Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In Honor of My Friend and Aunt - Elaine Logwood

Elaine Logwood (14 Nov 1937-10 Aug 2010)

In honor of a dear friend and "aunt"who I shared the passion for tracing our family roots and learning about the African American Experience. Your words of encouragement throughout the past twenty plus years were a blessing and inspiration to me as  I grew from a boy to man. I want to say thank for lending me your ear as I shared my joy and frustration with life as well as my genealogical research which seem to be practically everyday. Although you used to tell me how proud you were of me, I was also proud of you and your quiet strength, courage, and wisdom.

As I sit here and type these words tears are rolling down my cheeks because you are no longer here but I take comfort in knowing that you are no longer in pain. I also know that my life and others has been enriched by your presence.

Rest In Peace Ms. Elaine M. Logwood

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - William L. Simpson

W.  L. Simpson  
26 July 1868-6 Nov 1916
Moore Cemetery
Leon County, Texas

W. L. Simpson was the son of Essex and Amanda (Henry) Simpson. He was also the father of my great grandmother Iola Simpson (1897-1977). Based on the initials (K of P) it appears that he was a member of the Knights of Pythias. The Knights of Pythias is a social brotherhood founded in Washington, D.C., February 19, 1864, by Justus Henry Rathbone and four others. The Order began during the Civil War, and its founder believed that it might do much to heal the wounds and allay the hatred of civil conflict. It was the first fraternal order to be chartered by an Act of Congress.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Sculpture honoring Edmonson sisters

Sculptor Erik Blome created the piece to commemorate Emily and Mary Edmonson, two slaves imprisoned in the Bruin Slave Jail located in Alexandria, VA during the 1840s.The slave jail  was the holding place for  thousands of enslaved people who were separated from their families in the Chesapeake region and later sold to slave markets in the Deep South. The site is directly around the street from my office.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Draft of President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation

President Abraham Lincoln issued the  final draft of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war. The proclamation declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free."
Despite this expansive wording, the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, leaving slavery untouched in the loyal border states. It also expressly exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. Most important, the freedom it promised depended upon Union military victory.

Former slave Charlie Smith discusses work and living after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

In honor of my ancestral fathers

                                           Who provided and protected                                                             


          Who struggled and endured

  Who encouraged and inspired their children

                                          Who practiced what they preached


    Who were determined and disciplined


Who never gave up

                                        Who were courageous and demanding


                          Who decided to win

I honor you on this day and everyday for being my inspiration and noble prince.

Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - A Prolific Father

This is my first time participating in Randy Seaver’s, Genea-Musings, Saturday Night Genealogy Fun Challenges. The mission for Father's Day, if we chose to accept it, is

1) Determine who is one of the most prolific fathers in your genealogy database or in your ancestry. By prolific, the one who fathered the most children.

2) Tell us about him in your own blog post, in comments to this blog post, or in comments on Facebook.

My most prolific father was Jefferson Haynes (1852-1928), who had seven (7) children by his first wife Sarah Wilkinson (1855-1890) whom he married around 1875 in Leon County, Texas and (25) twenty-five children with his second wife Mattie Perkins (1867-1923) whom he married on 16 Feb 1893 in Leon County, Texas. Between his two wives, he had a total of (32) thirty-two children. Of the (32) thirty-two children, (26) twenty-six lived to adulthood.
Jefferson, the eldest son of Isaac and Adelaide (Brumby) Haynes, was born a slave in Alabama. According to oral history, the family along with the two other families (Brunson and Robinson) was owned by the Brumbys. They were brought to Texas during the Civil War around 1862. After the Civil War, Jefferson and his family eventually settled in the Friendship Community of Leon County, Texas. The community of Friendship is located about five miles south of Jewett and eight miles northwest of Centerville in northwestern Leon County. This was an African American settlement that was established after the Civil War. 
Jefferson was a farmer who purchased his first 50 acres from his father in 1880. Over the course of his life time, he would purchase over 800 acres of land with silver dollars because he did not trust paper money. He was also an active member of the community who was respected by both African Americans and Whites.
At the time of his death, the land was divided between his (19) nineteen living heirs. Each heir was given approximately 31.5 acres.  

