Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Here's wishing all readers of this blog
A happy and healthy 2009
And better days ahead

Claiborne County Genealogy and History

We often speak of Hawkins County, to the east and southeast of Hancock County and Newmans Ridge because Hancock County was created from it and many old records pertaining to the Melungeons are located in its archive. However, Claiborne County, Tennessee, immediately to the west of Hancock County and Newsmans Ridge, may also be of interest to you.

To visit its GenWeb site: Click Here.

To locate GenWeb sites for other counties of interest: Click Here.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Immigrant Servants Database

The Immigrant Servants Database is a project designed to help Americans trace the Europeans origins of their colonial ancestors. Historians estimate that more than 75% of the colonists who settled south of New England financed their voyages to the New World as indentured servants, convict servants and redemptioners. This project aims to identify all immigrants described by these terms in American and European sources from 1607 to 1820 and to reconstruct their lives and families.

To visit this searchable online database: Click Here.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Artifacts from Vardy

Digital Library of Appalachia

Artifacts from Vardy, Hancock County,Tennessee

Katherine Vande Brake
Professor of English and Technical Communication
King College, Bristol, TN

The items from Vardy that E. W. King Library at King College contributes to the DLA collection restate the themes so clearly outlined in Michael Joslin's introductory essay to the digital library project--community, isolation, religion, literacy, and hard work. However, these photographs, records of the Vardy Presbyterian Church, and other documents also expand the collection in an important way. Many of the people who lived in the Vardy community were descendants of the Melungeons and can trace their family lines back to the first Melungeons in Tennessee--Vardiman Collins, Shepherd Gibson, and Irish Jim Mullins who came to take up land grants in what was then Hawkins County shortly after the end of the Revolutionary War. So the Vardy artifacts provide an opportunity to see and understand how a significant Appalachian minority group lived and worked in the first half of the twentieth century. They also show the effect of missionary work in the southern mountains.

To visit this online essay and photographic exhibit: Click Here.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Pictures from the Museum of Appalachia

A while back the MHS Blog discussed the Museum of Appalachia. Here is a site chock full of high quality photographs taken there. This site is a real treat, and be sure to follow all the links so as not to miss any of the photographs.

To see the photographs: Click Here.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I Owe My Soul to the Company Store

Sixteen Tons
Lyrics by Tennessee Ernie Ford

Some people say a man is made outta mud
A poor man's made outta muscle and blood
Muscle and blood and skin and bones
A mind that's a-weak and a back that's strong

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin' when the sun didn't shine
I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine
I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal
And the straw boss said "Well, a-bless my soul"

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin', it was drizzlin' rain
Fightin' and trouble are my middle name
I was raised in the canebrake by an ol' mama lion
Cain't no-a high-toned woman make me walk the line

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

If you see me comin', better step aside
A lotta men didn't, a lotta men died
One fist of iron, the other of steel
If the right one don't a-get you
Then the left one will

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

Prior to the unionization of coalminers, and for some time afterward, the company store was a very real institution in the mining towns which grew up amid the great coalfields of Appalachia. Under the company store system, miners were paid not in money but in script redeemable only to purchase items for sale at the company store. This system kept miners in debt-bondage to the coal companies while adding to their profitability. It was not invented by the big Appalachian coal companies but it was perfected by them.

To see pictures of company stores and the Appalachian mining communities built around them, many of them now ghost towns, in areas pertinent to Melungeons and reflated families:
For pictures from other areas and to see a map of the major Appalachian coalfields: Click Here.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Civil War in Southeast Kentucky

Keeping the Homes Fires Burning
Civil War in Southeast Kentucky
by Holly Timm

With the advent of war, Harlan [County, Kentucky]'s lengthy border with Virginia, stretching [at that time] from Cumberland Gap towards Pound Gap, became a border with another country, subject to invasion. Histories of the era make no mention of Harlan County and only slight references to Southeast Kentucky, giving the impression that nothing much happened here during that time period. It is true that no major battles occurred in the area nor did anything of significance to the outcome of the war take place in our mountains but, the effect on the area and its people was extensive and long-lasting.

To continue reading this lengthy and fairly detailed account of the Civil War in Southeast Kentucky: Click Here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Y-STR Allele Nomenclature

Nomenclature—Take Two
Editorial by Whit Athey
Journal of Genetic Genealogy
Volume 4, Number 2 (Fall, 2008)

A year ago in this space, I lamented the differences in Y-STR nomenclature that existed on several markers between genetic genealogy companies. Since that time, things have only gotten worse as some markers that were previously scored the same by all companies, now have differences. Most companies appear to be trying to do what they believe fits best with the recommendations of the International Society of Forensic Genetics (ISFG), but there are apparently differing interpretations of these guidelines. In addition, a few companies have standards on a few markers that pre-date the general acceptance of the ISFG recommendations.

In this issue of JoGG, the Human Identity Group at NIST [National Institute of Standards and Technology], led by John Butler, has written a review article on Y-STR nomenclature that tries to explain the basis for the differing interpretations (Butler, 2008). Perhaps more importantly, the group is now providing its own recommendations for the markers where differing scoring methods exist between companies. This could well be a turning point in the history of this messy subject. We can only hope that now all of the different companies will adopt the NIST recommendations and bring an end to the confusion.

Undoubtedly, if these recommendations are adopted industry wide, the change to the new standards will bring its own confusion at first as we try to get used to seeing a new range of values being reported from our favorite companies, but this should only be a temporary problem. There will probably be temporary confusion in the public databases as well, though it should be possible for each database administrator to make a blanket change to all records in order to bring them into line with the new standards.

The advantages of having industry-wide standards are compelling for both buyers and sellers of genetic genealogy services. The advantages for consumers are obvious, but the confusion caused by differing standards may be causing a small number of people to opt out of testing altogether. Probably more important for companies is the amount of time that a company must spend on explaining why its results may be different from those of another company. It seems that both customers and companies would benefit considerably from uniform standards.

Now that we have some clear recommendations on the specific markers where there are differences between companies, the ball is in the court of the genetic genealogy companies. Let’s hope that they will do the right thing. It would be helpful if they could coordinate the date for any changes that they may adopt.

To read the NIST paper: Click Here. (Adobe Acrobat Reader Required)

Note: This paper is very lengthy and very technical.

To read a much shorter and less technical interview with the NIST Human Identity Group team members: Click Here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Review Essay: The Melungeons

By Virginia Easley DeMarce, Ph.D.
Historian and Past President of the National Genealogical Society
Originally printed in the National Genealogy Society Quarterly
Vol. 84, No. 2, June 1996

The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud People. An Untold Story of Ethnic Cleansing in America
By N. Brent Kennedy, with Robyn Vaughan Kennedy.
Published by Mercer University Press; Macon, GA 31210; 1994

This frequently discussed review is the most important academic critique of the most widely read and most influential book about Melungeons ever written.

