BCG Offers Free Webinar: “Analyzing Probate Records of Slaveholders to Identify Enslaved Ancestors” by LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson, JD, LLM, CG

BCG OFFERS FREE WEBINAR Tuesday, 15 August, 8:00 p.m. Eastern
“Analyzing Probate Records of Slaveholders to Identify Enslaved Ancestors”
by LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson, JD, LLM, CG

This webinar will provide an overview of the probate process, the genealogical information that can be found in a slaveholding estate, and related records that a probate proceeding may point to.

LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson, JD, LLM, CG. Board-certified since 2015, LaBrenda focuses on African American families with roots in the South. She was elected as a trustee of the Board for Certification of Genealogists in 2016 and is a frequent speaker at national and local venues. She earned a BA in government from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, and both a Law degree and a Master of Laws degree from New York University School of Law. LaBrenda took first place in the category for published authors in the 2013 International Society of Family History Writers and Editors “Excellence-in-Writing Competition” and has also been published in the BCG blog as well the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. While practicing law she authored several editions of her family history as well as two church histories, and in 2016 she published a guide and selected finding aids for researching African Americans in South Carolina.

“We are pleased to offer these educational opportunities to the community,” says President Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG. “The Board for Certification of Genealogists strives to foster public confidence in genealogy by promoting an attainable, uniform standard of competence and ethics. Educating all family historians of every level is part of this mission.”

Register for “Analyzing Probate Records of Slaveholders to Identify Enslaved Ancestors” by LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson, JD, LLM, CG before 15 August 2017. BCG receives a commission if you register by clicking our affiliate link: http://legacy.familytreewebinars.com/?aid=2619.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. For more information contact: office@BCGcertification.org.

View BCG’s past Legacy webinars using our affiliate link at http://legacy.familytreewebinars.com/?aid=2619 and http://bcgcertification.org/blog/bcg-webinars. Again, BCG receives a commission if you register by clicking and buying via our affiliate link. For more information on educational opportunities, please visit: http://www.BCGcertification.org/certification/educ.html.

Cari A. Taplin, CG
BCG News Release Coordinator

The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.

Coming from OnBoard, January 2017

OnBoard: Newsletter of the Board for Certification of Genealogists is scheduled to publish in January 2017. We’re pleased to offer a preview of some of its content.

OnBoard Jan 2017 masthead

 

“The Role of Background Context in Document Analysis”

Most family historians have found documents that contain puzzling or unexpected information. Document analysis is an essential skill needed for successful genealogical research. Melinda Daffin Henningfield, CG, shows how expanding our research to include background context can help us to meet the first element of the Genealogical Proof Standard and to solve our family mysteries.

“Genealogy Ethics and the Call for Diversity”

Drawing from principles set out in the Genealogist’s Code,[[1]] LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson, JD, LLM, CG, begins a conversation about the call for diversity in the field of genealogy. Her article explores a timely question of crucial importance to genealogy as a profession and to the diverse members of our community.

OnBoard publishes three issues per year. A subscription is included in annual associate fees and is provided to applicants “on the clock.” Subscriptions are also available to the general public for $15.00 per year (currently) through the BCG website, here <http://www.bcgcertification.org/catalog/bcgitems.html>. Issues back to 1995 can also be ordered online, here <http://www.bcgcertification.org/catalog/backordlst.html>.

 

[1] Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry, 2014), Appendix A: The Genealogist’s Code, 45–48.

The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.

BCG Webinars for 2017

The Board for Certification of Genealogists is proud to announce its webinar line-up for 2017. All webinars will be broadcast by Legacy Webinars, and held on the third Tuesday of the month at 8pm Eastern. The webinar schedule is as follows:

– 17 January – Michael Leclerc, CG, “Writing up your Research”
– 21 February – Karen Stanbary, CG, “Weaving DNA Test Results into a
Proof Argument”
– 21 March – Rebecca Koford, CG, “Are You My Grandpa? Men of the Same
Name”
– 18 April – Rick Sayre, CG, CGL, “The Genealogy in Government Documents”
– 16 May – Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, “MAXY DNA: Correlating mt-at-X-Y DNA
with the GPS”
– 20 June – Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, “Beating the Bushes: Using the
GPS to Find Jacob Bush’s Father”
– 18 July – Angela Packer McGhie, CG, “Analyzing Documents Sparks Ideas
for Further Research”
– 15 August – LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson, JD, CG, “Analyzing Probate Records of
Slaveholders to Identify Enslaved Ancestors”
– 19 September – Tom Jones, PhD, CG, CGL,”When Does Newfound Evidence
Overturn a Proved Conclusion?”
– 17 October, David Ouimette, CG, CGL,“Databases, Search Engines, and the
Genealogical Proof Standard”
– 21 November – Malissa Ruffner, JD, CG, “Research in Federal Records:
Some Assembly Required”
– 19 December – Judy Russell, JD, CG, CGL, “The Law and the Reasonably
Exhaustive (Re)Search”

President Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG, says, “The Board for Certification of Genealogists is excited to offer this webinar series that supports our mission to provide education for family historians. These webinars will address genealogy standards for research. By promoting a uniform standard of competence and ethics, the BCG endeavors to foster public confidence in genealogy.”

To register for any of these webinars, please visit our page at Legacy Family Tree Webinars: http://familytreewebinars.com/BCG.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. For more information contact:
office@BCGcertification.org.

View BCG’s past Legacy webinars at http://familytreewebinars.com/BCG and http://BCGcertification.org/blog/bcg-webinars. For more information on BCG’s education opportunities, please visit:
http://www.BCGcertification.org/certification/educ.html.

Cari A. Taplin, CG

The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.

Associates in Action

Associates in Action highlights BCG associates’ news, activities, and accomplishments. Contact Alice Hoyt Veen to include your news in an upcoming post.

Activities & Projects

Judith A. Herbert, CG, has joined the Editorial Board of The Record, the quarterly journal of the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society.

Awards & Achievements

Harold Henderson, CG, has won first place in the Chicago Genealogical Society’s (CGS) writing contest.”One Family’s Nineteenth Century from New York to Chicago to Oregon: Joseph M. and Artamisia Ann (Talcott) Burdick,” will be published in CGS’s quarterly.

The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG®) honored several of its members for their achievements and service to the field of genealogy at its 2016 Professional Management Conference (PMC) in Fort Wayne, Indiana. APG President Billie Stone Fogarty presented the awards:

Yvette Hoitink, CG, APGQ Excellence Award for her September 2015 article “Use Content Marketing to Grow Your Business.”

Melanie D. Holtz, CG, received the Grahame T. Smallwood, Jr., Award of Merit, which honors personal commitment and outstanding service to the APG. Holtz was an APG board member in 2010 and from 2013–2014 and served on APG’s Professional Development Committee for six years. She is a member of the APG North Carolina Chapter. She operates an international research firm that specializes in Italian genealogy, dual citizenship, and probate cases.

Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, was awarded Honorary Lifetime Membership for her contributions to APG and to the field of genealogy.

Eileen M. O’Duill, CG, received the APG Professional Achievement Award. The award, created in 2007, recognizes exceptional professional achievement and ethical behavior with contributions to the field of genealogy. O’Duill, who lives in Ireland, served on the APG Board from 1995–2000 and 2007–2012. She is a genealogist, writer, and lecturer on Irish genealogy topics and is a co-author of Irish Civil Registration—Where Do I Start?

Career News

Darlene Hunter, CG, has been selected to join the full-time staff of the Ruth E. Lloyd Information Center (RELIC), Prince William County Library’s specialized genealogy and local history center, in Manassas, Virginia. As RELIC’s Library Services Technician III, her responsibilities include reference services, maintenance of the collection, and supervision of volunteers.

Publications

Karen Stein Daniel, CG, World War I Era Alien Enemy Registrations for New Mexico, 1918 (New Mexico Genealogical Society, 2016). Karen’s new book extracts and compiles fourteen months of the U. S. Marshal Records held at the Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections, University of New Mexico, in Albuquerque. It is available for purchase through Amazon.com.

LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson, JD, LLM, CG, “Resolving a Modern Genealogical Problem: What was Rainey Nelson’s Birth Name?” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 104 (September 2016):203-13. The article explains how indirect evidence placed in cultural context may support a conclusion where vital records disclosure restrictions hamper solving a modern genealogical problem.

Harold Henderson, CG, “The Family of John S. and Zerviah (Hawkins) Porter of Jefferson County and Points West,” [Part 1 of 3], New York Genealogical and Biographical Record 147 (April 2016): 129-43.

Harold Henderson, CG, “How Much Was $14 Worth in 1824?” Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly 31 (June 2016): 98-99.

 

Associates in Action

Welcome to Associates in Action! This monthly feature highlights BCG associates’ news, activities, and accomplishments. Contact Alice Hoyt Veen to include your news in an upcoming post.

