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From Northampton County, NC to Roberts Settlement, Indiana: the hidden history of fpoc

Timing seems to be everything when it comes to genealogy. You can search and search for clues to mysteries for ages.  And then *BOOM*, out of the blue, something amazing can happen.

I’ve been engaged in deep research on ancestors who lived in early 19th Century Northampton, Warren, and Halifax Counties in North Carolina. Out of the blue, Fontaine, a Sheffey cousin, forwarded a video to me. He’d had no idea I’d returned to researching these North Carolina counties. He’d forwarded it to me in the hopes it might have some answers when it came to his father’s maternal lineage. At that point, we had no idea that we were related in any other way besides the Sheffey family of Wythe County, Virginia. It turns out, we share some North Carolina lineages too.

The video below is the one he brought to my attention. The video didn’t specifically, help me in my research with his father’s maternal line.  However, it certainly answered some questions about what became of some of my own maternal ancestors who had seemingly vanished into the ether. The families involved were: Bass, Byrd, Scott, Stuart/Stewart, and Walden/Waldron.

The answer to what happened to them was pretty simple in the end. They had removed themselves from North Carolina to settle in Indiana. I won’t spoil the video. Their journey is a remarkable story.

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Genetic genealogy, DNA triangulation, and the search for my missing Futrell ancestor

When it comes to my genealogy adventures, more often than not, I feel like Sherlock Holmes or Poirot when it comes to uncovering the identity of missing ancestors who lived in the 17th, 18th and early 19th Century. Paper trails invariably run out, especially when it comes to my ancestors who were either working class whites, blacks, mulattos, Native American, or free people of colour. There are various reasons for this. Either records were lost, destroyed during times of upheaval (i.e. Revolutionary War, Civil War, Bacon’s Rebellion, etc) or were lost due to things like courthouses burning down. Given the remote areas some of ancestors lived, records may have never been produced at all. Or, if enslaved, full names weren’t provided. Or, due to ethnicity, they weren’t seen as people.

DNA testing is one key to uncovering the identities for ancestors where paper documents never existed, or no longer exist…or have yet to be digitized.  The process of DNA triangulation is key to this process:

Triangulation for autosomal DNA is kind of a chicken and egg thing.  The goal is to associate and identify specific DNA segments to specific ancestors.  The easiest way to do this, or to begin the process, is with known relatives.  This gets you started identifying “family segments.”  From that point, you can use the known family segments, along with some common sense tools, to identify other people that are related through those common ancestors.  Through those matches with other people, you can continue to break down your DNA into more and more granular family lines. (DNAeXplained, “Triangulation for Autosomal DNA” via https://dna-explained.com/2013/06/21/triangulation-for-autosomal-dna)

Regular readers will know I’ve developed a talent for triangulation over the years. In truth, much credit goes to my team of genetic genealogists who spent long and patient hours explaining how genetic genealogy and triangulation work; and mentoring me through my first forays into triangulating with my own DNA.

I’ve saved one of the most challenging triangulation tasks for last: discovering the father of my 2x great grandmother, Selinda Futrell, born about 1842 in Rich Square, Northampton County, North Carolina. This falls on my mother’s side of the family tree.

matilda

There are a couple of phases when it comes to organizing how I approach working with DNA and vital documents identifying a parent, or parents, for an ancestor. I’m still very much in the early phases with Selinda.

A preliminary to Phase I

Let’s start with her mother, Melinda, whose name appears as Melinda Futrell in official documents. Melinda was born around 1824 in Northampton County, North Carolina.  The first question I had to tackle was whether or not Melinda was a Futrell by birth, or was it a name she assumed after Emancipation.  In short, what was her connection to the Futrell name?

The three documents I have for Melinda, including the 1870 Census, cite that she is black.  All three documents are consist in this fact. There is nothing to-date to indicate that she was of mixed race. Now this could be for one of two reasons: either she was born of mixed parentage and simply didn’t appear to be.  Or, as I strongly suspect, she wasn’t born of mixed parentage. I am satisfied on the score that she was not a Futrell by birth.

Melinda’s children, on the other hand, are consistently cited as being mulattos. All of them. Which indicates that, unlike Melinda, her children had a white father. Given some 20+ DNA matches with white Futrells and Futrell descendants with roots in Northampton County, North Carolina, the team and I are very confident that man was a Futrell. This would explain Melinda’s adoption of the Futrell name, which she passed on to her children.

