"Burkhart, apparently a man of patience, has recently provided a copy of that letter (which we did not run in ‘92), along with a copy of the AP story on the study and a note including acid phrasing along the lines of 'now modern science has left Mr. Kennedy, and you, no place to hide.'
Burkhart’s letter from ‘92 was similar in tone and directness. " From the Editor, Sept./Oct. 2012
July 15, 1992
Blue Ridge Country
Dear Mr. Rheinheimer:
I had a relative who to the day of her death was convinced that my German ancestors were descended from one of the Three Wise Men because the first one known in this country had Melchior as his middle name. I thought of her after reading N. Brent Kennedy's fanciful article "The Melungeon Mystery Solved" in the last issue of Blue Ridge Country.
I know you are a popular magazine whose aim is entertainment, not a scholarly journal with the goal of truth and accuracy. Even so, before giving space to an author's account of an alleged 3000 plus year history of his family, you should demand more evidence than vague references to a "review of the best available [but undefined] evidence" and "archival records" of "what members of my own family had said as far back as 1830" [again not only no specific indication of what they said or how someone else could check it, let alone how records less than 200 years old fitted into tracing his family back to the Phoenicians of 3000 years ago. ]
Just to list the statements in Kennedy's article which should have been given some substantiation would take more pages than I want to write or you want to read. I will mention two areas that are crucial to his account having any credibility at all.
1. He states that "probably several hundred men, women, and
children" of Morisco descent "undoubtedly put ashore off the South Carolina coast....with a date in the 1580's being most likely." Does he have any basis for these beliefs at all beyond a need for such an event to have occurred in order to make a link between the Moriscos and the Melungeons and the unverifiable belief that Portuguese records would support this had they not supposedly been destroyed in 1755?
2. His frequent references to "Arab", "Mediterranean", and even "Phoenician or Carthaginian" physical types, which were said to be the same as the Melungeon types. What criteria does he use to define all these types and how did he verify that they matched? Frankly the alleged Mediterranean or Arab influences revealed in the pictures could just as easily, in some cases more easily, be attributed to many other peoples.
Mr. Kennedy would have done better to limit his story to how his ancestors broke out of the Melungeon isolation to enter the surrounding society. Presumably there he would have more information from all those family accounts he mentioned. Even
then I suspect his "facts" would be open to question, if the few tidbits he disclosed in this area are any indication. For example, without any information at all from his family records, I can state with absolute certainty that his father was not one-third Melungeon or one-third anything else, unless somewhere in his family tree there was a yet undiscovered reproductive process by which three biological parents provided genetic material to a child. Similarly there is no way he and his brothers could be 3/7ths Melungeon. I can make these statements with certainty because with two parent reproduction, the denominator in any ancestry fraction has to be a power of two (two, four, eight, etc.). Thus while his mother could be 5/8ths Melungeon, there is no way his descent, or anyone else's, could be described in terms of thirds or sevenths.
This glaring error should have been obvious to anyone with a high school education and I am amazed that you or one or your assistants did not catch it and began to be suspicious about the veracity of his total account. But you didn't and not only did Kennedy embarrass himself in print, the credibility of your magazine has been cast in doubt. I will never again read what proports to be a historical account in Blue Ridge Country without wondering how much of it is based on fact and how much was invented by the author to fill in gaps or because he or she thought that something should have happened. I will even be suspicious of the information contained in your travel type articles and wonder how much reliance I should place on it in planning trips.
Roger L. Burkhart
P.S. Perhaps you do not find my criticisms valid. If so, perhaps you would be interested in my account of how one branch of my family tree was descended from one of the Three Wise Men. Of course I don't have any specific information on my family history in the period between the year 0 and when my ancestor Hans Melchior Stecher arrived in Pennsylvania in the early 1700's but this is probably because it was destroyed in the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem, or the sacking of Rome by the barbarians, or the destruction of the library at Alexandria by the Moslems, or any of a number of similar incidents that can be cited. I am sure, however, that I can fill in the gaps by listing a number of historical events which I am sure the records would show my ancestors were involved in, if the records only existed.