Monday, January 31, 2011

*** Genetic Genealogy for Beginners: DNA is the "Gene" in Genealogy! ***

 Due to popular demand, Family Tree DNA's Elise Friedman will be repeating the Genetic
Genealogy webinar that was posted about a couple weeks ago:

*** Genetic Genealogy for Beginners: DNA is the "Gene" in Genealogy! ***

What is Genetic Genealogy? What tests are available and which one should I
order? How much does a Genetic Genealogy test cost? Do I need to be a
geneticist to understand my results?

If you're a complete beginner to Genetic Genealogy and want the answers to
those questions and more, then this webinar is for you! Attendees will
learn about the history of genetic genealogy, be introduced to DNA basics
and inheritance paths, learn about the different types of DNA tests
available for genealogy, and learn about resources that will help you make
the most of your Genetic Genealogy experience.

Two sessions are scheduled to accommodate different time zones:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011
6pm GMT (1pm Eastern, 10am Pacific)

Thursday, February 3, 2011
8pm Eastern (5pm Pacific)

Free registration is required for these webinars. To register, please visit
the Relative Roots Webinars webpage and click the registration link next to
the date/time that you wish to attend:

Also visit the Relative Roots Webinars webpage to learn about other upcoming
webinars and sign up to receive email announcements about future webinars.
As long as there is demand for it, I hope to repeat the beginner webinar
during the first week of every month. I'm also currently working on
scheduling intermediate and advanced genetic genealogy webinars.

At this time, webinars are only available live during the scheduled dates
and times.

Elise Friedman

PS. If you have your own blog or website, please feel free to re-post this
announcement, or link to this blog post:


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Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Infamous Walter Plecker and his Letters cont.

Although 31 states would pass eugenics laws, none was tougher than Virginia’s.

The Racial Integrity Act essentially narrowed race classifications on birth and marriage certificates to two choices: “white person”
or “colored.” The law defined a white as one with no trace of black blood. A white person could have no more than a 1/16th trace of Indian blood – an exception, much to Plecker’s regret, legislators made to appease the descendants of Pocahontas and John Rolfe, who were considered among Virginia’s first families.

The act forbade interracial marriage and lying about race on registration forms. Violators faced felony convictions and a year in

This is the last of the Plecker Letters sent by Walter Plecker, State Registrar of Vital Statistics, who was determined to identify any and all mixed blood people in the state of Virginia and deny them their Indian heritage. Surnames of those he sought to disenfranchise are listed at the end of the letter.

Walter Plecker Letter to Local Officials

Images of Letter

January 1943

Local Registrars, Physicians, Health
Officers, Nurses, School Superintendents,
And Clerks of the Courts

Dear Co-workers:

Our December 1942 letter to local registrars, also mailed to the clerks,
Set forth the determined effort to escape from the Negro race of groups of
free Issues," or descendants of the "free mulattoes" of early days, so listed
prior to 1865 in the United States census and various types of State records, as
distinguished from slave Negroes.

Now that these people are playing up the advantages gained by being
Permitted to give "Indian" as the race of the child's parents on birth
certificates, we see the great mistake made in not stopping earlier the organized
Pagation of this racial falsehood. They have been using the advantage thus
As an aid to intermarriage into the white race and to attend white schools,
Now for some time they have been refusing to register with war draft boards
Negroes, as required by the boards which are faithfully performing their
Three of these Negroes from Caroline County were sentenced to prison on
January 12
In the United States Court at Richmond for refusing to obey the draft law
Permitted to classify themselves as "Indian."

Some of these mongrels, finding that they have been able to sneak in
Their birth certificates unchallenged as Indians are now making a rush to
As white. Upon investigation we find that a few local registrars have been
Mitting such certificates to pass through their hands unquestioned and
Warning our office of the fraud. Those attempting this fraud should be
That they are liable to a penalty of one year in the penitentiary (Section
Of the Code). Several clerks have likewise been actually granting them
To marry whites, or at least to marry amongst themselves as Indian or white.
Danger of this error always confronts the clerk who does not inquire
carefully as
To the residence of the woman when he does not have positive information.
Law is explicit that the license be issued by the clerk of the county or
city in
Which the woman resides.

To aid all of you in determining just which are the mixed families, we
Have made a list of their surnames by counties and cities, as complete as
At this time. This list should be preserved by all, even by those in
counties and
Cities not included, as these people are moving around over the State and
Race at the new place. A family has just been investigated which was always
Recorded as Negro around Glade Springs, Washington County, but which changed
White and married as such in Roanoke County. This is going on constantly and
Be prevented only by care on the part of local registrars, clerks, doctors,
Workers, and school authorities.

Please report all known or suspicious cases to the Bureau of Vital
Statistics, giving names, ages, parents, and as much other information as
All certificates of these people showing "Indian" or "white" are now being
And returned to the physician or midwife, but local registrars hereafter
must not
Permit them to pass their hands uncorrected or unchallenged and without a
note of
Warning to us. One hundred and fifty thousand other mulattoes in Virginia
Watching eagerly the attempt of their pseudo-Indian brethren, ready to
follow in
A rush when the first have made a break in the dike.

Very truly yours,

W. A. Plecker, M.D.
State Registrar of Vital Statistics

Page 2


Albemarle: Moon, Powell, Kidd, Pumphrey.
Amherst (Migrants to Alleghany and Campbell): Adcock (Adcox), Beverly (this
family is now trying to evade the situation by adopting the name of Burch or
Birch, which was the name of the white mother of the present adult
generation), Branham, Duff, Floyd, Hamilton, Hartless, Hicks, Johns, Lawless
 Nuckles (Knuckles), Painter, Ramsey, Redcross, Roberts, Southards (Suthards
 Southerds, Southers), Sorrells, Terry, Tyree, Willis, Clark, Cash, Wood.
Bedford: McVey, Maxey, Branham, Burley. (See Amherst County)
Rockbridge (Migrants to Augusta): Cash, Clark, Coleman, Duff, Floyd,
Hartless, Hicks, Mason, Mayse (Mays), Painters, Pultz, Ramsey, Southerds
(Southers, Southards, Suthards), Sorrells, Terry, Tyree, Wood, Johns.
Charles City: Collins, Dennis, Bradby, Howell, Langston, Stewart, Wynn,
King William: Collins, Dennis, Bradby, Howell, Langston, Stewart, Wynn,
Custalow (Custaloe), Dungoe, Holmes, Miles, Page, Allmond, Adams, Hawkes,
Suprlock, Doggett.
New Kent: Collins, Bradby, Stewart, Wynn, Adkins, Langston.
Henrico and Richmond City: See Charles City, New Kent, and King William.
Caroline: Byrd, Fortune, Nelson. (See Essex)
Essex and King and Queen: Nelson, Fortune, Byrd, Cooper, Tate, Hammond,
Brooks, Boughton, Prince, Mitchell, Robinson.
Elizabeth City & Newport News: Stewart (descendants of the Charles City
Halifax: Epps (Eppes), Stewart (Stuart), Coleman, Johnson, Martin, Talley,
Sheppard (Shepard), Young.
Norfolk County & Portsmouth: Sawyer, Bass, Weaver, Locklear (Locklair), King
 Bright, Porter, Ingram.
Westmoreland: Sorrells, Worlds (or Worrell), Atwells, Gutridge, Oliff.
Greene: Shifflett, Shiflet.
Prince William: Tyson, Segar. (See Fauquier)
Fauquier: Hoffman (Huffman), Riley, Colvin, Phillips. (See Prince William)
Lancaster: Dorsey (Dawson).
Washington: Beverly, Barlow, Thomas, Hughes, Lethcoe, Worley.
Roanoke County: Beverly. (See Washington)
Lee and Smyth: Collins, Gibson (Gipson), Moore, Goins, Ramsey, Delph, Bunch,
Freeman, Mise, Barlow, Bolden (Bolin), Mullins, Hawkins. -- Chiefly
Tennessee "Melungeons."
Scott: Dingus. (See Lee County)
Russell: Keith, Castell, Stillwell, Meade, Proffitt. (See Lee & Tazewell)
Tazewell: Hammed, Duncan. (See Russell)
Wise: See Lee, Smyth, Scott, and Russell Counties.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Infamous Walter Plecker and his Letters cont.

