Slave Name Roll Project: Releasing the Slaves of my Family
“It’s honorable to do…You’re RELEASING their Names and their Souls for their Descendants to hopefully find them one day. Every time this happens they are REJOICING. They have been in a book or what have you for so long” ~ True A. Lewis. Quote found on ‘Tangled Roots and Trees’ blog.
It is emotionally difficult for me when I discover yet another ancestor who owned slaves. But the reality is that both my paternal and maternal sides of the family have resided in this country since the 1600s and many were land owners in the south, so it was inevitable that I would find records from those who had enslaved African Americans.
I could choose to turn a blind eye and ignore this information or do what I can to assist genealogists from those African families working to research their lineage. Finding records of enslaved persons before emancipation is challenging as slaves were rarely listed by name in records such as censuses or tax lists. Many African Americans are told that they probably won’t be able to document their family before the 1870 census, as the only information written down was the numbers of slaves owned, as well as genders and ages. But, fortunately, slaves were named in private records such as wills, estate inventories, and correspondence as the slaves were owned (and valuable) property. By scouring the documents I have access to, I can find and provide the names of the slaves owned by my ancestors to other researchers; in effect, helping them break through that 1870 Brick Wall.
To date, I have made contact with descendants of several families who had been enslaved by family members of mine. Also, my DNA test results provide proof that I have at least several black 3rd and 4th generation cousin matches, persons who are of mixed European and African ancestry. I am in contact with two of these people. We are working together studying both our genealogical and genetic family trees to determine from whom we are related. I will be thrilled when we make the discovery.
Earlier this year, Schalene Dagutis, the author of the blog “Tangled Roots and Trees“, came up with the idea of ‘releasing’ the names of slaves found in her research as a way of both ‘freeing’ those enslaved, as well as to give back to her fellow African-American genealogists by publishing the data. This is my participation in that project. Working together, hopefully, we can give a voice to those who, at the time, had no voice but deserve to have their stories told.
Listed below are the names of masters and the slaves they named in documents I have come across in my research. I release these slave names to be found by their family and I will continue to document slave names in the future as I discover them.
Charles Broadfield Sr., documents from 1795 – 1810, Isle of Wight, Virginia
I start with the name of a slave who was provided her freedom by her master (but why he didn’t free all of his slaves is beyond my comprehension):
Emancipation: “I Charles Broadfield of the County of Isle of Wight in Virginia, having under To my care negro woman by the name of Judy aged thirty nine years or Judy thereabouts, whom I have heretofore held as a Slave, and being fully persuaded that freedom is the natural right of all mankind and that it is my duty to do as I would be done by with like situation; do hereby emancipate and set free the said negro Judy, and I do for myself my Heirs executors administrators and assigns relinquish all my rights title, interest and claim or pretensions of claim whatsoever either to her person or to any estate she may hereafter acquire; the above said negro woman Judy and her posterity to enjoy their full freedom without any interruption from me or any person or persons claiming by from or under me In Witness whereof I have hereto set my hand and affixed my seal this first day of June in the year of our Lord Christ one thousand seven hundred and ninety five.”
Excerpts from the Last Will and Testament of Chas. Broadfield, dated 27 July 1810.
“In the name of God Amen. I Charles Broadfield of the County of Isle of Wight and parish of New Port…. Item: I leave to my loving wife Catharine Broadfield all my negros except Nancy and Peg… I give to my daughter Mary Broadfield negro girl Nancy… I give to my daughter Peggy Broadfield negro girl Peg.
Inventory of Estate, Feb 1812: the following slaves and their values are noted:
Negro man, Mareh $250 ditto do Joe $30 $280.00
Peter $246.66, Phillis $200, Pegg $200 $666.66
Seller $250, George $233.33, Moses $200 $683.33
Jacob $166.66, Bitty $150, Mary $166.60 $483.26
Nancy $230 __________ $21 $251.00
Charles D. Broadfield (the son of the previous Charles Broadfield), Isle of Wight, Virginia
One of his slaves was likely named after him, the African man known as Charles Broadfield. It is believed that he may have been born on the plantation in 1824 and I am privileged to have met his descendants. Some of the information listed above under Charles Broadfield Sr. was provided to me by one of his descendants.
Edmund R.S. Mathis, Last Will and Testament, 1783, Duplin County, North Carolina:
His will bequeaths the following: “To my son, John Matthis, my negro fellow Peter. Son, Rice Matthis, my negro boy, Isaac. Daughter, Tomzan Goff, my negro girl Clo. Daughter, Elizabeth Elkins, my negro girl Jan. Daughter, Jemima Fennel, my negro girl Hager. Daughter, Maryann Matthis, my negro girl Clarry. Daughter, Sabra Goff, my negro girl Amey. Son, Edmond Matthis, my negro boy Roddick. Son, James Matthis, my negro boy Esseck. Daughter, Edah Matthis, my negro girl Milec. Daughter, Esther Matthis, my negro girl Hannah. Son, Thomas Matthis, my negro boy Duplin. Son, Lazarus Matthis, my negro boy Toomer. Daughter, Oliff Matthis, my negro woman Teen. Son, Lacheus Matthis, my negro fellow Sam. Son, Herman Matthis, my negro fellow Briston.”
