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RE: [jacksongenealogy] THE MEANING OF M in the 1850 and 1860 Federal Censuses

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  • Jimmie Ryan
    Cuz Billy their seems to be a DNA Project, you might think about having a DNA test to see what Indian Group you belong to... thanks Ann, for those that do not
    Message 1 of 3 , Nov 4, 2011
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      Cuz Billy their seems to be a DNA Project, you might think about having a DNA test to see what Indian Group you belong to... thanks Ann, for those that do not have a clue of what Melungeon were (as I was) here is part of the Wikipedia definition... very interesting.

      Cuz Jimmie

      From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melungeon

      Melungeon (play /məˈlʌndʒən/ mə-lun-jən) is a term traditionally applied to one of a number of "tri-racial isolate" groups of the Southeastern United States, mainly in the Cumberland Gap area of central Appalachia, which includes portions of East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and East Kentucky. Tri-racial describes populations thought to be of mixed European, sub-Saharan African, and Native American ancestry. Although there is no consensus on how many such groups exist, estimates range as high as 200.[1][2]

      DNA testing of Melungeon descendants has been limited, but the Melungeon DNA Project, which has made its results public, so far shows overwhelming mixed European and sub-Saharan African haplotypes of females and males in several families traditionally identified as Melungeon and considered so by researchers.


      The ancestry and identity of Melungeons are highly controversial subjects. There is wide disagreement among secondary sources as to their ethnic, linguistic, cultural, and geographic origins and identity, as they were and are of mixed ancestry. They might accurately be described as a loose collection of families of diverse origins who migrated, settled nearby and intermarried with one another, mostly in Hancock County, Tennessee and nearby areas of Kentucky. Their ancestors can often be traced back to North Carolina and Virginia. The U.S. census has a category for Melungeon, tabulated under "Some Other Race 600-999." Many scholars do not think Melungeons should be classified as a distinct ethnicity and describe them instead as one of numerous multiracial groups with origins in mixed unions, especially in colonial Virginia.

      Melungeons are defined as having racially mixed ancestry; they do not exhibit characteristics that can be classified as of a single racial phenotype. Most modern-day descendants of Appalachian families traditionally regarded as Melungeon are generally European American in appearance, often, though not always, with dark hair and eyes, and a swarthy or olive complexion. Descriptions of Melungeons have varied widely over time; in the 19th and early 20th century, they were sometimes called "Portuguese," "Native American," or "light-skinned African American." Other Melungeon individuals and families are accepted as white, particularly since the mid-20th century.[3]

      A factor in the variation in descriptions is the lack of consensus on who should be included under the term Melungeon. Almost every contemporary author on this subject gives a slightly different list of Melungeon-associated surnames, but the Irish surname Collins and English surname Gibson appear most frequently; the genealogist Pat Elder calls them "core" surnames.[citation needed] Other researchers include the surnames Powell, LeBon, Bowling, Bunch, Goins, Goodman, Heard, Minor, Mise, Mullins, and several others. (Family lines have to be researched as not all families with these surnames are Melungeon). Not all families of each surname have been of the same racial background. Each line must be examined individually. The answer to the question "Who or what are Melungeons?" depends largely on which families are included under that designation.

      The original meaning of the word "Melungeon" is not obscure (see Etymology below). From about the mid-19th to the late 20th centuries, it referred exclusively to one tri-racial isolate group, the descendants of the multiracial Collins, Gibson, and several other related families of Newman's Ridge, Vardy Valley, and other settlements in and around Hancock County, Tennessee.[citation needed]
      [edit] Origins
      [edit] A complex question

      The likely background to the mixed-race families later to be called "Melungeons" was the emergence in the Chesapeake Bay region in the 17th century of what the historian Ira Berlin (1998) calls "Atlantic Creoles." These were the descendants of unions of freed slaves (sometimes of mixed race) and indentured servants, who were primarily of English, Northern European and West African ancestry. Some of these "Atlantic Creoles" in the charter generation in the colonies were culturally partly what today might be called "Hispanic" or "Latino", whose paternal ancestors had been Portuguese or Spanish men who had children with African women in African ports. Their mixed-race descendants bore names such as "Chavez," "Rodriguez," and "Francisco," and the men often worked in the slave trade, some coming to the American colonies. Some mixed-race creoles intermarried with their English neighbors, adopted English surnames, and owned slaves. To a lesser extent, some intermarried with Native Americans. Early colonial America was very much a "melting pot" of peoples, but not all of these early multiracial families were ancestral to the later Melungeons. Over the generations, most individuals of the group called Melungeon were of European and African ancestries.

