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Tri-Racials of the Upper South

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  • multiracialbookclub
    The Tri-Racial People of the Upper South [Go to fullsize image] (SOURCE: (Book) `Black-Indian Genealogy Research. African Ancestors Among the Five Civilized
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 9 11:01 PM
      The Tri-Racial People

      of the Upper South

      Go to fullsize image

      (SOURCE: (Book) `Black-Indian Genealogy Research.
      African Ancestors Among the Five Civilized Tribe's, by Angela
      Y. Walton-Raji, and published by Heritage Books in 1993.)

      Perhaps one of the most valuable pieces
      of genealogical research about Africans
      and Indians outside the Indian Territory
      of the West has emerged from the
      work of Dr. Virginia Easley De Marce.

      The National Genealogical Society Quarterly of
      March 1992 featured an article by Dr. DeMarce
      in which she discussed what she referred  to
      as "Tri-Racial Isolates" of the Upper South.

      The Upper South, consisting of Virginia ,
      the Carolinas . Kentucky , and Tennessee .

      Her work is essential for any African-American
      researchers whose ancestors may not be from the
      Five Civilized Tribes, but whose family is still
      known to have Native American ancestry. 

      Her piece is entitled, "Verry(sic)  Slightly Mixt: 
      Tri-Racial Isolate Families of the Upper South.
      A Genealogical Study."(1)

      The work is essential because Dr. DeMarce
      closely identifies and examines the
      migration pattern of these groups. 

      It is from this understanding of the Tri-Racial
      population that individuals may be  able to
      penetrate the realm of possible Indian ancestry.

      Her work is mentioned here because there are thousands
      of African-Americans from Virginia to the Carolinas
      who claim Native American Ancestry, yet have no
      direction as to where to document this relationship

      The effort to trace Indian ancestry from 
      the Upper South is probably the more
      challenging areas of Black-Indian Genealogy.

      Unlike the extensive records to be found on the Five
      Civilized Tribes, there was a deliberate effort to
      eliminate other tribes, particularly the smaller
      ones officially eliminating them from the census.

      In the 1800s it was not uncommon to
      learn that many were simply "terminated".

      The result was that Indian families were listed
      in the Census as Mulattoes or White, depending
      -- in many instances -- on  the complexion
      of the persons being enumerated.

      This official "termination" gave the [false]
      impression that the population in many
      areas was either "black" or `White', and that
      the Indigenous Populations had become extinct.

      Marriages and Migration Patterns

      African/Indian Mixtures

      Relations between Blacks and Indians have been
      known to have occurred as far back as the 1600s.

      [T]here were nations that did establish a pattern
      of intermarrying with both Blacks and Whites.

      For example, on the Eastern Shore area of
      Virginia … the Gingaskins were intermarrying
      into both the White and Black communities.

      And both Whites and Blacks were known to have married
      into the Nottoway according to the Census of 1808.

      This particular Census was made by tribal
      trustees who had first hand knowledge.

      However, the "black" participants in `legally-recognized'
      marriages were primarily free "blacks", thus
      allowing them some freedom to intermarry.

      After the Civil War, intermarrying continued,
      -- even though in many places it was `illegal'.

      But when intermarrying occurred there seemed to be
      a pattern of selectivity with Bi-Racial offspring, who
      usually selected a spouse from other Bi-Racial groups.

      This marriage pattern led to the [formerly]
      Bi-Racial families (Indian/White, Indian/
      Black, White/Black) becoming Tri-Racial.

      This need to find "suitable" Mixed-Race
      spouses contributed to the need to move
      more frequently than the general population.

      For example, the Baltrip, or Boltrip family was
      commonly found in the central part of
      Carolina , but later appears as a free `Colored'
      family in Wilkins County farther to the west.

      This comes as no surprise as it has not been
      unusual in African-American families to note
      that many Mulattos have also practiced the
      pattern of marrying exclusively

      Tri-Racial Groups

      Certain nicknames are given to describe
      Tri-Racial groups and these labels are
      used today throughout the South.

      Labels such as Brass Ankles, Red Bones,
      Lumbees and Turks are among the common
      names used in reference to the Tri-Racial people.

      Other names are Guineas , the
      Haliwas, and the Melungeons.


      The families in those groups were Bi-Racial or Tri-Racial
      and married as a general rule with other Mixed families.

      For example the Goins clan a long standing family of
      Tri-Racial people form Tennessee were known to have
      lived with and intermarried frequently with other
      groups such as the Red Bones, of Louisiana.(2)

      Over the years, Indian / White, and Indian / Black
      Mixtures existed but there were entire towns
      where these Mixed people predominated

      Usually the Mixed population lived in a European
      culture, speaking English, practicing Christianity
      and giving European surnames to their offspring.

