Monday, December 3, 2012

1620's and Chesapeake Bay by Steven Pony Hill


In the 1620s a Dutch man-of-war sailed into Chesapeake Bay. This Dutch ship, the White Lion, had just sailed north from the shipping lanes that the Portuguese ships used for trade between Portugal, Angola, and Brazil. The Dutch and the Portuguese were at war at the time. The White Lion had boarded a Portuguese trading vessel and captured her crew and payload of slaves as well. When the White Lion arrived in Virginia she sold off this load of enslaved 'Portuguese' to Virginian land owners.

A Dutch man-of-war, a wijdschip and other vessels near a jetty

 Many of these new 'slaves' had easily identifiable Portuguese surnames such as "Francisco" (later became anglicized to Francis and/or Cisco), Rodriggus (anglicized to Driggers), and [no definite documentation but it fits the pattern] possibly Chavez (Chavis) and Goyans (Goins). Almost every one of these 'Portuguese slaves' lived and took up wives on the Gingaskin Indian 'reservation' on the Eastern Shore. In the early 1600s slavery was still an institution in its infancy in the New World, and slaves were often allowed to maintain their own homes and crops, and even do additional work to earn wages as well as buy land.

To quote one of the 'Portuguese':
Now Mr. Taylor and I divided our Corne and I am very glad of it now I know myne…owne ground I will work when I please and play when I please.” All of these 'Portuguese slaves' also eventually managed to buy their own freedom and continued to maintain their small homes upon the Gingaskin Indian land. These Portuguese-Gingaskin Indian families quickly intermarried among other Gingaksin families such as the Cross, Bingham, Press, Jacobs, Jeffery, Harmon, Webb, Brooks, and Carter. With an early history that mirrors other eastern tribes, the Gingaskin saw their land holdings dwindle and their Native-European-Portuguese descendants spread west across VA and south into NC and SC.

's the sticky point for many descendants...were these "Portuguese" ancestors White Europeans, Black Africans, or Native Americans? The simple answer is "Yes, all of the above!" In the early 1600s the majority of Portuguese sailors were a tri-racial mix of White (Portuguese) Black (Angolan) and Native (Tupaya of Brazil). A large number of 'slaves' being transported between the Portuguese colonies of Angola and Brazil were also heavily mixed.
So, you might ask, what does this all mean? Were these people trying to deny African ancestry by claiming an exotic "Portuguese" ancestry? No. They were simply trying to express a legitimate claim to a clearly different legal/social/ethnic origin than the later imported populations of African slaves. 

These people's ancestors would no more have identified themselves as "African" than would a modern brown-skinned citizen of Brazil. Would these descendants logically identify themselves as being of White, Indian and Portuguese ancestry? Yes, and they did at every opportunity. Would many of these family lines bear strong African markers within their YDNA? Yes, and many do. But to lump their ancestry/identity/origin in with the southern African slave population would be a huge mistake. It's like comparing apples and pears.

1 comment:

  1. According to a dna test, I have Moroccan, Spanish, and Native DNA. The Native DNA includes the Brazilian Karitanian tribe as well as Mayan, Michigan Native, and Sirui. I figured out the Moroccan ancestry but I've never learned the origin of the Brazilian Native until I read your post. My ancestors have lived in Chincoteage Island for centuries. This post brings my ancestral pieces together. Thanks so much for sharing this info.