Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Joanne Pezzullo & Dennis Maggard
OCCAM'S RAZOR  "The principle states that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Other, more complicated solutions may ultimately prove correct, but—in the absence of certainty—the fewer assumptions that are made, the better."
The KISS principle states "most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated.  Variations of KISS are "keep it short and simple" and "keep it simple and straightforward".
In 1848 a journalist from Kentucky with his accomplice  arrived in Vardy Valley where he was the guest of Vardy Collins, "Chief cook and bottle washer of the Melungens".  The story of his visit was published in dozens of newspapers across the country.

"The legend of their history, which they carefully preserve, is this. A great many years ago, these mountains were settled by a society of Portuguese Adventurers, men and women.... These intermixed with the Indians, and subsequently their descendants (after the advances of the whites into this part of the state) with the negros and the whites, thus forming the present race of Melungens."
He wrote the "Legend" as it was told to him, possibly by Vardy, however it does not say who the Melungens were, he doesn't have names and we are not even sure if Vardy did tell the legend if it was Vardy's legend or if it belonged to another group of people, the Portuguese Indians who had come over the mountains after the War of 1812 from the Pee Dee River area of South Carolina.

Over the years it has been suggested the Melungeons forgot who they were, didn't know their history, were mysterious, and most importantly 'said they were Portuguese as a cover story to hide their African ancestry'.

Here we have in 1848 Vardy Collins, known as that wily Cherokee, "head and source' of the Melungens telling this journalist they were Portuguese Indians, and they mixed with the whites and the blacks.  No mystery, knew who they were and where they came from. If they said they had mixed with the blacks then why oh why would Portuguese be a made up story to hide their 'black ancestry'?

This is the same story told to Will Allen Dromgoole in 1890, 40 some years later.

In genealogy we start with ourselves and go back each generation collecting documents and proving our ancestry.  Melungeon research is no different.  At the time this article was written in 1848 there were people called Melungens living in Hamilton and Wilson County in Tennessee as well as a group in Dothan, Albama.  The former two known as people with Portuguese ancestry by their neighbors and many proven in the court system from North Carolina to Texas. One yet to be identified appears to be a political group living near Richmond, Virginia in the 1850s and 60s known as Moulungeons.

Why the idea there were NO Portuguese people in Colonial America just simply defies logic.  Numerous researchers, historians etc., people who were neighbors to these people, and knew them and their ancestors, testified as to their Portuguese ancestry for over 100 years. Yet still today we read of the 'Mysterious Melungeons' and their 'cover story'. There are early records of  the 'Spanish Plantation' mentioned by John Smith in 1608, Fernando the Portuguese, Nicholas the Portuguese, Manuel the Portuguese, and 'the Portuguese found at Saponi town in 1671.  George, known only as 'the Spaniard' was living near Jamestown in 1669.

Back to these 'Melungeon' people known as Portuguese Indians. The first thing we look for 'is their any proof of Portuguese mixing with the Indians in early records' and the answer is yes. From the time Lucas deAyllon, and the men and women he brought here in 1526, including the 100 slaves, these Spaniards/Portuguese have been mixing with the Indians. The kidnapping of numerous Indian women by Hernando deSoto and his Portuguese and Spanish soldiers. The documented story of the 'slave who ran away with the Queen of the Cofitchiqua in 1540 and again by Pardo.

Were these early explorers in Tennessee?  Maybe. We do know that most people who have studied them have deAyllon at the Winyah Bay in South Carolina, and deSoto and Pardo on the Pee Dee River in South Carolina where we find these people known as Melungeons living as early as 1735.

Red indicates town where both deSoto and
Pardo visited. Pee Dee drains into Winyah Bay where
 Lucas deAyllon was found in 1526

In 1848 the ancestry of the Melungeons were published in dozens of newspapers across the country. In 1890 Will Allen Dromgoole went to Newman's Ridge and wrote of the same ancestry.  Indians who had mixed with Portuguese, blacks and whites. Her articles were published not all over the county but also across the seas. How did they become mysterious? They did not forget who they were, they did not make up a story to hide any ancestry and there was nothing mysterious about them and there still isn't.

