DNA study seeks origin of Appalachia's Melungeons

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- For years, varied and sometimes wild claims have been made about the origins of a group of dark-skinned Appalachian residents once known derisively as the Melungeons. Some speculated they were descended from Portuguese explorers, or perhaps from Turkish slaves or Gypsies.

A new DNA study in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy has found the truth to be somewhat less exotic: Genetic evidence shows that the families historically called Melungeons are the offspring of sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin.

That report doesn't sit comfortably with some people who claim Melungeon ancestry, but some experts say they aren't surprised by the findings.

University of California-Santa Barbara sociologist G. Reginald Daniel said it is more evidence that that race-mixing in the U.S. isn't a new phenomenon.