Activities & Projects

Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG, was quoted as the BCG president in the New York Times news article, “A Personal Sort of Time Travel: Ancestry Tourism,” by Amy Zipkin, 29 July 2016.

Catherine Desmarais, CG, with Michael Ramage, CG, taught Fundamentals of Forensic Genealogy at GRIP in June. Catherine will be coordinating The Coaching Lab: Forensic Genealogy from Inquiry to Affidavit at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) in January 2017.

David McDonald, CG, was featured in the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel business news article, “Genealogist digs deep to unearth family roots.”

LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson, CG, JD, LLM, was the featured speaker at the 15 July 2016 Genealogical Institute on Federal Records Alumni Association Banquet. Her topic was “Including African American Genealogy in the American Mosaic.”

LaBrenda will conduct a workshop on 13 August 2016 for the Central Maryland Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc., at the Miller Branch Library in Ellicot City, Maryland, entitled “Analysis of Probate Records and Study of the Probate Process.” She will make two presentations at the 37th Annual National Conference of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc., in Atlanta, Georgia: on 14 October 2016, “A Forum on the Board for Certification of Genealogists”  and on 15 October 2016, “Researching African American Families that Came Out of Slavery: Application of the First Component of the Genealogical Proof Standard.”

Melanie D. Holtz, CG, coordinated and taught a course at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) in July. Resources and Strategies for Researching Your Italian Ancestors included additional course instructors Suzanne Russo Adams, MA, AG, and Paola Manfredi, AG. Melanie has also completed work on a four-year family history book for the surname Mattei.

Awards & Achievements

Amy Larner Giroux, PhD, CG, CGL. Congratulations to Amy and her team on their second place tie in the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Chronicling America Data Challenge. Amy’s team developed Historical Agricultural News, a search tool site for exploring information on the farming organizations, technologies, and practices of America’s past. The site describes farming as the window into communities, social and technological change, and concepts like progress, development, and modernity. http://www.neh.gov/news/press-release/2016-07-25

Career News

Dawne Slater, CG. Ancestry ProGenealogists has promoted Dawne from Associate Genealogist to Genealogist Researcher. The new position reflects her years of experience in the field and acknowledges the work she has done at Ancestry since joining the firm last fall.

Publications

LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson, CG, JD, LLM, A Guide to Researching African American Ancestors in Laurens, South Carolina, and Selected Finding Aids (Bloomington, IN: Xlibris Pub., 2016). LaBrenda’s book is both a locality guide, with tips on where to look for sources, and a “how to” manual for those who have not mastered genealogical methodologies. It provides background information applicable to all South Carolina counties and includes references to “modern” finding aids and websites. She offers practical advice and research strategies based on her experience and formal studies. LaBrenda will discuss her new book on the blogtalk radio program Research at the National Archives and Beyond, http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bernicebennett, 25 August 2016. The book is available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and Xlibris.

Researching African American Families that Came out of Slavery

SpringBoard is pleased to present the first in an occasional series of posts about diverse communities. Aimed at intermediate to advanced researchers, the posts will offer tips to those who are new to researching various racial, ethnic, and religious groups. Here LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson, CG, offers guidelines on African American research.

Diverse Communities: Researching African American Families that Came out of Slavery

Researchers of African American families with slave ancestry face a significant challenge because antebellum records reflect the status of those ancestors as human chattel. Records rarely identified slaves by surnames and in some cases failed to record given names. The force of law also guaranteed that few slaves had the ability to record their own histories. Nevertheless, before and after slavery, sources were created that document the lives of the enslaved. What follows are descriptions of these sources, brief discussions of their value to researchers, and tips on how to access them.

First Steps

Family lore is always a good starting point and often provides the most important clues about the origins of slave ancestors. Most slave states did not fully implement statewide registration of births and deaths until the first two decades of the twentieth century. The 1870 U.S. census, the first to enumerate all former slaves by name, is a principal resource for locating a formerly enslaved ancestor in the postbellum era.

A Name for the Research Subject

The surname used by an ancestor in the 1870 census may point to the identity of former slave owners. Documents created by or about them often provide genealogical information about enslaved African American families. For example, names and relationships among slaves might appear in deeds of gift or sale, mortgages, or probate files.

