Tracing slave ownership for the Scots-Irish Roane family of Virginia

My thanks to my cousin Lewis S – who has so kindly shared slave-related documents with me from his side of the Roane family. And my thanks to another cousin, Mia F, who has spent quiet some time over the past few months visiting the Virginian archives in search of information and documents about our enslaved Roane and Price ancestors. This post wouldn’t be possible without their generosity.

I’m hoping this post will enable other African American Roanes trace their family ancestry. Or help people whose enslaved ancestors were owned by members of the earlier generations of the Scots-Irish Roane family in Virginia.

I’ve debated about how best to present the information that follows below. Should I do a series of posts? Should I put everything together in one post? In the end, to show a clear progression of ownership, I opted to put all of the information I have in one post in chronological order.

Some slaves, like Orange, have such unique names that they are easy to race from generation to generation. Most others, however, share such common names that I haven’t been able to confidently trace the transfer of ownership from one Roane to another.

I will continue to update and re-post this as I find more information about Roane family slaves.

The slaves of William Roane, Sr

William, the son of Sir Archibald Gilbert Roane, was born in 1701 (County Antrim, Northern Ireland) and died in 1757 (Bloomberg, Essex County, Virginia).

The document below shows his purchase of 3 slaves from John Seayres on 17 March 1746:
Matt;
Kingston(e); and
Richmond (Rich). (This may be the same Richmond mentioned in William Roane, Jr’s Will, in which case, he was deeded to William Roane, Jr’s son Spencer Roane. Alternatively, the Richmond mentioned in William Roane, Jr’s will may be the son of this Richmond).

1757 Will of William Roane, Sr.

William’s will was proved December 20, 1757; his wife Sarah Roane’s will was dated 1st day of August 1760, and was proved December I5th, 1760.

Will of William Roane Essex County Virginia Will proven 20 December , 1757

In the name of God Amen I William Roane of the Parish of Southampton in the County of Essex Gent. Being sick and weak of body but of Perfect Sense and memory Blessed by Almighty God therefore Calling to mind the uncertainty of this Transitory Life so make this my Last Will & Testament in manner following first I will that my body be buried in a decent manner at the discretion of my Executors hereafter named trusting through the merits of my blessed Savior Christ for the Salvation of my Soul and for the disposal of my worldly Estate with which it hath pleased God to bless me

I Give devise and bequeath the same as followeth Viz; Imprim is I give and bequeath to my son Thomas Roane the tract of land I purchased of Philip Vase whereon he now lives also the tract where his Quarter won Piscataway formerly Doctor Philip Jones’s and also the Ordinary tract with their and each of their appurtenances to him and his heirs forever

Item. I give and bequeath to my son William Roane all that tract of land that was John Haul’s (Haile) also the tract I purchased of Thos Gatewood joining it , and all the tract I purchased of Henry Crittenden with their and each of their appurtenances to him and his heirs forever

Item. I give and bequeath to my son John Roane all my land in Culpeper County Viz: one tract containing by estimation thirteen hundred and fifty acres purchased of Joseph Bloodworth also the tract of land I purchased of Charles Cavenaugh and also a tract adjoining Cavanaugh’s lately purchased of John Williams with their and each of their appurtenances to him and his heirs forever

Item. I give to my daughter Mary Ritchie as much money as will make her fortune eight hundred pounds current immediately inclusive of what she hath already received being upwards of six hundred pounds as per my ledger and at my wife’s decease I give her two hundred pounds more .

Item. I give to my daughter Sarah Roane eight hundred pounds current money to be paid her at the age of eighteen or day of marriage and two hundred pounds more at my wife’s decease

Item. I give to my daughter Lucy Roane eight hundred pounds current money and two hundred pounds more at my wife’s decease

Item. I lend my loving wife Sarah Roane all the tract of land I live on with the piece I bought of Robert Johnson and my water grist mill with all their appurtenances during her natural life and after her decease I give it to be equally divided between my three sons Thomas, William & John and their heirs forever

Item. I also lend my said wife twenty negroes , her choice, all my household furniture except half the Plate, all the stock that belongs and is on this my dwelling Plantation during her life and after her decease to be equally divided amongst all my children and heirs forever

Item. I give and bequeath all the residue of my estate to be equally divided amongst my three sons Thomas, William & John and their heirs forever

Item. My will and desire is that if either of my children die before they attain to age of marriage that their part or parts be equally divided amongst all my children & their heirs forever .

Item. I do hereby appoint my three sons Thomas, William & John Executors of this my Last Will and Testament . In Testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand ~~~ this 17th day of November Anno Dom. 1757

W Roane

Signed Published declared by the dc William Roane in & for his Last Will & Testament in presence of us

Jno Clements
John Upshaw
James Upshaw

At a Court held for Essex County at Tappahannock on the 20th day of December 1757 This Last Will and Testament of William Roane Gent. Dec’d was presented into Court by the Exors herein named who made oath thereto according to law the same being proved by the oaths of John Upshaw & James Upshaw two of the witnesses thereto , is ordered to be recorded & on the motion of the said executors and their performing what the Law in such cases require a Certificate is granted them for obtaining a Probate thereof in due form

Test John Lee Jun D Clk

Know all men by these presents that we Thomas Roane, William Roane , and John Roane and John Upshaw , James Upshaw and Thomas Waring and John Lee Senior are held and firmly bound to Francis Waring, Simon Miller, James Hibbard, Robert Brocke Gent. Justices of the Court of Essex County now sitting, in the sum of ten thousand pounds current money to the payment whereof well and truly to be made to the s’d justices and their heirs ——— we bind ourselves and each of us and each of our heirs Executors Administrators Jointly and Severally firmly by these presents Sealed with our seale this 20th day of December in the year of our Lord One thousand seven hundred and fifty seven and in the 31st year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the second .

