What is Melungeon?

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Excerpt from

Melungeon DNA Study Reveals Ancestry, Upsets ‘A Whole Lot Of People’ by TRAVIS LOLLER 05/24/12 Huff Post

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — For years, varied and sometimes wild claims have been made about the origins of a group of dark-skinned Appalachian residents once known derisively as the Melungeons. Some speculated they were descended from Portuguese explorers, or perhaps from Turkish slaves or Gypsies.

Now a new DNA study in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy attempts to separate truth from oral tradition and wishful thinking. The study found the truth to be somewhat less exotic: Genetic evidence shows that the families historically called Melungeons are the offspring of sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin.

And that report, which was published in April in the peer-reviewed journal, doesn’t sit comfortably with some people who claim Melungeon ancestry.

“There were a whole lot of people upset by this study,” lead researcher Roberta Estes said. “They just knew they were Portuguese, or Native American.”

Beginning in the early 1800s, or possibly before, the term Melungeon (meh-LUN’-jun) was applied as a slur to a group of about 40 families along the Tennessee-Virginia border. But it has since become a catch-all phrase for a number of groups of mysterious mixed-race ancestry.

In recent decades, interest in the origin of the Melungeons has risen dramatically with advances both in DNA research and in the advent of Internet resources that allow individuals to trace their ancestry without digging through dusty archives.

G. Reginald Daniel, a sociologist at the University of California-Santa Barbara who’s spent more than 30 years examining multiracial people in the U.S. and wasn’t part of this research, said the study is more evidence that race-mixing in the U.S. isn’t a new phenomenon.

“All of us are multiracial,” he said. “It is recapturing a more authentic U.S. history.”

Estes and her fellow researchers theorize that the various Melungeon lines may have sprung from the unions of black and white indentured servants living in Virginia in the mid-1600s, before slavery.

They conclude that as laws were put in place to penalize the mixing of races, the various family groups could only intermarry with each other, even migrating together from Virginia through the Carolinas before settling primarily in the mountains of East Tennessee.

Claims of Portuguese ancestry likely were a ruse they used in order to remain free and retain other privileges that came with being considered white, according to the study’s authors.

The study quotes from an 1874 court case in Tennessee in which a Melungeon woman’s inheritance was challenged. If Martha Simmerman were found to have African blood, she would lose the inheritance.

Her attorney, Lewis Shepherd, argued successfully that the Simmerman’s family was descended from ancient Phoenicians who eventually migrated to Portugal and then to North America.

Writing about his argument in a memoir published years later, Shepherd stated, “Our Southern high-bred people will never tolerate on equal terms any person who is even remotely tainted with negro blood, but they do not make the same objection to other brown or dark-skinned people, like the Spanish, the Cubans, the Italians, etc.”

In another lawsuit in 1855, Jacob Perkins, who is described as “an East Tennessean of a Melungeon family,” sued a man who had accused him of having “negro blood.”

In a note to his attorney, Perkins wrote why he felt the accusation was damaging. Writing in the era of slavery ahead of the Civil War, Perkins noted the racial discrimination of the age: “1st the words imply that we are liable to be indicted (equals) liable to be whipped (equals) liable to be fined … ”

The origin of the word Melungeon is unknown, but there is no doubt it was considered a slur by white residents in Appalachia who suspected the families of being mixed race.

Picture courtesy of weeklyview.net/2013/01/24/the-melungeon-story-part-3

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ETHNIC INTERMARRIAGE IN COLONIAL AMERICA

Excerpts from Malungu: The African Origin of the American Melungeons from Tim Hashaw

Mixed descendants of the first African-Americans entered all walks of life. Many are world famous. Among the offspring of colonial-era Angolan Americans; the mother of Abraham Lincoln Nancy Hanks, Tom Hanks, Ava Gardner, Elvis Presley, Heather Locklear, Rich Mullins, and comedian Steve Martin from Waco, Texas.

Many of the patriarchal surnames of these 17th century Angolan-Americans survive today because, more often than not, Angolan men married white women of English, Irish and Scottish ancestry. White men also married Angolan women but not as frequently. The un-even ratio of black men to black women caused the imbalance. Had there been more black women in America in the 17th century, there would have been less black and white intermarriage.

In Virginia and other colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries, and even into the 19th century, white women showed no repugnance to Africans of equal status. Lerone Bennett Jr. in “Before the Mayflower” quotes Edward Long, a contemporary witness who observed that, “…the lower class of women in England, are remarkably fond of the blacks, for reasons to brutal to mention.”

