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Melungeon descendants celebrate their mysterious heritage

Biloxi Sun Herald (Knight Ridder) ^ | 7/30/05 | Steve Ivey

Posted on 8/2/2005, 1:20:13 PM by hispanarepublicana

FRANKFORT, Ky. - (KRT) - When S.J. Arthur started tracing her lineage more than
20 years ago, a fellow researcher stammered as she noticed recurring family names.

Was she connected to a unique group of people known as Melungeons, the researcher
timidly asked, afraid Arthur might slap her. The reference was once considered a
racial slur.

"I could be," Arthur replied. "I just don't know yet."

This weekend Arthur was one of dozens of Melungeon descendants who gathered in
Frankfort, Ky., to shed the stigma that plagued their ancestors and try to grasp their
mysterious heritage.

The Melungeons have been described as a "tri-racial isolate," with a mixture of white,
black and Native American ancestry. Others have claimed Portuguese and Turkish
lineage.

Often, they had olive skin, black hair and blue eyes, setting them apart from Scotch-
Irish settlers in their native Appalachia.

The group has been there for more than two centuries, enduring discrimination until
recently.

There are thought to be 50,000 to 100,000 Melungeons living in the United States
today, still concentrated in Appalachia.

Because Melungeons tried to escape their ethnicity and the prejudice attached to it,
their descendants have faced difficulty learning about their roots.

"Melungeons have been extremely misunderstood through the years. Some people
don't even think they exist as a group," said state historian Ron Bryant.

Wayne Winkler, president of the Melungeon Heritage Association, said this


weekend's conference, "Melungeons: Fact or Fiction," will help people understand
better where they come from.
"A big part of Melungeon history is folklore," Winkler said. "Nobody was ever listed
on a census record as a Melungeon. There isn't a Melungeon DNA marker."

But, Winkler said, last names such as Mullins, Goins, Collins and Gibson were
common to Melungeons. Anyone encountering a relative with one of those names
from Appalachia probably shares Melungeon heritage.

Until the past 20 years or so, such a branch in the family tree might not have been
welcomed.

Ill-behaved children in eastern Tennessee and western Virginia were told the
Melungeons would come for them.

Winkler's uncles weren't allowed to attend public school. Instead, they were forced to
attend a Presbyterian mission - the Vardy school - in Sneedville, Tenn., for
Melungeon children. The school, which opened in 1902, closed in the 1970s.

Most researchers say the word Melungeon - once a pejorative - comes from the
French "melange," meaning mixture. Using the epithet against someone was likely to
start a fight.

"There's no pure ethnic group," Winkler said. "There was a lot more to it than
genetics. It's how people looked at you."

After a successful 1970s play about Melungeons in Hancock County, Tenn. - the
center of Melungeon heritage - they became more accepting of their ancestry.

"Nobody would even say it before, and suddenly people were proudly putting it out
there," Winkler said.

The Internet brought greater opportunity for Melungeons to trace their genealogy. But
records on them were still murky.

"If you find a census record that says someone is a free person of color, that doesn't
necessarily mean they were black," the historian Bryant said.

"They really didn't break it down so nicely in the old days. Now, people are
embracing subject matter that was taboo. They're looking at it in a historical context.
Even if their heritage is mixed, it doesn't matter anyway."
Arthur, vice president of the Melungeon Heritage Association, brought this year's
convention to her hometown of Frankfort. The association meets every two years in
Wise, Va., and holds its off-year meetings around the South.

"We're looking to discuss some of the migration patterns, some of the history that
explains why we're so diverse," she said.

Arthur found her Melungeon heritage through the Mullins line.

"My people are who they are, whatever the combination may be," Arthur said. "It's
only recently become acceptable to have a mixed-race heritage. But my personal
journey started long before."

Having the convention in Frankfort also provided access to state archives.

The Kentucky Historical Society keeps a file of research for thousands of last names
and books with records from surrounding states. The history center holds three files
on Melungeons, including letters from 1942 between the secretaries of state for
Tennessee and Virginia trying to figure out who the Melungeons were.