The condition of this obligation is such that the above bound Thomas Roane, William Roane & John Roane Executors of the Last Will and Testament of William Roane Gent. Deceased , do make or cause to be made a true and perfect inventory of all and singular the Goods, Chattels & Credits of the said deceased which have or shall come to the hands possession or knowledge of the said Thomas , William and John or into the hands and possession of any other person or persons for them and the same so made, do exhibit into the County Court of Essex at such time as they shall be hereunto required by the said Court , and the same goods, chattels , and credits and all other goods, chattels, and credits of the said deceased which at any time after shall come to the hands possession or knowledge of the said executors or into the hands and possession of any other person or persons for them do well and truly administer according to Law and further do make a true and just account of their actings and doings therein when thereto required by the said Court and also shall —– truly Pay and deliver all the legacies contained and specified in said Testament as far as the said goods, chattels and credits will thereunto extend and the same shall charge then this Obligation to be void & of none effect or else to remain in full force and virtue

Thomas, Roane, William Roane
John Roane, John Upshaw
James Upshaw , T Waring
John Lee Junior

At a Court held for Essex County at Tapp’a the 20th day of December 1757 this bond was acknowledged by the parties and ordered to be recorded & is truly recorded

John Lee Junr Clk

1757 William Roane Sr., estate inventory (excerpts, with valuations in Pound Sterling, designated by the letter “L”)

Filed in court 1758 0321

“An Inventory with Appraisement of the Estate of William Roane Gentleman decedent in Essex County Anno Domini 1757

Slaves named:

Richmond 50L
Bought from John Seayres in 1746 – see the first record in this article.

Stafford 50L

Lancaster 50L

Sam 50L

Ben 50L
Owned by William Roane, Jr and deeded to William Jr’s son Spencer Roane in 1782

Little George 50L
Deeded either to Col Thomas Roane, Sr or William Roane There are too many George’s to be able to clearly identify who he was deeded to

Hanover 50L

Isaac 40L
Deeded to son Col Thomas Roane. Col Thomas Roane deeded Isaac to Richard Barnes, husband of his daughter Rebecca Roane

Dick 40L

George 50L
Deeded wither to Col Thomas Roane, Sr or William Roane There are too many George’s to be able to clearly identify who he was deeded to

Nero 40L

Letty 45L

Caroline 35L

Jamey 60L

Beauty 45L

Brunswick 45L

Kate 40L

Hannah 50L
Owned by William Roane, Jr and deeded to William Jr’s son Spencer Roane in 1782

Betty 32L
“Bett”owned by William Roane, Jr and deeded to William Jr’s son Spencer Roane in 1782

Lame Letty 10L

Austin a boy 40L
Deeded to William Roane, Jr.

Moll a girl 30L

Ambrose a boy 25L

Nell a girl 37L

Great Jammy & Child Ann 65L

Nan & Child Rachel 55L
This could be the same “Nan” cited in William Roane, Jr’s 1782 slave deed to son Spencer Roane in 1782

Young Philio, a girl 30L

Phil a boy 18L

Lucey a girl 30L
There are too many Lucy’s to confidently assess which child she was deeded to.

Pegg a girl 22L

January a girl 30L

Rose a Woman 50L
This could be the same “Rose” cited in William Roane, Jr’s 1782 slave deed to son Spencer Roane in 1782

Amey & Child 10L
There are too many Amy’s to confidently assess which child Amey and her child were deeded to.

Liddey a small girl 15L

Charles a boy 35L

Old Philio 8L 10s

 

At the Stafford Quarter:

Mulatto Ham (to be bound)

Negroes:

Norfolk a man 50L

Liddie a young woman 50L
This may be the same Lydia that Col Thomas Roane, Sr deeded to daughter Sarah Roane Campbell

Hannah & Child Harry 55L
This may be the same Hannah that Col Thomas Roane, Sr deeded to his daughter Patsy Hipkins Roane Ritchie

Sarah a girl 35L
Two Sarahs are mentioned in Col Thomas Roane, Sr’s will. It is likely this Sarah is one of those two.

Bulley a Boy 27L 10s

Betty a Girl 22L 10s

Norfolk a boy 12L 10s

Tom a boy 40L
This may be the same Tom McGeorge mentioned in Col Thomas Roane, Sr’s will

Jack a boy 27L 10s

Chance a boy 12L 10s

Dinah a girl 25

London a Man 15

Princess a Lame Woman 0

At Georges Quarter:

George a man 40L
This may be the same George mentioned in Col Thomas Roane. Sr’s will

Roy a man 30L

Surrey a Woman 40L

Hannah a woman 25L

Phebe (latters child) 10L

At Lancaster Quarter:

Glasgow a man 20L

Peter a man 50L

Prudence a Woman 25L

Chloe a Woman 45L
Deeded to son William Roane, Jr

At Gloucester:

Gloucester a man 50L

Orange a Woman 45L
Deeded to son William Roane, Jr

Winney a girl 45L

Frankey a girl 40L
This could be the same “Frank” cited in William Roane, Jr’s 1782 slave deed to son Spencer Roane in 1782

Alice a girl 40L
Owned by William Roane, Jr and deeded to William Jr’s son Spencer Roane in 1782

Patty a girl 22L
This could be the same “Pratt” cited in William Roane, Jr’s 1782 slave deed to son Spencer Roane in 1782

Grace a small girl 13L
Deeded to son William Roane, Jr, who deeded her to his daughter Sally Roane

Gloucester a child 15L
Owned by William Roane, Jr and deeded to William Jr’s son Spencer Roane in 1782

Total value of Estate: 5,215L 6s 10d

Note 1: Neither Kingston or Matt appears in this estate inventory list. Presumably, they were either sold or died before 1757.

Note 2: I don’t know what the word “Quarters” signifies. At present, Quarters seem to indicate the different properties and tracts of land owned by William Roane, Sr..

 

The slaves of Sarah Upshaw Roane

Sarah Upshaw was the widow of William Roane, Sr. Upon William’s death, she inherited his slaves.

No slaves are cited in either her will or her inventory. However, I include both below for transparency – and to save people the time and effort of trying to track them down. Presumably, the slaves she owned were divided between her children as per William Roane’s will of 1757.

