Where we seek a context for our research, if we are to understand the historical records and what we are reading, we need to know how people described each other.
This three-part blog about race is an educational resource to share my findings on terms I have gathered to describe people with Irish roots. These blogs are my creation and I take full responsibility for them. I include the following segments of the population: African American, Afro-Caribbean, Native American, Scots-Irish, and whites with roots in the UK and Ireland. While the listing span the centuries, I’ve only chosen historical and academic terms you will find in your research.
Racial labels come from any number of places. Some are based on color, nationality, race terms, family names, foreign languages, ancestors, geographic residences or culture. Others are just dirty! Not all terms are derogatory, but are simply descriptions for “them.” Also, contexts have changed over the years. In North America race originally was thought of in terms of skin color. In modern Canada, race is associated with culture; while in the USA, it is still associated with skin tone.
Be aware that I have included both crude, vulgar and inappropriate terms as well as academically appropriate terms. For good measure I have included all the inappropriate terms I could find to describe the Irish either at home or abroad. You may be familiar with some of them. The Irish Catholics and the poor whites in the USA (those with Scots-Irish roots) share the brunt of these words.
My hope is my “Racial Dictionary” will make you laugh, cry and stare in amazement at the world our ancestors lived in. To demonstrate how important these terms are, I provide one example. If your family lore said you were “Black Dutch” then know that this term was code for mixed-blood Cherokees or Chickasaws with European ancestry. It’s no big deal today. However, in pre-Civil Rights USA society, skin tone defined who had civil rights and who did not. A family either “passed for white” at some point or made up a term to explain their skin color. By the way, a “Black Dutch” family is almost guaranteed a Scots-Irish ancestor.
My “Racial Dictionary” can not include all words and phrases. I have limited it to terms about groups of people, not individuals within the group; thus slurs such as Uncle Tom and Aunt Jemima are not included. My goal is to capture the essence of the main racial terms you may encounter in your research. This dictionary is meant to complement other genealogical racial glossaries such as “Old Time Racial Terms & More People of Color”: www.smoot-family.us/terms.html, by Frederick K. Smoot. Also be aware that whenever I use the term “common” I am referring to slag taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue: www.fromoldbooks.org/Grose-VulgarTongue/
I have also had several genealogists review these three blogs for accuracy and usefulness. A list of reviewers and a list of my sources are provided at the end of the third blog.
Angie: A Canadian slur for English-speaking Canadians. It is short for Anglophone and is used in Quebec.
Anglo-African: A white African largely of British Isles descent. see Pommy (Pommies).
Anglo-Indian: People of mixed Indian and British ancestry. It also includes Indians from the old Portuguese colonies of Coromandel, Malabar Coasts, Goa and people of Indo-French and Indo-Dutch descent. It was originally used to describe all British people living in India.
Arabs: A USA slur for tri-racial isolates in Summit, Schoharie County, New York.
Bay Frog: Hudson Bay and Frog refers to those with French Quebec ancestry. Sometimes termed Frog.
Black Carib: A term used by the Caribbean colonial governments to describe people of mixed African and Carib heritage.
Black Dutch: A USA term used among mixed-blood Cherokee and Chickasaw families, who did not remove to Oklahoma to “pass for white” by describing their skin tone in European terms.
Black Irish: 1.) A USA term used by mixed-race families with Cherokee and Chickasaw ancestry to whites too account for their skin tone. Black Dutch was also used. 2.) A term for dark-haired Irish.
Bog Jumper: A slang for the Irish because of the many bogs in Ireland.
Bog Lander: A common term for an Irishman.
Bog Irish: A term used in the UK and Ireland for someone of low class or common Irish ancestry.
Bog Trotter: A common term for an Irishman.
Brass Ankles: A USA slur for tri-racial isolate families in Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Berkeley, Orangeburg and Clarendon counties, South Carolina. The term is thought to signify a “toasted brown color.” Today, the modern tribe is Beaver Creek Indians
Breed(s): A North American slur for a mixed-blood Native American. See Half Breed.
Bristol Man: A common term for the son of an Irish thief and a Welch whore.
Broganier: A common term for someone who has a strong Irish pronunciation or accent.
