Melungeons were not limited to Cumberland, TN, VA. And Kentucky. The Historical Melungeons as they call themselves and core Melungeon DNA group were from Sneedville, Hancock County, Tn and limit themselves to certain surnames like Collins, Gibson, Mullins. They claim the group with the first written historical record of Melungeon.
In a word they were mysterious and found in the NC mountains by early settlers.
In South Carolina they are called Brass Ankles. In Louisiana the Red Bones. In Alabama Cajuns, not the creole Cajuns of Louisiana. The more we research, the more we find, some include the claim of Portugee, Cherokee, Black Iris or Black Dutch.
I found this particular article as it mentions a group in Newfoundland and Red Bones
The Redbones are one of a group of people of unknow mixed ancestry who lived in the Southeastern United States. The best known and researched of these groups are the Melungeons who lived in western Virginia and eastern Tennessee. Other similar groups include the Brass Ankles and Turks of South Carolina, the Brown People of Kentucky, the Carmel Indians of Ohio, and Guineas of West Virginia. The Redbones, sometimes called the "Louisiana Melungeions," originated in South Carolina and established the Redbone identity in Southwest Louisiana.
A recent book entitled "The Farfarers" by Farley Mowatt tells of a present-day people in Newfoundland called Jakatars having a history reminiscent of the Melungeons and Redbones of the Southeast United States. Mowatt cites interesting but controversial archaelogical and historical records that indicate that a people he calls Albans traveled as far a Newfoundland before the Vikings. They originally settled Scotland before the Celts arrived and drove them out. The Vikings then drove them west to Iceland, Greenland and then mainland North America. He says they were small, dark-skinned, dark-haired people who were much in appearance like the present day Kurds or Basques. He thinks that the Jakatars, who were discovered by the British when they arrived in Newfoundland, are their descendants. He speculates that the term "Jakatars" derives from a Basque word "Jakue" meaning "God" and "tar" meaining "related to". So he thinks it was a way of describing early Christians in North America.
The origins and racial makeup of the Melungeons and their Louisiana equivalent "Redbones" is very controversial. They are copper-skinned, dark-eyed, dark-haired, but they have English names and were speaking English at the time they were first encountered by European settlers in the Carolinas and Virginia. Some claim that the Melungeons are tri-racial, but the Melungeons themselves have always claimed to be "Portygee," that is, Portuguese. Dr. Brent Kennedy, the leading Melungeon researcher, believes that the Melungeons are a mix of remnants of the Eastern Indian tribes that were devastated by European diseases and forced westward by European settlement, remnants of a pre-Jamestown Spanish colony in South Carolina, and Portuguese / Turkish peoples who were rescued from slavery in South America and put ashore on Roanoke Island by Francis Drake in the late 1500's.
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