I would suggest looking at the wills and estate inventories of William & Sarah’s children to trace the slaves cited in William Roane’s estate inventory. Their children were: Col Thomas Roane (died 1799 in Fairfax, VA. His will follows further below in this post), Mary “Molly” Roane (died 1800 in King & Queen County, VA. She married Andrew Archibald Ritchie, hence the name Mary “Molly” Roane Ricthie), John Roane (died Oct 1805, Uppowoc, King William County, VA), Lucy Roane (died 1801 in Richmond, Wise, VA. She married Richard Barnes, hence the name Lucy Roane Barnes), Sarah Upshaw Roane (died 1810 in Richmond, Wise, VA. She married Dr John Brockenbrough, hence the name Sarah Upshaw Roane Brockenbrough). William Roane (his estate information follows below).

Will of Sarah Roane
Essex County, Va. Will proven 15 Dec 1760 Will Book 11 Page 287

In the name of God Amen I Sarah Roane of the County of Essex being sick & weak of body but of sound & perfect mind & memory & considering the uncertainty of this transitory life do make and ordain this my last will & testament in manner & form following viz.

Imprimis I give to my daughters Sarah & Lucy each of them two gold rings.

Item. I give to my granddaughter Margaret Ritchie one stone ring of about fifteen shillings sterling price and to my niece Hannah Hipkins I give ten pounds currency.

Item. I give & bequeath all the residue of my estate to be equally divided between my three sons Thomas, William and John Roane to defray the expenses of bringing up and educating their two sisters and I do constitute and appoint them my said three sons, executors of this my last will & testament. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 11th day of August 1760.

Sarah Roane

Signed sealed and acknowledged to be her last will & testament in the presence of us
John Upshaw
Daniel Sullivan Junr.

At a Court held for Essex County at Tapp’a the 15th day of December 1760, this last will & testament of Sarah Roane dec’d was this day produced in Court by Thomas Roane one of the executors therein named who made oath thereto according to law and was also proved by the oaths of the witnesses thereto and admitted to record and is recorded.

Test. John Lee Jun. D.C.E.C.

Know all men by these presents that we Thomas Roane and John Upshaw Gentlemen are held and firmly bound to John Clements, William Mountague, Charles Mortimer and William Brooke Gent. Justices of the Court of Essex County now sitting in the sum of five hundred pounds to the payment whereof well and truly to be made to the said Justices and their Successors, we bind ourselves and each of us and each of our heirs, executors and administrators jointly and severally, firmly by these presents, sealed with our seals this 15th day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and sixty and on the 34th year of the reign of our sovereign Lord George II.

The condition of this obligation is such that if the above bound Thomas Roane Executor of the last will and testament of Sarah Roane deceased do make or cause to be made a true and perfect inventory of all and singular the goods, chattels and credits of said deceased which have or shall come to the hands, possession or knowledge of the said Thomas or to the hands or possession of any other person or persons for him and the same so made do exhibit into the County Court of Essex at such time as he shall be thereunto required by the said court; and the same goods, chattels and credits and all the other goods, chattels and credits of the said deceased which at any time after shall come to the hands, possession or knowledge of the said Thomas or the hands or possession of any other person or persons for him do well and truly administer according to law and first do make a just and true account of his actings and doings therein when thereto required by the said Court and also well and truly pay and deliver all the legacies contained and specified in the said testament as far as the said goods, chattels and credits will thereunto extend and the law shall charge; then their obligation to be void and of none effect or else to remain in full force and virtue.

Thomas Roane
John Upshaw

At a Court held for Essex County at Tapp’a the 15th day of December 1760, this bond was acknowledge by the parties hereto admitted to record and was recorded.

Test John Lee Jun. D.C.E.C.

Note:  I have not been able to find an inventory for Sarah Upshaw Roane

The slaves of Col Thomas Roane

There is quite a bit of information about Thomas Roane’s properties and plantations. These might indicate why certain ancestors lived where they did at the close of the Civil War.

WILL OF COL. THOMAS ROANE.

Note: I haven’t found an estate inventory for Thomas Roane upon his death. I have compiled a list of his slaves cited in his will below.

Slaves named:

Billy “The Blacksmith” – deeded to widow Mary Ann Hipkins Roane

James – deeded to daughter Sarah Roane Campbell

Jerry Bland – deeded to daughter Sarah Roane Campbell

Winney – deeded to daughter Sarah Roane Campbell

Lydia – deeded to daughter Sarah Roane Campbell

Suckey – deeded to daughter Sarah Roane Campbell

Pitt – lent to Hugh Campbell, Sarah Roane Campbell’s husband. Hugh Campbell sold to unnamed person

Jenny – lent to Hugh Campbell, Sarah Roane Campbell’s husband. Hugh Campbell sold to unnamed person

Dixon – lent to Hugh Campbell, Sarah Roane Campbell’s husband. Died prior to Col Thomas Roane’s death.

Amey (Amy) + her 2 unnamed children – deeded to daughter Margaret Roane Garrett

Peter – deeded to Sterling Clack Ruffin, husband of Thomas’s daughter Alice Roane.

Sam – deeded to Sterling Clack Ruffin, husband of Thomas’s daughter Alice Roane.

Anthony – deeded to Sterling Clack Ruffin, husband of Thomas’s daughter Alice Roane.

Charles – deeded to Sterling Clack Ruffin, husband of Thomas’s daughter Alice Roane.

Violet – deeded to Sterling Clack Ruffin, husband of Thomas’s daughter Alice Roane.

Judy – deeded to Sterling Clack Ruffin, husband of Thomas’s daughter Alice Roane.

Sarah – deeded to Sterling Clack Ruffin, husband of Thomas’s daughter Alice Roane.

Young Sarah – deeded to Sterling Clack Ruffin, husband of Thomas’s daughter Alice Roane.

Sally Pickles – deeded to Sterling Clack Ruffin, husband of Thomas’s daughter Alice Roane.

Isaac – deeded to Richard Barnes, husband of Thomas’s daughter Rebecca Roane.

Gilbert – deeded to Richard Barnes, husband of Thomas’s daughter Rebecca Roane.

Robin – deeded to Richard Barnes, husband of Thomas’s daughter Rebecca Roane.