Genealogist Paul Heinegg found many early mixed marriages in colonial Virginia, between free African-Americans and white Europeans. Cases he gives:

“Francis Payne was married to a white woman named Amy by September 1656 when he gave her a mare by deed of jointure. [DW 1655-68, fol.19].

“Francis Skiper was married to Ann, an African American woman, before February 1667 when they sold land in Norfolk County.” [W&D E:1666-75; Orders 1666-75,73]

“Elizabeth Kay, a “Mulatto” woman whose father had been free, successfully sued for her freedom in Northumberland County in 1690, and married her white attorney, William Greensted”. [WMQ, 3rd ser, XXX, 467-74]

Sometimes white planters promoted mixed marriages of African men and white women for economic reasons; hoping to reap the servitude of the offspring as legal chattel.

Excerpts from Malungu: The African Origin of the American Melungeons

Excerpts from MALUNGU: The African Origin of the American Melungeons by Tim Hashaw

1. The very first black ancestors of Melungeons appeared in tidewater Virginia, not in the 18th century, but in 1619.

2. Not one single Melungeon family can be traced to a white plantation owner and his black female slave. The vast majority of the African ancestors of Melungia were freeborn for more than three hundred years.

This bears repeating.

Melungeons are not the offspring of white southern plantation owners and helpless black slaves. Most of the African ancestors of Melungeons were never chattel slaves. They were frequently black men freed from indentured servitude just like many white servants of the 17th century. Less often, African ancestors of the Melungeons either purchased their freedom from slavery or were freed upon the deaths of their masters.

The black patriarchs of the Melungeons were commonly free African-American men who married white women in Virginia and other southern colonies, often before 1700. Paul Heinegg in his revealing book, “Free African Americans in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Delaware” provides strong evidence that less than one percent of all free Africans were born of white slave-owners.

Melungeons are an ethnically diverse group originating in early 1600s Virginia, Carolina, Maryland, and Delaware. Their descendants’ later spread into Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Louisiana, and Texas. The earliest Melungeon ancestors were white northern Europeans, Bantu Africans and North American Indians.

Among the northern Europeans, the Melungeon ancestors include English, Scot, Irish, Welsh, Dutch, and German parents. North American Indian ancestors include people from the tribes of Powhatan, Mattaponi, Monie, Nansemond, Rappahanock, Pamunkey, Chickahominie, Cherokee (Buffalo Ridge) and Choctaw.

From the 1620s, in southern British colonies like Virginia, white northern Europeans intermarried with Indians. They also intermarried with Africans who began entering the American colonies as early as 1619. Melungeons originate from these red, white and black peoples in this period of American history. They began forming identifiable separate mixed communities when the first anti-African laws started restricting some of their freedoms by 1660.

Until recently, not much has been known about the Melungeons’ African ancestors. New evidence now indicates that the black ancestors of Melungeons were peoples of Kimbundu and Kikongo-speaking Angola and historic Kongo along Africa’s lower west coast. The nation of Mbundu in Angola yielded more black ancestors for Melungeons than any other African people.

ANGOLAN ANCESTORS OF MELUNGEONS IN EARLY 17TH CENTURY VIRGINIA, MARYLAND, DELAWARE AND CAROLINA

1620’s: Carter, Cornish, Dale/Dial, Driggers, Gowen/Goins, Johnson, Longo, Mongom/Mongon, Payne

1630’s: Cane, Davis, George, Hartman, Sisco, Tann, Wansey

1640’s: Archer, Kersey, Mozingo, Webb

1650’s: Cuttillo, Jacobs, James

1660’s: Beckett, Bell, Charity, Cumbo, Evans, Francis, Guy, Harris, Jones,Landum/Landrum, Lovina/Leviner, Moore, Nickens, Powell, Shorter, Tate, Warrick/Warwick

In the above lists of surnames there is found other documentation that these Africans arriving from 1620-1660 were mostly Angolan. Anthony Johnson’s grandson named his Maryland plantation “Angola”. The sister of Sebastian Cane was also named “Angola”. Additionally, a number of early place names in Virginia and other original tidewater colonies bear testimony of the 17th century presence of the Melungeons’ African ancestors. A land deed shows reference to “Angola Neck” near Rehoboth Beach in Delaware as early as 1680. In Cumberland County, Virginia, an “Angola Creek” was on the map before the 18th century. In North Carolina another Angola Creek is the site of a modern nature preserve. Also several Africans in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (New York) in the early 17th century were surnamed either “Angola”, or “Congo”.

