Sunday, June 24, 2012

We Regret The Error

Joanne Pezzullo

Melungeon DNA Study Reveals Ancestry, Upsets 
'A Whole Lot Of People'
Travis Loller

A ‘few slight errors’ in the reporting by the AP reporter.
(1)” Now a new DNA study in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy attempts to separate truth from oral tradition and wishful thinking. The study found the truth to be somewhat less exotic: Genetic evidence shows that the families historically called Melungeons are the offspring of sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin.”
This is obviously genetically impossible as the undisputed ‘Head and Source” of the Melungeons, Vardy Collins and Buck Gibson, have European DNA as does a number of the other Core Surnames in this project.  

The first Sub-Saharan men came here in 1619 at a time when there were virtually no (available) white women at Jamestown.  The women were brought over in the next few years to encourage the ENGLISH gentlemen to remain in Virginia, where did these Sub-Saharan men find these ‘white women’? By 1650 the Gibson family had been at Jamestown  for 40 years and a couple of generations, and there is evidence they had already mixed with the Native tribes.
(2)"There were a whole lot of people upset by this study," lead researcher Roberta Estes said. "They just knew they were Portuguese, or Native American." 
There is really nothing in this study that would upset or surprise seasoned Melungeon researchers or anyone reading the many Melungeon discussion lists as this project has been a hot topic for the last seven years.

Eyewitnesses to history, credible witnesses, in fact the same witnesses, these authors used to define the Melungeons said they were Portuguese and Indian. When this report was published it had been long established there was African blood in the mix per the 1848 legend of the Melungeons.  The first blood study done in the 1970s showed there were African and Native ancestry in the Melungeons as did the first DNA tests done in 2002 -- TEN years ago! The  Melungeon Heritage Association has been celebrating “One People All Colors well over ten years.
(3) “Beginning in the early 1800s, or possibly before, the term Melungeon (meh-LUN'-jun) was applied as a slur to a group of about 40 families along the Tennessee-Virginia border. But it has since become a catch-all phrase for a number of groups of mysterious mixed-race ancestry.”
Actually throughout the 1850s and 1860s ‘moulungeons’ was a word used numerous times describing people in Virginia who had no relation whatsoever to these people on Newman’s Ridge.
(4) “Estes and her fellow researchers theorize that the various Melungeon lines may have sprung from the unions of black and white indentured servants living in Virginia in the mid-1600s, before slavery.”
“May have” indeed.  In fact, these various Melungeon lines ‘may have’ sprang from a variety of scenarios.  They, or some of them, may have sprang from the union of the European men and Native American women, some ‘may have’  sprang from the ‘dutch, poles, and OTHERS’ who came on the 2nd Supply in 1608 with Thomas Gibson.

Some of the Native tribes in 1609 may have had Portuguese/Spanish or African blood from the earlier mixing with the explorers who came in the 1500s. You could theorize many scenarios if you factor in the EUROPEAN male DNA that was mentioned in the study but omitted by the AP reporter, and the thousands of grandparents that fell between the cracks.
(5) “Claims of Portuguese ancestry likely were a ruse they used in order to remain free and retain other privileges that came with being considered white, according to the study's authors."
In 1848 the Melungeons told their legend; they were Portuguese who mixed with the Indians - the whites and the blacks after they got to Tennessee to form the PRESENT RACE. There was NO REASON IN THE WORLD for them to make up a story they were Portuguese to prove they weren't black when they said they mixed with the blacks. There is no way to spin this! They said they were Portuguese, Indian, white and BLACK. ALL NON-WHITES had the same NON PRIVILEGES in 1848!
(6) “Her attorney, Lewis Shepherd, argued successfully that the Simmerman's family was descended from ancient Phoenicians who eventually migrated to Portugal and then to North America.”
Her attorney did not ‘argue successfully’ they were Phoenicians.  This is not found in the trial transcripts that I have read but in the memoirs of her attorney printed some 25-30 years after the trial, his arguments have not been located to my knowledge.  

