American Ethnicities According to Wikipedia

American actress Barbara Hershey at a party in 1966

American actress Barbara Hershey at a party in 1966


As Stephen Stills once wrote for his band Buffalo Springfield in 1966:

“There’s something happening here,
what it is ain’t exactly clear…”

Posts by friends on social media can send this writer down some pretty deep rabbit holes.

Seeing a post about the 1970s film “Billy Jack” got me to thinking about the weird fascination in the USA with martial arts during that era.

This was the age of Bruce Lee.

This was the age of Elvis throwing kung fu moves on stage in a spangled jumpsuit.

This was the age of the TV series “Kung Fu“, with David Carradine wandering the Wild West as a disowned, half-Chinese Shaolin monk, kicking cowboy ass pretty much everywhere along the way.

With that explanation of my weird rabbit-holing thought processes out of the way, let’s press on.

This post isn’t about Kung Fu, nor is it about the Chinese influence on American culture and ethnicity.

Nope, this post is about celebrated American actress Barbara Hershey.  Why?  Because she was lurking just around a dark corner of the rabbit hole, as the ex-partner of actor David Carradine.

Naturally I had to click through.


Ms. Hershey was once considered something of a “kooky” hippy chick, but has grown old gracefully into one of the most respected talents of her generation.

Check out her relatively recent turn in Darren Aronofsky‘s psychological horror film “Black Swan“.

At any rate, as someone who writes about American ethnicities, the dark good looks of Ms. Hershey made me curious.  And yes, upon checking, she is of mixed-ethnicity.

Like most of the other creatives involved in the film “Black Swan” (Aronofsky, Natalie Portman, Winona Ryder, Mila Kunis, etc.) Barbara Hershey has a Jewish background, being born “Barbara Herzstein” in 1948 Hollywood, California.

But once again, this post isn’t about the Jewish influence on the American entertainment industry – a subject which could fill a hundred posts.

This is about Barbara Hershey‘s mother, “Melrose Moore“, an Arkansas girl by birth.

This how Wikipedia describes the ethnic background of Melrose Moore:

“…her [Barbara Hershey’s] mother, a native of Arkansas, was a Presbyterian of Scots-Irish descent.”

Really?  How odd that the two “sources” for this assertion of “Scots-Irish” ancestry are just dead links to old celebrity magazine interviews.  Did Barbara Hershey mention Scots-Irish ancestry to an interviewer?  Who knows?  The sources cited stubbornly refuse to appear in any internet search.

No matter.  When you’ve looked through old historical records for as many years as this old dog, certain things leap out immediately.  Like the relations between certain places and certain surnames.

“Arkansas” and “Moore”, for example.

The Moore surname runs through the underground river of Old Mix American ancestry like a seam of silver ore.

And when we walk a path back upriver, what we find are ancestors of Barbara like the Farrars (don’t ask – worth a post on its own), and early Moores and Goodmans of colonial era North Carolina who migrated into Kentucky.  Not a particular point of interest, if we agree to buy into the “Scots-Irish” history of frontier America and Appalachia.

Except these Moores and Goodmans are enumerated in the earliest census records as “free people of color”.

Not only that.  There is not one single line in the maternal ancestry of Barbara Hershey which can be readily ascertained as “Scots-Irish“.  Not one.

This is not the first, second, or even hundredth time this researcher has seen this “phenomenon”.  It’s ubiquitous online.

Anyone see the film “The Revenant” with Leonardo de Caprio?  Based on the life of frontiersman Hugh Glass?

Some faceless “expert” on Wikipedia has decided that Hugh Glass was “Scots-Irish“.  WITHOUT ONE SOLITARY SHRED OF DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE.

“Glass” is a surname also found among German and Gaelic-speaking Irish immigrants, the latter of whom also often arrived in America from Ulster, although one rarely hears of it.  To presume that anyone arriving in America from Ulster during the 1700s must have been “Scots-Irish” is simply, utterly wrong.

But the point is moot.  No one knows the true origins of Hugh Glass, or if he even came from Northern Ireland…




Trying to keep a lid on “conjured history” would be a full-time job for an army of volunteers willing to play “whack-a-mole”.  Within 10 minutes of this writer’s editing of the Hugh Glass Wikipedia page to reflect actual facts, someone had jumped in and reasserted Glass’s “Scots-Irish” ancestry.

A paranoid or conspiracy-minded person might be forgiven for wondering if white supremacists actively “work” Wikipedia, inserting their preferred ethnic background into the biographies of many more American figures.

So the next time you see the term “Scots-Irish” anywhere in the context of American history, have a care.

As suggested at the start of this post –


“There’s something happening here,
what it is ain’t exactly clear…”


As it’s the Christmas season, I will ask a favor straight up.

This blog and podcast would love to dedicate itself full-time to sharing amazing stories – real stories, not propaganda – from American history, but the huge amount of work and research involved in this enterprise is currently going largely unremunerated, except for the generosity of a very small group of kind souls who have always believed this work is important.

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Love and peace this Christmas season, and look out for one more podcast episode this month!



#BeforeWeWereWhite #BarbaraHershey #JewishHollywood #ScotsIrish







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