Brown People: A USA slur for tri-racial isolates in Rockbridge County, Virginia on Irish Creek.
Buckheads: A USA slur for tri-racial isolate families in Bamberg County, South Carolina.
Buckra: A term for a white man used by African slaves.
Bug: A common term used by the Irish for Englishmen, as it is said that bugs were introduced into Ireland by the English.
Bushwhackers: A USA slur for tri-racial isolates in Columbia County, New York. Also known as Pondshiners.
Cajans: A term used to describe mixed-blood families, many tri-racial isolates in: Mobile and Washington counties, Alabama.
Cane River Mulattos: A slur for tri-racial isolates on Cane River in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana.
Carib: The indigenous people who inhabited the Caribbean Islands and parts of the neighboring mainland.
Carmel Indians: A term to describe tri-racial isolates in Carmel, Highland County, Ohio. They are related to the Melungeons.
Cherokees: A USA term to describe what is today called the Waccamaw Siouan tribe of Bladen and Columbus, North Carolina. Also called “Indians of the Green Swamp,” and Croatans.
Clappers: A USA term to describe tri-racial isolates of Clapper Hollow in Schoharie County, New York.
Clay Eaters: A USA slur to denote the practice of eating clay by some poor whites and some blacks in the Old South, particularly in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. It was also used as a slur for some tri-racial isolates in the South.
Coal Cracker: Slang for the Irish, because so many Irish immigrants mined coal.
Cockney: A UK term for a person from East London. It has been used to refer to the working class Londoners, particularly from the East End.
Coe Clan: A USA term to describe the tri-racial isolates in Cumberland and Monroe counties, Kentucky.
Cohee: An eighteenth century USA term for independent Scots-Irish small farmers from the Piedmont or Appalachian Mountains. By the nineteenth century, it also came to mean “poor white trash.”
Colored: A historic term used in various contexts. 1.) In the USA it is an African American. Usage ranges from inoffensive to offensive. The term “free color” is seen in the records. 2) In South Africa, it conveys mixed-race.
Coolie: A term used differently for different groups: In the nineteenth century USA, describes the Chinese workers on the railroad; it also described Indo-Caribbean people, especially in Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago; and described South African Indians.
Coon: A historic USA slur for a black person popularized in the song “Zip Coon” played at Minstrel shows in the 1830s.
Cracker: A nineteenth century term used in the USA to describe either a poor white Appalachian or a poor white Southerner in general. It also denotes the descendants of Scots-Irish.
Creole: 1.) A person of mixed European and African descent born in the Americas. In the fifteenth century, Portuguese-African traders popularized the term (crioulo/a). The term refers also to a language that blends European and African languages, spoken by Europeans, Africans and African-Americans, the most common being French Creole in St. Domingo/Haiti. 2.) A USA slur for several tri-racial isolate groups in Baldwin and Mobile counties, Alabama.
Croatans: A USA slur that came into use about 1885 for tri-racial isolates in Robeson County, Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Harnett, Sampson and Scotland counties, North Carolina; Marlboro, Dillon, Marion, Horry counties, South Carolina. Modern tribes historically known as Croatans include the Coharie Intra-Tribal Council, Waccamaw Siouan, and Beaver Creek Indians.
Cubans: A USA slur for tri-racial isolates in North Carolina and Virginia. Also called Person County Indians.
Darke County Indians: A USA term to describe tri-racial isolates located near Tampico, Darke County, Ohio.
Darky (Darkey, Darkie): A general and historic term used by many ethnic groups; depending on the context, it may or may not be a racial slur. When used against blacks, it is offensive; when used by blacks as a description, it is not offensive. In South Africa, it can be both offensive and racist.
Dingey Christian: A common term for a mulatto, especially of African ancestry.
Dogan (Dogun): A nineteenth century Canadian term for an Irish Catholic.
Donkey: A slang term used for the Irish in nineteenth century Pennsylvania; it was cheaper to hire an Irishman than a donkey in the coal mines.
East India Indians: A Colonial American term for people from the Indian subcontinent, used especially in Maryland and Virginia.
Tomorrow, I will continue with Part 2.