Tag Archives: PellMellers

What’s new in the new edition of Pell Mellers?

Just released by Backintyme Publications is the Second Edition of Pell Mellers, including a 12 page addendum entitled “Melungeon Heritage Meets North Carolina history.”  It  documents my experiences in the five years following publication of the first edition, largely involving the Melungeon Heritage Association, and the scholarly and popular authors encountered at its annual Unions in Tennessee, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Virginia. I have gotten acquainted with scholars from the University of Memphis, Elon University, Vanderbilt University, Concord University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Rutgers University, King College, and East Tennessee State University.  Not one of them would support the notion, recently disseminated in national media, that Melungeons are nothing more than deceitful mulattoes pretending to have Native American and Mediterranean ancestry, whose delusions need to be exposed by science and genealogy for the  public good.  This was precisely the line of argument that Virginia Registrar of Vital Statistics Walter Plecker used in his crusade against Virginia Melungeons, who constituted a significant  proportion of the 150,000 “Mongrel Virginians” he sought to identify.  The 1943 official list of “mongrel” surnames produced by Plecker includes these 21 surnames in the southwestern counties of the Commonwealth that are not considered “Core Melungeons” by standards centered on Hancock County, Tennessee.  By county they are, as listed in the original document: Beverly, Barlow, Thomas, Hughes, Lethcoe, Worley (Washington County); Moore, Ramsey, Delph, Freeman,  Barlow, Bolden (Bolin), Hawkins (Lee and Smyth counties); Dingus (Scott County); Keith, Castell, Stillwell, Meade, Proffitt (Russell County);and Hammed, Duncan (Tazewell County). Anyone with these surnames was under a cloud of suspicion during the Virginia Racial Integrity Act, in effect from 1924 through 1971. Although recent media reports have focused on the extreme reluctance of a member of the Goins family to accept evidence of a sub-Saharan haplogroup, this is not at all representative of Melungeons of my acquaintance. The journalist Will Allen Dromgoole, first to record results of extensive interviews in the Vardy Valley, reported her informants as saying that the Goins line was African, the Collins line Native American, the Denham line Portuguese, and the Mullins line English, and that the latter had predominated over the rest numerically by 1890. She also said that while Goinses were of African origin and claimed to be Portuguese to deny it, this deceived no one but themselves.