Friday, July 31, 2009

What's in a Name?

The Melungeons throughout the 19th century always claimed to have Portuguese ancestry. Documenting an actual Portuguese Melungeon connection is, perhaps, the Holy Grail of Melungeon studies. If you should be so fortunate as to make the discovery, you will need to know how the Portuguese name their children, which is quite different from English and American practice.

To read about Portuguese naming conventions: Click Here.

On the other hand, the Spanish were in the Southeastern United States for three centuries, and while their naming practices are somewhat similar to the Portuguese, they are significantly different.

To read about Spanish naming conventions: Click Here.

When you read these articles, it is sobering to consider the difficulties the complications of these naming conventions present to genealogists in Portugal, Spain, Brazil and Latin America.

Note that many slaves imported into the American Southeast came from Angola, which had been a Portuguese colony since the early 16th century. And indeed the first Africans brought to Virginia were from Angola. Thus their descendants, slave or free, might well claim to be Portuguese.

Note also that Melungeon families did not follow either Portuguese or Spanish naming conventions.

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