Part VIII Sephardic Jews and the LDS Connection: What the Heck is a Melungeon?

Ten  years ago, my husband Mike and I had the misfortune of getting the flu at very the same time. He lay on one couch and I on another, while Sesame Street entertained our toddlers. When Sesame Street was over,  both of us were too tired to search for the remote.  Consequently PBS remained on, as a far more interesting documentary on the history and struggles of “passing” Americans.  At some point in the program, I looked over to my husband with his curly hair, olive skin tone,  and full lips; a light bulb went on.

Joanna and Rulon

It was at that moment my journey began.

After numerous online articles and a subscription to Ancestry.com; my internet wanderings led me  to  the East Tennessee Melungeon community. The Melungeons have been identified as a Tri-isolate (black, white,  Amerindian)  community.  The Melungeon Heritage Association says,

The traditional explanation for the word “Melungeon” is the French mélange, meaning “mixture.” Another proposed theory for the origin of “Melungeon” is the Afro-Portuguese term melungo, supposedly meaning “shipmate.” Yet another is the Greek term melan, meaning “black.” Other researchers have speculated that “Melungeon” derives from the Turkish melun can, (meaning “cursed soul”); the Italian melongena (“eggplant,” referring to one with dark skin), or the old English term “malengin” (“guile; deceit”). Nearly everyone who has written about the Melungeons agrees that they fiercely resented the name. However, in recent years, many Melungeons proudly bear the name and acknowledge their heritage.

The stereotypical Melungeon has Mediterranean features,  is tall, olive skinned, with straight or kinky dark hair. Occasionally some members have blue eyes. Over time, the more European-looking  Melungeons intermarried with Western Europeans; darker -skinned Melungeons assimilated into Black communities, while others identified themselves as Amerindian.   The Melungeons stubbornly reported  they were Spanish, Moorish and Portuguese; along with a Amerindian mixture. Academia derided them for their supposably lofty notions. White society despised them for being Melungeon.

themelungeonssmall

East Tennessee Melungeon Family

Our New England BENSON/MESSENGER/BARBER ancestors looked similar to the Melungeons.  I spent hours trying to find a connecting link between my ancestors and the Melungeons.

Benson Descendants

Lily Metcalf

Lily MELTCALF

Joseph (Jody) Bartholomew

Joseph BARTHOLOMEW

john Bartholomew

John BARTHOLOMEW


The only connection was Mike’s Tennessee BYBEE/BIBBY line who lived in the counties most associated with Melungeons and had female members of the family named “Sookie”, unique to Melungeon populations.  Some BYBEE family historians  believe the VIrginia, Tennessee, Kentucky BYBEE family were mixed European and Cherokee. Mike showed Lumbee Amerindian on one of his DNA charts.  Some researchers believe the Lumbee Amerindians are descended from the Lost Colony of Roanoke.  The Lumbee tribe  insist the colonists and their descendants survived by being assimilated into the Croatian and Lumbee Amerindian tribes. They point to the fact that gray eyes are often found among them, to their “typically white” features, and to the fact that certain words among them have definite 16th century English roots. The Lumbees, in particular, point out the fact that the surnames of the colonists are common among them.

BYBEE Family Members

David B Bybee

David B BYBEE

lucane bird bybee

Lucane BIRD BYBEE

John Bybee

John BYBEE


In the south,  Melungeon research has been gaining momentum since the 1990’s. The father of the movement is Dr. N. Brent Kennedy a college administrator  and Melungeon descendant.  Kennedy  wrote the ground breaking The Melungeons:  The Resurrection of a Proud People: An Untold Story of Ethnic Cleansing  in America. Other researchers such as Wayne Winkler, Tim Hashaw, Donald Yates and  Dr. Elizabeth C Hirschman have furthered the study of this fascinating facet of American history.

Brent  Kennedy

Dr N. Brent Kennedy

Southeastern US family historians have identified thru records and DNA, the “core” melungeon surnames.  Interesting enough, DNA tests have shown an European, Mediterranean, Amerindian and African mixture; just as the Melungeons had claimed all along.  Because most family historians and researchers  are concentrating on their own family lines;  your possible Melungeon ancestors may not have made the list.  If your ancestors were  from Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee,  or Georgia you may want to do your own research on Melungeon history. Other clues to look for: marrying at home rather than a church, belonging to Primitive Baptist like churches, and marrying cousins.

If you discover you are a Melungeon descendant, you will be pleased to join other famous modern-day Melungeon descendants who include: actress Ava Gardner, singer Elvis Presley, actor Tom Hanks, actor/commedian Steve Martin, and actress Heather Locklear.


