The recently peer reviewed article published by the Journal of Genetic Genealogy has went viral and some at the Native Heritage Project seems to think this is unusual. In 2002 when Brent Kennedy presented his DNA study and proclaimed them to be of ‘exotic’ DNA from the Mediterranean it also went viral. Why would anyone be surprised by declaring the Melungeons descend from ‘Sub Saharan and white women’ the newspapers would pick it up?
I have never had a paper *peer reviewed* and admit I am not familiar with the process but something just doesn’t seem right.
According to this paper it states it was Received: July 2011 and accepted Dec. 2011 then published April 24th yet according to Roberta Estes this process often take up to 18 months to assure it is presented without error and without bias. I realize this is a scientific review of DNA but without genealogies. The paper is rife with speculation on who probably was the son of, father of, brother of, wife of, etc.
On pages 37, 57 and 61 they even speculate on haplogroups.
Someone over at the Native Heritage Project has declared the AP reporter made a “slight error” in not reporting the project shows an overwhelming number of European males. The reporter for the record states she was in contact before and after publication with the lead researcher and she assured her the article was correct.
You are reporting on the DNA results of the Melungeons from a paper which clearly shows ‘the head and source’ of the Melungeons were European haplogroups and it is a ‘slight error’? Roberta Estes is quoted in this newspaper article; “There were a whole lot of people upset by this study," "They just knew they were Portuguese, or Native American."
I suppose there were a few people upset by this article since Robert Estes as ‘Group Administrator’ or ‘Co-Group Administrator’ [what is the difference?] of the Lumbee Indians DNA Project has listed six of the Core Melungeon participants in the Lumbee Indian Project.
In this paper on page 96 they write; "A link has been found through the Goins family to the Lumbee"........…"Other links to the Lumbee have not yet been found."How do you justify the statement "other links to the Lumbee have not been found" when kit numbers; B1007 - 210660 - B2319 - 152435 - 218793 - [and the Goins] are in BOTH projects?Six of the Core Melungeons appear on the Lumbee Indian project but they didn't find any other links to the Lumbee besides the Goins? I suppose there might be descendants of at least these seven men who were REALLY SURPRISED?
I printed off the LUMBEE INDIAN DNA PROJECT on June 1st, 2012 and compared it to June 13th, 2012. Apparently a few changes have already taken place. They have now added Valentine Collins as a Lumbee Indian.
SLIGHT ERRORThere are many misrepresentations presented in this paper, some appear to be more than just simple ‘mistakes.’
On page 2 speculating on the 'first records' of the Melungeons they state that Jacob Mooney and Jacob Wolfe were ‘reportedly’ from Hawkins County. One of the authors of this report and myself researched the possibility that Jacob Wolf and Jacob Mooney of Arkansas who supposedly were tied to a group of foreigners who ‘may have’ been called ‘lungeons back in 1812. We found no connection to these two men and the Melungeon people or to Newman’s Ridge and we presented those facts to another author of this project. I have found no connection between these men and the Melungeons, if there is any I will be happy to make a retraction. Just a slight error.
The authors speculate the next mention of Melungeon was in the Stoney Creek Church records which is based on a transcription of a transcription. From 1802 until 1813 the Gibsons and Collins were getting into all sorts of troubles, yet not once are they mentioned as Melungeons. In 1813 it was written one of the Sisters had “ harbored them Melungins. “ Anyone who has ever dealt with a ’bad transcription’ knows what a dot, mark, ink blot, etc., can do to a record. This poor lady may have simply been putting up the McLung family. The authors of this paper are very well aware of problems with ‘transcribed records’ and no original paper.
It is surprising they left the next mention out of the paper, skipping ahead to 1848. In 1840 Parson William Brownlow editor for the “Whig’ called one of the political opponents a Malungeon. This man was obviously from Washington D.C. and did not live in Hancock County. Brownlow later wrote in his book published in 1856 “The Great Iron Wheel Examined” that Frederick Ross (Brownlow’s religious enemy) was a Melungeon. This same Frederick Ross preached on Newman’s Ridge at Vardy Collins’. Throughout the 1850-1860s the word Moulungeon was used in the Virginia papers, also political references, introduced by Governor Wise.
In 1911 the son of Parson Brownlow, John Bell Brownlow wrote THE REMNANT OF AN INDIAN RACE to the “Jeffersonian Magazine” and stated; “In my boyhood days they were called Portugese. The word Mulangeon is comparatively modern as to its general use.” He had known of them in his Civil War days and believed them to be Portuguese and Cherokee Indians.