Here is an excerpt exemplifying the review:
Kennedy does not use the term Melungeon in its anthropological sense-that is, the interlocking families who moved into, existed in, and dispersed from Hawkins and Hancock Counties, Tennessee. Rather, he coins a very loose definition, expanding it to cover essentially all colonial-era Virginians and Carolinians who (in whatever records he consulted) are not clearly stated to be European American or African American. Melungeon thus becomes a catchall description for dark- skinned individuals whose ancestry does not seem to be sub-Saharan African-as well as their lighter-skinned relatives and descendants, whom he presents as subjects of racial prejudice. The manner in which numerous individuals are "deduced" to be Melungeon is troubling. By surmising a connection when he cannot show it, he makes "Melungeons" of numerous frontier families whose ancestry appears to be wholly northern European, including those whose known origin is Scotch-Irish or German. Typical cases are the Ritchies (pp.23-24), Hutchinsons (p.27), Kennedys and Hornes (pp. 66-68), Powerses and Alleys (pp.69-70), and Counts, Jessees, and Kisers (pp.77-79). In discussing an unproved line of descent from Edward "Ned" Sizemore, a central figure in the famous attempt to cash in on early-twentieth-century Eastern Cherokee claims awards (p.56), Kennedy ignores extensive testimony indicating that Sizemore descendants were, for social and legal purposes, a white family claiming Indian ancestry not Melungeons or free nonwhites.

Illustrative of the problem is Kennedy's analysis of William Roberson's ethnicity, which strongly suggests inexperience in genealogical and historical research. Because this Revolutionary War veteran supposedly said he was Scotch-Irish and from London, and because his name is variously spelled as Robertson, Robinson, and Robeson, Kennedy concludes the man was a Melungeon who purposefully obscured his true origins. "Surely, if William . . . really did come from England, Scotland, or Ireland, he would have known how to spell his last name.... [His] early meandering in [the Carolinas] undoubtedly plac[ed] him within the geographical region ... known as 'Robeson' county. Could William I have 'borrowed' his surname from the name of the county?" (pp.25-26). Coincidentally, Kennedy proceeds to state that Roberson's son married the first cousin of President Andrew Jackson. Obviously, in his historical studies, Kennedy has not encountered Jackson's declaration that he "could never respect a man who knew only one way to spell a word."

Kennedy often refers to the labels fpc (free person of color) and fc (free colored) informing readers that these were maliciously applied by the Scotch-Irish to their Melungeon neighbors in order to "strip the Melungeons of their lands" (p.12), and that "American antebellum census records consistently described those with Indian blood" as fpc (p. 89, italics added). Placing his family into this context, he says "they and we were 'free persons of color"' (p.5). In checking Kennedy's family lines, this reviewer consistently found the opposite-not a single instance in which his named ancestors, from 1790 through 1900, appear in public documents as anything but white. The legal acceptance of these lines as white by local officials contrasts curiously with the author's repeated statements that they were routinely labeled fpc.
To read the review in its entirety: Click Here.

To read Brent Kennedy's response to the review: Click Here.

This is must reading for anyone with an interest in Melungeon studies. You be the judge of what might be called the great debate of Melungeon studies.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Tennessee's Landmark Documents

An online collection of twenty landmark historical documents is maintained by the Tennessee State Library and Archives. This collection features both images of the original documents and transcriptions of their contents.

To visit the collection: Click Here.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives maintains many other online resources, but unfortunately you must be a Tennessee resident (and obtain a password from your local library) in order to access most of them.

To have a look: Click Here.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Letcher County Giant

Martin Van Buren Bates, sometimes referred to as “Baby Bates,” the “Letcher County Giant,” or the “Kentucky Giant,” was a legitimate Appalachian folk hero. During his lifetime, he was known throughout America and Europe for his impressive stature and his various exploits. He was literally a “giant among men.”

Martin Van Buren Bates was born in Letcher County, Kentucky, on November 9, 1845, the son of John Wallis and Sara Waltrop Bates. At birth, Martin was a normal sized infant, the son of normal sized parents, and the brother of normal sized siblings. So it was quite a surprise when he grew up to become famous as the “Kentucky Giant” and one of the more interesting characters to emerge from Appalachia.

To continue reading this truly fascinating tale: Click Here.

Be sure to read the lengthy comment at the end which corrects and amplifies a number of points.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Great Appalachian Earthquake of 1897

Epicenter: Giles County, Virginia
May 31, 1897

This earthquake was the largest in intensity and areal extent in Virginia in historical times. The area of maximum ground motion extended over an elliptical area-from near Lynchburg, Va., west to Bluefield, W.Va., and from Giles County south to Bristol, Tenn.

The shock was felt severely at Narrows, about 3 km west of Pearisburg. Here, the surface rolled in an undulating motion, water in springs became muddy, and water in some springs ceased to flow. The flow of water in springs also was disturbed in the area of Pearisburg, about 70 km west of Roanoke, and Sugar Run.

The shock was strong at Pearisburg, where walls of old brick houses were cracked and many chimneys were thrown down or badly damaged. Many chimneys also were shaken down at Bedford, Pulaski, Radford, and Roanoke, Va., and Bristol, Tenn.; many chimneys were damaged at Christiansburg, Dublin, Floyd, Houston, Lexington, Lynchburg, Rocky Mount, Salem, Tazewell, and Wytheville, Va.; Charlotte, Oxford, Raleigh, and Winston, N.C.; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Bluefield, W.Va. Felt from Georgia to Pennsylvania and from the Atlantic Coast westward to Indiana and Kentucky.

Aftershocks continued through June 6, 1897.

To read a number of contemporary accounts: Click Here.

For brief accounts of significant Virginia earthquakes from 1774 to the present: Click Here.

To learn more than you ever wanted to know about the origins and history of the Appalachian Mountains: Click Here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Tennessee Melungeons and Related Groups

By Dr. Virginia Easley DeMarce
Historian and Past President
Of the National Genealogical Society

The great majority of individuals in the United States who carry a mixed European, African, and Native American genealogical heritage are not members of social isolate groups. The majority of them identify with some other component of the wider society--most commonly white, sometimes Black, and sometimes Native American. As such persons trace their family history, they may find that some, though probably not all, of their ancestors were at some time part of a tri-racial isolate settlement. Therefore, the genealogical study of such groups is of interest to a wide segment of the modern American population.

To continue reading: Click Here.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lee County Genealogy and History

Lee County, Virginia has an unusually rich GenWeb site.

To visit: Click Here.

Do be careful to explore it thoroughly. Of special interest is its maps showing the evolution of counties in Southwest Virgina.

To view: Click Here.

It is always important to remember that county boundaries have changed over time.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Remember My Chains

Contrary to what the title might lead you to expect, this web site contains an eclectic collection of 17th and 18th century colonial records from the American Southeast pertaining to American Indians and to their social interactions with the colonists. The material is neither well-organized nor well-explained, but you may find something you have been looking for here, or something of interest that you never knew existed. Melungeons are mentioned a number of times but not in the entry which is of the most importance to Melungeon studies: Look for Louisa County, Virgina!

To visit: Click Here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Puzzle to Ethnologists

The People of East Tennessee

They are a Puzzle to Ethnologists
and are Called "Malungeons."