Common Melungeon Surname List

SO, without further ado, in the  tradition  of  beloved southern comic Jeff Foxworthy…

if any of your ancestors are:

* ADAMS ADKINS ALLEN ALLMOND ASHWORTH

* BARKER BARNES BASS BECKLER BELCHER BEDGOOD BELL BENNETT BERRY BEVERLY BIGGS BOLEN BOLLING BOLTON BOONE BOWLIN BOWLING BOWMAN BRADBY BRANHAM BRAVBOY BRIGER/BRIDGER BROGAN BROOKS BROWN BUNCH BULLION BURTON BUTLER BUTTERS BUXTON BYRD

* CAMPBELL CARRICO CARTER CASTEEL CAUDILL CHAPMAN CHAVIS CLARK CLOUD COAL COFFEY COLE COLEMAN COLES COLLEY COLLIER COLLINS COLLINSWORTH COLYER COOPER CORMAN COUNTS COX COXE CRIEL CROSTON CROW CUMBA CUMBO CUMBOW CURRY CUSTALOW

* DALTON DARE DAVIS DENHAM DENNIS DIAL DOOLEY DORTON DOYLE DRIGGERS DULA DYE DYESS

* ELY EPPS EVANS

* FIELDS FREEMAN FRENCH

* GALLAGHER GANN GARLAND GIBSON GIPSON GOINS GOINGS GORVENS GOWAN GOWEN GRAHAM GREEN(E) GWINN

* HALL HAMMON(D) HARMON HARRIS HARVIE HARVEY HAWKES HENDRICKS HENDRIX HILL HILLMAN HOGGE HOLMES HOPKINS HOWE HYATT

* JACKSON JAMES JOHNSON JONES

* KEITH(E) KENNEDY KISER

* LANGSTON LASIE LAWSON LOCKLEAR LOPES LOWRY LUCAS

* MADDOX MAGGARD MAJOR MALE MALONE(Y) MARSH MARTIN MAYLE MINARD MINER MINOR MIZER MOORE MORLEY MOSELY MOZINGO MULLINS

* NASH NELSON NEWMAN NICCANS NICHOLS NOEL NORRIS

* ORR OSBORN OSBORNE OXENDINE

* PAGE PAINE PATTERSON PERKINS PERRY PHELPS PHIPPS PRINDER POLLY POWELL POWERS PRITCHARD PRUITT

* RAMEY RASNICK REAVES REVELS REEVES RICE RICHARDSON RIDDLE RIVERS ROBERSON ROBERTSON ROBINSON RUSSELL

* SAMMONS SAMPSON SAWYER SCOTT SEXTON SHAVIS SHEPHARD SHEPHERD SHORT SHORTT SIZEMORE SMILING SMITH STALLARD STANLEY STEEL STEVENS STEWART STROTHER SWEATT SWETT SWINDALL

* TALLY TACKETT TAYLOR THOMPSON TIPTON TOLLIVER TUPPANCE TURNER

* VANOVER VICARS VICCARS VICKERS

* WARE WATTS WEAVER WHITE WHITED WILKINS WILLIAMS WILLIAMSON WILLIS WILSON WISBY WISE WOOD WRIGHT WYATT WYNN

…you might be a Melungeon.


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About JA Benson

Joanna entered the world as a BYU baby. Continuing family tradition, she graduated BYU with a degree in Elementary Education and taught for several years. Growing up in Salt Lake County, her favorite childhood hobbies were visiting cemeteries and eavesdropping on adult conversations. Her ancestral DNA is multi-ethnic and she is Mormon pioneer stock on every familial line. Joanna resides in the Southeastern USA with her five children ranging in age from 8 to 24. Her husband passed away in 2009. She is an avid reader and a student of history. Her current intellectual obsession is Sephardic Jewish history, influence and genealogy. She served as a board member for her local chapter of Families with Children from China. She is the author of “DNA Mormons?” Summer Sunstone 2007 http://www.bycommonconsent.com/2007/04/dna-mormons/ and “Becoming Hong Mei`s Mother” in the Winter Sunstone 2009 http://theredbrickstore.com/sunstone/becoming-hong-meis-mother/.

44 thoughts on “Part VIII Sephardic Jews and the LDS Connection: What the Heck is a Melungeon?

  1. Joanna, great stuff! You may or may not know that the single greatest mixture (melange) of blood lines occurs in Brazil, where a very large percentage of the population is European looking but has some African and/or Indian blood. Brazilians are extremely proud of their mulato heritage, and you will often have upper-class Brazilians tell you that they are one-eighth African. I mention this because the whole “scandal” of Thomas Jefferson perhaps having an affair with one of his slaves would never occur in Brazil — it is assumed all of the colonizers had affairs with their slaves, the scandal would be if they hadn’t! Brazilians are all melungeons.

    Nice photo of you and Mike. Made me very sad.

