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Re: NAs listed on early census
In Response To: NAs listed on early census ()

Hi Linda. I think most of the questions about Native American ancestry boil down to a simple question. Was there a Native American community in Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland or wherever your ancestors came from?

As we all find out when doing our family tree and as African American Lives showed graphically on TV, we have 2 parents, 4 grands, 8 gg, 16 ggg, 32 gggg, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1,028, etc. ancestors in our tree. For your ancestors to be at least mostly Indian, they would have needed a large community--say at least 300-500 people to marry within their own group, and this group would have needed to continually expand so that all members were not related to each other.

There was no such Indian community in the areas I researched. There were a few reservations in Virginia: the larger ones being the Gingaskin in Northampton County, the Pamunkey in King William County (with a smaller group nearby), and the Nottoway in Southampton.

When the Gingaskin sold their reservation land in the early 1800s, they all had the names of the African Americans who had been free since the colonial era such as Beavens, Carter, Collins, Driggers, and Weeks (descendants of slaves freed in the 1600s as well as descendants of white women who had children by slaves). The Gingaskin had completely blended into the free African American population.

Most of the Pamunkey were related to each other by 1800 and had
the names of the local free African American population: Arnold, Bradby, Holt, Miles, and Sweat. Later the free African American Collins, Dungee and Wynn families married into the tribe. In 1843 the local whites wrote a petition to the governor saying that the Pamunkey had "so largely mingled with the negro race as to have obliterated all striking features of Indian extraction." The tribe responded with a counter petition claiming they were generally of at least half Indian extraction. A recent chief of the tribe named Custalow was from a mixed-race family that had not joined the tribe by that time. His family was listed in a "census" of free Negroes seen as possible emigrants to Liberia.

When a census was taken of the Nottoway reservation in 1808, there were only six adults and eleven children. No adult Indian was married to or sharing a household with any other adult Indian. Two of the children bore the name of a local free African American family: Bartlett. Tom Turner had a "mulatto" wife but spent the better part of his time drunk. Jimmy Wineoak lived with a "mulatto" woman. As Professor Rountree wrote, "most of the Nottoway would be considered free Negroes because of their African ancestry." And, "Nottoway men who stayed home remained unwilling to become farmers. Such concepts as the sexual division of labor change slowly in all cultures and in Woodland Indian cultures farming was women's work" [Rountree, Termination and Dispersal of the Nottoway Indians VMH 95:193-214].

There was a large reservation of Tuscarora in Bertie County, North Carolina, living on 40,000 acres. The tribe never gave up its Indian customs. Most moved to the State of New York in 1766 to join the Indian groups there, and the remainder joined them in 1802 [Swanton, Indian Tribes of North America, p.87].

Another major source of Indian ancestry were the hundreds of children brought as slaves to Virginia during the Indian Wars from about 1680 to 1715. I counted 32 Indian children brought to court in Charles City County to have their ages adjudged (to establish when their masters would have to pay taxes on them) between 1687 and 1695. (Much of the early Charles City County records did not survive, so there were probably a lot more). There were a similar number brought to Henrico County court between 1683 and 1687 and another thirty in Henrico County between 1691 and 1712. Twelve out of the 133 taxable slaves in Surry County were Indians in 1695.

After the Revolution, Virginia decided that it had been illegal to enslave the Indians and freed all slaves who could prove descent from an Indian mother. The Coleman family was one of these. Daniel Coleman registered in Petersburg on 10 February 1798: "a dark Brown Free Negro, or Indian, six feet two inches high, about forty six years old, short bushy hair, formerly held as a slave by Joseph Hardaway but obtained his freedom by a Judgment of the Gen'l Court in November 1797."

So if you ask whether your ancestors had some Indian ancestry, the answer may often be yes but not from one who had been living under traditional Indian culture. Indians blended into the free African American communities, and free people of both African and Indian ancestry likely had a culture very much similar to their English neighbors.
Paul


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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