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George Henry Roane: the new Freedmen’s Bureau databases on FamilySearch are incredible research tools

UPDATED: 15 July 2015.  Thanks to a distant cousin, whom I’ll refer to as Mia, more information about this story has come to light. Mia spent the day in the Library of Virginia ad made some amazing discoveries.

The digitized Freedmen’s Bureau records just keep throwing up surprise after surprise. Some of these surprises have answered some questions I’ve had over the years – like how some individuals in a locality were related to one another. Other surprise record finds have relayed experiences that were tragic, poignant and, occasionally, humorous. I can’t stress this enough – if you’re an African American researching your southern Emancipation Era ancestors…the Freedmen’s Bureau records and databases are tools you need to familiarize yourself with.

As a quick re-cap, the records held by the Freedmen’s Bureau’s national office – as well as its regional and local offices throughout the American south – were produced from 1865 to 1872. I’ve seen a handful of records pertaining to people who were 100+ years old when they were freed (meaning they were born roughly around 1765) who mention their parents and grand-parents by name. One record like that can push your family’s genealogy and history back to the 1690s and the first decades of the 1700s.

These databases don’t just cover freed slaves, either. They are treasure troves that also have records for blacks who were free men and women during the time of slavery.

I’ve heavily researched the Freedmen’s Bureau’s banking records database. These were the records produced when emancipated blacks opened up bank accounts with the Bureau. In numerous cases, the names of the account holder’s parents, siblings and children appear. This is invaluable information if that ancestor’s family were split up and sold to separate owners throughout the south. This information allowed me to connect tangent lines to my family tree.

I’ve stumbled across a new Freedmen’s database on FamilySearch.org which has offered some stunning finds. The database I’ve discovered is called the Records of the field offices for the state of Virginia, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands: NARA, RG105, M1913, 1865-1872. True, the database I used is specific for Virginia (here’s the link https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1596147). For other southern states, please see the link provided at the bottom of this post.

What can you find?

Lists, ledger entries, notes, reports and letters related to:

  • Rations for freedmen and women who were ill, incapacitated, infirm/crippled and those without employment and incapable of providing for themselves (this is a dark aspect of Emancipation I’ll be covering in my next port)
  • Medical relief to both freedmen and white refugees
  • Supervised labor contracts between planters and freedmen
  • Administered justice involving freedmen
  • Petitions to and work with benevolent societies in the establishment of schools and poor houses
  • The opening of several hospitals for the sick and infirm, schools and places of worship

My 3x great grandfather, George Henry Roane (1796-1876) is going to kick things off.

GEORGE HENRY ROANE vs THE EXECUTORS OF MAJOR EDMUND CHRISTIAN’S ESTATE

Even though he was a recognized member of the aristocratic slave-owning Virginian Roane family, George was sold to Edmund Christian in Henrico County, Virginia – and not his son-in-law, John D Warren, as previously believed. Mia is hoping to find the deed record of George’s sale to Edmund Christian.  Both of us are hoping this will provide the elusive link to the Scotts-Irish Roane who owned him. It will, we hope, shed some light on which Scots-Irish Roane was his father (March 2016 update: we now know that William Henry Harrison Roane was George’s father via 2 DNA tests).

Language around slavery is tricky to use. Americans haven’t had an honest and open discussion about slavery, its ramifications, much less its aftermath. So forgive me if I use terms which may appear inappropriate.

George was thought of very fondly by his second owner, Edmund Christian. In a Codicil of his March 1851 Will, Edmund willed George an annuity of $30 per annum for the remainder of George’s life. 1851 – a decade and a bit before the civil war. In other words, George was still a slave when Edmund left him this annuity in his will. He received the annuity due to the manner in which he had served Edmund. I’ve yet to come across anything remotely like it.