This is a prelim into Phase I.

Phase I: The Futrell family tree

So, the preliminary to Phase I was all about determining if Selinda Futrell was indeed a blood relation to the Quaker-descended Futrells in Northampton, NC.

Phase I, which is still ongoing, requires me to do a full and thorough work-up on the Quaker-descended Futrell family tree. This is easier said than done.  I’m not going the lie. The Futrells are a nightmare to research.

Let’s just start with the surname. When it comes to misspellings and variants of the name, it’s in a league of its own: Fewtrell (the old English spelling of the name), Futral, Futrill, Fetral, Tutrill, Titrill, Futrelle…the list goes on and on.

Then there are the beloved family names that were commonly used among numerous branches: Shadrach, William, Charity, Daniel, John, Nathaniel, and Mary, just to cite a few. Online family trees are aren’t an option – too many have confused or merged individuals who borne the same first name and were born within a few years of each other.

The one book I hoped to get a hold of, 12 Northampton County, North Carolina Families
Bridgers, Daughtry, Futrell, Jenkins, Joyner, Lassiter, Martin, Odom, Parker, Stephenson, Sumner, and Woodard by Rebecca L. Dozier is no longer in print.

But then, as luck or providence would have it, I discovered a second book: The Futrell Family Revised by Roger H. Futrell (available to read and/or download via: https://dcms.lds.org/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE99258)  This book has been an absolute godsend. I’m not exaggerating when I say that we couldn’t have done an accurate family tree without it.

The book allowed us to ramp up Phase I, and begin Phase II.

Phase IIa: Eliminating and shortlisting paternity candidates

The 18th and early 19th Century Futrell family is huge. The family was not only prolific, it produced an unusual number of male children generation after generation.

At the moment, we’re just shy of 60 Futrell men born between 1650 and 1820. In order to have the fullest list of possible paternity candidates, we’re required to try and trace as many descendant lines for Thomas “The Immigrant” Futrell (born 1659 in Shropshire, England, lied for a period in Surry County, Virginia –  and died in 1693 in Bertie County, North Carolina). Once this has been done, we can begin to specifically look at Futrell men who were old enough, and resident in Northampton County, NC prior to Selinda Futrell’s birth in 1842.

I don’t know if ‘luck’ is the right word, but I’m going to use it anyway.  As luck would have it, around two-thirds of the Futrells who were in North Carolina had moved to Trigg and Christian Counties in Kentucky by 1814. Why is this lucky?  These Futrell men are automatically eliminated as possible descendant lines who could have fathered Selinda and her siblings. These Futrells didn’t moved back and forth between Kentucky and North Carolina.  Once they arrived in Kentucky, that was it.

We next looked into the proximity of Futrell men to Melinda and her family in Rich Square.  There were a dozen or so men of the right age either living in Rich Square. Another 8 Futrell men lived within a day’s horse ride away from Rich Square. Then there was the extended family group of Futrells who lived in Onslow County, NC.

Next we looked at which Futrells owned slaves.  This ruled the Onslow County group of Futrells out almost immediately. None of them had enslaved people.

This, again, helps us narrow the field of identifying the best, most likely paternity candidates on paper before we begin using DNA to triangulate.

After eliminating so many Futrells from consideration, we are left with a few family lines to investigate more closely:

  1. Male Futrell descendants of John W Futrell (1715-1788) and Martha “Polly” Daughtry;
  2. Male Futrell descendants of Benjamin Futrell (1720-1790) and Mourning Smith; and
  3. Male Futrell descendants of Thomas Futrell III (1713-1770) and Elizabeth Dickinson.

Work continues in investigating these three family groups.

Phase IIb: Wills and probate…and more Wills and probate

Wills and probate records are a vital – and rich – source of ancestral information. On the one hand, they provide the names of surviving family members, including grandchildren (e.g. I bequeath to my grand-daughter Hezekiah Heathcock, the daughter of Anne,…)

Next, Wills and probate are important for my Futrell ancestry for another reason. Wills and probate tells me who held enslaved people and who did not. This isn’t always a hard and fast rule.  My formerly missing German-American Sheffey 4x grandfather, John Adam Sheffey, was the only 18th Century Sheffey to not own slaves.  However, his brothers did. Yet, as far as DNA is showing, only John Adam Sheffey seems to have fathered children with Jemimah, an enslaved woman in the household of his brother Maj Henry Lawrence Sheffey. Slave ownership isn’t always a reliable factor when it comes to determining paternity.

