Sunday, January 31, 2010

Genetic Genealogy: Faces of America

Kicking off February 10, Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. investigates the family history and DNA-tested ancestry of a dozen Americans: Elizabeth Alexander, Mario Batali, Stephen Colbert, Louise Erdrich, Malcolm Gladwell, Yo-Yo Ma, Mike Nichols, Queen Noor, Dr. Oz, Eva Longoria, Meryl Streep and Kristi Yamaguchi.

For more information, including the program's trailer: Click Here.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Pictures of Mahala Mullins' Cabin

Below are three pictures of the cabin home of Melungeon matriarch and moonshiner extraordinaire, Mahala Mullins:

The cabin while still occupied, around 1940

The cabin not long prior to its removal in 1994

The restored cabin rebuilt near Vardy, Tennessee

Friday, January 29, 2010

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.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tennessee Melungeons of Hawkins/Hancock County

Research Notes
By Virginia DeMarce, Ph.D.
Past President of the National Genealogical Society

This study is limited to the Tennessee Melungeons of Hawkins/Hancock County (with what can be learned specifically about them in the counties from which their ancestors came, and the counties to which members of their families moved). It does not use the term "Melungeon" generically to describe tri-racial or possibly tri-racial settlements in the remainder of Tennessee's counties, much less all over the Upper South.

To continue reading: Click Here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

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.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Looking at Legends - Lumbee and Melungeon

Applied Genealogy and the Origins of Tri-racial Isolate Settlements

By Virginia Easley DeMarce

National Genealogical Society Quarterly 81 (March 1993)

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

Monday, January 25, 2010

"Verry Slitly Mixt"

Tri-Racial Isolate Families of the Upper South
A Genealogical Study

By Virginia Easley DeMarce, Ph.D.

National Genealogical Society Quarterly
80.1 (March 1992): [5]-35.

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. (A PDF Reader is required.)

Note: This is a reblogging of an important past MHS Blog entry.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

John Wesley "Devil John" Wright

Letcher County Kentucky

One of the most colorful men in Eastern Kentucky history was a man known as "Devil" (or "Bad") John Wright. John was a grandson of Joel Martin Wright and also John Wallis Bates - two of Letcher County's pioneer families.

He (Devil John Wright) was the great grandson of William Payne Johnson.. He was the son of Joel Ellis Wright and Eliza Agnes Bates Wright. John served as Sheriff of Wise Co., VA, and was at one time a Pinkerton Agent. It was from these years as a lawman the John was given the nickname of "Devil John". When tracking an enemy or an outlaw, John never relented until he got his man...thus to be chased by John Wright was to have the Devil himself at your heels.

To continue reading: Click Here.

Note: This sprawling article begins with a fairly lengthy summary of the history of Letcher County which is interesting its own right and provides background for the discussion of Devil John which follows.

For more details on Devil John's genealogy: Click Here.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Devil Jim Turner

Outlaw of Harlan County

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 continue reading: Click Here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

National Archives Public Meeting on Researcher Needs

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) of the United States has issued the following announcement:

There will be a public meeting on Friday, January 29 at 10:45 AM in the researcher's lobby on the first floor of the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the National Archives building, to discuss how the National Archives meets the needs of the research community. This will not be a discussion of the details of the research room layout, but rather about researcher needs, and how to meet those needs. There will be a presentation, followed by an open discussion. US Archivist Ferriero and Michael Kurtz will be the speakers, and David McMillen, NARA External Public Relations, will moderate the program.

The National Archives is interested in hearing from the research community what it can do to make it easier for you to research at the National Archives. US Archivist Ferriero is willing to listen to researchers and he is open to suggestions on how to make our work easier and more productive in our search for our ancestors.

David Ferriero was sworn in as the 10th US Archivist on January 13th.

To read his remarks: Click Here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

There is No Unique Turkish DNA

By MHS Board Member Janet Crain

It is now quoted widely on the Internet that certain groups (American Indians and Melungeons) in the USA have Turkish DNA. The article below from PubMed does not bear out that possibility. The suggestion is disingenuous at best.

To continue reading: Click Here.

The notion that the Melungeons were of Turkish descent is one of the greatest red herrings in the history of Melungeon studies. A previous MHS Blog entry dealt with the myth of Turkish origins.

To review: Click Here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Citizenship and Immigration Records

A little-known program of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides genealogy information that may be difficult or impossible to obtain elsewhere. The records include naturalization files, visa applications and citizenship tests, and may reveal family secrets and mysteries.

