Iberian Roots

An exchange of emails







From GMBP44@aol.com 2 Jul 2003 --

I just read the information pertaining to the Kent Co., DE community of "mulattos" and their Indian origins. Actually, I have read similar accounts in other resources. What I have never seen is an examination of the Spanish origins of these names:

Counselor =Consealah = Gonsalah = Gonsalez
Drigges = Rodrigess =Rodriguez
Sisco = Francisco
Dyass/Dyas = Diaz = Diez

All of these names are found in the DelMarVa area, and all have definite Spanish roots. I guess my question is, how did the Spanish play into all of this? Did they intermarry with the Indians/free blacks? Were they erroneously called "negro" or "mullato" because of their darker skin color? I have never seen anyone attempt to examine the origins of these names. To me, it's obvious that a Spanish population did exist in this area. I also know the above surnames are just a sample of that Spanish population -- but, at the moment, I can't recall more of them.





From Don Consolver, Plant City, FL 16 Jul 2003 --

I'm so glad to see these names come up for discussion! My name is Consolver which we have positively traced back to Charles Consolvent, b. 1732, Rev. War soldier. From there we have bits and pieces which continue this line back to John Gonsalves, who seems to have lived near Onancock in the 1670s. The name appears in various forms, no doubt due to pronunciation and the writer's ability to decipher the correct spelling. In many documents, the name is spelled differently everytime it's written. In modern times, this problem is compounded by folks who try to transcribe 300 year old records that were literally written with ink and a feather! (Is that a "G" or a "C"? An "r" or an "n"?)

It appears to me that the Consolvers are decended from John Gonsolez, who came to VA from Spain or Portugal in the 1670's. Each passing generation, depending on the literacy of the family members, accepted the name spelling of the person who penned it, be it church recorder or government official. By 1776, there were enough documents and literate folks in the family to stick to a spelling, (although the Kingsolver, Kinsolving, and Consoliver variations all originated after 1780.) As siblings moved apart, taking with them whatever documents pertained to their lives, they also took with them a new name variation. The Consolvo family (still common today), has been in existence since the early 1700's, but appears to have originated from the same John Gonsolez.

(An interesting sidenote which illustrates this point: In a series of novels that came out during the Bicentennial, there was a brief description of people signing up for the VA militia. The registrar asks a young man for his name. "Consolvah" he drawls. "How do you spell that?" asks the registrar. "Well... you the man with the pen," says the enlistee, and everyone laughs.)

Anyway, that's my theory until someone comes up with something better.

By the way, most of the Consolvers I've ever met were caucasian, with little or no traces of a Spanish heritage, (or black or Indian for that matter). I don't know what influenced the Spanish to come over (unlike the Pilgrims, et al.) but my guess is that with so many qualified sailors among that group, a few must have surely liked the opportunities the new country offered and decided to stay.

I welcome any and all information regarding this family line. (Facts will receive the highest priority!)



George Puckham: From Ned Heite 21 Oct 1998 --

John Puckham, Indian, got baptised, married Jone Johnson, and became a mulatto in 1682.

Okay, stick with me. This is going to be convoluted. I am intentionally juxtaposing a bunch of unrelated facts out of context. Watch what happens.

There was a George Puckham at the Winnesoccum Indian cultural event in 1742.

When Daniel Durham of Little Creek Hundred, Kent County, died (1785), he left his son Benjamin (d. 1810) the time of an apprentice boy named George who was to be free at age 21.

Three years later Ellinor Puckham witnessed John Durham's probate record.

A George Puckham was either the son or the son in law (being one of two heirs at law) of Rachel Handsor, whose intestate estate was probated in Kent County, 1815.

How many George Puckhams are there? Are they related? Was the one at Winnesoccum the grandson or such of John Puckham, who got baptised and married Jone Johnson (granddaughter of Antonio) in 1682.

Who says that Antonio (a.k.a. Anthony Johnson) was African? Just because his son patented a tract called Angola? Angola is a Portugese name!

Let's take it from the top now. Down in Virginia we have a "Turk" named Francisco as a headright. We have a man named Rodriguez (Driggus) who takes a white wife and lives somewhere between white and black society, as do his sons. Jone Johnson marries an Indian. Indians named Francisco represent the Nanticoke in conferences with the Governor of Pennsylvania.

Then there is that Spanish Indian slave with an English wife in the seventeenth century Kent County census, name unknown.

That is just before Conselor (Gonsela, or whatever) comes on the scene. The name of the game is loose ends. Don't say "Game" too loud because there is a Game family who are verifiably Indians and that sure sounds like a corruption of something else.

