Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

Happy New Year 2010!!

Genomics Law Report

Since the completion of the Human Genome Project nearly a decade ago, technological and scientific progress in the fields of genomics and personalized medicine continues to accelerate, with the next generation of human genomic research seeking to untangle the complex relationship between genes and traits and realize the promise of personalized medicine. As these fields have grown, researchers, entrepreneurs and established companies have all enjoyed increasing public and media attention – along with the attention of politicians, regulators, and judges, who are bringing a new layer of complexity to an already complicated legal and regulatory framework.

To help make sense of the resulting confusion, Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson launched the Genomics Law Report. The Genomics Law Report focuses on the legal implications of important developments in the fields of genomics and personalized medicine — including key litigation, legislative, regulatory and policymaking activities — in order to facilitate understanding of the complicated and shifting legal landscape governing genomic and personalized medicine commerce and research.

The Genomics Law Report is designed to enable you to follow these developments as we see them, from a legal perspective, and facilitate the exchange of information and ideas within the genomics and personalized medicine communities.

To visit the Report's web site: Click Here.

Of particular interest may be a series of 36 expert guest commentaries on the most important ethical, legal or social issues involving genetic testing.

To go directly to an introduction to these commentaries: Click Here.

Note: To access the commentaries themselves, a PDF reader is required.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Europeans in Tennessee Prior to 1796

An Overview of the History
Of Europeans in Tennessee Prior to 1796

In the Summer of 1540 the Indian villages in the valley of the Tennessee River were ransacked by a strong mounted company of Spaniards from Florida. Before entering Tennessee, they had followed Hernando De Soto through what is now Georgia and the Carolinas, believing that somewhere in the vast reaches of the wilderness there would be treasure cities to plunder. From the Tennessee valley the Spaniards moved westward for almost a year. Many of them - including grim, iron- willed De Soto - had looted with Cortez in Mexico or Pizarro in Peru and, as a matter of course, they massacred the Indians and burned their villages when they failed to find gold. They followed bison trails and Indian trade-paths, wandering south at times into Alabama and Mississippi. In April 1541 the remnants of the party planted the flag of Spain on the bluffs of the Mississippi River and made camp near the present site of Memphis. After raiding Chickasaw villages nearby for food and mussel pearls, they crossed the river to continue searching for the will-o'-the-wisp gold they were never to find.

More than a century passed before there is record of another white man entering the territory.

To continue reading: Click Here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Old Kentucky Records Resurface

A 'new' stash of old records being readied for viewing
By Josh Kegley -

Land, census and marriage records from the late 1700s to the early 1900s have recently resurfaced that could provide a treasure trove of information for genealogists and others.

The books, which are being indexed to make the information easier to pinpoint, were found in several places. The land and census records were at government archives in Frankfort, and several years' worth of marriage licenses were in the Fayette County clerk's storage area.

The documents are being scanned and eventually will be made available for public viewing on microfilm or a computer. But the original record books won't be available to the public in most cases.

To continue reading: Click Here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Google News Archive Search

News archive search provides an easy way to search and explore historical archives. In addition to helping you search, News archive search can automatically create timelines which show selected results from relevant time periods.

To try it out: Click Here.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thomas' Legion

Thomas' Legion of Indians and Highlanders, commonly referred to as the 69th North Carolina Regiment, was officially organized by William Holland Thomas on September 27, 1862, at Knoxville, Tennessee. Its members were recruited predominately from the Western North Carolina counties of Haywood, Jackson, and Cherokee; East Tennessee also recruited many for the unit. The command initially totaled 1,125 men and contained an infantry regiment and a cavalry battalion. Its artillery battery, John T. Levi's Light Artillery Battery (a.k.a. Louisiana Tigers), formerly served in the Virginia State Line Artillery and was added to the legion on April 1, 1863. During the war, the unit mustered more than two thousand five hundred officers and men (included 400 Cherokees: the Cherokee Battalion).

For much more about Thomas' Legion: Click Here.

Note: Many Confederate units from Louisiana serving the Eastern Theater were known as Louisiana Tigers at various times during the Civil War, not just the one mentioned above.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

William Holland Thomas

William Holland Thomas never knew his father, was raised by a single mother in a lowly mountain home, lacked any formal education, but was one of the most prominent figures in Western North Carolina’s history.

Thomas was the commanding colonel of North Carolina's sole American Civil War legion, Thomas' Legion, and was the only white man to serve as a Cherokee chief. His cousins included President Zachary Taylor and Confederate President Jefferson Davis. It is widely believed that without Thomas's intervention there would not be the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and, to this day, the Eastern Band bestows honor and gratitude to their great white chief.

To read more about this fascinating man and the origins of the Cherokee Eastern Band: Click Here.

Note: More -- much more -- about his Civil War exploits tomorrow.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Podcast Appalachia: Where is Appalachia?


Hello, and welcome to Podcast Appalachia. I’m John Norris Brown.

In this episode, I want to define the geographic boundaries of the Appalachian region. This may sound easy to some, but these boundaries have been drawn and redrawn many times over the years, creating confusion over what is and is not Appalachia. Even today, the boundaries remain fluid and the subject of debate.

In spite of this, there are a few facts everyone can agree one. Obviously, Appalachia is centered around the Appalachian Mountains, but this alone is not the definition of Appalachia. The Appalachians extend far north, into New England and Canada, but no one would consider Canadians to be Appalachian. Some might even be offended by such a notion!

Appalachia is likewise not defined by state boundaries, as no single state is located entirely within the region, with the exception of West Virginia. Instead, Appalachia is comprised of portions of various states.

Over the years, numerous attempts to define the region have led to various definitions, but these definitions usually include the mountainous regions of Northern Georgia, East Tennessee, Western North Carolina, Southwest Virginia, and West Virginia.

To continue reading: Click Here.

Note: This is the last in a series of three MHS Blog entries taken from Podcast Appalachia, which should not be confused with Dave Tabler's weekly podcasts based on his outstanding Appalachian History blog. This particular episode explains something which has puzzled me, why the boundaries of Appalachia as defined by the Appalachian Regional Commission are so peculiar, including many counties nowhere near Appalachia while excluding some counties clearly in Appalachia. As might be suspected, it involves politics.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Podcast Appalachia: The Lost State of Franklin


Hello and welcome to Podcast Appalachia. I’m John Norris Brown.

The “lost” State of Franklin was an unrecognized territory that sought statehood just after the War for Independence. Comprised of what is today Upper East Tennessee and the easternmost counties of Tennessee, but what was then part of North Carolina, the “state” existed for only four years. In spite of its failure, the Lost State of Franklin would capture the imaginations of generations of Americans.

In the mid to late 1700s, settlers in the region that would become the State of Franklin had always felt isolated in their new territory. Fairly or unfairly, they also felt their needs were being ignored by their state government in North Carolina.

Like any good mountaineers, they decided to take matters into their own hands. In 1772 they formed the Watauga Association, the first attempt at self-government in the area. The Watauga Association was something of a forerunner to the State of Franklin and became notable for declaring itself independent of British rule prior to the Declaration of Independence.

Over the next few years, these feelings of isolation and grievances against the North Carolina government would only grow more intense. So once again, the early settlers decided to assert their rights. In Jonesborough in 1784 the independent State of Frankland was declared, and a provisional constitution, which actually was only a slightly modified North Carolina constitution, was adopted.

To continue reading: Click Here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Podcast Appalachia: Early Appalachian Explorers and Settlers


Hello, I’m John Norris Brown, and you’re listening to Podcast Appalachia, a podcast dedicated to the study and understanding of the Appalachian region.

In my last podcast, I attempted to define the geographic boundaries of Appalachia. Today, I want to look at some of the early history of the Appalachian region, including exploration and settlement, as well as the often tragic conflict between Europeans and Native Americans.

Appalachia is a unique region and is considered by some to be America’s “first frontier.” Over the millennia it has been “discovered” many times and has seen more than its share of conflict, tragedy, and bloodshed. In order to fully appreciate this long history, we must travel back in time long before written history to an almost forgotten people.

