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Gypsy Records in Allendale

There were Gypsies (Roma) in this area along with the very earliest settlers.  Roma 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 Roma looked like modern day Asian 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 Roma 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 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 Roma, 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 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 Roma?): 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 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.

Jim Bryan has a photo of her trailer on his web site, and  recalls the following: " Madam Brooks was a fortune teller in Allendale and she lived for years in that little trailer (shown on his web site).  I was always told she was a Gypsy, and therefore I was scared to death of her.  I never saw her, that I know of, but she ran a booming business.  I am told she got rather well off on telling one's fortune."

Linda Griggs and I have begun an American Gypsy web page beginning with records in this area.  Be sure and read Linda Griggs excellent article: WAYFARING STRANGER.

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

Good references on Gypsies (you can purchase the first two books from

  1. Bury Me Standing : The Gypsies and Their Journey (Vintage Departures) by Isabel Fonseca .  Excellent
  2. The Gypsies (Peoples of Europe)  by Angus Fraser. Excellent.
  3. The Zincali - An Account of the Gypsies of Spain, by George Borrow (published in 1843) Complete text on line! (from Project Gutenberg)(I would not consider this a good reference, but it was available for posting.  It does not seem sympathetic to me)
  4. Patrin is an outstanding web resource on Roma (off site).

There is a large colony of Irish Travellers somewhat north of Allendale.  I have posted photographs of a few of their unique houses on the Gypsy web site.  These folk are often confused by locals as Gypsies, although they are fair of complexion and unrelated to Roma.

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