Amy – deeded to Richard Barnes, husband of Thomas’s daughter Rebecca Roane.

Jany – deeded to Richard Barnes, husband of Thomas’s daughter Rebecca Roane.

Judy – deeded to Richard Barnes, husband of Thomas’s daughter Rebecca Roane.

Nancy – deeded to Richard Barnes, husband of Thomas’s daughter Rebecca Roane.

Phillip (Phill)- deeded to Richard Barnes, husband of Thomas’s daughter Rebecca Roane.

Pegy – deeded to Richard Barnes, husband of Thomas’s daughter Rebecca Roane.

George – deeded to son Thomas Roane, Jr

Dick – deeded to son Thomas Roane, Jr

Billy – deeded to son Thomas Roane, Jr

Jany – deeded to son Thomas Roane, Jr

Kate – deeded to son Thomas Roane, Jr

Janet – deeded to son Thomas Roane, Jr

Easther – deeded to son Thomas Roane, Jr

Mary – deeded to son Thomas Roane, Jr

Robin – deeded to son Thomas Roane, Jr

George – deeded to son Samuel Roane

Nelson – deeded to son Samuel Roane

Tom McGeorge – deeded to son Samuel Roane

Charles – deeded to son Samuel Roane

Nancy – deeded to son Samuel Roane

Tilloh – deeded to son Samuel Roane

Lydia – deeded to son Samuel Roane

Sarah – deeded to son Samuel Roane

Charles – deeded to daughter Patsy Hipkins Roane Ritchie, wife of Archibald Ritchie

Godfrey – deeded to daughter Patsy Hipkins Roane Ritchie, wife of Archibald Ritchie

Hancock – deeded to daughter Patsy Hipkins Roane Ritchie, wife of Archibald Ritchie

Aggy – deeded to daughter Patsy Hipkins Roane Ritchie, wife of Archibald Ritchie

Hannah – deeded to daughter Patsy Hipkins Roane Ritchie, wife of Archibald Ritchie

Patience – deeded to daughter Patsy Hipkins Roane Ritchie, wife of Archibald Ritchie

Venus- deeded to daughter Patsy Hipkins Roane Ritchie, wife of Archibald Ritchie
His widow, Mary Ann Hipkins Roane – rec’d 39 unnamed slaves

Archibald Harwood – Margaret Roane Garrett’s son. Would receive share from Amy and her children’s increase upon his mother’s death + 1 boy and 1 girl of his own age

Thomas Harwood – Margaret Roane Garrett’s son. Would receive share from Amy and her children’s increase upon his mother’s death + 1 boy and 1 girl of his own age

Patsy Hipkins Roane Ritchie – 2 unnamed slaves

Lucy Roane Upshaw (wife of Edwin Upshaw) – unknown number of unnamed slaves

Catherine Roane Ruffin (wife of Archibald Ruffin) – unknown number of unnamed slaves

John Roane – unknown number of unnamed slaves

The slaves of William Roane, Jr

William Roane, Jr gifts slaves to son Spencer Roane in 1782

1782 11 08 Roane, William gifts Spencer Roane some 20 Negro slaves

Deed of Gift.

William Roane of South Farnham Parish, Essex County, gent. for natural love and affection gave to his son Spencer Roane of same place all the Negro slaves following, to wit:

Frank

Patt & her children

Nan

Gloucester (Gloster)

Jude

Cork

Ben

Alice & her children

Will

Luce

Rose

Bett

Hannah

Richard

Yorah

together with their future increase and all other emoluments to them belonging….

Witnesses:

Henry Clements

John Gardner

Ralph Mitchell

Ackn 21 April 1783 & recorded

Attest: Hancock Lee, Clerk

(page 138, Essex Co. records)

William Roane, Jr’s Will dated 1785

Slaves named:

Richmond – Deeded to son Spencer Roane

Joe – Deeded to son Spencer Roane

Grace (the daughter of Frances) – Deeded to daughter Judy Roane

Rachel (the daughter of Chloe) – Deeded to daughter Sally Roane

Sons Thomas and Spencer Roane received unknown number of unnamed slaves.

1785 estate inventory for William Roane, Jr, dated 1785

1785 12 26 Roane, William – Estate Appraisal after death

[note: 55 named slaves, across the three different plantations owned by William Roane and included in his estate]

In Obediance to an order of the Worshipful Court of Essex County made in December 1785 We the Subscibers, being first duly sworn, have appraised as of the negroes & personal Estate of William Roane Esq. dec’d this 26th Dec. 1785, the following

———

[Note: I’ve omitted all other property items except for the names of the slaves]

Austin 50L

Hanover L20

Moses L80

Reuben L60

Bristoll 65L

James L60

Will L60

Jerry L50

Joe L50

Peter L35

Betty L80

Bob L20

Jenny L40

Lydia & Child 30L

Lewis L12

Chloe L40

Jenny L70

Beck L15

Maysy L50

Charlotte L50

Lotta L70

Billy L60

Winney L80

Phillis & Child Caesar L90

Amey L80

Frank L40

Fanny L15

Lucy L60.

At King & Queen Quarter:

negroes:

Gawin 20L

Rachel 35L

At Meadow Quarter:

negroes:

Will L70

Harry L50

Bob L30

Charles L30

Nell L50

Daphne L15

Grace L45

Cyrus L0

Roy L0

Orange L0

At the Mill:

negroes:

Richmond and Joe L50 (deeded to Spencer Roane)

Mrs. Ann Roanes negroes (Widow of William  Roane dec’d):

George L80

James L80

Caty L50

Betty L45

Lucy L75

Moses L60

Jacob L55

Bristol L25

China L75

Giles L15

(Molly dead since W. Roane)

 

Thomas Dix

Ambrose Greenhill

Jno. Haile

At a Court held for Essex County at Tappahannock on the 21st day of February in 1791, This appraisement of the Estate of William Roane esquire deceased being returned to Court, the same was ordered to be recorded. Test, John S. Lee, Clerk

To-date, a Will for Spencer Roane has yet to surface. This, along with his probate tax inventory, is a key document to find. Indeed, there are many missing Roane family Wills among Spencer Roane’s siblings and cousins.

