You might be of Melungeon heritage if you meet some or all of the criteria set out in this article.

You might be of Melungeon heritage if any of the following questions fit your profile:


Was your ancestor listed as non-white for any years?

Try to review each census that was taken during your ancestors lifetime. In my family, I have found some ancestors listed as mulatto in some years and white in others. Review birth, death, marriage records, etc.


Is there an oral history of Cherokee or other Native American ancestry that cannot be verified?

Is there a tradition of being Black Dutch, Black Irish, Black Italian, etc.?

Did your family change surnames for no apparent reason?


Did your ancestors live in any of the areas traditionally associated with Melungeons during the time periods that the Melungeons occupied the area?

Remember the Melungeons and other mixed ethnic groups were forced out of areas as Scots-Irish and English settlers moved in and forced them out.


Brent Kennedy and others have identified common surnames associated with Melungeons, Lumbees, etc.

Having a surname on these lists should be considered only as an indicator and not hard evidence of Melungeon heritage.

For example, Mullins is a common Melungeon name but not everyone named Mullins is of Melungeon heritage.


There are lists of physical characteristics associated with some Melungeon descendants i.e. ridge or bump on the back of the head, shovel teeth, etc.

Again, the presence of these traits should be used only as indicators of possible Melungeon heritage not as proof and conversely, an absence of these traits doesn't disprove Melungeon heritage.


Many descendants of Melungeons are susceptible to diseases with Mediterrean and other exotic (to us Americans, anyway) origins. Some examples would be Bechet's Syndrome, Joseph's Disease, Mediterrean Familial Fever, Sarcoidosis, and Thallasemia.

The presence of a genetically inherited disease in your family which normally affects persons of genetic backgrounds that don't agree with your believed background can provide clues to your true genetic makeup.


Look at photos and descriptions of early ancestors and evaluate their appearance against Melungeon characteristics such as skin tone and eye color.

However, don't put a lot of faith in this test since the appearance of Melungeons can vary widely even within the same immediate family group.


Look at personal recollections, court appearances or depositions, and nicknames your ancestors were given by their contemporaries. (For example, one of my great-great uncles was known by everyone as Black Leonard and another distant relative was known as Black Ike).

Were your ancestors regarded as strange or different for no apparent reason? Did later generations refuse to talk about certain ancestors while gushing over others?

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