1845 Will of Col. William Bolling (1777-1845), Goochland County, Virginia

Fellow genealogists will understand the pain of trying to find a critical document in order to push genealogical research forward. Colonel William Bolling’s 1845 Last Will and Testament, and the accompanying 1845 Estate Inventory, was a missing crucial document for me.

The need for these documents is simple. In order to further research some of the enslave people (EPs) held by him on Bolling Island and Bolling Hall, I needed to know how he had distributed his EPs amongst his children. Knowing this would give me the best indication possible on where they, or their children and grandchildren, were living by the time of the 1870 US Federal Census. Chances were high that more than a few of these EPs, and their descendants, would be living on Bolling land in 1870. I could also do highly focused research using a myriad of Freedmen Bureau Records (i.e. Bank account records, freedmen marriages, work contracts, lawsuits/complaints, etc).

I searched high and low for William’s last Will. I threw everything at solving this problem – to no avail. Oh sure, I found plenty of references to his 1845 Will in numerous books and databases. However, the actual Will remained elusive. The kind of fear that only a genealogist or historian can feel began to creep in. Perhaps William’s Will had been lost; burned along with so many other Goochland County, Virginia documents…collateral casualties of war.

My last roll of the dice struck paydirt. I posted the following in the Virginia Genealogy Network group on Facebook:

Group member Debbie P-R came up with the goods. His 1845 Will formed part of a Virginia Chancery court case involving the estate settlement of William’s son, William Albert Bolling. This case is accessible via the Virginia Memory website via http://www.lva.virginia.gov/chancery/case_detail.asp?CFN=075-1871-001

I had to laugh. I’d already used the Virginia Memory site, where I had found a Bolling family court case involving Col. William Bolling’s daughter (and William Albert’s sister), Jane Rolfe Bolling-Skipwith’s Estate. Col. William Bolling’s name hadn’t appeared in my Bolling search string results, which explains why I missed it. So many thanks to Debbie for pointing me to this second Bolling family court case.

This Will is a goldmine of EP research! It was absolutely worth the effort in tracking it down. Col. William Bolling’s 1845 Will follows below.
Apologies for not transcribing it in full. Time and current deep research keeps my transcribing time short.

Image 413 from the Virginia Memory Chancery Court case file

EPs cited in the image above:

[Item 3]: I bequeath to my son Thomas Bolling in trust for my son William Albert [Bolling] in absolute property the following slaves, namely Henry, his wife Mary Ann [Whiting], their son Jack, called Jack Nicholas, their daughter Angelina and all their children younger than Angelina, and Elvira…

One of the main puzzle pieces this gave me was a new surname to research: Nicholas. Did any of Henry and Mary’s other use the surname Nicholas? Was this Henry’s surname? Time, and further research, will tell.

This family group currently looks like this in my family tree:

Staying with the same image:

[Item 4]: I bequeath to my son Thomas Bolling in trust for my daughter Mary Bolling [wife of Charles Duncan McIndoe] for and during her life the following slaves, namely William called William Tillar [his surname is difficult to read, so I am trying to confirm it], young Andy, Amey and her brother and sisters, and [the names of the following EPs on the next page of the Will – which you will see if the next image below. For continuity, I’m adding the text from the next page here] and Virginia (the daughter of Billar) with remainder at her death to my son William Albert.

Image 414 from the Virginia Memory Chancery Court case file

[Item 6]: I bequeath to my wife Mary [Randolph] Bolling in absolute property the following slaves, namely Old Polly, her sons Riton and George, and daughters Polly, Bellar, her daughter Zipphora, Dick my blacksmith [and] his wife Maria [and] their son Robert, and Elsey, and I bequeath to my daughter Jane Rolfe Bolling…absolute property the following slaves, namely my blacksmith Daniel, called Daniel Fleming, his wife Diana, called Diana Britton, and all their children except Levi, given some years ago to my son Thomas, Aggy, called Aggy Skinner, Arianna, Jacob, Matilda, Ellen, John, called John Strong, his wife Becca, and their children, Daniel, called Daniel Orange, his wife Betsey, and their child Virginia.
The rest of the image above deals with land property matters as well as non-EP related matters.

