Celtic by DNA

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-vintage-luck-image7882305Not that it matters, because you certainly don’t need to be officially Celtic to enjoy some green beer, corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and a little merriment this time of year!  But I will say that having some certainty in my Celtic ancestry most definitely adds to my enthusiasm!  I have ancestors from both Ireland and Scotland, and several that are still a mystery as to their Celtic origins.  My DNA testing showed 35% Celtic, and my mom’s DNA showed 47%.  From what I’ve read, the DNA testing cannot discern between Ireland and Scotland.  My mom’s 47% Celtic was her highest ethnicity percentage and it really surprised me.  Both sides of my family have Celtic ancestors but I was quite surprised that it showed up so high in the percentage, especially since many of the ancestors are quite far back.  I guess they have some strong genes!  It’s interesting because I have Native American ancestors which has been proven via DNA testing of “cousins” further back, but does not show up in my DNA.  So I guess DNA still has room to improve, but it’s still pretty fascinating with what we have.

Here are some of the surnames that are, or may be, my Celtic ancestors that I’m researching; if you have any tips let me know:  Murphy, Keith, Spivey, Kimbler, Estep, Lane, Powers, and others.

☘  H A P P Y   ST.  P A T R I C K’S   D A Y !  ☘


Antebellum and Belle Epoch Fashion

img_0638 A “cousin” of mine on my grandmother’s side shared this photo with me of one of our shared ancestors.  It’s an awesome photo in my opinion.  We don’t know the nature of the event she was attending, but she appears to be dressed to the nines.  We speculate she may have been at a wedding, or perhaps a horse race, especially because her outfit reminds me of a riding habit.  In the full size photo she is with her husband, and since we know their marriage date and the date of her husband’s unexpected death, we know for sure that the photo was taken between 1912-1925.  This photo alone piqued my interest about fashion trends back in those days, and there are some very interesting websites that discuss it in-depth.  And there are some pretty brow-raising facts too.  For instance, did you know that women did not start wearing underwear until around 1800?  That was a bit startling.  Also, apparently in Georgia during the mid-1800’s, some women experimented with wearing men’s clothing (pants), but it was highly frowned upon and considered offensive.  I’m sure glad this changed because I wear pants (and underwear) just about every single day of my life!  I’ll leave you with some links to websites with great information and wonderful photos of fashion from “those days”.  Enjoy!


Lady Amcal

Glamour Daze


Melungeon Basics

mel_wcJust writing the post about the melungeons the other day got me drawn back into all the research and theories.  I actually try not to indulge in the futile effort of looking for answers or clue about the melungeons, but somehow it remains intriguing.  The more you read and search, the more confounding and confusing it becomes.  It’s just an interesting puzzle I guess.  This is certainly not a blog about melungeons, nor do I want it to be, but I will be posting more about it, especially if I come across something interesting from my own reading, or hear something from my “cousins”.

In the meantime, I’m posting this “Melungeon Basics” document that I guess could be helpful for those just getting started with their research.  It provides some basic information and resource links.

Murder in the Mountains

holster_cpFor today’s post, I’m going to continue the theme of the Goins family.  I’ll tell you the story of a murder in the mountains of Virginia.  One thing I’ve discovered in my reading and research, is that in the 1800’s, people would pull out a gun and shoot you for the smallest of infractions or insults.

In 1844, there was a man named Alexander Goins who lived in Lawrence county Kentucky.  He was murdered and buried where he fell while traveling on horseback in the vicinity of Big Black Mountain and Nine Mile Spur.  This would be near Appalachia and Stonega.  As with all things, there are multiple versions of exactly what happened.  Perhaps the truth is somewhere in the middle.

According to the Church family, who were residents of the community at the time, Alexander Goins was a respectable horse trader.  He drove horses between Kentucky and South Carolina, bred horses, and maintained his own racetrack.  Goins carried large sums of cash during his horse trading travels.  He also employed a helper named William.  On the day of Goins’ murder, William called in sick.  But he wasn’t sick.  He had teamed up with some others who set out to ambush Goins and rob him of the $9,000 in cash he was carrying.

According to the Maggard-Craft family, who lived across Big Black Mountain in Kentucky, Alexander Goins was a horse thief and a bad man in every respect.  This version indicates that Goins was killed because he had stolen livestock from his neighbors, and perpetrated other crimes and bad behavior.

Goins was buried by the side of the road.  The site of the grave eventually became part of the acquired property of the Interstate Railroad which hauled coal between Appalachia and Stonega.  No word on what happened to the money that Goins was carrying.  And, there’s no record of any sort of law enforcement action related to the murder.  I guess that’s the way they rolled in 1844.

But I found the story highly intriguing and I feel like it would make a great song (I’m looking at you OCMS and Willie Watson!).  Oh wait, someone already wrote a song about it!  Well actually, it was a poem, “Poor Goins” written by Gabriel Church who was alive to experience the event at the time it happened.  But I still say it would be delightful to dust it off and make a great new song about it.  Willie Watson or OCMS could definitely do it justice.

Click here and here to read all the details of the story that I couldn’t include in this post.

Click here for the lyrics to “Poor Goins”, and to listen to an audio clip.

