Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Portuguese

The Portuguese

The Portuguese ancestry of the Melungeons took a 'big hit' this past April when the paper MelungeonsA Multiethnic Population by Roberta J. Estes, Jack H. Goins, Penny Ferguson, Janet Lewis Crain, was published. It wasn't so much what they wrote but what they didn't write.

They quoted? James Mooney 
In 1902, James Mooney addressed the issue of Portuguese oral history:
"Wherever these people are found, there always will be the traveler or investigator passing through their region, who will encounter their tradition of Portuguese descent, and in view of their ignorance, will wonder how these people ever came to know of the nation of Portugal.”[63]
What James Mooney actually wrote was;  
"Wherever these people are found there also will the traveler or investigator passing through their region encounter the tradition of Portuguese blood or descent, and many have often wondered how these people came to have such a tradition or, in view of their ignorance, how they came to even know of the name of Portugal or the Portuguese."
The next sentence of paragraph two which they completely omitted:  
"The explanation is, however, far simpler than one might imagine. In the first place, the Portuguese have always been a seagoing people, and according to Mr. Mooney, who has looked up the subject, the early records of Virginia and the Carolinas contain notices of Portuguese ships having gone to wreck on the coasts of these States and of the crews settling down and marrying in with Indians and mulattoes."
Mooney 'addressed' the oral history of the Portuguese ancestry. It certainly seems to me the way I read this that he explained there was no reason to doubt their oral history.

The Portuguese were a seagoing people, and apparently there are documented records in Virginia and the Carolinas of Portuguese shipwrecks and the crews intermixing with the Natives.  So why did these four authors choose to leave out this most important revelation by James Mooney?  Why is a quote not a "quote?" 

This paper uses Virginia DeMarce as a source twenty one times  but you will not find this quote included either.... but then again I don't think they were attempting to prove the Melungeon families  may  have been telling the truth about their heritage.  

Virginia Easley DeMarce

Looking at Legends-Lumbee and Melungeon: Applied genealogy and the Origins of Tri-racial Isolate Settlements, National Genealogical Society Quarterly 81 (March 1993): 24-45. Page 37
"The fact that the Portuguese were noted seafarers for centuries. Portuguese laborers--particularly sailors, fisherman, and tradesmen such as net menders and sail menders--were common in towns and harbors throughout the western world, including England and her colonies; and English ships used some Portuguese sailors. In early America, references to them appear in colonial records from New France [Canada] to New England, to the Gulf. There is no reason to doubt that they also sailed into Virginia's ports, and their extensive contact with the English shipping trade might well explain their apparently rapid acquisition of the English language and their quick acculturation in Virginia."
Documented Sources

The authors of this paper writes there is one documented source as a possible link to the Melungeons Portuguese ancestry. The men who came with Juan Pardo.
"One possible documented source of Portuguese ancestry may be from Juan Pardo’s men who were abandoned at various forts in present day North Carolina, one perhaps as far north and west as Morgantown, North Carolina.[206]  Some of Pardo's men may have been Portuguese. These men, if they survived, would have had to have assimilated into the Native population and have taken Native wives, as there were no European women available in 1566.  However, the core Melungeon family group is not originally found in western North Carolina, but in eastern Virginia."
The authors  would like you to believe it is impossible for these sources to have been ancestors of the CORE  Melungeons because the CORE Melungeons have their roots in Virginia? This paper and the CORE Melungeon DNA project includes the families of Bolton, Perkins, Shoemake etc., that were NOT originally found in eastern Virginia but in North and South Carolina. 
Thomas Collins appears in Louisa County in 1743, where did he come from? By 1743 we already have Paul Bunch, John Bunch (1718), Gideon, Hubbard and John Gibson living in the Carolinas and we know as fact Gideon Gibson's DNA matches that of the Louisa County, Gibsons.

How do they KNOW that Thomas and George Gibson were not part of the Indian trader families that had moved to the Carolinas and mixed with these "Portuguese Indians?"

They write; 
"A significant amount of oral history regarding Portuguese heritage exists, but no historical, genealogical or genetic evidence has been discovered to corroborate the oral history.  Some historical information refutes the oral history."
No historical evidence?  Court records are not historical?  These authors have included the Perkins, Shoemake, and Bolton families in the CORE group and the trial transcripts of the Perkins and Bolton contain testimonials they were Portuguese. I believe Wayne Winkler made a statement in one of his radio interviews that court records aren't really evidence.

It seems a hundred and some years after the fact these researchers have decided to play JUDGE AND JURY. The outcome of the Perkins trial does not exist but the Bolton case was upheld by the Supreme Court.

Giles Leitch, Senator from Robeson County, testified, under oath,  before the Joint Senate and House Committe in 1871.

In this paper these four authors, quoting Ariela Gross, writes; Giles Leitch was the "Attorney who had defended militia members who killed several Lumbee in Robeson Co."

Then they go on to write there is no 'historical' evidence that has been discovered?  Are they suggesting because Leitch defended the men who killed the father of the Lowerys he lied under oath and instead of testifying they were 'Negroes' he said he thought they were Portguguese Indians?  Seriously?

