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How Many Slaveowners Were in the South?

How Many Slaveowners Were in the South?

This is the third in a series of posts (see previous posts here and here) where I am asking us all to consider reevaluating some of our beliefs surrounding slavery. People everywhere like to make the point that: “Only one in three southerners held slaves.” Why do people say that? It’s often a part of […]

Slaves in Pre-Marital Agreements

Slaves in Pre-Marital Agreements

In our search for ancestors who were once slaves, let’s not forget that they were often named in pre-marital agreements. This is one record that is often neglected in our research. I have mentioned before the need to research the slaveholder’s wife, since we know that this was often how men gained ownership of slaves. […]

Fooled Again: The Green Barnes Family

Fooled Again: The Green Barnes Family

The family of my ancestor Green Barnes recently proved to me again that we all need to be diligent when trying to reconstruct our families. It also illustrates how original sources, assumptions and human nature sometimes conspire to confuse us. This recent odyssey started when I was reviewing the obituary for a collateral ancestor, Cora […]

The Long, Long Hold of Slavery

The Long, Long Hold of Slavery

After emancipation, the vast majority of the 4 million newly freed slaves remained living near their former owners, if not working directly for them. Some did leave the area of their enslavement. They left with the Union Army, migrated to nearby cities for work or left in search of loved ones who had been sold. […]

Slaves are in the FAN Club, Too

Slaves are in the FAN Club, Too

Genealogists often use cluster research as a research strategy. As a shorthand, you will often hear people call this idea finding your ancestor’s “FAN” club: their friends, associates and neighbors. Expanding your focus to a group of people as opposed to one couple or one nuclear family dramatically increases your chances of solving tough research problems. […]

What Did Slavery Look Like?

What Did Slavery Look Like?

President Lincoln spent a lot of time studying the map above, created by the United States Coast Survey. The darker the shading, the higher the percentage of enslaved laborers. Slavery maps such as this and several new databases help us understand the experiences of enslaved ancestors. At a glance we can see the density in […]

The Complexity of Slave Surnames

The Complexity of Slave Surnames

Numerous historical sources confirm that enslaved people had surnames that they used among themselves and in many cases were known by their slaveholder. However, the common practice by slaveholders was to only use the given names of enslaved people in documents such as estate papers, court and deed records.   This causes many researchers to […]

How Were Slaves Sold?

How Were Slaves Sold?

It is a well-known fact when researching African-American enslaved ancestors that slaves were frequently sold. In fact, many enslaved people had a personal experience of their own sale or that of another family member. It’s recounted in numerous slave narratives, such as this excerpt from Leonard Black’s narrative: “As near as I can remember, my […]

Slaves Search For Their Families in News...

Slaves Search For Their Families in Newspapers

After emancipation, former slaves placed thousands of ads in newspapers in search of sold-away spouses and children. These ads are just one more source that document the sale of millions of enslaved people. False Reasons Slaveowners conjured up many reasons to justify the buying and selling of people, especially when breaking up families. One was that […]

Tips on Using World War Draft Registrati...

Tips on Using World War Draft Registrations

World War Draft Registrations (World War I and World War II) are some of the most valuable records in genealogy research. These records are especially helpful for researching men born in the late 1870s or 1880s. The lack of a 1890 census record makes that 20-year-gap hard to cross. Read the Details It’s important to […]

 
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