Tobias Roane: The Dark Side of Emancipation

As I mentioned in my previous post George Henry Roane: the new Freedmen’s Bureau databases on FamilySearch are incredible research tools, the various Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records databases on FamilySearch have provided a wealth of information about people from the various branches of my family. The previous post about George Henry Roane featured his fight to claim the legacy left to him in his former owner’s will.

EMANCIPATION AND THE AMERICAN HISTORY CURRICULUM

Emancipation wasn’t something that was really covered in my history classes. It was barely mentioned. It was presented as something of a 10 minute after-thought. A footnote to the American Civil War. My classmates and I were never taught about its implementation or its repercussions, which still echo down through the ages to the present day. My history classes never discussed what it was to be enslaved for generations – for centuries, actually – and then freed overnight. Or how persons born and raised in the centuries old institution of slavery coped. It wasn’t as if this was a bad school. Far from it. It was one of the best schools in the state. Which makes this even more of a lost learning opportunity.

The way it was presented kind of ran like this: President Lincoln freed the slaves, slaves were free overnight, everyone was happy. The proof of the latter were the brief mentions of freed slaves becoming congressmen, senators, academics, businessmen and businesswomen, etc. It never really occurred to me to question just how good things were after emancipation – or what percentage of the newly freed black population it was good for.

Born at the tail end of the Jim Crow Era and segregation –I knew those good times of freedom hadn’t lasted. While I grew up in a middle class home, I knew there was a portion of the American black population who didn’t.  That’s not to say I had it easy. There are overt signs of inequality – and then there are the subtle yet equally pernicious forms of inequality. I grew up experiencing the latter. Somewhere in my teenage brain I knew there was a fundamental disconnect, a huge part of the story that was missing in terms of the post-Emancipation black experience in America. But I didn’t know what it was. I couldn’t put my finger on it. And then I stopped thinking about it altogether. Living abroad for most of my life, far away from the racial hurly burly of America, I didn’t have to think about it. An American homecoming has only served to throw this into exceedingly vivid, sharp relief.

Using the Freedmen’s Bureau database for my research, and reading hundreds of its documents, I’ve come back full circle to that disconnect in terms of American history. As a habit America doesn’t like re-visiting the dark chapters of its history. Somewhere, somehow, it was collectively agreed that ‘if we don’t talk about those things, they’ll go away. It’ll all just work itself out. We can ignore it – and it just won’t matter any more’. If I’ve learned anything, even in my time abroad, dark histories cause pain that is carried down through the generations – for the descendants of the victims as well as the descendants of the perpetrators. Just ask the Irish, the English and the Scottish. Dark chapters in history never go away. It’s 2014 and look at the race-related topics that remain in the American headlines.

NEWLY ACQUIRED FREEDOM IS A MESSY BUSINESS

So I find myself thinking of Emancipation. I find myself thinking about all those millions of newly freed people, the children of generations who had dreamed of freedom. I’ve gained an understanding that dreaming of freedom – and facing the realities of freedom head-on – are two very different things.

Just look at current world events in North Africa, the Middle East and to events in a post-Communist Eastern Europe. It’s not as though there’s a Freedom 101 course that people can take. Nor does it seem possible for there to be anything like a planned transition period for people to grasp the concept and responsibilities of freedom. Freedom for formerly oppressed and suppressed people, it would seem, is a messy business. That’s not to diminish freedom. It is a basic human right. It’s a comment on the mechanism by which a people become free. I’ve yet to find evidence of a smooth transition from a state of oppression to the state of being free and entirely responsible for one’s self and one’s actions.

ONE CHAPTER IN TOBIAS ROANE’S LONG LIFE

Tobias “Tobey” Roane of Essex County, VA and his wife, Ainsley, are perfect examples of those lost in the chaos of Emancipation. In 1868, Tobey and Ainsley were in their Eighties. They were old. They were crippled, presumably from a life of toil as well as old age. They were also the primary care givers for their three young grandchildren. At the moment, the names of their grandchildren are unknown. Nor do I know what happened to the children’s parents.

an image of a letter mentioning Toby Roane with his family in 1866

Early correspondence about Toby Roane with his family in 1866. Citation: “Virginia, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FPFD-JZR), Toby Roane, ; citing NARA microfilm publication M1913, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland; FHL microfilm 2413570.

At the close of the Civil War, Toby, Ainsley and their grandchildren were forced out of their home. Presumably, their former master had no further use for them and felt no obligation towards them. As the letter below will show, this family of children and the elderly came to reside in a derelict old stable on the periphery of  land owned by John A Parker. It’s unclear if Toby and his family had a connection to Parker or to the McGuire family, Parker’s white tenants who lived in the house on the property and worked the land. Parker clearly wasn’t happy about Toby and his family residing in the disused stable.

image of letter outlining John Parker's complaint against Toby Roane

Letter dated 9 Nov 1866 outlining John Parker’s complaint against Toby Roane. Citation: “Virginia, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FPLV-6ZW ), Tobey Roane, ; citing NARA microfilm publication M1913, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland; FHL microfilm 2414655.

The indignity of their plight did not end there.

Parker began court proceedings to have them evicted from said derelict stable, their only refuge. Correspondence about the case follows below:

In desperation, Toby applied for relief to the local poor house via the local office for the Freedmen’s Bureau.  The letters below show how Toby and his family were turned away from the poor house solely based on race.

Toby Roane petition to enter the poor house

Toby Roane’s petition for admittance to the poor house. Letter dated- 9 Nov 1866. Citation: “Virginia, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FPLV-62J), Tobey Roane, ; citing NARA microfilm publication M1913, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland; FHL microfilm 2414655.

Toby Roane's petition for admittance to the poor house. Letter dated 10 Dec 1866 -

Toby Roane’s petition for admittance to the poor house. Letter dated 10 Dec 1866Citation: “Virginia, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FPNR-MMV), Toby Roane, ; citing NARA microfilm publication M1913, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland; FHL microfilm 2413680.

