Melungeon DNA Project
||It has been suggested that this article be merged into Melungeon. (Discuss) Proposed since September 2013.|
The Melungeon Core DNA Project is a genetic study by Family Tree DNA of people with Melungeon ancestors, mostly in Hancock County, Tennessee and nearby areas of Kentucky, according to historic records. The study was started in 2005. Researchers published an article in 2012 in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy summarizing the results: the women ancestors had European mtDNA, and the male ancestors had Y-DNA from both African and European haplogroups.
Melungeon researchers determined participants' genealogical suitability for inclusion based on historical documentation. The study was started in 2005. Jack Goins, the coordinator, is the Hawkins County archivist. Of proven Melungeon ancestry himself, Goins has been researching the group for years and is the author of Melungeon And Other Pioneer Families and Melungeons; Footprints From the Past. Additional project administrators are Roberta Estes, Janet Crain, Penny Ferguson, and Kathy James. Project administrator Roberta Estes founded DNA-explained in 2004.
Group 1: Core Melungeon The project organizers have designated the following as core families, based on historical documentation:
More names may be added as this is an ongoing project.
Group 2: Melungeon related. If the above names are in the participant's family but are not in a direct line to enable Y-DNA or mtDNA testing, participants will be placed in Group 2: Melungeon related.
Results of the Core Melungeon DNA Project are available here:
To summarize, as published in "Melungeons, A Multi-Ethnic Population", Journal of Genetic Genealogy, April 2012, the few women tested were all Haplogroup H in the direct female line. Males have had Y-DNA haplogroups of sub-Saharan African, European, and some Native America origin (Q1a3a1) in the male line. Only 1 person (The Freeman line) in the Melungeon DNA project showed as Native American on the Y side. The Arena 1890 The Hyde County Court Minutes of 1765 lists a Cati Collins or Cate Collings as an Indian being held against her will by the Gibbs family.
The results of the Melungeon DNA project were as follows: R1b (38 people) 47.5%, E1b1a (27 people) 33.75%, R1a (6 people) 7.5%, I1 (3 people) 3.75%, A (2 people) 2.5%, E1b1b1 (2 people) 2.5%, Q1a3a1 (1 person) 1.25%, I2 (1 person) 1.25%.
Eight lines were found to have African Y chromosome haplogroups, while 12 were European. There is no single mtDNA maternal line for all Melungeons tested. Each woman's mtDNA line comes from her mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and so on, and each is different. The results by surnames tested are not shown on the public website for the project, but all the mtDNA of subjects tested was found to be European. Because the maternal ancestors were white, their children were born free under the laws of Virginia after 1662, even if the fathers may have been full or partially African.
The term "Melungeon" was used by others from the 19th century to describe a group of multiracial people living in Hancock County, Tennessee, and nearby areas. It was at that time a pejorative name. To date researchers have not traced any of these families directly to those of Newman Ridge, which leaves a mystery as to their origins. Roberta Estes states the first mention of Melungeons was in 1810, listing them as neither Negro nor Indian, but as "foreigners". There is no proof regarding the parentage of Vardy Collins, considered the Patriarch of the Melungeons. Vardy Collins' DNA was R1a1a. His wife, nicknamed "Spanish Peggy" had mtDNA haplogroup H. Margaret "Peggy" Gibson, wife of Vardy Collins (R1a1) and a sister of Sheperd Gibson, is thought to be the daughter of Andrew Gibson (R1b1b2)".
By the mid-to-late 19th century, Melungeons were often viewed as white by their neighbors and by the law, since they frequently served in the military, voted, and carried arms, all citizen obligations (and rights) of white men. While endogamous until 1900, Melungeons of both genders increasingly married white spouses. Marriages between Africans and Native Americans, or any free people of color, with whites were prohibited by laws from the mid-18th century.
The DNA test shows the continental origin of the original ancestors of the direct male or female lines, but not which culture descendants identified with in succeeding years, nor in fact how far back the admixture occurred. In terms of overall group identity, an individual's ethnicity could be determined by relatives not in a direct line. For instance, an individual male could have had more than one generation of female ancestors who were Native American culturally, but his direct male line of descent may or may not have been from an African man, or his multiracial son, child of a white women. By the 20th century, most Melungeons identified as white, married white, and were so classified in census and other records. They shared the Baptist religion, English language, and southeastern culture with their neighbors in Tennessee and other states.
- Roberta Estes et al., "Melungeons: a Multi-Ethnic Population", Journal of Genetic Genealogy, April 2012
- Melungeon DNA project Y results, Melungeon DNA project
- Paul Heinng "Free African Americans of North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina Vol.1", Free African Americans of North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina Vol.1
- Roberta Estes, "Melungeons, A Multi-Ethnic Population", Journal of Genetic Genealogy
- The Expedition of Batts and Fallam:A Journey from Virginia to beyond the Appalachian Mountains, September, 1671. From Annals of Southwest Virginia, 1769-1800, Annals of Southwest Virginia
- Roberta J. Estes, Jack H. Goins, Penny Ferguson, Janet Lewis Crain "Melungeons, a Multi-Ethnic Population", Journal of Genetic Genealogy, 2011
- Jack Goins' blog
- Historical Melungeons Blog
- ISOGG Success Stories, International Society of Genetic Genealogy website