Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Slave Records and Genealogy Research

In my research of several of my Southern families, I am privy to a lot of dual lineage information. Much of my research is based on Last Testaments and Wills. When I, in the early 1960s, started sharing this Will information with my family --- my family was appalled. They were very surprised to realize there were slave owners in their ancestry.

This puzzled me because if you came from those states and owned land it was a common practice. My grandmother Etta May Dikes Hayley born in 1905 often talked about her father’s, and grandfather’s slaves of the Dikes. A lot of family folk lore and letters written between siblings and cousins have documented many of these family groups. Of course it is my responsibility, to the best of my ability, to verify and validate this data before sharing these narratives.

Actually it is the Hayley lineage I have the most information to share regarding slave lineage. Even the court records are sometimes vague or inconclusive. “Or just plain tampered with”

I have been waiting for the correct and most respectful way to share data that tells of stories of the past. To this end, I joined a carnival

Restore My Name – Slave Records and Genealogy Research, will kick-off this

African-American Themed Carnival

intended to be a gathering place for the community to share and learn about African-American genealogy.

This first CoAAG theme will deal with how records of slave ownership are handled by the genealogy researcher. Contributors will be asked to write a blog post (at their own blogs) on one or more of the following aspects:

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

The way I have been handling names of slaves in my research is to develop a separate pedigree chart. This chart indicates the movement of the slaves, their siblings and children as ancestors passed away.

Does it matter if the record(s) are related to your ancestral lines or not?

No, my records indicate many court records, and documentation of movement which can track individuals throughout this nation. The nation grew fast, although there were efforts to document, so sharing of this data is very important.

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

Only by myself, my fear is that I do not want to "assume" or speculate about these relationships. I think this research is too important. False leads may cause unnecessary delays and work in this area of identification. I fear for the "bandwagon" effect that may form. Where everyone becomes directly related to Lincoln.

As a descendant of slaves, have you been able to work with or even meet other researchers who are descendants of slave owners?

Have you ever performed a Random Act of Genealogical Kindness involving slave ownership records? Or were you on the receiving end of such kindness?

I have shared with many researchers through class introduction resources for people looking for slave records, ship records, court records. I have not met the correct family to share my specific data.

That is why, this Carnival is very important to me. I want to share these wonderful accounts of family life with descendents of my families "family and friends".

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