  2. Thanks Geoff. Yeah I know about Brazil. Brazil was also the home to Converso/Crypto Jews fleeing Spain.

    It does not take long for outwardly appearance to mask DNA. I have read that only one ancestor directly from Africa can be wiped out in the appearance of their descendants in four generations. If you look closely at some white people, you can sometimes see traces of Amerindian and African in hair, skin tone, nose, lips, epicentral folds in eyes etc… I have shovel teeth which is a marker of Amerindian. Turkish people have a ridge on the back of their head. My sister has a large one of these. MIke had a small one. Our hair goes with out saying :)

    That was a photo taken after we graduated from college.

    Our pioneer names and DNA. THe rest of the posts explain how this happened:
    part 1- http://www.millennialstar.org/rising-out-of-obscurity-sephardic-jews-and-the-lds-connection/

    What happened in Spain
    part 2- http://www.millennialstar.org/part-ii-sephardic-jews-and-the-lds-connection-a-history-of-the-sephardim-in-spain/

    Some went to Turkey
    part 3- http://www.millennialstar.org/ew/

    Some went to Western Europe
    part 4- http://www.millennialstar.org/part-iv-lds-and-the-sephardic-connection-western-europe/

    Sephardic Influences
    part 5- http://www.millennialstar.org/part-v-lds-and-the-sephardic-connection-seeding-the-protestant-reformation/

    England and Spain were at war. The Western Europe Converso and Crypto Jews fled even farther west in fear of Spain
    part 6- http://www.millennialstar.org/part-vi-lds-and-the-sephardic-connection-braving-the-new-world-the-lost-colony-of-roanoke/
    part 7- http://www.millennialstar.org/part-vii-sephardic-jews-and-the-lds-connection-the-first-thanksgiving-or-sukkoth-in-america/

    Some Sephardic Jews were part of the tri-isolate communities in America
    part 8- http://www.millennialstar.org/part-viii-sephardic-jews-and-the-lds-connection-what-the-heck-is-a-melungeon/

    Sephardic descendants preferred to be out on the wilderness
    part 9- http://www.millennialstar.org/part-ix-sephardic-jews-and-the-lds-connection-the-great-melungeon-migration/

    Sephardim altered or adapted their surnames, but often kept a few Sephardic given names
    part 10- http://www.millennialstar.org/part-x-sephardic-jews-and-the-lds-connection-sephardic-names-and-what-to-look-for/

    Sephardic Jews had unique illnesses:
    http://www.millennialstar.org/family-history-can-save-your-life/

    Evidence of Orson Hyde’s Jewish ancestry using the Hirschman model
    http://www.millennialstar.org/sephardic-jews-and-the-lds-connection-utah-history-encyclopedia-is-wrong-joseph-smith-was-right-orson-hyde-is-of-jewish-ancestry/

    We are all gathered
    http://www.millennialstar.org/sephardic-jews-and-the-lds-connection-the-gathering/

  3. female members of the family named “Sookie”, unique to Melungeon populations

    ?? — “Sookie” or “Sukey” is a very common 18th and 19th century nickname for “Susan” (WorldConnect gives more than 596 million hits, as common in England and New England as in the American South).

  4. Danithew and Ardis, I am very sorry your comments got stuck in moderation. I don’t have an explanation for it, except that my comment got stuck in moderation also. There is probably some glitch that I am too technically illiterate to fix.

  5. There is a character in the TV series “Gilmore Girls” named “Sookie” (she is Lorelei’s best friend and works as the cook at their B&B). Anyway, this is my wife’s favorite TV show, perhaps of all time, and we named our dog “Sookie” after this character. Those are the only two times I have heard the name “Sookie” until now.

  6. I am a descendant of Collins, Gibson, Gipson, Sexton, Roberts, Wallen, Rogers, etc. and intermarried into Mullins. The Melungeons were/are normal people just like everyone else. DNA has proven that not all Melungeons have the same dna combination. Just like any other American culture, you have White, Indian, White/Indian, white/black, hwoever one caveat is that you not clump them all together as a single dna blood line, ethnicity or color. There is documented evidence as well as dna to confirm their allegations that they were what they said they were. Melungeon was a racial slur that was given to them by the local people because of their mixed ancestry. They never called themselves melungeon and certainly were not proud of that term.
    I am 75 years old and can assure you I never heard one refer to themselves as “Melungeon”, but proudly referred to themselves as Indian/Portuguese.

    Today they are assimilated into our American culture making tremendous contributions just as any other ethnicity and are very proud of their Indian/Portuguese background. Thank you for allowing the vehicle to express comments about our heritage.

  7. Incidentally, I forgot to mention, I do have a second gr grandmother who was Susannah “Sukey” Moore Gibson. We call my 45 year old neice “Sukey” today as a pet name!