Bobbie Foust of Calvert City, Ky., combed court records at the history center Friday
in search of information on her great-great-grandparents.

Their children married wealthy European sisters. Foust has had no trouble tracing that
side.

But her great-great-grandmother was a Gibson from Appalachia. Records on her are
scant.

After she went to the Melungeons' "Second Union" in Wise, Va., five years ago, she
learned why: Her forebears were Melungeon.

Johnnie Rhea from Sneedville looked through marriage records Friday. She had
difficulty finding information before the first U.S. Census in 1790.

"They didn't leave a paper trail," she said. "A colored person in our area was low, but
Melungeons were even lower. We weren't protected."

---

2005, Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.).

Visit the World Wide Web site of the Herald-Leader at http://www.kentucky.com


Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; US: Kentucky; US: Tennessee; US: Virginia


KEYWORDS: appalachia; godsgravesglyphs; heritage; melungeon; melungeons; shovelteeth

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To: hispanarepublicana

Based on your assessment data I believe I have a shovel tooth also. On my Mother's
side there is a trait for extreme reaction to alcohol present in some of the females
causing what appears to be hot flashes that last for hours.

81 posted on 8/2/2005, 3:10:21 PM by tertiary01 (It took 21 years but 1984 finally arrived.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 78 | View Replies]

To: twigs

"I just read a story about the blue people. It's a condition that was inherited from one
man. I forget his name--Martin.... Fascinating."

If you're from any of the southern Appalachian mountain states, you've probably
heard the phrase "blue as a Fugate." That's the surname... Fugate.

82 posted on 8/2/2005, 3:10:28 PM by RegulatorCountry (Esse Quam Videre)


[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 38 | View Replies]

To: twigs

"There are also physical characteristics of Melungeons. One has to do with teeth. I
forget what it's called."

"Shovel teeth," because of the shape, concave on the back. Certain native American
tribes have the same trait.
83 posted on 8/2/2005, 3:12:26 PM by RegulatorCountry (Esse Quam Videre)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 41 | View Replies]

To: hispanarepublicana
"Black Irish"?

My mother is Black Irish, Dark Brown eyes, Olive skin, and dark Brown Hair, when
she was younger, she also has an odd blood type for a Celt, AB.

Her family originated in Armah and as nearly as we can trace none of her family
married outside of the Irish. I live in an area that is heavily Irish and she doen't look
Irish at all.

84 posted on 8/2/2005, 3:15:58 PM by Little Bill (A 37%'r, a Red Spot on a Blue State, rats are evil.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: yarddog

"I guess Goins is the clinker."

I grew up about ten miles south of Goinstown, NC, which is near the VA border,
about four counties east of TN. The surname is an old one, but the origin is uncertain.
Many seem to believe that it was originally Creek... "Going Snake."

85 posted on 8/2/2005, 3:15:59 PM by RegulatorCountry (Esse Quam Videre)


[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 27 | View Replies]

To: Wallace T.

"In an American context, mixed race people passing for white would tell others that
their darker coloring was due to a Black Dutch or Black Irish ancestry, rather than an
African or American Indian grandparent."

It kept them from being listed as "mulatto" or "colored" on the census, which could
and often did lead to being run out of the county or having your land seized, in Ol'
Virginny at least.
86 posted on 8/2/2005, 3:18:35 PM by RegulatorCountry (Esse Quam Videre)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 47 | View Replies]

To: twigs

"There are some in NC who are not Melungeons and there are some out of Louisiana.
Heather Locklear is a descendent of the NC group"

Locklear is a Lumbee indian name. There are also the Redbones and the Brass Ankles.

87 posted on 8/2/2005, 3:21:01 PM by RegulatorCountry (Esse Quam Videre)


[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 52 | View Replies]

To: the invisib1e hand

"delviverance alert."

