DO YOU KNOW WHAT "Tri-Racial Isolate" Means?



for more info on southern so-called tri-racials click here
"The term"tri-racial isolates" is distasteful today, but its existence is part of history that we must recognize....

"As details have fallen together, it has become apparent that the isolate groups are, in fact, remnant Native American communities that have remained outside the official system of recognized tribes."   (Ned Heite)

See also:



1042. DeMarce, Virginia Easley. “‘Very Slitly Mixt’: Tri-Racial Isolate Families of the Upper South–A Genealogical Study.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 80.1 (March 1992): [5]-35.

Publication type: Journal article

Surveys literature on triracial isolates from other fields and indicates how genealogical research can contribute to existing knowledge of their origins and development. Mentions Lumbees throughout the text and footnotes. Detailed discussion of the Chavis and Goins families. Extensively documented. The appendix lists family surnames commonly found in triracial isolate groups. For each surname, gives the groups among which it occurs, and the racial designations (ex. free mulatto, free person of color) used for that group in well-documented studies. Wes Taukchiray responds, in the June, 1992, issue (“Updates” section), to this article’s mention of his research.

Additional subjects: Tri-racial isolates

This annotation first appeared in The Lumbee Indians: An Annotated Bibliography (McFarland, 1994), by Glenn Ellen Starr.

Home Page URL: lumbeebibliography.net


The Indian Element

The most critical phenomenon regarding the Native Americans of the Upper South was the fact that there was an effort made at Indian extinction. Although disease brought by the European settlers had a dramatic effect on the native population, and thousands of Indians died, thousands also survived. The references made to the extenction of Indians are sometimes even more difficult to dispute due to an elimination on paper of the Native tribes. When census counts were taken in the early 1900's those with Indian ancestry were frequently listed simply as mulatto, meaning black and white ancestry. However despite this several nations still survival, and many mixed with Africans. DeMarce points out that the following nations of Indians contributed to the tri-racial isolate groups:


Chickahominy who were reported "extinct" by 1760, but are still there.
Gingaskin in Accomack and Northampton, who lost state recognition in 1812.
Mattapony who managed to keep their land.
Nansemond who were reported "extinct" by 1786, but are still there.
Nanticoke who are said to have moved to Canada, and absorbed the Delaware Indians but are still there.
Nottaway who were "terminated" in 1824, but are still there.
Pamunkey who managed to keep their land.
Rappahannocks who were reported extinct in 1722, although modern descendants still live in the vicinity of the original tribal territory.
Saponi of Orange County Virginia...later found among the Tennessee Melungeons.
Weanock who were terminated with the Nottoway.
Werowocomo who were still on Virginia's York River in 1919.

The fact that white and Indian races intermingled is a known fact, as was the fact that white and black races intermingled during and after slavery. The lesser known fact is the intermingling of blacks and Indians, outside of the Five Civilized Tribes. However, it is not unusual to hear many blacks of the coastal states referring frequently to Pamunkey ancestors, and to hear references to other groups such as the Lumbees. Oddly, it is also not unusual to hear references to the Blackfoot Indians. There has not been any indication that the Blackfoot Indians have ever lived outside of the region now known as South Dakota, therefore the reference that many African Americans from the coastal United States have to this nation is perplexing and is usually said more figuratively than with proof.

The African/Indian Mixtures As far back as the 1600's black and Indian marriages occured. In the Eastern Shore of Virginia Demarce points out that the 'Gingaskins were intermarrying into both the black and white communities. Both whites and blacks are known to have married itno the Nottoway according to the census of 1808. This census was made by tribal turstees who had first hand knowledge. In later censes, other groups such as the surnames from the Lumbees, and other tri-racial groups were listed simply as free people of color. Mixed mulattos and Indian/blacks were included among these groups. As far back as the 1750's a reference was made to a small group of Lumbees, about 50 families at that time, who were known to have had members who were mixed bloods.

Among some of the larger groups that have arisen among the Tri-racial isolates are:

Brass Ankles of So. Carolina.
Guineas of West Virginia.
Haliwas of Halifax and Warren counties in No. Carolina.
Lumbees of Robeson County, No. Carolina, and Upper So. Carolina.
Melungeons of Tennessee, and Kentucky.
Red Bones of So. Carolina and Louisiana.
Turks of So. Carolina.

Members of some of the larger established Indian tribes married into the African and white races, but these groups such as the Catawbas are not considered to be tri-racial as a tribe. There are some specific surname patterns that appear in the tri-racial communities. DeMarce cautions the researcher to not conclude too hastily that just because the name is the same that a relationship exists. Yet on the other hand, she acknowledges that a specific pattern of name dispersal in a limited population may truly indicate which groups are affiliated with others and they may truly be isolates.

Although the documentation that one would look for in search of that Indian ancestry, will frequently come through the traditional sources such as early census records, court records, knowledge of these tri-racial isolate migration patterns will be helpful in identifying those Indian ancestors.

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