this site last updated 25 October 2008
The above picture is of Confederate soldier, Vardy Collins. Below you will find Karen's lecture on the Melungeons.
Most families in the Southern part of North America in some way have family roots to the Melungeons. So lets start from the Beginning . Where did the Melungeons come from? That is a good question . Some call the Melungeons the " Lost People " or the "Mysterious " people of Appalachia. There are a lot of stories of where the Melungeons came from . I will try to explain a few. They say that they are decended from the "Lost Colony of Roanoke" who married into the local Native American tribes. Others say that they were descendants of Welsh explorer Modoc who came to North America around 1100 AD, with ten ships of colonists . Still others say that Melungeons are the lost tribe of Isreal,lost Spanish explores and just simply a "tri -racial isolate, made up of Native American/ African American/Caucasian mixture. " But then there are those that say they were Portuguese .
The Melungeons according to Brent Kennedy writer of " The Melungeons , the Resurrection of a Proud People." suggested that the Melungeons were stating fact when they said they were " Portyghee" . Saying that Portuguese/Morrish people who were being increasingly attacked during the Spanish Inquisition were a large part of the settlers Spain brought to this country in the 1500's .
The largest bans of Native Americans to intermarry with the settlers were the Cherokee, Powhatans and the Pamunkeys. These people migrated westward in front of the imagrants and on the way married with other groups, possibly escaped slaves, English, English/Native Americans and Scotch /Irish. The language that they spoke was broken or Elizabethan English . Their features were said to be from Dark skin to Light skin ,eyes could be Brown or Steel Blue in color while the hair could be Brown ,Black or Blonde. This comes from intermarrying .
When the white people caught up with them in Tennessee Kentucky and other Southern States they did not like them around and the sad part is that for these people they were deemed "Free Persons Of Color " and laws were made and set up to deprive the Melungeons of their basic rights. Such as the right to Vote, the right to own land , and the right for their children to have an education . Being Melungeon was not the best way to get ahead in those times. Many of them hid their ancestry with other "covers" that could account for their dark features, saying that they were " Black Dutch , Black Irish" or having " Native American ancestory"
Today trying to find your Melungeon ties is not easy . Here is a few ways you can get some help or tell if there is Melungeon ancestry in your roots. Check census records for changes ,ie from FPC to white , to Mulatto, to Indian and back again . This is not for the direct lines but your Aunts , Uncles and Cousins . Families would change to protect the children and also so that they could own land and vote.
One good source of obtaining information is the books " Cherokee By Blood " written by Jerry Jordan, this can be helpful in looking at Cherokee lines, these books are a collection of accepted and Rejected applications. And look for families that seem to have no history or one that does not fit . Not all of this alone means that a family is or was Melungeon but taken several together may be a good overall view that they are .
But yet in many cases there is no proof. there is another way to check to see if there is a chance that there is Melungeon in your family lines not only the features of skin and eyes and hair , but also the Teeth . Melungeons have " Shovel Teeth " curving of the inner surface of the front teeth makes the shape of a shovel. This trait is also common in the Native American Roots. There is also genetic diseases that are particular to the North Africans and Mediterranean lines, that show up in the people from Appalachia.
In summing this up is to say that to understand this is to have to redefine the assumptions about the ethnic heritage of the Appalachians. We know that there are genetic diseases and conditions associated with the folks of Melungeon descent that are not in " Scotch-Irish Appalachians". All we need to know is that the explanation of who we are , as a region is not as simple as isolated Scotch -Irish with a dab of Cherokee. It will take a lot of looking and studying your family lines.
I am going to list a few of the SURNAMES that have been associated with the
Melungeons . They are as follows .
ADKINS, BARKER, BARNS, BELL, BERRY, BIGGS, BOLEN, BOWMAN, BURTON, BYRD, CAMPBELL, CARRICO, CARTER, CASTEEL, CHAVIS, CLARK, COFFEY, COLE, COLEMAN, CURRY, DAVIS, DORTON, DYE, ELY, EVANS, FIELDS, FREEMAN, FRENCH, GANN, GIBSON, GOINS, GOINGS,GOWAN, GRAHAM, HALL, HAMMOND, HILL, HILLMAN, HOPKINS, JACKSON, KEITH, KENNEDY, LAWSON, LUCAS, MAGGARD, MALONEY, MARTIN, MINER, MOORE, NASH, NOEL, ORR, OSBORNE, PERRY, PHIPPS, POLLY, POWERS, RAMSEY, REAVES, REEVES, ROBERTSON, SHEPHARD/SHEPHERD, SIZEMORE, STANLEY, TOLL, IVER, TURNER,VANCOVER,WHITE,WILLIAMS,WRIGHT , and many more .