For the Futrells who held enslaved people, the names of the enslaved are cited in their Wills.  It is actually possible to follow the trail of the enslaved from generation to generation through subsequent Futrell family Wills.

Using an example, let’s say Futrell #1 had an enslaved woman by the name of Amey. She goes from him to his son, Futrell #2.  Next, we might see in Futrell #2’s Will that Amey and her children, Patsy and Shadrach, pass to his son, Futrell #3.  Not only can I track Amey, I can now see that she has two children. Further Wills will provide further clues and information about Patsy and Shadrach.

The above is an illustrative example.  The Will of Elliot Futrell below, is a real-world working example:

elliott-futrell-1elliott-futrell-2

I’ll go ahead and say.  Creating family trees from Wills is a strange and unsettling business. I don’t think I’ll ever reconcile myself to it. With that said, it is a critical skillset to acquire when it comes to genealogy.

As part of my genealogy practice, I add this information my Ancestry.com family tree for the respective individuals who held and inherited enslaved people.  I do this in the hopes that it helps other African Americans  researching their own family trees. I include the names of the enslaved and how that individual came by them (i.e. inheritance or purchase) with links back to the original course. The two images below show my working practice using the Will above:

mitchell-futrell

The image above shows notes I add to respective Ancestry.com pages to track the movement of enslaved ancestors from generation to generation.

Now, in the instance above, I don’t know if any of the enslaved people cited are part of my Futrell family’s story. However, they will be part of someone’s family story. So many have helped me along my way in my adventure, it would be churlish for me to not pay it forward.

Phase IIc: Identifying Futrell DNA segements

While I grapple with the traditional genealogy required in Phases IIa and IIb, the team is working on identifying my Futrell DNA segments and the Chromosome(s) associated with this segment or segments. While I’ve become adept at this part of the process, it is time consuming. And, in this instance, exceedingly tricky due to endogamy (cousin marriages, in short). I’m going to say it: the professionals are far quicker at this than I am!

This article from DNAeXplained gives you a glimpse into what’s involved: Concepts: Match Groups and Triangulation https://dna-explained.com/category/triangulation.

Phase III: Working with online DNA cousin matches

This final phase will do one of two things.  It will either identify the father of Selinda Futrell and her siblings. Or, it will narrow the search down to a single family group, a father and his sons, in other words. Most of the time, we get a solid hit and there’s no doubt about it.  Other times – and this is largely due to endogamy – we can only narrow it down to a father and/or his sons.

For example, it’s not unusual in my family tree for two brothers from one family to marry sisters from another family – and both sets of couples were cousins. Add the fact that the parents of the 2 brothers and 2 sisters were 2nd or 3rd cousins. Nothing skews DNA triangulating quite like this. It’s a bit of a nightmare. Less frequent is a father and a son marrying a mother and a daughter from another family, who may or may not be related to them.

Part of Phase III includes me relaying any possible DNA overlaps back to the genetic genealogists. For instance, the Quaker descended Futrells married Outlands, Exums, Vinsons and Lassiters quite often In Northampton, NC. I know already that I have Lassiters and Exums in Virginia on my father’s side of the family. I also have Outlands from Pennsylvania and Virginia on both my parents’ ancestral lines. Regardless of which colonial territory or State they lived in, these Outlands, Lassiters and Exums are part of the same family. Add in the Quaker White family, which links all of these families and more…and you have some tricky triangulation to do.

This information is crucial for the genetic genealogy team to reduce the risk of them arriving at a false positive. They need to find ‘pure’ lines – lines that don’t share common DNA with any other, in order to successfully identify Selinda Futrell’s father.  We use this as a benchmark against which we compare every other line.

Each Futrell line will be examined individually to see which one matches me closer, in terms of generation, than any other. For instance, if all of my DNA matches are at the 5th, 6th and 7th cousin level, save one that matches me at the 4th generational level or less – the most recent shared match is the one we need to investigate more closely. The identity of her father rests on Futrells who match me more closely in terms of generational distance than any other Futrell descendant line.