The first settlers in the Appalachian region came over 14,000 years ago. There are no written records, so much about them remains a mystery. However, it is known that the ancestors of the Iroquois and Cherokee people migrated into the Appalachian Mountains from the west in about 12,000 BC. They then split into two separate and distinct societies: the Iroquois in the north, and the Cherokee in the south.

To continue reading the transcript: Click Here.

Monday, December 21, 2009

West Virginia Puts Vital Records Online

The West Virginia Vital Research Records Project is a collaborative venture between the West Virginia State Archives and the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU) to place online via the West Virginia Archives and History Web site selected West Virginia county birth, death and marriage records, and selected statewide death records in a viewable, downloadable and searchable format.

For more information: Click Here. (A PDF reader is required)

To access the online records: Click Here.

This is something pilot project which will hopefully be extended to other states.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Memoir of the Chief Vann House

By Levi Branham, 1852 - 1944

"My master always treated me like I was human being..."

I spent a large portion of my life in the Chief Vann house with my old master, Mr. Edmondson. He had a daughter by the name of Jennie. Jennie had a waitress who was named Tein. Another of his daughters was Sug, whose waitress was Fannie. Another one of his daughters was Georgia whose waitress was Elvie. These were all of the single daughters that Mr. Edmondson had when I was with him, but he had three married daughters whose names were Harriet, Sallie and Sue. Harriet married Bob Anderson, Sue married Street, and Sallie married Dr. Mathis.

One of my young masters was John Edmondson, another, Tom Polk Edmondson. I was Tom Polk's waitman until he went to the Civil war between the North and South. Bill, the youngest, was quite small. All of the waitmen and waitresses stayed in the Edmondson house now known as the Chief Vann house. The room in which we stayed had a fine carpet on which we slept. Mr. Edmondson gave us fine blankets and we surely did sleep warm and comfortable.

To continue reading: Click Here.

It should be noted that "house slaves" were often treated much better than the far more numerous slaves who worked in the fields. It should also be noted that however "good" a master Mr. Edmondson may have been, he was still a man who regarded other human beings as his property, deprived them of their liberty and extracted uncompensated labor from them, even from small children. Slavery, even in its most benign form, was -- and remains -- a vicious, thoroughly immoral institution and a crime against humanity.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Chief Vann House

It calls into question the definition of civilization.

Hollywood and pop culture would have you think that Native Americans are poor, uneducated, lazy, shiftless relics of a bygone era who can't handle their firewater and are dependent on the federal government for a hand-out. But, one look at the Chief Vann House and all of that goes out the window.

The Chief Vann house is located on Spring Place Road, three miles west of Chatsworth, Georgia, at the intersection of Highways 225 and 52-A. It is one of the oldest remaining buildings in North Georgia, featuring beautiful hand carvings, a 12 foot mantle, and a cantilevered 'floating' staircase that left me speechless, when I first saw it as a kid on a school trip. It is one of the few buildings in the Southeast Tennessee/North Georgia area that I would feel comfortable in calling a mansion.

To continue reading this entry from Dave Tabler's excellent Appalachian History blog: Click Here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Long Hunters

By Emory L. Hamilton

Historical Sketches of Southwest Virginia, Publication 5 - March, 1970
Historical Society of Southwest Virginia

The Long Hunter was peculiar to Southwest Virginia only, and nowhere else on any frontier did such hunts ever originate. True, there were hunters and groups of hunters on all frontiers in pioneer days, but they were never organized and publicized as the long hunts which originated on the Virginia frontier. Most, if not all of the long hunts originated on the Holston in the vicinity of present day Chilhowie, but were made up of hunters who lived on both the Clinch and Holston rivers. The idea of [t]his manuscript is to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that these long hunters were native to the area and were land owners, or residents along the waters of these two rivers.

Perhaps no group in history, who contributed so much to the knowledge of the topography of our country, have been so nearly completely by-passed by historians as have the long hunters of the late colonial days. In almost every instance when the pioneer settler moved toward the extreme frontier, he had long since been preceded by the long hunter. When the first settlers were arriving at Wolf Hills (Abingdon) and Cassell's Woods in 1768 and 1769, the long hunters had long ago bypassed these points and were then hunting far away in the Ohio and Cumberland.

To continue reading: Click Here.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Virginia's Southwest Corner: 1700 - 1983

By Theodosia W. Barrett

Historical Sketches of Southwest Virginia, Publication 17 - 1984
Historical Society of Southwest Virginia

In the 1700's, the southwest corner of Virginia beginning at the head streams of the Holston and Clinch Rivers was a hunter's paradise. The great virgin forest was a vast storehouse of essential resources for man's survival. The formation of this central Appalachian region is picturesque and different from any other place. The Clinch Mountain range divides the watersheds of the Holston and Clinch Rivers. Both valleys with rolling foothills and steep slopes are limestone areas, ideal for farming and grazing.

To continue reading: Click Here.

A Southwest Virginia based group known as the Long Hunters receives more than passing mention in this article. More on them tomorrow.

Note: A number of Melungeon core families lived for some time around Fort Blackmore in Southwest Virginia before migrating to nearby Hawkins (now Hancock) County, Tennessee, and the earliest known written occurrence of the word Melungeon appears in the 1813 minutes of the Stony Creek Baptist Church, also in Southwest Virginia.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Virginia Road Orders

On Monday we discussed road orders. I have learned, thanks to a helpful reader, that Virginia road orders for a number of counties, for select years, mainly in the 18th century, are available online courtesy of the Virginia Transportation Research Council.

To access them: Click Here and when the page comes up, enter "road orders" in the search box, then press the search button.

Note: To actually see the road orders, a PDF reader is required.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Virginia Memory

Gateway to the Library of Virginia's
Online Digital Collections

Launched in 2009, Virginia Memory is part of the online presence of the Library of Virginia, the state archives and reference library at the seat of government for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

In 2006, the Library began reviewing its online presence and came to the conclusion that our traditional Web site could no longer deliver effectively our online content.

In 2007 and 2008, work began in earnest on the redesign of our agency site, as well as the creation of this offering, Virginia Memory. Virginia Memory has been designed as a gateway to the Library's digital collections, whether those items are indexed and delivered through traditional library systems, offered in online exhibitions, organized as resources for educators and students, or presented as research articles by staff who work with the collections on a daily basis.

To go to Virginia Memory: Click Here.

To go directly to its online collections: Click Here.

To visit the Library of Virginia's main web site: Click Here.

Note: The Virginia Memory web site is still in beta test and therefore may be unusually buggy.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Road Orders

By Terry Gruber

During the colonial period, the most important political body, as far as the general population was concerned, was the County Court. The governor, Council, and House of Burgesses made general laws and regulations for the colony that obliquely impacted personal lives, but the regulations that directly effected the day-to-day living of the population were performed by the County Courts. The chief members of the court, the Justices of the Peace, appointed the sheriff, levy collectors (taxes), road surveyors, and other officials. They were also responsible for issuing ordinary licenses (18th century equivalent of hotel licenses), regulating numbers and placement of mills, setting prices at public houses (such as ordinaries), calling grand juries to hear criminal and civil disputes, approving and regulating road construction and maintenance, and various other administrative functions.

The County Courts kept a record of their proceedings called Order Books. From these court records, a researcher can obtain a solid feeling for the pulse of everyday life. Servant indentures, orphan placements, estate appraisals, prices for food and lodging, the nature of civil disputes, road locations, mill placements, and ferry prices are but a few pieces of information that can be gleaned by reading the books.

One of the frequent entries in Order Books are those concerned with road maintenance and construction. In the various road related records are names of local inhabitants charged with the various duties involved in the construction and maintenance of roads. Usually the single largest source of names are those listed on petitions for road construction.

To continue reading: Click Here.

