“THERE WAS NO RACIAL INTERMINGLING. There were no half-breed Indians.” This is a quote from a July 29, 1915 edition of The Windsor Ledger in Bertie County, North Carolina. It’s certainly no easy task to “confirm” Native American ancestry in this area. However, from multiple records it is plain to see that there were mixed-race inhabitants in Bertie County during the colonial era that “passed over” into white, or European, society around the time of the American Revolution.
Some of these families had names like:
- Bass — The Bass family has recorded 17th century Nansemond Indian heritage. Both Thomas Bass and his brother Isaac and their descendants owned land and slaves in Bertie County, while being recorded as mulattoes into the 1770s and white after 1790*.
- Bunch — DNA testing has confirmed the West African ancestry of the Bunch male line. Paul Bunch and Henry Bunch were in Bertie County by the 1720s. Henry Bunch’s daughter Tamerson married Thomas Bass. His daughter Nancy married Isaac Bass. And his daughter Rachel married Joseph Collins.
- Bazemore – Members of the Bazemore family, which originated in Norfolk, were taxed as mulattoes through the mid-1770s, but were recorded as white in the 1790 US Federal Census and onward. Not only, they were major slaveholders and landowners — in 1779, mulatto John Bazemore owned 9 slaves and 1,826 acres.
- Butler — Multiple members of the Butler family were listed as mulattoes in 18th century tax lists in Bertie. They married into the Bunch, Castellaw, Mitchell, Prichard, and Williams families, and were recorded as white in the federal era.
- Collins — Josiah Collins was a taxable mulatto in his own household in Bertie County in 1771. He was the son of Joseph Collins and Rachel Bunch. Their descendants were recorded as white. A Lucy Collins is recorded as the head of a household of free colored persons in the 1800 census.
Honestly, this is just the start of the alphabet. One might continue to look at the Cale, Cobb, Farmer, Jenkins, and many other families. To get a better understanding of the areas sexual habits, have a look at the Bertie County bastardy bonds from the 18th century. In fact, you will find the Lloyd family there as well. recently I was able to determine that my grandmother’s Native American DNA segments matched those of a Lloyd family descendant. A “Joseph Lloyd” was mentioned on one of the Tuscarora Indian Reservation deeds from the 18th century. All of this demonstrates that Bertie County in the 18th century hosted a large community of mixed-race landowners, at least one of which, the Bass family, had documented Native American ancestry. Tuscarora ancestry is also claimed by the Butler family on the basis of tradition and phenotype.
*(Note: Thomas Bass’s land in Bertie County was near Amos Grant’s property. A William Collins married Abigail Grant in Gates County in 1809).