Normally, we’d also rely on the length of DNA segments shared, and the number of segments shared, between me and my Futrell DNA matches.  However, because of cousin marriages, I already know we’ll share more DNA in common than is typical for 4th to 8th cousins.  As an example, I have a Quaker cousin in Pennsylvania who Ancestry.com suggests is a 3rd cousin. We know a number of the ways we’re related, which makes us 5th, 6th, and 7th cousins respectively (due to endogamy within the colonial Quaker communities, we share at least 6 sets of common ancestors). We share a crazy amount of DNA segments for two people whose common ancestors lived between 1660 and 1770. It’s not Ancestry.com’s fault, it can only go by what the genetic numbers are telling it.

Yep, I know, it sounds like a whole lot of work to identify one ancestor. It’s what you do when the paper trail runs out.

And why spend so much time and effort to identify a father-owner ancestor?  I’ll touch on that in the next article.

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Free black families in Colonial America: The Bugg (Doss) family

Every genealogist, regardless of experience levels, has a family line that makes him or her want to rip their hair out. Seeing as how I cropped mine, I don’t have that luxury. I have to content myself with double face palms.  The Bugg family of Halifax and Mecklenburg Counties in Virginia – as well as its descendant lines in the former Old Ninety-Six region of South Carolina (including the present day North Atlanta, Georgia), plus Warren, Northampton and Halifax Counties in North Carolina – is just that kind of family for me. ‘Difficult to research’ doesn’t even begin to describe the trials and tribulations this family has presented me with.

It all began with Rebecca Bugg, born around 1798, in Edgefield, South Carolina. Rebecca is on my mother’s side of the family tree. The earliest record I have for her is the 1850 Census when she is about 56 years of age:

rebecca-bugg-1850

Rebeca Bugg’s household in 1850.  Click for larger image.                                                                      Source: Ancestry.com. 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
Original data: Seventh Census of the United States, 1850; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M432, 1009 rolls); Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

The image above shows her as a free woman of colour…and the head of a household that was comprised of her dependent children.  Her husband, and the father of her children, was George Quarles. George was an enslaved blacksmith who lived not too far from his wife and his children. What initially interested me about Rebecca was a pretty remarkable accomplishment. She, along with the aid of her daughter Clarissa, and Edward Settles, bought George Quarles’s freedom from one Ralsa M Fuller, also of Edgefield.

george quarles

The sale that would lead to George Quarles’s freedom. Click for larger image. Source: Lucas, Gloria Ramsey. Slave Records of Edgefield County, South Carolina. Digitized book and electronic index. Edgefield, South Carolina: Edgefield County Historical Society, 2010.

No value is given against George’s name.  As a man in the most productive and able-bodied part of his life, I can only imagine that the sum of money Rebecca and Clarissa had to gather in order to purchase his freedom would have been considerable. Nevertheless, George was a free man around 1851. I have to admit that I gave Rebecca and Clarissa a “You go girls!”

The family is all together in the 1860 census:

george quarles 2

George Quarles as head of household in 1860. Click for larger image. Source: Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
Original data: 1860 U.S. census, population schedule. NARA microfilm publication M653, 1,438 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.

Rebecca had me intrigued.  Who were her people? Where were her ancestral roots?

The magical mystery tour began. It’s a tour that remains magical…and mysterious.

Research is showing that the Buggs were an old free family of colour with roots in Halifax County, Virginia. And this is where the hair pulling – or in my case, double face palms – comes into play.

For starters, I cannot find any details regarding the names of Rebecca’s parents. So…while I know that she is a descendant of the Halifax Bugg family, I have no idea which line she descends from. The names of some of her children provide tantalizing clues. However, at this stage, that’s all they are…clues.

A compiled list of Buggs in the 1850 Census for South Carolina has 3 pages of Bug(g) family members. Any one of them en born around 1778 and earlier could be her father. The 3 pages below are courtesy of Ancestry.com: Free Blacks and Mulattos in South Carolina 1850 Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006 and Original data: Motes, Margaret Peckham. Free Blacks and Mulattos in South Carolina 1850 Census. Baltimore, MD, USA: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2002.

free-buggs1free-buggs2free-buggs3

All of the Bug(g)s listed in the pages above are related to one another.  I’ve pieced together how roughly a third of the Bugg family groups cited in the 1850 Census are related to one another.  The other two-thirds are anybody’s guess. From there, it was a matter of tracing various lines back to the 1790 Census. 1790 seems to have been a pivotal year. It was just prior to this that a number of Buggs quit Virginia for Newberry and Edgefield in South Carolina.