Item 6 provided the proof that I needed that Daniel Fleming was the father of Diana Britton’s children. That was a key proof to find. The other key piece of information confirmed what I also strongly suspected: that Old Polly was Polly the younger’s mother. This information enabled me to update my tree as follows:

Group 1 from the above image:

I am still trawling through Col. William Bolling’s list of EPs to identify the correct Dick, Maria, Robert, and Elsey referred to in the image above.

The next group:

Aggy gained a maiden name – Skinner. Which, if course, begs the question of how she is related to the other Skinners held by Col. William Bolling.

One of Col. William Bolling’s John’s also has a new surname – Strong. I believe I have picked up his trail in Richmond, Virginia in 1870…a location quite a few of Col. William Bolling’s EP s had relocated to by 1870.

The image below covers the dispersal of non-EP related real estate, shares, etc:

Image 415 from the Virginia Memory Chancery Court case file

If there was ever a textbook example of why an enslaver’s probate records are critically important in African American genealogical research…This 1845 Will is it.

I will leave with one last observation. I’m sketching out an article that will examine this in more detail: surnames used by EPs. Like so many other parts of my enslaved ancestry – these EPs knew who they were. They knew which white families they were biologically connected to. Unable to read or write, they claimed their ancestry in the most basic of ways: surnames that did not change from one generation to the next, nor change when they went from one enslaving family to the next. Liking or not liking an enslaving family seems to have had very little bearing on what many of my enslaved ancestors called themselves. Blood ties, however, did.

The pieces of the puzzle are slowly but steadily falling into place with Col. William Bolling’s EPs. And, of course, I can’t wait to make more discoveries about this group of EPs. Every new discovery inches me closer to finding the common ancestors I share with so many of Col. William Bolling’s EPs. Somewhere in the ancestry of a few of these EPs while be a white Randolph, Skipwith, Carey, Rolfe, Carter, Nicholas, and Bolling. At least that’s what DNA is strongly suggesting.

This article follows on from the article Me, Virginia Historical Society’s ‘Unknown No Longer’ website…and a question answered via https://genealogyadventures.wordpress.com/2018/06/11/me-virginia-historical-societys-unknown-no-longer-website-and-a-question-answered/

Advertisements

Me, Virginia Historical Society’s ‘Unknown No Longer’ website…and a question answered

There is a growing wealth of information regarding enslaved people (EPs) in America for genealogists who identify as black, African American, or people of colour. The trick is knowing how to use records such as slave inventories, deeds, slave ensurance policies (yes, some enslavers took out insurance policies on EPs. It was quite the lucrative business for some American insurance companies), and similar slavery-based documents to:

  • Solve mysteries / answer questions;
  • Find missing family members for an enslaved ancestor;
  • Push the story of EP s in your family back further into earlier generations;
  • Retrace an EP’s life journey as s/he was passed from one generation to the next within the same enslaving family; or from one family to another via a sale – which includes movement from one town, county, or state to someplace new; and
  • Triangulate DNA results to see if the enslaving family who held an ancestor in bondage was also a blood relation.

There are more discoveries than these which you can make when working with American chattel slavery records. The above are the ones that immediately spring to mind.

I made an unexpected discovery when working with my enslaving Bolling ancestors in Goochland County, Virginia. While looking at my AncestryDNA cousin matches with the name ‘Bolling’ in their tree, a group of a dozen or so melinated Bollings appeared. Looking at the other surnames in their trees, there were other surnames that were significant in terms of my ancestry. However, at this stage, I was curious to see if there was a shared connection via white Bollings (spoiler alert: there was a connection, but more on that at another time).

In and amongst these dozen or so melinated Bollings with roots in Goochland County, an additional name kept popping out which piqued my curosity: Orange. Now Orange is a name I have never seen in my research. Yet, I matched 9 people – black, white, and mixed – who had Orange as a significant name in their tree; meaning they had a minimum of 10 or more individuals in their respective trees with that surname.

I was on to something. I couldn’t have told you what. I just ‘felt’ it. Sometimes that gut feeling is all a genealogist has to go on. So…it was record hunting time. It was also time to see where the records would take me.