Not all of the paternal surnames passed down to Melungeons were originally borne by Africans in America. Some families such as Banks, Bass, Berry, Chavis, Sweat, Davis, Hanser, Lang, Lawrence, Fisher, Hammond, Lucas, Matthews began with white male or female ancestors from whom certain branches initially intermarried with Indians. However all of these white and Indian families intermarried with Angolans in America, often before 1700.

The original name of malungu used by early Kimbundu and Kikongo-speaking Africans in Virginia, eventually extended to include all mixed red, white and black family members associated with the Angolans in the original southern colonies. The idea of malungu as “shipmates from a common homeland” gradually came to mean”countrymen”, “close friends” and “relatives” in the mobile freeborn Melungeon community. This name would not have included chattel slaves who were separated from the free community by plantation bondage.

LATER 17TH CENTURY FAMILIES ASSOCIATED WITH FREE AFRICAN AMERICANS

1670’s: Anderson, Atkins, Barton, Boarman, Bowser, Brown, Bunch, Buss, Butcher, Butler, Carney, Case, Church, Combess, Combs, Consellor, Day, Farrell/Ferrell, Fountain, Game, Gibson/Gipson, Gregory, Grimes, Grinnage, Hobson, Howell, Jeffries, Lee, Manuel, Morris, Mullakin, Nelson, Osborne, Pendarvis, Quander, Redman, Reed, Rhoads, Rustin, Skipper, Sparrow, Stephens, Stinger, Swann, Waters, Wilson.

1680’s: Artis, Booth, Britt, Brooks, Bryant, Burkett, Cambridge, Cassidy, Collins, Copes, Cox, Dogan, Donathan, Forten/Fortune, Gwinn, Hilliard, Hubbard, Impey, Ivey, Jackson, MacDonald, MacGee, Mahoney, Mallory, Okey, Oliver, Penny, Plowman, Press/Priss, Price, Proctor, Robins, Salmons/Sammons, Shoecraft, Walden, Walker, Wiggins, Wilkens, Williams

1690’s: Annis, Banneker, Bazmore, Beddo, Bond, Cannedy/Kennedy, Chambers, Conner, Cuffee, Dawson, Durham, Ford, Gannon, Gates, Graham, Hall, Harrison, Hawkins, Heath, Holt, Horner, Knight, Lansford, Lewis, Malavery, Nichols, Norman, Oxendine, Plummer, Pratt, Prichard, Rawlinson, Ray, Ridley, Roberts, Russell, Sample, Savoy, Shaw, Smith, Stewart, Taylor, Thompson, Toney, Turner, Weaver, Welsh, Whistler, Willis, Young

These African-American families appeared in the southern tidewater colonies when evidence indicates that most all of the blacks coming to America, were Angolan by birth.

THE EARLIEST MELUNGEON CLANS IN SOUTHERN TIDEWATER COLONIES

The following are some of the first black, white, Indian and mixed families who began intermarrying in the 1600s in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and the Carolinas to produce the people who became known as “Melungeons”.

The African who became known as John Gowen of Virginia, was born about 1615. Before 1775, his descendants had married into the black, white, Indian and mixed families of Ailstock, Bass, Chavis, Corn, Cumbo, Dungill, Findley, Hill, Jones,Locklear, Lucas, Matthews, Mason, Miner, Mills, Patterson, Pompey, Stewart,Simmons, Singleton, Tyre, Webb, and Wilson; many of whom can also be traced to the 17th century.

Thomas Chivers/Chavis was born in 1630. Before 1775, his descendants had married into the mixed families of Bass, Locklear, Singleton, Stewart, Cumbo, Matthews, and Wilson as had descendants of John Gowen. In addition the Chivers/Chavis group intermarried with Bird, Blair, Blythe, Brandon, Bunch, Cannady, Carter, Cypress, Drew, Earl, Evans, Francis, Gibson, Gillet,Haithcock, Harris, Hawley, Hull, Kersey, Lowry, Manly, Manning, Mitchell, McLin, Scott, Silvey, Smith, Snelling, Silver, Sweat, Thaxton, Tyner, Thomerson, Taborn, Valentine, Watts, and Walden; many of whom were 17th century Africans in the British-American colonies.

The family of Eleanor Evans, born in 1660, shares with the Gowen and Chavis families the following names: Bird, Brandon, Chavis, Dunghill, Harris, Kersey, McLinn, Mitchell, Snelling, Scott, Stewart, Sweat, Taborn, and Walden. In addition, the Evans were early related to the families of Anderson, Boyd, Bee, Blundon, Doyal, Green, Hudnall, Hunt, Jeffries, Jones, Lantern, Ledbetter, Penn,Pettiford, Redcross, Richardson, Rowe, Sorrell, Spriddle,Tate, Thomas, Toney, and Young.