The problem with earlier census records is a simple one: only the head of the household is listed by name. At this stage I can only trace male heads of households back to the 1790 Census. The names of their wives and children aren’t given. Exasperating is pretty close to what I’ve been feeling when working with these early census records. However, a handful of Wills for some of these men have provided the clues I needed regarding the identity of some of the Bugg family wives and children.  I’m hoping that other Wills still exist that cover this family in Newberry and Edgefield, South Carolina. These will be my last, best hope for compiling a more complete family tree for this family in South Carolina.

I struck a bit of gold dust while doing a general online search on this family.  I came across a Silvester Bugg, a man who will be my key to solving some of the fundamental mysteries regarding this family’s origins.

Silvester Bugg was free born in Halifax, Virginia around 1743. Born an illegitimate child, Robert Turner (the man Silvester’s free born mother was indentured to) sold him to a George Hoomes Gwinn (Gwyn). Silvester sued to extricate himself from his indenture to George Gwinn in 1769 (Virginia General Court, October 1769. He won his suit but lost when Gwinn appealed. Silvester was forced to serve 5 years of indenture before he was finally freed.

silvester bugg

Excerpt of Silvester Bugg’s first court case against George Gwinn. A full account can be read via https://books.google.com/books?id=snktAQAAMAAJ&lpg=PA48&dq=Jefferson’s%20Reports%20of%20cases%2C%2087%20(1769)&pg=PA48#v=onepage&q=bugg&f=false. Source: Google Books. Original: Virginia Reports, Jefferson–33 Grattan: 1730-1880 … Annotated Under the Supervision of Thomas Johnson Michie, Volume 1, Michie Company, 1903

I’ve read a few of the case summaries.  They provide some very interesting details: namely the name and the history of his mother, Elizabeth “Betty” Bugg (who also went by the surname Doss). They also provide a tantalizing clue about his maternal grandmother. This clue is excruciating. Betty Bugg’s mother, it transpires, was a “white Christian woman”. That’s all any of the summaries will say about his maternal grandmother. None name her. Was she a member of the Halifax, Virginia Bugg family?  Was she a Doss? I have European-descended DNA matches for bother Doss and Buggs on AncestryDNA, FamilyTree DNA and Gedmatch.

Silvester’s case was an important one. Important enough for Thomas Jefferson to write about. Silvester’s case was heard during a time when Virginia was doubling down on its slave laws, further codifying its system of chattel slavery. Nor was colonial Virginia happy about the increasing number of free people of colour within its borders. The background to all of this is too lengthy to cover here.  An excellent legal overview of this is covered in the book Reports of Cases Determined in the General Court of Virginia: From 1730, to 1740; and from 1768, to 1772, Virginia. General Court by Thomas Jefferson, published by F. Carr, and Company in 1829 (from Page 87 onwards): https://books.google.com/books?id=YipEAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA88&dq=betty+bugg+indenture&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjglPGXtOzOAhWFWx4KHVTlDYYQ6AEIJzAC#v=onepage&q=betty%20bugg%20indenture&f=false )

https://books.google.com/books?id=YipEAAAAYAAJ&dq=betty%20bugg%20indenture&pg=PA87&output=embed

My hope of hopes is that there is some colonial record that still survives that will name my unknown ‘white Christian woman” ancestor. Her daughter Betty was born from a union with an unidentified enslaved man. I very much doubt his name will appear anywhere.  An enslaved man who was either African or of African descent, he would have been a non-entity. And yes, there is more than a little bit of cynicism in those words. A handful of my family lines that were free people of colour were the result of a white indentured woman having children with an enslaved man.  While these women have been named, and I could read about their respective fates and/or punishments, I have never – not once –seen the name of the man who was the father of their children. Apparently, these fathers were worthy of mention. Each one remains the most stubborn kind of brick wall.

Additionally, where there are court cases, there are affidavits and witness testimonies. Silvester had two court cases.  If said affidavits and witness statements still survive, it is my hope that his white grandmother is actually mentioned by name. A bonus would be confirming the name of his father.

Betty’s mother is a first for me when it comes to colonial women giving birth to mulatto children.  She remains unnamed.