In this will, George’s children are mentioned. I knew of three children: Patrick Henry Roane (my direct ancestor), Anthony Roane and Edmund Roane. Edmund Christian’s will provided three more names: Priscilla, George and Joseph. Mia’s message about the previously unknown children was an exciting piece of information – one I was so happy that she shared with. She shared it with me pretty much as soon as she made the discovery. The will also confirmed the name of George’s wife, Eliza.

You can read a digital copy of Edmund Christian’s will and codicil below (courtesy of cousin Mia) – click the thumbnail to see the larger image.

Upon Edmund’s death, as per the terms of his will, his daughter, Edmonia, became the mistress of George and his family. When Edmonia married John D Warren, the ownership of George and George’s family appears to have transferred to him.

The relationship between John Warren, his wife Edmonia Christian Warren, George and George’s family also appears to have been a close one. Both sides seem to have held the other in high esteem. The relationship was close enough for Patrick Henry Roane, George’s son, to name his only daughter after Edmonia Warren when his daughter was born in 1871.

From what I can gather from the court documents, Edmund Christian Sr’s son William, one of the executors, died insolvent. His son, William Christian Jr, was  left to handle his grandfather Edmund’s estate. George’s payments ceased. Whether George knew this or not is unclear.  He pursued the matter of his legacy through a petition lodged with the Freedmen’s Bureau’s Richmond Field Office.

It’s worth bearing in mind that, although free, those of African descent (including those who had always been free people of color) could not bring a lawsuit against someone of European descent. Not directly. An intermediary was required. The Bureau’s Richmond Office was George’s intermediary.

Here’s one record about the case. It’s the Freedmen’s Bureau record that sparked off this whole journey of discovery about George’s case:

image for George Henry Roane's lawsuit against Christian estate

Freedmen’s Bureau, Richmond Office, correspondence re: George Henry Roane’s suite against the executors of Edmund Christian’s estate. Citation: “Virginia, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FPLQ-RYC : George Ronn, ; citing NARA microfilm publication M1913, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland; FHL microfilm 2414642.

My initial hunch that George won his suit was, in the end, wishful thinking. It transpired that he lost his case. The Codicil, which had bequeathed him the annual annuity, was deemed to be invalid. The documents are a bit hazy about why. It’s interesting that the defense counsel for the Christians didn’t use an insolvency argument.  That would have been the logical, the understandable, route to take. No, not a bit of it.  Instead, the Christian’s counsel went with something almost surreal: that the Codicil and annuity to George were only applicable if George were still a slave. In other words, that the annuity  had been Edmund Christian’s way of a moral reparation to a fondly remembered slave. Now that George was free, there was no longer a moral obligation to carry out the deceased’s wishes.

You can click on the images below (courtesy of Mia) to see the larger image.

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Still, what a prized find! And it all began with the discovery of one digitized record.

I was curious about how much $30 from 1868 would be worth in 2014. The answer? Approximately $750.00. I’ve used a historic standard of living value of income or wealth as a comparison. A Historic Standard of Living measures the purchasing power of an income, or wealth, in its relative ability to purchase a (fixed over time) bundle of goods and services such as food, housing, clothing, etc that an average household would buy. I feel it’s the best economic comparator to use. No matter how you cut it, $30 was a nice chunk of money in 1868.

One hint when searching these databases…use every variation of names you’re aware of. For instance, when researching the Roane side of my family, I got the best results for the whole of the family when I searched on: Roane, Roan, Rone, Rhone, Rowan, Rowen and Rowand.

Here’s a link to other vital Freedmen Bureau databases: https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/African_American_Freedmen%27s_Bureau_Records

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In search of Leonard Wilson Roane (1874 –1912): death in the shipyard

image of Leonard Wilson Roane

Leonard Wilson Roane, circa 1900

I’ve been pretty fortunate tracing Leonard Wilson Roane, my paternal great grandfather’s, life through a rich array of digitized records. His brothers’ and sister’s descendants have also kindly provided snippets of information about his parents and his siblings. I have been blessed in that regard. Until I began this journey, I knew nothing about the Roane side of my father’s family. I’m glad to say that’s not the case any more!