The New York Evening Post, 1902

Scotch, Irish and pure English are the types of the majority of the inhabitants of Eastern Tennessee. There are some negroes. The Indians, the Cherokees who once possessed the region have disappeared without leaving perceptible trace. But there is one group, a swart, short, stocky race, of small hands and feet, low cheek bones, small, regular teeth, heavy, straight, course hair, always black, which is distinct from the other types. The speech of this people is guttural and drawling to an extent not observed in the other white mountaineers. The men are given to hunting, fishing and idling, the virtue of industry being monopolized, as a rule, by the women of the group. Agriculturally they excel in growing apples, peaches and grapes. Locally known as "Malungeons," these striking racial survivals are more of less of an ethnological puzzle to the historians of Tennessee. Outside of Claiborne and Hancock counties, where the larger settlements are, similar groups have been found near Rabun Gap, Georgia, and in Sevier County, Tennessee. The theory most commonly accepted in regard to all the "Malungeons," however, is that they are descended from Portuguese colonists for the Western word in the seventeenth century. Several such adventures are recorded of the year 1664, these being a sequence of troubles at home. One fleet, the first to go, was never heard of again, and it is supposed that after a shipwreck the survivors of one of the vessels made their way into the mountains of Tennessee, though what confirmation or the explanation is provided by the traditions of the folk does not appear. Aforetime, the Malungeons were given to the illicit manufacture of liquor and to desperate fighting. It is related of one Betsy Mullins, who built her house on a hill, that she practiced moonshining for years in notorious, open defiance of the law, waxing greatly in wealth and weight. She was immune from arrest, for down the steep mountainside and through the the narrow trails the revenue officers could devise no method of taking a woman of 600 pounds.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Obama's true colors: Black, white ... or neither?

By Jesse Washington
AP National Writer

This relatively thoughtful Associated Press article on how America perceives President-elect Barrack Obama's race is pertinent to the Melungeon experience:

To read: Click Here.

Note: The article is incorrect in its explanation of where the "one drop rule" came from -- it was the product of early 20th century white supremacists and eugenicists, such as Walter Plecker, not antebellum slave owners -- while its explanation of how "white" genes entered the "black" gene pool is woefully simplistic and incomplete.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Appalachian Music Samples

To visit a storehouse of Appalachian music samples: Click Here.

These samples have been placed online by Appalachian musician and singer/song writer Henry Queen. To visit his Appalachian music blog: Click Here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Melungeons and Moonshine

An early MHS Blog entry discussed moonshine in Appalachia, suggesting Melungeons were no strangers to the trade, including the famous Melungeon moonshiner, Mahala Mullins.

Joanne Pezzullo, an indefatigable Melungeon researcher, has compiled a collection of newspaper, magazine and other accounts spanning the 19th and 20th centuries dealing with moonshine in and around the Newmans Ridge area, no few of them referencing Melungeon involvement in one way or another.

To read: Click Here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

1915 Dissertation

Status of the Negro in Virginia
During the Colonial Period
Gerald Montgomery West, M.A.
Submitted as one of the Requirements for the
Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the
School of Political Science,
Columbia College.
Nov. 8 1915

Fundamental Law of the Colonies.

"About the last of August came in a Dutch man of warre that sold us twenty negars," wrote John Rolfe in 1619'.

Thus, briefly and incidentally, was chronicled an event fraught with such momentous results — the introduction of slavery into tho Anglo-American colonies.

In order to determine the legal condition of the negro at this, his first and enforced appearance in those colonies, as well as subsequently, it will be necessary to examine the various
charters of the colonies and the English common and statute law.....

To continue reading this dissertation in full: Click Here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Internet Archvie

The Internet Archive is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, it provides free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public.

To visit the Internet Archive: Click Here.

The Internet Archives' collection of online texts may be its most useful aspect for genealogical and general historical purposes.

To visit: Click Here.

To go directly to the American libraries sub-collection: Click Here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Harlan County Genealogy and History

A number of Harlan County, Kentucky records are available online.

To visit a Harlan County research site on RootsWeb: Click Here.

To visit Harlan County's GenWeb site: Click Here.

To locate GenWeb sites for other counties of interest: Click Here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Lost Colony Blog

Any suggestion of a link between the Lost Colony of Roanoke and the Melungeons is highly speculative and certainly did not involve a direct trek west to the mountains of Tennessee, there to be discovered by Europeans centuries later as is so often erroneously depicted in Melungeon books and on Melungeon web sites. If there is any connection at all it would be by way of Lost Colony survivors mixing with American Indians and would be reflected in the genes of early colonial families throughout Virginia and the Carolinas, both predominantly European and American Indian.

Still, the search for Lost Colony survivors is a fascinating one, and may just possibly have some bearing the Melungeons, however distant.

To visit the Lost Colony Blog: Click Here.

To go directly to its associated Lost Colony DNA projects: Click Here for the mtDNA project and Click Here for the Y-Line DNA project.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Lumbee Indians and Goins Family Blog

The Lumbee Indians, The Lost Colony of Roanoke and The Goins Family Tree. This Blog will explore the relationships between them. Please note that the blog serves as a collection of all Goins/Going/Gowen early records and that there is no intention to suggest that all Goins are Lumbee related. Only by listing them all, tracking their migration routes and taking your comments on the families into consideration, can we study and determine what lines are related to others. Enjoy!

It has been suggested that there is a relationship between the Lumbee Indians and some Melungeons families. The centrality of the name Goins to both groups alone makes this an idea worth investigating; however, such a connection is yet to be proven.

To visit Lumbee Indians and Goins Family Blog: Click Here.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Beyond the Hatfields and McCoys

Only the Hatfield-McCoy feud is really remembered nationally today but it was by no means the only Southern Appalachian feud, nor was it even the bloodiest or the most famous at the time.

For an overview: Click Here.

To read about the Toliver-Martin feud: Click Here.

To read about the French-Eversole feud: Click Here. (Adobe Acrobat Reader Required)

To read about the Hargis-Callahan feud: Click Here.

To read about the Hill-Evans feud: Click Here.

To read about the Baker-White feud: Click Here.

To read about the Turner-Howard feud: Click Here.

To read about even more feuds: Click Here.

The list seems almost endless, and if all this appears somewhat amusing in retrospect, we must remember that for the participants it was quite serious and quite deadly.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


"It is a poor, weak-spirited county in eastern Kentucky now that has not its feud and its band of thugs protected by the courts. … The savages who inhabit this region are not manly enough to fight fairly, face to face. They lie in wait and shoot their enemies in the back. … One can hardly believe that any part of the United States is cursed with people so lawless and degraded." New York Times, July 26, 1885

"My research reveals that there was indeed an outbreak of unusual violence in Appalachia in the mid-1880s. However, it was not caused by a Civil War legacy, ancient hatreds, or family vengeance but, rather, by the advent of economic and political modernization, whether fostered by local elites or by outsiders." Feuding in Appalachia, Evolution of a Cultural Stereotype by Altina L. Waller

For an academic look at the feuding phenomenon: Click Here.

To read about the famous Hatfield-McCoy feud in Blue Ridge County: Click Here.

To read about in in Time Magazine: Click Here.

For a more comprehensive look: Click Here.

Tomorrow: Some feuds you may never have heard of.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Guineas of West Virginia

"Almost White"

"There is a clan of partly-colored people in Barbour County often called Guineas, under the erroneous presumption that they are Guinea negroes [sic]," observed WV historian Hugh Maxwell in the 1890s. "They vary in color from white to black, often have blue eyes and straight hair, and they are generally industrious. Their number in Barbour is estimated at one thousand.

