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Genealogy: ORIGIN OF ANCESTRAL TERM `BLACK DUTCH' STILL A MYSTERY 
Family History
``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 titled ``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, triracial 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, politics, 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 Dutch.''

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 and early 17th centuries, and intermarried with the blond 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 offshoot of the Melungeons or one of the triracial isolated 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 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.


The complete report of this survey plus information submitted by researchers about their families claiming ``Black Dutch'' heritage can be read in American Genealogy Magazine (Volume 12, No. 1), available for $7.50 from AGM, P.O. Box 1587, Stephenville, TX 76401. Subscription rates for this quarterly are $22.50 per year.
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ORIGIN OF ANCESTRAL TERM `BLACK DUTCH' STILL A MYSTERY

 
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