Someone asked me what the term, "Black Dutch" means. She said her grandmother had told her that her people were Black Dutch. The thing to remember is that the Black Dutch were not one particular race. In historical documents it refers to several different groups.

The most common designation of Black Dutch refers to the Dutch immigrants to New York who had darker complexions than most other Dutch, due to intermarriage with Spanish soldiers during the Spanish occupation of the Netherlands. Many of these "Black Dutch" are still in New York today, and others have migrated south and west and spread out across the country. DNA has shown that these people are mainly European descent with little, or none of African or Native American DNA.

Another designation is the Sephardic Jewish merchants who came to the Netherlands from Spain and Portugal in the 1400s after being expelled from those two countries. Many of them eventually came to the American colonies and settled in the south and New England. They often mixed with free or enslaved Africans. Sometimes the men stayed with the African, especially if the woman was free. Descendants of these were also historically referred to as "Black Dutch."

Some Native Americans, particularly the Cherokees of the Carolinas, identified themselves as Black Dutch in order to avoid being sent west to reservations. Giving themselves this designation also allowed them to buy and own lands in the east, something that was only permitted to those of European descent at the time. These Natives denied their ancestry, sometimes for generations, because they were concerned their land would be taken from them and they would be sent west. Today, though, most Natives who identified as Black Dutch have become open about their ancestry. If you have a Native in your family who identified as Black Dutch in order to stay in the east or buy land, you will probably know it though family records and strong oral tradition, or stories passed down.

The term "Dutch" has long been used for German immigrants, because the Germans called themselves the Deutsche people. This was easily changed into "Dutch" and both German and Dutch immigrants became known by the same designation. The Pennsylvania Dutch are the descendants of German immigrants, and many groups of them, particularly the Amish, still speak various versions of German today. Like the dark-skinned immigrants to Pennsylvania and other areas were also referred to as "Black Dutch" if they had darker than usual complexions. The surnames of these Black Dutch have remained decidedly German even to the present day, making it easier to identify a Black Dutch ancestor who was really a German immigrant than possibly for any other group of people referred to as Black Dutch.

As many northern families who were referred to as Black Dutch immigrated south, the original meaning of the term became lost through the generations. Many southern people today claim to have Black Dutch ancestry, usually believing they have an ancestor who bore children with a Native American. In most cases, this is incorrect. However, it was not uncommon for people in the south to have children with Africans during the 18th and 19th centuries, and these mixed-race families gradually integrated into their communities. Most of the southern Black Dutch do not have German or Dutch ancestry at all, but are of English or Irish descent, with maybe some African mixed in.

The easiest thing to do is to get a DNA test from one of the inexpensive companies that now does testing for genealogists. It will tell you where your ancestors came from in the past several hundred years, and this will allow you to narrow down the ethnicity of your own particular brand of Black Dutch. Once you know your ethnicity, it will make following the paper trail to your original Black Dutch ancestor easier. You can follow the line of ethnicity back through census records, court records, wills, church records, and even old newspaper records. Eventually, you will find someone in your line who is identified as Dutch, Jewish, German, or even outright Black Dutch. Further research on that ancestor will reveal their origins in most cases. This will allow you to prove or disprove family lore, and learn the true meaning of "Black Dutch" as it pertains to your family.

The Treasure House is open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. But sometimes they are also open on Tuesday and Thursday, if the weather is nice and they think people will drop in. They have a lot of children's books and toys and clothes for sale. It keeps changing from week to week.

The Family Research Center is open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you haven't started on your family tree yet, come by and we will help you get started! We can also help you order your DNA test online for you, and it will come to your house. We had a lady come by this week who was just starting on her family tree. She was so excited about each thing that we discovered about her family.

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