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THE ORIGINS OF THE MELUNGEONS:
FIVE PREVALENT THEORIES



Presented by The Piedmont Historical Society
Speaker: Joey Gainey

1. Descendants of the "Lost Colony" of Roanoke who intermarried with Native Americans.
Pro: Melungeons when first discovered spoke Elizabethan English and used English surnames
Con: Never claimed English origins; Mediterranean appearance argues against this hypothesis.

2. Descendants of the Welsh explorer Madoc who supposedly explored the Appalachians in the 1100s A. D.
Pro: None
Con: Melungeons don't look Welsh nor does their vocabulary contain any Welsh words unique to them.

3. One of the ten lost tribes of Israel
Pro: Second century Jewish coins minted during Bar Kokhba's revolt have been found in Kentucky near Melungeon settlements.
Con: The coins could have been planted. Also, Kentucky was an area settled relatively late by the Melungeons.

4. Descendants of Carthaginian or Phoenicians who discovered and settled in the New World approximately 4,000 years ago.
Pro: Physical appearance of some Melungeons fit the stereotype for this area of the world
Con: No evidence of such voyages of discovery exists.

5. Shipwrecked Portugese sailors.
Pro: Many Melungeons claim "Portyghee" ancestry.
Con: Use of English language and names by Melungeons.

6. "Tri-racial isolates" resulting from the mixing of eighteenth century whites, escaped slaves, and Native Americans.
Pro: There is evidence of Native American and African culture on the Melungeons.
Con: Ignores geographic widespread of Melungeons and their notedly Mediterranean features as well as the known facts of Southern history including the small number of runaway slaves.

Source: The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud People by N. Brent Kennedy and Robyn Vaughan Kennedy. Revised edition 1997.


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