Note: This article goes on to give specific examples from Hampshire County, Virginia but the general principles involved applied throughout Virginia and to other colonies, and later to states throughout the Southeastern United States and beyond. Since road orders identify county residents at a given time and their location within the county, they constitute a valuable genealogical and historical resource.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Trail of the Lonesome Pine

Virginia's State Outdoor Drama
Big Stone Gap, Virginia

This is a fascinating, exciting, and tender love story of a beautiful Virginia mountain girl and a handsome young mining engineer from the East. The drama depicts the story of the great boom in Southwest Virginia when the discovery of coal and iron ore forced the lusty, proud mountain people into making many drastic changes in their way of life. The burst of the industrial revolution was upon them.

The homespun wit and humor of these mountain folk is intermingled with stark tragedy, suspense, very often violence and their final acceptance of their inevitable destiny. All are portrayed in this musical drama to bring it to a happy ending. A superb evening of family entertainment.

The drama, interwoven with beautiful, haunting folk music, some of it original, is performed live before a magnificent 72-foot panoramic painting of the valley known as Lonesome Cove.

For more information: Click Here.

Note: The 2010 schedule is not yet on the web site but performances generally run from late June to the end of August.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Blackwater Creek in Vardy Valley

Blackwater Creek, Vardy Valley
Hancock County, Tennessee

"You must know that within ten miles of this owl's nest, there is a watering-place, known hereabouts as 'black-water Springs.' It is situated in a narrow gorge, scarcely half a mile wide, between Powell's Mountain and the Copper Ridge, and is, as you may suppose, almost inaccessible. A hundred men could defend the pass against even a Xerxian army. Now this gorge and the tops and sides of the adjoining mountains are inhabited by a singular species of the human animal called MELUNGENS. The legend of their history, which they carefully preserve, is this. A great many years ago, these mountains were settled by a society of Portuguese Adventurers, men and women."
--Littell's Living Age, 1848.

For some other creeks, rivers and streams of interest: Click Here.

Note: This post is lifted almost word for word from the Historical Melungeons Blog, which can be found in the MHS Blog's "Links of Interest" section, a link to which is on the sidebar to the right.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Making a Melungeon Connection with DNA

I have said here more than once that there is no DNA test for Melungeon ancestry. Which is true. I have, however, always added the caveat that that there is one exception to that rule, which is when DNA testing can be used to show descent from an historically known Melungeon, documented by traditional genealogical and historical methods.

Today I present an example of just such an occurrence involving a family named Vick using DNA testing performed by 23andMe and augmented by 23andMe's Relative Finder.

To read about it: Click Here.

To visit 23andMe's web site: Click Here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Melungeon Myths: The Anatolian Bump

Much can be found on the Internet about Melungeons possessing something called the Anatolian bump, or more properly, an external occipital protuberance, or in plain English, a conspicuous bump on the back of the head. This has been cited as both evidence of Melungeon ancestry and as evidence of Melungeons having had Turkish origins.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Melungeon have not been shown to have been any more likely than other people to possess this bump, nor is the bump indicative of Anatolian origins, it being found to some degree throughout Europe and the world.

For more on this subject: Click Here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Genealogy Software

As Recommended By
Dick Eastman Writing In
Eastmans' Online Genealogy Newsletter

RootsMagic Essentials (, click on "Free Download") and Legacy Family Tree 7.0 ( These are both Windows programs. I can't decide between these two. They are both great programs but are quite different from each other. Both have free editions available and both are quite powerful. I am amazed that these companies produce such good software free of charge. You might want to upgrade someday to the paid versions but many people never will. These free versions are that good and both are much better than any other free Windows genealogy program I know of.

The only free Macintosh genealogy program I would consider is Personal Ancestry Writer II (often called PAW2U). It is a good genealogy program that does all the basics and it is available free of charge. However, it does not contain all the advanced features of the free Windows genealogy programs, such as RootsMagic Essentials and Legacy Family Tree 7.0. Personal Ancestry Writer II is available at

To visit the newsletter's home page: Click Here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

Welcome to Chronicling America, enhancing access to America's historic newspapers. This site allows you to search and view newspaper pages from 1880-1922 and find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present. Chronicling America is sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP).

The soaring description above is actually quite misleading. In reality, less than a hundred newspapers are actually available online. However, the collection does include a goodly number from Kentucky and a few from Virginia, and if the site just happens to have a newspaper of interest to you, it is a goldmine.

To visit: Click Here.

We can only hope that a great many more newspapers are added to this collection in the not too distant future.

Monday, December 7, 2009

December 7, 1941

The USS Tennessee at Pearl Harbor

By Kenneth Fieth, Metropolitan Nashville Archivist

"There were so many of them flying together that they looked like one. They came through the valley very close to the ground and I could clearly see the rising sun on the end of each wing. Not a few minutes later, the rumbling sounds of multiple explosions rolled through the pineapple field." The missionary's son whose jet-black hair is now gray waved his hand in a dive as he recalled the first time he ever saw a Japanese warplane. His first lesson occurred on Sunday morning, December 7th, 1941.

The men of the USS Tennessee, moored on Battleship Row in Pearl Harbor, had a far more harrowing experience. The following excerpt is from the official after-action report filed by the Commanding Officer of the Tennessee on December 11, 1941.

"On Sunday, December 7, 1941, the USS Tennessee was moored starboard side to quay Fox 6 [in Naval terms that is a berth for the ship lettered as "F 6"] with two hausers and seven manila lines. The USS [West] Virginia was moored alongside to port. Boiler #1 was steaming for auxillary purposes....This ship was the flagship of Commander Battleship Division Two....the USS Arizona was moored about 75 yards ahead and astern of the Tennessee.

At about 7:55, planes, observed to be Japanese by their markings, were seen dropping bombs on Ford Island. [Ford Island is in the center of Pearl Harbor and was used for mooring the ships of "Battleship Row"]. This ship [Tennessee] went to general quarters....Immediately, after the bombing of Ford Island, planes began torpeoding and bombing the battleships and other ships in the Harbor. This ship opened fire with .50 caliber and 5" caliber guns about five minutes after the attack.

To continue reading: Click Here.

Note: The article, as can be seen in the excerpt above, initially misidentifies the USS West Virginia as the USS Virginia but gets it correct thereafter.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

David Crockett

Born not on a mountaintop but in East Tennessee, Davy Crockett's Birthplace has been preserved by the State of Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation as an historic site within the state park system. The site consists of 105 partially wooded acres of land along the Nolichucky River in Greene County, Tennessee.

To visit the state park's web site: Click Here.

It is probably a tossup as to whether Davy Crockett or Andrew Jackson is the most illustrious son of Tennessee.

For an overview of his life: Click Here.

Crockett truly was a legend in his own time; however, the real person, a three term congressman and an ardent political opponent of Andrew Jackson and his Indian Removal Act, was both a good deal more human and a good deal more interesting than the legend. For an excellent in depth account of Crockett's life, consult: Three Roads to the Alamo by William C. Davis, (ISBN 0-06-017334-3), which tells of the life of not only of David Crockett but of William Barret Travis and Jim Bowie as well. Of the three, Crockett was easily the most admirable.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Stories, Old Ragged Verse, Letters to and from mountain cousins by Storyteller and Appalachian Humorist Stephen Hollen. Enjoy the humor and bittersweet memories of Eastern Kentucky and a place where the mist crawls down the mountainside ''like molasses on a cold plate''

To view this entertaining and eclectic Appalachian blog: Click Here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Family Portraits: Virginia Indians

At the Turn of the 20th Century

This is an online photographic exhibit produced by Sweet Briar College showing the faces of just a few of the actual people, they and their children and grandchildren, that Walter Plecker tried to erase from history. It is worth looking at these pictures with that thought in mind.

To view: Click Here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Black and White World of Walter Plecker

By Warren Fiske
Published in Style Weekly
September 22, 2004

This link, the last in the current series of three MHS Blog entries dealing with Dr. Walter Plecker, Registrar of the Virginia Bureau of Vital Statistics from 1912 to 1946, is to an article reviewing the life, character and motivations of this truly evil man.

