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 […]
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Slaves Search For Their Families in News...
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 […]
Henry’s Slaves: One in a Million
There have been only a few times in the 18 years of my research that have truly taken my breath away. I just had another one. John Campbell Henry’s Inventory I was researching the possible owners of a group of former slaves from Dorchester County, Maryland. John Campbell Henry died in 1857. A former governor […]
Freedmens Bureau Jewels: “They are a rat
Familysearch released three more sets of Freedmens Bureau Field Office records recently.Now, the Bureau field office records for all southern states are online, free for viewing! Sign in at Familysearch.org, click on “Browse the records,” and then type “Freedmen” in the search box and the links for each state will appear. I cannot overemphasize how valuable […]
Slave Research in Community Papers
Slave research can be frustrating, but there are an endless array of records in which to uncover the lives of our ancestors. Many are little known and uncommon, but still filled with possibilities. What Are Community Papers? The private records of local citizens is one kind of valuable source. These are usually stored in the […]
One of the most important pieces of information those of us researching enslaved ancestors need to know is how the slaves are distributed after the owner’s death. If we’re lucky, there’s a will that tells us to whom each slave is bequeathed. Most of the time, there’s not. There are many wills that simply say […]
Slave Research in Bibles
Slave Research in bibles might sound counter-intuitive, but this post illustrates why it should not. The Tennessee State Archives and Library (TSLA) just finished digitizing and uploading hundred of bibles in their collection. The files are organized by surname. I hope that more African-Americans will submit copies of family information from their family bibles. But there is another valuable […]
Estate Inventories: Peek Into Their Live...
For those doing African-American research, antebellum estate inventories are commonly used to find enslaved ancestors. But all genealogists should make it a regular practice to examine all the items in an inventory. This practice will help us understand our ancestor’s day-to-day lives. Scrutinizing inventories can provide many interesting little details to make a written family […]
Martha Simpson: Right Under My Nose
I am in a state of genealogic shock. I’ve found another family line of free blacks that no one knew about in our family. My ancestor Martha Simpson was the wife of Levi Prather. I’ve been working hard to unravel the complicated slave relationships in the Prather family of Montgomery County, Maryland. So, I hadn’t yet […]
Records of Antebellum Southern Plantatio...
One of the best sources on enslaved families are in the records from antebellum plantations. Often stored in research libraries, historical societies, and state archives, they can be difficult to access. Slaveholding families donated personal papers, letters, account books, and many other records and ephemera. Historians have long relied on these sources to understand “the […]