I have searched for her name in all of the usual places: Church Warden Records, Bastardy Bonds, and Burgess Records from Halifax, Virginia. If it still exists, an account in one of these records should have Betty’s mother’s name. As the record below shows, Betty, a natural born child herself, was indentured to Robert Turner, presumably in Halifax County, where Silvester was born. Which begs the question, was Robert Turner the father of Silvester? Another mystery.

betty-bugg

Excerpt taken from Free African Americans of North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina from the Colonial Period to about 1820, Volume 1. Paul Heinegg, Genealogical Publishing Com, 2005 via https://books.google.com/books?id=JcF6E75ZAeUC&lpg=PA218&dq=betty%20bugg%20indenture&pg=PA218#v=onepage&q&f=false

The other mystery is around the Doss-Bugg surname.  Betty used both before settling on Bugg. Why she ultimately chose Bugg remains unanswered. It was the surname her descendants would use. So how the Doss surname come into the picture? How am I related to my Doss DNA cousins? It’s mystery after mystery after mystery with this line.

I’m curious about the Bugg family for a few reasons. They were a family of landowners as well as skilled tradesmen and craftsmen. From what I have seen so far, most were literate and could write. In a time when quite a few non-elite and non-middle class colonials weren’t either of these things, well, this makes this family something special. Naturally, I’d like to learn more about them.

And, of course, this is a family that married into other branches of my mother’s and father’s families. Among others, they married into the following free families of colour who are in my family’s tree in Virginia, South Carolina and North Carolina: Chavis, Gowens/Goings/Goines, Barbour, and Drew.

This is a mystery I will continue to return to from time to time. Yes, I am that stubborn 😉

In the meantime, below is the family tree for the oldest generation I’ve been able to research thus far.  One of Betty’s children will be Rebecca’s parent:

betty bugg family tree

The known children of Betty Doss-Bugg. So far, only Samuel Bugg’s line has been traced to any great extent. The other lines remain a complete mystery. Nothing further is known of Betty’s brother, Frank Bugg.

 

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Me, Quaker manumissions – and an 1828 voyage to Liberia

This post is a companion piece to my previous post, Quakers & Slavery: 50 shades of gray and then some.  It’s more or less the other side of American Quaker’s history with slavery. The theme of this post is the practice among a growing number of slave owning Quakers who freed their slaves.

What I uncovered had me doing a dad dance…not too unlike Matt Bomer’s smooth moves in the TV series American Horror Story. Yeah, I had a revelation so unexpected, so cool, that, well, I just ‘went there’.

I’ve spent the past month tracking down and reading the Wills of my slave owning Quaker cousins; those who not only sired many of my mother’s Carolinian ancestors, but also owned them. I’ve begun tracing ownership of her more distant African descended ancestors from the Colonial Pennsylvania of the 1600’s to Maryland, Delaware and 18th Century Virginia…down to the Carolinas . And yes, that’s a whole lot of probate to read. I’m still working my way through quite a batch of them.

I won’t re-hash what I wrote in the last post. Suffice to say that there was a growing movement within the Quaker faith to end slavery within its ranks. Quakerism and slavery were no longer compatible. I’ve read around 50 Last Wills and Testaments written by Quaker ancestors who owned slaves and died between 1690 to 1790. 90% of these cousins freed their slaves when they died. No caveats, no indentures. They freed their slaves.

The remaining 10% were split 50/50 along two lines.  Those who moved into Virginia and the Carolinas became ever larger slave owners. Not surprisingly, all either left the Quaker faith or were removed by the Quakers for various reasons.

The other camp were Quaker cousins who had an unusual paragraph that kept appearing in their Wills. This paragraph, phrased in slightly different ways in the Wills it appears in, transferred ownership of their slaves to their local Quaker Meeting House until such a time that it was safe for said slaves to be officially freed. This paragraph is telling. It speaks about the concerns for the safety and security of freed slaves in the American south throughout the 18th and early 19th Centuries. Another variation of this paragraph typically requested that slaves were deeded to a family member who was instructed to keep the slaves together until such a time that it was safe for them to be freed, with further instructions that the slave owner’s heirs should assist these slaves in relocating to other states, notably Indiana, Illinois and Ohio.

Slaves held by either the local Quaker Meeting House or by designated family members were to be paid, with their wages being held for safekeeping to support them once they were freed. Slaves in this scenario were either hired out or had enough say of their own to hire themselves out.