 The third in our series presenting the infamous "Plecker letters"

Written by W. A. Plecker, MD    -
August 20, 1942
Walter Plecker Letter to
Tennessee State Librarian and Archivist
Regarding Melungeon Classification
August 20, 1942

Mrs. John Trotwood Moore
State Librarian and Archivist
State Department of Education
Nashville, Tennessee

Dear Mrs. Moore:

We thank you very much for your informative letter of August 12 in reply to
our inquiry, addressed to the Secretary of State, as to the original
counties from which Hancock County, Tennessee, was formed. We are
particularly interested in tracing back, as far as possible, to their
ultimate origin the melungeons of the Newmans Ridge section, especially as
enumerated in the free Negro list by counties of the states in the U. S.
1830 census. This group appears to be in many respects of the same type as a
number of groups in Virginia, some of which are known as "free issues," or
descendants of slaves freed by their masters before the War Between the
States. In one case in particular which we have traced back to its origin,
and which we believe to be typical of the others, a slave woman was freed
with her two mulatto sons and colonized in Amherst County in connection with
a group of similar freed Negroes. These sons were presumably the children of
the woman's owner, and this seemed to be the most satisfactory way of
disposing of them. One of those sons became the head of one of the larger
families of that group. All of these groups have the same desire, which
Captain L. M. Jarvis says the melungeons have, to become friends of Indians
and to be classed as Indians. He referred to the effort which the melungeon
group made to be accepted by the Cherokees, apparently without great success
 It is interesting also to know the opinion expressed by Captain Jarvis that
these freed Negroes migrated into that section with the white people. That
is perfectly natural as they have always endeavored to tie themselves up as
closely as possible either with the whites or Indians and are striving to
break away from the true Negro type.

We have a book, compiled by Carter G. Woodson, a Negro, entitled "Free Negro
Heads of Families in the United States in 1830," listing all of the free
Negroes of the 1830 census by counties. Of the names that Captain Jarvis
gave, we find included in that list in Hawkins County, Solomon Collins,
Vardy Collins, and Sherod (probably Shepard) Gibson. We find also Zachariah
Minor, probably the head of the family in which we are especially interested
at this time. We find also the names of James Moore (two families by this
name) and Jordan and Edmund Goodman. In the list for Grainger County we find
at least twelve Collins and Collens heads of families. This shows that they
were evidently considered locally as free Negroes by the enumerators of the
1830 census.

One of the most interesting parts of your letter is that relating to the
opinion of the Judge mentioned, in his "Personal Memoirs," who

Page Two

Mrs. John Trotwood Moore, #2
August 20, 1942

Seemed to have accepted as satisfactory certain evidence which was presented
to him that these people are of Phoenician descent from ancient Carthage,
which was totally destroyed by Rome. We have in Virginia white people,
descendants of  Pocahontas, who married John Rolfe about 1616. About twelve
generations have passed since then, and we figured out that there was about
1/4000th of 1% of Pocahontas blood now in their veins, though they seem to
be quite proud of that. If you go back to the destruction of Carthage in 146
B. C., or to the destruction of Tyre by Pompey in 64 B. C., when all
characteristic features of national life became extinct and with it racial
identity, you will see that the fraction of 1% of Phoenician blood would
reach astronomical proportions and be totally lost in the various mixtures
of North Africans, with which the Carthaginians afterwards mixed. The Judge
also speaks of the inclusion of Portuguese blood with this imaginary
Phoenician blood. It is a historical fact, well known to those who have
investigated, that at one time there were many African slaves in Portugal.
Today there are no true Negroes there but their blood shows in the color and
racial characteristics of a large part of the Portuguese population of the
present day. That mixture, even if it could be shown, would be far from
constituting these people white. We are very much afraid that the Judge
followed the same course pursued by one of our Virginia judges in hearing a
similar case, when he accepted the hearsay evidence of people who testified
that they had always understood that the claimants were of Indian origin,
regardless of the documentary evidence reaching back in some cases to or
near to the Revolutionary War, showing them to be descendants of freed

We will require other evidence than that of Captain Jarvis and His Honor
before classifying members of the group who are now causing trouble in
Virginia by their claims of Indian descent, with the privilege of
inter-marrying into the white race, permissible when a person can show his
racial composition to be one-sixteenth or less Indian, the remainder white
with no negro intermixture. We have found after very laborious and
painstaking study of records of various sorts that none of our Virginia
people now claiming to be Indian are free from negro admixture, and they are
 therefore, according to our law classified as colored. In that class we
include the melungeons of Tennessee.

We again thank you for your care in passing on this information and would be
delighted if you ever visit in Virginia and in Richmond if you will come
into our office. Miss Kelley and I would be greatly pleased to talk with you
on this and kindred subjects and to show you the work which Miss Kelley is
doing in properly classifying the population of Virginia by racial origin.
She is doing work which, so far as I know, has never before been attempted.

Very sincerely yours,

W. A. Plecker, M. D.
State Registrar


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Friday, January 28, 2011

The Infamous Walter Plecker and his Letters cont.

This letter was written by Mrs. John Trottwood Moore, State Librarian and Archivist in reply to Walter A. Plecker's letter of inquiry about the location of the Melungeons.
August 12, 1942
Mrs. John Trottwood Moore
Letter to Walter Plecker
Regarding Melungeon Classification
August 12, 1942
Mr. W. A. Plecker,
State Registrar
Bureau of Vital Statistics
Richmond, Virginia
My dear Sir:
The Secretary of State has sent your letter to my desk for reply.
You have asked us a hard question.
The origin of the Melungeons has been a disputed question in Tennessee ever
since we can remember.
Hancock County was established by an Act of the General Assembly passed
January 7th, 1844 and was formed from parts of Claiborne and Hawkins
Newman's Ridge, which runs through Hancock county north of Sneedville, is
parallel with Clinch River and just south of Powell Mountain. The only map
on which we find it located is edited by H. C. Amick and S. J. Folmsbee of
the University of Tennessee in 1941 published by Denoyer-Geppert Co., 5235
Ravenswood Ave., Chicago, listed as [TN 7S]* TENNESSEE. On this map is shown
Newman's Ridge as I have sketched it on this little scrap of paper, inclosed
  But we do not have the early surveys showing which county it as originally
in. It appears that it may have been in Claiborne according to the Morris
Gazetteer of Tennessee 1834 which includes this statement: "Newman's Ridge,
one of the spurs of Cumberland Mountain, in East Tennessee, lying in the
north east angle of Claiborne County, west of Clinch River, and east of
Powell's Mountain. It took its name from a Mr. Newman who discovered it in
Early historians of East Tennessee who lived in that section and knew the
older members of this race refer to Newman's Ridge as "quite a high mountain
  extending through the entire length of Hancock County, and into Claiborne
County on the west. It is between Powell Mountain on the north and Clinch
River on the south." Capt. L. M. Jarvis, an old citizen of Sneedville wrote
in his 82nd year: "I have lived here at the base of Newman's Ridge,
Blackwater, being on the opposite side, for the last 71 years and well know
the history of these people on Newman's Ridge and Blackwater enquired about
as Melungeons. These people were friendly to the Cherokees who came west
with the white imigration from New River and Cumberland, Virginia, about the
year 1790...The name Melungeon was given them on account of their color. I
have seen the oldest and first settlers of this tribe who first occupied
Newman's Ridge and Blackwater and I have owned much of the lands on which
they settled.. They obtained their land grants from North Carolina. I
personally knew Vardy Collins, Solomon D. Collins, Shepard Gibson, Paul
Bunch and Benjamin Bunch and many of the Goodmans, Moores, Williams and
Sullivans, all of the very first settlers and noted men of these friendly
Indians. They took their names from white people of that name with whom they
came here. They were reliable, truthful and faithful to anything they
promised. In the Civil War most of the Melungeons went into the Union army
and made good soldiers. Their Indian blood has about run out. They are
growing white... They have been misrepresented by many writers. In former
writings I have given their stations  and stops on their way as they
emigrated to this country with white people, one of which places was at the
mouth of Stony Creek on Clinch river in Scott County, Virginia, where they
built fort and called it Ft. Blackamore after Col. Blackamore who was with
them... When Daniel Boone was here hunting 1763-1767, these Melungeons were
not here."
The late Judge Lewis Shepherd, prominent jurist of Chattanooga, went further
in his statements in his "Personal Memoirs", and contended that this
mysterious racial group descended from the Phoenicians of Ancient Carthage.
This was his judgment after investigations he made in trying a case
featuring the complaint that they were of mixed Negro blood, which attempt
failed, and which brought out the facts that many of their ancestors had
settled early in South Carolina when they migrated from Portugal to America
about the time of the Revolutionary war, and later moved into Tennessee. At
the time of this trial covered by Judge Shepherd "charges that Negro blood
contaminated the Melungeons and barred their intermarriage with Caucasians
created much indignation among families of Phoenician descent in this
But I imagine if the United States Census listed them as mulattoes their
listing will remain. But it is a terrible claim to place on people if they
do not have Negro blood. I often have wondered just how deeply the census
takers went into an intelligent study of it at that early period.
I have gone into some detail in this reply to explain the mooted question
and why it is not possible for me to give you a definite answer. I hope this
may assist you to some extent.
Mrs. John Trotwood Moore
State Librarian and Archivist
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The Infamous Walter Plecker and his Letters