Toby Roane's petition for admittance to the poor house. Letter dated- 24 Dec 1866 -

Toby Roane’s petition for admittance to the poor house. Letter dated- 24 Dec 1866.Citation: “Virginia, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FPNJ-PZL), Tobey Roane, ; citing NARA microfilm publication M1913, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland; FHL microfilm 2413683.

This short series of correspondence gives a sense of the bureaucracy involved in cases like Tobey’s. The letters also evidence the prejudice he and his family faced. And, ok, I’ll say it – I don’t find any decency, much less any Christian behaviour, anywhere in this story…with the exception of Second Lieutenant Watson Wentworth. Whoever his descendants are, they should feel proud of the work their ancestor did and the personal dangers he faced in executing his duty.

I don’t know the ultimate outcome of their story. I don’t know if the local poor house came to house this family. I hope so, even it was due to being ordered to do so. It was certainly ordered to do so in the end.

I guess the obvious question would be ‘where was Tobey’s extended family?’ It’s a good question. I’m still trying to place Toby in the Roane family tree. He was of the same generation as other African-American members of the Roane family in Essex County: Spencer Roane (b. 1795), Nelson Roane (b. 1810), George Roane (b. 1810) and Randall Roane (b. 1815). The families of these men were also resident in Essex County at this time. Research hasn’t provided information about the exact nature of the kinship between these men. In the end, I think, the answer is fairly straightforward: these men had their own families to provide for in an uncertain and challenging environment.

The saddest part of this story isn’t Toby and Ainsley’s poverty, infirmity or struggle. At this point in their story they were 80 years old.  80 years. And the only part of their story I know anything about is this one sad episode. Nothing of the joys in the births of their children and their grandchildren. Nothing of their joys in being together. Just a story filled with pettiness, viciousness, uncharitable actions and rather unchristian behavior.

I’ve poured through innumerable records provided by these databases. There are uplifting and positive tales. And a few humerous ones (I’m sharing one of these in my next post). There is the other side of the coin, however – dark stories, poignant tales and tales that are simply tragic. If you were black, elderly, a child or a single woman with children, infirm or not fully physically able – freedom presented new challenges, cruelties and humiliations to be faced. There are pages and pages of petitions for relief, ledger sheets showing food and clothing being given to people who fell within the above groups. There are letters requesting travel fares to enable former slaves to leave the places where they had been enslaved in order to re-join family members in different cities, towns and states. There are also plenty of petitions to the Bureau for assistance in securing wages from employers who either couldn’t or wouldn’t pay for the labor of their black work force. And petitions for the care of newly freed orphaned children.

MY TAKEAWAY THOUGHTS

I’ve come away with three primary thoughts. The first is the sheer scale of the endeavor the Freedmen’s Bureau was tasked with – assisting millions of people who experienced freedom for the first time, with all the fears, challenges, hardships, institutional inequities – and hopes – that entailed.

My second thought is that a subjugated and oppressed people didn’t give up. They persisted and they fought. While freedom was far from being easy, freed slaves clearly grasped it with both hands.

The last thought is around educational opportunities. It’s the academic in me. The digitized versions of these original records are invaluable teaching tools. They come from people who experienced emancipation from all sides – freedmen, their former owners, local peoples and communities as well as the US government’s viewpoint and the viewpoint of its official representatives. Written in their own hand, their words transform Emancipation from a concept into the reality that it was. Collectively, these documents form an eloquent and articulate road map showing the journey of how the ghosts of emancipation still haunt America to this very day.

 UPDATE: dated 1 Oct 2014

It never ceases to amaze me how random events connect strangers. I received an email from Lt Watson Wentworth’s 3x great grandson, Sam N., who found this post.  He was kind enough to share some of Watson Wentworth’s history, which I’m sharing here.

“Watson was born in 1844 and orphaned by the age of 12. His father died when he was about 6 years old. He and his sister seem to have been left with relatives when his widowed mother and his three youngest siblings were all drowned in a shipwreck en route to Chicago via the Great Lakes. Perhaps the experience of insecurity stemming from these early tragedies somehow informed his work with the Freedman’s Bureau as a young man. “

Digging deeper with Census Records: Part 4

Recognising family groups

As mentioned previously ( Post: What’s in a maiden name), marriage records are important for a number of reasons. Two invaluable pieces of information marriage records provide are 1) the maiden name of the bride; and 2) in most cases, the maiden name of the bride’s mother.

Maiden names allow you to build a bigger picture of your family’s history. In my family’s case, certain names occur with consistency. Taking the Roanes for example, the family name of Hill, Carpenter, Byrd (or Bird), Richardson, Broaddus, Waring, Johnson, Holmes, Baylor, Braxton and Green occur over and over again, generation after generation in any number of combinations. Again, it’s worth bearing in mind that these were members of rural communities, an important genealogy and family research factor I mentioned in the first post in this series.

Roane cousins from different branches of the male Roane lines married. That’s one of the easiest ways to spot marriage between cousins. What’s more subtle and more challenging to spot is kinship through a family’s female lines. In my case,  by discovering women’s maiden names – and the surnames of their mothers – I’ve been able to recognising recurring last names…and establish degrees of kinship amongst cousins who married from different family branches.  The names listed in the above paragraph appear frequently.

Here’s a fictitious example: Nancy Roane marries Joe Richardson.

  • Nancy’s parents are Samuel Roane and Betty Broaddus
  • Joe’s parents are Charles Richardson and Nannie Green

Now, looking at both their parents:

  • Samuel Roane’s parents are Edward Roane and Annie Green
  • Betty Broaddus’s parents are Alan Broaddus and Sophie Richardson (Joe Richardson’s aunt)
  • Charles Richardson’s parents are Lawrence Richardson and Lena Roane (Samuel Roane’s great-aunt)
  • Nannie Green’s parents are Ollie Green (second cousin to Annie Green, Samuel Roane’s mother) and Kate Holmes

This is an extreme example. However, what this boils down to is Nancy and Joe are cousins. Charles Richardson (Joe’s father) and Samuel Roane (Nancy’s father) are also cousins. Stretch this example a few generations back and the same surnames criss-cross through time – different lines of a family coming together in marriage.

