"Isolate" Communities

By Ned Heite, Camden, DE, 20 Feb 1998




There is a large and growing body of literature on the isolate communities, written from both inside and outside.

Virginia Easley DeMarce published two articles on the "isolate" communities, both of which are extremely useful. Dr. DeMarce brings the professional historian's techniques to a genealogical problem. Essentially, she showed that the Melungeons and other groups with exotic origin legends were actually Indian remnants. The articles were published in 1992 and 1993 in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly:

"Very Slitly Mixt:" tri-racial isolate families of the Upper South - a genealogical study. Vol, 80, No. 1 (March 1992), pp. 36-56.

Looking at legends - Lumbee and Melungeon: Applied genealogy and the origins of tri-racial isolate settlements. Vol. 81, No. 1 (March 1993), pp.24-45.

There has been a burst of scholarship concerning isolate communities, but much of it must be taken with several very large pinches of salt. Brent Kennedy's book on his own people, the Melungeons, is an example. While Kennedy's research and activism are massive and admirable, the book contains some leaps of faith that are, in my opinion, unacceptable. Dr. DeMarce has pointed out that the most logical explanation for Melungeon origins is that they are an Indian remnant group who migrated from Central Virginia.

Communities went under a variety of names, of which Melungeon is one of the more common. In Delaware, the Indian community were called moors. I have heard that this kind of evasive nomenclature was adopted to avoid being called black, mulatto, Negro, or Indian, during the ante-bellum period. If they were identified as Negro or mulatto, they would be subject to discriminatory laws. People identified as "Indians not taxed" lost their ciivil rights and got shipped west.

There is good evidence that large numbers of Indians stayed behind during each "removal" episode. To this day, there are remnant ommunities in each of the steps along the westward migration from which Indian tribes were "removed."






"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"



Copyright 1997-
All rights reserved.
Not to be used for commercial purposes.