Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Slave Name Roll Project* : Estate of Joseph Harrison, Jones County, Georgia


"Power of Words" by Antonio Litterio,
via Wikimedia Commons

Some documents are filled with information concerning the names, ages, and family relationships of slaves. Others, such as these few documents related to Joseph Harrison of Jones County, Georgia, provide only limited information. Perhaps the basic information available might prove helpful to others.

In his will signed in 1827, Joseph Harrison of Jones County, Georgia, mentioned only one slave.(1) This slave was a negro girl Eddy. The will stipulated that following his death, Eddy was to be given to Joseph's youngest daughter Mary Harrison.

During 1828 as part of the probate of Joseph's will, an inventory was made of all his goods and property. This inventory included a list of his slaves.(2) The inventory provided only the following information concerning these slaves. 
  • Sam, a boy age 17
  • Harry, age 18
  • Dick, age 20
  • Judah, age 15
  • Ally, age 37
  • Amy, age 9
  • Avelm, age 7
  • Mary, age 5
  • Eady, age 4
  • Eliza, age 2
Sam is the only person identified by sex. There is also no indication as to whether the Eady mentioned in the inventory is the same person named Eddy in Joseph's will.  Probate records did not include any information as to the eventual disposition of these individuals.

Blogger Schalene Dagutis, through her blog Tangled Roots and Trees, developed the Slave Name Roll Project in 2015. This project is a means for listing the names of slaves as individual names are located through our research of wills, probate records, and property records. It gives us the opportunity to provide information so that present day descendants can make a connection to their enslaved ancestors.

(1) Georgia, Probate Records, 1742-1990, Jones County Wills 1809-1864 vol A-D, p 167-168, will of Joseph Harrison; accessed through www.familysearch.org.
(2) Georgia, Probate Records, 1742-1990, Jones County Inventories and Appraisements 1826-1838 vol F-G, p 189-190, estate of Joseph Harrison; accessed through www.familysearch.org.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

June - a Month for Wedding Discoveries, part 2 : Love at the World's Fair



"Visitors to the 1893 World's Fair" credit C D Arnold
source: Wikimedia.org

It was one of those things on my To-Do-List. Find out more about the possible marriage of my Great Grand Aunt Cornelia Anna Andrews. This made my To-Do-List because there was just one reference to a husband on a family tree and one listing in a census record. Her death certificate, however, listed her by her maiden name, no married name, yet indicated that she was a widow at the time of her death. So once again, trying to answer one simple question was to send me down an interesting path.

The family tree of another descendant of this same Andrews family I’m researching had listed Cornelia Anna Andrews as the “possible” wife of Ira Wasson. Sure enough, there was an Ira Wasson and a Cornelia Wasson listed in the 1900 census as residents of St Cloud, Sterns County, Minnesota.(1) The age, birthday (Sept 1856) and birthplace (Pennsylvania) agreed with what I already knew about my Cornelia. The census record also indicated that the couple had been married for 6 years (possible marriage date of 1894) and listed no children residing in the household.

I was not so successful in searching for verification of their marriage through the marriage databases available on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. When all else fails, think like the middle school students I was with for many years, and just Google it. It worked! Searching for “Ira Wasson” and “Cornelia Andrews” lead me to a listing for a newspaper article in The Chicago Tribune titled “Marriage Result of World’s Fair Meeting”. Kudos to the one who wrote that headline! Unfortunately the article was available through Newspaper.com with whom I do not have a subscription. Again, Googling “Chicago Tribune Archives” lead me to a wonderful surprise. The Tribune had recently added FREE access to their online archives so I was able to read the brief but charming article below.(2)


I couldn’t help wondering why this article was in the Tribune and on its front page. After all, Pleasant Lake is a suburb of Minneapolis, over 400 miles from Chicago. Had The Chicago Tribune taken a special interest in yet another World’s Fair related event, small though it might have been? Later, having a date and location, I found their actual marriage record in FamilySearch.(3)  Finally, enough to validate their marriage.

