The Gipson/Gibson Melungeons

Privacy Level: Public (Green)
Date: Sep 2018
Location: Appalachian Mountains, United Statesmap
Surnames/tags: MELUNGEON gibson virginia
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MELUNGEONS_ROOTS-1 created by Cheryl Maxwell.

The First Melungeons Location and Identify

The "beginning" of the people who became known as the Melungeons lived in Louisa County, Virginia and started their migration in the late 1740s to the Flat area of Granville county which became Orange County, North Carolina in 1753. They left this area beginning in 1767 and settled down in the backwoods area of Virginia and North Carolina on the New River. These first known Melungeons then traveled down the Clinch River, some settled at Fort Blackmore for a while, but most of them moved on to Hawkins County, Tennessee in 1790.[History of the Melungeons, by Jack Goins]

The word Melungeon (MA-LUN-JEN), early spelling included Malungeon, Melungin as well as Mulungeon. The most likely origin is the French term Melange, which means mixture. It has also been attributed to an archaic African word Malungo which means companion or comrade. The word Malungo was commonly found in 18th-century Portuguese dictionaries. Whatever term was used to describe these unique people found in one of several tri-racial isolate communities of the Southeastern United States; the terms were used as a degrading epithet. It was simply a way to insult the dark-skinned families; intended as a racial slur from the mouths of mostly their white neighbors. At the time anyone with dark skin faced prejudice and segregation, denied the same right as their white-skinned neighbors. The "light-skinned" population of the southern culture looked down on those having Indian ancestry; some considered them the same as being "black-skinned." Some with Native Americans heritage concealed it; for fear of discrimination.

In 1813 discovered in the Minute Books of the Stony Creek Baptist Church, Fort Blackmore, Scott County, Virginia, the term "Melungin" is found. The church clerk writes: "A lady in the church accused another of housing Melungeons."

The core Melungeons lived in seclusion, exclusively in Hancock County, Tennessee. Melungeons were also associated with the Cumberland Gap area of central Appalachia, which includes parts of East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and Eastern Kentucky. These tri-racial people were believed to be a mixture of Native American, African and European. The ethnicity of Melungeons has been a very controversial subject.

Melungeons were identified in U. S. Census records as "free persons of color." The first census in 1790 required the census takers to list the number of inhabitants within districts, omitting Indians not taxed, and separating free persons from all others. Tennessee was then known as the Southwest Territory. The schedules have been lost and only the totals are known. The Southwest Territory (Tennessee) had a population of 35,691 persons, 6,271 free white males 21 years and upward, 10,277 free males under 21, 15,365 free white females; 3,417 slaves, and 361 other free persons. Historians believe most of the free persons, (Melungeons) were living in East Tennessee. The 1790 census confirms that a free settlement of non-whites, a dark skin race or colony of people was living in East Tennessee.

By 1810 it was without question that a colony of dark-skinned people inhabited the ridges and valleys near Clinch River in what is today known as Hancock County, Tennessee. (Hancock Co., TN., was part of Hawkins Co., until 1844.) The 1810 Hawkins County Tax list for Puncheon Camp Valley, Grainger Co., TN., list families who were listed a "mulatto" or "free people of color" on previous tax and land records; Vardemon Collins, James Collins.

The U. S. Census for the year 1820 of Scott County, Virginia, list eight free coloreds and five females for a total of thirteen, three were listed as being from Stony Creek, Fort Blackmore area. In the year 1830, almost all the Melungeons on Stony Creek had moved to Hawkins County or other nearby areas.

Core Melungeon DNA By William E. Cole and Joe Stevenson Looney, University of Tennessee

The Core Melungeon DNA Project was formed with Family Tree DNA on July 25, 2005. The goal of the project was to determine the origin of the Melungeons and to find matches in the database and published on April 24, 2012, in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy, the results of the first generation are offspring of Sub-Saharan African men and white woman of northern and central European origin. [1]

The majority of the male core groups were haplogroup E1b1a Sub-Saharan African and the maternal mtDNA group was European. The first mixed generation was the children from Sub-Saharan African men and white women of Northern and central European origin, the exact date of the mixing is unknown. Some of the first mixed generations eventually intermarried with the white settlers in colonial Virginia and took their names. Part of this tri-racial clan may have remained in Colonial Virginia and others migrated to North Carolina who would eventually become known as Melungeons. (Entire Article - Jack Goins' Melungeon and Appalachian Research

In 2012, DNA consultants issued this report about its autosomal DNA study of Melungeons:

"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." -continued-

"Seeming to lay to rest an olf 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 Goal of This Project Is To...

  • Explain the origin of the tri-racial people called Melungeons
  • The first-known Melungeons "core" group
  • The true story of the original "core" Melungeons and descendants from Eastern Tennessee, Eastern Kentucky and Southwest Virginia (Cumberland Gap of central Appalachia)

Will you join me? Please post a comment here on this page, in G2G using the project tag, or send me a private message. Thanks!


  • Book - Price, Henry, Melungeons, The Vanishing Colony Of Newman's Ridge: American Studies Association of Kentucky and Tennessee; Publisher: The Author, 1966, 84 pages
  • GIBSON, Toby D. "The Melungeons of Newman's Ridge: An Insider's Perspective." Appalachian Heritage, vol. 41, 2013, pp. 58-66. Project MUSE,

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