Y-DNA test reveals ‘Irish-American’ is actually Native American

Y-DNA test reveals ‘Irish-American’ is actually Native American

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Amateur genealogist Steve Woodall believed that his direct male-line ancestors, and carriers of the Woodall surname, descended from Irish stock.  But, despite years of research, he could not reach further back than his 3 x great-grandfather, William Wagner Woodall, born in 1818 in North Carolina.



To get past the dead end, Steve turned to DNA testing – and got an unexpected result.  He told KUHF Houston Public Radio, “We got the DNA test that says that it appears that we’re Native Americans and we’re like what? We’re what?

Steve’s European appearance gave no hint of Native American heritage, yet Family Tree DNA confirmed his Y-DNA haplogroup as Q1a3a1.  This haplogroup is strictly associated with the indigenous peoples of the Americas and is defined by the genetic marker M3, which occurred on the Q lineage roughly 10-15 thousand years ago as the migration from Siberia into the Americas was in progress.  Steve is now searching for Y-DNA matches with other Q1a3a1 males through FTDNA and ysearch, to enable him to track his Native American lineage before William Wagner Woodall.  He has already discovered 4 other Woodalls whose markers match.

Steve has posted some fascinating details of William Wagner Woodall’s life (1818 – 1906) on geni.com.  William was a full-bloodied Cherokee Indian and possibly acquired the Woodall surname by adoption; he tended to be vague about his origins on official 19th century returns, as it was common for Native Americans at the time to deny their roots and blend in with white populations.  William would have been 12 years old when the US government passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, a process of cultural transformation originally proposed by George Washington to open up land for white settlement.  This led to the infamous ‘Trail of Tears’ between 1831 and 1838, the forced relocation of almost 50,000 Native Americans from their homelands in the southeastern United States to the newly designated ‘Indian Territory’ west of the Mississippi.  Many Native Americans died from exposure, disease and starvation en route, including 4,000 of the 15,000 relocated Cherokee.

‘The Trail of Tears’ by Robert Lindneux, depicting the expulsion of the Cherokees from their tribal homelands in the 1830s

Steve, and other Woodall descendants believe that William may have escaped this fate by hiding out in the mountainous backwoods and lowlands of the southeast, relying on the hunter-gatherer skills of his ancestors.  Some Native Americans fled from the march en route, while others escaped once they had reached the new reservations and returned to their ancient homelands.  They kept a low profile and did not speak their native language, or teach it to their children.  They lived in constant fear that their ancestry would be revealed and that they would be arrested and ‘deported’ to the Indian reservations in the west; everything they owned could be seized by the Government.

Hidden ancestry – two of William Wagner Woodall’s sons

William and other Cherokee were able to assimilate into white populations in North Carolina.  The Cherokee in the southeast had had the earliest contact with European explorers in the 16th century and had adopted many European cultural traits over the centuries leading up to their forced removal.  To explain away their slightly darker skin tone, they claimed obscure European origins and covered up with wide-brimmed hats and long sleeves when working outdoors in the summer to ensure they did not tan too readily.

William married Mamie Elizabeth Smith and produced 10 children.  He became a farmer on the lands that his Cherokee ancestors once hunted in the southern Appalachians, and by 1870 had the means to purchase 100 acres of land in Harris County, Georgia.  He later moved to Alabama, where he died in 1906.

While William Wagner Woodall was forced to deny his Native American origins, Steve is in the fortunate position of being able to embrace them.  After joining the Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama, Steve’s company, Reliant Business Products, achieved Minority Status from the Houston Minority Business Council.  I sincerely hope Steve enjoys whatever concessions this association brings to his business, as there is no denying that he is Native American – DNA does not lie!

Map showing the Trail of Tears

Related post: 10 Surprising Ancestral Origins Revealed by DNA Testing

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31 Comments

  1. United States I was always told that my father’s side of the family were direct descendants of John and Major Ridge, who were assassinated by Cherokees opposed to the forced migration. I knew very little about it until I found out by accident that I’m distantly related to the Polsons of Arkansas when I found their family tree online. Imagine my surprise when I found out I’m descended directly from John Rollin Ridge, the author of the story of Joaquin Murrietta (who later morphed into Zorro). I’ve already written a novel, so I guess storytelling is in my blood.

    • Ireland Hi I always had an interest in the native American pre Columbus and your story has struck a chord with me. I would like to showcase your story on my Web TV Channel in Ireland http://www.cavantv.com because so many Irish integrated with the native peoples when they were forced to move from Ireland. We have an average 25,000 weekly viewers in 130 countries and we deal with all community related issues and how they impact on mainstream society. Regards, Brian Daly http://www.drumlinmedia.com Phone 00353872384114

      • United States Hi,
        Look up Cornplanter (Kiotwogky) of the Iroquois. His father was an named John O’Bail, who I believe might have been Irish. Also, Sir William Johnson was definitely Irish and a very interesting person.