  8. Wow! I took Jie Jie to the dr., I took a short nap and a conversation happened.

    Danithew-I am a descendant of Alvah and my late husband Mike is a descendant of Lovinia. Alvah and Lovinia are the older brother and younger sister to your ancestor Polly. Are you a descendant of the Joseph (Jody) BARTHOLOMEW pictured above? Polly, Alvah and Jerome’s families intermarried a few times in the 2nd and 3rd cousins. Mike and I are the only ones I have found in the Alvah-Lovina lines who married cousins :).

    Ardis- you are certainly an expert. The information I have is Sookie/Sukie is an Amerindian-White name. It is also a nickname for Susanna (Shoshana), a name common amongst Sephardic Jews. The time I spent going over census and family group sheets for mostly New Englanders, I did not run into a Sookie/Sukie. THe BYBEES had several. THE BYBEES were also living in Melungeon communities. I have seen BYBEE on larger Melungeon lists. If an ancestor left the community and joined the Mormons a 150 years ago they might not show up.

    K.James-Thank you for reading and for your comments. Thank you for your witness. We are honored to have a real live “Portygee” in our discussion. You are right. It is only in recent years “Melungeon” has become an endearing term. I am proud of you and your ancestors for overcoming the difficulties that you all faced.

    You right that Melungeons come in a variety of ethinicities. A case in point. My son Piano Man works at a BSA camp in MIddle Tennessee. PM is a tall lanky kid with a light complexion, a “Jewish nose” and long curly blond hair. Last summer he was teaching a MB class. One of the kids in his class made an ethnic joke. PM stopped him and told the class he did not tolerate ethnic jokes. He listed off his western and Eastern European, Scandinavian, African, MIddle Eastern, Mediterranean, Amerindian, Indian DNA. As he did this, one kid, who PM thought was black, stood up and loudly said, “Are you a Melungeon?!”

    PM says, “Well kinda…”

    Other kid says, “I am a Melungeon and I can tell brother that you are a Melungeon. They slapped each other on the back and called each other brother the rest of the week, while the other kids gave them funny looks.

  9. I am researching a family (Talley) that joined the LDS Church in the late 19th century in Tennessee. They appear to have many of the qualities you describe as being Melugeon; family name and origin, constantly moving to the edge of the frontier, tight knit social structure yet keeping to themselves, marriages to cousins, religious but not affiliated with any specific church, etc. The family had some serious problems in 1884 with the rest of the community and I’m guessing this might partially explain it. Do you have suggestions for an objective validation (other than DNA) to determine if they are or are not?

  10. Hi Bruce, Thanks for stopping by to read. Please see parts 9 and 10 of my series. Read Elizabeth C HIrschman’s book Melungeons: The Last Lost Tribe in America. It is easily found on Amazon and available at an affordable price. She will get you started with lists, communities etc… Also check to see if your ancestors were affiliated with Masonry. This is another matter we will talk about. Check the census. Your ancestors could be labeled as white, but a cousin in another area could be labeled as “colored”. Of course Melungeons are often not found on the census and this is an indicator as well. Look closely at your family do you have a ridge on the base of your skull, long ear lobes, toes larger than the big toe, unusual diseases. If you have any specific questions you can email me at joanna benson at comcast dot net.

  11. Hello,
    Every day for 13yrs I agonize over the inability
    to make a connection to my AA/Native WEEDEN,WHILDEN,WEELDON,WILDON,WILDEN ancestors.
    Just came across this site, and so many of the
    surnames apply to my lines but no one has claimed kinship, so I am at a loss to find my ancestry.
    Know that my immediate family is tri-racial but
    so long to know of the relationships of folks responsible.
    My ggrandfather, WM LAWRENCE WEELDON, Black, was
    born in 1829 SC; Sumter, perhaps.
    My ggrandmother, CHARATA BROWN (WEELDON) was Native American, born in 1833 NC.
    Nothing can be found on either before 1870 Wilmington, NC, so must assume both were slaves.
    My research has taken me all across the US, and still I am unable to make any connections.
    Believe that original VA kin may have migrated to Nova Scotia in 1783 and have found the WEEDON
    surname listed in the NS BOOK OF NEGROES, along w/many surnames which appear to connect, so am most puzzled that no one has claimed kinship.
    It seems logical (is there such a thing in genealogy search?) that some would have removed to Rhode Island where they intermarried w/Indians and whites and I do find a connection between the folks of SC and RI, but I’ll be darned if I can find my family link.
    Hoping that you might just be able to help or give me some direction.
    Interesting to find the BIBBY surname here; MIKE
    BIBBY was a favorite of mine as I am a devoted fan of the Sacramento Kings basketball team; it made me so sad when he was traded.
    Most sincerely,
    carol wheeldin warren.

  12. Hi Carol,

    Thanks for stopping by to comment. Genealogy can be so frustrating. I remembered reading about the AA community in Nova Scotia. Some of my Messenger/Messinger relatives were loyalists who went to Nova Scotia after/during the Revolutionary War. Here is a Wikapdia link if you have not read the history: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Nova_Scotians I do not think they are organized family history wise.