"They have been a puzzle to the investigator; for their origin is not generally known. They are among the earliest settlers of Barbour. Prof. W.W. Male of Grafton, West Virginia, belongs to this clan, and after a thorough investigation, says 'They originated from an Englishman named Male who came to America at the outbreak of the Revolution. From that one man have sprung about 700 of the same name, not to speak of the half-breeds.' Thus it would seem that the family was only half-black at the beginning, and by the inter-mixtures since, many are now almost white."

To read more about the Guineas: Click Here.

Note: While this article, quite correctly, nowhere links the Guineas of West Virginia to the Melungeons, it cites a presentation on the Guineas given at a 1997 Melungeon gathering as though it were a gathering of Guinea descendants, and the blog entry is tagged as Melungeon. There is, in fact, no evidence linking the Guineas to the Melungeons genealogically, despite the efforts of some authors to do so without evidence; however, they are similar to the Melungeons in that they are another mixed-race group alleged to have mysterious origins, and as a result they have had cultural and legal experiences similar to the Melungeons. Such mixed-race groups were spread up and down the eastern seaboard, as documented in mid 20th century by Price and Beale, et al.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Tennessee Constitution of 1834

The 1834 Constitution disenfranchised free persons of color, resulting in a number of court cases involving attempts to deny Melungeons the vote. The operative section reads as follows:

Article 4.

Sec 1. Every free white man of the age of twenty-one years, being a citizen of the United States, and a citizen of the county wherein he may offer his vote, six months next preceding the day of election, shall be entitled to vote for Members of the general Assembly, and other civil officers, for the county or district in which he resides: provided, that no person shall be disqualified from voting in any election on account of color, who is now by the laws of this State, a competent witness in a court of Justice against a white man. All free men of color, shall be exempt from military duty in time of peace, and also from paying a free poll tax.
This was surprisingly controversial and only passed the constitutional convention by a narrow vote after much debate. The competent witness clause appears to have been intended as something of a grandfather clause and was probably required in order to get the necessary votes for passage.

Tennessee is known for having one of the longest state constitutions, a distinction on which they made a good start in 1834. The 1834 Tennessee constitution (sometimes called the 1835 constitution because it did not go into effect until it was ratified in 1835) has a number of interesting features, including barring atheists from holding public office, prohibiting the legislature from abolishing slavery and feeling the need to explicitly outlaw dueling.

To read it in its entirely: Click Here.

To see the current Tennessee state constitution: Click Here. (Acrobat Reader Required)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Appalachian Regional Commission

The Appalachian Regional Commission is a federal-state partnership that works with the people of Appalachia to create opportunities for self-sustaining economic development and improved quality of life.

Its Area Development Program and Highway Program address the four goals identified in the Commission's strategic plan:
1. Increase job opportunities and per capita income in Appalachia to reach parity with the nation.

2. Strengthen the capacity of the people of Appalachia to compete in the global economy.

3. Develop and improve Appalachia's infrastructure to make the Region economically competitive.

4. Build the Appalachian Development Highway System to reduce Appalachia's isolation.
Each year ARC provides funding for several hundred projects throughout the Appalachian Region in support of these goals. These projects create thousands of new jobs, improve local water and sewer systems, increase school readiness, expand access to health care, assist local communities with strategic planning, and provide technical, managerial, and marketing assistance to emerging new businesses.

To visit the Appalachian Regional Commission online: Click Here.

Articles from its journal, Appalachia Magazine, are available online.

To reach them directly: Click Here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Africans and Indians: Only in America

"If you believe people have no history worth mentioning
it is easy to believe they have no humanity worth defending"

There in the misty dawn of the Americas two peoples of color began to meet in slave huts, on tobacco and cotton plantations, and as workers in dank mines. For two centuries Indians and Africans remained enslaved together, and Native Americans were not exempted from the system until after the Revolution. Scholar C. Vann Woodward has concluded "If the black-red inter-breeding was anywhere as extensive as suggested by the testimony of ex-slaves, then the monoracial concept of slavery in America requires revision."

To read this article by historian William Loren Katz: Click Here.

The phenomenon of Indian and black intermixing in early America is undoubtedly important to Melungeon studies. Note that the transcriber of this article made a glaring typo in the first paragraph where "geological detectives" should have read "genealogical detectives" instead.

Monday, December 1, 2008

West Virginia Historical and Genealogical Resources

The West Virginia Historical Society has online articles taken from its journal, The West Virginia Quarterly, going to back to 1996.

To visit: Click Here.

To search an online database of West Virginia birth, death and marriage records: Click Here.

More online West Virginia resources can be found at the West Virginia Division of Culture and History; to visit: Click Here.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

Native American Heritage Day

House-Senate Joint Resolution 62


This Act may be cited as the ‘Native American Heritage Day Act of 2008’.


Congress finds that--

(1) Native Americans are the descendants of the aboriginal, indigenous, native people who were the original inhabitants of the United States;

(2) Native Americans have volunteered to serve in the United States Armed Forces and have served with valor in all of the Nation’s military actions from the Revolutionary War through the present day, and in most of those actions, more Native Americans per capita served in the Armed Forces than any other group of Americans;

(3) Native Americans have made distinct and significant contributions to the United States and the rest of the world in many fields, including agriculture, medicine, music, language, and art, and Native Americans have distinguished themselves as inventors, entrepreneurs, spiritual leaders, and scholars;

(4) Native Americans should be recognized for their contributions to the United States as local and national leaders, artists, athletes, and scholars;

(5) nationwide recognition of the contributions that Native Americans have made to the fabric of American society will afford an opportunity for all Americans to demonstrate their respect and admiration of Native Americans for their important contributions to the political, cultural, and economic life of the United States;

(6) nationwide recognition of the contributions that Native Americans have made to the Nation will encourage self-esteem, pride, and self-awareness in Native Americans of all ages;

(7) designation of the Friday following Thanksgiving of each year as Native American Heritage Day will underscore the government-to-government relationship between the United States and Native American governments; and

(8) designation of Native American Heritage Day will encourage public elementary and secondary schools in the United States to enhance understanding of Native Americans by providing curricula and classroom instruction focusing on the achievements and contributions of Native Americans to the Nation.



(1) designates Friday, November 28, 2008, as ‘Native American Heritage Day’; and

(2) encourages the people of the United States, as well as Federal, State, and local governments, and interested groups and organizations to observe Native American Heritage Day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities, including activities relating to--

(A) the historical status of Native American tribal governments as well as the present day status of Native Americans;

(B) the cultures, traditions, and languages of Native Americans; and

(C) the rich Native American cultural legacy that all Americans enjoy today.

To begin exploring American Indian web resources: Click Here.

For Wikipedia's extensive American Indian article: Click Here.

To visit the National Museum of the American Indian: Click Here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Classical Thanksgiving Harvest

A Musical Program Courtesy of National Public Radio

1 William Billings: 'An Anthem for Thanksgiving: Praise the Lord of Heaven'

Boston singing master William Billings published songbooks that were popular during the Revolutionary War. Some of his melodies were adapted by the Continental Army as marching tunes. This one fits the holiday perfectly.

Paul Hillier conducts His Majestie's Clerkes. (Harmonia Mundi HCX3957048)

2 Aaron Copland: 'Appalachian Spring'

A satisfying helping of Americana with Leonard Bernstein conducting music Copland composed for Martha Graham. She also suggested the title, which is based on a Hart Crane poem about a source of water, not a season.