When I read of their connection to the 1893 World’s Fair, I immediately had visions of a period piece movie, filled with the sights and activities so vividly described by Erik Larson in his novel The Devil in the White City. And I really wanted to find a happy ending.

According to various city directories available on Ancestry.com, I learned that Ira Wasson was still living in Stearns County, Minnesota in 1899, moving in 1900 to St Louis, Missouri where he continued to work as a music teacher for some years.

The last official document for Cornelia was her death certificate.(4) This was what had lead to the initial note on my To-Do-List. According to her death record, Cornelia was a widow who has come to Nashville from St Louis 10 days prior to her death, apparently to visit her brother Howard Andrews. Cornelia died at the Andrews family home on 9 May 1904. Her cause of death was listed as ulceration of the stomach and bowels. Had Cornelia been in poor health for some time? Had she decided to come to Nashville to be with family in her last days? Was her death an unexpected event for the family? More questions.

With Cornelia listed as a widow, I wanted to learn a little more about her late husband Ira Wasson. Imagine my surprise to find many indications that Mr. Wasson was very much alive at the time of her death and for years beyond – a FindAGrave memorial, city directory entries, later census records, even another marriage in 1903 (before Cornelia’s death). The rest of Wasson’s story I’ll leave to his descendants to pursue.

Returning to the St Louis city directories, I did not find anything to shed light on Cornelia’s life between 1899 and her death in 1904. I did not find any listing for Cornelia Wasson, Cornelia Andrews, or possible version of her name with initials. However, between 1899 and 1904, there were very few listings for any women in the St Louis directories nor was the name of a wife included with the listing for a man. Presumably there had been a divorce before Wasson’s second marriage in 1903. Perhaps those years brought the beginning of serious health issues for her. Certainly, I had another check mark on my To-Do-List, but it had not led me to the happy ending I had hoped for.

So once again, as we often find in researching our family’s history, answering one question often leads to more questions. After all, we are dealing with real people, real lives, not just names and dates on a tombstone.

(1)  1900 US Federal Census, T623 roll 792, Minnesota, Stearns, St Cloud City, p 150A, Ira Wasson [and family]; accessed on Ancestry.com.
(2)  “Marriage Result of World’s Fair Meeting”, published Chicago Tribune, 7 Aug 1894, p 1; accessed on www.archives.chicagotribune.com.
(3)  “Minnesota, County Marriages, 1860-1949”, citing Stearns County, p 519, record #6521; accessed on www.familysearch.org.
(4)  Tennessee, City Death Records, 1872-1923”, citing Nashville, record for Cornelia Andrews #761, dod 9 May 1904; accessed on www.ancestry.com.
                                                                                             

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Slave Name Roll Project* : Estate of Samuel Slade, Pike County, Georgia



"Power of Words" by Antonio Litterio,
via Wikimedia.org

* Blogger Schalene Dagutis, through her blog Tangled Roots and Trees, developed the Slave Name Roll Project in 2015. This project encourages the listing of the names of slaves as their names are found through our research of wills, probate documents, and property records. It gives us the opportunity to provide this information so that present day descendants can make a connection to their enslaved ancestors.

Over the past year I have been researching wills and probate records as to a means of learning more about my ancestors. I contined to come across information which indicated that some of my southern ancestors had been slave owners. Included in some of the wills and probate records was very specific information about individual slaves - their names, ages, physical descriptions, sometimes even a mention of family relationships. Some wills also specified what was to happen to specific slaves following the ancestor's death. Probate returns sometimes documented the person who purchased a specific slave during the settlement of the estate. 


This type of information from ancestors' legal documents could prove helpful to those exploring their African-American roots. I also realized that posting this type of information is something important to do. Participating in the Slave Name Roll Project has presented the opportunity to share this information, information which might otherwise remain difficult for others to find.

