Melungeon DNA and the European Enigma

This entry is part 9 of 14 in the series Melungeons

DNAGenetic genealogy through DNA testing, has sadly been harnessed to muddle the subject even more. Despite this field being in its infancy, global mapping has already occurred. People are shoved into this group and that group, long before we have definitive conclusions. Specific branches have already been given to the races, notwithstanding the mass migrations, interracial unions and multicultural offspring that have occurred globally, just in the previous millennium.

DNA testing is done in one of two ways. MtDNA follows a female line, traceable in either male or female descendents. Y-DNA testing traces only a male line and can only be done on male descendents. Testing can only be done via direct descendents. You can’t find your mother’s MtDNA by taking a sample from your father’s sister. It must be from a direct descendent. Female offspring can trace their father’s line only by locating a direct male descendent, such as his brother’s son and obtaining their DNA. Women do not have the Y-Chromosome necessary for Y-DNA testing.

The DNA of Melungeon descendents, such as the descendents of Vardy Collins, have returned with European DNA. This has caused much strife amid the research community. For some reason, Portugal is supposed to have non-European DNA, despite its location in Europe. This European DNA can’t possibly be from “true” Melungeons. However, Portugal has been invaded numerous times in its history and has both Alpine and Nordic ancestry.

The specific groups are as follows:

  • Vardemon Collins- R1a1a ¹
  • Shepherd “Old Buck” Gibson – R1b1a²
  • Jim “Irish Jim” Mullins – R1b1a³

Some descendents have also discovered their DNA is a “haplogroup,” called E1B1A. This haplogroup has been given to Africa, although more and more individuals from all over the globe are testing positive for it, as they are nearly all branches. This is most often manipulated to promote a theory that Melungeons were African.

The haplogroup E1B1A will likely become a part of every nation, just like all others, as human races and ethnic groups have been intermarrying since there were races and ethnic groups. Marriage is not the only reason for haplogroup diversity. Greeks, Romans, Vikings and Mongols were all known for their propensity to rape females when they attacked.

The Arab Slave Trade during the Middle Ages forced women from across the civilized world to be used as concubine slaves within the Arab world. From the available documentation, men were not captured or involved. Selling women was a common factor of life. Even in America, women were abducted and smuggled into other nations to be slaves into the Twentieth Century. This was called the “White Slave Trade.” Today, we call it human trafficking.

Also in the Twentieth Century, it is claimed that Stalin’s Red Army raped every female “from 8 to 80” when they marched into Germany. This standard practice during wartime did more than inflict horror upon innocent bystanders, it create countless offspring to puzzle DNA researchers of the future.

What is most tragic about genetic genealogy today is no matter how fascinating the study, more and more are turned away from it daily. We’ve reached the dreadful pinnacle where your family tree can be well sourced and complete, but strangers will use your DNA results to tell you its all wrong, just because your results don’t match what they think it should be. This is also despite the fact that our DNA ancestry goes back thousands, or even tens of thousands, of years.

People have been excluded or denied entry into genealogy groups because of their DNA results. Testers have questioned their paternity and assumed parental infidelity, just because the DNA result isn’t what they expected. Every testing facility emphasizes that genetic genealogy testing is NOT a paternity test. It’s a completely different practice.

You may find closely related genetic cousins, and you can see where you ancestors might have been. On rare and wonderful occasions, you can find notable figures of history that actually match your DNA, such as kings. It is no certificate of “purity” or “superiority” and that’s how many are using it. It will provide information on your ancestor’s ancestor along a male or female line.

Since testing is open to the public, there should be some ethics or standards in place. Otherwise, it’ll be shelved as junk science and fall into the oblivion of time it was used as a tool of discrimination or narrow-minded prejudice. Testing is not economic and people should expect all results to be treated with respect. Just the fact that someone paid to be tested, and was generous enough to contribute those results to other genealogists, is worthy of applause.

Even today, there are suspicions that DNA results are being skewed. DNA testers have come to Hancock County in recent years to test individuals, in an attempt to determine Melungeon ancestry. It is suspected that the testers only want data to reinforce their theories, not to find the truth. It’s also suspected that results, which do not fit the respective theories, will be ignored.

In truth, testing is a good practice for future reference. Trying to find information on the past is moot unless the descendents are still living there. Unless you have a well-documented ancestor, such as Vardy Collins, it will be nearly impossible to differentiate between the originals and those who moved in later on. There has been over a century of movement and change in Hancock County.

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