So, I’ve been fortunate to uncover knowledge about my great-grandfather in a wider context. What I have found next to impossible to uncover are the circumstances of how he died.

But first thing first.

Life in Varina, Henrico County, VA

image of the Immediate family tree for Leonard Wilson Roane

Immediate family tree for Leonard Wilson Roane

Leonard was the youngest child born to Patrick Henry Roane, Sr (1833 – 1907) and Susan Price (1832 – 1892). He came from a very close and respected family who lived in in Varina, Henrico County, VA. This respected part was no mean feat considering his parents were freed slaves and his family were ‘coloreds’ living in Virginia in the Jim Crow Era. All the same, his family were respected members of the community.

His family were educated (i.e. could read and write) in a time when, regardless of ethnicity, not everyone was. By all accounts, the family lived up to the ideals the Roane surname instilled in them.

image of 1880 census return for Patrick Henry Roane

Caption: Patrick Henry Roane, Sr’s household in Varina, 1880 (Group 194) with Leonard, aged 6. Patrick’s brothers Anthony and Edmund Roane are living on the same property shared by their Smith, Allen and Waring relations. Citation: Census Year: 1880; Census Place: Varina, Henrico, Virginia; Archive Collection Number: T1132; Roll: 24; Line: 17; Schedule Type: Agriculture.

It’s only when Leonard left the family fold between 1896 and 1899 that he became somewhat tricky to find in the records. This is partly due to there being another Leonard Roane, on the white side of the family, who was born a few days before my great-grandfather – and who died a few days after my great-grandfather (bizarre or what?!).

Tricky though it may have been keeping records for these two men straight, I’ve been able to piece together a fairly straightforward narrative for Leonard.

Leonard’s Adult Life

Leonard married Julia Ella Bates, also a native of Varina, on 1 April 1896. They married in their hometown.

This part of Leonard and Julia’s story ignites my writer’s imagination. Had they been childhood sweethearts?You know, that young couple who had always known one another, grew up together, with a growing fondness for each other and deepening of feeling as they grew older. Did they exchange secret glances every Sunday at church? Did they blush when those looks were noticed by others? Were they teased by their siblings? I mention this because I can’t recall ever hearing stories of – or reading about – romantic accounts for African Americans in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. It’s very rarely broached in television shows or in Hollywood films. It’s just not part of the 19th and early 20th Century African American iconography. To be fair, it’s not an idea or ideal associated to any working class peoples, regardless of ethnicity.  Such sensibilities have more been associated with the wealthy and the elite.

I know, from the descendants of his brothers and sister, that Leonard’s parents had been childhood sweethearts. The marriages of his brothers and sisters indicate the same. I digress..

Not long after Leonard and Julia married, they moved to Newport News, VA. In the 1900 Census, Leonard is shown working at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newport_News_Shipbuilding_and_Dry_Dock_Company as a general laborer. His elder brother, Bacchus Roane, was already employed there, as were a number of their Essex County and King & Queen County Roane cousins.

The image below is a pretty fair representation of a large shipyard in the early 1900s. It certainly was a far cry from Leonard’s rural roots:

image of US shipbuilding yard, circa 1900

US shipbuilding yard, circa 1900

One of Leonard’s brothers, Wyatt Roane,  was a carrier for the Daily Press newspaper in Newport News and and didn’t live all that far from Leonard and Julia. Another brother, Patrick Henry Roane, Jr., was a nearby grocer. Leonard and Julia were pretty much surrounded by both immediate and extended family members. Again, the Roanes were a close-knit bunch.

These Roanes were part of that great early 20th Century migration which saw huge numbers of people trade their rural farming way of life for work in the industrial cities. Just like their cousins who left Virginia behind for cities in the north.

Leonard and Julia set up house at 2312 Jefferson Avenue:

image of 2312 Jefferson Ave  Newport News VA today

Sadly, the original house at 2312 Jefferson Avenue doesn’t exist any longer. The old properties were pulled down and replaced with a condominium community.

