A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Descendants of Williamsburg’s First Baptist Church Identified
Tuesday, April 11, 2023
WILLIAMSBURG, VIRGINIA—The Virginia Gazette reports that analysis of DNA samples taken from people who were buried at the site of the historic First Baptist Church on Nassau Street in Colonial Williamsburg has identified descendants among the modern congregation, which has relocated. “That has always seemed like the most logical explanation for these burials, but without definitive proof we couldn’t rule out the possibility that the burials were associated with another group or from a different time period,” said Jack Gary of Colonial Williamsburg. Founded in 1776 by enslaved and free Black people, the original church building was destroyed by a tornado. Another structure was built on top of it in 1856, but the site was eventually paved over. The three sets of remains included in the study have been dated to the early nineteenth century and identified as a man of African descent who was between about 16 and 18 years old at the time of death, and two men who died between the ages of 35 and 45. “Now we can say for sure that these are people connected to the earliest years of First Baptist Church. Now the congregation can decide how to move forward,” Gary concluded. To read about a tombstone found within the church at the Jamestown colony, go to "Knight Watch."
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