The Melungeons (1600s- ) are a mixed-race people in America who live in the Appalachian mountains where Tennessee meets Virginia meets Kentucky. There are about 50,000 of them. They look mainly white nowadays but in the 1690s French traders said they looked like Moors (the Berbers of north-west Africa). They looked neither white nor black nor American Indian.

The Melungeons said they were Portuguese, that they had been living in those mountains since before the white man came. This has led some to suppose that they came from Portuguese shipwrecks who mixed with American Indians. Some have even said they came from Carthaginian shipwrecks thousands of years ago.

It all sounds cool and gives them an air of mystery, but the truth about them was there all along in court and census records – and, of course, in their DNA.

They are part Portuguese and Spanish, but that comes…

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