Sunday, October 20, 2013

We Ask For Proof and We Get More Words

In the recent blogs by the people who brought you the third, and latest DNA project, they are making a few claims that "in my opinion" are just  a little outrageous. The numbered quotes in bold are from the latest blog of Roberta Estes. (Found Here)

1. "Many people expected to discover the Melungeons were primarily Native American."

Not so.  Most people who had done any research at all on the Melungeon history knew their legend told in 1848; they were Portuguese adventurers who had mixed with the Indians, whites and blacks. 

They also would have read Dromgoole's report that stated the Collins and Gibson were Indians, the 'head and the source of the Melungeons,' the Denhams were Portuguese, the Mullins were English and the Goins were African.  This was the same report that C. H. Humble heard in 1899; 
"The second settlers were from North Carolina; they were the Goans, Miners, and Bells; they were charged with having negro blood in them and, before the war, were prosecuted on this ground for illegal voting, but were acquitted. They explained their peculiarities by claiming a Portuguese origin."
This DNA simply backs up their legend. There was nothing in this project that proves the Collins and Gibson were not Indians, their DNA is European and since no one knows their parentage their mothers may very well have been Riddle, Sizemores or Freemans. 

Take a look at the Portuguese DNA project, (Here) it is similar to the Melungeon project, haplogroups E, I, R1a and R1b, and of course we have the Goins and Minor who are Sub Saharan.  None of this conflicts with what history has told us for 165 years, or the first Melungeon DNA project published ten years ago.

2. "all of the direct maternal lines tested were European"

"ALL" consists of six females and two of them had Cherokee fathers, which proves NOTHING.   Does Roberta Estes actually expect us to believe there were no Native American mothers after testing only SIX females?  

3. "What did the contemporary people who knew them during their lifetime think about their race?  Census takers, tax men and county clerks?"  

Let us start with the 'contemporary people' these authors used in their report found here;

Do you see a pattern yet?

  • John Bell Brownlow - Cherokee and Portuguese
  • Sheriff Buttery of Hancock County - Cherokee
  • The Judge and Jury in 1846 - Portuguese (Cherokee)
  • John Netherland  Portuguese (See also above link of John Bell Brownlow who got the story from John Netherland, same as Judge Lewis Shepherd)

The census takers were all screwed up, they didn't know whether to call them mulatto, fpc, white, black, or Indian.  If the census taker had came around in April and recorded Joe Blow he might have been marked as white since he hadn't been out in the fields yet, and when the census taker got around to Joe Blow's mother and father's house in June they were marked as mulatto.  This happened all the time, there is absolutely no uniformity in the census taker.

Let's take the Bryson Gibson family for an example. Bryson was in Lee Co, Va., in 1820 and was listed as "Total White Persons - 10, 1830 he had moved to Claiborne Co, Tenn and was listed as 14 Free People of Color, 1850 he is in Floyd Co., Ky., and he and his family are recorded as mulatto but in 1860 Morgan Co., Ky., he is black. Bryson has went from white to mulatto to black in 60 years.  

Bryson and Fanny Green Gibson had a large family and time and space does not allow me to cover them all but let's look at Alexander, son of Bryson, who married Mary Spencer;  Alexander obviously follows his father from 1820-1830 as white then FPC and is also recorded as fpc in Knox County, Ky., in 1840. He is a mulatto in 1850,  yet by 1860 he is now black and by some miracle in 1870 Henry Co., Indiana he and his wife have *turned* white but all his children are mulatto 

Perhaps the old folks were lounging around indoors and weren't as dark as their children toiling in the fields, and Roberta Estes asks us what the census taker thought of their race?

4. Estes asks; "Do the records indicate that these people were black, Native, European, mixed or something else like Portuguese?

Something else?  Isn't Portugal in Europe?  I think the answer to this one is simple; "All of the Above." She asks if the African admixture was recent or from long ago?   Perhaps one day we will be able to trace these people through their records back in time and locate where they have been for the last 3000 years but I don't think it is going to happen any time soon. Since no one has produced any freedom papers, manumissions, or one of the many other papers that described them as slaves, Africans, etc., I would suggest Estes would have to guess the admixture was from long ago. 

5. If these men were Native Americans, would they have likely fought against the Indians in the French and Indian War in 1754? 

Estes notes; 
"they (the Melungeons) are specifically noted as fighting "against the Shawnee."  
Maybe I am misreading this but didn't the Cherokee and British fight together against the French and Shawnee?  Weren't the Indians constantly fighting AGAINST each other?
"Only the presence of the Cherokee in North Carolina prevented more aggressive Shawnee attacks. In February 1756 Capt. Hugh Waddell helped secure a peace treaty with the Catawba and Cherokee. Under the treaties negotiated by the governors of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, the Cherokee would send their warriors north to fight the French and the Shawnee in exchange for supplies and forts (to be built by the English) to protect the Indian settlements."
6. Melungeon families and their ancestors were listed on tax records and other records as mulattoes; Moses Riddle is listed as an Indian  this is the only instance found in the hundreds of records searched. 

