American Triracial Isolates: Their Status and Pertinence to Genetic Research

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2011-01-04 04:40Z by Steven

American Triracial Isolates: Their Status and Pertinence to Genetic Research

Eugenics Quarterly
Volume 4, Issue 4 (December 1957)
pages 187-196
(Curteousy of The Melungeon Heritage Assoication)

Calvin L. Beale (1923-2008)
United States Department of Agriculture

In the 1950 Census of Population, 50,000 American Indians are listed as living in states east of the Mississippi River. These people do not constitute the sole biological legacy of the aboriginal population once found in the East, of course. The remnants of many tribes were removed west of the Mississippi where they retain their tribal identity today. Nor is it uncommon to meet Easterners, thoroughly Caucasian in appearance and racial status, who boast of an Indian ancestor in the dim past. Other intfusio9ns of Indian blood were absorbed into the Negro population, and in this context may also be referred to with pride even if they afford no differential social status.

It is another class of people, however, that engages the attention of this article—a class more numerous than the Indians remaining in the East, more obscure than those in the West, less assured than the white man or the Negro who regards his link of Indian descent as a touch of the heroic or romantic. The reference is to population groups of presumed triracial descent. Such isolates, bequeathed of intermingled Indian, white, and Negro ancestry, are as old as the nation itself and include not less than 77,000 persons. They live today in more than 100 counties of at least 17 Eastern States with settlements ranging in size from less than 50 persons to more than 20,000. Their existence has furnished material for the writings of local historians, folklorists, journalists, and novelists. Occasionally, they have come to the attention of cultural anthropologists, sociologists, and—here and there—a geographer or educator. Attention to the triracial isolates by geneticists is largely confined to the last three years, however. It is the object of this discussion to describe the nature, location, and status of such Indian-white-Negro groups in Eastern States and to indicate the potential interest they hold for the field of human genetics.

Although the precise origin of these groups is unknown in most instances, they seem to have formed through miscegenation between Indians, whites, and Negroes—slave or free—in the Colonial and early Federal periods. In places the offspring of such unions—many of which were illegitimate under the law—tended to marry among themselves. Within a generation or so this practice created a distinctly new racial element in society, living apart from other races. The forces tending to perpetuate such groups, and die strength of these forces, differed from place to place. Some groups subsequently dispersed or were assimilated during the 19th century. Some waxed in numbers; others waned. Most have persisted to the present day. A majority of the triracial isolates originated in the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Their members were among the early pioneers in the Appalachian Plateaus and the Tennessee River Valley. Many left the South and moved to Northern States such as Ohio and…

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