Black Dutch

From: Sue Dutton Rodgers <>
Subject: Black Dutch
Date: 1998-07-28 14:20:08
Here is something I copied
>From email newsletter.
In Search of the Black Dutch

`The so-called `Black Dutch' have long been an enigma in American
genealogy. Their descendants are widely reported, yet no authoritative
definition exists for this intriguing term,'' James Pylant says in an
article entitled ``In Search of the Black Dutch,'' which appears in
American Genealogy Magazine (Volume 12, No. 1).

Many readers of this periodical responded to a survey about their `Black

Dutch'' ancestry as did several professional genealogists. The results
were interesting but inconclusive. According to Pylant:

 -- There are strong indications that the original ``Black Dutch'' were
swarthy complexioned Germans.

 -- Anglo-Americans loosely applied the term to any dark-complexioned
American of European descent

 -- The term was adopted as an attempt to disguise Indian or
infrequently, tri-racial descent.

 -- By the mid-1800s the term had become an American colloquialism; a
derogative term for anything denoting one's small stature, dark
coloring, working-class status, political sentiments, or anyone of
foreign extraction.

 Gordon McCann, an Ozarks folklorist, speculates that ``Black Dutch''
might be a derogatory expression labeling German Union troops in the
Civil War. Raymond G. Matthews, a consultant at the Family History
Library, says ``it is doubtful that the Black Dutch were of Jewish or
(Holland) Dutch heritage (one popular theory),'' and Dr. Arlene H. Eakle

of the Genealogical Institute in Salt Lake City stated there was
``absolutely no Jewish culture tie-in'' found during an in-depth
genealogical study of one line that family members claimed was ``Black

Another fanciful and widely circulated explanation about the ``Black
Dutch'' is that they were Netherlanders of dark complexion who were
descendants of the Spanish who occupied The Netherlands in the late 16th

century and early 17th centuries, and intermarried with the blonde
natives. However, the Dutch government's Central Bureau for Genealogy,
established as a state archive and genealogical organization, is unable
to offer an explanation for the term.

Some genealogists have suggested that the Black Dutch were either an
off-shoot of the Melungeons or one of the tri-racial isolate groups in
Appalachia. Darlene Wilson in an article published by the Wise County,
Virginia, Historical Society in the current issue of the `Appalachian
Quarterly,'' says ``My mother's family always said that they were of
``Black Dutch' ancestry but no one then or now living could explain, to
my satisfaction,
 what that meant.''

A number of Black Dutch descendants who responded to the American
Genealogy Magazine survey suspect that their ancestors were actually
Native Americans. Some based their belief simply because an ancestor
`looked like an Indian,'' while others reported a family tradition of
the term being used to actually conceal Native American heritage.

Most family historians who took the survey have traced their ``Black
Dutch'' ancestors to Tennessee. Still others have found earlier lines in

Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina. The term is especially common

among families with Southern roots. Nearly 60 percent of the
genealogists reporting ancestry that claimed to be ``Black Dutch'' bear
surnames that are either decidedly German or possibly Americanized from
Germanic origin.

On another note, my black haired grandmother (not on my Indian side)
always claimed she was Black Irish!!! <grin>  Sue

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