Mystery Monday-- Melungeon or Not?

My husband's family on his mother's side has very deep roots in the South. This part of his family hails from Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, North and South Carolina, etc. This same branch of his family is made up of German and English surnames. So the mystery befell when we were given the following picture:

This is a picture of the family of Millard Hamilton Crosswhite who married his second cousin, Mary Alice Shoun.

Left to Right
Back Row: Elizabeth, Rufus Edward, Ethel (Foster), Margaret
Middle: Anna (Boon), Dottie (Leghorn)
Front Row: Millard Hamilton Crosswhite, Mary Alice Shoun (Crosswhite), Caleb Alexander, Ira


With Crosswhite being an English name, and Shoun being a German one, where do the dark and broad features come from? At first the joke was made that there must have been some fooling around with slaves, but this part of the family did not own any slaves. So where then? Is the lighting just bad in the photo? If so, then where did Millard get his broad nose and lips?

Remember how I said that Millard married his second cousin? Mary Alice Shoun was the granddaughter of Isaac Shoun, the brother of Millard's grandfather, Andrew. With this information, we can look at Mary Alice and see the features that came down through the Shouns. These features are small and fair, not broad and dark like Millard's. Since sons often (but not always) take on more attributes from the mother, it makes sense that Millard may have gotten his dark and broad features from his mother. This lead me to Elizabeth Powell.

I began researching the area that this family is from (Shouns, Tennessee/ Mountain City, Tennessee). What I learned is that there are people of unconfirmed heredity called Melungeons who came from the Appalachian Mountains. They are speculated to have come from a genetic mix of Portuguese, Native American, or even Turkish. ( For more information, you can visit http://www.melungeons.com/ or http://www.melungeon.org/.) Early on they were discriminated against, so many of them began to marry into white families to "white-wash" future generations. On censuses, they were listed as Negro, Indian, or White if they were light enough.

Many families today who are researching their family lines are chasing after the ever illusive "Indian Lore" that has been passed down for generations through family history. What many of these families are finding is that they are not actually of Native American stock, but fall into an entirely unique genetic sub-group; The Melungeons.

With my discovery, I thought it plausible that my husband's family, too, hails from Melungeon ties. In my research, I read that Melungeons came from areas in Eastern Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia, all places his family came from. Also the surnames Powell and Smith are considered Melungeon associated names, both of which are in this branch of the family.


Here is where the possible connection comes into play for my husband.

1.Andrew Garfield Shoun married Elizabeth Powell (born 1797 in North Carolina), whose parents were a Powell-Smith combination from Virginia.

2. Their daughter, Mary Elizabeth Shoun married John Melvin Crosswhite in Tennessee, and gave birth to Millard Hamilton.



So far I am unable to prove or disprove the Melungeon tie. I have strong suggestions that there is a tie, yet several weaknesses in my theory leave room for doubt. Powell and Smith are not the most prominent of the Melungeon names, and most Melungeon families that I have read about did not settle in the same areas that my husband's family did. Though these are not total discounters, they are areas that need to be shored up.

If you have any information that you would like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments section below.

2 comments:

  1. What information do you have on the parents of Elizabeth Powell (Powell-Smith combination? I am related through her son Isaac Harvey.

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  2. I still have to confirm it, as of now it is just a very strong lead, but I have a William Powell married to a Rachel Smith. That's about the extant of it.

    This bit of information will cost you one good deed. =0)

    Good luck on your research, and please don't hesitate to email if you have some info to share.

    Take care,
    Angela

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