  2. United States I know from someone I met through a job who at one point ran the American Indian Cultural Center in Riverside CA that at least one of the tribes he is connected to were forced to take Anglicized names at the turn of the century, 1900. He ended up with the last name of Brown and this could be the case with your tribe. They may have had to take other names and only know their native names between their relatives. In my friends case, they had lost track of original names but since I was involved in genealogical pursuits I ran onto a group that helped Native Americans trace their ancestors. He found relatives that way.

    • United States My mother, a registered American Indian until the government bought their rights in the 1920’s for $500, said that they were issued American names in the 1800’s. You stood in a line and received your name…mostly CEltic names which were easier for the government to pronounce, etc. Several hundred would receive the same last name even if they weren’t related. Her family received the “Davis” name.

  3. United States My family are cherokee and one grandparent is woodall. They are in stars red book. They walked trail of tears:(

    • United States Are you positive you are part Native American proved by genome mapping? If so I am curious, what % of Native American are you?

  4. United States Funny… Considering Woodall/Woodell seems to be more closely associated with Tuscarora of North Carolina rather than Cherokee.. Which I am of relation to… Perhaps a Woodall/Woodell migrated westward to Cherokee.

  5. United States This article is fantasic! Everything decribed about this family hits home. Except we ended up in Texas. Texas has a lot of “runaway” natives. The Goins family has shown how they would transform from native to white and even took pictures of the process, and that article I found in the Dallas Moring News some years back. To this day on my dad’s side of the family they behave just like itis stated in this artcle. They wear long sleeves not 2 tan , unknowingly they do not relize that we do not have to hide anymore. My dad is a flint napper, and so many other curious things we were taught as children, but never the language. I was in a car accident when I was 3yrs old and part of my recovery was Calpulli Tlapalcalli group showed me various social danes and activities and I was with other disabled native children. My brain surgen that put in my metal plate is the one who placed me there in my recovery. And this happened back in the 70’s near the Texas , Mexico border area. For me being of Native American ancestory is not a piece of paper , its my blood , my DNA…Thank-you so much for such a great post.

  6. United States This is total BS. if your not a documented Citizen of a Cherokee Tribe (and their are only 3 no more)or a documented descendant your simply not Cherokee just someoneone that wants to glom onto our story. No DNA no “LOOKS” No feeling. You either are or your not. I myself am a Citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

    • United Kingdom Haplogroup Q is the predominant Y-chromosome haplogroup in indigenous peoples of the Americas. It originated with the groups who migrated from Asia into the Americas by crossing the Bering Strait landbridge around 20,000 years ago. DNA doesn’t lie, and it doesn’t care about ‘documents of citizenship’.

      • United States I agree. IMO the person carrying Q haplogroup is “more” Native American than anyone claiming they are NA just because their oral history suggests they are. When people tell me they’re part NA I want to see the % on their genome mapping or to me they simply are not.

    • United States Tell you what, that is for the Cherokee people to decide. Furthermore there is a difference between a tribe and a nation. There are three nations soon to be four, I believe.

      Also it is my understanding that the Cherokee are clan people not tribal. Yes there is a difference here too.

      Does DNA play a significant role. You bet! But it is not the only consideration. Take into account the origin or origins of the Cherokee people. Being Cherokee you know exactly what I am talking about.

    • - LOL! Bullshit. Apparently you don’t get how this little thing called ‘science’ works. DNA Doesn’t lie, let me guess, you’re one of those whiteys who claims grandma was a cherokee princess.

  7. United States What phony story, I too am Scots/Irish and Cherokee, both sides of my Blood Lines are well Documented, Cherokee Indians are the most documented people this country has ever had, and we still are.. Why do so many say they are Cherokee when there are 559 other Tribes.. DNA test can not tell you that you are a Native American let alone a tribe.. That tribe that this guy claims is not a Cherokee Tribe Period. If you say you have a Princess Cherokee in your family,, keep looking Cherokee Indians never had any, if your family left the Trailof Tears and hid in the Mtn. Keep looking family lies won’t get you there.

    • United States “DNA test can not tell you that you are a Native American let alone a tribe..” You are mistaken Sir, genome mapping absolutely can tell you what (if any) % of NA DNA you carry.

  8. United States Hmmm…family history says we have an Indian or two who swam in the gene pool. Do I need document proof, might be nice but nah. I don’t need the blood quantum or any paper to tell me what oral history says. I think the DNA markers are an amazing science tool but Momma said and if Momma said then it’s golden. It wasn’t “popular” to be Indian when she was growing up or when her Momma was growing up but given that the tribe is still in and around where she grew up in Virginia I’ll go with Momma said. My granddaughters father is Lumbee and Cherokee, he has registered them with the Lumbee tribe, for whatever that’s worth given they are not federally recognized, cannot register with Cherokee I assume since his father died when he was young and has no connection to his dad’s Cherokee relatives. Maybe I’m a little silly but I don’t need anyone reorganization be it the government or tribal nor do my grandchildren to say I have Indian in me anymore than I have to call Queen Elizabeth to confirm the English or dig up Saint Patrick to bless me as Irish. IMO this sometimes comes down to tribes fighting each other not for land or feed ground rights but for the right to own casinos. Again Momma said and that’s good enough for me to be proud of all the sums of my parts. Interesting article though.

