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Genealogy – Melungeons

Added: Friday, August 18th 2006 at 2:24pm by santiago
Related Tags: events, life
 
 
 

After Edward Needham Lovett, some of the Lovetts came back west and lived in Tennessee and Kentucky, particularly in counties near the Cumberland Gap. The Surname of at least one of the people that married into the Lovett family was associated with a mysterious people who populated that area: Melungeons.

 
Determining Melungeon heritage is a difficult thing. Melungeons were looked down upon and they hid their heritage in light of the racism that pervaded the US. Even in the 1960’s and 1970’s when anthropologists sought to study them, the Melungeons were uncooperative and evasive. Most had succeeded in intermarrying and building lives next to their neighbors of purer European descent.

 
So who are the Melungeons? The Melungeons are one of the largest of about 200 groups of people anthropologists call “tri-racial isolates”. The term is a bit of a misnomer. “Tri-racial” could more accurately mean “multi-racial” and “isolates” means that they were distinctive, not that they were isolated. They were discovered by the first European explorers to the area. They were darker, larger and hairier than the surrounding Indians, spoke an English dialect, practiced a form of Christianity, wore clothes, built log-cabin type houses with Mediterranean architectural features, and worked metal. They called themselves “Port-a-gee”. They also exhibited Mediterranean cultural behaviors like ringing a community bell in the morning to call everyone for morning fellowship.

 
No one knows exactly where they originated. They may have been Portuguese sailors, Spanish Jews, Turkish slaves, Gypsies or some combination. Recent genetic tests reveal strains of North European, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Asian Indian and African in Melungeons test subjects. It’s clear that they intermarried with various American Indian tribes, including the Catawba and Cherokee Indians. It’s likely that they also married early African indentured servants who had obtained their freedom. They may have married African Slaves later.

 
Because of such a mixture, Melungeons vary widely in physical appearance. Some appear to be very European while others appear to be quite African. Most appear to have Mediterranean features. For example, Most are medium height to tall, have dark skin with an olive tint, black hair that is curly or wavy and small hands and feet. There are a couple features that coincide with the typical description that are often cited: a cranial Anatolian ridge and Asian “shovel teeth”. These are all features that can be seen in other peoples, but these are evidence, not proof, of Melungeon heritage.

 
This list of common features also very closely describes our nearest Lovett kin as well as myself (My brother takes after the Reeder side). These features in the Lovetts are so dominant as to be evident generations later. When my oldest son, Luke, was a toddler, we visited a great aunt and uncle in Kentucky. They took one look at him and said, “Yep, he’s a Lovett.”

 
Famous Melungeons include Abraham Lincoln and Elvis Pressley.

 
While we cannot be certain of a Melungeon heritage, the likely possibility certainly exists. Here are some pictures of Melungeons:

User Comments

to link the melungeons nowadays with the turks or with the protuguese or with the indians is not wise.

i say melungeons are the true americans and they have importants like the statue of liberty for the U.S.A. and i believe they arent a tri-racialized people.

for me i would say the melungeons are of true "greek" descent like the statue of liberty.

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