Toward a Genetic Profile of Melungeons in Southern Appalachia
By Donald N. Yates and Elizabeth C. Hirschman. Paper published in Appalachian Journal, vol. 38 no. 1, Fall 2010, pp. 92-111.
Melungeons are an elusive and controversial subject in American social history…
To help sort through the multiple suggested origins of the Melungeon people, we assembled a sample of 40 self-identifying Melungeon descendants whose DNA we analyzed to provide additional information regarding their ancestral origins and ethnicity…
Across OmniPop and ENFSI, the top populations matches (i.e., inferred biogeographical ancestry) showed notable levels of Jewish (both Ashkenazi and Sephardic), Middle Eastern, Native American, Sub-Saharan African, and Iberian ancestry within our Melungeon descendant sample. There were also intermittent indications of Roma/Gypsy in genealogies of certain individuals.
Validating the Study
Guthrie’s matches [from 1990 study using ABO blood groups, not autosomal DNA] are quite consistent with our results. Taken together, the two independently conducted and differently conceived studies provide support for a multi-ethnic and multi-racial origin for the Melungeon population of Southern Appalachia.
…the present study supports the notion that colonial North America–at least in the Appalachian region–was inhabited by a multi-ethnic, multi-religious population from its inception. Greater recognition of the roles of these forgotten contributors to American culture is overdue.
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Family photo, above, shows four generations of Tennessee Melungeons, 1916. Clockwise from lower left: Elzina Grimwood (baby), Etalka Vetula Goode Grimwood (mother), Redema Elizabeth Ramey Goode (grandmother) and Mary Ann Jean Ramey (great-grandmother). Image Copyright © 2011, Teresa A. Panther-Yates. All Rights Reserved.
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