Amateur historian Winifred Bennett died last week in Arlington, Virginia. Her casual suggestion at a dinner party sparked an investigation into the extracurricular activities of an American president. (No, not that one.)
One evening in 1996, over dinner at the [Eugene A.] Foster house, the talk turned to DNA. For years, a Charlottesville woman, Anna Anderson Manahan, had claimed to be Anastasia, the long-lost daughter of Czar Nicholas II. Manahan died in 1984, and in 1994, DNA testing disproved her claim.
Mrs. Bennett wondered whether DNA might resolve the Jefferson question. Dr. Foster began to research the subject.
As a result of Mrs. Bennett’s idea, an international team of scientists embarked on a genetic study of Jefferson and Hemings descendants. Their findings [pdf], published in the journal Nature in 1998, indicated that a male of the Jefferson family, most likely Thomas, fathered at least one of Hemings’s children. [Link]