Under the USCIS Genealogy Program, which started in 2008, requests are usually completed within 90 days. For $20, the government will run a search of the name, as long as the person is deceased. If there are records available, the government charges additional fees for the files.

For more information: Click Here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Is There A Biological Basis For Race?

National Public Radio Broadcast
January 15, 2010

The 2010 census form has a box to check for race, but what do the categories mean? Some scientists say there’s no biological basis for dividing people into races. Others say race can be an important marker for disease. Host Ira Flatow and guests look at the science of race.


Esteban González Burchard, MD, associate professor, Departments of Bioengineering, Therapeutic Sciences and Medicine, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, Calif.

Pilar N. Ossorio, associate professor of law and bioethics, University of Wisconsin, School of Law and School of Medicine, Madison, Wis.

Alan Goodman, past president, American Anthropological Association, co-director, The Race Project, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty, Hampshire College, Amherst, Mass.

To read a transcript of this NPR broadcast: Click Here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The 2010 Census

The ten question 2010 census form, one of the shortest in history, is now available online. Forms will be mailed or delivered to households across the country during the month of March.

To see the 2010 census form: Click Here.

For more on the 2010 census, click on the "2010 Census Home" tab above the form.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

American Dialects

Not all people who speak a language speak it the same way. A language can be subdivided into any number of dialects which each vary in some way from the parent language. The term, accent, is often incorrectly used in its place, but an accent refers only to the way words are pronounced, while a dialect has its own grammar, vocabulary, syntax, and common expressions as well as pronunciation rules that make it unique from other dialects of the same language. Another term, idiolect, refers to the manner of speaking of an individual person. No two people's idiolects are exactly the same, but people who are part of the same group will have enough verbal elements in common to be said to be speaking the same dialect.

For a comprehensive overview of American dialects, including a dialect map, and how they originated: Click Here.

Note: You must read, or page, through several preliminary paragraphs before getting to the actual dialect descriptions, which begin immediately after the second occurrence of the dialect map, the first being at the very top of the page. Also, a number of interesting dialect related links, including an American-British dictionary, are provided at the bottom of the page.

Finally, the Wikipedia article on Appalachian English may be of particular interest in the context of this blog.

To read it: Click Here.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Appalachian Cultural Museum

The Appalachian Cultural Museum, part of Appalachian State University, was created to foster an understanding of the people of the Appalachian Mountains and to serve as a laboratory for new museum ideas. Through exhibits, publications, and special events, the Museum presents the rich traditions of the region. The Museum gives new meaning to life in western North Carolina in a manner that is authentic and non-stereotypical.

Curiously, the Museum's exhibits are currently closed for the foreseeable future although the Museum continues to conduct its various cultural and educational activities. Efforts are being made to eventually find a suitable new location in which to house and display its exhibits. But for now its exhibits can only be seen online.

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

Friday, January 15, 2010

Wilderness Road Regional Museum

In Historic Newbern, Virginia

The Wilderness Road Regional Museum is located in historic Newbern, Virginia. Newbern, located in Pulaski County, had its official beginning March 3, 1810, when Adam Hance laid off 28 lots fronting on the Wilderness Road. Because of its early significance, Newbern was placed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

A number of historic buildings dating from the early 19th century are located on-site. Long range plans call for the restoration of all buildings. Donations and in-kind contributions are welcome. The Museum Committee is now searching for artifacts dating from 1810 to 1865. Letters, documents, paintings, photographs, business records, furniture and objects pertaining to southwest Virginia are especially wanted. Each chapter of the New River Historical Society (Floyd, Giles, Montgomery, Pulaski counties and the City of Radford) furnishes a room in the Museum. Pulaski County Board of Supervisors donates a substantial annual contribution to the Museum's budget.

The Museum contains a library and archive of historical books and records, as well as a large assortment of family records. The earliest collection of Pulaski County papers is stored here. Some documents are available online.

To visit the Museum: Click Here.