Melungeon Mystery

mel-logo_smI guess it’s time to wade into the mystery of the melungeon people.  It’s hard to get organized to talk on this subject, because there is already SO MUCH information on the internet already.  Makes me wonder why I should bother adding my two cents.  But I’m going to because I have an interest in these people.  I am by no means a well-versed expert on this, but I have done some of my own research and developed my own opinions.  You will no doubt have to do the same.  The tremendous volume of information, research, folklore, myth, and totally unsubstantiated opinion that is available online could take a lifetime to wade through and evaluate.  In fact, some people have spent nearly a lifetime researching the melungeons, such as Jack Goins and Roberta Estes to name just two.  There are numerous books available online, as well as scientific research papers.  It’s all there for the reading.  What I’m going to do here is talk about some of the aspects of the melungeon research that I have found the most intriguing.  There will be no amazing revelations or answers to the mystery of the melungeons.  If that’s what you’re looking for, you’ve already read too far.  Sorry.

I’m going to start by going back to the 1600’s and the early colonists at Jamestown.  There’s a book, “Children of Perdition” by Tim Hashaw that discusses the early days of the Jamestown Colony in Virginia, and the shenanigans that were going on.  I’m going to try to give you the gist of the situation, and then hopefully you will visit the provided links and learn all the intriguing details!

In 1619, the Portuguese were heavily involved in the slave trade.  In May of 1619 a Spanish/Portuguese frigate named “St. John the Baptist”  left the slave fortress on the Angolan island of Luanda with 350 Africans taken captive months earlier in a Portuguese invasion of the Malange plateau in the central Angolan highlands.  The ship was bound for Mexico where the slaves would be sold.  In the meantime, two pirate ships manned by English and Dutch soldiers, met in Cuba to search for treasure-laden Spanish and Portuguese merchant ships.  This was in direct violation of the treaty between King James of England and Spain/Portugal.  Around the middle of July,  the Spanish/Portuguese slave ship “the Baptist” had crossed the Atlantic and was  sailing between Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula enroute to Vera Cruz, Mexico when she crossed the path of the two pirate ships.  There was a fierce battle in a sea storm, that ended with the surrender of the Portuguese merchant/slave ship.  The pirates boarded the ship and took the healthiest of the Africans and left the crew and remaining Africans onboard the badly damaged “Baptist”.

In August 1619, the two pirate ships arrived in Virginia.  And because their plundering was not an authorized activity, that is when the conspiracy and colonial corruption really got underway!  Somehow, it’s hard to believe so much underhandedness was going on 400 years ago; and yet I know I shouldn’t be surprised.  The bottom line is that recordkeeping and documentation of the origins and disposition of those Africans was sorely lacking and possibly subverted due to the way in which they were acquired.  There were just suddenly new Africans working on tobacco plantations in Virginia and no one spoke of where they came from or how they were paid for.  If you continue reading on this story line, you will learn the details of the conspiracy and cover-up.  This specific story provides information about an African, John Geaween (Gowen/Goins) and some of the other early slaves.

The Goins surname is a known melungeon name along with many others.  The melungeons have been defined as a “tri-racial” group of people:  European, African, and Native American.  But I seriously doubt it’s as simple as that.  Personally, I think their origins are more complex, but I doubt we’ll ever know for sure.  The scientific DNA research that has been done shows melungeons with African and Native American DNA, but it depends on which family and branch you’re from as to what the DNA shows.  For instance, the Sizemore melungeon family has been shown to contain Native American DNA, and I have those same Sizemores in my family tree, yet my DNA shows 0% Native American.  So, does that mean my family tree is wrong?  Or is today’s DNA testing incapable of detecting such minute DNA from so far back?  I have the Goins in my family tree, and yet my DNA show 0% African.  And so the mystery continues, and probably always will.  But the research, reading, and learning is quite interesting nevertheless, so I will continue!

Click here to read more about the story I described above with far more details, from the writings of Tim Hashaw.  Click here for books by Tim Hashaw.  Click here for books about melungeons on Amazon.

♪♫•*¨*• Burning in to Memphis on a Flop-Eared Mule

mule_cropThis is my all-time favorite line from a song.  Ever.  It’s from the song “Tennessee Bound” by Old Crow Medicine Show (OCMS).  The song was written by Ketch Secor, the OCMS frontman, and he and OCMS have many great songs with outstanding lyrics and truly great music.  OCMS is the modern way to experience and enjoy old-time sound.  The lyrics nearly always bring a smile, and they have a beautiful way of taking you back to the old, old days – long before your time.  Check them out and raise a ruckus!  Click here to enjoy “Tennessee Bound” by OCMS.

Old Time Nugget: Rattlesnakes and Fiddles

fiddlerThere are occasions when I’m reading along in some interesting ancestry information, and I come across something intriguing that piques my interest.  When that happens, I’m going to make a blog post out of it.  Hope you find it interesting too!

In this case, it’s about putting rattlesnake rattles inside fiddles.  The story I was reading was about an Irish family named Porter and there was a mention of a very, very old fiddle they had from Ireland which had a very sweet sound which was attributed to the rattlesnake rattles that had been placed inside of it.  Who knew?  Click here to read more about this practice from the Appalachian History blog.