Leonard Bernstein conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic. (Sony 46559)

3 Antonio Vivaldi: 'Autumn' from The Four Seasons

Antonio Vivaldi provided a snapshot of an 18th-century Italian harvest festival in one of his 'Four Seasons.' Vivaldi depicted each season in music with a concerto, and prefaced each with a sonnet. Usually you only hear the music, but this recording features Patrick Stewart reading the sonnet before each movement.

Musica Anima featuring Patrick Stewart and Arnie Roth. (American Gramophon 801)

4. Jay Ungar & Molly Mason: 'Autumn' from Harvest Home Suite

This superb collaboration with violinist Jay Ungar, guitarist-singer Molly Mason and the Nashville Chamber Orchestra evokes the warm feelings and golden light of the harvest season.

Jay Ungar & Molly Mason with the Nashville Chamber Orchestra. (EMI 56720)

5 Joseph Curiale: 'Joy' from Awakening (Songs of the Earth)

Music from American composer Joseph Curiale that kicks up the endorphins with its catchy melody and gorgeous orchestration.

Joseph Curiale conducts the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. (Orchard Road 7157)

To listen: Click Here.

Note: A broadband connection is highly recommended.

Journal of Genetic Genealogy

The Journal of Genetic Genealogy is an open access online journal presenting original work involving techniques for analyzing the results of genetic testing.

"The main emphasis of this journal will be to present a forum for articles that may not be appropriate for other established genetics journals since they may be based on datasets in which a statistically random sample cannot be guaranteed (i.e. surname studies). Articles on individual surname studies are welcomed if they illustrate an unusual success story, present a new method of analysis, or would otherwise be of general interest to the genealogical community. Other topics might include insights into mutation rates, geographic patterns in genetic data, information that help to characterize haplogroups, and studies involving mtDNA. Beyond Y chromosomal and mtDNA topics, we encourage articles on new tools that may include X chromosome markers, and ancestrally informative autosomal markers."

This journal is not for the casual reader or anyone without at least a minimal technical understanding of genetic genealogy, but it is one of the few professional journals which is freely available online, not only the current issue but all back issues as well, and those who have studied genetic genealogy in some depth will find it valuable.

To visit the journal: Click Here.

If you would like to first brush up on DNA testing and genetic genealogy: Click Here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hancock County Links

This rather Spartan looking web page has many good links to online historical and genealogical data concerning Hancock County, Tennessee and you may find it more useful than Hancock County's GenWeb site.

To visit: Click Here.

Note: Many of the Melungeon links are broken, and in some cases that is just as well. It is prudent to take most Melungeon web sites with a large grain of salt. For a few generally reliable Melungeon web sites, consult the Melungeon section of the MHS Blog's "Links of Interest" page, the portal to which can be found in the sidebar to the right immediately above the MHS Blog archives.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Freedmen's Bureau Online

The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, often referred to as the Freedmen's Bureau, was established in the War Department by an act of March 3, 1865. The Bureau supervised all relief and educational activities relating to refugees and freedmen, including issuing rations, clothing and medicine. The Bureau also assumed custody of confiscated lands or property in the former Confederate States, border states, District of Columbia, and Indian Territory. The bureau records were created or maintained by bureau headquarters, the assistant commissioners and the state superintendents of education and included personnel records and a variety of standard reports concerning bureau programs and conditions in the states.

To visit the Freedmen's Bureau online: Click Here.

To read a lengthy history of the Freedmen's Bureau: Click Here.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Genealogy Search Help from Google

This free genealogy search site will help you use Google as an aid to your web research. It will create a series of different searches using tips or tricks that will likely improve your search results. The different searches will give you many different ways of using Google to find ancestry information on the Internet.

To try it: Click Here.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Folk Medicine in Southern Appalachia

The piece published here yesterday in memory of Patricia Hopkins-Baldwin touched on folk medicine in Southern Appalachia. This is an interesting topic and the title of a fairly recent book by Anthony Cavender, published by the University of North Carolina Press.

To read a review of this book by Mountain Click Here.

For another look at mountain medicine published the West Virginia Historical Society Quarterly: Click Here.

To visit the online folk medicine archive at UCLA: Click Here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Patricia Hopkins-Baldwin, 1957-2008

It saddens me to announce the passing last Sunday of Patricia Ann Hopkins-Baldwin, a long-time Melungeon researcher and Melungeon Section Editor for the Appalachian Quarterly. She is survived by her husband Randy Baldwin, and she will be missed.

Twelve years ago Patricia Hopkins-Baldwin wrote a short piece talking about her memories of her great grandmother which is not only interesting in its own right but captures something of her spirit and of her life's work:

"In searching for my Melungeon roots, I have uncovered some good things and some disturbing. The good things were the memories that I have as a child, talking with and listening to my great grandmother speak of her family. She was the grand daughter of Hezekiah and Martha Cottle Wyatt. I remember her speaking of the way that her family did things, their lifestyle, hobbies, etc...

"One of the things that sticks out in my mind is that my great grandmother, Cynthia Ann, was a gifted jewelry maker. She worked with silver, gold and precious stones. I wear an opal and gold ring that she made for me when I was a child. I also have an opal filigreed necklace to match. I wasn't aware until the research that I've been doing on the Melungeon people that a known trait of theirs to work with silver and other metals. And this was exciting to me, bringing me one step closer to the truth about my family although, throughout my paternal side of the family there are Native American origins and I know that jewelry making is a practice of their's too. It's just with the now known traditions and practices of the Melungeon people that I lean more toward this heritage.

"Another thing that Cynthia Ann did was make almost all of the medicinal preparations. And keep alive the 'old ways' that went with them. For instance, she always wore charms (i.e. a 'medicine' bag) around her neck. It was filled with herbs, powders and what ever else she may have 'needed' to cure someone of an ailment. I know that this is also Cherokee or Native American practice. Her medicinal practices were sought by many. She was somewhat of the local 'healer'. I remember times when I was sick as a child that she would have me drink a mixture of whatever was in her 'bag of tricks'. This always seemed to make me feel better. One time in particular I was suffering with Bronchitis and was very ill. My Mother had taken me to the Doctor and the antibiotics he prescribed weren't working, as I grew sicker. I was taken to Cynthia Ann and she prepared for me a concoction of her herbs. And--passed me under a raspberry bush several times! I remember this very distinctly because it was in the 'dead' of winter and cold! I don't know if it was a combination of the herbs and the passing under of the raspberry bush or just plain faith but this made me better. Within a few days I was well. At the point of my sickest the doctor wanted to put me into the hospital and feared the worse. But my great grandmother made me well.

"A little background of my great grandmother's family is as follows.

4. HEZEKIAH WYATT B. CA. 1817 N.C. (I don't know where)
5. MARTHA COTTLE B. CA. 1823 N.C. (I don't know where)

"Much research has yet to be done on this branch of my family. I am always searching for 'leads' into piecing together my family history. It seems as if the farther back I try to go the more obstacles I come across. From the censuses to court records to family recollections. But I persevere. And will piece this beautiful family quilt of memories all together someday."

Patricia A. Hopkins-Baldwin, 1996

To view some of her family photos, including one of her great grandmother Cynthia Ann: Click Here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cumberland Gap DNA Project

The Cumberland Gap DNA Project is using DNA testing to explore the ancestry and relationships of the early pioneer families who settled in the Cumberland Gap area, which includes Hancock County and Newmans Ridge. The project consists of both a Y-line study and an mtDNA study.