      A commonly held myth about the Melungeons of east Tennessee was that they were an indigenous people of Appalachia who lived there before the arrival of the first white settlers. Instead, scholars have documented by a variety of historic records that the earliest Melungeon ancestors migrated from Virginia, as did their Anglo-American neighbors. Paul Heinegg has traced free people of color families on the frontier in the censuses of 1790–1810 and found that most were descended from African Americans free in Virginia in colonial times, the families of working-class white women (who were indentured servants or free) and African men, free, indentured servants or slaves. A minority were descended from slaves who had been manumitted.[4]
      [edit] Evidence

      Free people of color, sometimes mixed-race families, are documented as migrating with European-American neighbors in the first half of the 18th century to the frontier of Virginia and to North and South Carolina. The Collins, Gibson, and Ridley (Riddle) families owned land adjacent to one another in Orange County, North Carolina, where they and the Bunch family were listed as "free Molatas (mulattos)", taxable on tithes in 1755. By settling in frontier areas, free people of color found more amenable living conditions and could escape some of the racial strictures of plantation areas.[5]

      The historian Jack D. Forbes has noted about laws in South Carolina related to racial classification:

      "In 1719, South Carolina decided who should be an "Indian" for tax purposes since American [Indian] slaves were taxed at a lesser rate than African slaves. The act stated: "And for preventing all doubts and scruples that may arise what ought to be rated on mustees, mulattoes, etc. all such slaves as are not entirely Indian shall be accounted as negro." This is an extremely significant passage because it clearly asserts that "mustees" and "mulattoes" were persons of part American [Indian] ancestry. My judgment (to be discussed later) is that a mustee was primarily part-African and American [Indian] and that a mulatto was usually part-European and American [Indian]. The act is also significant because it asserts that part-American [Indians] with or without African ancestry could be counted as Negroes, thus having an implication for all later slave censuses."[6] [Note: This source applies only to South Carolina, not to Virginia or North Carolina, the main places of Melungeon origin.]

      Beginning about 1767, some of the ancestors of the Melungeons moved from the Tidewater area northwest to the frontier New River area of Virginia, where they are listed on tax lists of Montgomery County, Virginia, in the 1780s. From there they migrated south in the Appalachian Range to Wilkes County, North Carolina, where some are listed as "white" on the 1790 census. They resided in a part of that county which became Ashe County, where they are designated as "other free" in 1800.[citation needed]

      Not long after, Collins and Gibson families (identified as Melungeon ancestors) were members of the Stony Creek Primitive Baptist Church in nearby Scott County, Virginia, where they appear to have been treated as social equals of the white members. The earliest documented use of the term "Melungeon" is found in the minutes of this church (see Etymology below).[7] While there are historical references to the documents, the originals have not been found, and evidence came from a transcribed copy.[citation needed]

      From Virginia and North Carolina, the families crossed into Kentucky and Tennessee. The earliest known Melungeon in Northeast Tennessee was Millington Collins, who executed a deed in Hawkins County in 1802. Several Collins and Gibson households appeared in Floyd County, Kentucky, in 1820, when they are listed as "free persons of color". On the 1830 censuses of Hawkins and Grainger County, Tennessee, Collins and Gibson families are listed as "free-colored".[8] Melungeons were residents of the part of Hawkins that became Hancock County in 1844.[8]

