Entries by Brian Halpin

Speaking Chinese in the Wild West

  The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was America’s first, and possibly only, federal law explicitly forbidding the immigration of a specific ethnic group. Intended to remain in place for a period of ten years, many Americans might be unaware that this legislation, in one form or another, persisted until 1943!! Even after this, the […]

“Old Mix” American Surnames – “Cates”

  When researching early American history, it is important to remember that many, many families whose ethnic and linguistic history was “non-Anglo”, almost reflexively seem to have referred to themselves in the plural or patrynomic form of their chosen surname. Perhaps this was a reflection of differing cultural attitudes to names, family, and community? This […]

Mapping “Old Mix” Appalachia

  There are innumerable multi-ethnic communities and population groups in the USA, many with their deepest roots pre-dating the Plymouth and Jamestown colonies. Southern Appalachia had its own particular set of circumstances leading to the formation of multi-ethnic communities there.  Origin stories for these groups have been put forth over many decades, and each story […]

Love in a Hopeless Place

  Here is another interesting map. (Have I said that I like maps? I like maps.) This 1870 map – based on US census data – is like 150-year-old social analytics.  The darker the shaded area, the greater the disparity between the reported male and female populations of a given area. It is interesting the […]

Dressing-up as a Princess

  We all have things we hate. Not things like “which way to hang toilet paper”. Real hates.  Because “hate” is, after all, a strong word.  Or at least it used to be. We’ll leave aside war and violence for now.  Those are pretty much universally cited “hates”. Harming and belittling children, reckless disregard for […]

Revisiting the Other 9/11

  The human imagination, while boundless, also seems to prefer a world with boundaries. Religious fanatics are “over there”.  Massacres are perpetrated by external enemies. Wild-West pioneers were “white”, Indians were “red”, and slaves were “black” – right?  Boundaries. The investigation of history, and American ethnic history in particular, requires us to accept that such […]

They Worked the Mines

Sometimes a flawlessly written song gets a flawless performance. Patty Loveless, a Kentucky girl, has tinkered with the lyrics a little bit in her cover version – the original songwriter’s words are somewhat more immediately personal and autobiographical. First released in 1997 by singer-songwriter Darrell Scott (who is also a sublimely gifted and much-in-demand session […]

Before We Were White: Naming Names, The Slaveholders, Part 1

  We are currently living through hyper-tribalistic times. I will go out on a limb, and say I do not expect certain tribes to follow this blog, ever – however much I wish they would. Yet no tribe is immune from what might be called “the allure of truthiness”. Whether leftist, conservative, liberal, red, blue, […]

Before We Were White: Naming Names, Part 1

  This is as good a day as any to re-iterate and to clarify the aim of this page/podcast. There are many excellent Facebook groups and online resources dealing with the history and genealogy of various communities who are now commonly referred-to as “people of color” – whether of indigenous, African, or other ancestry, free […]

Malagasy Mountain Folks?

  It is simple human nature to see what we are expecting to see.  Atheists or Buddhists do not tend to see the face of Jesus in the patterns on burnt toast – we are all conditioned by the culture around us. This tendency carries-over into our understanding of American history.  We see what our […]