The Gibson/Gipson family which descended from Elizabeth Chavis, born in 1672, also shares with the 17th century Gowen, Chavis, and Evans families, the surnames of Bass, Bunch, Chavis, Cumbo, and Sweat. They add Driggers,Deas, Collins, and Ridley.

The family of the Angolan named Emmanuel Driggers, [Rodriggus] born in 1620, also has several families in common with the Gowen, Chavis, Evans and Gibson clans: namely Carter, Collins, Sweat, Gibson, and Mitchell. In addition, the Driggers intermarried with Beckett, Beavens, Bingham, Bruinton, Copes, Fernando, Francisco, George,Gussal, Harman, Hodgeskin, Jeffrey, Johnson, King, Kelly Lindsey, Landrum, Liverpool, Moore, Payne, Reed, and Sample.

From Margarett Cornish, born about 1610, comes the Cornish family with ties to Gowen and Sweat in addition to Shaw and Thorn.

With the Cumbo family dating back to 1644, we have links to Gibson, Gowen, Jeffries, Matthews, Newsom, Wilson and Young in addition to Hammond, Maskill, Potter, and Skipper.

The Bass family originates in 1638 America and shares several connections from an early period with Gowen, Chavis, Evans, Cornish, Driggers, Cumbos and Gibsons which are: Anderson, Byrd, Bunch, Cannady, Chavis, Day, Mitchell, Gowen, Pettiford, Richardson, Snelling, Valentine and Walden. In addition, they are related to the mixed families of Farmer, Hall, Lovina, Nickens, Perkins, Pone, Price, Roe, and Roberts.

If given the space, we could present complex scores of intermarriages of Melungeon and other mixed surnames beginning in the 1600s of colonial America. These common kinships of cousins show the Melungeon society was becoming cohesive and distinctively apart in colonial America at least 100 years before the American Revolution. The Melungeon community began before 1700.

For example: The Banks family originates in 1665 colonial America with related families of Adam, Brown, Day, Howell, Isaacs, Johnson, Lynch, Martin, Walden, Wilson, and Valentine along with several Melungeon surnames.

The Archer family begins in 1647 America with related families; Archie, Bass, Bunch, Heathcock, Manly, Murray, Milton, Newsom, Roberts, and Weaver.

The Bunch clan traces back to 1675 colonial America with kinship to: Bass, Chavis,Chavers, Collins, Gibson, Griffin, Hammons, Pritchard, and Summerlin.

The Beckett family of 1655 ties to Bibbins, Beavens, Collins, Driggers, Drighouse, Liverpool, Mongon, Morris, Moses, Nutt, Stevens, and Thompson.

The family of Carter begins in 1620 America with the related families of: Best, Blizzard, Braveboy, Bush, Cane, Copes, Dove, Driggus, Fernando, Fenner, Godett, George, Harmon, Howard, Jacobs, Jones, Kelly, Lowery, Moore, Norwood, Nicken, Perkins, Rawlinson, and Spellman.

Mixed red, white, and black Melungeons can be found in Virginia and Maryland within one and two generations of the first Mbundu-Angolan appearance in Jamestown in 1619. The general Melungeon community is more than 350 years old in North America.

All of these families descended from, or intermarried with, 17th century Angolans of Virginia. They began building the Melungeon community more than a century before it appeared in Tennessee.

ANGOLANS AND 17TH CENTURY CUSTOM IN VIRGINIA

The two most important social distinctions in early colonial Virginia were Class and Religion. In 1616, John Rolfe brought his newly baptized Algonquian Indian bride Pocahontas to England. Receiving them at court, King James and his courtiers were appalled that Rolfe, an English commoner, had presumed to marry a princess. In the eyes of Europe, Pocahontas was Rolfe’s social superior and the marriage of a princess to an untitled husband was offensive and inappropriate. That Pocahontas was red and Rolfe was white was irrelevant. There was nothing in English literature or thought in the 17th century, which entertained the notion of “white” as a class distinction.

The equality of free whites and free blacks in Virginia in the 1600s can be documented in several areas of colonial life important in the development of the Melungeon community.

1. Free African-Americans could own property.

2. Free African-Americans could own servants of any skin color.

3. There were no laws for most of the 17h century against inter-marriage based on skin color.

4. Free baptized African-Americans were allowed to give testimony in court and hold office.

The most famous Melungeon ancestor in the colonies was the Angolan who took the name Anthony Johnson. His Portuguese name, “Antonio” was shared by a number of other early Virginia African-Americans and because of this, there is confusion over which “Antonio” was actually Anthony Johnson. J. Douglas Deal makes a pretty good argument in “Race and Class in Colonial Virginia” that Anthony Johnson was the Antonio or Anthony of Warrosquoke who married a black woman named Mary. This Antonio was a passenger on the “James” from England or Bermuda to Virginia in 1622. Another Antonio who lived in Kecoughtan, married a black woman named “Isabelle” and had the first recorded African-American infant, William.

