Friday, March 12, 2010

Restore My Name – Slave Records and Genealogy Research

This is my first "Friend of Friends" Friday post and also my submission for the First Carnival of African-American Genealogy (CoAAG).

I wish I could say that I am going to be providing names of slaves in this first post, but unfortunately I have not yet located any. As I progress with my research on my 19th-century ancestors and move backward in time, that will change. One of my first research goals is to find the names of the slaves of the two families at the great-great grandparent level that I am positive to fairly sure owned slaves: the Brinlees and the Floyds.

Today’s posts will cover what I know about the slaves of Hiram Brinlee. Unfortunately, that is not very much. At this point I do not know any more than can be found out from the Slave Schedules for the 1860 US Census.

Hiram Brinley, Precinct 2, Collin, Texas



This is no more than someone could find from looking this up on Ancestry, but for me it is a starting point. I cannot find any record for Brinlee slaves on the 1850 census, so I am guessing that I should started looking at whatever Collin County records I can find for the 1850-1860 time period.

To address the points for discussion proposed by Luckie:

- What responsibilities are involved on the part of the researcher when locating names of slaves on a record?


For us GeneaBloggers, that means as soon as we can get the document transcribed, it should go onto the blog. I have created a Black History Page on this blog with links to all relevant articles.

After that, there are a few other places where the information can be posted; some that I can think of are:

- The relevant surname and location-based forums on websites such as GenForum and the Rootsweb/Ancestry message boards

- The Afrigeneas Slave Data Collection (

- Websites for African-American genealogy societies and the relevant local genealogy societies, GenWeb pages

Any other suggestions to add to this list?

- Does it matter if the records are related to your ancestral line or not?

Nope. As a matter of fact, a lot of my research on my South Carolina families involves nosing around in various land records and wills that can be found on the Greenville County Government Historical Records and South Carolina Department of Archives and History websites to find out if certain families that have associations with my families are actually related. Sometimes I transcribe these documents for future reference, and when they contain slave names, they can be posted.

- As a descendant of slave owners, have you ever been pressured by family not to discuss or post about records containing slave names?

No. Oddly enough, the fact that I am aware that some of my ancestors were slave owners has come down in family stories and a family history done by a second cousin (and for the family in question, I still have not found any actual records of slave ownership, yet). Family members have been aware that both of these sets of ancestors had “feet of clay” – the Brinlee brothers were tried for murder during the Republic of Texas days, and the Floyds had a fondness for reckless land speculation.

And one aspect that I would like to add:

Advantages of researching the slaves owned by my ancestors:

- The whole principle of Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness applies – help one another out when we can, and while someone may benefit from your assistance today, the person benefiting from assistance tomorrow may be you.

- The benefits that generally follow from doing “cluster genealogy” apply, that is, learning more about your own ancestors and their lives. And you really never know what you are going to turn up by studying the people close to your ancestors. I can see a parallel with the time that I was so curious about why a great-great uncle and his wife were shown on two censuses as boarders with another family, and the uncle was then shown as the head of that household on a third census. Contacting a descendant of that other family led to my discovery that my great-great uncle was not just a real estate agent, as the census indicated – he had been Sheriff of Dallas County! If your ancestors owned slaves and you know nothing of those slaves, you do not know all there is to know about those ancestors.

Thanks to Luckie of Our Georgia Roots for hosting the Carnival of African-American Genealogy!

(If all goes as planned, my next “Friend of Friends” post should be on the Floyd family – what information has been passed down on Floyd family slaves and some clues from the 1870 census.)


  1. Greta thank you for supporting CoAAG & for demonstrating your commitment to being a Friend of Friends!

    I'm looking forward to reading about what you discover & appreciate your highlighting community resources available to researchers wishing to share information.

    Great work!:-)


  2. Luckie - I am so glad to do this because I hate the idea of someone being shut off from finding their ancestors, and I think this is definitely an integral part of my own research as well. And, as I was looking at the website of my local gen society - the Fairfax Genealogical Society - I saw that in May Char McCargo Bah is going to be the featured speaker, on "Locating Slave Owners - It Is in the Details." I'll post the information on this this week, and in May - I am so going to be there.

  3. I was looking on and the 10 year female is actually a 10/12 month old female Black.