Walter Ashby Plecker was the first registrar of Virginia’s Bureau of Vital Statistics, which records births, marriages and deaths. He accepted the job in 1912. For the next 34 years, he led the effort to purify the white race in Virginia by forcing Indians and other nonwhites to classify themselves as blacks. It amounted to bureaucratic genocide.
He worked with a vengeance.
Plecker was a white supremacist and a zealous advocate of—a now discredited movement to preserve the integrity of white blood by preventing interracial breeding. “Unless this can be done,” he once wrote, “we have little to hope for, but may expect in the future decline or complete destruction of our civilization.”
Plecker’s icy efficiency as racial gatekeeper drew international attention, including that of Nazi Germany. In 1943, he boasted: “Hitler’s genealogical study of the Jews is not more complete.”
Plecker retired in 1946 at the age of 85 and died the following year. The damage lives on.
From the grave, Plecker is frustrating the efforts of Virginia tribes to win federal recognition and a trove of accompanying grants for housing, health care and education. One of the requirements is that the tribes prove their continuous existence since 1900. Plecker, by purging Indians as a race, has made that nearly impossible. Six Virginia tribes are seeking the permission of Congress to bypass the requirement.
“It never seems to end with this guy,” said Kenneth Adams, chief of the Upper Mattaponi. “You wonder how anyone could be so consumed with hate.”
It’s likely that Plecker didn’t see himself as the least bit hateful. Had he not been so personally aloof, he might have explained that he believed he was practicing good science and religion. Perhaps he would have acknowledged that he was influenced by his own heritage.
Walter Plecker was one of the last sons of the Old South. He was born in Augusta County on April 2, 1861. Ten days later, the cannons at Fort Sumter sounded the start of the Civil War. His father, a prosperous merchant and slave owner, left home to fight for the Confederate Army with many of his kin.
Some 60 years later, Plecker would recall his early days in a letter to a magazine editor expressing his abhorrence of interracial breeding. He remembered “being largely under the control” of a “faithful” slave named Delia. When the war ended, she stayed on as a servant. The Pleckers were so fond of her that they let her get married in their house. When Plecker’s mother died in 1915, it was Delia “who closed her eyes,” he wrote.
Then Plecker got to his point. “As much as we held in esteem individual negroes this esteem was not of a character that would tolerate marriage with them, though as we know now to our sorrow much illegitimate mixture has occurred.” Plecker added, “If you desire to do the correct thing for the negro race … inspire (them) with the thought that the birth of mulatto children is a standing disgrace.”
Plecker graduated from Hoover Military Academy in Staunton in 1880. He became a doctor, graduating from the University of Maryland’s medical school in 1885. He moved around western Virginia and the coal fields of Alabama before settling in Hampton in 1892.
Plecker took special interest in delivering babies. He became concerned about the high mortality rate among poor mothers and began keeping records and searching for ways to improve birthing.
Public health was first being recognized as a government concern at the turn of the last century, and Plecker was a pioneer. In 1902, he became health officer for Elizabeth City County (today, Hampton). He recorded details of more than 98 percent of the births and deaths in the county—an amazing feat during a time when most people were born and died at home. When lawmakers established the state Bureau of Vital Statistics in 1912, they asked Plecker to run it.
Plecker’s first 12 years on the job were groundbreaking and marked by goodwill. He educated midwives of all races on modern birthing techniques and cut the 5 percent death rate for black mothers almost in half. He developed an incubator—a combination of a laundry basket, dirt, a thermometer and a kerosene lamp—that anyone could make in an instant. Concerned by a high incidence of syphilitic blindness in black and Indian babies, he distributed silver nitrate to be put in the eyes of newborns.
Plecker was all work. He did not seek friendship. Although married most of his life, he did not have children. He listed his hobbies as “books and birds.”
“He was a man you could sometimes respect and admire, but never love,” said Russell E. Booker Jr., who grew up in Plecker’s neighborhood, delivered his newspaper and worked in the Bureau of Vital Statistics from 1960 to 1994, spending the last 12 years as director. “He was a very rigid man,” Booker added. “I don’t know of anyone who ever saw him smile.”
Plecker was tall, bone-thin, had wavy, white hair that was neatly combed and a trim mustache. He took a bus to work and lunched every day on just an apple.
He was a miserly taskmaster. Plecker scraped glue pots, mixed the gunk with water and sent it back to employees for use. Booker said that, according to office legend, “You didn’t get a new pencil until you turned in your old one, and it better not be longer than an inch and a quarter.”
Plecker never looked before crossing streets. “He just expected the cars to stop for him,” said Booker, who still lives in Richmond. “One time a woman grabbed him just as he was about to be hit, and he laid her out like she’d just touched God.”

August 5, 1942
Walter Plecker Letter to
Tennessee Secretary of State
Regarding Melungeon Classification

August 5, 1942 Secretary of State, Nashville, Tennessee. Dear Sir: Our bureau is the only one in any State making an intensive study of the population of its citizens by race. We have in some of the counties of southwestern Virginia a number of so-called Melungeons who came into that section from Newmans Ridge, Hancock County, Tennessee, and who are classified by us as of Negro origin though they make various claims, such as Portugese, Indians, etc. The law of Virginia says that any one with any ascertainable degree of Negro is to be classified as colored and we are endeavoring to so classify those who apply for birth, death and marriage registrations. We have a list of the free Negroes, by counties, of the 1830 U. S. Census in which we find the racial origin of most of these Melungeons classified as mulattoes. In that period, 1830, we do not find the name of Hancock County, but presume that it was made up from portions of other counties, possible Grainger and Hawkins, where we find considerable numbers of these Melungeon families listed. Will you please advise as to that point and particularly which of these original counties Newmans Ridge was in. Thanking you in advance and with kindest regards, I am Very truly yours, W. A. Plecker, M. D. State Registrar. WAP/mhd Encl.
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Sunday, January 23, 2011

All Other Free Persons blog

Here's a great new blog:

Welcome to All Other Free Persons blogspot.
The purpose of this blog is to share information and ideas about people listed as mulatto or fpc on records and documents in various states during the past three centuries. Please click on a link in the menu bar above to view available information, pictures or other documents about that family. Please let me know if you have information to post on a family page. This Home page is to view or post comments about any topic that interests you. The listed families are families I am related to or families who lived close to my family. If requested, I will create a sub-page on the All Other page for families not listed on the menu bar.

Cont. here:

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Will Allen Dromgoole

Will Allen Dromgoole wrote the following articles about the Melungeons.

