3 Replies Latest reply on Sep 16, 2021 1:07 PM by Rachel Dobson

    Seeking records of slaves mentioned in will & estate files

    Henry Parrish Jr Newbie

      My 4 times great grandfather's will from 1861 and his estate files from 1861-1870 mentioned slaves by name. I know from the 1860 census that he had 20 slaves. In his will from 1861 he lists 19 slaves by name. In the estate files several of these slave names appear again and a new name pops up as a slave who was sold. How can I go about finding out what happened to these people? What avenues are at my disposal? I cannot use the UNC slave database that I saw mentioned on a previous question about slavery because the county in question is not a part of that indexing. What other options do I have to try to find these 20 people?

        • Re: Seeking records of slaves mentioned in will & estate files
          Susannah Brooks Pioneer

          Using the names and ages of the slaves  from the probate records as the surname of the slave owner, try to find the former slaves in the 1870 Census in the county where they had been enslaved. Since it appears from the small amount of information you provided, that the estate was not settled until 1870, it means the slaves had been emancipated with all others in the area  sometime between 1863 and 1865 (end of Civil War).  Not all slaves took the surname of their former owner, but many did, so start there.  Also look at the local Freedmen's Bureau Records that would include where they had lived. 

          • Re: Seeking records of slaves mentioned in will & estate files
            Cara Jensen Tracker

            Dear Mr. Parrish,


            Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!


            As the previous poster mentioned, the Population Schedules for the 1870 Census and the Population Schedules for the 1880 Census in the Records of the Bureau of the Census (Record Group 29) may contain records of the emancipated enslaved persons that you seek.  For access to the non-digitized schedules, please contact the National Archives at Washington, DC - Textual Reference (RDT1) via email at archives1reference@nara.gov


            Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pursuant to guidance received from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), NARA has adjusted its normal operations to balance the need of completing its mission-critical work while also adhering to the recommended social distancing for the safety of NARA staff. As a result of this re-prioritization of activities, you may experience a delay in receiving an initial acknowledgement as well as a substantive response to your reference request from RDT1. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding and patience.


            For information about the U.S. Census, see the Census Bureau technical documentation and questionnaires.


            You may wish to search Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org for the U.S. Census. There may be a fee for using Ancestry. Instead, check for access at your local library as many library systems subscribe to these sites, making them free for their patrons.


            We also suggest that you review NARA’s page on Freedmen's Bureau Records for more resources about locating information about formerly enslaved people. 


            We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your research!


            1 person found this helpful
            • Re: Seeking records of slaves mentioned in will & estate files
              Rachel Dobson Wayfarer

              Mr. Parrish, I have worked on something similar. I started with many more names (many lists, totaling more than 200 enslaved people) and so far I have - definitively - traced one person into the early 20th century. I used all of the sources mentioned in the two previous replies, plus the 1867 voter registration lists are helpful. (In Alabama, they are searchable via the Ala. Department of Archives & History; not sure if other states also do that.) The WPA slave narratives are worth looking at. Early newspapers *sometimes* can be helpful. Also, African American family history researchers can be helpful. Sometimes found at the nearest library that specializes in genealogy, sometimes via genealogy blogs. I recommend this researcher's blog because she is in NC and is very knowledgeable about research: https://afamwilsonnc.com/ . For later records, city directories are as well. Best of luck in your project - it is a worthy endeavor.