To view the Y-line study: Click Here.

To view the mtDNA study: Click Here.

If you have no idea what Y-line and mtDNA mean: First Click Here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hancock County Genealogy

Many Hancock County, Tennessee records have been lost and many early records are in Hawkins County, of which it was originally a part. Its GenWeb site is a bit limited but should not be overlooked.

To view: Click Here.

To locate GenWeb sites for other counties of interest: Click Here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Civil War Soliders and Sailors System

The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System is a computerized database containing very basic facts about servicemen who served on both sides during the Civil War. The initial focus of the CWSS is the Names Index Project, a project to enter names and other basic information from 6.3 million soldier records in the National Archives. The facts about the soldiers were entered from records that are indexed to many millions of other documents about Union and Confederate Civil War soldiers maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration.

To visit the CWSS System: Click Here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Find a Grave

With 27 million grave records online, "Find A Grave" is a resource for finding the final resting place of family, friends, and 'famous' individuals. With millions of names and photos, it is an invaluable tool for the genealogist and family history buff. "Find A Grave" memorials can contain rich content including photos, biographies and dates. Visitors can leave 'virtual flowers' on the memorials they visit, completing the online cemetery experience.

To search this unique database: Click Here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

History of the Banjo

One of the primary instruments for the playing of both mountain music and bluegrass is the banjo.

For a history of the banjo: Click Here and Click Here.

The premier banjo player of the modern era is undoubtedly Earl Scruggs. To read about him: Click Here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bluegrass Music

In the early 20th century, country music, rooted in Appalachia, enjoyed popularity as country singers brought their craft to the cities. Country music was characterized by two or three-part harmonies sung over acoustic instruments.

In the 1920s, the Monroe Brothers rose to popularity with Charlie Monroe on guitar and his brother Bill on mandolin. Finally in 1938, the brothers split to form separate bands. Having hailed from Kentucky (the “Blue Grass State”), Bill named his band Bill Monroe & the Blue Grass Boys. This original band implemented elements of Gospel, work songs, folk, country, and blues, and showcased various types of vocal harmonies. They experimented with many acoustic instruments, but eventually settled on guitar, bass, fiddle, mandolin and banjo. By the '50s, Bluegrass had begun enjoying extensive popularity.

For a brief history of bluegrass music and links to other bluegrass web sites: Click Here and Click Here.

The former is a better history but the latter has better links.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Note on the Melungeons

By Swan M. Burnett, M. D., Washington
Read at a meeting of the American Society of Anthropologists
February 5, 1889

Legends of the Melungeons I first heard at my father’s knee as a child in the mountains of Eastern Tennessee, and the name had such a ponderous and inhuman sound as to associate them in my mind with the giants and ogres of the wonder tales I listened to in the winter evenings before the crackling logs in the wide-mouth fireplace. And when I chanced to waken in the night and the fire had died down on the hearth, and the wind swept with a demoniac shriek and terrifying roar around and through the house, rattling the windows and the loose clapboards on the roof, I shrank under the bedclothes trembling with a fear that was almost an expectation that one of these huge creatures would come down the chimney with a rush, seize me with his dragon-like arms, and carry me off to his cave in the mountains, there to devour me piecemeal.

To read more: Click Here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Queer North Carolina Race

Are These Descendants of Members of the Lost Colony of Roanoke?

New York Sun
November 15, 1894

There live in the swamps of Robeson County, North Carolina, a strange race of people. Their manners, customs and personal appearance are unlike those of any other race on the American continent. They live within themselves, and their intercourse with their neighbors, both white and colored, is limited to the extent which necessity demands. Among the citizens of the county they are called Portuguese and mulattoes. They are neither. Recent investigations by antiquarians who have closely studied their characteristics, in cline to the opinion that they are the descendants of the Croatan Indians and the lost colony of Roanoke Island.

It is an historical fact that on the arrival of the relief expedition fitted out by Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Richard Grenville the colony planted on Roanoke Island a few months before had totally disappeared. Years afterward, when the country had become sparsely settled by the English, and when the Tuscorora Indians were the dominant tribe, it was a tradition among them that in the interior there were white men who wee members of a smaller tribe of Indians, and that these men possessed many of the gifts of the English. It is generally thought that when the English vessels sailed to England for supplies for the infant colony those left on Roanoke Island were too weak to defend themselves against the Croatan Indians, their nearest neighbors, and that in an incursion the men were killed and the women and children carried away into captivity.

Whatever may be the supposition, the fact, nevertheless, remains, that in this remote county of the Old North State, thee exists today a strange and peculiar people. Their associations have, in the main, been with those who, previous to the war, were known in the Southern States as free negroes. They inter-married with these free negroes and the majority of them are more or less tinctured with African blood. this admixture, however, does not change their characteristics. There are among them certain families who have held aloof from such alliances, and these occupy a position of superiority. while they are not, in the strictest sense, tribal in their government, they bow in implicit obedience to their rulers who are always members of the pure blooded families. These pure bloods in personal appearance resemble the Portuguese, but in every other characteristic they are more like the Indian. They are brave, generous, natural hunters, fine
shots and very truthful. The swamps abound in game, such as bear, deer, ducks, turkeys and smaller animals and birds. They never forget an injury and treasure up their feelings of vengeance till they find a way to gratify it. They live in houses of peculiar architectural design resembling the "dug out" of the primitive Western settler.

A few years ago these people became a source of terror to their white neighbors. One of their principle men, Henry Berry Lowrey, organized a band of them and wrought as much crime in Robeson and the adjoining counties ad did the James gang in its more extensive field of operations. This man, on account of a real or fancied wrong, waylaid and murdered a wealthy and influential white man, a Mr. Townsend. The horrors of an Indian war, except the scalping of the victims, followed. Women and children were killed as well as able bodied men. No race was exempt. It was a war of extermination. Houses were burned, stock destroyed, and the country laid waste. After committing depredations, the band would return to the swamps, which are almost as impenetrable as the jungles of India. they are covered with dense underbrush, and only those familiar with their recesses are able to find the hidden paths that lead into their depths. Lowery possessed
considerable intellect, and, being familiar with every inch of the ground, showed himself an adept in the warfare. His second in command, Stephen Lowery, his uncle, was a capable lieutenant, and was often sent on a marauding expedition with a part of the command, while the chief would strike at a distant Point.

This was continued for several years, and became so disastrous to that portion of the state that the Legislature passed an act granting amnesty to all the desperadoes except Henry Berry and Stephen Lowery, for whose capture of death a reward of $10,000 was offered. This action of the State had desired effect and the war came to an end. What became of the leaders is not known. they were never captured and no one ever claimed the reward for killing them. they disappeared, and their followers resumed the even tenor of their way.