The caravel ship introduced in the mid-15th century
which aided Portuguese exploration
Photo by Brazilian Navy

Portuguese discoveries is the name given to the intensive maritime exploration by the Portuguese during the 15th and 16th centuries. Portuguese sailors were at the vanguard of European overseas exploration, discovering and mapping the coasts of Africa, Asia and Brazil, in what became known as the Age of Discovery. Methodical expeditions started in 1419 along West Africa's coast under the sponsorship of prince Henry the Navigator, with Bartolomeu Dias reaching the Cape of Good Hope and entering the Indian Ocean in 1488. Ten years later, Vasco da Gama led the first fleet around Africa to India, arriving in Calicutand starting a maritime route from Portugal to India. Soon, after reaching Brazil, explorations proceed to southeast Asia, having reached Japan in 1542.  (Wikipedia)
By the time Jamestown was founded, the Portuguese had been running an Atlantic -- and worldwide -- empire for a century.  Portugal had colonies and outposts on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and on islands in between and traveled the Atlantic freely.

Beside the Portuguese there are records of Armenians, East Indians, Spanish, Turks, and others in Colonial America. Boatloads of French, Germans, and Swiss. Yet these researchers today sitting in front of their monitors with all of these facts available with a click of the mouse and still they want to make the Melungeons 'mysterious' and make their Portugeuse ancestry a cover story. The Portuguese and their Portuguese Atlantic Creole offspring were sailing all over the Atlantic Ocean and the world but couldn't find their way to America?  Really?

Do these researchers, authors, bloggers have proof these people were something other than Portuguese? No.  They have tested the male DNA of a small sampling of people found in Hancock County which represents ONE ancestor out of thousands and have limited their study to Hancock County families when it is well documented there were pockets of these tawny people living elsewhere.  Furthermore, that DNA was found to be a mix of European and Sub-Saharan haplogroups which could easily have originated with people calling themselves Portuguese.

To put this in perspective we have the Portuguese and Portuguese Atlantic Creoles sailing all over the Atlantic, and we at least three expeditions in the 1500s on the Pee Dee River in South Carolina of Spanish, Portuguese and their slaves who interacted with the Natives in that area.

We have documentation these people who eyewitnesses said were Portuguese Indians were living on the Pee Dee River as early as 1725. These are the same people who went over the mountains in early 1800 to Hancock County and spread out from there.

We have no proof they were anything other than what they said they were.  Some of these researchers will scoff at the above evidence.  They laugh at old court records and testimony of the eyewitness' to history and at the same time cannot produce court records or eyewitness' to history to say they were anything else.

This is not about denying African ancestry. It is there, they themselves said it was there in 1848. One family that shows a male with African DNA does not tell you the history of that family, nor does it mean that all other lines, including the direct female lines could not have been Portuguese/Spanish, Indian or anything else.  Male DNA testing proves nothing but who is related to who and where their one ancestor came from thousands of years ago. 

It would appear the 'one drop rule' is alive and well today.  When Paul Heinegg was told William Chavis was a Saponi Indian his reply was;  he couldn't be an Indian, he was black, thus resorting to a false dichotomy.

Occam's Razor - "The principle states that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected."  We do not have to assume anything when we look at the 1500 expeditions of Spanish and Portuguese explorers -- they were there.  We do not have to assume they were on the Pee Dee River, there are records.  We do not have to assume the Melungeons 'might have' been on the Pee Dee River, there are records. And we do not have to assume they were Portuguese, they said they were and the records say they were. We do not have to assume these are the same people that came over the mountains and were called Melungeons, there are records. 

The KISS principle states "most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated". So why do these researchers want to keep complicating things?  Why do they insist this was a cover story when they said they were Portuguese and in the same breath they had mixed with the blacks and whites?  

Why do they want to make the Melungeons all of anything?  These families were mixed from the beginning and mixed as time went on.  Mixed with Africans, other tribes, Swiss, French, Germans, etc. Every family has a different make up.  DNA is never going to prove anything except who is related to who and that these families were mixed. Why the insistence on assuming they were anything but what they freely said there were:  Portuguese Indians who mixed with the black and whites forming the 'present race' in 1848?

There are many interesting articles at the Melungeon Indian Website 

These are some links from the website and the blog referenced in this article.

Early  Contacts

Early Melungeon Researchers

Africans - Portuguese Mixt Crew & Melungeons

Melungeons and The Smithsonian Institute

The Portuguese, DeSoto, The Indians & The Mixed Bloods

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