Naming the “Nameless”: Known Slaves in Our Families’ History

Last autumn, a genealogical television show I watch stirred up some controversy. It seems that a celebrity whose ancestors were being traced refused to reveal that he has a slave owner in his lineage. Instead, the actor opted to shut his eyes to his ancestor’s existence, silence the echoes of the past, and revise his family history as he saw fit.

As an amateur genealogist, I was appalled. In my humble opinion, every person’s story should be told; and those stories should be as truthful and unbiased as possible. Each of us who has dug deep enough into our family roots has unearthed a skeleton or two or three… It is inevitable. We all have the good, the bad, and the downright “ugly” ancestors. It is what it is.

What made this censorship even more ridiculous was that this person also has a Civil Right’s freedom rider in his direct lineage. Personally, I think juxtaposing these two relatives’ experiences would have told an amazing story of growth and enlightenment—a missed opportunity to highlight the complexity of American history via one person’s lineage.

After that episode aired and the cover-up was revealed and reviled, I reflected on my own genealogical discoveries. Currently, my tree contains about 10,000 individuals, both my and my spouse’s direct ancestors, as well as many, many “off-shoot” relatives. Considering that most of these people have resided in this country for quite a long time, that a significant number of these predecessors were landowners, and that a large chunk of those landowners resided in the states below the Mason-Dixon line, I assumed it was more than likely that I would find a few slave owners in our families’ past. Unfortunately, my assumption was correct.

Now, I could, like the aforementioned celebrity, with each distasteful discovery, turn a blind eye and only accentuate the positive in our ancestors’ lives. I could, but I won’t. In fact, by shedding a light on these ancestors’ lives, I am hoping to help out my fellow genealogists who might be at an impasse in their research—specifically those researching their African-American lineage. Scouring my ancestors’ wills, property records, and court records, I will be documenting the named slaves revealed in these sources. I hope that by doing this, I might help other people locate missing ancestors.

Other family history buffs are also assisting others in this same way—people like Cathy Meder-Dempsey and Schalene Dagutis. In fact, Scalene’s blog, www.tangledrootsandtrees.blogspot.com, is listing all named slaves who can be identified in legal documents, wills, correspondence, family Bibles, etc. I will be adding my findings to the slave name roll call, and I encourage other amateur genealogists to do the same. In the meantime, listed below are all the named slaves I have discovered in my research:


Vincent Cox, 1698, Westmoreland County, Virginia
(My 10th great-grandfather, maternal father’s line)

“Unto my son Charnock Cox, Ben and Betty, Negroes…Unto my son Vincent Cox, Samuel, Wright and Frank, Negroes…Unto my son Thomas Cox, Negro Dick…”


Roelof Martense Schenck, 1705, New York County, New York
(My 9th great-grandfather, maternal mother’s line)

“…My son Martin, for his birthright as eldest son shall have my Negro boy, Anthony, my said wife only to have ye profit or use of ye one-half of ye labor or service of said boy during her lifetime or remarriage.”


Samuel Rust, 1715, Westmoreland County, Virginia
(My 9th great-grandfather, maternal father’s line)

“To my son Peter Rust…Negro boys Jack and Billy, but in case he dies as aforesaid, to my two sons John and Matthew Rust. To my son Jeremiah Rust…a Negro man Adam…and in case he dies without heirs then to my son Peter Rust. To my daughter Ann Harrison, one Negro girl Moll. To my daughter Hannah Rust, one Negro girl Sarah. To my loving wife Martha Rust…one Negro woman Betty…and after her deceased all the above be equally divided between my sons Jeremiah Rust and Benja. Rust, save the Negro woman Betty with her increase, if any, to be divided between my sons to whom no Negro is given.”


John Taliaferro, 1715, Essex County, Virginia
(My 9th great-grandfather, maternal father’s line)

“To son Lawrence…three Negroes named Cain, Grats and Bert, now in his possession…To son Charles, son Zachariah, son Robert, son Richard, son William and wife, heirs, viz: Charles, Sarah, Robert, Zachariah, Catherine, Richard and William, his personal and Negroes to be divided between the above named.”