    North Carolina Lumbee tribe is a tri-isolate group that affiliated as Native American. Here is the website;
    http://www.lumbeetribe.com/ They might be able to help you with names.

    Also see: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~pace/pacepix/Pace-Taylor/index.htm

    Have you tried getting some help from your local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Here is a link to find a center near you. They may be able to help you and it is free of charge.
    http://www.familysearch.org/eng/library/FHC/frameset_fhc.asp

  13. My great grandfather was PLEASANT BYBEE who moved from JACKSON COUNTY, TN, to STEWART COUNTY, TN in the mid 1800’s. My mother (his granddaughter) always said we were part indian, she had very high cheekbones andf jet black hair. I cannot find a direct link between PLEASANT and any indian tribe. I suspect were are descended from the Melungeons.
    I would appreciate ny info anyone mighth have on him or his wife, I believe here name was NANCY WHITE.

  14. Thanks for sharing your family information. I discovered my Melungeon roots just within the past two years. Through paper research and DNA testing, I have direct ties back to the Melungeon Gibsons of Hancock County, TN. During my search of family history, I have found a lot of misinformation on the Internet about Melungeons….bumps on the back of the head, strains of disease, links to Turkey, celebrities who are supposedly of Melungeon ancestry, etc. that are not confirmed by legitimate research. I would encourage all to be very careful in their research and postings. You may wish to view the information on websites furnished by Jack Goins on the Internet. Just search his name. He has done some of the best research on this topic.

  15. I too am a decendant of David Bowman Bybee. I had never heard of Melugeons. This is great! My family has light skin but we have cousins that are darker. Thanks for doing this research!

  16. Anyone have any info on the last name RAMEY? My father, my sister and myself all have the physical characteristics of the melungeons. My mother is Irish (maiden name Riley) so me and my sister have pretty light skin. Both of us have very dark hair and dark eyes. My father has dark hair, dark eyes and an olive skin tone. He was told growing up the he was french and native american but he always told us kids that the elderly people in his family have always been very secretive about their ancestry, which I heard is a tell tale sign of melungeons. They preferred to keep their african ancestry a secret because of racism. My father has deep roots in the appalachians and his great grandparents finally settled in Front Royal, Virginia. Anyone who has any info on the the name RAMEY; I would greatly appreciate it!! :)

  17. I am the great grand-daughter of Joseph Bartholomew. In the history of his great grandfather General Joseph Bartholomew there is reference to a comment made by one of his men at the occasion of the naming of Bartholomew County after him. The man says “It’s appropriate that they named it after him, the soil is as dark as his skin. Hummmm

  18. Lindsey- Hey thanks for commenting. Looks like ya’ll are Melungeon :) You are in great company.

    Hey Cousin Linda. Thanks for taking the time to comment and I LOVE the reference. I am the 4th g granddaughter of Joseph Bartholomew’s wife Polly’s brother Alvah Benson. We need to talk sometime. Email me at jabensonatmillennialstardotorg

  19. Hello,
    There are Weedon’s in Rhode island and my great grandmother was I belive a Weedon. I will have to ask my mother (she is still in RI) who is who. And yes we are Indian and Black and look like your husband.
    I will also ask her about the North Carolina connection Don’t recall hearing about that.
    I belive she (Weedon) married my great Grandpa (One of the greatgrandmas is Flora, the other is Hanna and I’m thinking it Hanna for some reason . . .
    Flora married William Carter in Taunton, RI and Hanna married a Glasow, Glasco and lived in Harrisville, Rhode Island. Both are Indian and Black and many of Hanna’s decendants/relatives are still in Rhode Island. The spelling is diffrent ~ do you have any pictures of any of the ladies? I do have a picture of one and have seen the other at my mom’s. . .

    Interesting.
    S.Carter

    Will see if the pIcture will scan and send it.

    Best of luck. Isn’t the ‘net great!! :-))

  20. S Carter- thank you for stopping by to comment. I do not know if Carol will see your post or not, but it is interesting to note Rhode Island was home to a ti-isolate NA tribe called Narragansett. I do not have a list of surnames for the Narragansett, but here is a link to a Narragansett Weedon see: http://www.mcnaa.org/Speakers/annawon_weeden.html
    Also see: http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/lhr/25.3/gross.pdf
    Sephardic Jews and Jewish Masonry have an early history in RI see: http://www.mastermason.com/fmisrael/sephardic.html

  21. Hi there,
    Would LOVE for you to put me in
    touch w/CARTERPASS re: WEEDON surname in RI.
    I always come back to this site,
    looking for ANY possible connection,
    but more so because ‘it tells it like it is!’
    Thanks so much for all of this important info.
    Sincerely,
    carol wheeldin warren.