Using critical thinking, I surmised the best place to start was by doing further research on my white enslaving Bollings who lived between 1690 and 1800. This meant tracking every last Will, probate record, slave insurance record, Bolling family court case involving EPs, and slave deed I could find.

I began with a general, open, Google search string “Bolling family +slaves.” I hit paydirt immediately in the form of the Virginia Historical Society’s Unknown No Longer website (https://unknownnolonger.virginiahistory.org).

It immediately led me to this:

It was only when I began to click on some of the individuals that my mouth kind of fell open:

Cousin Col. William Bolling had noted intra-family relations, dates of birth and death (or at the very least, years of birth and death), and new enslaver details. Not for everyone, mind, but he did so for the vast majority of EPs. This is genealogical gold dust for melinated genealogists researching Virginia EPs on their family tree.

I had to stop for a few moments to let a myriad of thoughts and emotions settle. Then…It was time for a game plan. The task ahead was going to be formidable.

Looking at an incredibly long list of names wasn’t going to yield the information I needed. I was catching significant glimpses. However, clicking through so many individuals, it was easily to lose the threads of any insights I was gaining. There was only one thing to do: turn these EPs into a new section of the Genealogy Adventures research tree on Ancestry.

Three days of slow, methodical work turned the above list of names into this:


Once everyone was in the tree, then – and only then – could I begin the task of researching these EPs. It’s worth noting that as I added each individual, and his/her respective family groups, I discovered duplicates. Not duplicate records per se. Different records for the same person, whose name appeared more than once in that long list of names. For instance, while it appears there were numerous Sukeys, it looks as though there were only 3 or 4 of them. I suspect these women were also related: mother, daughter, granddaughter, and neice.

Working with records in this manner also revealed naming patterns within the different EP family groups – a simple clue that’s oftentimes overlooked in genealogical research (S01 E06 Genealogy Adventures Live: Ancestral Naming Conventions & Smashing Genealogy Brick Walls (Video)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9YLRoMAnd0&feature=youtu.be)

After 3 days of inputting these EPs in my tree, I was itching to get to work researching the different family groups. To-date, I have traced one-third of the EPs  listed in the first image set above down to the 1940 U.S. Federal Census. This gives me something that looks like:

The image below continues on from the Nellie (Nelly) above:

This isn’t to say Nelly is biologically connected to Col. William Bolling. In our research tree, William is given the relationship status of “foster parent”. Ancestry doesn’t give the option of ‘enslaver’, so this is the best we can do to add EPs enslaved by him without making a biological connection to him. 

After all of that work, did I answer my initial research question? Do I know how I connect to the Orange family members enslaved by William Bolling and his father? 

Yes!

It turns out that an Orange listed among William’s EPs married an enslaved mulatto Bolling who was enslaved on the same plantation: “Yellow Sukey” to be precise. Well, to be even more precise, “Yellow Sukey Bolling.” Sukey, it appears, was most likely William Bolling’s half-sister. Which makes her my 3rd cousin. Which is on par with my new shared Orange family DNA matches. 

One thing that has made it fairly straightforward to research some of these EP family groups. That would be location, location, and location. There were two main residential hot spots for these EPs in Goochland: Licking Hole and Byrd. Dover township also comes into play…but nowhere near as often as Licking Hole and Byrd townships. Narrowing a field of focus down to a town level makes this kind of research a relatively easier process. I was finding the EPs, or their descendants, in the 1870 Federal Census exactly where I expected to: in Bolling family land. By 1880, quite a few of the families formerly enslaved by William Bolling had moved to Richmond, Virginia. Not only that, they were living in close proximity to one another in the Richmond of 1880. Again, knowing where enslaved family groups collectively moved to makes it an easier process to find other EP family groups who were enslaved on the same farm or plantation. 

I discovered more than this, however.

I was able to link some of the oldest of William’s EPs back to his father…where I found a mix of their parents and/or some of their siblings.

