Adoption plays an often quirky role in genealogy. First, there’s the problem that people often disagree about how to handle adoptive lines when a biological line is also known. And second, there is the problem that modern adoption is a formal, legal procedure, while historic adoption was often informal and can be indistinguishable or almost … Read more


I think probably the first time I heard the term Cracker was in Gone With the Wind. Maybe it’s a Southern word. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it used by a Westerner, at least not un-self-consciously. Many people I’ve asked have no idea what it means even though most have heard it. I read … Read more

A Better Diaspora

What does it mean — a better diaspora? I started thinking about this a couple of weeks ago when a friend who is Latina mentioned how often people are surprised when they find out she doesn’t speak Spanish. At the time I just laughed. I don’t speak Swedish or any of my other ancestral languages, … Read more

Behavioral Genetics

Some of my friends think Human Biodiversity is just alt.right propaganda. Others, equally liberal and progressive, think it’s a breath of fresh air in a field overburdened with political correctness. Me, I’m an agnostic. As I often remind people, I didn’t get the True Believer Gene. With that out of the way, Jayman has what … Read more

Pay to Play Indian

Did you know there was a time when you could pay to be Indian? I’m not sure about the reliability of this information but it has become a common meme about pretend Indians (“pretendians”).  “It may be fashionable to play Indian now, but it was also trendy 125 years ago when people paid $5 apiece … Read more


The Melungeons are a tri-racial group, descended from Europeans, Africans and Indians. Although the term Melungeon refers to a specific group, it has become a generic label for many similar groups: the Carmel Indians of southern Ohio, the Brown People of Kentucky, the Guineas of West Virginia, the We-Sorts of Maryland, the Nanticoke-Moors of Delaware, … Read more

American Identity

American Identity

The Radical Genealogist has an interesting article about American ethnic identity. Anyone who has traveled to Europe knows that Europeans are puzzled when Americans claim to be English or Scottish or French or whatever. A friend who had this experience told me that her hosts asked, “Why do Americans always claim to be something else? … Read more


I use the term Scotch-Irish, which requires some explanation, judging from the nearly hysterical emails I receive from time to time. Many people erroneously believe that the term means something along the lines of “mixed Scottish and Irish.” Not so. The Scotch-Irish were Scots who lived in Ireland. The term is similar to other ethnic … Read more