Samuel Damourvell, 1723, Westmoreland County, Virginia
(My 9th great-grandfather, maternal father’s line)

“I give and bequeath unto my well-beloved son Samuel Damouvel… Negro man called Billey, a Negro woman called Bess, a Negro boy called Dick, a Negro girl called Nanney, a Madegasker (Madagascar) boy called Jack, and a Negro boy called Sam to him and his heires forever… Item I give and bequeath unto my daughter Magdaline Rust…a Negro woman called Jenny… Item, I give and bequeath to my daughter Elizabeth Harrison… a Negro girl called Frank… Item I give and bequeath unto my loving wife Hannah Damouvel my Negro man Tony and my Negro woman Pegg during her natural life, and my Will is that after her decease the Negro man Tony descend to my daughter Magdalen Rust and the Negro woman Peg descend to my daughter Elizabeth Harrison…”


Francis Thornton, 1726, James County, Virginia
(My 9th great-grandfather, maternal father’s line)

“Item: I give and bequeath unto my grandson Francis Conway, one Mulatto girl named Bess. Item: I give and bequeath unto the within named George Riding, son of my wife Ann, five slaves by name−Mulatto James, Negro Dick, Negro Jane, Negro Nanny, and a Negro boy named Samuel. Item:  I give and bequeath unto Margaret Riding, daughter of my wife Ann Thornton, six slaves by name—Negro Charles, a girl named Peggee, a Negro girl named Frank, Negro Susan, Negro Billy, a boy Mulatto Jacob. Item: The rest of my Negroes I give and bequeath unto my Loving Wife Ann Thornton during her natural life and after her decease I will and bequeath all my said Negros to be divided by equal portions between George & Margaret Riding, son & daughter of my wife Ann Thornton.”


Alexander Contee, 1740, Prince George’s County, Virginia
(Spouse’s 7th great-grandfather, paternal mother’s line)

From Prince George’s County Court Records: 24 June 1740:  p.653, present Mulatto Jane belonging to Alexr. Contee for a Mulatto bastard child 26 August 1740: p.19, Lord Proprietary vs Mulatto Jane, Mulatto Bastardy: confesses … serve seven years … child named Sarah born 5 February 1740 serve 31 years said Mulatto child is sold to ye sd Alexr Contee


Rowland Thornton, 1742, King George County, Virginia
(My 8th great-grandfather, maternal father’s line)

“Item: I give to my loving wife Elizabeth Thornton the following five Negroes viz Frank, Robin, Peter, Caesar and Bess to her and her heirs forever. I also give my said wife the use of my two Negroes Joe & Jenny during her life and after her decease my will is that my daughter Elizabeth Thornton have my said Negro Jenny and my daughter Alsey to have Negro Joe. Item: I give to my daughter Elizabeth the following twelve Negroes viz: Tom, Kate, Little Bess, Stephen, Sias, Hannibal, Judy, Grace, Moll (alias Poll), Ben, Ralph, and Phillis. Item: I give and bequeath to my daughter Alcey the following fourteen Negroes viz: Caesar, Floria, Frank, Nan, Milly, Ester, Bristol, Sibby, Jeffery, Harry, Titus, Mariah, Davy and Jenny.”


Anne (Martin) Watts Hubbard MacPherson, widow of Edward Watts, 1742, Stafford County, Virginia
(My 9th great-grandmother, maternal father’s line)   

“Item I give to my Loving son Jacob Hubbard one Negro wench named Hannah.”


Jane (Brooke) Contee, 1744, Prince George’s County, Virginia
(Spouse’s 7th great-grandmother, paternal mother’s line)

From Prince George’s County Court Records: 27 November 1744: p.585,

Joseph Peck, son of Mulatto Jane … sold to William Beanes Jr. .. Mrs. Jane Contee 600 pounds of tobacco for keeping Joseph Peck, son of Mulatto Jane to this time.


Hannah (Cox) Damourvell, 1744, Westmoreland County, Virginia
(My 9th great-grandmother, maternal father’s line)

“Item I give and bequeath unto my daughter Magdalen Jackson one Negro man named Tone (Tony). Item I give and bequeath unto my daughter Elizabeth Middleton one Negro woman named Pegg.”

(Please note: Both Tony and Peg were referenced in Samuel Damourvell’s 1723 will, listed above.)


John Pipkin Sr., 1745, Chowan County, North Carolina
(My 8th great-grandfather, maternal father’s line)     

“ITEM: I give to my son Joseph Pipkin a Negro boy called Jack… ITEM: I give to my son Isaac Pipkin a Negro boy called Rollin. ITEM: I give to my son Jesse Pipkin a Negro girl called Dorety. ITEM: I give to my daughter Mary Pipkin a Negro girl called Dina…if in case any of my children herein mentioned should die before they come to age then their part be given whatever it be Negro…to be equally divided amongst the rest herein mentioned. ITEM: I give to my loving wife Martha Pipkin a Negro woman named Hannah and her increase from the date hereof and my Negro man Ned…during her natural life or widowhood and then to be equally divided amongst my children herein mentioned….”