This would remain their home for the next decade. This is one of the great befits of using City Directories in your research. Here’s one of many that I’ve found for the period of 1902 – 1911 which shows Leonard and his Roane relations in Newport News:

Image of the Roane family in Newport News, VA in 1903 via City Directory

Roane family in Newport News, VA in 1903. Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

Directories like the above, when matched to census records, can be a great help in family research and genealogy – especially when there are popular names used within a family over many generations.

My grandmother, Susan Julia Roane, arrived in 1896. She was followed by her sister Ella Bates Roane in 1899.

image of 1900 Census return for Leonard Roane's houshold

Leonard’s name misspelled and given as Lemuel on the 1900 Census. Citation: Year: 1900; Census Place: Newport News Ward 2, Newport News City, Virginia; Roll: 1735; Page: 29A; Enumeration District: 0077; FHL microfilm: 1241735.

Julia Bates Roane passed on 16 December 1901. I haven’t located a death certificate to learn the cause of her untimely death at the age of 25. Given the family dynamic of the Roanes, I am certain that Leonard and his young daughters had plenty of support from their surrounding family members.

In 1906, Leonard married Abigail “Abbie” Smith of Varina, VA. I can almost image the family conversation: ‘You need a wife and your daughters need a mother. You remember little Abbie Smith, Pleasant’s daughter? Well, …’ The 1880 Agricultural census shows Abbie and her family lived next door to Julia’s family. Talk about a small world!

Image for 1880 census return showing Ella Bates householed

Ella [maiden name unknown] Bates’s household in 1880. Citation: Census Year: 1880; Census Place: Varina, Henrico, Virginia; Archive Collection Number: T1132; Roll: 24; Page: 36; Line: 29; Schedule Type: Agriculture.

Taking another look at the 1880 Census for Leonard’s family, Abbie Smith may have also been a Roane family relation. In other words, Leonard and his family had known Abbie for years.

There were two accounts, one by my grandmother and another by my great aunt Ella, that the relationship between them and their step-mother were strained and far from cordial.

image for Leonard Roane's household on the 1910 Census.

Leonard Roane’s household on the 1910 Census. Citation: Year: 1910; Census Place: Newport News Ward 2, Newport News (Independent City), Virginia; Roll: T624_1637; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 0081; FHL microfilm: 1375650.

Leonard made advancements at the shipyard where he became an outdoor ship machinist at some point around 1908. I was a bit curious about what, exactly, this entailed. While it required skill and acumen, it was also dirty, sweaty and very dangerous work. If you’re interested in such things, here’s a training manual I found online: http://hnsa.org/doc/machinist/index.htm . While the manual is dated 1942, I can’t imagine the trade had changed much from Leonard’s day. Reading through it was a great way to connect with my great grandfather.

image for Leonard Roane's burial

On or about 20 December 1912, Leonard died. This would have a profound effect on his two daughters.

Whether she was incapable of looking after her step-daughters, or simply didn’t want to, my grandmother and her sister were split up. My grandmother, it would seem, went into service with a prominent white family in Richmond, VA at the age of 14. Her sister Ella, aged 11, was sent to Henrico County to live with Roane relations. Evidence would suggest Ella grew up in Harrison. Five years later, Ella married into the Christian family of Harrison, Charles County, VA.

Abbie would go on to marry widower Richard Lacy, a Harrison town resident, on 15 April 1917. They married in Harrison and that is where she seems to have remained. Yes, this is the same town where her former step-daughter Ella Roane, who by this time had married Thomas Matthew Christian, also lived. I can only imagine that must have been awkward for both. It was (and remains) a small place. They were bound to have seen one another more regularly than not when in public.

Search for a death record & accident report

Naturally, I’ve asked my father how his grandfather died. All he could say is that it was a shipyard accident. It was something his mother just couldn’t bring herself to talk about.