Why were these important pieces of the Melungeon history omitted from the ‘first records?
Page 22 - “The list of Core Melungeon families was taken from multiple historical sources, including the 1830 census, Lewis Jarvis’ records, court records, tax lists, Plecker’s lists, Dromgoole’s articles, the Shepherd Case, the 1880 census, the 1890 census report, voting records”
If I am reading this correctly they are using the “historical records” of Lewis Jarvis - who said they were Indians - Dromgoole who said they were Indians and the Shepherd case which said they were Portuguese.
They write; “Oral history, historical records and genetic data support African heritage for multiple Melungeon Families” - “No Indian heritage is evident in historical records or DNA” (they must be referring to different historical records here?) “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.”
Yet they use the ‘historical records’ of Jarvis, Dromgoole and Shepherd to build the Core Family Surnames. Jarvis and Dromgoole in their ‘historical articles’ wrote they were Indians while Shepherd in his ‘historical article’ called them Portuguese.
On page 78 they write;
“There is oral history to support the Portuguese claim, but no historical documents or genetic evidence have been discovered to prove Portuguese heritage for any of these families.”
In June of 2011 one of the authors, Jack Goins wrote to the Melungeon List at Rootsweb ; “I looked at some core melungeon Haplogroup R1b1a2 and they show matches in Ireland/Scotland, Spain and Portugal.”While they used the ‘tax mans’ testimony in the Bolton case they stopped short of quoting his testimony of the ancestry of Solomon Bolton. The tax man, Rev. D. D. Scruggs testified;
Q. State to what race of people Bolton belonged, and state fully all the facts in connection with your acquaintance with him and his family?
A. He belonged to the Spanish race of people I think. I am positive that it was either Spanish or Portuguese. I was Tax Collector in the District at one time and amongst other things I was required to levy a per capita tax on all Negroes and I recollect distinctly that it was not levied by me upon him. He, Bolton was a dark skinned man with very straight hair and long nosed, thin visaged man-At the time referred to when I was tax collector, some parties reported to me that Bolton was of mixed blood. Thereupon I proceeded to investigate the matter by calling in three citizens living in his neighborhood, among whom were a Mr. Young, Mr. Miles, and other to assist me in deciding the question; the decision was in favor of Bolton, to the effect he had no Negro blood in him. About the same time my attention was also called in an official capacity to a Mr. Dempsy who claimed to be a Portugese, and the decision in his case was that he was of mixed blood, but I gave him the right of appeal but he left the country. Bolton and Dempsey were not in any way connected.
Arch Brown also testified;This being a sworn, under oath, court record makes it a very reliable record.
Q. State whether or not the father of Solomon Bolton was regarded and treated as a citizen of South Carolina, or as a colored man? You will also state his church relations-to what church he belonged and how he was received by society, so far as you were able to determine.
A. They told me there that he was a very respectable citizen there. I asked if he was not a colored man and they told me he was not, but was a Portagese. The told me that he was a member of Baptist Church there in good standing and was received in good society. I saw nothing to the contrary.
There are many court cases and local histories, eyewitnesses to history, that describe these families found on the Pee Dee River as early as 1725 as having Portuguese ancestry.
One the official Melungeon DNA Project Kit #101651, James T. Nichols of Wilkes County, North Carolina reports his earliest ancestor was from Portugal.
An article written in 2009 by one of these authors, Jack Goins, states; “…….Andrew Gibson……Believed to be the son of George and Mary Gibson of Louisa County, VA and Orange County, North Carolina. This George was a brother to Gedion and Jordan, sons of Gilbert Gibson. (Louisa County, VA Wills and Deeds).”
On page 52 and 53 of this report the authors write;
" In 1728 Gilbert Gibson was granted land in Hanover County, Va., a part that later would become Louisa County where he died in 1748 leaving sons Gideon, Jordan and George. All three sons would be found in South Carolina near the Sandy Bluffs, a well known Indian trader area where numerous Indian families lived. A Gideon Gibson was there as early as 1730, Jordan and George as late as 1773."There is no evidence to support this statement whatsoever. Records show that George Gibson, son of Gilbert married Susannah and lived and died in Louisa County Virginia and was never near the Sandy Bluffs, nor did he go to Orange County, North Carolina. The George Gibson found in Orange County, North Carolina is proven by records to be the son of John Gibson of Bertie County, North Carolina;
1761 Jul 18: As a resident of Orange Co., NC George Gibson sold two slaves and sixteen head of cattle (which he received from his mother-in-law's estate) to his brother-in-law, Thomas Lowe, of Northampton County [DB 3:622].
