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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 […]

Freedmens Bureau Jewels: “They are a rat

Freedmens Bureau Jewels: “They are a rather worthless couple.”

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, 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 Bibles

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...

Estate Inventories: Peek Into Their Lives

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

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...

Records of Antebellum Southern Plantations

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 […]