About the Project


Project Overview
This project looks at genetic diversity and the role that kinship has played in shaping 17th century migration patterns to the Chesapeake colonies of Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware. We want to look at ancestry and relatedness for descendants of Europeans and Africans who came to the shores of the Chesapeake Bay during the 17th century. We will compare this information with contemporary populations in the area and ancient DNA data from 17th century archaeological sites.  This information will be able to tell us about who was living in the Chesapeake during the 17th century, and how their legacy has impacted present-day genetic diversity in the area.

Why Study This?

This study is important to understand the evolution of genetic diversity for contemporary populations. We want to understand how kinship (family) has affected present-day genetic diversity in colonization contexts by looking at shared ancestry between 17th century Chesapeake descendant persons. This information is important for the fields of biological anthropology and evolutionary genetics.  


This study can also help us learn more about migration patterns and lifeways for colonial Chesapeake history using genetics. Today, much of what is known about the colonial Chesapeake comes from historical documents and archaeological sites. Genetics can offer an alternative perspective to help us understand where European and African migrants originated from, and how family may have impacted settlement patterns.


For this study, we will recruit 150 persons who have genealogical ties to the 17th century Chesapeake to take the GenoChip 2.0 genetic ancestry test. We will work with local historical and genealogical societies in Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware and will offer the test to eligible persons for $25. Using the genetic data from the GenoChip, we will look at shared ancestry proportions between study participants and compare the genetic diversity to both contemporary populations in the area and ancient DNA data. For more information about the study, see the FAQ and Project Event page.


This study will also conduct whole genome and mitogenome sequencing for two 17th century archaeological sites in the Chesapeake area, Avery’s Rest and Patuxent Point. We want to see if kinship influenced settlement patterns at the site-specific level by assessing levels of relatedness between burials. We also want to look at African and European origins by analyzing ancestry proportions for these individuals.


This study, the “Genetic Diversity of the Colonial Chesapeake: Insights into Kinship and the Trans-Atlantic Colonization of the United States”, has been approved by the Institutional Review Boards (IRB) at the University of Pennsylvania.  Ancient DNA analyses encompassed in the project’s larger study have been approved by the Smithsonian Institutions and Maryland Historic Trust.

Study Results

The results of this study will be shared with historical & genealogical societies involved with this research. We will also share the study findings at academic conferences and will publish the research findings in publicly accessible academic journals.


We are still in the initial stages of this study. Once study results have been generated, we will post them on this website.

© 2017-2019

Cover Image: Map of the Maryland Colony, Library of Congress

University of Pennsylvania Institutional Review Board Protocol #: 825389

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