Senate: What are they; are they Negroes? 
Leitch: Well sir, I desire to tell you the truth as near as I can; but I really do not know what they are; I think they are a mixture of Spanish, Portuguese and Indian 
Senate: You think they are mixed Negroes and Indians? 
Leitch: I do not think that in that class of population there is much Negro blood at all; of that half of the colored population that I have attempted to describe all have always been free…They are called ‘mulattoes’ that is the name they are known by, as contradistinguished from Negroes…I think they are of Indian origin
Senate: I understand you to say that these seven or eight hundred persons that you designate as mulattoes are not Negroes but are a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish, white blood and Indian blood, you think they are not generally Negroes? 
Leitch: I do not think the Negro blood predominates.

Early the next year Leitch is quoted in the New York Herald:
"I think they are a mixture of Spanish, Portuguese, and Indian; about half of them have straight black hair, and many of the characteristics of the Cherokee Indians in our State; then, as they amalgamate and mix, the hair becomes curly and kinky, and from that down to real woollen hair; I think they are mixed Portuguese, Spaniard and Indians; I mean to class the Spaniards and Portuguese as one class, and the Indians as another class; I do not think that in class of population there is much negro blood at all; of that half of the colored population that I have attempted to describe all have been always free; I was born among them, and I reckon that I know them perfectly well."

The Ivey, Graham, Chavis, Lowery, Oxendine and Gibsons, all reported to be Portuguese. There is overwhelming evidence these families living along the Pee Dee River were thought to be Portuguese. Court cases, local histories etc., are evidence of Portuguese ancestry.

Court records in Indiana reports the REEDS in Wilkes County, North Carolina who married into the Collins family were Portuguese. The Dickey Diaries of the 1890s say the ROARKS who intermarried into the Melungeon families were Portuguese.

The Second Documented Portuguese Case

This 'slave' whether African or Portuguese (or both) --- went to live with the Natives in 1540. 

A Gentleman of Elvas Account - The Cacica of Cutifachiqui
"The governor, in order not to cause her unhappiness in everything, left them, intending to ask them from her at Guaxule, when he should give her leave to return. She took it and went to stop at Xualla  with three slaves who bad escaped from the camp and with a horseman who remained behind, for being sick with fever he wandered from the road and was lost. This man, named Alimamos tried to have the slaves abandon their evil intention and go with him to the Christians - which two of them did. Alimamos and they overtook the governor fifty leagues from there in a province called Chiaha . They related how the cacica had remained in Xualla  with a slave of Andre de Vasconcellos (from Portugal) who refused to come with them; and it was very certain that they held communication as husband and wife, and that both had made up their minds to go to Cutifachiqui .  

These four authors have done a fine job however of discrediting the Portuguese ancestry, simply because they refuse to acknowledge the Pee Dee Families as CORE Melungeons.

Wayne Winkler thinks the Portuguese ancestry is a 'cover story' and is quoted in the AP article by Travis Loller as saying; "It's sometimes embarrassing to see the lengths your ancestors went to hide their African heritage" which led to his radio interview;  "For centuries the Melungeon people of Appalachia believed they were of Portuguese descent. Turns out, their direct lineage is more African than anything else." 

In my opinion Wayne Winkler, Roberta Estes, Jack Goins, Janet Crain, and Penny Ferguson are directly responisble for the numerous derisive comments and articles circulating the internet now as a result of their inaccurate and misleading research and comments.

A Few Examples

Melungeons Take a Hit
 "In their new communities they were still referred to as “free people of color” but by then they had invented a cover story that they were descendants of early Portuguese explorers who had come to Appalachia and settled long before other whites did."
This ridiculous post made on
"I was just happy these tests didn't confirm those idiotic notions tha Melungeons were Portuguese, Turks, or Gypsies, or some other crazy notion. That's all I meant to be agreeing to. Many of those Portuguese origin people were ashamed of having a little African blood, and that is why I was happy about proof of a little African blood. I know they will say they weren't trying to discover an alternative to sub-Sahara African blood -- BUT THEY WERE! If you believe that I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'll sell you for pennies on the dollar . . . :)

Anything BUT African! Applachia’s Melungeon People Upset To Learn Their Real Roots Aren’t Portuguese, Turkish Or Gypsy - Read the Ugly Story Here
“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.”

And if you think this DNA project ruled out Portuguese ancestry than you should check out the Portuguese DNA project - very similar to the Melungeons - lots of E1ba, R1b, like Buck Gibson, some I's, like the Denhams,  and even some R1a like Vardy Collins! 


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. It is NOT about the inclusion of the African families it is about the exclusion of the Native American families. The Sizemores, Lawsons, Freeman were Native Amercian, 2 of their subjects of the 6 included in the mtdna had proven lines to the Cherokee but they neglected to point that out. In 1848 the Melungeons told the reporter they had mixed with the Africans, and 50 years later they told Will Allen Dromgoole the Goins were the African branch of the Melungeon tree, the DNA only confirmed this.

    Did you look at the Portugal DNA project link above? DNA cannot pinpoint where any of these families came from. I suggest you read the Portuguese project and compare it to the Melungeons project.