  22. My grgrdf was nelson bunch, grandf was james bunch married to laura phipps, father was james finley bunch b.2.21.20 evarts, ky. J
    fb was in butte mt. 9.12.50 and burke or wallace, id. in 10.51 when my brother and I were born (I assue he was arround). I’m wondering if anyone has heard these names and could let me know anything at all about james finley bunch. Thanks, dorothy

  23. This is an awesome post. The one thing that no one has mentioned and I’m kind of surprised by this is that with the interracial mixture of black/ white, you are still considered negro. The law is still on the books and I believe this is important to discuss. This is why we have the boxes we check off now on many forms. I.E. Caucasian, African American, American Indian, Eskimo.

    As I have grown up in foster care its’ hard for me to do family research. I know my grand mother and grandfather on my maternal side But very little on my fathers side. Being Italian,(MY mothers’ family is from Bari) I wouldn’t be surprised if all the way down there were some mixing of African blood.

  24. Thank you Diane. I am glad you enjoyed it. Multi-ethnic people are interesting in their beautiful diversity. You might want to consider a DNA test to determine your ethnic background. Please see: http://www.millennialstar.org/rising-out-of-obscurity-sephardic-jews-and-the-lds-connection/ .

    I read somewhere that if your ancestors were in the American colonies in the 1600’s you were highly likely to be of mixed AFrican and/or Native American ethnicity. If your ancestors were in the Colonies by the 1700’s the percentage went down. but was still very high. I think most Americans are not one ethnicity or another, but are a diverse DNA soup of humanity.

  25. I just found this site, and am delighted. I first heard of Melungeons several years ago, but have only recently started to figure out my connections. I have the following Melungeon surnames in my family history:
    Moore Boone
    Harris Clark
    Chavis Gowan
    Gibson Shepherd
    Hall Wood
    Scott
    Berry
    All of these families seem to have come from VA into eastern NC, then into western NC, where they still are, today.

  26. I’m still trying to find anyone who knows of or has heard any stories about james finley bunch born 2/21/20 in evarts,ky. This fellow has been alomost impossible to pin down. His father was james a bunch.

  27. I left a message about ayear and a half ago concerning my maternal great grandgather PLEASANT BYBEE. My mother and many other relatives (including the Bullock family) insisted were are part indian but I am more and more convinced we are Melungeon.
    If anyone has any Bybee information concerning PLEASANT AND WIFE NANCY FROM JACKSON COUNTY, TN (ORIGINALLY FROM COCKE COUNTY, I BELIEVE) I would greatly appreciate it.
    My maternal grandfather was NEWTON COLUMBUS and was born around 1870 in Jackson county Tn. He had a sister LOUISIANA AND A BROTHER JOEL. The family moved to Stewart county Tn then to TRIGG COUNTY KY. Pleasant’s wife is buried in the Bullock cemetery in Ky (Louisiana married a Bullock) but I cannot locate Pleasant’s grave or anyone past his generation.

  28. The picture of “John Bartholomew” looks quite a bit like my grandpa’s (Ray Calvin Bartholomew) LDS missionary picture. RCB is son of Joseph Bartholomew, Jr. (son of Joseph Bartholomew, Sr., son of John B., son of “General” Joseph B.)

    Do you have good identifying information for the picture and person? Also for the “John Bartholomew” picture and person?

    Dan(iel) R. Bartholomew
    Orem, UT

  29. What Benson’s do you descend from: Alva(h)? Of the Benson’s & Messenegers, I think only Alva(h) (who lived in Cedar City area, then Logan or Hyrum area, I believe) and Polly Benson Bartholomew (who lived in Fayette, UT), and perhaps their mother, made it to Utah. What info do you have on that?

  30. That very handsome man is John Bartholomew (1845) son of Joseph Bartholomew (1820) and Polly Benson ( 1816). See:http://www.metcalfwaslin.org/album/album.htm#JosephSmithBartholomew1880 for more info.

    Yes sir, I am a descendant of Alvah Benson (1799) son of Benjamin (1773) and Keziah Messenger (1778). My late husband’s g-g-grandmother Lovinia Benson Robinson, is Alvah and Polly’s youngest sister. Benjamin and Keziah were the parents of 12 children. A very colorful family indeed. From the top of my head:

    Benjamin and Keziah and their children were living in southern Indiana in 1832. The LDS missionaries first taught and converted Alvah and Cynthia Vail Benson and their young children in Feb 1832. Alvah then sent the missionaries to call on his family living in a neighboring county. Your Polly was a young teenager, and had a dream that two men were coming to share the fullness of the gospel with her family. She recognized the two missionaries from a distance as they approached their home. Benjamin and Keziah, along with their younger children Alford/Alfred Benjamin, Polly, Electa ( who was blind), and Lovinia joined the church; along with Elizabeth, who did not immigrate to Utah, and Jerome with his family.