Before you dismiss this rambling as dippy old Ned smoking the wrong stuff, let's consider that in fact there really were "moors" or Spaniards, or Portugese, or other swarthy, non-protestant people who showed up, with some skills at reading, maybe farming, and so forth. They were indentured servants, since Virginia didn't recognize chattel slavery til the 1660s, and then pretty unevenly. Looking for wives, they naturally would not be looking at white landed planters' daughters, of whom there were very few.

I'd guess they were about the same color as the local Indians.

Questions, Questions, Questions.

Why is it there are so many answers before the questions are properly stated?




From Brian Alnutt 3 Jul 2000

I've noted some references to the Driggus family here, and it reminded me that I wanted to tell the entire group about a book by the historian TH Breen, published in 1980, entitled "Myne Owne Ground". I'll bet Dr Heite & some other members are familiar with this volume. It's not directly concerned with MD or DE Indians, but is a really interesting look at some early free blacks in eastern shore MD & VA. These were Africans who became free by the mid-1600's & began acquiring property, including, in some cases, black slaves of their own. One of them, who appears to be the founder of at least one Driggus family, was Emmanuel Driggus, which was a contraction of his original Portuguese surname "Rodrigues", he became a free landowner by 1645.

As Breen points out, many blacks brought into the eastern shore area during the early 1600's had originally come from Spanish or Portuguese sources and consequently had Iberian names. I recommend a look through this book. Now, as we all know, there was much early interaction between Anglo-whites, Indians, and Africans, and no doubt many of these early free blacks married into or joined existing Native communities. Also, as Jack Forbes has pointed out, it can be hard to tell from early document sources what actual ethnicity someone reported as "negro", "mulatto", etc really was. Anyway, it might be of interest for folks to read Breen's book.

rom: Ned@heite.org 3 Jul 2000

Yes, it's readily available, and well done. I have the same quibble with this book as with so many others. Chesapeake society in the seventeenth century was incredibly complex. A few months back Lynn Jackson (I believe it was Lynn) called our attention to the Virginia headright for "Francisco a Turk." Well the Muslim Turks didn't go around naming their sons for Christian saints. Since the name Francisco (Sisco) turns up among the Nanticoke (among others) within a short time thereafter, this man's origins are more than passing interest.

The case of Francisco points to some of the many complications with ethnic identity. Take for example the white English servant women who married into that same little group. And note, for example, that the first group of "Africans" were indentured, not slaves, and they apparently had Christian names. Antonio (later Anthony Johnson) was one of them, as was the Driggus progenitor.

Clearly the individuals in question were not ignorant savages from the African interior. Since they came through the Dutch traders, they might have been from Brazil, and they might have been Brazilian Indian, North African, Moorish, or whatever. We frankly don't know who they were. They were apparently Christian and culturally European, for they married Christian women and bore Christian names.

Tom Davidson has gone out on a limb lately and espoused the proposition that the 1619 servants were Angolan Christians captured in a Portugese war skirmish. This is possible, but then Davidson rests his suppositions on two articles recently published in the William and Mary Quarterly. These two articles don't really say anything. In fact, if I were the editor, I would have rejected them for containing too many suppositions and leaps to conclusions. The most charitable characterization would be to say that they were not examples of scholarly excellence.

While Tom's recent collaboration with Helen Rountree on the Delmarva Indians is a pretty good book, his report for the Maryland Historic Trust on "free blacks" in Delmarva is a real zinger. All of his "free black" examples were demonstrably Indians, or very likely to be Indians. He didn't cite a single example that is unequivocally black in the entire book.

We don't know much about the genealogy of seventeenth-century Chesapeake nonwhites, and I daresay we never will know everything. Paul Heinegg has collected some valuable tools, which I have downloaded from his website. However, Heinegg's documentation is tainted by the fact that he has an agenda, which he wears on his sleeve. Therefore, one must not trust his sources without double checking them.




From Debbie Dellinger --

Hope you don't mind my passing this email along don't know if anyone in your group subs to the Dutch-Colonies list. They seem to be having a great deal of difficulty with the Sisco/Fransisco line. Thought perhaps you could offer some assistance.

From Shirley Hendrix --

One problem I am having is that from all sides, my doctor, my dentist, my professors, my family and friends all tell me I have NO African ancestors. Indian, yes. So. There still seems the possibility that these were Indian slaves taken early, traveled to Brazil, Africa, and/or Portugual and returned to America. It has been proven in Delaware that Indians were considered "Negro" and/or "colored" so why not these? Or at least some of them. Something was strange here.

I'll continue to pursue this puzzle anyway as I am a Cultural Anthropologist major and this sounds like a good research project. I love puzzles.

Please keep me in mind and let me know if you run into anything else that has reference to this. Also, I am borrowing a computer as mine is in the shop. That is the reason for the long previous correspondance, this program does not delete part of anything. It does not have spell check either. Can't wait to get it back. I hope they backed up all my FTM files. They were supposed to.