While researching some of the other EPs  in that staggering list, certain surnames jumped out at me:

  • Archer
  • Britton/Brittain
  • Burwell
  • Carter
  • Dandridge
  • Eppes 
  • Page
  • Skipwith 
  • Spencer
  • Spotswood

These names are significant in my white enslaver history. They are all kin on the white side of my ancestry. Not that it surprises me to see EPs, or descendants of EPs, with these surnames. The Bollings married into most, if not all, of these families; who already had a century or more worth of complex family inter-relations (yep, endogamy!). Given the movement of dowry EPs (EPs a woman brought with her when she married), and relocation via inheritence, if any were mulattos and relations to their enslavers, they brought the DNA from the above listed families into the Bolling gene pool. They had children with the Bolling EPs, some of whom were William’s kin. It will take a while to prove this theory. In all honesty, I’m still working on researching William’s EPs  from that Unknown No Longer list before I cycle off to trace this history of the EPs who weren’t biologically Bollings.are

I already known two surnames are key to unlocking the connection between the EPs I have cited in that bullet list of names: my white Carter and Randolph ancestors. They are the common denominator that links every single surname in this article.

For now? I’m just appreciating accomplishing my initial research goal.

GA Live S01 E07: Critical Thinking & Genealogy Research

Genealogical research is filled with mysteries, conundrums, conflicting information, and dubious claims…which needs solving in some way shape or form to reach a resolution and the truth. Critical thinking is an essential tool/skill every serious genealogist and family historian ought to use in the course of his or her research.

So what is critical thinking?

Criticalthinking.org says that critical thinking is:

“…that mode of thinking — about any subject, content, or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it [thinking about how you think]. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It entails effective communication and problem-solving abilities, as well as a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism [not making everything about us or our viewpoint] and sociocentrism [a tendency to assume the superiority or rightness of one’s own social group].”

A well-cultivated critical thinker:

  • Raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely;
  • Gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively;
  • Comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
  • Thinks openmindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as needs be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and
  • Communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems

Join Donya and Brian as they chat about how critical thinking is embedded in their genealogical research…And the amazing successes they’ve had piecing lost branches of their family via this essential skill.

Join Genealogy Adventures Live every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month @ 4pm EST via https://www.facebook.com/genealogyadventuresusa

Genealogy Adventures Live S01 E07: Critical Thinking (Sunday, 3 June 2018 @4pm EST)

Genealogical research is filled with mysteries, conundrums, conflicting information, and dubious claims…which needs solving in some way shape or form to reach a resolution and the truth. Critical thinking is an essential tool/skill every serious genealogist and family historian ought to use in the course of his or her research.

So what is critical thinking?

Criticalthinking.org says that critical thinking is:

“…that mode of thinking — about any subject, content, or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it [thinking about how you think]. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It entails effective communication and problem-solving abilities, as well as a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism [not making everything about us or our viewpoint] and sociocentrism [a tendency to assume the superiority or rightness of one’s own social group].”

A well-cultivated critical thinker:

  • Raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely
  • Gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively
  • Comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards
  • Thinks openmindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as needs be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences
  • Communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems

Join Donya and Brian as they chat about how critical thinking is embedded in their genealogical research…And the amazing successes they’ve had piecing lost branches of their family via this essential skill.

I have already written about how important critical thinking is in genealogical research. Its a good article to read before the show:

Critical Thinking: An important skill in genealogy research: https://genealogyadventures.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/critical-thinking-an-important-skill-in-genealogy-research/

See you Sunday, 3 Jun 2018 at 4pm EST for Genealogy Adventures Live!

Show url: https://www.facebook.com/genealogyadventuresusa

GA Live S01 E06: Ancestral Naming Conventions & Smashing Genealogy Brick Walls

There are times when we only have an ancestor’s name to work with in the coyrse of our family research; especially if your ancestral history is filled with one name ancestors (e.g. enslaved ancestors).

Understanding your family’s naming conventions – among your different ancestral lines – can give you major clues to work with when it comes to pushing your family’s story back further.

For enslaved African-descended people in America, who were forbidden from reading and writing, the names they chose for their children were ladden with their family’s history…and clues you can work with.

Have you ever wondered how a person got their name? How about why there are so many Augustus, Carrie, Janie, and Alphonso in one family? With women in particular, if you only have a first name to go by, her first name can be a vital clue to her family connection.