For more on the Wilderness Trail: Click Here. (A PDF Reader is required.)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The First American West

The Ohio River Valley, 1750-1820
A Library of Congress Web Site

The First American West: The Ohio River Valley, 1750-1820 consists of 15,000 pages of original historical material documenting the land, peoples, exploration, and transformation of the trans-Appalachian West from the mid-eighteenth to the early nineteenth century. The collection is drawn from the holdings of the University of Chicago Library and the Filson Historical Society of Louisville, Kentucky. Among the sources included are books, periodicals, newspapers, pamphlets, scientific publications, broadsides, letters, journals, legal documents, ledgers and other financial records, maps, physical artifacts, and pictorial images. The collection documents the travels of the first Europeans to enter the trans-Appalachian West, the maps tracing their explorations, their relations with Native Americans, and their theories about the region's mounds and other ancient earthworks. Naturalists and other scientists describe Western bird life and bones of prehistoric animals. Books and letters document the new settlers' migration and acquisition of land, navigation down the Ohio River, planting of crops, and trade in tobacco, horses, and whiskey. Leaders from Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to Isaac Shelby, William Henry Harrison, Aaron Burr, and James Wilkinson comment on politics and regional conspiracies. Documents also reveal the lives of trans-Appalachian African Americans, nearly all of them slaves; the position of women; and the roles of churches, schools, and other institutions.

To visit the collection: Click Here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Leslie County History and Genealogy

Leslie County [Kentucky] was formed in 1878. The lower portion being taken from Harlan County, the northwestern part from Clay County and the northeastern section from Perry County.

The county seat of Leslie County is Hyden.

Hyden is located on US 421 and at the mouth of Rockhouse Creek, a branch of the Middle Fork of the Kentucky River. It was founded on John Lewis's farm in 1878 as the seat of the newly established county. Named for John Hyden (1814 - 1883), then state senator from Clay County and one of the commissioners appointed to establish Leslie County. The post office began operation in March 1879 with Leander Crawford as Postmaster. The town of Hyden was incorporated in 1882.

To visit the Leslie County USGenWeb site: Click Here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Free Genealogical Charts and Research Aids

The following four sites contain a large number of genealogical charts or other record keeping aids. There is considerably overlap between the sites but each has its own take on common charts and aids, and each has some unique charts and aids.

In no particular order:

To visit Bailey's Free Genealogical Forms: Click Here.

To see forms from Family Tree Magazine: Click Here.

To see forms from a Comanche genealogy site: Click Here.

To see forms from Click Here.

Note: A PDF reader is required for many of the forms.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hathi Trust Online Book Collection

HathiTrust is a bold idea with big plans.

As a digital repository for the nation’s great research libraries, HathiTrust brings together the immense collections of partner institutions.

HathiTrust was conceived as a collaboration of the thirteen universities of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation and the University of California system to establish a repository for these universities to archive and share their digitized collections.

Currently Digitized

5,260,257 volumes
1,841,089,950 pages
196 terabytes
760,862 volumes (~14% of total in the public domain)

Academic institutions currently contributing to the collection include the entire University of California system, the University of Virginia and Columbia University, among many others.

To search the collection: Click Here.

For a sub-collection of over 2,000 books of genealogical interest: Click Here.

Note: Full text is only available for works which are in the public domain but copyrighted works can be searched for terms of interest.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Highlander Research and Education Center

Highlander serves as a catalyst for grassroots organizing and movement building in Appalachia and the South. We work with people fighting for justice, equality and sustainability, supporting their efforts to take collective action to shape their own destiny. Through popular education, participatory research, and cultural work, we help create spaces -- at Highlander and in local communities -- where people gain knowledge, hope and courage, expanding their ideas of what is possible. We develop leadership and help create and support strong, democratic organizations that work for justice, equality and sustainability in their own communities and that join with others to build broad movements for social, economic and restorative environmental change.

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

Note, the Highlander Research and Education Center is the direct successor to the Highlander Folk School which was the subject of yesterday's MHS Blog entry.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A School for Subversives

It’s back to school time. How would you like to have attended the same school that Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Martin Luther King Jr., Andrew Young, and Fanny Lou Hamer all attended?

That would be Highlander Folk School, near Monteagle, TN, for many years the only place in the South where white and African-American adults could live and work together, something that was illegal in that strictly segregated society. The 1950s brought Highlander to national attention, as civil rights legends and social activists learned the ways of non-violent protest there in the school’s “Citizenship School Program.” Rosa Parks’ participation in a Highlander workshop in the summer of 1955, 5 months before her back of the bus incident, had a crucial influence on her. And during the subsequent Montgomery bus boycott, Highlander co-founder Myles Falls Horton introduced Rosa Parks to Eleanor Roosevelt as “the first lady of the South.”

To continue reading: Click Here.