Land of the Malungeons
A Strange People
The Malungeons
The Malungeon Tree and It's Four Branches
Mysterious Tribe Known as the Malungeons

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Will Allen Dromgoole (October 26, 1860-September 1, 1934) was an author and poet born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. She wrote over 7,500 poems; 5,000 essays; and published thirteen books. She was renowned beyond the South; her poem "The Bridge Builder" was often reprinted. It remains quite popular. An excerpt appears on a plaque at the Bellows Falls, Vermont Vilas Bridge, spanning the Connecticut River between southern Vermont and New Hampshire.

Early life and background

Will Allen Dromgoole was the last of several children born to Rebecca Mildred (Blanche) and John Easter Dromgoole in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.[1] Her paternal grandparents were Rev. Thomas and Mary Dromgoole. Her great-grandparents were Edward Dromgoole, a Scots-Irish trader from Sligo, Ireland, and his Cherokee wife Rebecca Walton. He married her after immigrating to the North American colonies.
Dromgoole's parents sent her to the Clarksville Female Academy, where she graduated in 1876. She studied law with her father, but women were not allowed to become lawyers. She was appointed as staff to the state legislature, where she started working in 1883.


Dromgoole was a prolific writer, publishing both prose and poetry. She was also a journalist for the Nashville American, a newspaper based in the Middle Tennessee city.
She first published a story in Youth's Companion in 1887. It was about the Tennessee governor, Bob Taylor. She had a best-selling novel in 1911, The Island of the Beautiful.

Dromgoole taught school in Tennessee one year, and one year in Temple, Texas. There she founded the Waco Women's Press Club.[2] During World War I, Dromgoole was a warrant officer in the United States Naval Reserve. She lectured to sailors on patriotic topics.

Dromgoole wrote a series of articles on the Southeastern ethnic group known as the Melungeons, published in the Nashville Daily American (1890) and the Boston Arena (1891).[1][3] This historically mixed-race group was then living mostly in southeastern Tennessee and southwestern Kentucky. Her derogatory comments about them, while based more on hearsay than fact, expressed the biases about mountain people typical of her society and the period in which she was writing. Since the early 20th century, Melungeons have increasingly intermarried with European Americans and integrated into mainstream white society.[4]

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Thursday, January 20, 2011


Contributed by Deloris Williams

From “Colonial Records of North Carolina”, North Carolina State Archives, Miscellaneous Records in the Office of Secretary of State- transcribed from 2 different copies of the same document, by Deloris Williams).

Through the years of early Colonialism in North Carolina, a number of laws were passed in regards to the taxation of Free People of Color, whether they were Black, Negro, Mulatto, Mustee or even Native American Indian who lived in the State. Granville County was the home of many of these early settlers who are recorded in the very early records as being part of the community, and indeed did intermarry within the local population of frontiersmen and settlers. With these new laws came new burdens on the families who not only had to pay taxes for the males in their households, but also for all of the females of color in their home over the age of twelve, a very heavy burden indeed when one realizes that these were very large families. One of the petitions filed in protest of this was in 1771 by a group of Granville County residents who, at first glance may seem to have been just interested citizens in support of their neighbors, but for those who have researched the names or surnames on this petition, it becomes clearer that while some of the names themselves were indeed white settlers, many of these were probably some of the earliest ancestors of those who later became known as being Free People of Color. Of special note, by the way, while there is only one name on the petition which was clearly indicated to have been “Negro”, extant tax & Court records of the time identify quite a few others on the list also as being Negro, Mulatto or People of Color.

To the Honble. The Speaker and Gentn. Of the house of Assembly

The Petition of the Inhabitants of Granville County Humbly Showeth that by the Act of Assembly Concerning Tythables it is among other things enacted that all free Negroes & Mulato Women and all wives of free Negroes & mulatoes are Declared Tythables & Chargeable for Defraying the Public County & Parish Leveys of this Province which Your Petitioners Humbly Conceive is highly Derogatory of the Rights of Freeborn Subjects Your Petitioners therefore Pray that An Act may pass Exempting Such free negroes & mulatoe women and all wives other than Slaves of free negroes & mulatoes from being listed as Tythables & from paying any Public County or Parish Levys and Your Petitioners shall ever pray &c.

----see the list of names here----

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Melungeons Ways Are Passing

We are reposting some of the old Melungeon articles which appeared in
magazines and newspapers in order to give the reader an understanding of how
Melungeons were presented to the outside world in the past. We do not
necessarily agree with every statement. They are for educational purposes

Melungeons Ways Are Passing 
News-Sentinel Staff Writer
Sneedville, Tenn

By Willard Yarbrough, April 26, 1972

Spring air was nippy along Blackwater Creek in Vardy Valley. So chilly, in fact, that Howard Mullins lifted his hands with palms exposed to coal fed flames of the open fire. Such delicate hands, calloused from field work and 110 winters spent in isolated hill country where necessities of life long since have become luxuries to a mysterious people to whom Mullins belongs. He is one of the last of the Melungeons, oldest of them all in Hancock County, which has been home to the Melungeons for 200 years.

Those left in Snake Hollow, Blackwater, Vardy and Mulberry - are few in number, Most have left the hills for jobs in cities far and near. And time is catching up with those remaining. In 1931 there were 40 Melungeon families living on Newman's Ridge above their ancestral home. Today, only two families remain on the steep ridges. Genealogist William P. Grohse Sr., who lives near Mullins, estimates there may be under 200 families left in the country.

Link to Jews Seen

Melungeon youth, just as others, are leaving rural America for jobs in towns and cities. Hancock's population of 12,000 in 1900 dropped to 6719 by 1970, according to the U. S. Census. Scholars and anthropologists and the just plain curious come into these hills in ever increasing numbers. They want to see and talk with hill people with such Melungeon family names as "Mullins, Collins, Goins, Gibbons, Miser, Bowlin and Bell. A young Israeli scholar came the other day and became convinced that these lovely olive-skinned people had Jewish ancestry and fled ages ago to escape persecution at home. He cited two things he said linked Melungeons with ancient Jews: Christianity - with the ever-present Cross - and the name Vardy. Meaning Uncertain "Vardy", he told chronicler Grohse, "stems from an Israeli word that means rose. So vardyman means 'man of roses'." Vardy Collins, born in 1766, was the first Melungeon to settle on the Blackwater. Grohse says he came around 1780 or a little later. His real name was Navarrh, but visitors to his mineral springs and hotel knew him by the shorter name, Vardy.

Melungeon - what does it mean?

The Melungeons themselves, God knows, don't refer to themselves as Melungeons. They don't know where the name came from, whether from the French word "melange" (mixture), the Afro-Portuguese "melungo" (shipmate) , or the Greek "melan" (black). Back at Howard Mullins' open fire, Mrs. Mullins, who is 72, said she never heard the word until five years ago when she read a book about "Melungeons." These hill people, now intermixed with non-Melungeon mates, simply know it's a bad word which their white neighbors once used to frighten their children: "Better be good or the Melungeons will get you!"

Accustomed to Hard Times

Melungeons have been angered for almost two centuries about two things: Strangers who call them by that name, so the Melungeons think, allude to "mixture" as having Negro blood. And writers of sensational Melungeon stories at times have ridiculed a sensitive, peaceful people. Back in 1840 there was an open insult to the Melungeon name in the state Legislature. "A West Tennessee Democrat," said Grohse, "argued with an East Tennessee Republican. The Democrat became so exasperated that he told the legislators 'Don't pay any attention to him; he's one of them East Tennessee Melungeons!'" One thing is certain. Melungeons are used to hard times and privation.

Mrs. Howard Mullins remembered the Depression days when she obtained a WPA job at the courthouse here as charwoman. "I walked eight miles across Newman's Ridge to Sneedville every day", she said. "I'd leave before daylight, work all day, and walk home after dark - with my dress tail likely as not frozen stiff where it touched the snow. And you know what I got for my first week's work? A check for $2.40!"

Still Was Guarded

Old-timers remember worse times, but they consider they were fortunate even then. Melungeon men and women many, many years ago worked all day in a farmer's fields just for the food they ate lunch. Melungeons always have been excellent moonshiners, though this is mostly in the past. Mrs. Mullins remembers when she and her first husband lived next door to Howard Mullins, who she later married. "Howard would fire up his still and I'd build up my fire under my washpot, so anybody going along the road would think I was washing. Neighbors helped each other. I guess I'd wash three or four times a week, or pretend to, and hang my clothes on the line to hid Howard's still from sight."