Join Genealogy Adventures Live every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month @ 4pm EST via https://www.facebook.com/genealogyadventuresusa

Genealogy Adventures’s Youtube channel wins “YouTube Top 25 Channel” Award

Genealogy Youtube Channels

Feedspot (https://wwe.feedspot.com), is one of the best online tech services that enables you to read all of your favorite website updates in one place (and discover new good ones!). Well, they just sent us some love. Yep, they named our YouTube channel as ‘one of the Top 25 genealogy YouTube channels to watch in 2018’.

A big thank you to all of you who have supported us through the years. You made this award possible in a very real and tangible way.

You can see the other 24 YouTube genealogy channels who also won this award by surfing off to:

https://blog.feedspot.coml/genealogy_youtube_channels

GA Live S01 E05: Endogamy: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Donya and Brian’s family research broke Ancestry! The reason why has everything to do with endogamy. When your great-grandparents are second cousins, their parents were first cousins, and when your 3x great-grandparents are also second cousins… Ancestry just can’t handle it. It’s not just a hot mess, it is a red hot mess!

Endogamy not only affects your paper trail research, it also heavily affects your DNA research.

GA Live S01 E04: First contact with DNA cousins of a different race/ethnicity

So you’ve taken a DNA test….and discovered you have cousins who don’t look like you or pray like you. This shouldn’t be seen as the end of the world. Nor should it feel like the worst thing to happen to you in the entirety of your life.

It’s an opportunity.

When it comes to Americans, it’s an opportunity to cross the rubicon and actually reach out to people you may not ordinarily speak to. As well as an opportunity to learn more about your family’s journey and history.

Here at Genealogy Adventures, we have tales about the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to first contact with folks who do not look like us.

There are no etiquette guides for this tricky subject. Where’s Ms. Manners when you need her However, in this episode, Brian Sheffey and Donya Papoose Williams will share their thoughts and advice…especially where the unexpected family connection comes via slavery.

LINKS

Beyond Kin Project Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/beyondkin

Beyond Kin Project Website:
https://beyondkin.org

GA Live S01 E03: Freedmen’s Bureau Work Contracts

Freedmen Bureau records are a critical resource for African American genealogical research. It would have been impossible for the Genealogy Adventures team to reconstruct many of our enslaved family lines without this vital resource. These work contracts have opened door after door of discoveries in our African American research:

LINKS

Freedmen’s Bureau records main page on FamilySearch (FREE): 

https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/African_American_Freedmen%27s_Bureau_Records

 Freedmen’s Bureau Work Contracts main page (FREE): 

https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/United_States,_Freedmen%27s_Bureau_Labor_Contracts,_Indenture_and_Apprenticeship_Records_%28FamilySearch_Historical_Records 

Burrell Yeldell’s work contract:

https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9ZG-Y3KL?cc=2127881&i=526

Martha Brooks’ contract:

https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-89ZG-Y9CX?cc=2127881&i=170

The Sheila Hightower-Allen DNA Memorial Fund:

https://www.youcaring.com/forfamiliestobetestedtofurthergenealogicalresearch-1087919

To submit your raw DNA file for Howard University to triangulate (part of the Sheila Hightower foundation’s DNA project), please email it to: 

dnamemorialfund (at) gmail (dot) com 

PLEASE NOTE: Please read the information provided on the The Sheila Hightower-Allen DNA Memorial Fund for eligibility

GA Live: S01 E02: Working with your DNA test results

In our second episode, co-hosts (and cousins!) Brian Sheffey and Donya Williams talk about:

* The difference between mtDNA, YDNA, and autosomal DNA;

* General ways you can work with the different types of DNA;

* What they learned about themselves through DNA testing;

* How DNA results and paper trail genealogy work together; and

* Some easy ways to start working on your 3rd and 4th cousin matches to figure out who your common ancestors were.

In the next show (Sunday, 8 April 2018 @ 4pm EST), Donya and Brian will discuss Freedmen’s Bureau work contacts…and the discoveries you can make using them. See you then!

Live Broadcast Link:
https://m.facebook.com/genealogyadven…