Not all slaves used the name of the last slave owner. A small child who was separated from his extended slave family might use the last owner’s surname after slavery, but if he was old enough to remember his origins, he might reclaim the surname of an earlier owner. Other freedmen took the surnames of slave owners who held their remote ancestors. The surname used by a family in the 1870 U.S. census may differ from the name used by the same family in the 1880 U.S. census. Comparing first names may identify the same family in a household a decade later.

Free Persons of Color: Local and State Records

The majority of African Americans who lived during the antebellum period were enslaved, but some of these ancestors became free persons of color (FPCs) who obtained their freedom during slavery. Records relating to an ancestor’s status as a FPC might be located at the local or state level, depending on how emancipation was effected. A former owner’s “deed of manumission” might have been recorded in county record books with real property deeds. Where a slave was freed by the terms of a testator’s will, such evidence would be included in a probate file. The legal requirements for emancipating slaves differed from state to state and in different eras. In South Carolina, for example, legislative action was required to free a slave after 1820 and so would have been noted in legislative papers.[1]

After emancipation, FPCs may have generated the same types of records as everyone else, such as tax lists and city directories. In addition, certain states and counties maintained registers of free Negros, some of which are online.[2] A FPC should also appear in pre-1870 census records, as FPCs were enumerated in the U.S. census beginning in 1790.[3]

Federal Records

Many Federal records relating to formerly enslaved African Americans not only predate the 1870 census but also include more biographical information.

The War Department’s General Order 143 established the U.S. Bureau of Colored Troops in 1863, pursuant to which African Americans were recruited without regard to their status as free men or former slaves. Compiled military service records, pension applications, and Civil War service payments also provide information about the lives of former slaves.[4]  Widows’ pension records are being digitized slowly, and a small percentage can be accessed online.[5] Most are textual records, so the file must be ordered from or viewed at the NARA in Washington, D.C.

The Field Office records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (“Freedmen’s Bureau”) cover the period 1865–1872 and contain extensive documentation of African American lives immediately after the Civil War era. This collection includes labor contracts—overseen by the Freedmen’s Bureau—between former owners and freedmen and women and other records containing names and personal information about former slaves. The original records, part of NARA Record Group (RG) 105, are not indexed, but an ongoing project is making them searchable online.[6] At present, eighteen of twenty-two record sets can be accessed online free of charge.[7]

The Freedman’s Bank, which operated from 1865–1874, was separate from the Freedmen’s Bureau and created records that are rich in biographical detail. The questions asked when accounts were opened include the names of former owners, parents, and siblings and the last known whereabouts of family members. Thirty-seven branch offices were opened in seventeen states and the District of Columbia. Records of twenty-nine branches of the Freedman’s Bank are available through NARA and online.[8]

An interactive website assists researchers in locating the sites of Freedmen Bureau offices and other institutions such as Freedman’s Bank branches. The website includes sample documents and links to the NARA descriptive pamphlets for the states where the Freedmen’s Bureau operated.[9]

Marriage

It is difficult but not impossible to prove “marital” relationships in slave populations. Slaves could not enter into the legal contract implied by “marriage”;[10] however there may be evidence that a slave couple entered into a committed relationship that predated emancipation. On 30 May 1865, the commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau issued orders regarding the conditions for solemnizing marriages of former slaves and the maintenance of records.[11] State legislatures enacted legislation to validate pre-existing unions.[12] Files of the Freedmen’s Bureau contain hundreds of marriages recorded by field offices in southern states, accessible at NARA and online.[13]

Even during the antebellum period slave owners sometimes recognized relationships by describing a couple as man and wife in a will or other legal document. Evidence of antebellum relationships might appear in Freedmen’s Bureau labor contracts that recorded freedmen and women in family groups.

Fleshing out the Stories

Another source worth consulting is the online collection of “Slave Narratives” compiled by the Works Progress Administration Federal Writers’ Project during the Depression and accessible on the website of the Library of Congress.[14] This collection includes 2,300 typewritten narratives with searchable text and links to 500 photographs of former slaves. The narratives are first-person accounts of life as a slave and often include locations, names of former owners, and information about a former slave’s ancestors and other relatives.

Conclusion

Researching slave ancestors requires both the use of unique record collections and a slightly different focus when using common sources such as probate records and county deed books. The reference books listed below provide additional background and detailed information about these resources.

Recommended Reading

Abrams, Alan. Black and Free, The Free Negro in America, 1830: A Commentary on Carter Woodson’s “Free Negro Heads of Families in the United States in 1830.” Sylvania, Ohio: Doubting Thomas Publishing, 2001.