These people are legal citizens of the United States, but seldom avail themselves of their privileges. They take no interest in either local or national affairs. They have fought against all efforts for their improvement, and live today the same lives their ancestors did.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Earliest New York Times Reference to Melungeons

A recent MHS Blog article raised the question of when Melungeons were first mentioned in the New York Times. The 1897 article transcribed below, found and kindly provided by Joanne Pezzullo, appears to be the earliest:

Georgia Crotan to be Executed Next Month for Murder.
New York Times
February 28, 1897, Wednesday
ATLANTA, Ga., Feb. 27. -- For the first time in fifty years an Indian is under sentence of death in Georgia. He will be hanged in Glynn County next month. Marcellus Lowry, the condemned man, is a Crotan Indian from the celebrated band in North Carolina, many of whom have drifted with the turpentine and timber men into Southern Georgia, where they are called "Melungeons."  Lowery and a white man named Patrick Burns were working in the woods together and Burns went to Lowery's camp and entered his shanty to get something to eat.  The Croatan Indians are a fierce, treacherous and vindictive race and once their anger is aroused they do not hesitate to commit murder.

The witnesses in the case testified on the trial that as Burns left the shanty Lowery shot him in the back, having concealed himself behind a tree. As to the origin of the difficulty between them very little was brought out, but so far as can be ascertained it was simply the ungovernable temper of the Indian.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Civil War in the Mountain South

By Wilma A. Dunaway
Wilma A. Dunaway. "Slavery and Emancipation in the Mountain South: Sources, Evidence and Methods," Virginia Tech, Online Archives

Southern Appalachia may have been harder hit by the Civil War than any other section of the country. On the one hand, Southern Mountain counties were deeply split politically over secession, and local populations divided their loyalties between the Union and the Confederacy. On the other hand, this region lay geographically at the heart of the Civil War. Both armies moved repeatedly up and down the valleys of Virginia and Tennessee. In addition, both armies targeted numerous sites within the region as strategic occupancy points because they were located on major rivers, were railroad junctures, or were the sites of important resources such as the national rifle works, saltworks, mineral springs, or mines. By the end of the War, eighty Appalachian counties had been devastated by major battles or campaigns or had been overwhelmed by the establishment of military facilities . . . The "official" battles between the two armies probably brought less devastation and destruction to most mountain counties than did the frequent and continuing raids and assaults by guerrillas, partisans and robber bands.

To continue reading: Click Here.

This article is offered in honor of Veterans Day, but in the fierce guerrilla warfare which engulfed the mountains of Southern Appalachia during the Civil War, it often made little difference if one were in or out of uniform, man or woman, elderly or a child; and everyone who was caught up in the struggle became, in a very real sense, a veteran of the Civil War.

My own great grandfather as a boy of 11 in Letcher County, Kentucky had the barrel of loaded pistol shoved into his mouth by band of Confederate partisans wanting to know where his uncle, a civilian Union man, was hiding. Fortunately, they did not pull the trigger, but his uncle was not so lucky: He was eventually captured and summarily executed with a bullet to the back of his head fired by a 16 year old boy.

It was a very nasty war. All wars are nasty, but none are nastier than civil wars.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mountain Music

Music has always been an important part of Appalachian life. The last blog entry, about the Museum of Appalachia, featured a number of pictures of the instruments used to make mountain music.

For a very readable overview of Appalachian music: Click Here.

For a list of Appalachian music sites on the web: Click Here.

To download and play samples of Appalachian music: Click Here.

Note: In order to play the music samples, your system must have an MP3 player, and you must have Java Script enabled. A broadband connection is recommended but if you have the patience to download the music over a dial-up connection, your patience will be rewarded.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Museum of Appalachia

The Museum of Appalachia, located in Clinton, Tennessee, is a living history museum of pioneer, frontier, and early artifacts of mountain life in the Southern Appalachians.

To visit the museum online: Click Here.

To see a number of pictures taken at the museum: Click Here.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

East Tennessee Guide

A vacation guide to East Tennessee, including a History and Heritage section, and Music and Arts section, and a listing of local festivals. The parent page has guides to Middle and West Tennessee as well, but why would go looking there for Melungeon heritage?

To visit the East Tennessee guide: Click Here.

Note: For some inexplicable reason the Sneedville Fall Festival is missing from the festival listing. This should be made the subject of a politely incensed letter to site's webmaster via the feedback link near the bottom of the page.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Scott County Genealogy

Scott County, Virginia is another fine GenWeb site, and one which is very important to Melungeon genealogy.

To visit Scott County: Click Here.

To locate GenWeb sites for other counties of interest: Click Here.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Melungeons in the New York Times

By MHS President Wayne Winkler

Calvin Beale died on September 2, 2008, at the age of 85. A demographer with the U. S. Department of Agriculture, Beale was best known for his discovery that decades of rural-to-urban migration patterns were being reversed in the 1960s. However, for many of us, his most significant work was with the Melungeons and other mixed-race groups. As his obituary in the New York Times said, “He wrote, for example, of a mixed-race people called Melungeons, reputedly of white, black and Indian descent. They are found from the Tidewater areas to the Piedmont and the Allegheny-Cumberland Plateaus. ‘Some are landless, some landed,’ he wrote. ‘But they are all marginal men — wary until recently of being black, aspiring where possible to be white and subject to rejection and scorn on either hand.’”

To continue reading: Click Here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Melungeon DNA Project

Jack Goins, Principal Administrator
Roberta Estes, Technical Adviser

Project Goals:

To establish modal DNA results for the Core Melungeon lines of Goins, Gibson, Minor, Bunch, Bolin, Bolling, Collins, Williams, Goodman, Denham, Bolin, Mullins, Moore, Shumake, Boltons, Perkins, Mornings, Menleys, Breedlove, Hopkins and Mallett, including variant spellings, and other families with these names in their lines.

To learn more and see current results: Click Here and Click Here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What Blood Won't Tell: A History of Race on Trial in America

Harvard University Pres, 2008

By Ariela J. Gross
John B. and Alice R. Sharp Professor of Law and History
University of Southern California

Is race something we know when we see it? In 1857, Alexina Morrison, a slave in Louisiana, ran away from her master and surrendered herself to the parish jail for protection. Blue-eyed and blond, Morrison successfully convinced white society that she was one of them. When she sued for her freedom, witnesses assured the jury that she was white, and that they would have known if she had a drop of African blood. Morrison’s court trial—and many others over the last 150 years—involved high stakes: freedom, property, and civil rights. And they all turned on the question of racial identity.

Over the past two centuries, individuals and groups (among them Mexican Americans, Indians, Asian immigrants, and Melungeons) have fought to establish their whiteness in order to lay claim to full citizenship in local courtrooms, administrative and legislative hearings, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Like Morrison’s case, these trials have often turned less on legal definitions of race as percentages of blood or ancestry than on the way people presented themselves to society and demonstrated their moral and civic character.

Unearthing the legal history of racial identity, Ariela Gross’s book examines the paradoxical and often circular relationship of race and the perceived capacity for citizenship in American society. This book reminds us that the imaginary connection between racial identity and fitness for citizenship remains potent today and continues to impede racial justice and equality.

For more information: Click Here.

Note: Melungeons are specifically discussed in Chapter Four: Citizenship of the "Little Races".

It is encouraging to see a professional historian discussing Melungeons in a scholarly work published by a major university press.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Genetic Genealogy on the Web

As a follow-up to Roberta Estes' terrific article of this past Wednesday, "DNA Testing and the Melungeons," I would like to highlight the two genetic genealogy web sites listed on the MHS Blog's "Links of Interest" page, the portal to which can be found on the sidebar to the right:

International Society of Genetic Genealogy

The mission of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy is to advocate for and educate about the use of genetics as a tool for genealogical research, and promote a supportive network for genetic genealogists.