Gibby Gibson who died in 1727 at Charles City County left a will naming his children. Gilbert or Gibby lived in Louisa County, Virginia, his sister Tabitha Rollinson went to Bertie County, North Carolina and then to Granville County as did Francis Smith Chavis. It seems likely the son George is the George Gibson found in records at Sandy Bluff with Gideon and Jordan.
On page 86, footnote 239 they write; “
Heinegg (1994) p 272: The Paul Bunch and Gedion Gibson families migrated to South Carolina in the 1720s, it caused a disturbance in Craven County. Governor Robert Johnson of South Carolina summoned Gibson and Bunch to explain their presence in the area, and after meeting them reported: “I have had them before me in council and upon examination find that they are not negroes nor slaves but free people, that the father of them here is named Gideon Gibson and his father was also free."I have not been able to locate the 1994 edition of Heinegg’s book but Paul Bunch is not mentioned in any of the later editions nor is Paul Bunch mentioned by any of the later authors writing of this event.
Of the 6 listed in this project the first one Mahala Mullins was said (by Jack Goins) to descend from Jincy Jane Goins who was the daughter of Millie Lovin/Loving who came from Scotland to this country in 1770. Mahala Mullins, although considered the most famous Melungeon, maternal grandmother was not a Melungeon.
It is written on page 70 also that Jemina Simmes/or Sinnes parents were unknown yet on page 60 her father was reported to be Benjamin Simmes who was listed as a Cherokee Indian on the 1835 Rolls.
The 3rd female listed is Aggy Sizemore whose maternal line may have been European but Aggy was noted elsewhere in this report as being the daughter of George Sizemore and Lydia Sizemore, double cousins, or double Indians if you will, as the Sizemore haplogroup is Q.
In essence of the 6 females tested one was clearly not a Melungeon and should not have appeared in this report while 2 of the remaining 5 females were of Native American descent although technically their haplogroup was European. Furthermore it is a mystery why Aggy Sizemore is even in this project, it would seem if neither of her parents were CORE Melungeons and only 'ancestral' and NOT listed in the Y Melungeon DNA -- why would their daughter be in the COORE maternal project?
Also listed on the mtDNA Melungeon Project page is one Elizabeth Townsend born in 1755 and also listed as “Cherokee” therefore the statement by the AP reporter that the Melungeons were descendants of ‘Sub Saharan men and white women’ is clearly in error.
Vardy and Valentine Collins
There is no evidence to suggest these two were brothers. It was put forth by someone who told someone else they had ‘seen’ a Bible showing Vardy, Valentine and Meredith Collins were brothers. DNA proves this is impossible as none of these three DNA matches. Could they have been ‘half’ brothers? Sure. But there are 6 or 7 different DNA groupings for these Collins men, were all 6 of them half brothers?
It appears this is a ‘same name syndrome’ that many beginning genealogist get stuck on. Just because there are two men in the same county with the same last name does not make them related.
Travis Loller, the reporter, wrote to me that if JOGG would issue a retraction she would report on it. I did write to an editor at JOGG and while his initial reaction was he didn’t know why one would publish a project that was incomplete my second email went unanswered.
I asked “is it common to publish results of a DNA study that has not been finished? If half of the participants had not been tested before publication would it not be a faulty article? He wrote back:
“In the past, we probably would not have published a partially completed study – but the question would be why someone would want to rush a study to publication when it is partially done. If the reason to rush publication is totally compelling, that would be taken into account.
I wrote back;
The Melungeons have been a controversial subject for many years and the topic of many debates. The reason for my question is 'why the rush to publish'?
1. Here is a list of surnames they have chosen for the Melungeon project.
Bolin, Bolling, Boltons, Breedlove, Bunch, Collins, Denham, Gibson, Goins, Goodman, Hopkins, Mallett, Melungeon, Menleys, Minor, Moore, Mornings, Mullins, Perkins, Shumake, Williams
Eight of these names above are not represented in the project, almost half?
2. According to the dates which appear in the article it shows; "Received: July 2011; accepted Dec 2011"
This message posted by Janet Crain [one of the authors] on August 21, 2011, to the Melungeon list clearly shows the project was not finished the month after it was submitted;
We include the surnames and descendants of the two groups actually proven by old records to have been called Melungeons. It is regretful that no Boltons, Shumakes, etc. have joined but perhaps they will someday. THIS PROJECT IS NOT FINISHED. Nothing is written in stone. New DNA tests are made available, new research turns up new evidence, etc.