James Tinsley, Last Will and Testament, 1814, Columbia County, Georgia:
“To my dearly beloved wife, Lucy, two negroes, namely Sally and Joe and their future increase forever, also two negroes, Peter and Rachel… After the death or marriage of my widow and legal age of my young children my desire is that my daughter Polly have my negro woman, Rachel. To my son, James Z. Tinsley one negro boy named Dick. I give and bequeath to my son William one negro boy named Charles. I give to my daughter, Nancey, one negro girl, Mariah, and her increase. I give and bequeath to my son, John, one negro girl named Sopha. I give and bequeath to my son, Abram, one negro boy named Peter. I give and bequeath to my daughter Betsey Ann, one negro girl and her increase namely Mary. I give and bequeath to my daughter, Sally, one negro girl named Matilda & her increase. I give and bequeath to a child to be born of my wife, one negro named Lewis. My will is that my negro, Leroy, I bought of William Tyrey, be sold by my executors to raise money to pay the ballance I owe for him, the surplus monies of said sale to be equally divided between my oldest set of children. 8th, 14th and 20th lines interlined before signed.
Inventory of the Estate of James Tinsley dec?d Registered Feb 9th 1814: Peter a negro man $250, Charly ” ” $200, Dick $275 725.00 Rachel and her three children, Moriah, Peter, Hophia 550.00 Lewis $350, Mary $200, Joe $200, Lewis the younger $175 925.00 Matilda $150, Sally $300.
William Wise, Last Will and Testament, 1816, Bulloch County, Georgia:
“I give and bequeath to my son Henry Wise, one negro woman named Eady, and one feather bed. I give and bequeath to my daughter Viney Denmark, one negro woman named Sarah, and one feather bed. I give and bequeath to my daughter Susanah Denmark, one negro man named Denmark, and one feather bed. I give and bequeath to my son Preston Wise, one negro man named Guy. I give and bequeath to my daughter Rebecca Jones, one negro woman named Teaner. I give and bequeath to my daughter Zilphia Goodman, one negro man named John. I give and bequeath to my son John Wise, one negro man named Jack.”
what a great idea! I know my ancestors also must have owned slaves but I have not found wills to prove names. I am working on a tree for my friend and have dead ended at about 1870 or so as her ancestors were slaves I am certain. I have found families with their last names just no wills so far.
You probably will! Let me know when you do.
I love the idea of the Slave Name Roll Project and had clipped a few references in Evernote as I’ve come across them. I too have multiple slave-owning families among my ancestors (who have been here since before slavery came to Jamestown), and feel both sadness and responsibility for sharing and helping. I like your postings, and I’ve signed up to receive your blog via email.
Thanks for signing up and following along!
This is wonderful. Thank you for the idea and the sharing!
It wasn’t my idea but I’m honored to offer the information I have access to if it will help another researcher! Thanks for commenting and feel free to subscribe to my blog so that you will get an email notification with each post I make.
As a descendant of enslaved persons and as a genealogist, I want to thank you for your work with the “Slave Name Roll Project.” I think a lot of healing would take place as more and more white families own up to the fact that they held slaves and were openly sharing and helping in documenting the slaves in their families and on their plantations.
I totally agree with you! Please subscribe to my blog and follow along. And I welcome blogging ideas!
Thank You for doing this. It matters so much especially to the African American Genealogy Community. Awesome piece.
What a privilege to have you stop by and comment on the blog piece. Thank you.
Thank you for participating in the Slave Name Roll Project. I’ve added your names and a link to this post.
For those who would like to use the Slave Name Roll Project to look for names of slaves or if you would like to contribute to the project, the link is:
If you blog about slave names, simply leave me a comment on this page. If you don’t blog but would still like to participate, leave the information in a comment and I’ll get it on the web and link to it.
Schalene– thanks for stopping by. I’ll look forward to meeting you some day at a genealogy conference! I’m attending RootsTech, if you’ll be there.
I have traced my ancestor down to The Jones Family of Craven County, NC. My ancestor was a slave named Somersitt ..He belonged to Evan Jones(I traced down Will of 1751 ..he is listed). I contacted the Craven library(Hist)ran by Jones family member /ask for more information but was told No slaves in Craven. I told him I found it in his family Will, he didn’t want to help(kind of felt it was the black thing lol)…I am stuck..need to know where Somersitt was born/brought/parents anything..Can you help?
It’s hard to believe that there were “No slaves in Craven.” It was the south. There had to have been. Sorry that you got that answer– however, try not to take it personally due to color. Even us whites get those answers sometimes from record keepers. Most are more than willing to help family genealogists/researchers but not all are! Unfortunately, I don’t think that I can help much either. I only have one listed Jones in Craven, NC. I looked at the Evan Jones line and he doesn’t seem to connect to my one Jones. But maybe they do, so I will keep looking and trying! Good luck.
Thanks..not discourage.. Not the 1st time I have ran against (I don’t want to share)wall.Just found it odd because the person I contacted is related to Evan Jones, wrote papers on family,head of historical part of library. If I found the Will, so has he…But not stopping.. My grandma is 92..Ill health..gave me oral history including Somersitt that I found true…she said he was from Oteen..could mean county or Orton plantation in NC..hunt is still on..
Just for yours or anyone information, I do a lot research for TN(west area)
I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today’s Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2015/09/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-september.html
Have a wonderful weekend!
Woo hoo– happy to make your Fab Finds! And I’m glad that you consider it a ‘Fab Find.’
I just ran across this site, it’s great. When you are doing research of slaves it’s so hard. We already just working with first names if that. Keep up the the good work.
Thank you for the kind words– truly!
Julie, this is wonderful! It only took me two years to respond to your blog. :~)
Life gets in the way.