Melungeon ( /məˈlʌndʒən/ mə-LUN-jən) is a term traditionally applied to one of a number of "tri-racial isolate" groups of the Southeastern United States, mainly in the Cumberland Gap area of central Appalachia, which includes portions of East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and East Kentucky. Tri-racial describes populations thought to be of mixed European, sub-Saharan African and Native American ancestry. Although there is no consensus on how many such groups exist, estimates range as high as 200. Melungeons were often referred to as of Portuguese or Native American origin.

Beginning in 1995, the researcher Paul Heinegg has published documentation of numerous families of free people of color in the Upper South, whose ancestors were free in colonial Virginia before the American Revolutionary War. His historic research found that most such families in the censuses of 1790-1810 in North Carolina and Virginia, including numerous ones now identified as Melungeon ancestors, could be traced to free descendants of unions between white women and African men in colonial Virginia. Since then, he has frequently updated his book and online version of data.

Since 2005, the Melungeon DNA Project has conducted DNA testing of identified Melungeon lines. It has made its results public, which have shown European mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) for the female lines and both European and sub-Saharan African haplogroups in the Y-DNA of the male lines. Both females and males in several families that are traditionally identified as Melungeon and considered so by researchers have been tested. An April 2012 article on the Melungeons in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy summarized additional DNA testing of the last several years, together with historic evidence. The varied DNA tests continue to show European mtDNA and both European and sub-Saharan Y chromosome haplogroups for individuals with identified Melungeon surnames, which affirms the findings by Heinegg.

Read more about MelungeonDefinition, Legends, Etymology, Modern Identity, DNA Testing, Similar Groups

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