Quit Drinking at 90

How has Grandpap Mullins lived to be 110? "He was drunk most of his life," she said. "That might have helped preserve him. He quit drinking 20 years ago, but there were many times I'd have to take the mule and sled and find him passed out drunk up a hollow. "We both chew tobacco. I do because I don't want to smell his breath," she said, pointing to her now blind husband as he chewed Beechnut as if it were chewing gum. "He chews two packs a day." Mullins hasn't been out of Vardy for more than a year, his last venture being to Sneedville. He hasn't seen a doctor in years, either, and used only aspirin for medicine. Mullins lost his father at age 8. The father and another Melungeon argued at the Mullins moonshine still, Elbert Mullins losing the argument.

Howard Mullins, who has been chewing tobacco for 101 years, is the oldest child in his family. His mother was married three times. Howard's son, Burkett, 78, visits at times. Mrs. Mullins, who was a Collins, said she was born in a log house on the Ridge, that food was prepared on a dirt floor "because we had no money to buy lumber" and that the cabin had only one half-window for natural light.

Times Easier Now

Melungeons love to talk about hard times, because they're not so hard today. all homes I visited here recently had electricity and telephone. The Collinses, Mullinses and Mizers, along with the the others, find life easier on the valley floor. Their abandoned log cabins are along the creek banks or on the ridges, often the object of collectors. Painted houses either are rented or owned now, being taken over by the melungeons as others quit the Blackwater. Stone chimneys often are the only reminder of Melungeon life; some houses are gone.

Melungeons don't make gold coins any more, either. They used to mint them on the Ridge, take them into Sneedville to buy provisions - but they never said where they got the gold. Merchants welcomed the coins because they contained more pure gold than those from the U. S. Mint. Sneedville stores still buy ginseng or "sang from Melungeons who dug the roots for shipment to the Orient. Melungeons, such as Tilmon Hunt, in his 80s, love to hunt, and they eat what they bag. Tilmon displayed a fox squirrel he felled after an all-day hunt with his dog in the hills. And once Tilmon walked all the way home from Norton, Va., where he had a "paying job" years ago.

Age in Doubt

They'll really never know, these vanishing Americans, their true origin. Some aren't sure of their ages, either. Grohse, a German who settled in Vardy because he married the great-great-great- granddaughter of Vardy Collins, said the 1880 Census listed Howard Collins' age at that time as 7. if so, that would make him only 99 and not 10, the birthday being 1873. But Mullins says he is 110. Grohse likes to believe the Melungeons were of Portuguese or Spanish ancestry. And 1850 document shows Vardy Collins, then 86 owned $1500 worth of real estate and that his wife's name was Peggy. Rev. Arthur H. Taylor, a Presbyterian missionary here in 1916 and a Grohse relative, reported he had learned that Vardy Collins' wife was known as "Spanish Peggy".

Came From East Coast

Miss Martha Collins, a descendant of Vardy, and president of Citizens Bank of Sneedville, leans to the Phoenician theory - that these ancient mariners were lost from ships in the Mediterranean during a storm, and ended up on American shores. Monroe Collins, a tenant farmer at the foot of Bunches Trace near Treadway, doesn't gave a hoot about his people's origin. He'd rather pour water into groundhot holes along the creek, flushing his quarry, and convert the animal either into stew for dinner or a pet on a leash in his yard.

Mrs. Mattie Collins, 98, who lives across a creek reached by footbridge just outside Sneedville, knows only "my people came from across the waters." Sheriff Gene Collins says he isn't a Melungeon, that he has Cherokee Indian ancestry.

Scholars over the decades, and even more recently, seem rather convinced that Melungeons sprang from Mediterranean people. Some believe they were Moors, such as Shakespeare's Othello, fleeing the wars via the sea and settling in Portugal.

Had Land Grants

All agree that these olive-skinned people - comprised of beautiful women, fine-featured and erect males, and lovely children - migrated here from the East Coast, whether their beginning was from shipwreck following mutiny, survivors of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, remnants of Hernando DeSoto's expedition in East Tennessee, or the very last of the Lost Tribes of Israel. They agree, too, that most came via North and South Carolina, in advance of the white man, many settling here with land grants following the Revolutionary War and given out by Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina.

Hancock County was in each of these states before final boundaries were drawn. The Melungeons, however, like many an American tradition, are passing, just as are some of their own traditions. Graveposts are disappearing from the cemeteries. Standing on Newman's Ridge and looking northward, Melungeon country is breath takeingly beautiful. This is so whether one looks to the left at the green valley of Little Sycamore or Snake Hollow, directly ahead toward Mulberry Gap, or to the right and the valley of the Blackwater and Vardy.

English names merely add to the mysterious legends of these hill people. One hill saying is that if a Mullins marries a Collins, their off spring is a Gibson. The Melungeons aren't so reticent anymore, or skeptical of strangers, and this is largely so because of Kermit Hunter's outdoor drama that's shown here each summer beginning July 4. "The Melungeon Story: Walk Toward the Sunset" is staged at the base of Newmans's Ridge in Sneedville. It depicts their travail and discrimination against them, from the time John Sevier found them in 1784. It tells how racial bars were broken with the marriage of a Sneedville white to a beautiful Melungeon lass.

These "people of free color" finally were permitted by the Legislature to vote! And famed author Jesse Stuart tells in his book, "Daughter of a Legend", how he dated a Melungeon when he was a student at LMU. Even today, however, Melungeons are lampooned. A recent magazine article said the drama was concocted to bilk money from tourists at a Melungeon trap that featured no Melungeons. How sad! Melungeons built the outdoor theater, helped stage the play, and performed in it. And Hancock Countians gave money and labor, signed notes for operating capital, and lost money in efforts to preserve the Melungeon culture and tradition.

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The following is from the Association of American Geographers. Annals Vol. 43 (June 1953) pp 138-55. Reprint permission granted with acknowledgment.



Los Angeles State College

A STRANGE product of the mingling of races which followed the British entry into North America survives in the presence of a number of localized strains of peoples of mixed ancestry. Presumed to be part white with varying proportions of Indian and Negro blood, ** they are recognized as of intermediate social status, sharing lot with neither white nor colored, and enjoying neither the governmental protection nor the tribal tie of the typical Indian descendants. A high degree of endogamy results from this special status, and their recognition is crystallized in the unusual group names applied to them by the country people.

The chief populations of this type are located and identified in Figure 1, which expresses their recurrence as a pattern of distribution. (1) Yet each is essentially a local phenomenon, a unique demographic body, defined only in its own terms and only by its own neighbors. A name applied to one group in one area would have no meaning relative to similar people elsewhere. This association of mixed-blood and particular place piques the geographic curiosity about a subject which, were it ubiquitous, might well be abandoned to the sociologist and social historian. What accounts for these cases of social endemism in the racially mixed population?

The total number of these mixed-bloods is probably between 50,000 and 100,000 persons. Individually recognized groups may run from fewer than 100 to as many as 18,000 persons in the case of the Croatans of North Carolina. The available records, the most useful being old census schedules,(2) indicate that the present numbers of mixed-bloods have sprung from the great reproductive increase of small intial populations. The prevalence in each group of a small number of oft-repeated surnames is in accord with such a conclusion. The ancestors of the mixed-bloods have been free people (usually "free colored" in earlier censuses) for as long as their history can be traced; it is extremly unusual to find any evidence of slavery in their main ancestral lines.

The mixed-bloods are heterogeneous in physical appearance. Some of the popu- lation in some of the groups are unmistakably negroid in some characteristics. Proof of Indian ancestry rests more on tradition than on present appearance. The dark-skinned strain, however, does not seem to be due entirely to Negro blood; other negroid traits seem less clearly prevalent than darkness of skin. Skin colors among the mixed-bloods vary from white to brown, but few are as dark as an unmixed Indian.


