Helpful Background on the Significance of Matches and Close Matches:


Discussion of the Leffew DNA Project's results:

19 October 2010:

Our initial mtDNA and yDNA results are in and they are surprising.  It was expected that the mtDNA results for the direct female line descendant of Elizabeth, the wife of Stephen Lefew/Lephew, would show she belonged to a Native American haplogroup.  Instead, she belongs to the H haplogroup, the most common European female haplogroup.  Similarly, it was expect the yDNA results for the direct male line descendant of Stephen would show a European haplogroup.  Instead, his haplogroup is E1b1a, which is the most common haplogroup for African Americans.

We need to be careful about jumping to conclusions based upon these preliminary results.  First, we need to confirm them by testing other descendants to make sure there has not been a misattribution of paternity in the tested line.  For example, L-1 is a 37/37 match with another surname, which suggests a misattribution of paternity in one of the tested lines.  Although the other surname participant suspects the misattribution occurred in his line, only additional testing will definitively determine if this is so.  Second, mtDNA testing does not provide information on the paternal line of Elizabeth, which could be Native American.  Nor does yDNA testing provide information on the maternal line of Stephen, which could also be Native American.  Your administrator has looked into some of the new autosomal DNA tests to determine whether the racial admixture of Stephen’s and Elizabeth’s ancestors other than those in the direct male and female lines can be determined, but it does not look very promising at this time.

If the existing results can be confirmed by the testing of other descendants, then the one conclusion we can draw is that at the very least the children of Stephen and Elizabeth Lefew/Lephew were bi-racial, i.e., part African-American and part European.  Whether they were also tri-racial by virtue of being part Native American remains to be seen.  Your administrator continues to think there must be some element of truth to all the oral family histories to the effect we are part Cherokee.


12 June 2011:

The results for L-2 are in and they are a 37/37 match with the results for L-1.  Although both L-1 and L-2 are descendants of Albert Pinkney Leffew, the youngest son of Pleasant Henry Leffew of Roane County, Tennessee, and a match was therefore expected, this is nonetheless a big step forward in identifying the modal haplotype for the lineage of Stephen Lefew/Lephew of Rockingham County, North Carolina.  The match eliminates the possibility that L-1, who was a 37/37 match with a person of another surname, may have had a misattribution of paternity in his line.  However, we still need to test descendants of collateral lines to definitively establish the modal haplotype.

Since it seems further testing will likely confirm that Stephen Leffew belonged to the E1b1a haplogroup, your Administrator recommends you look at the research of Paul Heinegg on Free African Americans, particularly the introduction, which can be found at   Mr. Heinegg believes that most free persons of color in the 1790 and 1800 censuses were the descendants of early male slaves and white women servants.  You might also want to consult the Melungeon DNA Project at and in particular the DNA article by Roberta Estes, the project’s DNA advisor.  It appears their results have also surprised them in that there are no Native American results and many more African-American results than expected.  (N. B. Our Leffew family has never been considered Melungeon by Melungeon researchers, even though there is a strong Melungeon connection to Rockingham County, North Carolina.   Although we may share the same racial makeup, it seems the Leffews were better at assimilation than their more clannish Melungeon counterparts.)

As to the various family oral traditions that we are part Cherokee, we aren’t going to find evidence of that through yDNA testing.  That’s not to say the oral traditions were made up as a cover story so as to perhaps make it easier for an African American to be assimilated into a white culture.  It could be the case, for example, that Stephen’s grandfather was an African American slave and his grandmother was a servant of European ancestry, which would make Stephen’s father half African American and half European.  Then, since Stephen’s father was multi-racial, he may have associated more with Native Americans, which may have led to a marriage with a Native American.  If so, that would mean that Stephen would have been a quarter African-American, a quarter European, and half Native American.  Of course, the foregoing is purely hypothetical, but it is important to understand that while the yDNA results establish Stephen’s direct paternal line was African American, these results do not rule out the possibility of being part Native American.  Still, there may never be any evidence to that effect, only our hoary oral traditions that deserve respect because of how long they have been around.  In the case of your Administrator, this oral tradition was passed down by his grandfather, who was born in 1867 in Grainger County, Tennessee, and who grew up in the Choctaw Nation in Indian Territory, where maintaining you were part Cherokee may not have been a plus.