Happy Juneteenth!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My First Attempt At A Wordless Wednesday

I received this document in the mail the other day from fellow genealogist Johnie Lee in Red River County, Texas. It came from a property tax book that was discovered a few years ago in the basement of the courthouse. The document shows a Robt F. Whitaker making an oath regarding his taxable property in 1854. Among the items he listed was a slave man (Taff) age 19 valued at $900, a slave girl (Juliet) age 7 valued at $400 and a slave girl (Mary) age 5 valued at $300.The girl Juliet is my great great grandmother and Mary is her sister.

Although this is not the first document I discovered which list my enslaved ancestors, I am always speechless when I do discover or locate such documents. These documents put a face to the institution of chattel slavery.They are no longer just "slaves" - individuals with no identity outside of being enslaved. They are men and women with a family, history, and identity. And it is my responsibility to recover this history and identity so that future generations will know their names and cast away the notion of an anonymous slave.

Monday, May 24, 2010

In Search of Betsy (Ransom) Harris Part 2

My search for Betsy Ransom continues. After tracing a Betsy Harris from Brazil, Clay County, Indiana to Dover District, Goochland County, Virginia using federal census records (1870-1900), I decided my next step would be to examine vital records and the cohabitation register for Goochland County, VA.

The cohabitation registers, or as it is properly titled, Register of Colored Persons...cohabiting together as Husband and Wife on 27th February 1866, was the legal vehicle by which former slaves legitimized both their marriages and their children. For many former slaves this was often the first time that they appeared officially in public records with a surname.

Since the Commonwealth of Virginia had vital records for 1853-1896 and the Library of Virginia (LVA) possessed them on microfilm as well as cohabitation registers, I decided to spend a day there.


I decided to examine the cohabitation register first, since I made the assumption that Isham (Isom) and Elizabeth (Betsy) were the parents of the minors enumerated with them in the 1870 census. This would mean that they had a slave marriage which occurred sometime between 1852 and 1853 assuming that Matilda was their daughter. After examining the register, I discovered an Isam Harris and Elizabeth Ranson who registered their union in Goochland County, Virginia. Isam was listed as being 45 years old with the occupation of a boatman. Elizabeth was ten years his junior at age 35.

At this point in my discovery, I was overwhelmed. Now most of my family and friends know that I am not an emotional person but at this moment I started to cry as I ran my finger over the name Elizabeth Ranson. I sat there for about three minutes staring at the image. Could this be? Had I found my great great great grandfather sister?

I was now determined to locate the names of all of the children. The birth registry provided the date and place of birth; name of child; color; free or slave; sex; whether born dead or alive; name of father or owner; father's occupation; father's residence; mother's name; name of informant; and the relation of the informant to the person born.

In the 1900 census, Betsy was listed as having 18 children but only 8 were living. Since six of the minors listed with Isham and Elizabeth in 1870 were born during slavery (1853-1862), I started my search in 1853. I wrote down the information pertaining to every Elizabeth or Betsy who was listed as a mother until I was able to locate the names of the children listed in the 1870 household. In addition, to discovering the name of the children, I was also able to discover the name of the slave owner - Edwin J. Duval.

I continued to examine the birth register and located three more births that occured after slavery.

After completing my search of the birth registers, I decided to examine the death register. The death registers provides similar information as the birth registers in addition to the cause of death.

I was also able to locate another daughter named Matilda Harris in the marriage records. She married Scott Pleasant, son of Riley and Doreus Pleasant on 21 March 1875.

By examining the vital records and the cohabitation register, I was able to confirm the madien name of Betsy (Ranson) Harris and locate the names of all of her children. In addition, I was able to identify her slave owner. Not bad for a day of researching.

Although, I had a very rewarding day, I realized that my search was not complete. I still needed to figure out the connection between this Betsy Ransom and my great great great grandfather Joseph Ransom. I believe the answer(s) lies in figuring out how, where, and when Edwin J. Duval acquired her.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday

                                                    Nannie Simpson
                                          2 March 1869 - 10 Jan 1892
                                                   Moore Cemetery
                                            Jewett, Leon County, Texas

Nannie Simpson was the daughter of Essex and Amanda (Henry) Simpson. She is the younger sister of my great great grandfather W. L. Simpson (1868-1916).