    The family settled in Jackson County and Far West Missouri. While in MIssouri, Alford/Alfred Benjamin is listed as a Danite; Jerome was probably at the Battle of Crooked River; Alvah was the builder of Fort Leavenworth Kansas, and was nearly at the Massacre at Haun’s Mill. The spirit warned him away from the settlement the day before. Last but not least, Father Benjamin sued the mob leader Rev Samuel Bogart. Unfortunately the record of the court case was lost when the courthouse was burned during the Civil War.

    After the expulsion from Missouri, the family settled in Illinois. Father Benjamin and Keziah and their younger children, Jerome, Alford/Alfred lived in Nauvoo. Alvah lived in nearby Carthage. They lived near older brother John Price, who did not join the church, and Alvah’s wife Cynthia’ Vail’s family. Cynthia’s relatives were part of the mob in Carthage. Your Polly married Joseph Bartholomew, a teenage runaway, who was befriended by the Bensons. While in Nauvoo, Joseph Bartholomew married the 4 years older Polly and later her sister Electa, as a plural wife in Utah. Jerome and Alfred were prominent members of the church in Nauvoo. Alford was a seventy and both received their ordinances in the Nauvoo Temple.

    The Bensons left with the other Saints from Nauvoo. Father Benjamin died on the plains in the camp in 1846 at the age of 73. Alford and Jerome settled in Winter Quarters and the rest of the family in Potawawamie Camp. Alford and Jerome were in the first companies who arrived in Utah, shortly after the Brigham Young Vanguard company in 1847. Alvah and family, Polly and family, Electa, Lovina, now Robinson, came later with Mother Keziah. Alvah worked to outfit the rest of the pioneers in their journey. Keziah, was in her 70’s, traveled as a pioneer to Utah. She died in 1857 at the age of 80. I would like to find her grave someday. I suppose she is in a pioneer cemetery in Utah County. Lovinia died in childbirth and your Polly raised her children. My late husband’s great grandfather Alfred Robinson was one of those children.

    Shortly after reaching Utah, Alford and Jerome left the church. They traveled to San Bernardino in 1851 with the other Saints going to settle there. A couple of Jerome’s older daughters stayed with the Saints in Utah. To read about an amusing historical incident in California, involving the two brothers, google Jerome Benson and Fort Benson. I have found Alford’s daughter listed with the RLDS in California.

    Your Joseph Bartholomew was the hero in the Parrish/Springville murders in 1857. My Alvah moved to Cedar City. Unfortunately his son in law, my g-g-grandfther Ira Allen, was involved with the Mountain Meadow Massacre. The family skeddled to Hyrum, Utah, sent there by Erza T Benson. They are listed as prominent pioneers there. Later in life, Alvah takes issue with The United Order, as does his nephew Alford Robinson. He is chastised by local leaders for his opinions. A granddaughter remembers Alvah as praying fervently prostrate in his orchard as an elderly man. Polly and Alvah, as the last surviving LDS children of Benjamin and Keziah, do temple work for their ancestors in the Logan and Manti Temples.

    I am proud of this family, faith, warts, sins, and all. As a Benson descendant, it is important you read and pass the following information on to members of your family: http://www.millennialstar.org/family-history-can-save-your-life/

    If you would like to contact me: JoannaBenson at comcast dot net ( no spaces), please feel free. I would love to hear from you.

  31. Trying to find any information on a Henry Gibson, who was believed to be Melungeon. I believe him to be my 3rd great-grandfather. He resided at some point in Moore County, North Carolina. He married a Jeannie Garner (died 1875) of Randolph County NC. I think they had 10 or 11 children, one of them being a Noah Gibson, who was later adopted by the Brower family (possibly Alfred Brower?). Henry appears to have died in 1858. Noah Brower is my maternal great great grandfather. Noah married Wincy Jane Asbill (believed to be a slave) and had 6 children, one of them being my great grandmother Martha Ann Brower Strickland, who resided in Randolph county NC and died in 1973. Any information on Henry Gibson such as DOB, family information, etc would be greatly appreciated as I have reached the wall.

  32. Margaret- I do not have any answers for you. As you well know Melungeons avoided the census and either worshiped at home or in some obscure small church. Have you tried getting any help at your local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Family History Library. The library is open to the public and is free. There are minimal charges to order microfilm or photo copy records A trained family history librarian could perhaps give you some ideas. Good luck on your journey.

  33. John McCann Bybee pictured is my Great Great Grandfather from Monroe KY, born Feb.17 1829 died Feb. 21 1909. I have never heard of this before, how can I get more information?

  34. Hi Tina,

    The best resource on Melungeons as Sephardic Jews is Elizabeth Hirschman’s http://www.amazon.com/Melungeons-Last-Lost-Tribe-America/dp/0865548617/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1332902741&sr=8-1-spell. She has located the communities the Melugeons lived in, which includes the communities that the BYBEE family lived.