To read the article: Click Here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Plecker Letters Pertaining to Melungeons

This is the second of a three-part series on the infamous Dr. Walter Plecker, Registrar of the Virginia Bureau of Vital Statistics from 1912 to 1946. During the course of his documentary war on Virginia's Indians and on those whites he deemed not white enough to satisfy his racist ideals, the Melungeons and those of Melungeon descent did not escape his malevolent notice. The link below presents a number of his letters touching on the subject, including his list of "mongrel" surnames. Of particular interest, however, is his exchange of letters with the Tennessee State Archivist and Librarian specifically asking about the Melungeons and their origins. Note that he did not like the answer he received and made it clear he would ignore it.

To read Plecker's letters: Click Here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Virginia Racial Integrity Act of 1924

This begins a three-part series on the infamous Dr. Walter Plecker, Registrar of Virginia's Bureau of Vital Statistics from 1912 to 1946, who for decades conducted a racial inquisition in Virginia which resulted in all Virginia residents previously classified as being Indian and some previously classified as being white being reclassified, against their will, as "colored." Plecker's reign of documentary terror, which brought untold anguish and suffering to its victims, was buttressed and expanded by passage of the equally infamous Virginia Racial Integrity Act of 1924, an act largely inspired by Pecker himself, the full text of which follows below.

The next article in the series will deal with Plecker's efforts to ferret out and reclassify as "colored" Melungeon families in Virginia (along with many other families he regarded as "passing for white") and include his notorious list of "mongrel" surnames. For now it is worth mentioning that the activities of Dr. Plecker and the Virginia Racial Integrity Act of 1924 were cited at the Nuremberg war crimes trials in defense of Nazi racial laws and activities.

The Virginia Racial Integrity Act was declared unconstitutional in 1967 by the U.S. Supreme Court in an unanimous decision, Loving v. Virginia, and was formally repealed by the Virginia legislature in 1975.

To read the Virginia Racial Integrity Act: Click Here.

Note: This begins a re-blogging of a series of three important MHS Blog entries originally made over a year ago.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Where Have All the Indians Gone?

Native American Eastern Seaboard Dispersal
Genealogy and DNA in Relation To
Sir Walter Raleigh's Lost Colony of Roanoke

By MHS Board Member Roberta Estes

Journal of Genetic Genealogy, 5(2):96-130, 2009


Within genealogy circles, family stories of Native American1 heritage exist in many families whose American ancestry is rooted in Colonial America and traverses Appalachia. The task of finding these ancestors either genealogically or using genetic genealogy is challenging.

With the advent of DNA testing, surname and other special interest projects, tools now exist to facilitate the tracing of patrilineal and matrilineal lines in present-day people, back to their origins in either Native Americans, Europeans, or Africans. This paper references and uses data from several of these public projects, but particularly the Melungeon, Lumbee, Waccamaw, North Carolina Roots and Lost Colony projects.

To continue reading: Click Here.

Note: A PDF reader is required. This article is over seven megabytes in length, so some patience is also required if downloading over a dial-up connection.

For for links to supplementary data to which the article refers, the table contents for the JoGG issue in which the article appears must be consulted: Click Here.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Witches Infested Harlan County in the 1850's

By Holly Timm
Originally published December 24, 1986
Harlan Daily Enterprise Penny Pincher

Witches infested Harlan County [Kentucky] in the 1850's or so Wood Lyttle told the Rev. James J. Dickey in an interview in 1898. According to Lyttle, it began with "cattle dying and hair balls being found in them, hide whole but the internal part shot to pieces."

Log heaps were made and all the horses, hogs and cows that had died were burned as a torture to the witches. The people who feared the witches kept their pockets turned wrong-side-out-wards, at night, for safety.

Elizabeth Clay Turner, wife of James Turner Sr. and daughter-in-law of William and Susannah Turner, was one of the witches named by Lyttle. The other two witches named by Lyttle were "old Aunt Dinah," a slave of William Turner Sr., and Salina Sturgeon, a white woman who was the concubine or wife of Negro George, also a slave of Turner's.

Turner and his wife, Susannah Bailey, were apparently one of the main targets of the witches. Lyttle speaks of them as being both about 100 years old at this time although other evidence places them in their 80's.

In an attempt to cure the Turners, guards were placed around them and their home at a distance of about 500 feet, so that no one could come in for the four days it took to effect the cure. No one was allowed to enter the circle for if anyone inside of the guarded circle gave or sold as much as the value of a pin the charm would be broken and no cure could be affected.

Lyttle says that negro women would scream that the witches were coming through the roof to them but he goes on to say that some of these women told him that they pretended to be bewitched in order to keep from work.

He also states that the Middletons were especially afflicted by the witches and that women, negro boys and sometimes men were bewitched.

Saturday, November 28, 2009's Native American Collection

The latest collection on is the Native American collection which was released yesterday [Nov. 19]. Working together with the National Archives and Allen County Library, has created a unique collection that will help people discover new details about Native American history. The Footnote Interactive Native American Collection features original historical documents including:

* Ratified Indian Treaties – dating back to 1722
* Indian Census Rolls – featuring personal information including age, place of residence and degree of Indian blood
* The Guion Miller Roll – perhaps the most important Cherokee genealogical research
* Dawes Packets – containing original applications for tribal enrollments
* And other documents relating to the Five Civilized Tribes’s Native American Collection creates an interactive environment where members can search, annotate, and add comments to the original documents. Additionally, visitors can view pages for many of the Native American tribes that include historical events on a time line and map, a photo gallery, stories and comments added by the community. also provides a free service where visitors can create their own web pages for their Native American family. “Native Americans have a rich oral history,” explains Russ Wilding, CEO of “We hope that the online community will use Footnote Pages to preserve these stories, which will help ensure that they do not become lost to future generations.”

To visit the collection: Click Here.

Note: is a pay site and I am always reluctant to link to pay sites, but it is a good one and some of this material is available nowhere else on the web. Generally speaking, gives enough free access to indexes and such that you can determine whether or not they have material of interest to you without paying first. And they have seven day free trial offer.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Native American Heritage Day

The US Congress has again designated the day after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day.

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 25, 2009

Hang Down Your Head Tom Dula

Hang down your head Tom Dooley
Hang down your head and cry
Hang down your head Tom Dooley
Poor boy, you're bound to die.

It's the most famous murder ballad in American folk music history. And chances are, if you know it, you know the version popularized by the Kingston Trio. Their recording of the song became a major commercial hit in 1958, selling over 6,000,000 copies. That hit single spawned a movie and helped spark the folk music revival of the 1960s. How did the song make its way to the Kingston Trio? Therein hangs a tale.

May 1st marked the 140th anniversary of the criminal execution of North Carolinian ex-Confederate soldier Tom Dula. Not Tom Dooley? Think of the written word opera pronounced opry, as in Grand Ole Opry. Standard regional southern Appalachian pronunciation at work. So the Kingston Trio simply transcribed the name as it sounded to them.

Dula was hanged for the murder of his lover Laura Foster. The two lived in the North Wilkesboro, NC area.

For the rest of the story: Click Here.

Here are the lyrics as made famous by the Kingston Trio:

Frank Warner/John Lomax/Alan Lomax

(Spoken recitation over musical accompaniment)
Throughout history, there have been many songs written about the eternal triangle. This next one tells the story of Mister Grayson, a beautiful woman, and a condemned man named Tom Dooley. When the sun rises tomorrow, Tom Dooley must hang.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you're bound to die.

I met her on the mountain.
There I took her life.
Met her on the mountain.
Stabbed her with my knife.


This time tomorrow.
Reckon where I'll be.
Hadn't-a been for Grayson,
I'd-a been in Tennessee.


This time tomorrow.
Reckon where I'll be.
Down in some lonesome valley
Hangin' from a white oak tree.


For more on the history of the ballad, including several earlier variations: Click Here.