Burroughs, Tony. “Finding African Americans on the 1870 Census.” Heritage Quest (January/February 2001): 50–56. Online edition. http://www.tonyburroughs.com/uploads/1/3/2/8/13281200/finding_african_americans_on_the_1870_census.pdf : 2015. Guidelines for making an effective search, including ways to tackle the issue of different surnames on different census records for the same family.

Gutman, Herbert G. The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750-1925. New York: Vintage Books, 1976. A seminal study of African American families touching on slave kin networks, domestic arrangements, surnames, and other social and cultural practices.

Higginbotham, A. Leon, Jr. In the Matter of Color, Race, and the American Legal Process: The Colonial Period. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978. An overview of the legal development of the use of race as a badge of servitude.

Morris, Thomas D. Southern Slavery and the Law: 1619-1860. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996. A useful summary of laws that governed various aspects of slavery, such as inheritance of slaves, the status of children born to slave mothers, and emancipations.

Rose, James M., and Alice Eichholz. Black Genesis: A Resource Book for African American Genealogy. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2003. In addition to important dates in African American History, this is a state-by-state guide to resources relevant to slaves and free persons in the antebellum period.

Smith, Franklin Carter, and Emily Anne Croom. A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your African-American Ancestors. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2008.
Washington, Reginald. “The Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company and African American Genealogical Research.” Prologue Magazine (Summer 1997). Online edition. http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1997/summer/freedmans-savings-and-trust.html : 2015.

Woodtor, Dee Palmer. Finding a Place Called Home: A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity. New York: Random House, 1999. For guidance focusing on the Reconstruction Era.


[1] John Belton O’Neall, The Negro Law of South Carolina, (Columbia: John G. Bowman, 1848), 11: “Sec. 37. The Act of 1820, [declared] that no slave should hereafter be emancipated, but by Act of the Legislature.” (https://books.google.com/books?id=r9lBAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover).

[2] See, for example, Virginia and Louisiana registers. Library of Virginia (http://www.lva.virginia.gov), search for “Free Negro register.” Also, a digitization project announced in “Free People of Color in Louisiana: Revealing an Unknown Past,” LSU Libraries (http://www.louisianadigitallibrary.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/p16313coll51).

[4] See, for the compiled military service records, “Soldiers and Sailors Database,” National Park Service (http://www.nps.gov/civilwar/soldiers-and-sailors-database.htm). Also, for pensions, U.S. National Archives, “General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934,” Microfilm Publication T288, online edition (http://www.archives.gov). The pension index is also online at FamilySearch, Ancestry, and Fold3.

[5] “Civil War ‘Widows’ Pension’ Applications,” Fold3.com (https://www.fold3.com/page/3496_civil_war_widows_pension_applications/#story_2684).

[6] The Freedmen’s Bureau Project (http://www.discoverfreedmen.org).

[7] “Historical Record Collections,” FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/list); from NARA microfilm publications M1900–1913. A search for “Freedmen’s Bureau” will generate an alphabetical list by state.

[8] “United States, Freedman’s Bank Records, 1865-1874,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1417695); from NARA microfilm M816.

[9] Toni Carrier and Angela Walton-Raji, Mapping the Freedmen’s Bureau (http://mappingthefreedmensbureau.com).

[10] O’Neall, The Negro Law of South Carolina, 23: “Sec. 37. A slave cannot even legally contract marriage.” The SC statute is typical of the law that applied in the historical slave states.

[11] Reginald Washington, “Sealing the Sacred Bonds of Holy Matrimony: Freedmen’s Bureau Marriage Records,” Prologue Magazine (Spring 2005), (http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2005/spring/freedman-marriage-recs.html): 37, para. 13.

[12]  For example, see “North Carolina General Statutes,” database, North Carolina General Assembly, NCGA (http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/gascripts/Statutes/StatutesTOC.pl?Chapter=0051), Article 1, § 51–5, “Marriages between slaves validated.” Couples were required to register their marriages.

[13] These are in NARA microfilm publication 1865, part of RG 105. See “The Freedmen’s Bureau, 1865–1872,” National Archives (www.archives.gov/research/african-americans/freedmens-bureau/#marriages). Also, “United States, Freedmen’s Bureau Marriages, 1815-1869,” database and images, FamilySearch (http://familysearch.org).

[14] “Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writer’s Project, 1936–1938,” digital images, Library of Congress, American Memory (http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/snhtml/snhome.html).