The picture was acquired by Patricia Marburger of the Leon County Genealogical Society, Centerville, Leon County, Texas.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

In Search of Betsy (Ransom) Harris Part 1

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my great great uncle Paul Ransom who wrote the “History of the Ransom Family.” The pamphlet was based on the stories he heard from his parents, paternal grandfather (Joseph Ransom, Sr.) and maternal grandmother’s (Jane King) experiences during slavery and post-emancipation. I have read the pamphlet numerous times since I first received it in the early 1990s. However, upon reading it again about a month ago this passage regarding my great great great grandfather’s sister being sold caught my attention “His sister Betsy was sold during slavery to a family in Clay County, Indiana. She was last heard of by the name Betsy Harris.” I began to wonder what happened to Aunt Betsy. Who was the Indiana Family who purchased her? Did she ever reconnect with her family?

To answer these questions, I began examining the U.S. Population Census for Clay County, Indiana in search of a Betsy Harris with a birthplace in Virginia. I examined the 1870 and 1880 censuses but I was unable to locate anyone named Betsy Harris. However, in 1900, I did locate a Betsey Harris enumerated with her son Edward Harris in Brazil, Clay County, Indiana. Betsey birth date was estimated to be about 1847 and her son was listed as 1873. Both were listed as being born in Virginia. Betsey was listed as having 18 children but only 8 were alive in 1900. This discovery was a possible lead, so I decided to try and locate this Betsey Harris and her son Edward in the 1880 census in Virginia. In the 1880 Census, I located sixteen Betsy Harris  and there was only one who was enumerated in a household with an Edward. Because the 1880—1930 censuses only shows relationship to the head of household, I am unable to determine if Betsy is the mother of Edward. They were located in Dover, Goochland County, Virginia. The household consisted of the following:

1. Isham Harris, age 50, born in Virginia, as were his parents
2. Betsy, wife, age 36, born in Virginia, as were her parents
3. Emily J, daughter, age 12, born in Virginia
4. Lea Anna, daughter, age 10, born in Virginia
5. Lucy Gay, daughter, age 9, born in Virginia
6. Edward, son, age 5, born in Virginia
7. Jearry, son, age 3, born in Virginia

In the 1870 Census, I located a family in Dover, Goochland County, Virginia who I believe is the same family due to the variations of the name Isom for Isham; the usage of Elizabeth instead of the nickname Betsy; and the listing of an Emily who is listed in both censuses.

1. Isom Harris, age 48, born in Virginia
2. Elizabeth, age 45, born in Virginia
3. Matilda, age 17, born in Virginia
4. Fannie, age15, born in Virginia
5. Isom, age 14, born in Virginia
6. Josephine, age 12, born in Virginia
7. Delia, age 10, born in Virginia
8. George W., age 8, born in Virginia
9. Emely J., age 2, born in Virginia
10. Lenah, age 4/12, born in Virginia

My gut instinct is telling me that this is the right Betsy that I initially found in Clay County, Indiana, however I would need to conduct additional research to determine if she is my great great great grandfather’s sister.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mothers' Day

A tribute to all mothers but especially my mother and grandmother. Happy Mothers' Day

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Using Census Records to Prove A Name Change

The season finale of "Who Do you Think You Are," featured Spike Lee tracing his maternal line in Dublin, Georgia. During the journey, it was discovered that his great great grandfather, Mars Jackson, was listed as Mars Woodall in the 1880 Census. The researcher assisting Mr. Lee suggested that this was an indication that Mars initially took the slave holding family surname but later changed it to Jackson. The researcher also concluded that Mars’ slave owner was James Woodall.
The discovery of Mars listed as a Woodall in the 1880 census is evidence but it is not enough to prove that he ever went under that name. Additional research would be required to substantiate the assertion of an actual name change.

For example, my great great great grandfather Essex Simpson (1841-1916) was listed as E. Platt in the 1870 U.S. Census for Leon County, Texas. In addition, he and his family were the only Platts listed in the county. I initially thought this was a case of a name changed, especially since he was listed as Simpson in every census from 1880-1910. However after doing additional research and examining county records (i.e. court, deed, tax rolls and voter registration) from 1866-1916, I found he was consistently listed as Essex Simpson. I have concluded that the 1870 census listing was not a case of a name changed.

