Melungeon Riddle Solved by Autosomal DNA Project

After many years in development, the results of a DNA ancestry project enrolling 40 Melungeons were published and made public, marking the end of an attempt to solve the mystery of a Southern U.S. ethnic group with autosomal DNA.

Seeming to lay to rest an old controversy in American history about Melungeons, the scientific data supporting a genetic mixture of white, American Indian and Sub-Saharan African were placed online today by the organizers of DNA Consultants’ Melungeon DNA Project.

The data report a sample of 40 Melungeons’ DNA fingerprints. Population analysis of the participants’ DNA fingerprints was used in an article for Appalachian Journal. Titled “Toward a Genetic Profile of Melungeons in Eastern Tennessee,” the study was co-authored by Donald N. Yates, principal investigator of DNA Consultants, and Elizabeth Caldwell Hirschman, a professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.

“This is a giant stride forward in understanding the mixed ancestry of Melungeons,” said Donald Yates, co-author. “Never before has autosomal DNA been used in attacking the problem.”

The 40 participants’ names were:

Anonymous, Mabel Bentley, Judy Douglas Bloom, Leah Laura Bulgariev, John (Dick) Caldwell, John R. Caldwell, Sr. (deceased), Virginia Caldwell, William Collins, Mary Goodman, Floyd Milton Grimwood (deceased), Ann Reagan Haines, Linda Barnett Hall, Nancy E. Hammes, Elizabeth Caldwell Hirschman, Pat Goin Jones, Brenda LaForce, Everett LaForce, Jessica Kiely Law, Bonnie J. Lyda, N. Brent Kennedy, Richard Kennedy, Margaret E. Kross, MeriDee Orvis Mahan, Karen Mattern, Sebenia Ann Milbacher, Nicolas J. Millington, Holli Starnes Molnar, Nancy Sparks Morrison, Teresa Panther-Yates, Billy Starnes, Julia Starnes, Keely Starnes, Phyllis Starnes, Richard Stewart, Doretha J. Thornton, Kaye M. Viars, Celia Wyckoff, Wayne Winkler, Betty Yates Adams, Donald N. Yates.

Participants were qualified by their genealogies and included many names familiar to those who follow Melungeon genealogy discussion groups on the Internet, including Brent Kennedy, author of the book 1996 book that started the Melungeon Movement, his brother Richard Kennedy; Elizabeth Hirschman, a native of Kingsport, Tenn., along with several members of her family; Wayne Winkler of the Melungeon Heritage Association and author of Walking Toward the Sunset; and Nancy Morrison, creator of the online Melungeon Health referral service.

melungeon family tenessee

Melungeon family in Tennessee about 1900.


  Comments: 13

  1. Mary Kennedy Owens

    My Grandfather was from TN and his history included a indian mother and references back in the 1950s to being related to the at-that- time relatively unknown Melungeons.” Portugee”, he said. His son would like to take a DNA test as he is the last male in this line. Could someone there tell us what would be the best test to take. Hoping to hear from you. Thanks in advance Mary Kennedy Owens

    • Ms. Owens, our Melungeon DNA Fingerprint Plus test would not only identify Melungeon markers, it would also reveal his top 50 World Population Matches, his links to European populations, and his ties to megapopulations around the world. Here’s the link to the description of that test on our website: . You can read about the test and order it through the site, or call our office at (888) 806-2588 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mountain Time M-F. Let us know if we can help you further.

      • Just curious, as my great grandmother was a Bowling, if it would be useful to check mine? Many pictures from my mother’s older pictures show her family. I can definitely see the trait in many of her family. It would be fascinating if it would show this! They were based in Southwest Virginia. I always thought they had African or Indian in them. My great grandmother had almost an oriental/Indian look.

        • I have found Bowlings in my family tree! I just found my biological family this year. So proud of my Melungeon heritage!

          • Deborah Bowling VanderClute

            I’m a Bowling but I don’t know that side of my family. All I know is that my grandfather’s name was Calvin Bowling and he fought in WWII.

  2. Bobby J Barker

    Am I Cherokee or Mulungeon ???

  3. Nancy and I share relation, along with me being related to the Winklers. I am having issues with some of the “Melungeon illnesses” that Nancy spoke about, as are members of my mom’s family. What test would be perfect for me in this aspect (as I need every bit of genetic help I can get for myself and my severely disabled son)?

      • My great grandmother, Margret Yates, B: 15 Nov 1829 in TN; D: 28 Mar 1899 in IL, married James H. Dickson on 4 Mar 1848 in TN; moved into DeWitt Co., IL in time to be on the 1850 Census. The Family Bible says they were married at the residence of Squire A. Kimes. According to the Bible entry, witnesses to the marriage were William and Mary Yates with no indication of how they are related to Margret Yates. Abram Kimes served as a justice of the peace in Overton Co, TN, so I believe Margret and James lived and were married in Overton Co., TN. These are my late father’s grandparents. I was told by my father that his mother’s people were from the Smokie Mountains and were Native American. His mother was Harriet Ann Dickson Dillow; 7th child of James H. and Margret Yates Dickson. I wonder if Margret could be Melungeon.

  4. Wm. Lance Collins

    My grand-father was William Samuel Collins, said to be Melungeon. I have DNA test from Ancestor and would like to compare to those who are proven.

  5. My Great, Great, Grandmother was Native American Clarinda Sluss, my Aunt tried to trace, for proof. She wasn’t successful.

  6. Mary Pauline anderson scales

    My mother was a mabe her mother was Isabella Austin I was told I had indian in my DNA but my daughter was tested and she had no Indian, all came from wythe co va

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