Sunday, July 31, 2005

Genealogue Exclusive: Thomas Jefferson May Have Fathered No Children

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
DNA tests released Friday establish that every member of the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society claiming descent from the president may actually be descended from his younger brother, Randoloph.

The tests were conducted at the request of purported Jefferson descendants after similar test results in 2000 suggested that several of the progeny of Sally Hemings, Jefferson's slave, were fathered by the president. Skeptics have argued that the 2000 test results prove only that one of Jefferson's close relatives—perhaps Randolph—fathered the children. Hemings descendants have suspected racial motives behind the refusal of some Society members to acknowledge their probable ancestry.

In a stunning development, Geneticrit Associates reported Friday that none of the attendees of the 2004 Jefferson reunion at Monticello could prove their genetic descent from Thomas Jefferson.

"They're all in the same boat," said Geneticrit chief geneticist Norm Lobowski. "We tested samples taken from supposed descendants of Thomas Jefferson and [his uncle] Field Jefferson, and from those of Sally Hemings. All we can conclusively say is that they all share identical Y-chromosome haplotypes. In other words, they all descend from a Jefferson, but I can't say which one."

The Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society could not be reached for comment, but a message left on the Monticello answering machine indicates that a vote will be taken at its August meeting to decide whether to rename the Society, "The Randolph Jefferson Heritage Society."

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