    Also the BIBBY/BYBEE/BEEBEE surname has had some discussion on the Harry Steins Sephardic Genealogy Yahoo group. It is theorized some of the BIBBY/BYBEE/BEEBEE ancestors came over with the Norman/French Invasion in 1066. At that time, there were many Jews in France. Many of these French Jews settled in England. It has been theorized that these French BIBBYS were descendants of Mar Naironai ben Habibai, a High Rabbi from Persia, a descendant of the Royal House of David, whose descendants immigrated to France, and became the HABIBAI family and were later Anglicized as BIBBY/BEEBEE/BYBEE in England. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exilarch

    There is no proof of those claims, that I am aware of, except that VIVI is an Aramaic spelling type that the BYBEE surnames would fit into and there were some BIBBYS who came over in 1066 and there are Jews with the surname BYBEE
    see: http://www.4crests.com/bybee-coat-of-arms.html

    Also see Sephardim.com, which is archived by Harvard University, the research done on Sephardic Genealogy. Look at the BIB surnames on the Spanish “B” list http://www.sephardim.com/namelist.shtml?mode=form&from=B&to=B&Search=Search
    And the English “B” list: http://www.sephardim.com/html/translated_names_b.html

    Also talked about on the Yahoo group, BIBBY/BYBEE/BEEBEE families who were merchants, a common Sephardic Jewish occupation. There was a cluster of BIBBY families in Lancaster, England who were corn merchants. Especially common were Sephardic International Shipping merchants. The south Lancashire BIBBY Family started Bibby Shipping line. Its the oldest extant shipping line in England.

    Good luck with your research. I do not have sources, just conversation, and so possible leads.

  35. My grandparents came here to the US from Rhodes, I am of Sephardic heritage. This whole conversation about people from the south are part Sephardic is complete nonsense and needs to stop. The whole word, “Melungeon” is made-up so the descendants of black people who had children with white people can “pass” as whites. Please leave the jews out of this far fetched conversation. My Separdic ancestry is just as white looking as casper the ghost. There are no olive skin people on all of my grandmother’s line, nor my grandfather’s line and they are 100% Sephardic from Rhodess just like their ancestors who left Spain and Portugal in 1492. Your far fetched speculation makes the LDS look like a bunch of we-will-believe-anything hicks. Please read the following article and remember, sometimes the things you heard passed down from generations are just exaggerations and myth.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/24/melungeon-dna-study-origin_n_1544489.html?1337916462&icid=maing-grid10%7Chtmlws-main-bb%7Cdl1%7Csec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D164187
    – Laura
    Active LDS member

  36. This is a wonderful thread! I’ve been involved in a couple of other Melungeon sites, but found them to be very “selective” in who they allow in, and very degrading of others’ comments. I have “shovel teeth”, although not very prominent, and have these surnames: ALLEN, BELL, BERRY, BOLLING, BOONE, BROOKS, BROWN, CARTER, CLARK, COX, DAVIS, DULA, GOWAN, GREEN(E), HALL, HARRIS, MARTIN, MOORE, NICHOLS, SCOTT, SHEPHERD, WHITE, and WOOD. So, I must be Melungeon, right? (LOL)

    The first online group I was in refused to admit there might be any black blood in the families – it had to all be Amerindian. The second group is very “professional”, and only recognizes the “core” Melungeon surnames and two counties in TN and one in VA as locations of the Melungeons. My families are from eastern and western NC, eastern TN, and eastern VA. My maternal dna shows a Lumbee connection and Ashenaki(sp?) Jewish blood.

    I hope this group will be supportive of anyone who feels they have a line of descent through the Melungeon group.

  37. Laura, there is no need to be hateful. I’m so tired of seeing that on Melungeon sites. Do your research. You’re being as antagonistic of comments about “Jewish” blood, as another group I was in for a short while was about “Black” blood. I did my dna test. I am completely “Southern”, born in NC to generations of “Southern” ancestors. I show “Jewish” blood in my dna. That cannot be disputed. It’s due to migration patterns throughout the ages. And, it certainly has nothing to do with the LDS church. Where on earth did you come up with that?

  38. Thank you Cindy for stopping by to read and to comment. My late husband’s DNA showed Lumbee. I am very supportive of anyone who is of Melungeon descent. I am not exactly a Melungeon. Some of my ancestral lines came out of Kentucky, by way of Maryland and North Georgia by way of North Carolina. I have tri-isolate DNA, so it makes me a “kinda Melungeon”.

    I need to clarify some misconceptions. Millennial Star is not a Melungeon site. It is a blog written by several faithful active Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bloggers. I am one of those bloggers. I wrote 13, now 14 posts about DNA, Sephardic Jews, Melungeons and FMF. I did this to educate others about genealogy and FMF. Laura is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and she is a Sephardic descendant by way of Rhodes, Greece. She is not a Melungeon,

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