These two posts were just posted to the Melungeon-DNA list last week by Jack Goins, another author, and it clearly shows they are continuing the project until the project "has met its goals" - again, why the rush to publish?
"Here are some facts about our projects . First and foremost, the Core Melungeon project will continue and the results will be updated for a review when other facts are known,especially the mtDNA. I would love to have as many maternal tests as paternal and this is recruiting."
"I believe this review would be accepted again before any legitimate genetic review board. And when we feel like this project has met its goals and other new discoveries found we will have another peer review to add if necessary. I have said from the beginning this is a search for the truth and sometimes the truth is not what we expected. Jack"
This article which was peer reviewed and published in your journal has now went around the world. The facts in the newspaper report have been grossly distorted and I seriously doubt if the findings in this half-finished report is proven to be in error it will ever be seen around the world.
I would just like to add I think it is very unprofessional to find Ms. Estes, one of the authors, and one of the Editors of JOGG as facebook friends.
Six days later and still no response from JOGG
Travis Loller AP Reporter Correspondence:
Thanks for writing. I do mention in the article that the study does not rule out the possibility that Native Americans later married in to the group, but the article refers to the direct descendant male and female lines (the Core Melungeon DNA study), which apparently didn't include Native Americans.
As I understand it, there could have been lots of mixing with Native Americans by the mixed race descendants of the original couples. That could include so much mixing that the later descendants had much more Native American blood than African blood.
Anyway, I am not relying on my own expertise on this, because I have none. I am relying on the fact that this was published in a peer-reviewed journal. If you feel the researchers' conclusions are wrong, you should really bring it up with the journal's editorial board. If they issue some type of retraction, I will write about it for the AP.
If Ms Loller understood about all the mixing with Native Americans possibly much more Native blood than African blood why was the headline descendants of ‘Sub Saharan men and white women’?Travis Loller:
A couple of other things you were asking about --the report mentions there are 8 female DNA lines. Some of those lines are from men. That is why you see only 6 females tested.
Also, you are right that they also found European men in the ancestry of the male line (half the male line was sub-Saharan African and half was European). I asked Ms. Estes very specifically about this because obviously you don't come up with mixed race people from two white European parents. She said, essentially, that they thought these men might have come in to the group in the second generation. She was shown my summary paragraphs on the DNA findings before publication and told me that they were correct.
As for what people add and delete to wikipedia, I would not pay too much attention to that. Anyone who wants to can add or delete anything, so it is not a good source of factual information.
[Note; From Ms Lollers article; “The study does not rule out the possibility of other races or ethnicities forming part of the Melungeon heritage, but none were detected among the 69 male lines and 8 female lines that were tested.“ I did not find the mention of 69 male and 8 females tested in this 100+ page report. However I found in the Wikipedia article and nowhere else; “The April 2012 issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Genetic Genealogy includes the results of extensive DNA testing on designated Melungeon individuals since 2005. The lines of 69 males and eight females have been tested; the results show that "the families historically called Melungeons are the offspring of sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin."
Did Ms Loller get her information for this article from Wikipedia?
I confirmed the wording of the relevant parts of the article with the lead researcher before publication. After publication I spoke with her again and was told that the story is not in error.
Do the Melungeons have Native American ancestry?
Quote; "In only one case, Riddle, is there historical documentation of Native ancestry."
Only one case? In this report they write that Jemina Simmes father was on the Cherokee rolls in 1835. On the Core Melungeon DNA project there is listed one FREEMAN male Y DNA haplogroup is Q - he is not mentioned nor explained why they decided to not use his results in this most important study.
The 1900 as well as the 1910 census of Magoffin County identifies some of these families found as CORE participants as Cherokee Indians. They are identified as Indian on their draft records, called Indians by their neighbors.
Roberta Estes, Group Administrator of both the Melungeon DNA project and the Lumbee Indian Project, has the Goins, Gibson, Collins, Goodman, Perkins and Lawson from the Melungeon project as participants in the Lumbee Indian project. Why would she include them in this Indian project if she felt there was no ‘historical documentation’?