As good as the above web site is, however, it leaves out one very important variation, one which is particularly important in light of tomorrow's holiday:

Hang Down Your Head Tom Turkey

Narration: Down through history, there have been many songs about the eternal triangle. This song, however, has nothing to do with the eternal triangle. It's a song about the guest of honor at a Thanksgiving dinner. Tomorrow at sunrise, Tom Turkey will meet his well as the grandma who made the dressing and cranberry sauce!

Hang down your head Tom Turkey.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head Tom Turkey.
Poor bird, you're bound to die.

I reckon by tomorrow
I know just where I'll be:
On a silver platter,
Served up with brown gravy!

Hang down your head, Tom Turkey.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head Tom Turkey.
Poor bird, you're gonna fry.

By this time tomorrow
The ax is gonna fall.
That's what I get for living
Here at Butterball!

Hang down your head Tom Turkey.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head Tom Turkey.
Dumb bird, you couldn't fly!

I know I am a turkey.
A turkey's what I am.
How I wish those Pilgrims
Had decided to have ham!

Hang down your head Tom Turkey.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head Tom Turkey.
Poor bird, you're gonna die.
Poor bird, you're gonna fry.
Dumb bird, you couldn't fly!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Colonial Williamsburg

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation operates the world’s largest living history museum in Williamsburg, Virginia—the restored 18th-century capital of Britain’s largest, wealthiest, and most populous outpost of empire in the New World. Here we interpret the origins of the idea of America, conceived decades before the American Revolution. The Colonial Williamsburg story of a revolutionary city tells how diverse peoples, having different and sometimes conflicting ambitions, evolved into a society that valued liberty and equality. Americans cherish these values as a birthright, even when their promise remains unfulfilled.

In Colonial Williamsburg’s 301-acre Historic Area stand hundreds of restored, reconstructed, and historically furnished buildings. Costumed interpreters tell the stories of the men and women of the 18th-century city—black, white, and native American, slave, indentured, and free—and the challenges they faced. In this historic place, we help the future learn from the past.

The previous two days' MHS Blog entries have, in effect, been teasers for Colonial Williamsburg's extensive web site which is full of historical and cultural resources pertaining to life in 18th century Virginia.

To begin exploring it: Click Here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Colonial Williamsburg's Newest Addition

In November 2009, R. Charlton's Coffeehouse became the newest reconstructed building on Duke of Gloucester Street in 50 years. An authentic 18th-century coffeehouse, this exhibition building is now open to ticketed guests. R. Charlton's Coffeehouse is located just across from the Capitol.

On the same site more than 240 years ago, a Williamsburg wigmaker named Richard Charlton operated a popular coffeehouse, just a few steps from the colonial Capitol. Over cups of coffee, chocolate, and tea, Williamsburg’s gentlemen and politicians gathered to make deals, discuss business, learn the news from England, and exchange the latest gossip.

For more of the story: Click Here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Colonial Williamsburg's Online Museum

Welcome to eMuseum
The Collections of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Online

Colonial Williamsburg's collections encompass more than 60,000 examples of fine, decorative, mechanical, and folk art. Included are American, British, and Continental ceramics, glass, furniture, textiles, costumes, tools, firearms, numismatics, metals, prints, maps and drawings from the seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, as well as outstanding examples of eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and twentieth-century American folk art. Many of these objects are used to furnish the buildings in Williamsburg's Historic Area, where they provide guests with a better understanding of life in early Virginia. Others are shown in innovative changing exhibitions at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum.

To explore the eMuseum: Click Here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

DAR Records Online

The Daughters of the American Revolution Genealogical Research System is a combination of several databases created in recent years to organize the large quantity of information that the DAR has collected since its inception in 1890. Much of the work to create these research tools is the direct result of funding provided by the President General’s Project of the administrations of Linda Tinker Watkins (2001-2004) and Presley Merritt Wagoner (2004-2007). This system of databases will continue to expand as new information is added.

Access to the various databases is through the “tabs” along the top of the search screen. The following descriptions provide basic information about each database.

To continue reading about the DAR online system and to access it: Click Here.

For the front page of the DAR's web site: Click Here.

It is worth noting that the DAR which in 1939 famously refused to allow the singer Marian Anderson to perform in Constitution Hall because she was black this year joined in the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the concert she subsequently gave at the Lincoln Memorial instead.

To read about that: Click Here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Melungeon Timeline

By Penny Ferguson, MHS VP for Research

An extensive timeline spanning the early 16th century to the late 20th century of people, events and publications pertinent to Melungeon research.

To view the timeline: Click Here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Mulungeons and Eboshins"

Ethnic and Political Epithets

By Wayne Winkler

Of all the mysteries surrounding the mixed-ethnic population known as Melungeons, one of the most emblematic is the mystery surrounding the origin of the word “Melungeon.” Many possible origins for the term have been suggested by various researchers over the years, ranging from a supposed Afro-Portuguese word, “Melungo” meaning (depending on the source) “shipmate” or “white person,” to the old English term “malengine,” meaning “cunning” or “full of guile,” to the Arabic “Melun-jinn,” meaning “cursed soul.” Historically, most researchers have opted for the French term “mélange” (“mixture”) as the root of the term “Melungeon.”

For the complete text of this lengthy but very interesting essay by MHS board member Wayne Winkler: Click Here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Genealogical Evidence and Proof

For a discussion of the nature of genealogical evidence and proof written by Helen F.M. Leary of the Board for Certification of Genealogists: Click Here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Standards For Sound Genealogical Research

Recommended by the National Genealogical Society

Remembering always that they are engaged in a quest for truth, family history researchers consistently—

  • record the source for each item of information they collect.
  • test every hypothesis or theory against credible evidence, and reject those that are not supported by the evidence.
  • seek original records, or reproduced images of them when there is reasonable assurance they have not been altered, as the basis for their research conclusions.
  • use compilations, communications and published works, whether paper or electronic, primarily for their value as guides to locating the original records, or as contributions to the critical analysis of the evidence discussed in them.
  • state something as a fact only when it is supported by convincing evidence, and identify the evidence when communicating the fact to others.
  • limit with words like "probable" or "possible" any statement that is based on less than convincing evidence, and state the reasons for concluding that it is probable or possible.
  • avoid misleading other researchers by either intentionally or carelessly distributing or publishing inaccurate information.
  • state carefully and honestly the results of their own research, and acknowledge all use of other researchers’ work.
  • recognize the collegial nature of genealogical research by making their work available to others through publication, or by placing copies in appropriate libraries or repositories, and by welcoming critical comment.
  • consider with open minds new evidence or the comments of others on their work and the conclusions they have reached.

© 1997, 2002 by National Genealogical Society. Permission is granted to copy or publish this material provided it is reproduced in its entirety, including this notice.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Daniel Boone in Southwest Virginia

The Story as Told by Lyman Coleman Draper

Edited by James William Hagy

In the middle of the 19th century Lyman Copeland Draper hurried about the United States collecting manuscripts promising to use them in writing about frontier history. Draper collected a tremendous volume of documents but he could never give up the search and settle down to writing for any length of time. He was always searching for one more document, one more eyewitness account. The people who entrusted Draper with the documents were, of course, highly upset when the promised volumes never appeared - and the documents were not returned. Draper did succeed in writing his long "King's Mountain and Its Heroes" which was published in 1881. A second work which he never finished was his "Life of Boone." Consequently this work has never been published but has been invaluable in helping such writers as John Bakeless whose "Daniel Boone" is the most comprehensive account of the life of this frontiersman.

All of Draper's manuscripts ended up at the Wisconsin Historical Society where they have been of tremendous aid for research in frontier history. The manuscripts can be obtained on microfilm and though this medium is of great importance in making documents available to many people, microfilm is maddening to read for any length of time. Furthermore, one has to be at a library where there is a microfilm reader. Therefore the story of Boone in Southwest Virginia, which is certainly one of the most important periods of his life, is being presented here in order that a wider audience might appreciate the work of Draper who, had he finished his book, would have been the authority on Daniel Boone.