Pauline (Acree) Vinson

According to 23andme DNA,  Pauline Acree Vinson, is related to me, as my 3rd to 6th
cousin. Pauline’s father George Washington Acree born about 1884 in Wormington
Tennessee. Grandfather John H. Acree born about 1842 in Tennessee.
Great grandfather Uriah Acree born 2 December 1800 in Virginia.
2nd great-grandfather John W. Acree born 2 March 1760 in Virginia. His wife is Lucy Schools
3rd great-grandfather Abraham Acree born 1731 in Virgina.
4th great-grandfather William John “Hawker” Acree born 1710 in Virginia. His wife Elizabeth    Willis

Obituary 

 Pauline Vinson (Acree), 85, passed away on September 17, 2011 at the Hospice of Visiting Nurse Service. Born July 13, 1926 to George and Arling Acree (Munroe), she was preceded in death by husband, Leon Lewis Vinson; brothers, John and George Acree; sisters, Ines Simone, Amy Davis, Mildred Harbaugh, and Mary Stanich.
She is survived by daughters, Leah (Ken) Subak, Laura (Douglas) Kleiner and son, John; grandchildren, Nicholas Ray Subak and Alexander Vinson Subak of Kent, Ohio, Andrew Jay Subak and Jennilee Nehlia Subak of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Emily Jean Benson and Dana Beverly Vinson of Los Angeles, California. Throughout her life, she was deeply involved in taking care of others and helping people in her many and varied roles, including mother, homemaker, bookkeeper, nurse, caregiver and community volunteer. She loved life and touched everyone she met with her humanitarian and universal spirit. In that spirit, it was her wish that her body be donated to NEOUCOM in order to be of service to humanity even after her death. She will be greatly and sorrowfully missed by all. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to either The Salvation Army (330-762- 8481) or to Hospice of Visiting Nurse Service (800-335-1455). On Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 6 p.m., a memorial celebration of her life will be held at Williard United Church of Christ, 742 Johnston Street, Akron, Ohio. We love you, Mom and Grandma — thanks for everything. We will carry your spirit with us always and will see you again.

Published in Akron Beacon Journal from Sept. 18 to Sept. 19, 2011

– See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/ohio/obituary.aspx?pid=153668376#sthash.IODTMZts.dpuf

King and Queen County, Virginia

SpringAncestor2014-WHTBK_BadgeMINI

I was in high school and my first impromptu interview about my ancestors was with my paternal grandmother Mary Grace Acree. We were in her sitting room and I started to ask her questions. I don’t remember how it came up, but she told me that her father Oliver Acree was Cherokee Indian. Since my father nor neither one of the vast amount of paternal family members had never mention this to me, I pretty much disregard it, I even remember telling her that just because your father had straight black hair did not make him Indian. Everybody and his brother insist that they have Cherokee in them. I told her that most likely that you have a White overseer as an ancestor, Years had past and all my elders had died, when I heard the whispers again to find my ancestors. I was not listening when they were whispering when I was younger and my elders were living. No I had to tune my ears, when there was no one to ask. Two years ago I google my grandmother’s great-grandfather Ruffin Acree,  I found an old post on  Acree Family Genealogy Forum dated December 25, 1998,

Merry Christmas greetings from Canada.

I am doing Powhatan genealogy, and I am looking for ancestors/ descendants of Ruffin Acree (b. 1821) of King and Queen County, Virginia, and his wife Peggy Ann (b. 1830). They had one son, Leroy/Lee (b. 1861 – d. 1910) who had two marriages, both with women named Byrd. I see a lot of Acrees today named Cathy Lee and Deborah Lee, etc., which curiously indicates some affinity for “Lee” among the Acrees. Any information you have will be gladly received and reciprocated. Best regards.

Rarihokwats

There it was my first connection to what my grandmother had told me. So I doubted that the email address that Rarihowats had left was still valid. But I wrote him anyways. To my surprise he wrote me back. Rarihowats is the Powhatan nation’s historian/genealogist, He had enlighten me that the expression that someone has Native American in them is not correct. The expression is that I had ancestors that lived the life as Native Americans. My Acree lineage was of the Rappahannock nation, Most live in Essex, Caroline and King and Queen counties.  The next few blogs will be about my voyage with the Acrees.