So I decided to do some sleuthing. Three years later and I have zilch. I’ve thrown everything I could think of at solving this one and have come up empty handed. But I can tell you just about everything about how the other Leonard Roane died. Family research does that sometimes.

I’ve put Ancestry.com and FamilySearch through their paces using all manner of esoteric search tricks….and nothing.

I’ve searched using every online news archive service available…and nothing. I figured a shipyard death would get at least a few lines in the local press. And then, when I thought about how many men died at shipyards at the turn of the 20th Century, I did feel kind of naïve.

I’ve used every combination of:  his name (including variations) + machinist death(s) + shipyard death(s), December 1912 +Newport news + Virginia + Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company that you could think of…and nothing.

Google Books…nothing.

And nothing on the online vital records service sites.

So I’ve had two last rolls of the dice. Both of them longshots. I’ve emailed the Clerks Office in Newport News enquiring if his death certificate exists, and, if does, how to obtain a copy. This is the most likely of the two options to return a result.

As a backup, I’ve emailed the Newport News Shipyard enquiring whether there is an accident report and/or company account of Leonard’s death. OK, so the likelihood that 1) a report/enquiry was done, and 2) that a 102 account or record still exists in the company archive is remote. Very remote. But I’m a big believer in ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’.

So we’ll see if either of these avenues provides any answers.

This information vacuum is all the more interesting in light of the obituaries for his brothers, which follow below. Again, it’s worth bearing in mind that obituaries for African Americans at this time were rare:

Patrick Henry Roane, Jr

image of Patrick Henry Roane Jr obituary

7 February 1907 obituary for Patrick Henry Roane, Jr.in the Daily Press. Courtesy of The Library of Virginia http://www.virginiachronicle.com Original available via http://virginiachronicle.com/cgi-bin/virginia?a=d&d=DP19070215.1.3&srpos=1&e=——190-en-20-DP-1–txt-IN-roane—-1907

Wyatt Roane

image for Wyatt Roane's obituary

22 March 1907 obituary in the Daily Press. Courtesy of The Library of Virginia @ http://virginiachronicle.com Original available via http://virginiachronicle.com/cgi-bin/virginia?a=d&d=DP19070322.1.3&e=——-en-20–1–txt-IN—–

Josephine Roane (sister-in-law, wife of Bacchus Roane)

image for Josephine Roane's obituary18 February 1909 obituary for Josephine Roane in the Daily Press. Courtesy of The Library of Virginia @ http://virginiachronicle.com Original available via http://virginiachronicle.com/cgi-bin/virginia?a=d&d=DP19090218.1.3&e=——190-en-20–1–txt-IN-josephine+roane—-#

In closing, I can’t help but note that Leonard, Wyatt and Patrick, Jr. all died tragically premature deaths. Leonard was dead at 38, Patrick at 44 and Wyatt at 38. Bacchus was 50 when he died – by Roane standards that was still quite young. Like their relations in Baltimore and Philadelphia, Leonard and his brothers life expectancy was cut by a third when compared to other male Roane relations who remained in the countryside.

However, to leave on a positive note, the obituaries above illustrate just how well thought of my Roane ancestors were.

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Digging deeper with Census Records: Part 2

Scanning the Census Records: The Roanes of Essex County, VA (1870)

So picking up where I left off regarding George Henry Roane and his origins in Virginia…

The slave owning Roane’s tended to keep their African-American family members close to them. While we don’t know how George Henry Roane is related to the white Roane family, he is cited as a ‘colored family member’ in their family bible. So it seems odd that he and his sons should be sold away from both the black and white Roane family. I’ve tried researching the assumption that John Warren, the man he was sold to, was related to the Roanes, perhaps through marriage. This has yet to be proven.

Putting the reasons of why he sold to John Warren to one side, where did George Henry Roane come from? The best starting point was to search for his siblings in the 1870 Census records for Virginia. To make an educated determination there were a few criteria than any county would have to match. It would need to cite the names of George Henry Roane’s siblings: Absalom, Mary, Braxton, Baylor and Charles – or have their descendants residing there. It would also more than likely have Richard Roane living there too – or his descendants if he had died.