I wouldn't be cracking on mountain people too hard, if I couldn't even spell


"deliverance," LOL.

88 posted on 8/2/2005, 3:23:13 PM by RegulatorCountry (Esse Quam Videre)


[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 65 | View Replies]

To: RegulatorCountry

ROFLOL!

89 posted on 8/2/2005, 3:24:03 PM by hispanarepublicana (There will be no bad talk or loud talk in this place. CB
Stubblefield.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 88 | View Replies]

To: hispanarepublicana
I wonder if the Phoenician artifacts ,which are found occasionally, are connected to
the melungeons.
I remember reading the Indians(not native Americans) believe a bump on the back of
the head means great spirituality.Its ironic that people with so many noble
characteristics were considered so undesirable.
90 posted on 8/2/2005, 3:27:23 PM by after dark
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: blam

" This may interest you. Mandans?"

I read about that in several different books and was amazed. I think our ancestors got
around a lot more than the experts think.

91 posted on 8/2/2005, 3:27:36 PM by dljordan


[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 30 | View Replies]

To: hispanarepublicana

"Buddy's BBQ & Tack Shop? "

The Templars of Eastern Tennessee moved it to the Priory of Gatlinburg (Luther's


Towing and Hauling) to prevent the eyes of the profane from gazing upon it. For the
Widow's Son.

92 posted on 8/2/2005, 3:31:47 PM by dljordan


[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 39 | View Replies]