From Ned Heite --

Yes, Francisco turns up as a name in New Amsterdam, and it definitely belongs to nonwhite people.

Firehair can fill us in on the Franciscos in North Jersey and southern New York, who have been linked by "certain authors" to the Ramapo people.

There is no doubt that Francisco (Sisco) name was associated with the Nanticoke before the middle of the eighteenth century, and with the Kent County community by about that time.

Delaware was part of New Netherlands, and Dutch trading families from New Amsterdam dominated much of the upper Chesapeake during the seventeenth century. It is therefore historically reasonable to suggest that a Francisco (Sisco) from New Amsterdam circulated in our part of the world.

If this hypothetical Francisco was a literate Indian servant from Dutch colonies in Brazil or elsewhere, it would not surprise me a bit.

The only way to really nail down an answer would be to do a complete biographical workup on all the New Amsterdam Franciscos, put them in places, and then search the records in those places. If anyone's on the Dutch roots list, maybe they can get us some information.



Origins of Documented Sussex County Indian Families

During the seventeenth century, there were families in Delmarva identified as "colored" whose backgrounds and surnames appear to indicate Iberian cultural, if not racial, origins. Among these "Negro" families were people named Rodriggus (Driggus or Drighouse), Ferdinando, and Francisco (Sisco), as well as such non-Iberian names as Payne and Harmon. The possibly Portugese surnames have been interpreted to indicate a Dutch connection, since the Dutch were contending with the Portugese in Brazil and Angola. The name Francisco also was found in the "Negro" population of New Amsterdam (Breen and Innes 1980: 69).

Historians have never definitively established the origins of the families. Weslager (1943:74-78) traces the Hansor family to Aminidab (born 1688), son of Aminidab (born c.1664) and Rose Hansor. His will, dated 1717, mentions his brother Samuel and his daughters Ann and Mary. His aged parents were still living, and his father was his executor. William is presumed to be his son, but this presumption is based only upon later documents in which he is associated with Samuel.

In 1716, a William Handsor owned land in Indian River Hundred, and was listed as white, or at least not black. If this is the same William who later lived at Jolley's Neck, he could not have been the son of the younger Aminidab, who was only 29 in 1716.

The elder Aminidab Hansor is said by some sources to have been the illegitimate son of Mary Vincent (born c. 1650), an English girl of fourteen, and a servant called Aminidab "Haw" of Nandua Creek, Virginia (Deal 1993). Actually, they appear to have been unrelated. Mary and her husband John Oakey of Mulatto Hall (born c. 1640) had a son named John, born about 1669, and a daugther Mary, as well as a son named Aminidab Oakey.

Aminidab [Hanger or Hamsworth] the elder was a witness in 1685 to a power of attorney that was part of the conveyance of 775 acres called "Cheat" on Indian River to William Burton of Accomac County, Virginia. The Oakeys and the Handsors helped John Barker bring Burton's cattle from Virginia to the Sussex County Burton property in 1687, and testified at length when there were allegations of rustling (Horle 1991:433, 606-608). Mary Oakey was also a witness of the will of John Burton, who left a legacy to Aminidab Handsor. Descendants of the Oakeys and the Handsors were uniformly identified as "mulattoes" in the eighteenth-century church and civil records, and all the Indian remnant population in Delaware are descended from them.

Other "core" families appear in the Kent County record around the same time, about a generation after some of the same names first appear in Sussex County documents. Where origins can be traced, each original "core" family can be identified as coming from Sussex, or having close relatives there. Even in Sussex, less than a third of the community surnames appear in the court records before 1710 (Horle 1991).




Origins of the Cheswold Indian remnant Community

In spite of the official denials of Indian populations, a tight-knit community began to develop in Kent County during the first half of the nineteenth century. Because genetic background was not an issue, nobody bothered to identify these people by race, even though they obviously identified one another. Scharf's History of Delaware states that group members claimed that the Kent County community began about 1710, maintaining a separate society from the start. (Scharf 1888: 1124).

During the seventeenth century, landowning families named Butcher and Conselor (Gonsela, etc.) settled in Little Creek Hundred. In 1686 Adam Butcher recorded an earmark in Kent County, which indicates that he was farming and had livestock running on the common. In 1693, Thomas Conselor (Gonselah), already a resident of the county, occupied 120 acres on the north side of Little Creek, in Little Creek Neck. He died in 1720.

Francisco (Sisco) is the only surname among the early Kent County generations that was then associated in other contemporary documents with Native Americans. Specifically, the surname appears among the Nanticoke leadership when the tribe was living on the upper Susquehanna. The name appears in the Kent County community before 1739, already intermarried with Conselors and Butchers.

Daughters of the second Thomas Conselor married a Butcher and a Francisco. A third daughter had a son, named William, who became the chief beneficiary of the grandfather's will. This William Conselor probably was to become the grandfather of the Thomas Conselor who later lived at Bloomsbury.

