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.


  1. Wow! Congrats on your find Aaron.

  2. Thanks Terrence! It was an amazing discovery. Virginia's vital records are wonderful.

  3. This is wonderful for you! Congratulations on a great day's work!


  4. Dorsey,

    You had an amazing and very fulfilling research day. Congrats. I loook forward to following along as you discover more.


  5. Our Giants Flag is constructed of polyester, measures 3x5 feet, and has two metal grommets for attaching to a traditional flagpole, tailgate pole, or our 6' aluminum flagpole. The perimeter of our Giants Flag is double stitched and the Officially Licensed NFL New York Giants team logos are dye sublimated into the flag so they won't peel. Due to its large size, this flag is also perfect to hang in your game room, sports room, office, or kids room.
    nfl house flags
    nfl flags wholesalecheap St.Louis Rams house divided flags
    Falcons house divided flagscollege football flags,
    house divided college flags
    Sports flags and banners,
    nfl house flags