It’s come to be accepted that my great-great-great grandfather George was born in Williamsburg, Virginia. His death certificate seems to confirms this. A scan of Williamsburg in the 1870 census didn’t show any of the names I was searching for that are associated with him. Indeed, there were only a handful of African-American Roanes living in Williamsburg in 1870.

So if his adoptive Varina, Henrico county, VA couldn’t provide clues about his missing family, and his birthplace of Williamsburg, VA couldn’t provide any clues – I’d have to check other Roane family strongholds in Virginia to find them.

I believe I have found his lost siblings in Essex County, VA.

The Essex census return for 1870 follows below:


Line 235 shows an Absalom Roane. A Baylor Roane appears in Line 268 with a Mary Roane residing in the same household (given their respective dates of birth, I believe this is a nephew and aunt). A Charles Roane appears in Line 290. Thusfar, only Braxton hasn’t been located. Given their proximity to one another, there is definite a close family relation between Absalom, Baylor, Charles and Mary. Dates of birth may provide some basic clues about the exact nature of those relationships.

Bearing in mind that George Henry Roane was born around 1805, Absalom, Baylor and Charles could either be George’s (much) younger brothers or his nephews. I’m hedging a bet that they are George’s nephews – each one named for a father who was George Henry Roane’s brother. In other words, Absalom, Baylor and Charles were cousins. Mary, born in 1815, would be George’s sister.

This census return is the only census return in 1870 Virginia that has the names Absalom, Charles, Baylor and Mary not only living in the same county…but quite close to one another. The same census also cites Richard A Roane’s children. While not definitive proof, the evidence is pretty compelling that this is the county George Henry Roane left behind when he was sold to John D Warren in Varino, Henrico County, VA…who literally lived on the other side of the state.

However, I’m not quite finished with this census return just yet. This census return raises as many questions as it potentially answers. More about that in my next post…

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Digging deeper with Census Records: Part 1

Regardless of your race, if your ancestors arrived in the US and settled in a rural region before the 1900s, census records can give you new leads in researching tangent branches of your family. Why’s that? Rural areas of the pre-industrialised US were distinct communities. In some instances, they were isolated from other areas and regions. People tended to marry others from within the same community or from neighbouring communities.

A community, usually composed of a network of relations through marriage or shared experience, was a vital support system. On the whole, people rarely left – not until the early decades of the 1900s when industrialisation and manufacturing meant jobs and pay. Whether the jobs and pay were better than those offered by rural areas is arguable. Like anything, it was probably a matter of perception. Work from dawn to dusk farming and risk being prey to the weather and being one drought away from financial ruin, or work long hours for low but secure pay.

I digress!

RECOGNISING COMMUNITIES IN GENEALOGY RESEARCH

19th Century rural communities gave individuals a sense of place and a source of identity. Life in a community was a shared experience which bound the people within it together in any number of ways. For post Civil War African-Americans in the South that shared experience was slavery. Not all southern African-Americans were slaves. There was a thriving population of free blacks in America from the very early Colonial times. However, they were in the minority. For those who were slaves and remained in the communities where they had been slaves, there were tight bonds of community which were established long before their emancipation. And these ties existed and were sustained in the decades immediately following the Civil War. And this can be seen quite clearly in the Census records (more on this later).

This process of a community bound through shared experience isn’t unique. The pioneering families of the Mid West were bound by the hardships and challenges they faced on the prairie. Immigrants to New York were bound by the harrowing experiences they faced in the early slums of that city. Fishing villages and towns all along the New England coastline shared a similar bonding experience based on the hardships and loss of deep sea fishing (and previously, whaling).

There are other glues besides collectively faced hardships which bind communities together: faith/religion, beliefs and ideals.