To: after dark


Here's more ~snipped~ info from a link provided in the thread earlier: In 1988, amid
the uproar over Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Southern Appalachian native Dr. N.
Brent Kennedy checked himself into an Atlanta hospital to undergo tests fearing he
had contracted the disease. Instead, the doctors diagnosed Kennedy with having
erythema nodosum sarcoidosis, a disease that is common only to Mediterranean
cultures. Kennedy learned he was descended from Melungeons, but, like many of his
lineage, had never been taught about his ancestry. The medical diagnosis proved to be
one of the keys to unlocking the mystery of the Melungeons origins. Dr. Kennedy
began a crusade to find out about his ancestry. He tore into diaries, pictures, and
records from both America and Europe. In his research and, with the help of other
Melungeon descendants, Kennedy was also able to establish a possible evidentiary
record pointing to a theory that was a long-held belief among many Melungeons in
Southern Appalachia. In the 12th Century, the reconquest of Spain by warrior kings
and men like El Cid ended Moorish occupation and reestablished new Christian states
in Spain and Portugal. By the 15th and 16th Centuries, the Inquisitions began to purge
Moors from the two nations. In 400 years of rule, many Moors had intermarried with
the Europeans and taken European surnames. Although Moorish occupation had
allowed freedom of religion among the Christians and the Jews, no such tolerance was
given back to the Islamic Moors. Following the reconquest, most faded into the
background of the nations where they settled and never disclosed their ancestry. The
Inquisitions, however, grew unchecked against the Moors. The national cannibalism
of ethnic cleansing led many kings to look for other ways to handle the duties of both
church and nation. By the 16th Century , King Phillip II of Spain began sending
thousands of Moors into exile rather than executing them, with two conditions: For
diplomatic reasons, they would not be resettled in Europe and they could not return
home to Northern Africa where latent hostilities might be reignited against the
Spanish. The Moors were loaded onto ships and sent on their way to other lands. Two
such ships recorded reaching ports in China and India, but were refused entry fearing
they were escaped slaves. Most of the ships were never heard from again. In 1567, a
Spanish ship under the command of Captain Juan Pardo, an officer of Portuguese
origin, and approximately 250 Moorish soldier/settlers landed near Beaufort, SC,
traveled inland to the Georgia interior, and began building forts and settlements in the
region to prepare for an "eventual road" that would cross the territory. The crew
brought along a chemist familiar with smelting precious ores and the party also mined
the North Georgia region for gold and silver. At each fort, Pardo left a sizeable
number of soldiers to watch over Spanish interests in the area. Captain Pardo returned
to the coast and never again traveled inland to the forts he established. The ensuing
battles between the Spanish, French, and English over claims on the New World left
the villages destroyed or occupied and the soldier/settlers listed as dead or missing.
Many of Pardos men are thought to have taken brides from the Catawba and Creek
tribes. In fact, Spain always had historically close diplomatic ties with the Red Stick
Creeks and used it to wage war against the British. Kennedy and other scholars think
the "cousin relationship" could also explain how the Melungeons were able to live and
trade among the tribes without interference. While the great Lisbon earthquake and
fire of 1755 destroyed virtually all of Portugals shipping manifests and records, many
ships logs have surfaced over the years and are being studied by researchers
investigating the Moorish connection. The oppression of the Melungeons by European
settlers which pushed them into isolation among the Southern Appalachians may have
actually helped preserved many clues about their origins. The mountains and ridges of
Hancock County remain as isolated today as they did when the Melungeons were first
discovered. It is still among one of the most impoverished regions in Tennessee and
Southern Appalachia. Dr. Paul Reed runs the Hancock County Medical Clinic in
Sneedville. He says the new medical facts answer a lot of questions doctors in the
region have asked for years. "Sarcoidosis is a disease that has traditionally affected
people of Melungeon ancestry," said Reed," but, in many cases, has probably been
misdiagnosed and people hurt because of it. While there is no cure for it, there are
treatments that can really help ease their suffering." Reed is also excited about the
new interest in Melungeon ancestry and says the new focus is a reflection of changing
times. "When isolation was no longer a wise policy, Melungeons started moving back
into mainstream society, have gone to college, and now have the tools to try and find
out who we are," Reed said. "We can now hopefully salvage what we can of our
heritage and preserve it." In addition to Kennedys research, further DNA testing was
done recently and concluded that a definite link exists between the Southern
Appalachian Melungeons and Mediterranean cultures. Recent archaeological
excavations in Hancock County and other settlements have also netted artifacts that
lend credibility to the possibility of Moorish origins. Kennedys research and the
Melungeon Research Committee he helped to found are still studying the theories and
looking at new evidence as it becomes available. Hancock County official Scott
Collins sits on the research committee and says more information is gathered every
day that could explain who the Melungeons are. "Many people of our ancestry dont
know who they are and were working to not only answer the question, but to preserve
what we find," said Collins. "A lot of proud traditions still exist in some families that
dont in others and this could be a vital key to unlocking the truth. It may take years
before we know the answers." No one can argue that the Melungeons of East
Tennessee and Southern Appalachia were a remarkable and tragic people. The legends
told about them apparently bore some truth in their stories. If the evidence continues
to support the theory and their traditional beliefs, the long-awaited answer to
"Americas greatest anthropological mystery" could finally be known. In short, it can
be gathered from Kennedy research that the Melungeons are the descendants of the
Phoenicians and the Carthaginians, they were part of the Arab nation that
conquered Spain and Portugal, built Casablanca, Marrakech, and Tangier, and,
in the midst of their worst tragedy, sailed to America and traveled 300 miles
inland to establish a free colony in the new world, forty years before the British
established the colony we would come to know as Jamestown.

93 posted on 8/2/2005, 3:33:38 PM by hispanarepublicana (There will be no bad talk or loud talk in this place. CB
Stubblefield.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 69 | View Replies]

To: RegulatorCountry
It was not uncommon for mixed race Virginians and other Southerners to migrate to
the North to "pass" as white. A classic example of passing for white was in the case of
the descendants of Sally Hemmings with either Thomas Jefferson or a relative of the
third President. They emigrated to Ohio and developed a "white" identity. There were
rumors that Warren Harding had mixed race relatives on his mother's side who had
moved from Virginia to Ohio. Many blacks believed that Babe Ruth was partially
African American. It is also possible that J. Edgar Hoover had black ancestry through
his mother's lineage.

94 posted on 8/2/2005, 3:35:03 PM by Wallace T.