The first will I revisited was that of Samuel Slade of Pike County, Georgia.(1) Samuel's will was signed on 25 June 1858 and filed for probate 6 August 1860. In his will he makes specific mention of the following slaves:

  • Frank, age 11, dark complexion, to be given to Slade's daughter Frances Ann Bankston
  • John, age 13, dark complexion, to be given to Slade's daughter Abi Hall
  • Henry, age 18, yellow complexion, to be given to Slade's son Samuel Slade
  • Lawrence (a woman) to be given to Slade's daughter Abi Hall
  • Susan to be given to Slade's daughter Aletha S Keneday
Later probate records and returns for the administration of Samuel Slade's will contained another list of slaves.(2) These named slaves were Dave, Joe, Susan, Larance, Hester, Willis, Lewis, Mandy, Hannah, Emily, Ned, Clark, Jordan, Elijah, Vilot, and Jane; no age or physical description was given for any of these listed. There was nothing to indicate whether Susan and Larance were the same individuals listed in Samuel's will or if they were other people.

Thank you to blogger True E. Lewis. Her quote expresses a powerful reason for participating in this project.(3)
"It's honorable to do .. You're RELEASING their Names and their Souls for their Descendants to hopefully find them one day. Every time this happens they are REJOICING. They have been in a book or what have you for so long."
1. Georgia, Wills and Probate Records, 1742-1992; Pike County Record of Wills, Book C-D, 1844-1912, p 203-205; accessed on Ancestry.com.
2. Georgia Probate Records, 1742-1990; Pike County Returns and Inventories 1861-1883, vol BA, p 224-225; accessed on FamilySearch.org.
3. Lewis, True E. "A Quote For the Remembered and Released Slaves", 
http://mytrueroots.blogspot.com/2015/08/slave-name-roll-project.html

Friday, June 3, 2016

June - a Month for Wedding Discoveries, part 1


"The Wedding Morning"
by John Henry Frederick Bacon, via Wikimedia Commons

June is still considered to be a traditional month for weddings. It is a time filled with hopes, dreams, family, and the excitement that comes with entering a new stage of life. And for me this week, June has been the time I discovered two interesting marriage records. It was enough to make me do my version of a wedding happy dance.

Over the past few years, I have tried unsuccessfully to find the marriage record of my GreatGrandparents, Peter Petersen Myren and Kari Syversdatter. I have looked at numerous online databases and indices, studied various North Dakota records, all without success. I had even requested snippets of possible records only to discover before I purchased a copy of the record that the records were not for my ancestors. Even all the focus and attention I gave to my Norwegian roots during the Genealogy Do-Over had not been enough to help my find this marriage record.

A recent e-mail from Ancestry.com mentioned a hint pointing to a birth record for a Norwegian relative. The birth record was part of Ancestry's database of church records from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, records covering 1875-1940. In one of those Ah-Ha moments, I realized I had not checked this database of church records for the marriage of my GreatGrandparents. I had only been looking through the civil records of Wisconsin and North Dakota.

It took using several variations and spellings of Peter and Kari's names, but I was eventually rewarded when I found the marriage registration record shown below.


source: Ancestry.com

My notes, shown in color to the left of their entry, indicate that this really is my Peter and Kari's marriage registration. The names of family members agreed with what I knew of Peter and Kari's families, as did Peter's listed residence. The marriage date of 16 December 1880 verified the approximate time period in which I had suspected they were been married. Assuming all along that they had been marred in the Dakota Territory, their Wisconsin marriage showed that I was only about 400 miles off in my geographical calculation.

From that day in 1880, the couple lived together in North Dakota until Peter died in 1923; Kari passed away in 1938. Eight of their nine children grew up on Peter's Dakota homestead; one child died there in his infancy. Today the property is still owned by a family member. I'm so glad I finally find the true beginning of their story.

The marriage information I found for another relative presented a very different story, a story I will share late.

Lessons Learned:

  • Boundaries in the United States were sometimes fluid in the period before an area officially became a state. Names of areas also changed through the years. In your research it pays to look at the counties or even states around the area in which a family lived.
  • I am so appreciative of the record keeping of the Lutheran Church in America. Their records enabled me to find a long missing marriage record. These and similar church records greatly add to the information available to us if we search just through civil records.