Might I remind Estes that Moses Riddle and his wife are both listed as Mulatto on the 1755 Orange Co. NC TAX LIST?  So was Moses a Mulatto or an Indian? If he is categorized as an Indian then all the Collins, Gibsons etc., listed on the 1755 tax as Mulattos are no doubt Indians also... 

Africans and Native Americans: The Language  of Race and the Evolution of Red-Black Peoples - By Jack D. Forbes  Page 262  
"As already noted, the census records of  Virginia through 1830 uniformly place all  Indians in the 'free colored' category, while  those in 1840 and 1850 categorize virtually all  as "M" 
"Tennessee followed the pattern of North  Carolina, in general, although the precise  treatment of unmixed Indians is not clear from my data.  From 1794 'Negroes and persons of  mixed-blood to the third generation' were  prohibited from testifying in white cases and in  1822 punishment was provided for any white  person who 'shall presume to live with any  negro, mustee, or mulatto... as man and wife.'  The above groups were apparently regarded as  'colored'.
In 1834 the franchise was limited to 'free white  men' except that colored persons of less than  one-eighth non-white ancestry could vote.  Apparently the 'Malungeons' (Saponi- Powhatan) mixed people of northeastern  Tennessee were categorized as 'free persons of color' by the same constitutional convention.
Roberta Estes et al; (Found Here)
“Every free white man of the age of twenty- one years, being a citizen of the United States,  and a citizen of the county wherein he may  offer his vote, six months next preceding the  day of election, shall be entitled to vote for  members of the general Assembly, and other  civil officers, for the county or district in which  he resides: provided, that no person shall be  disqualified from voting in any election on  account of color, who is now by the laws of  this State, a competent witness in a court of  Justice against a white man. All free men of  color, shall be exempt from military duty in  time of peace, and also from paying a free poll  tax.”[26]
"What this doesn't say in so many words is that  negroes, Indians and mulattoes, in other  words, free persons of color, and slaves, were forbidden from testifying in a court of law  against a white person, voting and other civil  rights afforded to white people." 

Jack Goins (Found Here)
"Colonial Virginia issued instructions to the tax  collectors to list all Indians living among the  whites and all others not white enough  'mulatto', this was a judgement call. I don't  have the date of that order but I have seen the order." Jack
While Estes and Goins may not have found Jack Forbes work it is obvious they are both aware that  Indians were listed as mulatto and free persons of color, just a little disingenuous I would say.

7.  In earlier cases, in the 1700s in Virginia, these families were prosecuted for “concealing tithables” specifically for not listing their wives, “being mulattoes.”  

In the 2012 paper published by Roberta Estes et al they write; "they were summoned to appear in court for concealing tithables, probably their mixed race wives. 

In 2012 they were "probably" today they were "specifically their mulatto wives."

And this is the actual court record below; note it says nothing about 'specifically their wives.' 

Louisa County28 May 1745, "Ordered that William Hall, Samuel Collins, Thomas Collins, William Collins, Samuel Bunch, George Gibson, Benjamin Branham, Thomas Gibson, and William Donathan be summoned to appear at the next Court to answer the presentment of the Grandjury this day made against them for concealing tithables within twelve months past." They pled not guilty. On 27 August 1745 the jurors failed to agree on a verdict, and at the next court some of the jurors failed to appear. On 28 May 1746 the defendants argued that some of the jurors were from the same parish as they, so they would be gainers by a guilty verdict but the court rejected their argument. The jury brought in a special veridct which was referred for argument the next court, but the result was not recorded [Orders 1742-8, 152, 157, 166-7, 172, 175, 183, 193].
Absolutely nothing specific, nothing about their wives and nothing about mulattoes. 

The Quakers were found in Louisa and its parent counties as early as 1720-1730.  In 1744 the Camp Creek MM was established in Louisa County, Samuel Bunch, noted above was one of the founding members.  As the Quakers of Louisa County grew in number they also became more problematic as they refused refused to bear arms , pay tithes,  or support military actions, even against the Indians.  The early 1740s found the Quakers being jailed and their property confiscated, causing many of the Quaker families to disperse. 

From the above record the defendants (Gibson, Collins, Bunch, etc.) "argued that some of the jurors were from the same parish as they, so they would be gainers by a guilty verdict." Did these defendants fear the court was going to confiscate 'their wives'?  What would the  'jurors from the same parish' gain? 

Does this prove these defendants were Quakers refusing to 'pay tithes' - no - is there anything in this record that states the tithes were 'specifically their mulatto wives' - the answer is no. Why the need to change the records?