Albert Williemse Van Couwenhoven, 1748, Monmouth County, New Jersey
(My 8th great-grandfather, maternal mother’s line)     

(No slaves are referred to by name in this document.)

Inventory of his estate includes 203 acres of land, piece of salt meadow, Negros (man, woman, and four children), loom, oyster tongs, and Bible.


James Stark, 1754, Stafford County, Virginia
(My 7th great-grandfather, maternal father’s line)     

“I also give to my wife Eliza. during her natural life only my two Negroes Jack & George & after her decease I leave my Negro fellow George to be equally divided between my sons Wm. Stark & Jeremiah Stark and the other Negro Jack after her decease to my daughter Jane and her heirs forever. I give my Negro wench called Kate to my Daughter Mary & her heirs.  I give to my daughter Sarah my Negro wench Dinah & her increase, the two first children which she shall bear only excepted that shall live to the age of 18 months, the first of which children I bequeath to my daughter Ann & her heirs forever & the next to my Daughter Susannah to my daughters Ann & Susannah when they shall be 18 months of age & not sooner.  I give to my son Benjamin my Negro wench Lucy & her increase, the two first children which she shall bear only excepted that shall live to the age of 18 months, the first of which children that shall live to that age I bequeath to my daughter Lydia and her heirs & the other to my daughter Isabel and her heirs and that the said Negro children are to be delivered to my daughters Lydia & Isabell when they shall be 18 months of age.  I give my Negro wench called Beck to my son James Stark in trust only for his son James, the first child which she shall bear only excepted that shall live to age of 18 months, I bequeath to my son Donald Stark his heirs & that the said child is to be delivered to my son Donald when it shall be 18 months old & not sooner.”


Moses Chapline, 1762, Frederick County, Maryland
(My 7th great-grandfather, paternal father’s line)     

(No slaves are referred to by name in this document.)

This will provides first for wife, Janet, with certain real estate. Special to three sons. Negroes to wife and children; and all the rest of Estate to be divided among them all.


Baltzer Spangler, 1770, York County, Pennsylvania
(Spouse’s 6th great-grand uncle, paternal mother’s line)     

“Item I Give and Bequeath unto my dearly Beloved Wife Magdalena Spangler…the Negro Man Jacob and the Negro Woman Teamar….”


William Raiford, 1771, Isle of Wight County, Virginia
(My 8th great-grandfather, maternal father’s line)     

“Item I give and bequeath unto my Daughter Rebecca Raiford my Negro Girl named Bett and her Increase.”


Thomas Boggess, 1772, Fauquier County, Virginia
(My 7th great-grandfather, maternal father’s line)   

“Son: Richard – one Negro named Daniel, now in his possession. Son: Thomas – Negro named Peter, now in his possession… Son: Jeremiah – Negro woman called Jane … Dau.: Magdalen Jackson – Negro girl named Letty… Dau.: Elizabeth Maddox – Negro boy called James… Dau.: Hannah Russ Watts – a Negro girl called Winny.”


John Hanson, 1783, Prince George’s County, Virginia
(Spouse’s 6th great-grandfather, paternal mother’s line)

“I give and Bequeath to my son Alexander Contee Hanson one Negro Woman Named Sal and her son Charles Roger and her Daughter Named Nan, one Negro man named John and one Negro man commonly called Ned Barnes….I Give and bequeath to my Grand Daughter Catherine Thomas one Negro Boy (Nan’s son) named Bill to her and her heirs forever. I Give and Bequeath to my Grand Daughter Rebecca Thomas one Negro Girl Named Charity (Moll’s child) to her and her heirs forever. I give and Bequeath to my Grandson John Hanson Thomas one Negro Boy named Bob and the child my Negro Nan is now big with.”


Israel Christian, 1784, Montgomery County, Virginia
(My 8th great-grandfather, maternal father’s line)   

“I will and bequeath to my beloved wife Elizabeth, four Negroes, to wit Isaac, Dorson, Bill and Hale; to her and her heirs forever.”


Elisha Lyon, 1787, Franklin County, Virginia
(My 8th great-grandfather, maternal father’s line)   

“I lend to my wife Mary Lyon the plantation if now live on & all so three Negroes, Sip/Siss, Sary, Larry…during her widowhood & at her marriage or decease to be equally divided amongst my children begotten by her….” Inventory of Elisha Lyon, dec’d, on Nov. 29, 1788, Franklin Co., VA, WB 1, p. 30-31. Negroes mentioned: Lucy, Thomas, Sarah, Hannah, Phillis, David.