To visit: Click Here.

The Genetic Genealogist

The Genetic Genealogist examines the intersection of traditional genealogical techniques and modern genetic research. The blog also explores the latest news and developments in the related field of personal genomics.

To visit: Click Here.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


What is "Foxfire"?

• The term "foxfire" is a name commonly applied to several species of bioluminescent fungi that grow on rotting wood in damp forests.

• "Foxfire" is the name that an English class picked, in 1966, for a student-produced magazine they chose to create, containing stories and interviews gathered from elders in their rural Southern Appalachian community.

• "Foxfire" is the name of a series of books which are anthology collections of material from The Foxfire Magazine. The students' portrayal of the previously-dismissed culture of Southern Appalachia as a proud, self-sufficient people with simple beliefs, pure joy in living, and rock-solid faith shattered most of the outside world's misconceptions about these "hillbillies".

• "Foxfire" is a museum in the small northeast Georgia town of Mountain City.

• "Foxfire" is a method of classroom instruction.

• Most importantly, "Foxfire" is the living connection between the high school students in the magazine program and their heritage, built through continued interaction with their elders.

To visit the web page of this nationally known Appalachian educational endeavor: Click Here.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Letcher County Genealogy

Letcher County, Kentucky maintains one of the most comprehensive GenWeb sites. If you have Letcher County connections, Melungeon descended or otherwise, you do not want miss it.

To visit Letcher County: Click Here.

To locate GenWeb sites for other counties of interest: Click Here.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Haints in the Hollers

Supernatural Tales from the Appalachian Mountains
An Annotated Bibliography

Compiled By Judy A. Teaford
Mountain State University

What better day of the year than Halloween to introduce this extensive and rather detailed online annotated bibliography of the supernatural in Appalachian lore and legend, encompassing not only Appalachian fiction and folklore collections, but movies and Internet sources as well.

To read: Click Here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Devil Jim Turner

Outlaw of Harland County
By Holly Fee


My interest in `Devil Jim' was first aroused by the Reverend John Jay Dickey's interview with Woodard Lyttle and curiosity about the killings of William and David Middleton. Since then many bits and pieces of information related to the events surrounding Devil Jim's life have been discovered. The following partial account of Devil Jim Turner is compiled from many sources, Harlan and Clay County court records, census records, Narcissus Middleton's letter, traditional family stories, the above mentioned Woodard Lyttle interview with Dickey and other sources. Some assumptions have been made as to the character and personality of some of the persons involved and as to the timing of some of the events.

But back to the beginning...

To read this fascinating story: Click Here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

DNA Testing and the Melungeons

By Roberta Estes
Copyright 2006-2008

Roberta Estes, MHS board member and technical adviser to the Melungeon DNA project (among several others), has written this in-depth article especially for us on DNA testing, the types, nature and limitations of commercially available DNA tests for genealogical purposes, and the role DNA testing can play in Melungeon studies.

I want to thank Roberta for all the work she has put into this fine article, which is not only so very important in its own right but will also serve as an informational and technical foundation for future blog entries dealing with genetic genealogy and the Melungeon DNA project. I want to also thank Penny Ferguson and Janet Crain for editorial and production assistance.

To read the article: Click Here.

For future reference, the article may be found at any time under the "Genetic Genealogy" section of the MHS Blog's "Links of Interest" page, the portal to which can always be found on the sidebar to the right, immediately above the MHS Blog Archive.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Geographical Location of the Melungeons

By Joanne Pezullo

Beginning in 1849 and to this very day the researchers have headed to Newman's Ridge to find the Melungeons.

To continue reading this review of the literature: Click Here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Digtal Library of Appalachia

Appalachian College Association Central Library

The Digital Library of Appalachia provides online access to archival and historical materials related to the culture of the southern and central Appalachian region. The contents of the DLA are drawn from special collections of Appalachian College Association member libraries and include both photographs and documents.

To visit the DLA: Click Here.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Slave Narratives

Born in Slavery
Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938

Contains more than 2,300 first-person accounts of slavery and 500 black-and-white photographs of former slaves. These narratives were collected in the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and assembled and microfilmed in 1941 as the seventeen-volume Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves. This online collection is a joint presentation of the Manuscript and Prints and Photographs Divisions of the Library of Congress and includes more than 200 photographs from the Prints and Photographs Division that are now made available to the public for the first time. Born in Slavery was made possible by a major gift from the Citigroup Foundation.

To go directly to the slave narratives: Click Here.

To first visit a site identifying the Appalachian slave narratives in the collection and discussing where they came from and how they differ from the slave narratives as a whole: Click Here.

Note: This site contains three sample narratives, including one from East Tennessee which is very much recommended, and its own link to the slave narratives site. Both sites require Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Paul Heinegg


By Paul Heinegg
Published Online

Paul Heinegg has devoted many years to research mixed race families of the colonial and early American Southeast, and has very generously published the results of his research online.

To see Paul Heinegg's research: Click Here.

To read a 2004 New York Times review of the life and work of Paul Heinegg: Click Here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cumberland Gap Genealogical Event

This weekend, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park will host a heritage celebration as part of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial. A "Genealogy Gateway" area will assist visitors with connecting to their own roots, and at sunset Saturday, visitors are invited to join with pioneer descendants from across the U.S. as they walk in the footsteps of their ancestors through historic Cumberland Gap.

To read more: Click Here.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Looking at Legends - Lumbee and Melungeon

Applied Genealogy and the Origins of Tri-racial Isolate Settlements
National Genealogical Society Quarterly 81 (March 1993)

By Virginia Easley DeMarce

To read this paper, which followed "'Verry Slitly Mixt'": Click Here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

'Verry Slitly Mixt'

“‘Verry Slitly Mixt’: Tri-Racial Isolate Families of the Upper South–A Genealogical Study.”
National Genealogical Society Quarterly 80.1 (March 1992): [5]-35.

By Virginia Easley DeMarce, Ph.D.

This seminal paper by noted historian and past National Genealogical Society president, Virginia Easley DeMarce, surveys the literature as of 1992 on tri-racial isolates, including Melungeons and the Goins family, and discusses how genealogical research can contribute to the knowledge of their origins and migrations.

To read the paper: Click Here. (Adobe Acrobat Reader is required.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mahala Mullins

Mahala Mullins was a genuine Melungeon legend and undoubtedly the most famous Melungeon of all to the outside word.

To read about her colorful life: Click Here and Click Here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Legend of Swift's Silver Mine

By James A. Dougherty
A Geographical Approach to the Legends of Silver Mine

Southwestern Virginia, Southern West Virginia, Eastern Kentucky and Upper East Tennessee all claim the mining of silver by one Swift, who is variously called "John", "George", "William",and "Tom". North Carolina and Pennsylvania are claimed by many as Swift's headquarters in his mining operations. Of the many legends concerning the mine(s), all seem to fall generally into two categories: the "Kentucky Legends" and the "Clinch Legends". By word "Kentucky", reference is made to all the legends which place the mine(s) of Swift in the present states of Kentucky or West Virginia, including the headwaters of the Big Sandy,the Kentucky, the Cumberland the Red Rivers. By the "Clinch Legends", reference is made to the area drained by the Clinch River and its tributaries in East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

To continue reading this unusually complete account of the Swift legend, with which Melungeons have been fancifully associated by some writers: Click Here.