      Contemporary accounts documented that Melungeon ancestors were considered to be mixed race by appearance. During the 18th and early 19th centuries, census enumerators designated them as "mulatto," "other free," or as "free persons of color." Sometimes they were listed as "white," sometimes as "black" or "negro", but almost never as "Indian." One family described as "Indian" was the Melungeon-related Ridley family, listed as such on a 1767 Pittsylvania County, Virginia, tax list,[9] though they had been designated "mulattos" in 1755.[10] During the 19th century, due to their intermarriage with white families and descendants of increasingly white appearance, Melungeon-surnamed families began to be classified as white on census records with increasing frequency, a trend that has continued to the present. In 1935, a state of Nevada newspaper anecdotally described Melungeons as "mulattoes" with "straight hair".[11]

      Richard Allen Carlson, a researcher of the group known as the "Salyersville Indians" in Magoffin and Clark counties, Kentucky, which is a different population, found the following:

      "The historical and anthropological evidence ... suggests that in general a significant portion (though not necessarily all) of the ancestry of the Magoffin and Clark counties, Kentucky and Highland County, Ohio enclaves [of mixed-race people] originated principally from an admixture of Native American, African Americans and Whites in the early colonial period (from the late 17th century until about 1800) and secondarily from an admixture with presently known Native American groups in the mid-Atlantic coast region."[12] (Note: This source is specific to its definition; it does not refer to the ancestors of Melungeons, who first settled in Hawkins County, Tennessee.)

      [edit] Assimilation

      Researchers have shown that the historical evidence through numerous court records demonstrates that the Melungeon families sought to identify as and to be accepted as white.[13] An example is the marriage patterns of the Joshua Perkins family of Johnson County, Tennessee, whose descendants Paul Heinegg traced. He showed that generations of the family had married white or mulatto people, which led to increasingly European-American or white appearance among descendants.[14]

      As the scholar Ariela Gross has shown by analysis of court cases, the shift from "mulatto" to "white" was often dependent upon appearance and community perception of a person's activities in life, who one associated with, and whether the person fulfilled the obligations of citizens. Census takers often were people of a community or classified individuals as they were known by the community.[13] Definitions of racial categories were often imprecise and ambiguous, especially for "mulatto" and "free person of color." In the British North American colonies and the United States at various times in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, "mulatto" could mean a mixture of African and European, African and Native American, European and Native American, or all three. At the same time, these groups did marry with each other, and there were questions about which culture took precedence, if any. Many Native American tribes were organized around matrilineal lines.

      The loose terminology contributed to the disappearance from historical records of remnant non-reservation American Indians in the Upper South, who were generally not recorded separately as Indians. They were gradually reclassified as mulatto or free people of color, especially as generations intermarried with neighbors. In the early decades of the 20th century, Virginia and some other states passed more restrictive laws that required all persons to be classified only as white or black. After Virginia passed its Racial Integrity Act of 1924, officials went so far as to alter existing birth and marriage records to reclassify some mixed-race individuals or families from Indian to black. The historical documentation of continuity of self-identified Native American families was lost. This process of loss of historical and cultural continuity appeared to have happened also with some of the non-reservation remnant Indians of Delaware.[15]

      -----Original Message-----
      From: jacksongenealogy@yahoogroups.com [mailto:jacksongenealogy@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Ann B. Chambless
      Sent: Friday, November 04, 2011 6:38 AM
      To: jacksongenealogy@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [jacksongenealogy] THE MEANING OF M in the 1850 and 1860 Federal Censuses

      Since the only 3 designations for census enumerators taking the 1850 and
      1860 censuses were white, mulatto, and black, the census enumerators
      did not know how to handle the Melungeons. Several years ago, two
      different Evans family researchers told me Evans family who settled in the Allison/Big Coon area were Melungeons whose ancestors were from
      South Caroliana. I noticed in the 1860 census that the matriarch of
      the Evans family had an M by her name. However, her sons (Samuel and
      Obadiah) did not. We all know the oldest generations of Melungeons were
      dark skinned. In 1850 and 1860 in Jackson County, Alabama, I seriously
      doubt any of the census enumerators knew much, if anything, about the Melungeon population in other parts of the United States. Therefore, it is possible Mattie J. Evans Sanders may have inherited some of her grandmother Evans' Melungeon genes.
      Ann B. Chambless

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


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