Elizabeth (Stark) Christian, 1789, Botetourt County, Virginia
(My 8th great-grandmother, maternal father’s line)   

She left to her daughter “Annie, the wife of William Fleming, my Negro fellow Dawson to her, her heirs and assigns forever.” She also specifically bequeathed to “my granddaughter Elizabeth Fleming, my Negro fellow named Isaac to her, her heirs or assigns forever but should the said Elizabeth die before she comes of age or before she marries, then it is my will and desire that her next oldest surviving sister shall have my said Negro Isaac to her, her heirs or assigns forever.”


Charles King, 1789, Newberry County, South Carolina
(My 6th great-grandfather, maternal father’s line)   

“Item I Give and bequeath unto my Beloved son Jacob King…One Negro Girl Named Jean & One Negro boy named Peter to him his Heirs & Assigns forever. Item I Give and bequeathe unto my beloved daughted Lydda Lindsey (married John) One negro woman named Dinah and her three children, which he has now in possession, also one Negro boy named Stephen to her; her heirs and Assigns fr ever. Item I give and bequeathe unto my beloved Daughter Mary Starke (Married Jerimiah) One Negro woman Named Salley and her two children also one Negro boy Named Ben to her and her heirs and Assigns for ever. Item I give and bequeath unto my beloved Daughter Ruth Starke (Married Thomas) one Negro Woman Named Bat and her two children now in Possession also one Negro Girl Named Alf to her, her Heirs and Afsigns for ever… Item I give and bequeathe to my beloved daughter Charity Gordan, One Negro woman named Hoda also one Negro boy named Kent to her and her Heirs and Assigns forever. Item I give and bequeath to my beloved Daughter Rebecca King one Negro man named Harry and his wife Hinah & one Negro girl named Sal and also the child Mimah now goes with to her and her Heirs and Assigns forever….Item I leave to be sold four Negros Viz, Joseph, Jack, Selah, and Toney.”


William Fleming, 1795, Botetourt County, Virginia
(My 7th great-grandfather, maternal father’s line)

(Again, unfortunately, no slaves are referred to by name in this document.)

“In addition to the land & Negroes I gave to Mr. Carey Gilliam, who married my Daughter Elizabeth, I bequeath one hundred pounds to be paid to my Daughter Elizabeth, in case of the Death of her Husband, but if he should be alive at the time the Money is ready, to be paid to him. I leave to my beloved Wife the lands whereon I now live together with all my Slaves & stocks of every Kind during her Life, for her support and the Support of my Children, and that she should at her Death or before divide my Slaves among my Children at her Direction.”


Thomas Watts, Jr., 1797, Greene County, Georgia
(My 6th great-grandfather, maternal father’s line)

“Item I give and bequeath unto my Daughter Mary Sorrel a Negro woman named Suck whenever she shall return the one she has now in her possession by the name of Priss. Item I give and bequeath unto my Son Presly one Negro man named Samson. Item I give and bequeath unto my son Charles a Negro man named Ben. Item I give unto my Daughter Fennattie Watts one Negro woman named Mill. Item I give and bequeath unto my son Jeremiah one Negro Boy named Enoch. Item I give and bequeath unto my Daughter Betsy Watts one Negro girl named Usie, one Negro boy named Davis. Item I give and Bequeath unto my son John one Negro boy named Jabral. Item I give and bequeath unto my Daughter Selah Watts one Negro boy named Macland, one Negro girl named Cate. I give and bequeath unto my son Thomas a Negro boy named Adason. Item – I give and bequeath unto my son Vinson one Negro boy named Lunda. Item – I give and bequeath unto my son Josiah one Negro girl named Dolla. Item – I now give and bequeath unto my Beloved wife Hannah Russ Watts During the Term of her natural life the following Negroes to wit – Colche, Will, Witch, Winey, Press, Barbara, Sarah, and Patt…and after her Death it is my will that what is left to my wife with the increase shall be equally Divided Between my children which are her after named to wit Charles Watts, Jeremiah Watts, John Watts, Thomas Watts, Vinson Watts and Josiah Watts.”


Ratcliff Boon, Jr., 1795, Isle of Wight County, Virginia
(My 7th great-grandfather, maternal father’s line)

“Item, I Will and desire is that all my Negroes viz: Learner, Kate, Fillice and her increase should be sold and divided between my two children, Jesse Boon and Selah Bradshaw.”


