It’s important to understand that Tribes and Free People of Color took on the surnames of those English and Irish families that they lived near; and who treated them well. This was the same thing that African Slaves would do upon their exodus from slavery in the late 1860’s. The culture of the land sort of encouraged it because of the need to survive. Our Clan’s surnames are as such; and can be traced back to the early 1600’s when the English began their expansion on our lands.
Freeman Genealogy & History
Freeman is an English surname, meaning more or less what it sounds like: Old English “freo”, meaning free-born, and “man” meaning servant or worker. In the Middle Ages, the vast majority of people were serfs, effectively belonging to whoever owned the land they worked on, or simply outright slaves, though the practice was rarely for life. In any case, Freeman family history opens with the 1196 enrollment of William Freeman in Norfolk’s (England) Pipe Rolls.
Searching for a better life, many English families migrated to British colonies. Unfortunately, the majority of them traveled under extremely harsh conditions: overcrowding on the ships caused the majority of the immigrants to arrive diseased, famished and destitute from the long journey across the ocean. For those families that arrived safely, modest prosperity was attainable, and many went on to make invaluable contributions to the development of the cultures of the new colonies. Research into the origins of these individual families in North Carolina revealed records of the immigration of a number of people bearing the name Freeman or a variant.
Freeman Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century
Bernardns Freeman, who landed in New Netherland(s) in 1620
Domine Bernardus Freeman, who landed in New Netherland(s) in 1620
Ralph Freeman who settled in Virginia in 1622
Bridges Freeman who landed in Virginia in 1623
Edmund Freeman who landed in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1632
First Freeman of Color Documented
The first mention of a Freeman that was a Person of Color was a Weyanoake Indian called Indian Tom. In the Colonial Records of North Carolina, Second Series, Volume VII entitled RECORDS OF THE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL 1664-1734. On page 416, a gentleman named Richard Booth filed a deposition with Gov. Moseley in which he described a canoe trip he took in the year 1667 down the Blackwater and Nottaway Rivers to the Meherrin Indian Town. His guide was “a Certain Weyanoake Indian called Tom Freeman.” John Freeman (English) appeared in the vicinity around 1675 and is the John Freeman of Norfolk County, VA written about in the book written by Mosher. The family subsequently moved south into Chowan Cty., NC to an area not more than 20 miles form the Meherrin Indian town and married the daughter of the Chowan Indian Chief – Tabitha Hoyter.
It should be noted that we have been working with the Freeman’s of this John Freeman; and have not connected thru DNA testing or have found any records to show that we are descendants of any slaves they may have had.
Relations between Blacks and Indians have been known to have occurred as far back as the 1600s. African Indian marriages did occur, but it was neither a trend nor a widespread phenomena. However, there were nations that did establish a pattern of intermarrying with both blacks and whites. For example, on the Eastern Shore area of Virginia, the Gingaskins were intermarrying into both the white and black communities. And both whites and blacks were known to have married into the Nottoway according to the census of 1808. This particular census was made by tribal trustees who had first-hand knowledge.
However, the black participants in legally recognized marriages were primarily free blacks, thus allowing them some freedom to intermarry. After the Civil War, intermarrying continued, even though in many places it was illegal. But when intermarrying occurred there seemed to be a pattern of selectivity with bi-racial offspring, who usually selected a spouse from other bi-racial groups. This marriage pattern led to the bi-racial families (Indian/White, Indian/Black, White/Black) becoming tri-racial. This need to find “suitable” mixed race spouses contributed to the need to move more frequently than the general population. For example, the Baltrip, or Boltrip family was commonly found in the central part of North Carolina, but later appears as a free colored family in Wilkins County farther to the west.
This comes as no surprise as it has not been unusual in African American families to note that many mulattos have also practiced the pattern of marrying exclusively mulattos.
Certain nicknames have been given to describe tri-racial groups and these labels are used today throughout the South. Labels such as Brass Ankles, Red Bones, Lumbees and Turks are among the common names used in reference to the trr-racial people. Other names are Guineas, the Haliwas, and the Melungeons. The families in those groups were bi-racial or tri-racial and married as a general rule with other mixed families. For example the Goins clan a long standing family of tri-racial people from Tennessee were known to have lived with and intermarried frequently with other groups such as the Red Bones, of Louisiana.
Over the years, Indian/white, and Indian Black mixtures existed but there were entire towns where these mixed people predominated. Usually the mixed population lived in a European culture, speaking English, practicing Christianity and giving European surnames to their offspring. Thus the merger of cultures contributed to the loss of Indian languages and traditions. Most tri-racial families are either white-identified, or black-identified families, though genetically and historically they are tri-racial.
Take time to look at our Early Colonial Ancestors by Surnames:
Early Freeman of Southeastern North Carolina
Early Chavis of Southeastern North Carolina
Early Graham of Southeastern North Carolina
Early Jacobs of Southeastern North Carolina
Early Lacewell of Southeastern North Carolina
Early Locklear of Southeastern North Carolina
Early Lowry of Southeastern North Carolina
Early Mitchell of Southeastern North Carolina
Early Moore of Southeastern North Carolina
Early Oxendine of Southeastern North Carolina
Early Patrick of Southeastern North Carolina
Early Spaulding of Southeastern North Carolina
Early Tate of Southeastern North Carolina
Early Webb of Southeastern North Carolina