8. " By this time, so many generations had passed that they may not have known the whole truth, and there is indeed evidence of two Indian lines within the Melungeon community."

In 1848 when the journalist visited Newmans Ridge he was told the legend of who these people were. They had not forgotten who they were, they were very explicit as a matter of fact. This same story was repeated in 1890 to Dromgoole and 10 years later to Humble. Vardy Collins was born in 1765 and surely knew his father born at least in 1740-1745 and would have at least known of his grandfather born early 1700s. They knew the truth, the whole truth, and that is what they told, it was no cover story.  They said they were Portuguese who had mixed with the Indians, whites and blacks, what else was there to tell? Why would they have made up they were Portuguese and in the same sentence say they had mixed with the blacks? This makes no sense. 

There is only evidence of two Indian lines in the Melungeon Community?

"This modified form of Schedule No 1 is to be used in making the enumeration of Indians, both those on the reservations and those living in family groups outside of reservations.
Detached Indians living either in white or negro families outside of reservations should be enumerated on the general population schedule (Form 7-224) as members of the families in which they are found:  but detached whites or negroes living in Indian families should be enumerated on this schedule as members of the Indian families in which they are found.  In other words, every family composed mainly of Indians should be reported entirely on this schedule and every family composed mainly of person not Indian should be reported entirely on the general population schedule."
Note on this Special Census (Found Here) these Cole families descend from Obediah 'Biddy' Collins daughter of Valentine Collins, the Gibsons descend from Bryson Gibson, both of these families are found not only in the Melungeon Project but ALSO in the Lumbee Indian project (Found Here) which Estes also oversees.  If you check this Lumbee Indian Project you will find many more families listed both as Melungeons and Lumbee Indians.

Also absent is the Q haplogroup, Native American Lawson family, from Hawkins County, Tennessee. Roark Lawson is listed in this *Core* Melungeons project and they include the Sub Saharan haplogroup of Roark Lawson but leave out the Native American Lawson? I suppose they have a magic formula for differentiating between these families. A Melungeon, I would think, is a Melungeon. If Lawson is listed on one of their 'lists' they use how do they know it only refers to ROARK LAWSON?

Again I find it rather disingenuous to state their is only evidence of two Indian lines, especially as they are still refusing to acknowledge the Native American Freeman family listed as a *Core name* and it is in their project.

9. "In light of these records, the DNA results should not have been as surprising as they were.  However, this body of research had never been analyzed as a whole before."

I don't believe anyone was surprised that Vardy Collins and Buck Gibson, or the Denhams, Mullins, Bolen, Bolling, Nichols, Goodmans, etc.,  DNA was European.  Or why anyone would be surprised the Goins and Minor were Sub Saharan as it was written in the 1890s they were at least 'suspected to have African blood'.

I believe that most seasoned, as well as many of the newcomers to Melungeon research, were only surprised this report was so poorly written, not even fact checked, and contained so many misrepresentations, as I have pointed out in previous blogs.  

And lastly I have to say I am flabbergasted by the last sentence above that "this body of research has never been analyzed as a whole before."

First they publish a report on a half finished DNA project based on 'cherry picked' names from the project, (omission of Q Freemans, etc.) SIX females supposedly to represent all the Melungeon mothers, then write the project is ongoing and they are still studying it, then announce it has never been analyzed as a whole before?  

Let me quote Roberta Estes; "There may indeed be Native American lines yet undiscovered within the female or ancestral lines, and we are actively seeking people descended from the wives of these Melungeon families through all women"

I'd call this 'a half ass analysis. Are they going to change their first analysis after the analyze the rest of their project - someday?

And parting let me quote Jack Goins;
"DNA is really worthless without family genealogy." (Found Here
Where is the genealogy that goes with this CORE PROJECT? 

And Jack commenting on the Second Melungeon DNA Project by Hirschman and Yates;
"As the old indian would say concerning another broken treaty, "we ask for proof and they only give us more words. Jack  


  1. The DNA tests are less then accurate. One of my tests said I was 99% European and another one said I was 62% Pehuenche Indian (Chile). Perhaps time will improve their methods.

  2. Joanne, I am in awe of your patience and fortitude in keeping a running dialogue with the perpetrators of these half-truths and innuendos...I am also grateful you are able to continue to respond to this half baked yet highly publicized semi fictional account of our melungeon ancestors. That Roberta Estes and Jack Goins continue to contradict themselves time and again with no apparent shame, explanations or apologies is hardly the stuff of research, and seems blatantly targeted towards sales of books and consulting services for unsuspecting amateur genealogists and DNA testing labs.

    Valentine Collins descendents along with descendents of his daughter Obedience and her spouse Chief Billy Che-noska Cole are listed as the Salyersville Indian Population on the 1900 and 1910 Federal census.

    You have summarised so eloquently, I don't know what else to say except thank you for keeping on!!


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