Thomas Stark, 1802, Robertson County, Tennessee
(My 6th great-grandfather, maternal father’s line)

“I give and bequeath to my son Walter Stark…my negro fellow, Ned, which I had from Wm. Haggard which he is to redeem when he pays Two Hundred Fifty One Dollars & Forty Cents being the sum I paid Haggard for said Negro, When Haggard pays the sum aforesaid I give & bequeath it to my son Walter Stark.”


Lewis Pipkin, 1814, Smith County, Tennessee
(My 6th great-grandfather, maternal father’s line)

“FIRST: I leave and bequeath to my beloved Wife Clemency…one Negro Girl named Cherry during her life…and after paying all just debts and the above named Negro girl Cherry after the deceased of my beloved Wife shall be sold and the money received therefore to be equally divided among every of the Legatees together with her increase if any.”


John Bailey, 1823, Nelson County, Virginia
(My 7th great-grandfather, maternal father’s line)

“My will and desire is that all my slaves…be divided into five equal lots, and that my sons John Bailey Jr. , Samuel Bailey, Tershia Bailey, James Bailey, and my daughter Jane Smith be entitled each to one fifth part of the whole, or one lot so laid off and divided it is understood that my beloved wife Francis Bailey have title to and enjoy the whole during her natural life, and it is further my will that my Negro woman Fanny shall have liberty of choosing her master or mistress at valuation and to be accounted for in the allotment aforesaid.”


Jeremiah Stark, 1824, Abbeville County, South Carolina
(My 5th great-grandfather, maternal father’s line)

“I give to my beloved wife Mary Stark one Negro woman named Sarah and one Negro Man named Samson…for and during the term of her natural life, and after her decease I give the above named Sarah to my son Charles Stark. Then I desire that my Executor hereinafter named may sell the above named Samson.”

(The widow, Mary (King) Stark, lived until 1827, when the Jeremiah Stark estate shows distribution of monies from sale of slaves.)


Elisha Bailey, 1841, Adair County, Kentucky
(My 6th great-grandfather, maternal father’s line)

“My two slaves, Majors & Judea, I do manumit and give them their freedom at the death of my wife. It is my wish that the said two slaves may live on the place or make it their home while my daughter Betsy & son Benjamin and they agree and they behave prudently and if they cannot agree they, Majors & Judea, must shift for themselves. “


James Benjamin Stark, 1852, Miller County, Missouri
(My 4th great-grandfather, maternal father’s line)

“It is my will and desire that my slave Lucinda be free, and I do hereby fully freely emancipate and set free the said slave and her increase, as I have already done by deed, and which I do hereby again do, not thereby intending to affect or impair any rights which may be confirmed by the deed of emancipation heretofore made: And it is my request that none of my children shall ever disturb Lucinda in the enjoyment of her freedom and if respect for a father’s memory or his wishes can influence them, I am sure it will not be done. I give to the said Negro Lucinda one horse to be delivered to her at my death, worth not less than thirty-five dollars, and also one cow and calf.”


#ancestry     #genealogy     #slavenameroll

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Categories: Cole-Marriner Line, Spangler-Kenney Line, Taylor-Thomas Line, Watts-Stark Line | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Naming the “Nameless”: Known Slaves in Our Families’ History

  1. Wow! How tenacious you are to find all those wills. Thank you so much for going back through those documents and writing this post. I have added all the names and locations to the Slave Name Roll project page.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Schalene. I hope that my post and your slave name roll will help others in their genealogical research.

      Like

  2. That is quite a list. To read those names leaves me with many questions, some I’m sure they had themselves. Those times were very different, the attitudes and beliefs the slave owners had. Of course slavery was not something new and unique here in America, it was from ancient times, and still is, going on all over the world. I’m glad there is an effort being made to give those named the recognition they deserve. Having been working on genealogy for a long time (over 40 years) there is such a wonderful feeling finding someone who was your ancestor, slave or free, black or white or Asian or whatever. I have helped a couple friends looking for their ancestors and hitting that brick wall when they realize that there may be no information because those ancestors were slaves. I think it’s time we stop being so attached to race and start being more attached to simply being human.

    Like

    • You are so right, Aquila, on all counts!

      Regarding discovering unknown ancestors…no matter what kind of people they might have been, it is still gives me a feeling of completion just learning their names. I really hope that I can help others scale their own genealogical brick walls… the first step is their names.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed your article, and I thank you for helping all who long to find their beginnings.

    Like

  4. Incredible research on this! Very impressive and thorough.

    Liked by 1 person

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