Note: This is another entry from Dave Tabler's always outstanding Appalachian History blog, and a very interesting one it is, too. However, I feel compelled to point out that saying that it was illegal for blacks and whites to work and live together in the segregated South is not strictly true. If it were, the Highlander Folk School would have been easily closed by the state. And to cite a personal example, I saw my own grandparents work side by side with blacks during the 1950s in Arkansas. None the less, what was going on at the Highlander Folk School at that time was unprecedented in the segregated, post-Reconstruction South, and to no small extent in the North as well, the de facto segregation of the North being just as corrosive and almost as pervasive as the de jure segregation of the South; and certainly the Highlander Folk School's activities were not appreciated by white supremacists North and South.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Second Annual MHS Conference

The Second Annual MHS Conference will be held Saturday, June 19 and Sunday, June 20 at the Hancock County High School in Sneedville, Tennessee. The MHS is very pleased to be able to hold its second conference in the heart of Melungeon country, in the very shadow of Newmans Ridge. This will be a two day event with much more time available than last year for informal discussions, answering questions and sharing genealogical information. Speakers and other details will be announced here well in advance of the conference.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Public Access to Genealogical Records

Have you considered how unfairly genealogists are being treated by those who are in possession of the records we need access to so badly? $20 to $30 for one record and being charged to even look at the records. Here's an organization seeking to change this situation.

Records Preservation and Access Committee, a joint committee of the Federation of Genealogical Societies and the National Genealogical Society.

To continue reading: Click Here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Old Thomas Collins of Flatt River

Written and Compiled by Jack Goins

According to documented family research, old Thomas Collins Sr., born before 1710, was the father and/or grandfather of the historical Tennessee Melungeon Collins. At least one of Thomas Collins parents was probably full blood Saponi Indian. Collins family history handed down from father to son was, "The Collins were living in Virginia as Indians before they migrated to North Carolina, and they stole the name Collins from white settlers" ( Will Allen Dromgoole's 1890 interview with Calloway Collins, quoted in Melungeons And Other Pioneer Families.)

To read the story of Thomas Collins and his descendants: Click Here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Books We Own

A Look-Up Resource for International Genealogical Research

What is Books We Own?

Books We Own is a list of resources owned/accessed by individuals who are willing to look up genealogical information and e-mail or snail mail it to others who request it. This is a free service - volunteers may ask for reimbursement of copies and postage if information is provided via snail-mail. The project began in 1996 as a way for members of the ROOTS-L mailing list to share their resources with one another. Today, there are over 1500 volunteers.

For more information, including how to make a look-up request: Click Here.

Monday, January 4, 2010

In the Tennessee Hills

A Month among the Mysterious Tribe of Malungeons
October 4th, 1890
Cincinnati Commercial Tribune

Another fine article which apparently accompanied the articles written by Will Allen Dromgoole

Contains Sketches Of:

The Gowens Resdence
A Malungeon Graveyard [grave shelters]
Dorcas Collins
Calloway Collins [on the stump]
A Malungeon Boarding House

To read the article: Click Here. (A PDF reader is required.)

Note: Many thanks go to the noted and tireless Melungeon researcher Joanne Pezzullo for bringing this unique article to light and to the web.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Predictions for the Year 2000

From The Ladies Home Journal of December 1900

The Ladies Home Journal from December, 1900, contained an article by John Elfreth Watkins, Jr.: What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years. Mr. Watkins wrote: “These prophecies will seem strange, almost impossible. Yet, they have come from the most learned and conservative minds in America. To the wisest and most careful men in our greatest institutions of science and learning I have gone, asking each in his turn to forecast for me what, in his opinion, will have been wrought in his own field of investigation before the dawn of 2001 - a century from now. These opinions I have carefully transcribed.”

Well, I am about ten years late in analyzing Mr. Watkins' predictions. However, I think they are still interesting and many of them were surprisingly accurate.

To continue reading: Click Here.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Worst Mine Disaster in US History

At 10:20 a.m., December 6, 1907, explosions occurred at the No. 6 and No. 8 mines at Monongah, West Virginia. The explosions ripped through the mines at 10:28 a.m., causing the earth to shake as far as eight miles away, shattering buildings and pavement, hurling people and horses violently to the ground, and knocking streetcars off their rails. Three-hundred and sixty-two men and boys died. It remains the worst mine disaster in the history of the United States.

To continue reading: Click Here.

Note: 2009 was the safest year in US mining history.