Here are a few references that can help you .
The Melungeons , The Ressurrection of a Proud People , by N.Brent Kennedy
Lost Tribes of Tennesse Mountains by James Aswell
The Melungeons by Bonnie Ball
The Melungeons of Newman Ridge by Phyllis Cox Barr
Almost White by Berry Brewton
The Melungeons Yesterday and Today by Jean Patterson Bible
I want to thank Bill Fields for the wonderful article he has written if it were not for it I would have no idea of where to start. Even though there is much more to be written .
Additional Melungeon names
1830 CENSUS OF HAWKINS COUNTY , TENNESSEE ( HEADS OF FAMILIES ) FC - stands for FREE PERSONS OF COLOR Goen, Fountain (fc) Goen,Harden (fc) Goen, George (fc) Mullens, Samuel (fc) Goen , John (fc) Nichols,William (fc) Goen, Betsy (fc ) Minor, John (fc) Minor, Zachariah (fc) Hale, Thomas (fc) Collins, Wiatt (fc) Collins, Millenton (fc) Collins, Andrew (fc) Collins, James(fc) Collins , Martin (fc) Gibson, Charles (fc) Collins, John (fc) Gibson, Esau (fc) Collins, Martin (fc) Gibson, Cherod (fc) Collins, Simeon (fc) Gibson Joseph F. (fc) Collins, Vardy (fc) Gibson, Andrew (fc) Collins , Mary (fc) Gibson, Shephard (fc) Collins , Levi (fc) Gibson, Jordon (fc) Collins , Benjamin (fc) Gibson Polly (fc) Collins, Edmund (fc) Gibson , Jonathan (fc) Jones , Betsy(fc) Gibson, Jesse (fc) Goodman. Edmund (fc) Goodman, Jordan (fc) Moore, James (fc) Cold, Burton (fc) Beare, Charles (fc) Bowling , Michael (fc) Williams, Timothy(fc) Mosely , Henry (fc)
This list was made up in 1830 , the names were followed by the fc for they could not make up the name MELUNGEONS on the Census Records . So they were called Free Persons of Color .
GRAINGER COUNTY , TENNESSEE - 1830 CENSUS HEADS OF FAMILIES FC- stands for FREE PERSONS OF COLOR Edmund Bolen (fc) Ezekel, Bolen (fc) Shadrach, Bolen (fc) Clabourn , Bolen (fc) Edmund Bolen ( fc ) Moses Collins ( fc) David Goan (fc) Gondly Collins (fc) Thomas Goan (fc) Dowell Collins (fc ) Nancy Goan (fc) Lewis Collins (fc) Preston Goan (fc) Encey Collins (fc Fanny Goan (fc) Hardin Collins(fc) Joseph Collins (fc) Andrew Collins (fc) Griffin Collins (fc) Allen Collins (fc) Levi Collins (fc) Lavinia Lafes(fc)
The Melungeons were most often being below average in height and very pretty .
The largest concentration was in Tennessee , but they also inhabited Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina . Theylived a simple life , as much the inhabitants of the Appalachia did .
Most experts believe that the Melungeons were descendants of the Lost Colony of Raleigh , North Carolina. The theory behind this is that many early Melungeons spoke of being descended from a lost colony. Another is that they were of Carthaginian descent . Believed they may of been of the Carthaginians who fled after their defeat by Rome in 146 BC.
Another theory is that they were of Welsh descent . Some Melungeon elders lay claim to this . It is believed that the Welsh explorer Prince Madoc was on of the earliest white explores of this part of the country .
In 1872 it was necessary to establish a plausible origin theory to prove that they were not of Negro Descent . The lawyer whom worked on this was Lewis Shepherd . He convinced a court in Chattanooga to compare the features of the Melungeons with that of a Negro .Had they been found to have a hint of blood that was Negro they would loose all full rights of Citizenship .
In working Melungeon history and heritage some Caucasian families are surprised to find them or their ancestors listed as FREE PERSONS OF COLOR . or as MULATTO . This taken that they were of African blood . So they thought . As time passed most Melungeons migrated to the northern and eastern states for economic reasons and to escape the prejudice of the time .
When working Melungeon blood lines you need to shake the tree hard , look at all the census . Follow all records that are on your family line . If a family member is listed as " M " or "F P " then there is a chance you will be looking for Melungeon ancestors . Here is a list of books that will help you in your research .
ROANOKE VOYAGERS , Vol. 2 LIBRARY OF CONGRESS , THE HAKLUYT SOCIETY
There are many books I can list these will get you started . I suggest reading the one by Bonnie Ball first . Hers is simple and gives alot of the history , names and census of Tennessee, Va. and Kentucky .