To continue reading: Click Here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Eastern Cougars

Cougars, also known as panthers and mountain lions, along with wolves, were the top predators throughout the forests of eastern North America. The European settlers that began arriving in the late 1500s were familiar with wolves but had no knowledge of cougars, because cougars live only in the New World. At first, settlers thought cougars were African lions or leopards (the black phase of which is called panther). Only gradually, over a period of about a century, did Americans realize that the cougar was a distinct species. Cougar folklore combined European ideas about predators with Native American knowledge, inextricably mixing psychological fantasy with biological fact. Not until about the mid-twentieth century were scientific methods used to study cougars and determine their true nature.

Because cougars are powerful predators, settlers feared for their own safety and for their livestock. Cougars were hunted with dogs until they were believed extirpated in the eastern United States and Canada by about 1900. Widespread deforestation across the East in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the market hunting of deer herds almost to extinction during that same time span, also contributed to the decline of cougars.

For more on the eastern cougar: Click Here.

On a personal note, my great-great grandfather, who lived in Letcher County, Kentucky, was known as "Panther Jim" Maggard due the large number of cougars, or panthers as they actually called them at the time, he killed, one when armed only with a knife and another which he held off all night long by throwing rocks at it until help arrived.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Three Administrative Matters

One) I believe I have now updated all links previously pointing to Joanne Pezzullo's "Our Melungeons" web site to point to her new web site. If you find any that I missed, please let me know.

Two) Please let me know about any broken links you may find, or anything about the blog that does not look right. In the latter case, let me know what browser you are using and your screen resolution. I use Firefox, currently release 3.5, which I highly recommend, at 1152x864. The blog will format differently to accommodate different resolutions and may therefore look better at some than others, and that is pretty much unavoidable; however, if the problem is browser-specific, I may be able to fix it.

Three) Someone has begun spamming MHS Blog comments with commercial messages. For that reason, I am now requiring that one of those "duplicate this text" blocks be satisfied prior to making comments. I am sorry it was necessary. I hate those things myself and sincerely hope Blogspot does not make theirs difficult to read, as so many do, but if this does not solve the problem, I will be forced to disallow anonymous comments.

Sorry for such a dull blog entry!!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The National Archives Online

The National Archives and Records Administration, NARA, maintains a rich but unwieldy web site filled with much information and pointing to a wealth of genealogical and historical resources, many of them unavailable anywhere else.

To visit its main page: Click Here.

To visit its main genealogical page: Click Here.

There are currently two NARA search engines in use, NAIL, the National Archives Information Locator, and ARC, the Archival Research Catalog, currently 68% complete and slated to eventually replace NAIL.

To use NAIL: Click Here.

To use ARC: Click Here.

For a two page primer on using NAIL and ARC: Click Here. (A PDF reader required.)

Links to detailed help are provided with both search engines.

Note: The primer's address for ARC is out of date and will not work.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Guion Miller Roll

The 1906 to 1909 "Roll of the Eastern Cherokees" is better known as The Guion Miller Roll. It was created as a result of a successful lawsuit filed by three groups of Cherokees who had not been paid all of the money due them as a result of the 1835 Treaty of New Echota which resulted in the forcible removal of the Cherokees and the infamous Trail of Tears.

The Guion Miller Roll is the most important source of Cherokee genealogical research of any of the rolls, because the application required extensive information to be supplied by the applicant. Between August 27, 1906 and May 18, 1909 there were 45,940 applications filed from the United States, Canada, Mexico and even Syria. It listed an estimated 90,000 individual applicants. Each qualifying applicant received a warrant worth $133.33 for their share of the one-time payment due to them. In order for an application to be accepted on this roll, the applicant had to prove descent from a person who was shown on the 1835 roll of Eastern Cherokees (also known as The Henderson Roll), which listed the citizenship of the tribe at that time.

Most applicants were rejected (and acceptance in and of itself does not prove Cherokee ancestry), but accepted or not, these applications provide a wealth of genealogical data.

For a searchable, and easy to use, version of the Index: Click Here.

Take note of the page and application numbers. With these numbers, copies of the applications themselves can be ordered from the National Archives.

To begin the ordering process: Click Here.

Note: Navigating the National Archives site is not easy and the ordering process is not easy and registration will be required.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hawkins County History and Genealogy

Hawkins County History and Genealogy

The records of Hawkins County, Tennessee, from which Hancock County was created, are vital to Melungeon studies.

To visit its excellent GenWeb site: Click Here.

To visit the Hawkins County Genealogical and Historical Society: Click Here.

Note: Yesterday's cautions about the Melungeon information presented or linked to applies to these sites as well.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hancock County History and Genealogy

Hancock County Tennessee is, of course, crucial to Melungeon studies. Many of its 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 visit the Hancock County Historical and Genealogical Society: Click Here.

Note: Both of these sites contain or link to web pages which reflect fanciful Melungeon origin theories unsupported by research and documentation. For better Melungeon history, consult the MHS's Melungeon FAQ and the Melungeon section of the MHS Blog's "Links of Interest" page, which can be reached by links to your right on the blog's sidebar.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Geographical Location Of The Melungeons

By Joanne Pezzullo

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

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

Note: This is a re-blogging of an important MHS Blog entry made over a year ago. The next two MHS Blog entries will present genealogical and historical resources for Hancock County, home of Newman's Ridge, and Hawkins County, from which Hancock County was created and where many older Melungeon-related public records still reside.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Weekly Appalachian HIstory Podcasts

Every Sunday Dave Tabler's outstanding Appalachian History blog (To view: Click Here.) features an Appalachian history podcast, which is really just an MP3 file, meaning you don't need an Apple iPod to listen to it, just an MP3 player on your computer.

To check out today's podcast: Click Here.

You can locate old issues by searching backward through the blog, but the easy way is to simply: Click Here.

Note: A broadband connection is highly recommended and virtually a necessity.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Poor Ellen Smith

The 19th century popular murder ballad, Poor Ellen Smith, recounts the tale of a woman named Ellen Smith, who was shot through the heart by a former lover. When Ellen was found, her ragged clothes were scattered all about the ground around her body. A group of townspeople got together and began a murder hunt which led to the apprehension of the murderer, Peter DeGraff, who was captured while he was loafing around the area.

As is the case with many Appalachian Mountain Ballads, "Poor Ellen Smith" is based on real events. In this case, the locale was Mount Airy, North Carolina.

For more of the story and two versions of the ballad: Click Here.

Mount Airy has, unfortunately, just recently been the scene of a contemporary murder tragedy.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Historical Society of Southwest Virginia

Founded in 1961, the Historical Society of Southwest Virginia has published seventeen pamphlets composed mostly of speeches made at the regular meetings by area historians. They include episodes of history that are, in many cases, not found elsewhere and should definitely be preserved in the form of a large, permanently bound, book.

Furthermore, the society has contributed to a number of projects in the preservation of Southwest Virginia Heritage. Among these are donations to the Southwest Virginia Museum at Big Stone Gap, the society s archives at Clinch Valley College, Wise, Va., and the Fort Houston Marker on Clinch River near Nickelsville in Scott County. The organization has also acquired a large volume of historical material for its archives in the John Cook Wylie Library at Clinch Valley College, including the James Taylor Adams Papers, reams of material collected by E. J. Sutherland as well as hundreds of published volumes from his library.

The area covered by the society consists of Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott and Wise Counties, Virginia, but it has members in many other counties and states. Interested visitors are always welcome to it s meetings held three times a year on the last Saturdays of March, June and September.

To visit the Society's web site: Click Here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Scott County HIstory and Genealogy

Scott County, Virginia, formed in 1814 from parts of Lee, Russell and Washington counties, can, along with Lee County, lay claim to Fort Blackmore and the Stony Creek Baptist Church, both originally in Lee County. That along with other Melungeon connections makes Scott County of great importance to Melungeon studies.

To visit the Scott County USGenWeb site: Click Here.

To visit the Scott County Historical Society: Click Here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Important Melungeon Web Resource Changes Address

Joanne Pezzullo's excellent Melungeon web site has changed hosts and names and has acquired its own domain name. Previously known as the "Our Melungeons" web site, it is now known as the "Documenting the Melungeons" web site with a domain name of, not to be confused with the Historical Melungeons Blog at

To visit Joanne's site at its new location: Click Here.