The Croatan Indians of North Carolina

Probable ancestors of the Croatan Indians were reported along the Lumber River at the time of the area's first settlement by Scotch people in the early 1730's,(3) and they may be identical with a lawless band of swamp-dwellers reported in 1754. (4) At least sixty-five family heads can be identified in the census of 1790, but the groups seem to have remained relatively obscure until after the Civil War when one member of the group acquired notoriety for his exploits as an outlaw.(5) The Croatans' demand for status found a champion in the person of Hamilton McMillan, a member of the legislature which conferred on them the title of "Croatan Indians," later changed to "Cherokee Indians of Robeson County" (6) over the protests of the Cherokees of eastern North Carolina. The Croatans have had their own Indian school system, separate from both white and Negro, culminating in the State Teachers' College at Pembroke. The census has tabulated them as Indians since 1890,and has shown their amazing rate of growth. (7) The Croatans are mostly small farmers engaged in growing cotton, tobacco, and corn in the western part of Robeson County, where they dominate the rural settlement. Even in their center of Pembroke, however, the business is mostly in the hands of whites, and the Croatans are resentful of their own lack of influence and status. (8) The latter is closely related to apparent or suspected presence of Negro blood, a matter which has internally compartmented the Croatan society itself. The Croatans appear in numbers in several nearby counties, and "Croatan" as a designation of race appears occasionally in the marriage records of even more distant localities.

A popularly held theory that Raleigh's Lost Colony survives in one of the mixed-blood groups usually centers on the Croatans. It is difficult to tell whether this idea has been a tradition among the Croatans, or was only popular for a time in the late nineteenth century as a device for gaining status. The case built by McMillan(9) for historical continuity of the Lost Colony and the Croatans seems to have been successfully refuted by Swanton. (10) McMillan also lists the names of the members of the Lost Colony, alleging a similarity to Robeson County names. (11) Such a similarity was not evidenced by names in the census of 1790, nor are the most frequent Croatan surnames on the Lost Colony list at all. Indeed Locklear and Oxendine, the two most common names, covering nearly a third of the Croatans,(12) seem to be virtually unique to the Croatans. They were not reported among whites in the 1790 census, and so few free colored families of those names appeared outside of Robeson County in either 1790 or 1830 that an origin among the Croatans is indicated (Fig. 2).

The density of free Negroes in 1830 was greater in Robeson County (where they were mostly Croatans) than in any other county in the southern half of North Carolina. Whatever aberration from the usual bi-racial pattern resulted in the Croatans evidently had a quantitative as well as a qualitative aspect. Whether this process was immigration, a conservative lack of emigration, high fertility, or simply an early start is an unanswered question.

The Melungeons

The Melungeons(13) centering in Hancock County, Tennessee, are sometimes said to derive from the Croatans, but the comparison of names suggests only a tenuous connection. The Melungeons reached Newman's Ridge and Blackwater Valley (in Hancock County) among the first settlers, apparently In the 1790's. The number and ages of family heads bearing the names of Collins, Gibson, and Goins in 1830 suggest that several households with these names were involved in the original migrations from North Carolina and Virginia. By 1830 the Melungeon colony included 330 persons in 55 families in Hawkins County (from which Hancock was formed) and 130 persons in 24 families in adjoining Grainger County. Because of them Hawkins County showed more free colored persons in the 1830 census than any other county in Tennessee except Davidson (Nashville) and more free colored families named Collins than any other county in the United States. A few Melungeons persisted until 1830 in Ashe County in northwestern North Carolina; the records of that area contain the earliest references to Vardy Collins, (14) said to be the first of the Melungeon settlers.

A few of the Melungeons of today resemble Indians, but more are impossible to distinguish from white mountaineers. A caste distinction persists to a considerable degree, though the Melungeons are not segregated in schools. Melungeons are found in some numbers in Lee, Scott, and Wise County, Virginia, Letcher County, Kentucky, and in Graysville, Tennessee, and occasionally on and west of the Cumberland Plateau. In these more distant localities they are not always identified as Melungeons, but bear the characteristic surnames. Historical records do not supply proof for their likely relationship to the Hancock County group, and some of these other settlements are also very old. The name of Goins is particularly associated with Melungeons living south and west of Hancock County.

The Redbones of Louisiana

Five parishes of southwest Louisiana-- Calcasieu, Rapides, Beauregard, Vernon, and Allen--include in their population a strain of mixed-bloods identified as Redbones. Louisiana, with its French background, is probably the state where mixture of white and Negro blood has been most typical; a number of concentrations of such peoples are recognized. The markedly English names of the Redbones and their Protestant religious affiliations (usually Baptist) demarcate the Redbones from all these other Louisiana mixed-bloods, with whom this study is not concerned.

The Redbones appear clearly in the earliest census records of the area as free colored persons, usually the only free colored persons with English names in the present areas. Later records identify the same persons as mulattoes; when the listed birthplace is outside of Louisiana, South Carolina is usually the state. Olmsted in 1857 (15) mentions a wealthy mulatto family of Ashworths near the border in east Texas, which is quite likely connected with the Redbones of the same name. Evidently the Redbones were mixed in blood when they came as cattle-grazers to this last-settled corner of Louisiana. Further support for believing their origin to be South Carolina stems from the facts that Redbone is an old Carolina term for mixed-bloods, (16) that several Redbone names occurred among free Negroes of South Carolina, and that several names of South Carolina mixed-bloods occurred with the Redbones in earlier censuses.

The Redbones probably number 3000 or more. They are not segregated in schools, though several rural areas and two or three villages are predominantly Redbone in population. Many of the Redbones have drifted into the towns to take various jobs in recent: years. In spite of the absence of any official recognition or rigid segregation, the Redbones form what is essentially a caste; and they are homogeneous in economic class, the small subsistence farm or labor in forest or mill providing the livelihood.

The term Redbone suggests Indian blood, which is reported to have been evident among some of the older Redbones. The status the Redbones hold and the appearance of many of the Redbones today suggest an admixture of Negro blood. No one is called a Redbone to his face, but the term is universally understood in southwest Louisiana, and the members of a Redbone family will be so tagged as long as they continue to live in the area.

The Cajans of Alabama

The nucleus of American settlement in Alabama was a small enclave on the west bank of the lower Tombigbee and Mobile Rivers which, in the early nineteenth century, was surrounded by Spanish Mobile to the south and Indian tribes on the other sides--Creek, Choctaw and Cherokee. (17)

Into this frontier came a free colored man named Reed, said to have been a mulatto from Jamaica; he married a slave woman, also a mulatto, whose freedom he later purchased, (18) and the two operated a cattle-penning center in conjunction with an inn along the road into Mississippi. The Reeds had eight children, 56 grandchildren, and at least 202 great grandchildren; (19) by today the eighth and ninth generation has appeared, and the descent of the Reeds is innumerable. A free colored couple named Byrd, who probably came into the area a little later, are known to have produced 119 great grandchildren, and a Weaver family traced back to two family heads has been equally prolific.

About half of the population of over 2000 Cajans in Mobile and Washington Counties in Alabama bear the names of Weaver, Reid, and Byrd. The descendants of these families were not numerous until after the Civil War, but their previous status of freedom and their mixed race may account for their subsequent separation from the other Negroes. Certainly their rapid growth in numbers and their intermarriage of one family with another help to explain the recognition by the white population which ultimately resulted in borrowing (with a slight rnodification in spelling) the term Cajan from Louisiana to identify them.

Today the Cajans live in a clearly circumscribed rural area of the pine forests containing about 175 square miles. Their children attend special schools provided by the counties. Perhaps another 2000 Cajans have managed to slip into towns or cities where they are not actively thrown with the core of the group.

The Cajans have not only survived, but have steadily grown in this area of change and instability. After the cattlegrazers came the lumber and railroad camps. Geronimo's Indians were detained at nearby Mt. Vernon in 1890. (20) Each of these transient groups and many others may have contributed blood to the Cajans.

The exhaustion of the forests has left the slim leavings to the Cajans. Many of them are squatters on large landholdings; most of them work in the forest industries, lumbering, turpentining, hauling logs, operating sawmills. Increasing population in an area of depleted resources cannot continue indefinitely. Some of the Cajans leave the region and pass as white in distant localities; these are usually the lighter-skinned. A conservatism tends to hold most of them near home. The emigration has not kept up with the growth by reproduction, but it probably balances occasional intermarriage with whites to keep most of the residual Cajan population moderately dark-skinned.

