Excerpts from guardian.co.uk :
“A mayor in north Devon is attempting to help rewrite American history by proving that people from his small port town settled in the US 30 years before the Pilgrim Fathers set sail.
At the centre of the saga is the story of the “lost colony”, a tale better known in the US than in Britain. In 1587 Sir Walter Raleigh organised a colonial expedition of settlers including a governor, John White. Powell said it was thought that the fleet set sail from Bideford on 8 May and reached Roanoke Island, just off the coast of what is now North Carolina, in July.
Friendly relations were established with the Croatoan Native Americans, and the fleet sailed back to England. The following year a new fleet was preparing to return to Roanoke when it was diverted to fight the Spanish armada. When White finally returned in 1590 the settlement was deserted, with no sign of a struggle or battle.
Advances in DNA mean that scientists might be able to link people from Bideford (and elsewhere – Powell is not saying all the settlers were from the town) to descendants of lost colonists.”
If this attempt is fruitful, it may provide proof that the settlers did not perish, but joined with Native Americans when their seminal colony failed to provide them with the sustenance crucial to survival; one more piece of the puzzle regarding its fate that has tantalized historians for centuries.