Unfortunately, this change has had the effect of breaking every link to Joanne's site in the MHS Blog, of which there are a large number. I have updated both the name and the link to her site on the "Links of Interest" page and have updated the link in the last MHS Blog entry referencing her site; however, scores remain and finding and updating them all will take some time. Until that happens, following such links will not take you to the intended page but will take you to her front page; from there you should, hopefully, be able to find the intended target by using the search function at the bottom of the page. I do apologize for the inconvenience!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sizemore DNA Project

The “Ancient” Indian Ancestry
By MHS Board Member Joy King

Origin of the surname:

SIZEMORE (Eng.) Descendant of Sigmar (victory, great) dweller on the Saxon's wasteland.

When I checked the LDS IGI for England (Jan/Feb 1988) many years ago, I found numerous pages of records. There were 44 spelling variants of SIZEMORE. The earliest record was dated 1556 and largest concentration of the surname was in the county of Gloucester.

However, we do have a mixed bag of results that does need explaining. The largest group in our DNA test results is Haplogroup Q. This haplogroup designation has been confirmed with SNP tests of several of our participants. It is found in Native Americans and in Europe. In addition to our main Q group, we have received results for three of our participants that also have SNP confirmed Hg Q but do not match the main group.

In order to be sure our markers are consistent with the Native American markers, our main group participants were joined to the FTDNA Q3 Native American project. The three non matching participants and a few of the main group participants were joined to the FTDNA Q project.4 The administrators of both projects have concluded our participant’s markers are most consistent with the Native American markers, which means they are all descendants of a MALE Native American, but not the same Most Recent Common Ancestor.

The continue reading this fine example of how DNA testing and traditional genealogy can, and should, complement each other: Click Here.

To go the the Sizemore DNA Project's home page: Click Here.

Note: The name Sizemore is historically found in proximity to some Melungeon core families and thus of interest to Melungeon studies; however, Sizemore is not considered to be a Melungeon core family name by most authorities.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Virginia and Tennessee Cemetery Records

Though by no means covering all graves in all cemeteries in the two states, these records do record the graves in a large number of old cemeteries in both Virginia and Tennessee. Cemeteries are listed by county.

For Virginia: Click Here.

For Tennessee: Click Here.

Another page at the same site contains records from a few cemeteries in Southeast Kentucky. To see those: Click Here.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Resources for Readers and Teachers
Of Appalachian Literature
For Children and Young Adults

AppLit is a web site containing Resources for Readers and Teachers of Appalachian Literature for Children and Young Adults. Although the focus is not primarily on literature for adults, some sections contain material on literature for adults that may be taught in high school or college. We believe strongly that picture books and other literature for children can be enjoyed by people of all ages and taught at all levels through college.

AppLit was created by Tina L. Hanlon and Judy A. Teaford in 2000 with support from the Appalachian College Association, Ferrum College, and a Humanities Focus Grant from the Division of Education of the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2000-2001.

AppLit received the e-Appalachia award from the Appalachian Studies Association for 2002.

To visit AppLit: Click Here.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Appalachian Witchcraft

Just in time for Halloween, three tales of Appalachian witchcraft brought to us by Dave Tabler and his outstanding Appalachian History blog.

So, if you dare, turn out the lights and: Click Here.

For an annotated bibliography of supernatural tales from Appalachia, turn the lights back on and: Click Here.

Appalachian Pumpkin Patch

Will Allen Dromgoole

If Lewis Jarvis is arguably the most reliable 19th century source for information about the Melungeons, Will Allen Dromgoole was clearly the most prolific and the most widely read at the time. Some would say she was the most inventive, too.

To review the Melungeon Studies blog entry on Will Allen Dromgoole, including links to all her Melungeon publications: Click Here.

To review Lewis Jarvis' 1903 interview: Click Here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hamblen County History and Genealogy

Hamblen County, Tennessee is a small county lying along the left bank of the Holston River, and divided into two almost equal parts by the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railroad. It was formed in 1870 from fractions of Jefferson, Grainger and Hawkins Counties. The first settlement in this territory was made in 1783 by Robert McFarland and Alexander Outlaw, both of whom located at the "bend of Chucky". Shortly after, Gideon, Daniel and Absalom Morris settled in the vicinity of where Morristown now is. They were brothers and had been among the first settlers on the Watauga. Gideon Morris had three sons; John, Gideon and Shadrach, all of whom after marriage remained In the neighborhood of the old homestead. John lived south of the present town in a house still occupied by one of his descendants and Gideon west of town on what is now known as the Hobb's place, while Shadrach, who subsequently removed to Indiana, located on the site of Rheatown. In 1792-93 a road was laid out through what is now Hamblen County, and extended to the western limits of Jefferson County, where it was met by the road from Knoxville. This road afterward formed the line between the counties of Jefferson and Grainger, and became a section of the great stage route from Knoxville to Abingdon, VA. It was along this road that most of the early settlers located.

To visit Hamblen County's USGenWeb site: Click Here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lee County History and Genealogy

Lee County, Virginia, the home of Fort Blackmore and the Stony Creek Primative Baptist Church, both so important to Melungeon history, has been blogged here before.

To revisit its excellent USGenWeb site: Click Here.

To visit another Lee County genealogical resource: Click Here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

History of Kentucky

North American Review
No. LXXVI, Pg. 1-18, July, 1832

The history of Kentucky is replete with interest for those, who contemplate with a philosophical eye the gradual but incessant advances of human improvement, and the final triumph of human intelligence over the obstacles presented by rude nature and savage men. It may be asserted, with strict regard to truth, that the annals of no country afford more convincing testimony of the courage, the patience and the inflexible perseverance with which its primitive inhabitants have met and surmounted all the difficulties by which they were opposed, in their attempts to secure for themselves and their posterity a permanent resting-place upon the soil. From the first effort which was made to effect a settlement in Kentucky, until within a comparatively short period, the emigrant was beset by dangers and subjected to sufferings and privations, sufficient to appal any heart, that had not been taught by long and painful trials, to encounter whatever might resist the accomplishment of its determined purpose. The wild face of nature was the least powerful enemy of the enterprising settler. He was compelled to contend in almost unremitted combat with the savage, against whose vengeance and insidious plans for itsgratification, it required all his vigilance and intrepidity to guard.

We have the authority of Filson for the fact, that James Mc Bride was the first white man who visited, or, as that writer declares, 'discovered' Kentucky. This visit or discovery was made in 1754. It is asserted by Filson, that Mc Bride, in that year, descended the Ohio accompanied by some other individuals, in canoes, 'landed at the mouth of Kentucky river,and there marked a tree with the first letters of his name and the date, which remain to this day.'

To continue reading: Click Here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Group for Gibson/Gipson Genealogy

This [Yahoo] group is for all people searching the Gibson/Gipson etc surname and all ancestors. You will feel like family here in no time. We all try to help each other. Robin and I [the group's owners] have been able to keep this group one of the most pleasant genealogy groups to belong to by not allowing spam, arguing etc. The members make it what it is also. We're pretty proud of the help people offer and the way every one conducts themselves. Could not ask for more.So if your interested in some serious genealogy searching you have come to the right place. Come on in and let's see if we can help each other. Many wishes of success on your search.

This is a "members only" group.

To join: Click Here.

Note: Please remember that not all Gibson/Gipson families were Melungeons, Melungeon descendants, or Melungeon progenitors!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Smokies to Host Electronic Field Trip for Millions

By Duncan Mansfield
AP Writer
Wed Oct 21, 8:29 am

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is preparing for a virtual field trip by millions of students from around the country.

Schools in 40 states already have signed up for a new interactive Web site showcasing the Smokies' rich variety of plants, animals and ecosystems through a series of learning modules with games, videos and lesson plans.