I’ve spent a great deal of time tracking down marriage records for my family tree. And whether it’s my Roane, Sheffey, Turner, Mathews/Mathis, Harling or Josey ancestors, I’ve noted the intricate patterns of their extended families. So when I scan a county’s census record I slow down – without even thinking about it – as soon as I begin to see associated names to the family I’m researching. It’s like Pavlovian conditioning.

If I’m researching my Roane ancestors, as soon as I see the names Hill, Carpenter, Green, etc I slow my scrolling down to a dead crawl. And usually a relevant Roane family group soon appears.

The same holds true for the Sheffeys: when I start seeing surnames like Byrd, Richardson, Hill, Ward and Johnson, my scrolling grinds to a snail’s pace and usually a relevant family group appears. With the Joseys it’s name like Padgett, Smallwood, Calvert and Barbee. With the Harlings, it’s names like Matthews/Mathis, Peterson and Fuller. These names are red flags that tell me to slow my scanning speed down.

And these tend to be families that live quite near to one another and subsequently appear together in census returns decade after decade after decade (until the 1920s when family groups began to move elsewhere within the US). This is where knowing maiden names pays off. The family living next door to your (rural) ancestors weren’t just neighbours…they were more than likely kin; especially if they remain living to one another through the 19th Century.

Keeping with the Roanes, have a look at the two census returns below. The first is Essex County, VA in 1870, the second is Newtown, King & Queen County, VA in the same year. Keep in mind the surnames Hill, Carpenter, Byrd (or Bird), Richardson, Broaddus, Waring, Holmes, Baylor, Braxton and Green. How many appear in both? And how close do they live to the Roanes?

That’s digging just beneath the surface in terms of scanning census records.

That’s it from me until just after Christmas.  So to new-found family and followers of the blog…my best wishes for a very happy holiday.

Family migration patterns: Roane family migration to Pennsylvania

My apologies for this being a rather long article. It goes to show just how many of the Roane family from Virginia migrated to Pennsylvania in general and Philadelphia in partcular!  The rest of my posts in this series will be much shorter.

So grab a coffee or a tea…and enjoy a leisurely read.

African-American Roanes, like the Sheffeys, had their own Diaspora from Virginia between the 1920s and 1930s. Like the Sheffeys, many Roanes went to Philadelphia and Baltimore. There the similarity between these two families ends. While the Sheffeys would opt for West Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana  – and to a lesser extent the Mid-West states – the Roanes left Virginia for New York, New Jersey, Delaware and points further north in New England.

Philadelphia proved to be a very popular destination of choice for Roanes leaving their native Virginia counties. To say Philadelphia was not kind to them would be a colossal understatement. It literally killed them. Of all the Roane populations I’ve studied, those in Philadelphia fared the worst: premature deaths (if they made it past their twenties they were lucky), excessively high infant mortality rates and stillbirths plagued them. This dynamic seems to have established itself as soon as the first Roane migrants arriving from Virginia around 1880.

The transition from rural to urban could not have been an easy one. Mostly farmers in their native Virginia; living in densely populated neighbourhoods with poor air quality and sanitation must have been contributing factors. Whatever stresses may have prompted their migration from a largely agrarian Virginia seems to have been replaced with entirely new and alien sources of stress for which they were simply not prepared for. In this they were representative of typical agrarian populations adjusting to a new industrialised reality.

I’m left with the question of why so many Roanes followed in their cousins’ wake and continued to arrive in Philadelphia in droves…especially if they were aware of cousins dying young.

Of course this is the sister question to what was it about Philadelphia that enticed the first group of Roanes to settle there in the first place.

There were Roanes who moved to Philadelphia as a family group. They tended to initially live together in a shared household before establishing households of their own. These would appear to be in the minority. Scanning through the census records, most didn’t live near any other Roanes (this includes families associated with Roanes through marriage). Perhaps this has to do with the nature of cities. Cities don’t lend themselves to family groups occupying close quarters – people tend to live wherever there’s space available. What I did tend to note, in general terms, is these family groups tended to live in close proximity to other families from Virginia.

Another small side note worth mentioning. The Roanes I’ve tracked from Virginia to Philadelphia didn’t live in an exclusively black neighbourhood. White and black lived side by side through the early 1900s – at least in Philadelphia. The turn-of-the-century African-American Roanes lived next door to white families from American and immigrant families from Ireland, England and Europe.

The occupations of the Roanes in Philadelphia were pretty much what you would expect for that era. Male Roanes tended to work on the docks, on ships, on the railroad or as general labourers. The women were domestics.

The summary below will provide you with an overview of the numbers which relocated to Philadelphia, While I only site the heads of households, the majority of the men cited had wives and children who accompanied them – many sharing in the same dismal fate of a short life expectancy.

=======

Roanes from unknown counties in Virginia

James Henry Roane (1879-?), parents and county of birth unknown, moved to Philadelphia around 1919 (WWI draft card) with his family. Interestingly, while he’s not living near other Roanes, he is living next door to Hills from Virginia. In 1920 he’s working for the Railroad.

Edward Roane’s (1856-?) county of birth in Virginia is unknown as are the names of his parents. However, at the time of his death he is recorded as resident in Philadelphia. He was buried in Richmond which might suggest he is a Henrico County, VA Roane. The online death record indicated he was married at the time of his death but doesn’t name his wife.

Arlie Roane (1888-1914), daughter of Richard L Roane and Arkansas “Sarah” Coleman (county unknown), is resident in Philadelphia at the time of her death.

ALBEMARLE County Roanes
Alexander Roane (1872-?), son of Watson Roane (1852-?) and wife Eliza, was resident in Philadelphia by the time of his marriage in 1897. In the 1900 census he’s listed as a stevedore. He’s not living near other Roanes or families associated with the Roanes through marriage. By 1910 he’s been promoted to Longshoreman. He’s still not living near to any Roanes, nor is he in 1920.


