Monday, August 22, 2011

Melungeon Conference this summer

If you know about the Melungeons, you are a bit ahead in understanding one of the interesting unresolved questions in American history. If you don't know about the Melungeons, you will. They are a very interesting (from a genetic, cultural, and historical point of view) group of people with ancestry in the Appalachians. They have a variety of genetic traits that have been interpreted by themselves and by others in a variety of ways. They are variously termed descendants of an ancient Portuguese colony, Native American, African-American, Jewish, Arabic, South Asian, or a mixture of some of the above. There are unusual diseases that are more common to their group than to the general public. They know there is something just a little different, and they have been trying to identify what that something is. When I came across the topic of the Melungeons for the first time I thought that it would be genetics that would provide the answer. It seems that the Melungeon researchers have looked in that direction, and are beginning to see some results. The results should become clearer and clearer as more and more take DNA tests to see what Melungeon heritage holds, and eventually we will all have a rich story of just who these settlers of Appalachia were. It is important to bear in mind that there are now three important ways to test DNA ancestry relationships: Mtdna, Patrilinial DNA, and autosomal DNA, which will be very helpful because it extends over more breadth.  A recent conference of Melungeon heritage was held in Swannanoa, North Carolina. It is becoming a hot topic, so stay tuned!

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