American Gypsy Records

There were Gypsies in the South along with the very earliest settlers.  Gypsies are actually from India, and are not to be confused with the "Tinkers" who today still form a large settlement in Edgefield, SC.  The Tinkers are Celts, light skinned, blue eyed, fair people.  The Gypsies  looked like modern day very dark Indians, with straight black hair, and black eyes.   It is recorded (South Carolina Department of Archives and History) that Gypsies were in South Carolina with the earliest settlers.  I have found  one record that appears to indicate  Rom in our specific area.

In this record, two men, John A. Zeigler and Lanni? D. Zeigler, are brought before a jury for the jury to decide if they are white men or "people of color" or not.  In plain language, these two were brought before a jury to decide if they were (at the time "negroes") African American or white people.  I have never seen a record anything like this before in this area, ever.  Had we not a Gypsy ancestor in our family in the dim past, I would not have made the correlation.  Clearly these two men looked something like African Americans, but were not quite.  If they were Rom, dark, black hair, black eyes, they would have been different in appearance from northern Europeans.   I believe it is true that most of these people in Allendale Co., SC (earlier part of Barnwell Co.) had been in this country for many generations, and perhaps they had forgotten, or not known, what a Gypsy looked like.  At any rate, the jury returned that these two were not "Persons of Color," but did not state outright that they were "white men."  In plain speak, the jury waffled!  The record:

John A. Zeigler (FOC: clearly dark skinned, was he Rom?): 2 April 1835 "Jury made up to try whether John A. Zeigler is a white man or a person of color(!), also whether Lanni? D. Zeigler is a white man or a person of color. Jury says "they are not men of color." (Sessions Journal Barnwell District (South Carolina) Fall 1828-Spring 1841 page 194). John Zeigler, who apparently was a very dark skinned man, served as a juror five years later on 2 Nov. 1840 (Sessions Journal Barnwell Dist. Fall 1828-Spring 1841 page 323)(I believe these are records of Rom, apparently in semi-permanent residence?)  Zeigler is a German name, although it should be spelled Ziegler for the pronunciation Zeeg-ler.

The following information is from Jean-Claude Mégret, a French Rom, who belongs to de Romano Yekhipe France.  M. Mégret was kind enough to send us this information on the Patrin Roma Culture list:

Ziegler or Siegler is an Alsatian  Manush name, well known at the  beginning of nineteenth century. This name is derived directly from Zigeuner > Ziginer > Zigner > Zigler.  (FOC: Zigeuner  is German for Gypsy) Generally, these Zieglers were often connected with Reinhardt and came from the surroundings of Bitche in Bas-Rhin, at the frontier with Palatinate. They often served in the Hesse and Palatinate armies. I found a Madeleine Siegler born in 1816.  In the twentieth century, we had in France the most famous Manush painter Torino Ziegler almost as famous as Django Reinhardt (off site).

This correlation raises the interesting possibility that these Rom Zieglers were British "Hessian" mercenaries during the revolution, who remained behind and settled in Barnwell County, South Carolina.

I did an interesting surname search on the name "Manush," and turned up one Henry Manush (among others), who was a famous baseball player.  He went by the nickname "Heine" Manush.  Heine Manush was from Alabama.  I wonder how many more Manush came over as "Hessian Mercenaries" during the revolution and remained behind!

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Anyone with information on Gypsies in this area please contact me.


Copyright ©1997-2000, Dr. Frank Oliver Clark. These documents may be freely used for private purposes, and included in your own genealogy. However, this document is copyrighted and may not be sold, nor given to anyone who may attempt to derive profit from same.