American Brigadoon

Morgan Spurlock's "Scottish" pedigree

Morgan Spurlock’s “Scottish” pedigree


With a ridiculous catalogue of surnames whirling around my brain due to my immersion in American ethnological history, I notice names in the news.

A month ago the West Virginian documentary film-maker Morgan Spurlock died from complications associated with cancer at the relatively young age of 53.

While Spurlock was a playwright, writer, and TV show impresario, he is probably best remembered for his 2004 documentary “Super-Size Me“.  After reading about a legal case in which two girls sued the fast food merchant McDonald’s, blaming their obesity problems on the “food” sold by the company, Spurlock decided to do an experiment, to see what would happen if he were to eat only at McDonald’s for an entire month.

His film ended-up making over 22 million bucks from a budget of around 65,000 dollars, and garnered him an Academy Award nomination.

Spurlock clearly had many personal issues and demons, claiming to have been sexually abused as a child, and his admission to past sexual misconduct on his own part effectively put an end to his career.

The surname “Spurlock” is deeply associated with the multi-ethnic people of Southern Appalachia, so when I read of his death, I of course visited his Wikipedia page to find out more about his career and background.

I was not even remotely surprised to find he described his ancestry as being mostly English and “Scots-Irish”.

What’s more, Spurlock had given interviews to newspapers and appeared in shows broadcast in the UK, discussing his “Scots-Irish” roots (see photo above).

With his ginger hair and blue eyes, why would anyone doubt him?

Regular readers will know by now that the story of a predominently “Scots-Irish” Southern Appalachia is one of my hobby horses.

Needless to say, I went to my database to check the “Scots-Irish” bona fides of his branch of the Spurlock clan.

Morgan Spurlock has no clearly demonstrable ancestry from Ulster.  None.

When I saw the surname “Porter“, I was willing to consider that ONE out of his sixteen second great-grandparents might have decended from Ulster folk – “Porter” being a name not uncommon in Scotland. But when investigating this line of Porters, we end up at a dead end in Grayson County, Virginia during the late 1700s and early 1800s, with a “James Porter” as head of a household including half a dozen “all other persons except Indians not taxed” – an old designation for free people of color.

So even if these Porters had arrived in 1700s America via Ulster (which is by no means the only likely origin for these people), within a couple of generations they were seen by a census enumerator as being something other than “white”.

This is not the only line in Spurlock’s ancestry associated with free people of color.  His earliest Barker ancestor to have migrated west out of Delaware can be found in 1820 as head of a household including nine “all other persons except Indians not taxed“.

The only other possible candidates for Ulster ancestry might be Spurlock’s “Pickens” people, but this line disappears into the fog of early 1800s Ohio Country, a war zone in which any ethnic permutation is possible.

Spurlock’s majority ancestry was far and away mostly German, with English, and very likely indigenous, African, and Portuguese/Portuguese Jewish ancestry thrown into the mix.

So why was Morgan Spurlock willing to dress-up in a short kilt in photos and claim he was “Scots-Irish”?

Was he lying?  Or was he just repeating the “received wisdom” which has been the hallmark of mainstream Appalachian “history” for well over a century now?

Does anyone even give a damn?

When we accept “the official story” without question, there is no end to the ways in which people in power will manipulate history, in order to manipulate a credulous electorate.

#beforewewerewhite #fakehistory #scotsirish #morganspurlock

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