The National Park Foundation-supported program is geared to elementary and middle school students and will culminate Nov. 3 with a live 60-minute segment from the park hosted by Smokies experts and 6th through 8th graders from Tennessee and North Carolina.

To read the rest of the AP story: Click Here.

To visit the field trip's web site: Click Here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park preserves a rich cultural tapestry of Southern Appalachian history. The mountains have had a long human history spanning thousands of years—from the prehistoric Paleo Indians to early European settlement in the 1800s to loggers and Civilian Conservation Corps enrollees in the 20th century.

The park strives to protect the historic structures, landscapes, and artifacts that tell the varied stories of people who once called these mountains home.

To visit the Park's web site: Click Here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Bringing the Railroad to East Tennessee

East Tennessee Railroads in 1882
(Click on Map to Enlarge)

Bringing the Railroad to East Tennessee

By Samuel Folmsby

Under the date of July 4, 1831, there came from the press in the little East Tennessee town of Rogersville the first number of the Rail-Road Advocate, the first American newspaper to be published primarily in the interest of railroad construction. Established as a result of a meeting of citizens of Rogersville on June 21, and published by an "Association of Gentlemen" of that town, this little paper appeared every two weeks until June 14, 1832, and had as its object the stimulation of interest in what was then the novel idea of establishing direct rail communication between East Tennessee and the Atlantic seaboard. Although the fulfillment of the dreams of these early railroad enthusiasts was to be long delayed, the view they presented in the final issue of their paper proved in general to be a correct one:

Railroads are the only hope of East Tennessee. With them, she would be everything the patriot would desire;- without them, she will continue to be, what she is, and what she has been, a depressed and languishing region-too unpromising to invite capital or enterprise from abroad, or to retain that which may grow up in her own bosom. They are the only improvements at all suited to her condition. Since the construction of railroads was to play such an essential part in the economic development of East Tennessee, and since the inhabitants of this section were so early, so consistently, and so vitally interested in the development of this mode of communication, it is considered worth while to present in some detail their early efforts to obtain through the medium of railroad construction a release from the isolated position in which the restraining bonds of nature had confined them.

To continue reading: Click Here.

For a site with a large number of 19th century railroad maps: Click Here.

Note: A design flaw in the first site causes graphics to overlay the text on the right hand side, as least in my browser (Firefox 3.5). If you encounter this problem, go to your browser's "Edit" menu and do a "Select All" -- that will highlight the text and bring it in front of the graphics where it can be read.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rev. Charles Kesterson

Cincinnati Enquirer
North Adams News (Frederick MD)
September 17, 1898

The Rev. Charles Kesterson is an odd Kentuckian who has been on both sides of the law. His father was one of the early pioneers of Hancock County, Tenn., and his mother was an Indian, being a member of the tribe of famous Malungeons. The Rev. Mr. Kesterson is 7 foot 8 inches tall, though he claims when in the prime of manhood he was over 8 feet tall. His weight is 309 pounds, and he is 73 years old. When lawlessness was at its height, the Rev. Mr. Kesterson was the terror of that country. He never heard the whistle of a locomotive or saw the iron monsters till a year or so ago, when he went to Knoxville. It is claimed by many of his neighbors that he has killed at least seven men. The old preacher denies this. He acknowledges the errors of his youth, but says that he never killed so many.

Note: I have seen no other source linking the name Kesterson to the Melungeons, but then, of course, it is his wife who is supposed to have been a Melungeon and her name is not given.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Husband of MHS Board Member Janet Crain Passes Away

Lawrence Charles Crain, 71, of Burnet County, Texas passed away at his home October 19, 2009, from cancer and a stroke.

Lawrence was born April 12, 1938, in Corpus Christi. He was the third of six children born to Blanche Evelyn Rucker and James Thomas Crain. His formative years were spent in Texas, New Mexico, and California. The family then moved to Bremerton, Washington, in 1955, where Lawrence enlisted in the United States Air Force.

Returning from Okinawa to the United States in December, 1957, Lawrence visited his family in Burnet where he met his future wife, Janet Elinor Lewis. The couple wed April 18, 1958 and began their married life in Altus, Oklahoma. When Lawrence was discharged, he returned to Burnet, until he was hired to work as a civil servant at the Altus AFB. He continued his employment with the government at Ft. Hood for five years. Moving to Austin, Lawrence completed the United Brotherhood of Carpenters’ and Joiners’ apprenticeship program, earning his master carpenter’s certification in 1971. He worked on various projects in the Austin area, including the LBJ Library and Texas Memorial Stadium. He continued working in the Austin-Highland Lakes area, until he returned to employment at Fort Hood in 1981, from which he retired in 1998.

Lawrence enjoyed fishing and passing on the skills to his children and grandchildren. Moving to north Burnet County in 1985, he built a house for his family, and enjoyed hunting and pursuing his passion for antique car restoration. In recent years, he spent time online working on genealogical research and relished the small discoveries that revealed pieces of his family’s past.

Lawrence is survived by his wife of 51 years, Janet, and his children; David and his wife, Randa, of Sweeny, Texas, Diane and her husband, Chuck Humphrey, of Ozark, Arkansas, and Darrell and his wife, Michelle, of Burnet. He is also survived by his siblings; Melvin, and wife, Pat, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Tommy and wife, Debbie, of Burnet, and Rebecca Bingle of Burnet. Thirteen grandchildren; Rhea Holik, Melody Cobb, Zachary Crain, Destiny Stebbins, Clairessa Campbell, Madelyn Humphrey, Abigail, Lydia, Ethan, Samuel and Josiah Humphrey, and Austin and Dillon Crain. Eleven great-grandchildren; Ashlee Holik, Blaine and Emma Cobb, Miles and Abigail Stebbins, Mackenzie Malone, Nathaniel, Collin and Simon Campbell, and Alivia and Erik Hill, and numerous nieces and nephews and extended family. He was preceded in death by his parents, and older sister, Billie Jean Phyle, and younger brother Laurice Ray Crain.

The family would like to thank the dedicated people of Lighthouse Hospice for enabling us to grant the wishes of our loved one, and bring Lawrence home. Memorial contribution suggestions are to St. Jude’s Hospital or the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge of Lubbock. Pallbearers will be Zachary Crain, Ethan Humphrey Austin Crain, Samuel Humphrey, Jason Holik, Travis Cobb, Honorary Ken Bernhard, William DuBose, Jerry Ratliff, James Smith, Leeman Foster, Bill Manning, James Roberts. Graveside services will be Thursday, October 22, 2009 at 2:00 p.m. at the Smithwick Cemetery.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Strange People of Tennessee

The Malungeons and Their Curious Customs

There is a Mystery as to Their Origin

Claims of Indian-Portuguese Descent Discussed

Their Chief Occupations Are Farming, Milling, Hunting
and Digging Medicinal Roots

September 20, 1897
Times Picayune (Louisiana)

The Manchester correspondent of the New York Evening Post writes; A party of London writers and artists are now in the Tennessee mountains studying the peculiar race of people known as the Malungeons. The Malungeons are probably the most mysterious race in America, and less is known of them than of any other people. Whence they came to America or how they obtained their peculiar name is unknown.

Those who assert that the Malungeons are of mixed negro or Indians and white blood do so utterly upon hearsay. There is no proof to show that the Malungeon is of Indian, African or Portuguese descent, nor any reliable history of his origin. The Malungeons are themselves ignorant of their ancestry. Some of them claim to be of Portuguese blood, but they can give no intelligent reason for this claim. They say that their ancestors emigrated to America about 150 years ago from the interior of Portugal and first settled in South Carolina, whence they came to Hancock County, Tenn., settling in a beautiful mountain cove on Blackwater creek. The records of Hancock county show that they were first known there in 1780. In that year they were granted public lands on Blackwater creek. They refused to hold any intercourse with the settlers, except in trade skins and furs for arms and ammunition. It was many years after the revolutionary war before they could speak broken English.

To continue reading this rather lengthy article: Click Here.

Note: This article makes a number of fairly unique claims about the Melungeons, some of which are clearly untrue, but it certainly is interesting.