[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 86 | View Replies]

To: hispanarepublicana
doh! I thought I'd formatted that in HTML.

In 1988, amid the uproar over Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Southern Appalachian
native Dr. N. Brent Kennedy checked himself into an Atlanta hospital to undergo tests
fearing he had contracted the disease. Instead, the doctors diagnosed Kennedy with
having erythema nodosum sarcoidosis, a disease that is common only to
Mediterranean cultures. Kennedy learned he was descended from Melungeons, but,
like many of his lineage, had never been taught about his ancestry. The medical
diagnosis proved to be one of the keys to unlocking the mystery of the Melungeons
origins.

Dr. Kennedy began a crusade to find out about his ancestry. He tore into diaries,
pictures, and records from both America and Europe. In his research and, with the
help of other Melungeon descendants, Kennedy was also able to establish a possible
evidentiary record pointing to a theory that was a long-held belief among many
Melungeons in Southern Appalachia.

In the 12th Century, the reconquest of Spain by warrior kings and men like El Cid
ended Moorish occupation and reestablished new Christian states in Spain and
Portugal. By the 15th and 16th Centuries, the Inquisitions began to purge Moors from
the two nations. In 400 years of rule, many Moors had intermarried with the
Europeans and taken European surnames. Although Moorish occupation had allowed
freedom of religion among the Christians and the Jews, no such tolerance was given
back to the Islamic Moors.

Following the reconquest, most faded into the background of the nations where they
settled and never disclosed their ancestry. The Inquisitions, however, grew unchecked
against the Moors. The national cannibalism of ethnic cleansing led many kings to
look for other ways to handle the duties of both church and nation.

By the 16th Century , King Phillip II of Spain began sending thousands of Moors into
exile rather than executing them, with two conditions: For diplomatic reasons, they
would not be resettled in Europe and they could not return home to Northern Africa
where latent hostilities might be reignited against the Spanish. The Moors were loaded
onto ships and sent on their way to other lands. Two such ships recorded reaching
ports in China and India, but were refused entry fearing they were escaped slaves.
Most of the ships were never heard from again.

In 1567, a Spanish ship under the command of Captain Juan Pardo, an officer of
Portuguese origin, and approximately 250 Moorish soldier/settlers landed near
Beaufort, SC, traveled inland to the Georgia interior, and began building forts and
settlements in the region to prepare for an "eventual road" that would cross the
territory. The crew brought along a chemist familiar with smelting precious ores and
the party also mined the North Georgia region for gold and silver. At each fort, Pardo
left a sizeable number of soldiers to watch over Spanish interests in the area. Captain
Pardo returned to the coast and never again traveled inland to the forts he established.

The ensuing battles between the Spanish, French, and English over claims on the New
World left the villages destroyed or occupied and the soldier/settlers listed as dead or
missing. Many of Pardos men are thought to have taken brides from the Catawba and
Creek tribes. In fact, Spain always had historically close diplomatic ties with the Red
Stick Creeks and used it to wage war against the British. Kennedy and other scholars
think the "cousin relationship" could also explain how the Melungeons were able to
live and trade among the tribes without interference.

While the great Lisbon earthquake and fire of 1755 destroyed virtually all of
Portugals shipping manifests and records, many ships logs have surfaced over the
years and are being studied by researchers investigating the Moorish connection. The
oppression of the Melungeons by European settlers which pushed them into isolation
among the Southern Appalachians may have actually helped preserved many clues
about their origins.

The mountains and ridges of Hancock County remain as isolated today as they did
when the Melungeons were first discovered. It is still among one of the most
impoverished regions in Tennessee and Southern Appalachia. Dr. Paul Reed runs the
Hancock County Medical Clinic in Sneedville. He says the new medical facts answer
a lot of questions doctors in the region have asked for years.