The Issues of Amherst County, Virginia

A concentration of several hundred Issues (a term applied to Negroes freed before the Civil War) has long been recognized at the eastern foot of the Blue Ridge near Amherst, Virginia. They are mostly a laboring group, working on the tobacco farms of the Piedmont and the apple orchards of the slopes above and as domestic servants. The mulatto ancestors of the Issues were in the area by 1785, but little is known of their history; one of the group was mentioned as a free mulatto in 1848. (21) The idea that the group has some Indian blood persists, however. (22)

Emigration, especially to New Jersey during the War, has reduced the number of Issues materially. This movement seems to be the result of the assiduousness of the Virginia Department of Vital Statistics in its campaign to label as Negroes in all official records those with any fraction of Negro ancestry. This threat to their previous intermediate status was distasteful. A possibly related group have been mountain farmers on Irish Creek on the western side of the Blue Ridge; they have not been excluded from white schools in Rockbridge County.

The Guineas of West Virginia

Most of the Guineas (23) live in Barbour and Taylor Counties in north central West Virginia, but they are known in several other counties also. This is an area of very few other colored people; though the Guineas attend the colored schools, they have resisted this segregation and would probably resist more forcibly if the schools had more Negro children and Negro teachers. The 1600 or more Guineas in Barbour and Taylor Counties are mostly peasant farmers, coal miners, day laborers, and domestic servants. A very few are wealthy. They live in several rural concentrations where their ownership of land dates from early in the nineteenth century, (24) in others where they have more recently replaced whites, and in some numbers in the towns.

Several surnames belong almost exclusively to Guineas in this area, but nearly half the group are named Mayle (formerly spelled Mail, Male, etc.). (25) There are several traditions of Indian blood among the Guineas, but the records confirm only the "colored" and mulatto mixtures. The records of the Guineas' ancestors all trace back to Virginia (then including West Virginia); they were in the western part of the state well before 1800. The mixed-bloods seem to have reached this area from several different directions before their increase to the present population. The Mayles, and perhaps other Guinea families came from Hampshire County, where they may have been people of some means. Just when the Mayle family became mixed-blooded is not clear, but it evidently occurred before 1810, when they had already started moving westward into the Plateau. The census evidence indicates that all of the Mayles of the Guinea group, numbering over 700 in Barbour and Taylor Counties, are either actual or legal descendants of one man. Most of the Guinea settlement in Taylor County has developed from Barbour County in the last two generations, and more recently the Guineas have settled in some numbers in several Ohio cities and in Detroit.

The Wesorts of Maryland

A vaguely defined mixed-blood group known as Wesorts (26) form part of the population of the southeastern peninsula of Maryland west of Chesapeake Bay, within an hour's drive of Washington. Their number is estimated at between 750 and 3000. Their children attend both white and colored schools. Twenty-six Wesort surnames have been identified, most of which were among the 54 family names of free colored persons in the area in 1790; most of the names were also, common among whites of the area at the same time.

The Moors and Nanticokes of Delaware

Two mixed groups, probably related to one another, live chiefly in Delaware. (27) The Moors numbering about 500, are in a suburb of Dover, and the Nanticokes. numbering about 700, live in the southeast part of the state near the estuary of the Indian River. The former support themselves from various wage jobs, while the latter have retained their modest farms in the Indian River Hundred. Most of their children attend an assortment of special schools, both public and private, which has resulted from internal differences and misunderstandings with officials.

The Nanticoke leaders have recently tried to revive their Indian birthright through the formation of the Nanticoke Indian Association. In spite of the fact that their economy has made use of a surprising number of Indian culture traits, (28) there is little evidence at hand to connect them directly with the aborigines of Delaware. Their claim to Indian status seems neither stronger nor weaker than that of several other mixed-blood groups.

The Jackson Whites of New York and New Jersey

The Jackson Whites, the only large mixed group of the North, is the only one whose members have been willing to throw in their lot with the Negroes, though they do not class themselves with the colored population at large. Though within easy commuting distance of New York City (Bergen County, New Jersey, and Rockland County, New York), their existence has apparently depended historically on a refuge in the fault-bounded Ramapo Hills. Their names of Mann, DeGroat, DeFreese, and Van Dunk suggest a relation to the Dutch settlers of New York; all of these names but the last are old (29) in the area, while a de Vries appeared in a seventeenth century reference (30) as a free Negro.

The early history of the Jackson Whites is obscure, and no hypotheses or theories (31) seem to find much confirmation in records. The people seem to have supported themselves on the mountain during the nineteenth century by farming and producing forest products such as charcoal, baskets, barrel staves, brooms, and wooden tools. (32) Missionary work on the mountain and increased job opportunities in the lowlands have made the Jackson Whites a part of modern society. Most of them have moved into the lowland towns and taken jobs in the shops and mills. Segregation in a colored grade school in one of the New York communities was ended in 1947. Traditions among the Jackson Whites themselves indicate either a very diverse ethnic background or a complete confusion over the actual truth.


Nineteen separate groups of mixed-blood peoples have been identified on the Coastal Plain of South Carolina. (33) Typically they live somewhat apart from other groups in rural settings with their own clusters of shacks. Their employment is mostly in agricultural labor. In most cases special schools are provided.

The groups may have formed around the small lowland Indian tribes as nuclei, picking up both white and Negro blood. (34) Characteristic names are recognized in each locality, but certain names tend to be common in several counties, sometimes linking the South Carolina groups with Croatans and other larger groups. The South Carolina mixed-bloods, on the whole, are said to be making gains toward white status. A number of group names--e.g., Brass Ankles, Redbones; Redlegs, Buckheads, Turks--are applied locally to these peoples. Their social differentiation seems to be a pattern of long standing in South Carolina.

North Carolina is also prominent on the map of mixed-bloods. Its school directory lists 27 Indian schools. (35) Goins is the chief surname among a scattering of alleged mixed-bloods in Surry, Stokes, and Rockingham Counties, North Carolina, and adjoining Patrick County, Virginia. Though one Indian school is maintained for these people, they have, in at least one case, won suit for admission to white schools. Usually they attend white schools and are distinguished only socially by their neighbors. Their total number is at least several hundred. The compact land ownership around Gointown in Rockingham County suggests it as being of longest standing as a center for this strain; land records carry them back in that part of the county to its formation in 1786. A similar situation occurs in Moore County in southern North Carolina with the difference that the Goinses and their associates are classed as Negro, but mix little with other Negroes.

Magoffin County in the Kentucky Mountains has a small mixed-blood popula- tion considered to be of Indian mixture. (36) They are noted in the county as mountain farmers with large families whom they are able to maintain without apparent means of support. The people have been in the county as long as records have been maintained. Their surnames have all been associated with Melungeons in the records, though some of the early Magoffin County mixed-bloods were themselves born in Virginia and North Carolina. A colony of the Magoffin County group planted itself near Carmel, Ohio, about the time of the Civil War. At the very edge of the Appalachians, they built their shacks in the hills where they obtained shelter, wood, game, and ginseng, providing farm labor at times on the more fertile plains. Some of the group are now rooted in Carmel, but close contact is yet maintained with relatives in Magoffin County.

Ohio has a second small group living in the rich Corn Belt land of Darks County. Admittedly part Negro, members of this group are descended from ancestors who began settlement there by 1822. A number of families, all of whom came from the southeast, apparently found here an escape from the anomalous position of the free Negro in the slave states. The colony is fairly prosperous although the farms are somewhat smaller than the average about them; subdivision through inheritance probably accounts for this condition.

Other small mixed-blood groups are indicated on the map in Figure 1.


The mixed-blood groups generally appear to have arisen from diverse sources. Where records are available, they indicate that the ancestors of the present mixed- bloods, coming into their present areas at the time of American settlement, were themselves mixed. The mixing must have had a beginning, of course; the old records are lacking for the easternmost groups where settlement was earlier. The surnames of the mixed-blood people are usually distinctive in their areas; if their names are taken from white people, such event seems to pre-date settlement in the present areas.

