One of the many groups to settle in Tennessee was the Melungeons. This
group settled throughout the Appalachians and historical records show that they arrived as
early as the late 17th century. They refer to themselves as mixed-ethnic and show traits
of several Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Native American ethnic groups. Genetic and
historical research currently underway will attempt to determine exactly where and when
the Melungeons originated.
Historically, the first Melungeons encountered by 17th-century European
explorers claimed to be from Portugal. Because of their somewhat dark, "ethnic"
complexions and because many families lacked money and education, they were relegated to
the status of free people of color on censuses and other legal records of the 18th and
19th centuries. As a result, the Melungeons lost the right to vote and receive free and
equal public education. Many lost lands held for generations.
The Melungeon culture is currently experiencing a resurgence. Reunions,
books, and websites are available to learn more and to assist with finding Melungeon
family ancestry. We recommend the following books and websites:
- Bible, Jean Patterson. Melungeons Yesterday & Today.
Signal Mountain, TN: Mountain Press, 1975. 976.89
- Kennedy, N. Brent. The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud
People: An Untold Story of Ethnic Cleansing in America. Macon, GA: Mercer
University Press, 1997. 974
Just for Fun:
From a 19th century city directory is
the entry "Hall, Mary, wid. Killus."