Now the appearance of the surname Platt does raise several questions:

a) Is this the name of a previous slave owner?
b) Who was the informant?
c) Was Platt the maiden name of his mother and wife or just an alias?

Although, the federal censuses are wonderful sources for family researchers they are full of errors ranging from names, ages, race/color, etc. Common reasons for the errors are with the informant or with the census taker. Unlike birth or death certificate which list the informant, censuses do not list the informant so it is virtually impossible to know who provided the information to the census taker. The informant could have been the head of the household, the wife, child or even a neighbor. In addition, the informant could have given incorrect information or used an alias.

Therefore, censuses alone are not enough to substantiate a name change. The census record must be used in conjunction with others sources to prove or disprove a name change.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Negro Speaks of Rivers

I dedicate this poem to my ancestors and all the waterways that they traveled .

Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes

I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human rivers
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset

I've known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Latest Recipient of Ancestor Approved Award

I am honored to have received my first blog award from colleagues and genealogy friends The Family Griot, J-MAC JOURNEY, and My Ancestor’s Name. This award really means a lot since I was initially hesitant about blogging about my genealogy experience. It is good to know that individuals appreciate what I have to share about conducting African American genealogical research.

As a recipient of the Ancestor Approved Award, I must list ten things I learned about my ancestors that have surprised, humbled, or enlightened me.


1)My great great grandfather, Jefferson Haynes, was the parent of thirty-two children.

2)Learning that my maternal grandmother, Cosette Stanley, laid in front of a greyhound bus to protest segregation in Naples, Texas when she was 5 years old.

3)Discovering that an insurance policy was taken out on my great great great great father, Joseph Ransom in 1846.

4)Finding out that the slave owner’s son post a surety bond for my great great great grandfather Andy Perkins who was charged with attempted murder in 1873.

5)Being to locate my great great great grandfather’s sister Betsy (Ransom) Harris who was separated from the family in 1843.


6)That despite the hardships of enslavement and Jim Crow, my ancestors did not lose faith in the United States or the American Dream.

7)My great grandfather, R. Matthew Stanley, taught himself to read and write by candle light after working 12 hours days picking cotton.

8)By the assistance I have received from complete strangers over the years.


9)By the amount of information I have been able to obtain on my enslaved ancestors and the lives they created during slavery.

10)By the awesome history and legacy that my ancestors have given me.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Paul Lewis Ransom: Bearer of Family Tradition

After noticing how individuals from the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements were ashamed and embarrassed of their ancestors’ enslaved heritage, Paul Lewis Ransom (1885-1980), the youngest son of enslaved parents Joseph and Betsy (McGill) Ransom, sat down and wrote the “History of the Ransom Family” in 1974. The History was based on the lives of his parents , paternal grandfather (Joseph Ransom, Sr.) and maternal grandmother (Jane King) during slavery and post-emancipation.

Uncle Paul felt that “it is very important and necessary for everyone regardless of whose family, to know something about his or her family background.” He also understood the impact of slavery on African American family history. “It is virtually impossible, especially for the Black race, in the United States to know what he should know because he was brought here as slaves, and throughout the slave period, the Blacks reproduced, and were sold to different slave owners, traded, etc., many never seen nor heard from their children, parents again after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, and they were freed.”

By taking the time to record the family history he would ensure future generations would know the history and legacy of the Ransom Family. In 1991, I received a copy of the Ransom Family, from Uncle Paul’s daughter Adelle Martin (1915-2004). At the time, she mentioned that she was working on documenting the history using census records only. In between attending college, working, and travelling through Southern Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer, I worked on substantiating the family history especially identifying the last slave owner(s). In addition, I would share my findings with Cousin Adelle. I remember sending her copies of the 1860 U.S. Federal Census - Slave Schedules for Freestone County, Texas which listed a J. H. Moody as a slave owner. She was so excited to see this information, since her father had told her that the family was once owned by the Moody. He stated that “the slave master who owned our father was named Moody and the master who owned his father was named Ransom so naturally the family could have easily gone in the name Moody and would have done so, if father had not been introduced to his father after slavery.”