ESSEX County Roanes

Nearly half of Henry Clay Roane (1855-?) and wife Mary Eliza Dix’s children left for Philadelphia:

  • Daniel W Roane (1871-1913) was resident in Philadelphia at the time of his marriage in 1907. At the time of his death he is cited as being a fireman. In 1910 he and his wife are living a few houses down from her relations. He’s listed as being a labourer in a brickyard.
  • Henry Clay Roane Jr (1882-2003) was resident in Philadelphia around 1910 (census). He’s listed as a gardener for a private family. Henry is resident in Pittsburgh at the time of his death.
  • Viola Roane (1891-?) was also resident in Philadelphia around 1920. She’s a cook and living with a Gatewood aunt.

Lawrence “Lallie” Roane (1875-1908), son of Turner Roane (1870-1894) and wife Molly Payne, was resident in Philadelphia at the time of his death. I can’t find him in the 1900 Census records, which would tell me who he was living with in Philadelphia.

Robert Roane (1830-1895) and wife Octavia had 2 children leave:

  • Eugene Roane (1873-1909) arrived in Philadelphia between 1910 and 1920 (census) where he’s a waiter.
  • Charles Henry Roane (1868-1937) didn’t leave for Pennsylvania, He moved his family to Baltimore around 1900 (census) and then established himself and his family in Des Moines, Iowa by 1910 (census)

Payne Roane (1866-1926), son of Wyatt Roane (1840-?) and wife Sarah Ross, was resident in Philadelphia at the time of his death. I have been unable to find him in the 1900, 1910 or 1920 census records.


KING AND QUEEN County Roanes

Doctor David Lawrence “Lattie” Roane (1886-1957), son of Jacob L Roane (1832-1893) and wife Lucy T Holmes of Allentown, was resident in Philadelphia in 1930 (census) where he’s working for the railroad.

Alexander Roane (1903-?), son of Clarence Roane (1878-?) and wife Carrie  of Newtown,  left Virginia sometime after the 1920 Census. He’s recorded as resident in Philadelphia by the time of the 1930 Census and working in a paper mill. He is not living near any Roanes or families connected to the Roanes through marriage.

Alexander Roane (1865-1929) and wife Bettie Broaddus of Buena Vista had 2 children leave for Pennsylvania:

  • Joshua Roane (1891-?) left for Philadelphia at some point between 1910 and 1920 with his family. In 1910 he’s working in a lumber yard and in 1920 he’s working for a transit company. There are no other Roanes living nearby.
  • Annie Roane (1908-?) followed her brother to Philadelphia between 1920 and 1930. She is living with her brother and his family in 1930.

Patrick Roane (1854-?) and wife Lucy A Gaines of the 39th District, King & Queen County, had 2 children leave for Pennsylvania:

  • Ida Roane (1873-1898) was resident in Philadelphia at the time of her death. With the 1890 census missing, it’s impossible to know who she was living with and/or if any family members were living nearby.
  • Leana Roane (1876-1898) was resident in Philadelphia at the time of her death. As with her sister Ida, it’s impossible to know who she lived with.

At present, I haven’t been able to place Patrick Roane’s family line or Joshua and Annie Roane’s family lines into the overall family tree. This makes it difficult to assess if these three Roane family groups were closely related. Did they share a common ancestor? This lack of information also makes it difficult to gauge or if there were close ties between them.


KING WILLIAM County Roanes

An unknown Roane with wife Louisa/Apphia of King William County had 3 children leave for Philadelphia:

  • Patrick Henry Roane (1857-?) was resident in Philadelphia by the time of the 1900 Census.
  • Beverly Roane (1871-?) was resident in Philadelphia by the time of the 1900 Census.
  • George W Roane’s (1876-1900) death was recorded in Philadelphia

This makes this cluster of King William County Roanes early arrivals in Philadelphia. These family members moved as a group and lived together in 1900. By 1910, Patrick and Beverly had established their own respective households.

~~~
Wallace Roane (1855-1913), son of James Augustus Roane and Sarah Pollard, was resident in Philadelphia around 1880 (census).

Julia Roane (1860-1909), daughter of Wallace Roane (1812-?) and wife Ellen, was resident in Philadelphia at the time of her death.

Julia Roane was Wallace Roane’s aunt.

~~~
Caroline “Carrie” Roane (1885-1905), daughter of Horace Roane (1847-?) of Mangohick District, was resident in Philadelphia at the time of her death. She arrived in Philadelphia at some point between 1900 (Census) and 1905.

It’s worth noting that all of the Roanes from King William county were amongst the earliest Roanes to move to Philadelphia.

Philip Ransome Roane (1893-?), son of Henry Roane (1854-?) and Rachel Butler, moved to Delaware County, PA around 1930 with his family.


MIDDLESEX County Roanes

Lloyd L Roane (1899-?), son of William Roane (1873-?) and wife Frances, arrived in Philadelphia at some time between 1920 and 1930 (census).


WESTMORELAND County Roanes

Dorsey Roane (1855-?) and wife Alice R Thompson had 2 children leave for Philadelphia:

  • Alonzo Roane (1889-?) was resident in Westmoreland County at the time of the 1920 Census. By the 1930 Census, he was resident in Montgomery County, PA.
  • William Morris Roane (1888-1960) was resident in Philadelphia at the time of his death.

Richard Roane (1849-?) and wife Lucinda Johnson of Cople, VA had 2 children leave for Philadelphia:

  • John Philips Roane (1878-?) and his brother Richard Lee Roane (1880-?) both arrived in Philadelphia between 1900 (census) and 1910 (census).

Thomas Roane (1898-?) and brother Richard Roane (1902-?) of Cople, parents unknown, were resident in Philadelphia in 1930 (census). They share a house with Joseph Roane (1896-?) who may be the son of Anthony Roane (1861-?) and wife Elizabeth Eskridge.

Over the next few days, I’ll be posting about Roane family moves to Delaware, Connecticut, Massachusetts, new York, New Jersey & Arkansas. While nowhere near the same scale as the extended family’s move to Philadelphia, these smaller migrations build a bigger picture of a southern African-American family on the move north and west.

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.