When William Handsor moved to the neighborhood in 1735 he brought a Sussex County Indian connection. William Handsor left grown sons in Sussex. In Kent County, he was married at least once, possibly twice again. One wife was John Durham's sister. He patented Jolley's Neck, on Chance's Branch of St. Jones River, in 1737. When he died in 1768, he left effects that speak of a decidedly prosperous life, including a sword, a fiddle, shoemaker tools, and carpentry tools.

John Durham and William Handsor controlled some of the best farmland in the county. Most of their grandchildren were identified as mulattoes when racial designations began to appear regularly in the record. Some of John Durham's descendants, however, were identified as white, which has led some researchers to speculate that the Native American element entered his family through some of his children's marriages into the existing community of interrelated families who were, by implication, nonwhites.

Some families who later joined the community had primarily Native American ancestry. Members of the Puckham, Norwood, Ridgeway, Oakey, and Cambridge families, for example, from Sussex or from Eastern Shore Maryland, intermarried with the Kent County community during the antebellum period. The Sparksman family are identified in New Jersey as Indians. According to a tradition in the modern Morris family, members of the Owens family of Lenape Indians moved to Kent County from Delaware Water Gap.

Descendants of the eighteenth-century Kent County community are today generally acknowledged to be Indians, even though none were legally recognized as such until quite recently. Proving Indian ancestry is very different from merely "knowing" that one is Indian.

Archaeology can provide hints concerning the Indian strain, as demonstrated in the study of worked glass at Bloomsbury, but the key to legally acceptable documentation is genealogy. Other tribal groups have successfully documented their Indian origins to the satisfaction of public agencies. The Nansemonds, in Virginia, constructed a genealogy of the Bass family back to documented Indians in the seventeenth century that irrefutably proved their ancestry (Rountree 1990:267). On Delmarva, the task has been less simple because of the official silence during the eighteenth century. A few families, notably descendants of Nanticoke chief Tom Coursey, can construct a lineage that connects them with people who lived openly as Indians during the eighteenth century. Such lineages are rare and often questionable.




Portuguese-American Historical & Research Foundation
News about the Portuguese and the Melungeons: Genealogy Page

Question 1--

My ancestors lived in Delaware and were part of a group of people known as the Delaware Moors. Since the time of my great - my family line has spelled our name Councilor. Prior to that it had various spellings (Counsellor, Concealor, Conselah, Gonsela, Gonsalos, Consalues, and earliest Gonsaloos- about 1674 in Accomack, VA) depending on who the census taker or local tax man was and how he decided to spell what he heard. The Moors had definite Delaware Indian blood but also either Spanish or Portugese blood as I have been told that the family name is Iberian in origin. Also other early families of the Moor community were named Rodiriguez (later Driggus) and Francisco (also Sisco later on). I just saw the mention of your book on the Melungeon home page and wondered if your research had located any Portugese folks in the Delaware-Maryland-Virginia Peninsula in the mid to late 1600's? Thank you for any information that you can provide to me.

Answer 1--

In my research, I discovered that there were a number of groups named the Moors around the area mentioned. Not much is known as individuals, more research is needed. The names described have a definite Portuguese background, due to the fact that they end with the letter "s". Spanish names do generally end with letter "z". I'll keep you posted as the data base is being put together from the ship passenger list that came to North America in the 16th and 17th century.

* * *

Question 2--

I'm writing to ask if the family name Cisco is known to you as a name of Portuguese origin. The family history, the little we know, tells us that it was a Portuguese named Peter Francisco who arrive in Boston in the 17th century is the earliest known (mythically) antecedent. We also have a Civil War sword that belonged originally to a Francis Marion Cisco, his name is engraved on the sword, I think he was a great, great grandfather. I also know that my grandfather, Charles Edward Cisco and his brother made a trip to the Appalachians in the 1930's seeking out relatives but no record of what they found exists. My grandfather lived around Clinton, Illinois which is just west of the small town of Cisco. Appreciate any insights you can provide. Thank you, S. E. C.

Answer 2--

Yes, Cisco is a short form of the Portuguese name Francisco (Latin origin). Pedro Francisco was a Portuguese from the Azores, but it arrived in Virginia in the 1700's and fought alongside George Washington in the Revolution. My book mentions him and gives a brief story. The name Francisca is the same name given to a woman and very often is shortened for Francis. I do know a Portuguese lady, original name was Francisca and now it has been changed in the United States to Francis. Be patient and don't give up. One of the source of informations is the list of passengers from the 16th century on. Good Luck. MM







"The History and Genealogy of the
Native American Isolate Communities
of Kent County, Delaware, and
Surrounding Areas on the Delmarva Peninsula
and Southern New Jersey"



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