    • United States It’s not just the right to own a casino. Casinos provide money for college tuition, food programs, shelters, street paving and many other programs. The more fake tribes out there the less money that comes to real Natives. I understand there may be circumstances where Natives did not get documented at the proper time for whatever reason, however there’s a lot of people who claim falsely Native American ancestry simply for the monetary gain.

      Lee
      Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

  9. United States My great grandmother was Mary Jane wood all. She should have been born around 1880’s. She was murdered not long after my grandmother Fanny wood all was born. I was told my grand mother was adopted out.my great grandfather was babe troublefield.I know nothing about him or why my grandmother did nit have his last name.I was told that my great grandmother was was a cherokee and that is where she died.If anyone has any info one these people please contact me.

  10. United States The Southeast US is full of people who consider themselves white or black and have native American ancestors. Intermarriage between white Europeans and native Americans had been going on for hundreds of years before removal. At the time of removal there were people who considered themselves White but had “Indian Blood” and because they were not officially a member of a tribe were not subject to removal. It is not unusual for a person to discover that great granddaddy was more Indian than Irish. Heck, I was told that a branch of our family was Scot-Irish, turns out they were German. That had to do with WWI and WWII.

    • United States I think there are even more people that think they are part Native American and find out they are not when they get their genome mapped. Most family’s oral history stinks and almost everyone living in the U.S. wants to think they’re part NA but after they’re mapped they find out differently.

      • United States Mindy, people can be descended from Native Americans yet show little to no DNA after a few generations. You would need to be on a direct paternal line for Y DNA and direct maternal line for mtDNA which are the only ones that would show up over for a very long time, autosomal DNA is more random and some ethnicities may show little to no percentages after only a few generations. I have 3 native ancestors with full documentation (I am descended from early French and British settlers through both parents) but I show little to no native DNA after 6-8 generations on autosomal tests. Raw DNA at GED Match shows up a bit of Amerindian but not a considerable amount. None of my native ancestors are through Y or mtDNA, but they are my still my blood ancestors, I wouldn’t exist without even one of them in my lineage.

  11. United States I’m a Cherokee Woodall. My Grandfathers Grandfather is on the Dawes Roll (#282), & his Grandparents walked the Trail of Tears. The Woodall’s fought the Ross Party. The “Last Chief of the Cherokee” Chief Buffington’s wife was a Woodall. The Cherokee Warrior, & last Confederate General to surrender to the Union, Stand Waite’s wife was a Woodall. So many Woodall’s served as Judges, Senators, & Reps for the Cherokee people it’d take 5 pages to list them. Check a Cherokee County map, you’ll see a town baring our name; Woodall, OK. So, lets drop the NONSENSE that the Woodall’s aren’t Cherokee.

    I’m no Amateur Genealogist, rather a Professional Landman. Oil Companies spend a lot of money based on my heirship research. I’ve ran my own family tree & the Woodall line is challenging.

    I haven’t had my DNA tested, but I feel certain the Woodall surname is Scot (corroborated in part by: http://digital.libraries.ou.edu/whc/pioneer/papers/7551%20Woodall.pdf). I’ve ran back to a William Woodall, born Feb 23, 1745 in Scotland.

    One explanation for Steve having both the Woodall surname & Native DNA is: that Steve’s line is of a baby born to an unmarried daughter of a Woodall. Often, such a child would be claimed by the young unmarried girl’s Mother. In other words the child’s Grandmother would pose as the child’s Mother.

  12. United States “I am just a little less than a half-blood Cherokee Indian. My father was John Ridge, a chief and notable man among the people of that Nation both before and after their forced migration. My mother was Sarah Bird Northrupt, native of New England. 1 am the grandson of Chief Kanun-ta-cla-ge and Princess Sehoya. My Indian name is Yellow Bird.” John Rollin RIDGE 1827-1867

    Yes there were Cherokee Princesses. And the EMPEROR MOYTOY no doubt had descendants called ‘Prince and Princess’ – check some of the signatures on the treaties PRINCE — no doubt had a wife or mother called a Princess. Many of the Cherokee did not want to become part of our Government and refused to enroll. Several of the young men were threatened to cut their hair unless they enrolled. There are many old newspapers online, some free, some not, but you will find many of these Native people who refused to enroll… that did not alter their Cherokee heritage.

  13. United States My family tree tracks our family back to The Revolutionary War, if I’m not mistaken. Its a pretty big tree. But My family name on my mother’s side is McMullen. As far as my father’s side, his immediate family is all I know. Mother, father and 3 siblings. Passed that, no idea. I have no info on them at all. I have a friend already digging into their past to find more relatives. And on my mom’s side, I think I’m related to half the country. Lol

  14. United States I am looking for information regarding the Woodall that was the great grandfather of Florence Johnson. I would like to know his name as well as Florence’s father’s name if possible and ideally I would like to have information regarding where they lived. She maintained they lived in KY but that is all the information I have as of this writing.

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