“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.”
In recent decades, interest in the origin of the Melungeons has risen dramatically with advances both in DNA research and in the advent of Internet resources that allow individuals to trace their ancestry without digging through dusty archives.
Trailer from the documentary “Melungeon Voices” featuring “Sweet Rain” by Euphoria written by (EMI MP writer) Ken Ramm.
Writer, Director, Producer – Julie Williams Dixon
Co-Director/DP – Warren Gentry
with : Dr. Brent Kennedy and other leading Melungeon researchers
Jack Goins, who has researched Melungeon history for about 40 years and was the driving force behind the DNA study, said his distant relatives were listed as Portuguese on an 1880 census. Yet he was taken aback when he first had his DNA tested around 2000. Swabs taken from his cheeks collected the genetic material from saliva or skin cells and the sample was sent to a laboratory for identification.
“It surprised me so much when mine came up African that I had it done again,” he said. “I had to have a second opinion. But it came back the same way. I had three done. They were all the same.”
In recent years, it has become a catchall term for people of mixed-race ancestry and has been applied to about 200 communities in the eastern U.S. – from New York to Louisiana.
Among them were the Montauks, the Mantinecocks, Van Guilders, the Clappers, the Shinnecocks and others in New York. Pennsylvania had the Pools; North Carolina the Lumbees, Waccamaws and Haliwas and South Carolina the Redbones, Buckheads, Yellowhammers, Creels and others. In Louisiana, which somewhat resembled a Latin American nation with its racial mixing, there were Creoles of the Cane River region and the Redbones of western Louisiana, among others.
Allegedly Abraham Lincoln, Ava Gardner, Elvis Presley descends from the Melungeon Ancestry and Turkish from his mother’s side.