In fact her attorney did not ‘argue successfully’ they were Portuguese -- a number of witnesses were called, their neighbors, tax collectors, etc.,  said they were Portuguese, not her attorney.
(7) “The latest DNA study limited participants to those whose families were called Melungeon in the historical records of the 1800s and early 1900s in and around Tennessee's Hawkins and Hancock Counties, on the Virginia border some 200 miles northeast of Nashville.”
These four researchers may have limited the families to the area in and around Hawkins and Hancock County but in this paper which they published they write; 
“This match is particularly important because it shows that the designation Melungeon, the term used to identify this group of South Carolina people, seems to predate the Melungeon community in Hawkins County, being used in reference to Solomon Bolton who is living in the Spartanburg District of South Carolina prior to 1800.”
This group of Melungeons found on the Pee Dee River before 1800, (not in Spartanburg) who settled in Hamilton County, 170 miles from Hancock County,  are not represented in  this study although the authors  clearly write they PREDATE Hawkins Commuity.  

The Newspaper Article 

Just a little investigative journalism would have turned up the Core Melungeon Y DNA Study and the Core Melungeon mtDNA study -- both public pages and both would have shown there were Native Americans in the project that were not used in the paper published by these four authors.

On May 27th Janet Crain, one of the authors, wrote to Cleland Thorpe;
 “Lay persons such as journalists who have not studied genetics don't understand the meaning of the tests....We were not allowed to speculate in our study which was submitted to a rigorous vetting by peer review by the Journal of Genetic Genealogy in a process that took well over a year after the last word was written.”
[According to this paper it is stamped “Submitted July 2011 and accepted December 2011” I’m not sure if this means it sat on someone’s desk from July until December or if it was approved 6 months after it was submitted., or does it mean it was accepted in December, peer reviewed from December until April when it was published?  Either way it seems to be well shy of ‘over a year’.  Lead researcher, Roberta Estes writes the ‘rigorous vetting’ takes up to 18 months “to assure it is presented without error and without bias”.]

In a later email that day Janet Crain wrote;
“Hopefully there will be more interviews and maybe a television show. People all over the world now know about the Melungeons. Eventually it will be for the good." 
EVENTUALLY it will be for the good?  The lead researcher has admitted on her blog there was a ‘slight error’ in allowing Ms Loller to print the Melungeons are descendants of “Sub Saharan African and white women ’?  Janet Crain has twice tried to change the ‘misstatement’ in the article at Wikipedia,  for it is a gross misstatement to write they were descendants of Sub Saharan men when clearly more than half of the male participants were European.  

Are  these four researchers hoping for more interviews so they can clear up some of these ‘misstatements’ and ‘slight errors’ or are they hoping for more interviews after they include the half of the Melungeon population they left out of this one?

Ms Loller relied on the fact this paper was 'peer reviewed' when in fact the journal that reviewed it, Journal of Genetic Genealogist it is a journal for and by 'hobbyists' and "does not abide by the standard system of scientific peer-review".

Why Journalists Make Mistakes ; What We Can Do About Them
by Mallary JeanTenmore  Article

Acknowledging fallibility helps us learn from our mistakes
Admitting we’re wrong can actually help news consumers trust us more.
“I think we inspire trust by acknowledging our mistakes,” Schulz said. “People who obstinately refuse to admit the fact that they made mistakes just look bad. When someone says, ‘You know what, here’s what I got wrong,’ I think people respond quite positively to that.”
 Schulz says in her book that we’re taught to feel shame when we make mistakes. So it makes sense that we would be reluctant to admit we’re wrong.
Perhaps the way to encourage ownership and admission of errors is to create a newsroom culture that handles mistakes differently.
Majority of mistakes aren’t corrected
Maier’s research on corrections indicates that fewer than 2 percent of the factual errors identified by news sources are corrected.

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