Although the slave schedule did not confirm whether or not our ancestors were owned by J. H. Moody, it was enough information for Cousin Adelle to march over to the descendants of the Moody family in Ft. Worth, Texas, who doubted that their family ever owned slaves. She later told me that she received a very cold reception from the descendants but that she was determine to prove her father was correct.

It would be another five years before I would be able to substantiate that my family were owned by the Moody Family out of Chesterfield County, Virginia. They would eventually move to Fairfield, Freestone County, Texas. My ancestors would be a part of this migration west to the Lone Star State.

I am far from done on researching my Ransom heritage, however I feel very honor and thankful to have a relative who understood the important of family and history.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Walter and Iola (Simpson) Haynes

Today marks a very sad day for my family. On this day 33 years ago (2 April 1977), my great grandparent Walter and Iola (Simpson) Haynes were found murdered in their home located six miles south of Jewett, Leon County, Texas. Jadie Haynes (1909-1983), the younger brother of Walter, discovered their bodies. Law enforcement assumed that the murder was a result of a robbery gone bad as the house appeared to be ransacked. However my family has their own theories regarding the murder which included a century old struggle over land and mineral rights and racial hostilities. Despite the motives or theories the case was never solved.

Over the next several years following the incident, my grandmother, Luora Haynes-Patterson (1922-2008), sought the assistance of various organizations both nationally and locally to bring attention to the incident and apprehen the individual(s) responsible. Unfortunately, all the letters and phone calls did not produce any results. Eventually, her persistence and determination turned into frustration and helplessness with the passage of time. I remember talking with my grandmother many years later, after I started researching the family history, about the incident. In recounting this painful incident, she expressed frustration at the lack of assistance and interest the case was given. She felt that since the victims were an old African American couple that lived in a rural community in Texas, it wasn’t a priority.

Prior to researching my family history I knew very little about this incident outside of overhearing my mother telling a family member that my father’s grandparents were killed. Only after 15 years of researching would I feel ready to learn the details about my ancestors' death. So about six months ago, I started conducting my own investigation gathering information on the case. I have sent several inquiries to the Leon County 86th District Court, Sheriff Office, Justice of the Peace, Harris County Medical Examiner, and the Texas Department of Public Safety about the murders. On 7 January 2010, I received a letter and some documents pertaining to the case from the Leon County Sheriff's Office. In addition, I was informed that the case was being examined as a "cold case" due to my inquiry. I was overwhelmed with joy and excitement about the possibility of this case being solved after so many years. I immediately told my father of the news, he responded with “You have manifested the persistence and smarts that many of us have had depleted by the passage of time. Congratulations! I am very proud of you.” Although I do not know what the outcome will be of the re-opening of the case, I am hopeful that justice and peace will finally be rendered to my great grandparents Walter and Iola (Simpson) Haynes.

Walter and Iola passed away before I was able to meet them but their love for family and faith in God has been a constant presence in my life.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Myth About African American Genealogy & Reparations

In a recent discussion with several genealogists about why descendants of slave owners are reluctant to share their family slave era documents, the issue of reparations for slavery was mentioned. It was explained that some descendants are fearful that if they share this information, they themselves will be held liable for the atrocities of their ancestors. Although issues of guilt, shame and embarrassment were also mentioned, the issue of reparations is what stood out to me. I found this very interesting considering the fact that reparations are not paid by individuals but by companies and/or governments.

In jurisprudence, reparations are replenishment of a previously inflicted loss by the criminal to the victim. Oxford Dictionary defines the word as the making of amends for a wrong one has done, by paying money to or otherwise helping those who have been wronged. Now whether one’s ancestor owned slaves or not, the institution was only able to survive and flourish due to the laws established by the United States government. U.S. Rep. Thaddeus Stevens understood this when in 1867 he introduced the first Reparation Bill for Slaves, H.R. 29, during the First Session of the Fortieth Congress. Although the bill did not pass in Congress, he continued to introduce several more reparation bills to no avail.

A little less than a century later, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his book "Why We Can’t Wait," would make an appeal for reparations. Dr. King argues “[f]ew people consider the fact, in addition to being enslaved for two centuries, the Negro was during all those years robbed of wages of his toil. No amount of gold could provide adequate compensation for the exploitation and humiliation of the Negro in America down through the centuries…The ancient common law has always provided a remedy for the appropriation of the labor of one human being by another. This law should be made to apply for the American Negroes.”