The mixed-blood groups are not closely associated with particular physical refuge areas in most cases; more broadly, however, Figure1 shows that most of them live in the Coastal Plain and Appalachian Provinces--areas generally marginal in soil fertility and irregular in utility, accessibility and settlement. Though typically, but not entirely, a Southern phenomenon, mixed-blood groups are not typical of the old Cotton Belt, but rather outline its edges. Borders of some nature seem to be favorite locations. The Redbones near the old Texas border, the Jackson Whites, Issues, and Carmel groups near borders between hills and plains, the Cajans on the old Spanish frontier, and many groups near state boundaries may be locationally related to the meeting of two worlds.

The conservative nature of these groups is evidenced by the fact that the boys who saw service during the second World War, usually in white units, have regularly returned to their homes. One stream of mixed-bloods does leave the focal areas to pass as white in cities and elsewhere, ultimately losing touch completely with the original group. The home areas often present limited opportunity in the economic niches open to the mixed-bloods. Some expand in a real extent, some in replacing white groups, but generally their populations are restricted, and their increase as identifiable mixed-bloods does not approach their actual reproductive growth.

Many of the mixed-blood groups seem unrelated or unimportantly related one to the other. Perhaps they represent similar responses to similar social conditions, each in a different area. The records of the surnames and birthplaces, however, tie a number of the groups together: the Croatans and many small groups of the Carolinas and Virginia; the Melungeons; the Redbones; the mixed-bloods of Magoffin County; and the two small groups mentioned in Ohio.

Though certain facts concerning the origin of these peoples have been traced, the questions of who they were and why they displayed this unusual clannishness have hardly been touched. The relationships mentioned suggest the hypothesis of a colonial mixed-blood society having origin in Virginia and the Carolinas, consisting of a number of localized concentrations as well as floaters who served to maintain or effect both blood and social ties between the sedentary groups. Though the early groups certainly grew by accretion, chance colonization of a few members of this society in a new location may have been the necessary condition for a new localization of the same type. They seem to have moved westward into and across the Appalachians with the general stream of population. It is difficult to trace specific parenthood of one group by another, but numerous interrelationships are indicated by the records.


The records needed to probe the origin and nature of this society are, if ex- istent, not available through the common indices and card catalogues. Perhaps they may be accidentally turned up. Some suggestive fragments are herewith presented.

The Goins Family

The name Goins seems to be a peculiar marker of these mixed-bloods. It has already been mentioned in connection with the Melungeons and certain strains in North Carolina. It is prominent among the mixed-bloods of Darke County, Ohio, and was associated with the Redbones in what is now Calcasieu Parish. It is a minor name among the Croatans and is the chief name among a mixed-blood group with a special school in Williamsburg County, South Carolina. Further, Goins is an unusual name; though many whites are named Goins, it occurred with a much greater frequency among free colored persons in 1830 (2.8 per thousand) than among the population at large in 1790 (0.1 per thousand in six populous Southern and Middle states).

Over a hundred free colored families named Goins were well scattered in 1830 through the South and southern parts of the Northern border states (Fig, 3). The two greatest concentrations occurred in the Melungeon area and the North Carolina-Virginia Piedmont where so many are found today. The former was almost certainly derived from the latter. (37) The concentration in central Virginia may be older than these, but is not known to have persisted. The Goins name arrived in Virginia early, (38) one "Tho. Gowen" having been listed as a passenger on the Globe in 1635. (39) One account of the better known branch of the family (40) has them spreading southward from a center in Stafford County, Virginia. A colored servant, Mihill Gowen, was released after four years of service in 1657; (41) It may be noted that Gowen had not been the name of his mistress. The same unusual name (Mihil Goen) crops up again in 1718 in James City County as former owner of escheat land being patented by another man. (42) A muster roll of a Granville County, North Carolina, regiment in 1754 singled out five men in one company as mulattoes; three of them were named Gowen. (43) A roster of North Carolina Revolutionary soldiers of 1778 lists a Gowan as a mulatto. (44) A 1792 entry in a deed book of Fairfeld County, South Carolina, (45) records the fact that Levi Goyen made his friend John Goyen his attorney for handling a parcel of land in "Daverson Co. N.C. aforesaid land being first in the hands of David Goyen decd. free Mallatto went to Cumberland River in the year 1770 and were killed by the Indians in the year 1780 and left the said Mallatto Levi Goyen his proper heir...." The records available leave open the possibility that a branch of the Gowen family emerged as free mixed-bloods in the seventeenth century. Russell uses Milhill Gowen (46) to illustrate his contention that the early Negro servitude was usually an indenture rather than a permanent slavery. Can the mixed-bloods have had such an origin as free men, maintaining ever since the social barrier against the freed slaves? Certainly such a phenomenon as the Goins family must have a definite story behind it, but has it made its way into the records?

No real center of the Goins mixed-bloods can be identified antedating their concentration in the upper Piedmont. It is understood that the settlement of these counties was mostly from Virginia; this is in keeping with the above observation on southward spread of the Gowen family. The oldest Goinses recorded in the North Carolina portion of this district in the 1850 census were born in Virginia.

The Chavis Family

Another widespread name among mixed-bloods is Chavis (Chavous, Chavers, probably Shavers, etc.) (Fig. 4). Whereas Goins was more frequent among free colored people than whites, Chavis was also more numerous among the free colored. One free Negro of the name rose to fame as an educator. (47) Chavis is a prominent Croatan name. It has been reported in South Carolina as a mixed-blood name, e.g., In Orangeburg County, and its association with the Melungeons and Redbones is suggested by the records. A Granville County muster roll of 1754 lists three members of the family, one as a Negro, the other two (at least one a son of the first) as mulattoes. (48) Colored slaveholders of the name were identified in Virginia by Jackson (49) in Charlotte County and Russell (50) in Mecklenburg County. They are identified as South Carolina frontiersmen in 1751 and 1752. (51) Again an interesting story should unfold could the family and name be traced to their beginnings.

A number of other names seem to be frequent tracers of people of these mixed- blood castes, not only in the Carolinas and Virginia, but also in other states to their west. Bass, Epps, Scott, Bell, Sweat, and Revels are good examples. In addition there are less definite suggestions or fewer cases of still other names of which the following may be given as examples: Bolton, Braveboy, Cumbo, Harris, Newsom, Russell. Many of these names are common among whites and are of no use in the present connection unless identified as separate from their occurrence in the population at large.

An example of the suggestive co-occurrence of several of these names may be found in a document of 1822. (52) A list of free people of color in Richland District, South Carolina, delinquent in the personal tax expected of them in 1821 and 1822 includes prominently the names of Oxendine, Locklier, Chavis, Sweat(Redbones and South Carolina groups), Gibson (Melungeons), and Jacobs. The last name is important in a mixed-blood group in Richland County today, a group of localized residents known as Sandhillers; it is also the name of probably a few hundred Croatans. Accompanying the list of delinquents is a petition to the House of Representatives on the estate of the then late district sheriff, begging release from the payment of the uncollected tax because "the time allowed by the Law for the return of these Executions is so short, and the difficulty of finding them on account of the peculiar situation of their place of residence, is such, that it was impossible for the Sheriff to collect.... (53) A seclusion of the mixed-bloods in an inaccessible location is definitely implied, yet their separation was not so perfect that the sheriff did not have a list of their names. The people with whom the sheriff was timid about dealing were likely the ancestors of the present Sandhillers; they almost certainly included some Croatan families, and the names suggest connection with other mixed- bloods too.

The social attitude of these mixed-bloods must have been such that they found it congenial to take up with others of their own kind. They seem to have persisted in the static societies of rural areas stimulated perhaps by tradition of Indian blood or pride of early freedom. (54)

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

USGenWeb Project

The USGenWeb Project is a free genealogy service that focuses on the United States.  The genealogy information is organized by county and state; under each state there is a list of all of that state’s genealogy websites.  Vital records, military archives, tombstones, and even old newspaper records are all available online.

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