Sunday, July 8, 2012

Paul Heinegg, Walter Plecker, et al

The next few posts are dedicated to Paul Heinegg and his *award winning" genealogy.

Melungeons at Wikipedia
“Beginning in 1995, the researcher Paul Heinegg published updated documentation of numerous families of free people of color in the Upper South. His historic research found that most such families in the censuses of 1790-1810 in North Carolina and Virginia could be traced to origins in unions between white women and African men in colonial Virginia, whose descendants were free.”   
Sound familiar?

The Gibson Family of Charles City County

The genealogy begins with “The Gibson family PROBABLY  descended from Elizabeth Chavis.  He then assigns Gibson, ?Hubbard, ?Jane, and ?George.  There are 24 questions marks [?], 9 probably and 9 may have beens in the genealogy of this family that Mr. Heinegg paints as 'freeafricanamericans'. This is 'award winning' genealogy?

This is suppose to trace the line back to a ‘white woman and African man?’ The male descendants in this line have European haplogroup R1b which makes Heinegg’s assumption impossible. Gibson Gibson’s mother, Elizabeth,  petitioned the General Court of Virginia to release her son Gibson, who had been unlawfully bound by Berr. Mercer to Thomas Barber, who had gone to England leaving the boy with Samuel Austin.  Consider this 1656 law;
In 1655 provision was made that Indian children could become indentured servants only by consent of their parents and for specified terms agreed upon and such children were to be educated in the Christian religion.  
 In Virginia, 1656, it was provided that Indian children brought into the colony as hostages should be assigned to masters by choice of their parents, but should not be made slaves. Again, in 1658, it was decreed that any Indian children disposed of by their parents to a white man for “education and instruction in the Christian religion”, or for any other purpose, were not to be turned over to any other person upon any pretext whatever, and any such child was to be free at the age of twenty-five.
 Could Elizabeth have went to court to have her 'Indian child' released because he had 'been turned over' to Samuel Austin? We know Gibson Gibson’s father was not African but an Englishman proven by the DNA. But he clearly could have been the son of, or married to, an Indian woman. Some of the descendants of Jane Gibson of Charles City County, who were enslaved, won their freedom by proving they descended from a ‘free Indian woman.’

Gideon Gibson is then presented as a ‘free African America’ who married a ‘white woman.’ Heinegg speculates;

“ Gibby Gibson, must have impressed the other prosperous free African Americans in that area of North Carolina because three of them named their children after him.”

Gideon Gibson was brought before Governor Johnson on account of his ‘complexion’ which was likely from his Indian mother as Johnson was reported to have said;
“I have had them before me in Council and upon Examination find that they are not Negroes nor Slaves but Free people” 
Henry Laurens who was a witness to this later wrote that Gideon produced

 “upon comparison more red and white in his face than can be discovered in the faces of half the descendants of the French refugees in our House of Assembly."
Heinegg writes with authority; 
“John Gibson, Gideon Gibson …..married the daughters of prosperous white farmers. Some members of the Gibson families became resolutely white after several generations.”
Heinegg never proved they were African in the first place, DNA proves they were ‘white’ to begin with. He then uses the ‘he was a mulatto’ or ‘he was a Negro’ when he is fully aware the courts in most cases could not determine if a person was indeed a Negro, Indian, mulatto or mustee, as seen from his book; 

Was Nat an Indian, Mustee or Mullato?
Orders 1774-9, p. 206, 19 August 1777, Nat an Indian boy in the custody of Mary Greenlee who detains him as a slave complains that he is held in unlawful slavery. Commission to take depositions in Carolina or else where.
p.230, 17 September 1777, On the complaint of Nat an Indian or Mustee Boy who says he is detained by Mary Greenlee...
p. 308, Petition of Nat a Mullatoe or Indian Boy to be set free from service of Mary Greenlee...nothing appeared to the Court but a bill of sale for Ten Pounds from one Sherwood Harris of Granville County, North Carolina that through several assignments was made over to James Greenlee deceased, late husband to the said Mary...said Mullatoe or Indian Boy is a free man & no slave.
 p.388, 6 April 1770, on motion of Sibbell, an Indian woman held in slavery by Joseph Ashbrooke, have leave to prosecute for her freedom in forma pauperis.
p.405, Sibbell an Indian wench v. Joseph Ashbrooke, for pltf. to take deposition of Elizabeth Blankenship and Thomas Womack.
p.456, Sybill a Mulattto vs. Joseph Ashbrooke dismissed.
Was Robin an Indian, Negro, or Mulatto?
 p.205 Feb. 1712/3
Robin Indian free from Thomas Chamberlayne's service
p.215, March 1712/3, Robin an Indian agst. his former Mistress Mary Skerm that he is a freeman ... Thomas Chamberlayn having in last Court pleaded that ye said Indian was his ... he is free.
p.216, Mary and John Curtis attended for Robin Indian.
p.275, March 1713/4, Thomas Chamberlayn agst. his Servant Robin Mullatto hath unlawfully absented himself for 16 weeks.
1741-1745…..Robin a Negro Man now in possession of Thomas Cocke, Gent., petitioning for leave to sue for his freedom. - Robin, an Indian Plt. Against Thomas Cocke Genbt. Deft. In Trespass Assault and false imprisonment…We find that James Jones late of Prince George County in the year of our Lord 1693 was in the possession of an Indian girl named Sarah as a slave and that we did find the said girl in the year aforesaid was 4 years old. We find that the parents and Native Country of the sd. girl were Heathens and Idolators. We find that the aforesaid girl did live and die in the service of the aforesaid James Jones as a slave. We find that the Plt. Robin is the issue of the aforesaid Indian Sarah
It is clear the early courts could not determine the ethnicity of the Indians, and summoned witnesses to court to testify as to  what they were 'called', yet Heinegg has, by osmosis I suppose, been able to determine these people all had African heritage no matter what the courts or witnesses said.

