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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Melungeons in the family???

I've been doing this ancestry project for my husband's family. I have most of the ancestors back to the 1800's and 1700's, but there were a few lines that I had SOOO much trouble getting documentation on. One of these was a woman named Martha Collins (born 1869).

I found out yesterday that someone else in the family did some extensive research and was able to show that Martha Collins was a melungeon! The melungeons were a mixed race group both feared and distrusted, often stigmatized as they were not quite white European and very isolated for a time. There is very little recorded information related to this group of people, but there are a few pieces of information that seem to be widely accepted. One is that this group had ancestry back to the Saponi Indians in the western region of Virginia and North Carolina as well as the Eastern regions of Kentucky and Tennessee. Another widely accepted thought is that the melungeon ancestors also came from Portugal and have Mediterranean ancestry. Although they had darker or olive-colored skin, their features were mostly considered white and they had bright blue or blue/green eyes. In the 1700 and 1800 census records, they are classified as either mulattos, free persons of color, black or white. Evidently, it was difficult to classify one "race" amongst this group of families.

It appears this group started with a Thomas Collins of Flat River Virginia in the 1700's. Some of the melungeons were part of the Trail of Tears, when Cherokee Indians were forced from their land in North Carolina and made to walk to Oklahoma. The human losses of these Cherokee were extremely high and the army that accompanied them were seemingly indifferent to the hardships. The history of this group of people was mostly oral and not written, so the stories that have passed down from generation to generation are pretty much all we've got from those early settler times.

From what I can tell, there is some theories that have not yet been proven correct or incorrect. One theory is that a pirate ship from Portugal either wrecked, threw some of its crew members overboard or had crew members desert the ship. These pirates or shipmates then mixed with the local Indians, among them the Saponi, but also other tribes including Cherokee. There is some speculation that Turkish invaders were also among the mix, but there is quite a bit of differing opinions on this subject. Another speculation is that among the Goin branch of the family, that some African or Creole blood is mixed in.

What is not questioned is that this subject is extremely controversial, from the original of the word melungeon to the family history and lineage. It also appears that melungeon used to be a derogatory term, but now everybody seems to be claiming the name! So - for all those who know much more about this subject than I do (which includes most people), I won't argue with your research or your findings. I'm just a newbie at this.

Until we know more, my kids are having fun walking around saying "Aye, Matey!" and squawking like a parrot. Whether factual or not, it brings laughter to the house, so I'm grateful for the little I do know. I will continue to research, but knowing there is some history for Martha Collins, makes me feel more connected with the past.

Thanks to Cousin Ben for his information. I appreciate you sharing the results of your hard work.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

New Cat!

OK - for all who didn't know, we *used* to have a cat named Smokey. During our move from Texas to Pennsylvania, my mother stole her from me. All I did was ask my parents to watch Smokey for a few weeks while we were moving because we didn't want to keep her in a cage for so long. I dropped her off one Saturday and went back the next weekend to visit since my parents had never had a cat before and were nervous about what to do. Just about the first words out of my mother's mouth were "You don't feed that cat right!" I walked into the living room and found that my mother purchased a small pet store - LOL. She bought toys, a cat brush, catnip, special food, cat scratchers and set up a special little chair so Smokey can look out the window. So - I gave up. Smokey stays with my parents and gets thoroughly spoiled. Here's a picture of the traitor - I mean - Smokey sleeping on my dad's lap.

Anyway - a few days ago, a friend of mine stopped by for lunch and told me of a story that happened the day before. She was driving home only to see a little golden kitten running across the road and in danger of being hit by the trucks passing by. She stopped and picked the kitty up and took him home. Unfortunately, they can't have cats in their house due to their rental agreement, so she offered him to me. I got a new kitty cat! His name is Chuck Norris and we think he's about 6-8 weeks old. I brought him home today and although Opie (our dog) and Chuck handled each other pretty well - Opie is out of sorts right now. He's not rough or mean, but it's driving him nuts having this little thing in our house. Word to My Mother: Hands off this cat!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mother's Day

Yesterday, I drove to Ohio to visit with my mother, both of my grandmothers and some aunts, uncles and cousins! Although the trip was quick, it was great to see all of my family. Prior to moving to PA last year, we lived in TX for more than 8 years. I had a great career at a corporate level, the kids were happy and involved and our family was settled. What we missed is the family dynamics and sharing that can occur when one lives close to home.

The kids initially didn't want to move, but after visits like yesterday, we all realize how lucky we are to be close to the great family that we have. Although we are sometimes a little crazy, it was well worth the move to share in these important events.

My grandmother on my mother's side is 92 years old! My grandmother on my father's side will 90 next month. Had we stayed in Texas, we would have seen them only once every year or two. Life is too precious to keep putting off seeing family and by living closer to home, we have a better perspective on what makes a good life. It's not money, it's not career advancement and it's not stuff that we buy! It's being able to share with those who have given you life by sitting across the table, making eye contact and laughing.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Update on us!

After much consideration, Mike and I have decided that I will be staying home and doing freelance work. I've worked in the corporate world for 13 years, but I have really gotten used to being home for the kids to go to school and being here when they come back! Of course - my peace and quiet is shattered once they walk in the door, but that's OK as well.

I enjoy the freelance writing and market research projects I'm doing and can envision myself doing this for years! In addition, I started a family tree project on my husband's grandparents and their entire family. It's very interesting to see how far his family tree goes back and stories I've been able to find about their ancestors. It turns out that one of their ancestors is reported to be Pocahantas' cousin! I'll be doing some more fact-checking on that, but so far it appears to be valid! I've been using for this project and absolutely love the site, but sometimes am overloaded with too much information.