Showing posts with label Slave Era Research. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Slave Era Research. Show all posts

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Featured Speaker: Aaron Dorsey

It has definitely been awhile since my last post. After my aunt passed away, I kind of lost interest in doing genealogy. She was my genealogy buddy who I could share my challenges and successes with - no matter how big or small. For the past few months, I have been slowly getting back my passion for genealogy.

My aunt always felt that I needed to share my knowledge and skills of conducting slave era research since I have been somewhat successful.  In addition, my good friend Robyn at Reclaiming Kin, has been encouraging me to start presenting at local and national meetings for over a year now. So yesterday, January 22, 2011, I
took the plunge and conducted my first professional genealogy presentation on Slave Era Research at the bi-monthly meeting of the Central Maryland Chapter of the African American Historical & Genealogical Society in Columbia, Maryland. 
 Over fifty people, from novice to advance researchers, were in attendance for the 90 minute session.  Despite the fact that the subject matter is advance African American research, I was able to provide information and strategies for everyone. My friend, Angela Walton-Raji at My Ancestor’s Name, has provided an excellent summary of my presentation including a 90 second video of me discussing several books.
The session was well received by all who attended. And all I can say is what a great way to start off the New Year. I cannot wait until my next presentation.

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.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Limitation of Conducting Slave Era Research Online

There is a current trend that I am seeing on many forums related to slave era research that by only examining vital records, U.S. census and slave schedules that one will be able to identify the slave holding family. Sites like ancestry, footnote, heritage quest, familysearch and others have greatly assisted researchers in having access to various federal and vital records. However, census and vital records can only provide an outline to the lives of our ancestors. Census records are secondary sources, so one must be cautious in taking them as proof regarding age, relationship, place of birth etc. And since the slave schedules only provide age/sex description it is an unreliable document to verify ownership or the identity of individuals. Dee Parmer-Woodtor suggested that the slave schedules may not be entirely accurate as they relate to the number of enslaved individuals a owner may have as well as to their description.

Whereas other records - deeds, court, military service, church and other records can provide a much more in-depth view into the lives of our ancestors. These records should be examined in the post-slavery period first before conducting slave era research. Often they will provide clues to the last slave holding families. For example, a good friend of mine, Reclaiming Kin, discovered a court case in which her ancestors gave a disposition in 1870. The case involved the daughter and brother of the slave owner in which both parties were fighting over the estate. This case began in 1854. The court case included the will, inventory of the personal property (slaves), description of the plantation, etc. This provided my friend with an wealth of information about her enslaved ancestors during slavery and the first few years after slavery.

County records can also provide clues to the surname of the last slave holding family. In 1873, my ggg grandfather Andrew (Andy) Perkins was charged with assault with the intent to murder in Leon County, Texas. Two individuals Joseph A. Evans and Alexander Reed, post a $350.00 surety bond on his behalf. These two individuals also accompanied his to the trial. After researching these two individuals to determine their relationship to Andy Perkins, I discovered that Joseph Evans was the son of Edward Evans, the last slave owner of Andy Perkins. Without examining this record and then doing research on the individuals, I would have never been able to discover the surname of the last slave owner.

Vital records such as marriage records, sometime list witnesses. Usually these witnesses are either family members or friends of the family. And in some cases, they are members of the slave holding family. This was the case when Lucy Dashiell married William Logwood in San Antonio, Texas in 1867. The daughters of a prominent businessman and former slave owner Jeremiah Dashiell, were listed as witnesses on Lucy and William's marriage certificate.

The above examples show that relationships between the former enslaved and the slave holding families continued after slavery. And by examining county records in the post slavery period clues were provided in assisting to identifying the last documented slave holding family.

And once you have completed the post-slavery research and start slave era research, the vast majority of records you will consult will not be online or indexed. These records are usually housed at the county courthouses, state archives and libraries, national archives and other repositories including private collections. Some of the essential records are as followed:

1) Conveyance or deed records
2) Church affiliation records
3) Military service
4) Tax entries
5) Freedman Bureau Records
6) Land ownership (plat map and/or legal description)
7) Personal papers (account books, slave list, diaries, etc.)
8) Estate papers

Some of these records (although very few) may be transcribed and placed online but how does one know if the transcription is correct? Or where the information was acquired? Relying solely on online sources for conducting slave era research will limit one's ability to truly identify and confirm the last slave holding family of one's ancestor.

The internet must be used only as a tool to assist us toward locating and narrowing our search at the state and county levels. It should never be used as a primary vehicle for doing genealogy or slave era research.