Richard Thornton | Jun 3, 2017 | 15
Sephardic Ancestors ~ Two Sides
During the research that we did this past summer, I had the shock of my life. I grew in a time when our grandparents’ generation often lived in the delusion of an Olde South that never was. All the genealogical energies were focused on tracing back to the early Renaissance, our French Huguenot ancestors, with little said about the far more substantial Creek or Scottish ancestry. My sister’s middle name is Morel, named after the Huguenot Morels who fled persecution in late 16th century Lyon, France, by first moving to Geneva, Switzerland then to the Santee River Valley in South Carolina in the late 1600s and then to Savannah, right after it was settled. They owned Ossabaw, St. Catherines and Wassau Island. Yes, that the same St. Catherines Island, that my Mission Santa Catalina de Guale project was on. A bunch of their names are on tombstones in the Colonial Cemetery in Savannah.
Guess what? The Morel family was originally the Morelos Family in Spain. They were Spanish Sephardic Jews, who changed their names in France and became Protestants – at least on paper.
It gets better . . .
Now my primary Creek family was named Bone. Bone sounds like a good Indian name up there with Gray Eagle, Harjo and Bushyhead. It is not. It is Scottish. Well, it is sort of Scottish. Bone and Boone are both artificial family names that were adopted by Sephardic Jews, who emigrated from Spain to France to Scotland.
Learn something every day!
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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history.Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.
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