Tabitha Gibson listed in the will of Gibby Gibson was married to George Rawlinson who Heinegg has *guessed* came from York County because there are records in York County indicating they were people of color. The Rawlinson family, according to Heinegg, started with Elizabeth who ,“may have been” the mother of Elizabeth b. 1684 who was “perhaps” “the mother of a "Mollatto Servt. boy to be free" and then with no ‘may have been’ or ‘perhapsHeinegg states this Elizabeth was the mother of George Rawlinson who married Tabitha Gibson. Mind you these are the Rawlinson of York County, Virginia and Gibby Gibson and daughter Tabitha were from Charles City County.

Abstract. Deed. 4 March 1661/2. Tho. Busby planter of Surry Co. sells to Wm Rollinson 'one Indian Boy about the age of five yeares.' Signed Tho. Busby. Wit: John Gittings, Mathew Hoggson. Wm Rollinson assigns interest in above Francis Radford. Signed Willi Rollinson. Wit: Walter Holdsworth, Charles Gregory. Rec 24 April 1663."  [Thomas Busby, Indian interpreter, had a grist mill on Upper Chippoakes Creek, a neighbor of the Gibsons]
In 1673 Thomas Mudgett was fined by the Charles City Court for losing his composure in the courthouse and causing a fight along with John Rudd, Nevit Wheeler and William Rawlinson.
The following from Charles City County Court Orders 1687-1695, by Benjamin B. Weisiger III., reprint 1992, pp. 113, 134, & 148:

p. 366] 1691 Nov 10: George Rollinson chooses Wm Haygood his guardian to which the mother of said orphan assents in court 

p. 417] 1692 Sep 15: Thomas Todd hath in his hands certain estate of William Rawlinson, dec'd, part of which is said to belong to the dec'd's orphans, and not secured. He is summoned to next court
Was George Rollinson who married Tabitha Gibson the son of William Rollinson of Charles City County or Elizabeth of York?  It certainly seems one would think the one in Charles City County where he married Tabitha Gibson is the most likely candidate.


Heinegg writes the Gibson family ‘probably’ descends from Elizabeth Chavis because the Chavis family “probably originated in Virginia before 1650 since there were free, mixed-raced members of the family…..”

Research shows this Chavis family found on the Sunken Marsh, neighbors of the Gibsons, in fact came from Ireland in 1654 on the Richard and Benjamin and ‘probably’ were not mixed race when they got here.  It is not known if Thomas Chavis/Chivers came with a wife but he brought four children with him and one son, William, was born in Virginia.

Since the Gibson DNA is European and not Native American or Sub Saharan we must presume the ’mixed’ race comes in through the maternal side.  Mr. ___ Gibson was ’probably’ married to Elizabeth, a Native American, who was the mother of Gibson Gibson, Mr. _____ Gibson probably died sometime between 1654 and 1660 when Elizabeth, the Native American, mother of Gibson Gibson married the widow, Thomas Chavis/Chivers, who then became the mother of the ’mixed’ race William Chavis born about 1659, thus Gibson/Gibby Gibson and William Chavis were half brothers.

William Eaton, Indian trader, was living in Granville County, North Carolina in 1754 where it was reported he allowed some Saponi Indians to live on his lands. The list of William Eaton's Militia for 1754 shows William Chavis as a 'Negro' but it has been demonstrated through court records, tax records, census records, etc., no one could determine the race of these people who were called mulatto in one place, listed as Indian, white, etc., in the next list. 

As William Chavis was married to Francis Gibson, daughter of Gibby Gibson and sister to Gilbert Gibson and kinfolks of Gideon Gibson the Indian trader, no doubt related to the Indian Gibsons of Charles City County, ----  in all likelihood they are 'probably' the Saponi Indians living on Eaton's land. 

When this was mentioned in an email -  Paul Heinegg said there was no way William Chavis could be an Indian, he was a Negro.  Even if William Chavis was a grandson of the Indian, Elizabeth___ Gibson Chavis, and Irish man Thomas Chavis, if  his mother had 'one drop of African blood, he was a 'Negro' -- and could no longer be called an Indian.

Walter Plecker
Not only did the one-drop rule disregard the self-identification of people of mostly European ancestry who grew up in white communities, but Walter Plecker ordered application of the 1924 Virginia law in such a way that vital records were changed or destroyed, family members were split on opposite sides of the color line, and there were losses of the documented continuity of mixed-race people who identified as Native American. Over the centuries, many Native American tribes in Virginia had absorbed people of other ethnicities through marriage or adoption, but maintained their cultures. Suspecting blacks of trying to "pass" as Indians, Plecker ordered records changed to classify people only as black or white, and ordered offices to reclassify certain family surnames as black. Since the late 20th century, Virginia has officially recognized eight American Indian tribes; they are trying to gain federal recognition. They have had difficulty because decades of birth, marriage and death records were misclassified under Plecker's application of the law. No one was classified as Indian, although many individuals and families identified that way and were preserving their cultures.  One Drop Rule 

Heinegg on Walter Plecker;

On February 27, 2011 Paul Heinegg wrote in an email to me; 

"Let's keep things in perspective. Plecker was a racist with whom many people of Virginia completely agreed and with whom some had minor differences of opinion. Far worse things have been said about him than the Governor who oversaw his work as well as the entire Jim Crow system in Virginia.  Excuse my rant. That has been bothering me for the past twenty years, each time I read comments about Plecker"

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