  3. I had a DNA test from a different company..not related to the "23andme" deal. My profile indicates that some of my ancestors were, indeed, Gypsies. However most came from the Iberian Penninsula and North Africa, with Native American (Asian) and others. I had a great, great grandmother (Abernathy) who was born in Virginia in 1807 and was a Cherokee according to family tales. I also have a Gibson great grandmother, born to parents from Tennessee. Portuguese explorers were all over that area before 1800 and brought slaves from Jamaica and Brazil, black slaves, Portuguese slaves, white slaves and Native American slaves. And, of course, there really were Native Americans all over the place. Why is anyone denying a Portuguese connection or a Native American one? I suggest people forget the DNA studies for a bit and read their history books.

  4. The Portuguese explorers were all over that area in the 1500s

  5. I recently discovered the most interesting and somewhat "controversial" world of "Melungeons," which is surprising since I've been doing family research for quite some time, my family is all over TN, VA, some in KY; and we have the proverbial "Indian ancestry," which no one can prove. An Internet article that I came across ( gives a list of possible Melungeon surnames. I have at least four on the list: Collins Lucas Martin Stewart with possibly unconfirmed connections to Robinson, Robertson and Jones. And after taking the autosomal DNA, test, I have noticed the surnames Thompson and Wood (also listed as possible Melungeon surnames) keep showing up on "cousin matches." My brother's YDNA is R1b, and my autosomal DNA is 99% European, which includes 3% Iberian Peninsula, and the surprising 1% African (Senegal) but no Native American. Wikipedia has an informative page on Melungeon, where I found a possible meaning of the name Melungeon: "A different explanation traces the word to malungu (or malungo), a Luso-African word from Angola meaning shipmate, derived from the Kimbundu word ma'luno, meaning "companion" or "friend".[35][36] The word Melungo and Mulungo have been found in numerous Portuguese records. It is said to be a derogatory word that Africans used towards people of Portuguese and white ancestry. It could be assumed the word was brought to America thru people of African ancestry." I look forward to learning more about this interesting part of our past and possibly my family history.

  6. Been doing genealogy for the past 13+ yrs. I've ran across research on Melungeons before but never really paid much attention to it. Growing up my mother and my father as well as my fathers mother and his grandmother have always spoke about who we were kin to and were some of our blood comes from. It wasn't until this past week that all of that changed.

    It's been believed that we had Indian blood. My father stays tan in the winter and becomes dark in the summer, he has a few hairs on each leg and always has. That to me, put a little proof in stories ( hearing how Indians didn't have a lot of hair). My great grandmother was a medium skinned woman tended to be a bit darker than my father. When she became old her hair didn't go gray/white it turned a pewter silver. However, I submitted to an AncestryDNA Autosomal test, I received my results this past week.

    My mother is a pale woman, red hair, blue,green eyes. Her ancestry from what I have found and the stories that were told matched up for the most part. Dutch, German, Irish some British as well. Most of her family can be dated to their immigration, there's a few lines in the east Tennessee area I can't get back past 1800, but hopefully with more DNA testing that will change.

    My fathers side, I always heard we were Irish and Indian, which was were our physical characteristics came from. I was shocked when I received my atDNA results. They have me at 48% West European - which lines up with the German, Swiss, French. 28% Ireland - includes Ireland, Scotland and Wales. My mother has quite a few Irish ancestors as well as a few lines from Wales. and the big shocker 15% Iberian Peninsula! Spain/Portugal??? I called my father up and informed him of what my results were and he had no clue what to say or think. Except for 2 lines or so, I have his family dated back to either the early to mid 1700's or to their dates of immigration. No Spanish surnames, no immigrations from Spain or Portugal. I would think that after 300 yrs or so, that blood that did come from there would be very little if even readable.

    However, my father and his family are from Southeastern Kentucky. As most know, there's a lot of cousins marrying cousins. In my father's family there are two families that have been intermarrying for the past 200+ yrs, I'm assuming the blood comes from them. One surname dates back to the east/east central Virginia to the early 1700's. He and his family eventually migrated into southeastern Kentucky in the late 1700's. Stories on file from over a hundred years ago speak of one of the first pioneers of the family. They speak that he was a dark skinned man, with dark hair and eyes and that he looked 3/4 or more Indian, so much so that he could move about with them without issues. I know that DNA has been done and there has been Indian DNA found, but I've not heard of anyone else speak on any other blood. Perhaps that because atDNA wasn't our until recently. According to they show my atDNA has having no traces of Native Ancestry, however in the way atDNA is passed down, I might not have inherited any. However a few other programs, when I run my DNA through shows traces of both North and South American Indian DNA.

    I do show less than 1% of North African blood, which states it came from the northern regions of Morrocco, Algeria, Libya or Egypt. I show no traces of Sub-Saharan DNA. Having a few ancestors from France I'm assuming that's where it came into play.

  7. My family is related to the Perkins (Jacob Perkins, Esther Perkins). I recently did's DNA test and found that I have no Native American ancestry and 2% African (Senegal) and 1% Iberian Peninsula.


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