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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Re: Afrigeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Paul,

I can find no more than an incidental relationship between Gypsies and East Indians. Other than the fact that both originated in India, a thousand years apart, I have not been able to establish any common ground.

I have personally known only three families descended fron early Maryland and Virginia East Indians - Weaver, Bentley, and Fisher. They all claimed American Indian origins, and were not in any way aware of their East Indian ancestry - again back to Hugh Jones statement that the Indians seem to love the East Indians.

My impression is that the earliest Gypsies in Virginia were seen as "others", but not clearly as people of color. My impression is that they enjoyed a status above the East Indian. The case of the East Indian "Indian Will" of Westmoreland suggests to me that the whites relegated the East Indian a higher status than the American Indian, in that Indian Will was ordered to be supplied with a gun as part of his freedom dues. The whites of Westmoreland would never have legally provided a gun to a Virginia Indian.

The Gypsies who I have know were definitely not white, and had the appearance of the what we today call "Hispanics", much like the Portuguese of Cape Verdy. I took a Gypsy girl to my senior prom in 1959.

From the East Indian link you referrenced above I do see one thing the Gypsy and East Indian experienced in common - in court cases colonial laws had no specific provision in either civil or criminal cases for the handling of either Gypsies or East Indians within the codified definition of "Mulatto". This can be seen in the case, I think in Louisa County, of , I think Gideon or Thomas Gibson, who was charged with striking a militia captain, "he (Gibson) being a mulatto". The essence of this case was not that Gibson struck the captain, but that a mulatto had struck a white man. Gibson was found not to be a mulatto, although records suggest that he was a man of color. Being of Gypsy descent, Gibson did not fall within any legal definition of mulatto.

We have been conditioned to interpret any occurance of the word "mulatto" to imply Negro ancestry or association with an " African American Community", thus the characterization of these Gibsons as "very light skinned African Americans".

This line of Gibsons were a core family of the East Tennessee Melungeons. By that time they may or may not have acquired African ancestry - I simply don't know. It was, however, made very clear to me that the Gypsy was not a preferred Melungeon ancestry, having originated in Scotland rather than Turkey, Portugual, Carthagenia, the lost colonist of Roanoake, etc. A very interesting finding, however, was that in addition to perceived Negro ancestry, the people who identified themselves in court cases as "Portuguese" could be genealogically demonstrated to have Gypsy or East Indian ancestors - sometimes both. In no case was I able to identify an ancestor from Portugal.

In recent decades it has become popular to equate Portuguese with Angloan. One author has attempted to claim that the word Melungeon was transported from some Mulongu Mountain in Angola. Neither the Melungu theory nor an origin based on the Gypsy word "Melengo" have met any reasonable standard of proof.


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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