"Sarcoidosis is a disease that has traditionally affected people of Melungeon


ancestry," said Reed," but, in many cases, has probably been misdiagnosed and people
hurt because of it. While there is no cure for it, there are treatments that can really
help ease their suffering." Reed is also excited about the new interest in Melungeon
ancestry and says the new focus is a reflection of changing times.

"When isolation was no longer a wise policy, Melungeons started moving back into
mainstream society, have gone to college, and now have the tools to try and find out
who we are," Reed said. "We can now hopefully salvage what we can of our heritage
and preserve it."

In addition to Kennedys research, further DNA testing was done recently and
concluded that a definite link exists between the Southern Appalachian Melungeons
and Mediterranean cultures.

Recent archaeological excavations in Hancock County and other settlements have also
netted artifacts that lend credibility to the possibility of Moorish origins. Kennedys
research and the Melungeon Research Committee he helped to found are still studying
the theories and looking at new evidence as it becomes available.

Hancock County official Scott Collins sits on the research committee and says more
information is gathered every day that could explain who the Melungeons are.

"Many people of our ancestry dont know who they are and were working to not only
answer the question, but to preserve what we find," said Collins. "A lot of proud
traditions still exist in some families that dont in others and this could be a vital key
to unlocking the truth. It may take years before we know the answers." No one can
argue that the Melungeons of East Tennessee and Southern Appalachia were a
remarkable and tragic people. The legends told about them apparently bore some truth
in their stories. If the evidence continues to support the theory and their traditional
beliefs, the long-awaited answer to "Americas greatest anthropological mystery"
could finally be known.

In short, it can be gathered from Kennedy research that the Melungeons are the
descendants of the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians, they were part of the Arab
nation that conquered Spain and Portugal, built Casablanca, Marrakech, and Tangier,
and, in the midst of their worst tragedy, sailed to America and traveled 300 miles
inland to establish a free colony in the new world, forty years before the British
established the colony we would come to know as Jamestown.

95 posted on 8/2/2005, 3:36:17 PM by hispanarepublicana (There will be no bad talk or loud talk in this place. CB
Stubblefield.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 93 | View Replies]

To: blam
Gypsies are originally from India. When they migrated to Europe they did so from
Egypt hence, the name Gypsies. (BTW, they steal babies, or so, my mother said when I
was young.)
According to Gypsy legend, when Jesus was about to be nailed to the cross, a Gypsy
child stole two of the nails. Because that theft lessened the suffering of his Son, God
allows Gypsies to steal without it being considered a sin.

96 posted on 8/2/2005, 3:37:23 PM by Modernman ("A conservative government is an organized hypocrisy." -


Disraeli)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 44 | View Replies]

To: hispanarepublicana

"Many of Pardos men are thought to have taken brides from the Catawba and Creek
tribes"

They've found the remains of one of Pardo's Spanish forts, just outside of Morganton,
NC.

97 posted on 8/2/2005, 3:39:43 PM by RegulatorCountry (Esse Quam Videre)


[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 93 | View Replies]

To: Safetgiver

The Welsh are that way...

98 posted on 8/2/2005, 3:52:13 PM by Eric in the Ozarks (Scratch a Liberal. Uncover a Fascist)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 75 | View Replies]

To: hispanarepublicana

Now you have really complicated my family tree! I thought Irish, English, German,
Cherokee, and Choctaw was mixed up enough but I have the bump on the back of my
skull and a pronounced ridge on the back of my four front teeth.

99 posted on 8/2/2005, 3:52:45 PM by LPM1888 (What are the facts? Again and again and again -- what are the
facts? - Lazarus Long)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 78 | View Replies]

To: LPM1888
Now you have really complicated my family tree!

LOL. Sounds to me like the fault lies with some amorous Melungeon in your family's
past. Seriously, though, the shovel teeth could come from your Cherokee or Choctaw
side, as it's also an Asian/Indian trait. Not sure about the lump.

100 posted on 8/2/2005, 3:55:14 PM by hispanarepublicana (There will be no bad talk or loud talk in this place.
CB Stubblefield.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 99 | View Replies]

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