In years following the Revolutionary War, primarily in the 1800s, many families who were admixed began to claim they were Portuguese. This became quite prevalent and there is quite a difference of opinion as to why.
Some people feel there was a large group of people with secret exotic ancestry. Some feel that it was perhaps from the DeSoto and Pardo missions in the 1600s, although 200 years later, that admixture would have dropped to less than 1%. Some feel that it was because Portuguese was considered to be “white,” but being Portuguese would explain why you looked “dark.” That made Portuguese a better alternative to either black, Indian or mulatto, all of which came with a significant amount of legal and social baggage. Portuguese allowed one to be white, despite looking admixed.
If people in the 1800s were claiming that their ancestors were Portuguese, then we should find some of those “dark” people serving in the Revolutionary War. At that point, they would have been less admixed, and so “darker” than their descendants in the 1800s.
Searching the Forgotten Patriots documents, the original plus the supplement of all non-white, African-American, Indian or other “dark complected” soldiers, we find a total of 5 men with Portuguese ancestry, as follows:
- Anthony Buffin, African and Portuguese mixed, lived in Dartmouth, Mass.
- John Gomey who served in Mass.
- Andrew Russen, from Wareham, Mass.
- John Parala, deserted from Connecticut
- John Anthony, “Portuguese born – dark as a mulatto,” deserted on the Mattapony River (Va.)
Of the approximate quarter of a million Americans who served during the war, 5 isn’t a very large percentage.