23 June 2011:

L-3 is a descendant of Elijah Leffew aka Elijah Jones, one of many Grainger County, Tennessee Leffew puzzles.  In 1832, as Elijah Leffew, he was licensed and bonded to marry Biddy Teague, but there was no marriage return and Biddy instead married someone else several months later.  In 1837, as Elijah Jones, he married Susannah Harvey.  He bought land initially as Elijah Leffew, but later as Elijah Jones.  In the 1840 census he was enumerated as Elijah Leffew, but in the 1850 and subsequent censuses he was enumerated as Elijah Jones.  That we’re talking about one and the same person is established by an 1836 court record where, as Elijah Leffew aka Jones, he was listed as a defense witness in an assault and battery case brought against Samuel Leffew aka Jones.  (Samuel, another puzzle, may have been Elijah’s brother.  Samuel’s descendants ended up in Boyle County, Kentucky.)  Like father like son, Alfred Jones used different surnames, marrying as Alfred Harvey and then reverting to Alfred Leffew when he left Grainger County.  So, while the Leffew name has been firmly established among descendants of this lineage for generations, it has never been clear whether these descendants carry the Leffew yDNA.  The results for L-3 indicate they do not, assuming the results for L-1 and L-2 represent the Stephen Leffew yDNA,.  It would be interesting to test a Boyle County, Kentucky Leffew descendant to see if they match.

The second wife of Joseph Leffew of Grainger County was Polly Jones.  Elijah may have been Joseph’s stepson.  If Polly was a widow, then one would expect a match with a Jones lineage.  If Polly’s maiden name was Jones, then it would seem Elijah (and maybe Samuel) was born out of wedlock and his father is unknown.  L-3 has no matches at 37 markers with any surname, so at this time we simply don’t know his yDNA lineage.


13 October 2011:

L-4 is a genetic distance of -2 from L1 and L2, with the differences being in those markers known to mutate more “rapidly” than the others.  More participants are needed before we can determine the modal haplotype of Stephen Lefew/Lephew.  It is the genetic distance from the modal that is most significant.

L-4 is a descendant of Reece Leffew, later known as Reece Lawson, of Grainger County, Tennessee.  His results are important for two reasons.  First, they remove any doubt, due to his name change, as to whether his father was a Leffew.  Second, they confirm the results of L-1 and L-2, thereby ruling out the possibility of a misattribution of paternity in that line.

Why Reece eventually adopted his mother’s surname as his own is unknown.


27 February 2012:

L-5 is per his family pedigree a first cousin of L-1.  Yet, his yDNA results do not match the Leffew modal haplotype.  That indicates there has been a misattribution of Leffew paternity, either at his or his father’s level. He does match, however, a person with a different surname.  That match is being explored.


28 May 2012:

The earliest proven Leffew ancestor for L-6 is Thomas W. Leffew, b 15 Apr 1882 in Rhea County, Tennessee, although there is persuasive circumstantial evidence that Thomas was the son of Albert Pinkney Leffew.  Thomas’ death certificate names “Pinkerton” Leffew as his father, and obituaries for Albert Pinkney Leffew’s proven children indicate they had a brother named Tom.  Certainly, the yDNA matches with other proven descendants of Albert Pinkney Leffew, particularly the 66/67 match, supports this relationship.  The researcher of this line is Bobbie Vargas [cherokee646 AT].


3 Jan 2013:

L-7’s earliest proven LeFew ancestor, Oliver Lefew, was born in Franklin County, Virginia about 1806, where four sons of Stephen Lefew/Lephew of Rockingham County, North Carolina, eventually settled, namely Elias, Enoch, Elijah and Josiah.  It seems very likely that one of these four was the father of Oliver.  More research is needed to determine which one.


30 Sep 2013:

L-8’s Leffew family can be traced back to the 1850 census for Franklin County, Virginia.  Thomas, the known father of William Riley Leffew, appears as a child, age 9 months, in family 1397, which listed Elizabeth Leffew, age 30, as head of household, and also Anderson Leffew, age 18, as a member of the household.  Elizabeth and Anderson were actually husband and wife, having married 28 Jan 1850, just a few weeks before Thomas was born.  Next door at family 1398 is the family of Thomas Leffew, age 45.  Thomas was the surety for the marriage bond for Anderson and was presumably his father by an earlier marriage.  Some family trees state that Elias Leffew, son of Stephen Lefew/Lephew of Rockingham Co., NC, was the father of Thomas, born about 1805.  That’s certainly possible, but he was not the only son of Stephen to settle in Franklin County, and your Administrator hasn’t seen any definitive evidence that Elias was his father.

With this paper trail, one would expect L-8 to match the modal Leffew haplotype, but he doesn’t, which indicates there has been a misattribution of paternity in his line.  Being that the relationships back in Franklin County, Virginia, are somewhat confusing, it would be helpful to test a descendant through another son of Thomas, born 1850, and also a descendant through another son of Thomas, born 1805, to help determine at what generation the misattribution of paternity took place.


8 Feb 2018:

L-9 was unaware of his Leffew ancestry until he took the yDNA test.  Subsequent research established he descends from Pleasant Henry Leffew, Jr.  Note L-9 has had additional testing done, which establishes the Leffew EM-2 subglade to be E-CTS618.