Our passion for researching our family has nothing to do with reparations but a desire to learn about our unique family history here in the United States and beyond. Unlike other Americans, most African Americans interested in uncovering their family history must face the history of slavery. It is not an option for us, especially once we reach beyond 1865. At the point, our journey becomes the journey of the slave holding family. We must follow and trace every move they make through census, court, deed, marriage, military, probate, tax and other records - both public and private - in hopes of finding the name(s) of our ancestors. In fact, we must become expert of these families.

By working together descendants of slave owners and slaves will be able to create a much richer history as we learn about our families’ collective experience.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Civil War and Refugeeing in Texas

At the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, Texas had nearly two hundred thousand slaves. For the next four years, the fate of the Peculiar Institute would be settled on the battlefield across the South. Of all the states in the Confederacy, Texas suffered the least from military invasion or destruction of property. Thus the institution of chattel slavery remained undisturbed.

For this reason, the state was seen as a haven for safeguarding slavery through a system called “refugeeing.” Refugeeing was the movement of slave owners and their entire enslaved population to remote places in their state, other states and even other countries. Louisiana provided most of the owners who brought or sent their slaves to Texas, followed by Arkansas and Missouri. Some slaves came from as far away as Mississippi and Tennessee. Texas became a prime location because it was assumed that slavery would continue to exist in the event of a Confederate defeat.

The victory of Ulysses S Grant’s at Shiloh in the spring of 1862 and the subsequent surrender of New Orleans, along with the ensuing movement of the Union forces up the Mississippi River, dramatically increased the number of refugees into Texas. Charles Gear and Randolph Campbell estimate that between 38,000-50,000 slaves were transported into the state during the Civil War.

This phenomenon of refugeeing, like all movements of slaves, disrupted some families. It also carried additional burdens of servitude since chattel slavery would not be abolished in Texas until 19 June 1865.

As a genealogist conducting slave era research in Texas, refugeeing pose unique challenges in trying to identify the last slave owner of my great great great grandfather Isaac Haynes. The common method of identifying the slave owner is to locate one’s ancestor(s) in the 1870 Federal Population Schedules and then try to locate all white landowners listed in close proximity to one's enslaved ancestor. The next step would be to locate the identified landowners in the 1860 Federal Population Schedules and Slave Schedules for the same county. However my ancestor arrived in Texas during the Civil War in 1862 as a part of refugeeing. In addition, I am unaware of which state he migrated from prior to arriving in Texas. Thus examining the 1860 Population and Slave Schedules will not be applicable yet.

Instead research of Leon County records in particular tax and deed records will need to be conducted. Tax records will need to be examined to identify individuals who paid taxes on slaves and show up after 1862. This will help me to identify potential individuals. This list of identified individuals will then need to be located in the 1870 Federal Census Population Schedule for Leon County. Deed records will also need to be examine as a cross reference with the information I will gather from the tax rolls and 1870 census. Only after examining these records will I be able to identify a potential slave owner and prior residence for my great great great grandfather Isaac Haynes.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Restore My Name

My good friend at Reclaiming Kin, suggested that I participate in the first Carnival of African-American Genealogy (CoAAG) hosted by Luckie Daniels of Our Georgia Roots. The subject is Slave Records and Genealogy Research. Ms. Daniels has posed several questions to those participating. I have chosen the following question - As a descendant of slaves, have you been able to work with or even meet other researchers who are descendants of slave owners?

After identifying Robert Franklin Whitaker of Red River County, Texas as the potential slave owner of my great great grandmother Julia Whitaker, I began to try to learn as much as I could about him and his family. I wanted to prove that he was in fact the slave owner of Julia. Unfortunately the only information I discovered about him was from census and county tax records. In addition, none of the records provided names of slaves or any information about Robert and his family.

I then started searching various genealogical websites and posted queries on various genealogy message boards in hope of locating descendants. As a result, I was able to correspond with several descendants. The initial set of descendants, I contacted were very helpful until I mentioned slavery. After I mentioned the “s” word all communication stopped and records promised were never received. Although I was disappointed I figured this might happen. It would be many years later before I attempted to try and reach out to other descendants.