      Thus the merger of cultures contributed to
      the loss of Indian languages and traditions.

      Most Tri-Racial families are
      either [socio-politically speaking]
      "White"-`identified'  or "Black"-`identified'
      families, though genetically -- and
      historically -- they are Tri-Racial.

      Notes on Searching for Tri-Racial Ancestors

      DeMarce does make the effort to identify
      certain surnames of specific groups.

      For example, the Louisiana Red Bones frequently have
      the surname Willis, Sweat Ashworth, or Perkins.(3) 

      It will be helpful to become acquainted with the
      surnames from these groups but the challenge
      exists in identifying Indian ancestors.

      Fortunately there are some leads that
      may assist the researcher in this effort.

      The researcher is cautioned that this quest
      will be extremely since the documentation
      just doesn't exist for Tri-Racial groups.

      Of course if one has the benefit of an oral tradition in
      the family that gives the name of an Indian ancestor,
      then one has already moved ahead in the research.

      Obviously once an Indian ancestor has been found
      one might want to learn the history of that specific
      Indian nation, becoming familiar with the common
      surnames found in that group, and relate their
      family history to the history of that Indian group.

      A possible pitfall exists here for the genealogist.

      The search for Indian ancestors from the Tri-Racial
      might steer the researcher into a frantic search to
      prove or to disprove a specific racial composition.

      It is essential to keep the focus on the
      search for the names of those ancestors,
      regardless of their racial composition

      Dr. DeMarce spoke very tactfully of the fact that
      her research might not have been published several
      years earlier, because many would not have
      wanted their Mixed ancestry to be known,
      preferring to blend into
      the `White' population.

      This phenomena is common among many
      Mixed populations and was known
      among African-Americans as "passing".

      Among Indian-Whites the practice
      was to deny the Indian ancestry,
      while with some Mulatto or
      Indian / Black populations may have
      been to deny the African ancestry.

      This is not unlike many immigrant populations
      who discouraged their children from speaking
      the mother tongue, with the intention to
      blend with the majority as soon as possible.

      Contributing Indian Tribes

      There are many nations among whom [many members
      of the African-American Ethnicity] can claim ancestry.

      For example it is not unusual to hear many
      [members of the African-American Ethnicity]
      of the coastal states referring to Pamunkey
      ancestors and others referring to the Lumbees.(4)

      In such cases, traditional census records will be
      essential and careful notation should be made when
      one finds the Mulatto ancestor who may have indeed
      have been an Indian from one of the `coastal tribes'.

      Oddly, it is common to hear many African-American make
      references to being descendants of the Blackfoot Indians.

      There has not been any indication that the Blackfoot
      Indians ever lived outside of the Montana and Canadian
      region, and the assertion of  family ties to this nation
      is perplexing and may be more figurative than actual.

      DeMarce points out that the following nations of
      Indians contributed to the Tri-Racial isolate groups:

      Chickahominy, Gingaskin, Mattapony, Nansemond,
      Nanticoke , Nottaway , Pamunkey, Rappahanocks,
      Saponi, Weanick, Werowocomo.

      There are some specific surname patterns
      that appear in the Tri-Racial communities.

      But De Marce cautions the researcher to avoid
      concluding too hastily that a relationship
      exists just because the surname is the same.

      On the other hands, she acknowledges that a specific
      pattern of name dispersal in a limited population may
      indicate which groups might be considered as isolates.

      As as result, her illustration of the tendency of the groups to
      intermingle among other similarly mixed groups and not on
      a regular basis to re-marry into the original racial group
      makes them no only isolated, from their original racial
      group, but also identifies them as isolate groups.

      End Notes
      1.  DeMarce, Viginia Easley,
      Verry Slightly Mixt: Tri-Racial Isolate Families of the Upper
      South. A Genealogical Study
      National Genealogical
      Society Quarterly, March 1992, p 5 - 35.

      2. The surname Goins is a variation of the
      group name Melungeons or Meleungoins.

      3. Mills, Gary B. Tracing Free People of Color in the Antebellum
      The National Genealogical Society Quarterly, December 1990. 
      In this work, Mills discusses the origin of some families of
      free people of color in  Louisiana , such as the Goins, Chavis,
      Locklear, Hunt, Ivey, Kennedy, Scott and Sampson families.
      Some of these names are also those of free non-Whites of Alabama

      4 The Lumbee Indians are still seeking official tribal recognition.
      (A List of the surnames of the Tri-Racial families appears as
      an Appendix in the book, Black Indian Genealogy Research.
      African Ancestors Among the Five Civilized Tribes)

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