are a variety of historical and social channels that may account for that. Such a Caribbean gene would not indicate they were some Caribbean Native people instead of Cherokee. Likewise with the European genetic marker. And vice versa. "Fullblood" does not have much meaning when reconstructing social and familial history. Commercial DNA hype does not help us understand historical and political identities.
I have reconstructed David Howell Green's ancestor tree back to one Joseph Green (1725-1771). The parents of Joseph Green have not been confirmed. The parents of Meshack W Green, in the same historical period, likewise have not been discovered. Thus their connection to Thomas F Green is not known. Another member of this kinship group, named Thomas Norton Green, born about 1500, shares the R-L2 haplogroup of DNA with Meshack W Green in this same Y-DNA12 kinship group.
Thomas Norton and Meshack W are the only ones of this haplogroup who are reported in this list of relatives of Thomas F and Winifred (Seybourne) Green. David Howell Green has a different haplogroup, R-M269. The R-L2 haplogroup is associated with Europe and Asia.
This Y-DNA evidence that Meshack W Green had at least one European ancestor seems to indicate that Meshack W Green could not possibly be "fullblood" Cherokee in the common popular sense, whatever that would be. This in no way rules out a Cherokee descent and tells us nothing in itself of the percentage of ancestry from Cherokee sources. The DNA of a descendant indicates Meshack had at least one European ancestor. In the popular concept of DNA this may be reduced to a conclusion that he was not "really" Cherokee. The concept of being "pure" Cherokee also is vague and undefined.
What is "Fullblood?"
Concepts like "fullblood" are not used by anthropologists or sociologists. The term tells us nothing relevant to familial and ethnic identity. It often clarifies some aspect of origin. DNA is often wrongly reduced to an indicator, or even the primary indicator, of ethnicity, which is not the same thing. "Fullblood" is not the simplistic magic indicator of ethnicity some seem to think it is.
Virtually every people in the world have a mixed "blood," depending on how much information you have and how far back you go. The history of humanity is migration and mixing. DNA studies indicate this pattern back to at least 40,000 years ago. Archaeology takes us back hundreds of thousands of years and into the milions of years, showing the same character of human migration. So what do you mean by "fullblood."
A common popular view makes a simplistic assumption about lineage, perhaps being misled by a naive trust in "science" that DNA will solve all our problems and answer all our questions. It is dynamically important, and provides insights to our hunger for historical knowledge. But it does not determine or even indicate ethnicity, which is often, if not usually, what is in focus in Genealogy.
DNA insights for Meshack W Green's Ancestry
In DNA comparison reports we note a common feature in all of human history that DNA has now brought out in stark objective detail: all humans are a mix of the various streams and substreams from time immemorial over several hundred thousand years. This charactieristic likewise is highlighted in our reconstruction of prehistory all over the world from oral traditions, and migration or origin myths.
You will find details related to ethnicity and heritage in various focuses on my website and related sites where my material has been posted on cultural and ethnic research, especially in African peoples. Everybody came from somewhere else at some remove of time in the past. The heritage of all of us goes back to Africa.
A problem with the commercial DNA analyses is that they usually are promoted, if not actually limited to the common popular folk concepts of "ethnicity," rather than an anthropological concept related to culture and the dynamic stream of life that all human societies are involved in.
Most of the current reports use a short-term historical view, so it is important to know what is being assumed and referred to in any particular analysis and conclusions or implications that may validly be drawn from it.
The finding of a European haplogroup in DNA markers of a descendant of Meshack W Green in no way rules out a Cherokee descent and tells us nothing in itself of the percentage of ancestry from Cherokee sources. The DNA of a descendant indicates Meshack had at least one European ancestor.
One thing this tells us is, if this genetic relationship indeed is correct for Meshack W Green, he could not possibly be "fullblood" Cherokee, if by that you mean he had no European ancestors, which is what this usually means. But We know the Cherokees had the penchant for peaceful coexistence and intermarriage. So he could very well have European or Caribbean ancestors, as other factors in Green familiy lineages indicate.
This does not mean he was not Cherokee by culture and identity. Mitochondrial DNA analysis could tell us the other side of the picture. So far that analysis and any connection for Meshack have not been found. Meshack's parents and earlier ancestors are uncertian.
Here is a brief description from FamilyTree DNA of the family group and specific Haplogroup L2 for Meshack.
"R1b is a haplogroup or branch of the human family tree of paternal lineages. It is marked by a mutation of the Y chromosome named M343. P25 and M269 are part of R1b along with several large younger subclades; L21, U152, DF27, P312, U106 & Z2103."
-- Family Tree DNA, cited in Yahoo Groups
For more detail see:
R1b-L21 Descendants Tree Chart
European and Central Asian Haplogroup origins
L2 only in Europe and the Caucusus
Note: Report from the Green-Greene Surname DNA Project courtesy of genealogist Thea Sparks, personal email communication
Meshack W Green - Native American DNA insights (May require login to Ancestry.com)
For more information on Meshack W Green and his family, see his entry in my genealogy.
Read more about the Greens and other lineages mentioned in my family research on Ancestry.com (may require a login) or here on my personal genealogy site.
For more about my life and interests, and some family information, see my web site Orville Jenkins Ideas and Interests.
Orville Boyd Jenkins
From the research of Orville Boyd Jenkins
First published on Ancestry.com and OBJ Genealogy 27 April 2016
Updated 26 May 2016
Rewritten and expanded 29 June 2017
Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2016, 2017 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use. Please give credit and link back. Other rights reserved.