SCANNING CENSUS RECORDS FOR AN ENTIRE COUNTY

When I first began researching my family, I was just excited to actually find specific people in the official records. It seemed amazing that I could actually sit at my desk and see a name in a census record from 150 years ago. It never occurred to me to scan a whole town’s census returns to see if they had kin nearby. That idea wouldn’t come until later. It was just exciting to find the person I was seeking and their immediate family members.

The idea to scan a town or county’s full census returns didn’t occur to me until I reached a point where I had a large number of different family groups…and no idea about whether they were related to each other or not. When I started to scan the records for an entire county  – literally starting with the first record in the series and then scanning all the way through to the last record – I noticed two things:

    1. Family groups tended to live near to one another: brother lived near to brother, sons lived near their fathers and cousins lived near to cousins. If they married, their wife’s family also tended to live nearby…which brings me to observation #2
    2. Different family groups tended to live near the same family groups. For example, the Smith, Green, Blogg and Jones families tended to live near one another decade after decade after decade. If I wanted to hazard a guess about a wife’s maiden name, I could draw from a relatively short list of neighbouring families. These were groups bound not only by shared experiences but through marriage as well.

Looking back on this now, this seems pretty obvious. But it was a thunderbolt moment for me. In the search for individuals, I had completely overlooked the context of community and the simple yet powerful ties that bound people to one another and to a place.

So let’s start with a simple example:

EXAMPLE: GEORGE HENRY ROANE (1806-?)
Through correspondence with a newly found Roane family member, we worked out that George Henry Roane had been sold to a John D Warren in Varina, Henrico County, Virginia. George wasn’t a native of Varina, he had come from elsewhere in Virginia. The question was where. But I’ll put that question aside just for a moment.

So what did we know about George? We knew he had at least 5 siblings: Absalom, Mary, Braxton, Baylor and Charles. We also knew he had at least two children: Patrick Henry Roane and Anthony Roane. We also knew that he was mentioned in the Richard A Roane family bible as being part of the “Roane colored family”. So he was associated with Richard A Roane, owner of the Plain View Plantation, and his father, Charles Roane.

Take a look at the document below. It’s an 1870 Census return for Varina, Henrico, VA:

This return shows George and his sons Patrick and Anthony living pretty much next door to one another. There’s George Henry Roane at Line 23. His son Patrick Henry Roane (Line 24) is living with him. Patrick’s wife and children are also in residence. Anthony Roane (Line 33), George’s son and Patrick’s brother, lives two door down. Living in between these two households is the Price family. Wyatt and Rose Price are the parents of Susan Price, Patrick Henry Roane’s wife.

This is a classic example of a family group living within a community.

This particular census return is interesting for a few reasons:

    • George Henry Roane’s family are the only African-American Roanes living in Varina, Henrico, VA at this time. This means, in all likelihood, that subsequent generations of Varina-based Roanes are descendants of this branch of the family. If I come across a Varina-based Roane in the official records, and can’t immediately place them within the family tree, I know he or she shares kinship with this particular family group.
    • There are family names I would come to recognise as sharing kinship with these Varina Roanes through marriage: Wyatt, Price, Braxton and Baylor.

Subsequent census returns showed that George and his sons – and their descendants – chose to remain in Varina and Henrico County. After the end of slavery, George did not return to his native county and didn’t rejoin his siblings. It’s unclear if he restored the bonds with his siblings or if there was any communication between his family and the larger family group George was separated from when he and his sons were sold.

So where did George Henry Roane come from? More on that in the next post…

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The Roane Family Tree: Virginia

I’m posting the Roane Family Tree for the African American side of the family. I would love to hear from Roanes with roots in Virginia, particularly in King & Queen and Henrico Counties.

I would like to trace descendants for:

Generation 1:
Braxton Roane
Mary Roane

Generations 2 + 3:
Patrick Henry Roane
William E Roane
Wyatt Roane
Bacchus Roane
Baylor Roane’s children
James Braxton Roane
Absalom Roane’s daughters, Judy & Kate

I’m a Roane on my paternal grandmother’s side.

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