Page 94 they write; ''Dromgoole reportedly stayed with Calloway Collins who stated that his grand-father was a Cherokee Chief. His Collins grandfather was Benjamin Collins who lived on Newman's Ridge and did not remove in 1835. There are no known Cherokee who lived on Newman's Ridge. The Cherokee Nation was significantly further south prior to removal in 1835, as shown in Figure 12. Page 95''
SEE 1785 CHEROKEE BOUNDARY MAP THROUGH SNEEDVILLE
Calloway Collins didn’t just ‘simply state’ his grandfather was a Cherokee Chief, Dromgoole wrote she believed them to be Cherokee, there was no doubt in her mind and she was sure there would be no doubt in anyone’s mind if they observed what she had.
The comment that there were NO KNOWN CHEROKEE on Newman’s Ridge after Dromgoole wrote it as an absolute fact and these four authors used Dromgoole’s articles and credibility to build their Melungeon Core name base is really a shame.
Were the Melungeons African?
The first problem with this, and I believe the authors acknowledged it, is the fact that there is no documentation whatsoever any of these families were African except for one John Bunch and he may very well have been an *Indian* slave, and the Goins family by Dromgoole. [ “The said slave came into that Province in the company of Mr. Robert Hix, and other traders, as the traders informed this deponant that the said malatta slave man there goes by the name of John Bunch **]
No freedom papers, manumissions, no runaway slave ads, no ‘Certificates of Freedom‘, free papers, race affidavits, etc. Lack of evidence of course is not evidence. On one hand you rule out Native ancestry for the lack of evidence while declaring African ancestry on the same lack of evidence. Of course DNA does not lie but when you are testing less than 1% of a person’s genetic ancestry, [****] it really proves nothing.
Quoting from the report; “The DNA evidence alone suggests a strong African component in the Melungeon heritage. This evidence is corroborated by a multitude of historical documents for many families. Of these families with African Y-line haplogroups, all of them are found in Louisa County, Virginia before the migration south and west began. Hanover County was the parent of Louisa County and many families are found there as well, associated with other Melungeon Core families beginning in the 1600s.
The first Melungeon surname is that of Thomas Gibson found in Virginia in 1608 at Jamestown. He was joined by both Gibson and Dennum by 1627. In 1619, the first Africans, 20 men and 3 women, were imported to Jamestown”
I believe the 1627 is a typo and should read 1727 when Gibby Gibson died and left his will. What the authors of this paper leave out here is the fact that Gibby Gibson’s DNA is not African but European.
The authors try to convince us the Melungeons descended from the African men brought here in 1619 - a decade after the first Melungeon surname, Thomas Gibson. This Thomas Gibson in fact came in 1608 and left immediately with John Smith to build a home for Powhatan. This Gibson family is associated with the Indian traders as early as the 1650s and well into the 1700s when Gideon Gibson’s son John married the daughter of the old Cherokee trader and author of Indian history James Adair.
Some of these Gibsons of Charles City County were known as 'dark mulattoes' as early as 1720 and were enslaved. They won their freedom by proving they descended from an Indian woman.
The Gibson DNA being European of course could not produce male children with African DNA. The first Africans arriving in 1619 when the female population at Jamestown was practically nil and were being recruited that same year. So where did these African males who arrived in 1619 find these ‘white women’?
“The project was subsequently broken into Y-line and mitochondrial DNA projects, and in 2010, a Melungeon Family project was added with the advent of the Family Finder product."This project is not mentioned again in the report and in fact there is no trace of it on the internet anywhere although Jack Goins did reference it on the Melungeon Rootsweb list last year.
FamilyTreeDNA calls the Family Finder DNA test the next revolution in genetic genealogy. “With the Family Finder test you may extend the power of genetic genealogy to all of your ancestors. You can discover connections to descendants of all sixteen of your great-great-grandparents.” Yet after 2 years of collecting information in the project no results are mentioned in these 106 pages.
I had my Family Finder test done and while I didn’t find a lot of great connections it is the connections I didn’t make that are important. I did not match the ‘Head and Source of the Melungeons” Collins and Gibsons” eliminating connections in sixteen of my great-grandparents.
Say for instance if Jack Goins had done the Family Finder test and didn’t match the known lines of Vardy Collins and Buck Gibson he would know that he is not genetically linked to them in his 16 great grandparents. Or that he did connect to them.
Repeated questions about the results of this 2 year old Family Finder testing went unanswered on the Melungeon-DNA board at Rootsweb as have most of the questions regarding this study on the Rootseb List Administered by Janet Crain, both being effectively shut down of any discussion or criticisms of their project. As they are expecting to do more interviews and television shows I'm sure they have their reasons for not addressing some of the problems with this project as outlined in this paper.
To read more on the Melungeons and their history click on this link -- Documenting the Melungeons