In the meantime, I continued researching the Whitaker Family. I also started debating whether or not I should mention the “s” word or just pretend that I was descendant of another family who lived near the Whitakers when contacting descendants.

After hitting a brick wall on this line, I started reaching out to Whitaker descendants from various message boards. After sending out several emails, I received a reply from Randall Whitaker who eventually provided me with a written history of the Whitaker Family. The history was written by the granddaughters of Robert F. Whitaker II. Randall was disappointed to learn that his ancestors were involved in slavery but was glad that he was able to help me in my research. Randall told other family members about my research that in turn provided me with additional information. The other family members and I shared a love for genealogy and began sharing our research. Unfortunately they had little information on the family enslaved property. However the information they did provide helped me to connect Robert F. Whitaker to the other Whitakers in Red River County, Texas. It also revealed that Robert’s father was named Robert F. Whitaker, his mother was Anna and his brother was James Washington Whitaker. With the new information, I was able to locate the Whitaker family in the 1820 to 1880 census reports.

A search of the Red River County probate records found that in 1849 Anna Whiteaker wrote her last will and testament. In her will she wrote “I give and bequeaths to my son Robert F. Whiteaker a Negro girl Julia now about four years old.”

The remainder of the property was divided between her sons, James and Robert. Anna died in the fall of 1853 and the inventory and appraisement of Anna’s estate listed the name of Julia's mother Jane.

Very few individuals have been able to talk candidly about this dark chapter (slavery) in American history especially when their own ancestors have been active participants. Usually they shy away from it or discontinue all communication which was the case in the beginning. It said a lot about the character of those descendants who did and for that I am greatly appreciative.

Slave Era Insurance Policy

In 2000, the state of California passed legislation which required all insurance companies conducting business in the state to provide the slave insurance records of their predecessors. The deadline for submitting these records was set for October 2001. Although some companies stated that they could not find any records or that the records were destroyed, other companies were able to locate such records. By August 2000, the California legislature report that "[I]nsurance policies from the slavery era have been discovered in the archives of several insurance companies, documenting insurance coverage for slaveholders for damage to or death of their slaves, issued by a predecessor insurance firm."

Information was found by the following companies ACE USA; Aetna Life Insurance Company; AIG (United States Life Insurance Company of New York); Manhattan Life; New York Life Insurance; Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company; Providence Washington Insurance Company; and Royal & Alliance. From the information gathered a Slave Era Insurance Registry was created. The registry included the name of slaves, location/residence of the slaves, name of slaveholders, location/residence of slaveholders), and companies submitting the information.

New York Life Insurance Company’s reported that its predecessor the Nautilus (Mutual Life) Insurance Company of New York sold 485 slaveholders life insurance policies during a two-year period in the 1840s. There were three death claims with a total of $1,050.00 paid.

They also reported that the policies were generally written for under $500.00 and were for one-year terms.

A significant number of these policies were written for enslaved Africans working in the Clover Hill Pits and Mid Lothian Coal Mines located in Chesterfield County, Virginia.

The enslaved were usually leased or hired out by their owners. Due to the danger involved in mining, slave owners sought out insurance companies to protect their valuable property from loss. Nancy C. Frantel states "These policies provided a risk-free opportunity for the owners to lease slaves; but it was far from risk-free for the slaves who were forced to work in the extremely hazardous conditions of the mines." Insurance companies even wrote policies on 12-year-old slaves who labored underground in the mines.

In 1846, the heirs of Jameson Moody (1783-1842) would take out policies on their male slaves before hiring them out to work as miners in the Clover Hill Pits. They would take out policies for two consecutive years on Sam Jones (40), Harry Montague (25), Phill (50), Robert (20), Henry (16), and my great great great great grandfather Joe (35).

After the two year period, the Moody family would moved to Fairfield, Freestone County, Texas after being encouraged to relocate by their brother William Moody (1828-1920) who migrated there in 1852. My ancestors would be a part of this migration west to the Lone Star State.

The discovery of the insurance policies provided me with a broader perspective of the lives as well as the complexity of slave labor. There is an assumption that all enslaved Africans worked on the plantation in fields. Enslaved labor was used in factories, mines, railroad construction, waterways, and other areas.

The original ledger detailing these policies was donated to the Schomburg Center for Black Research and Culture in New York.