What the Wills don’t clarify, however, is defining what constituted a ‘safe environment’ in which the slaves could be freed. I’m still researching what those qualifiers would have been. The more of these Wills I read the more I get the impression that some Quakers who had slaves were actually shielding their slaves from the criminal acts that could take place in the hands of other less thoughtful owners or the agents of less thoughtful owners.

I’ve found a cousin, Robert Peelle (1709), who was a very politically astute person. He seems to have possessed good knowledge of the then current laws because he could see the ultimate impact that changes like The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwest_Ordinance) would have upon the South. I won’t get into what this Ordinance was. Suffice to say it set forth how new states would be admitted in to the new Republic. The formal slave state vs free state argument was still a ways off, however, the roots of this future argument can be seen in the Ordinance.

In his will dated 21 January 1782, Robert Peele included the following:

Item: It is my will and desire that all my Negroes to wit, James, Pen and Kader, Dinah and her four Children, Viz., Heather, Molly, Ginny and Teressa and all the increase of said Dinah and four children if any, shall have their freedom if ever the Laws of the Land should admit of their having that privilege freely, clearly and absolutely….

Robert wanted all slaves to be free. He wrote his will five years before Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance. I believe that he knew that, once there was a slave-free area established, it would eventually expand into the entire South and that it would not be a quick process.

Now, what got me doing a dad dance? It all has to do with four ancestral cousins – three of them are a father and his two sons – John Jellory Peele and his sons, Edmund and Thomas. The fourth is another cousin, Thomas Outland.  All of these men were resident in Rich Square, Northampton County, North Carolina…a town founded by some very old Quaker families.

John Peele (1729-1804), originally from Nansemond, Virginia, was a Quaker Minister at Rich Square who also owned slaves but felt very strongly about their freedom. John came to own slaves via his wife, a Nansemond, Virginia plantation heiress. By all accounts, slave ownership did not sit easily with her. I don’t have contemporary correspondence or written thoughts from John. His Will, however, speaks, volumes.

He stated the following in his will written 29 January 1799:

Item. I leave all the Negroes that have been or now are under my care (living) in trust altogether of my two sons Edmund and Thomas Peelle, for them to take care of and place as they may think most proper, as also to direct as they may from time to time find necessary, until the Laws of the Land will admit of their freedom and that they may then enjoy it fully, and all necessary expenses accruing there from to be paid out of my Estate.

It’s what came next that made me giddy.

So what happened to the many slaves that John Peele owned and passed to his sons Edmund and Thomas?

The Quaker Monthly Meeting House in Rich Square, Northampton County, North Carolina

The Quaker Monthly Meeting House in Rich Square, Northampton County, North Carolina

The Peeles, along with cousin Thomas Outland, being legally authorized and empowered by trustees of the yearly meeting of the Society of Friends of North Carolina, conveyed 58 freed slaves to the states of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, to areas deemed safe for them as they were to be settled in areas of these states largely peopled by Quakers. The Quakers, would keep these freed slaves safe.

Edmund Peele, a prominent Friend of Rich Square, liberated a further 125 slaves in 1827. However, he didn’t just free them. He arranged for their safe passage to Liberia, Africa. At his own expense. He also gave each $25 with which to start their new lives. That’s approximately $650 per freed slave in today’s money (https://books.google.com/books?id=MWFHAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA64&dq=edmund+peele+slaves&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj0s72yzITLAhVCWT4KHaklBMsQ6AEIOzAE#v=onepage&q=edmund%20peele%20slaves&f=false). I’ve read hundreds of Wills from ancestors who owned slaves. This is a first. I have never come across anything remotely like this.

Illustrative image of African Americans arriving in Liberia. This is not a picture of the Nautilus.

Illustrative image of African Americans arriving in Liberia. This is not a picture of the Nautilus.

Liberia. Now that’s a thing I’ve never considered in my many genealogy adventures. My curiosity piqued, I had to know the names of the freed men, women, and children who made that journey. It took plenty of perseverance…but I finally found their names.

I needed to find the name of the ship these souls sailed aboard. I Googled all manner of search strings based on North Carolina slaves, 1827 & 1828 and Liberia. Nothing much turned up. And then I struck gold: the US Brig Nautilus, which set sail from Hamtpon Roads, Virginia and arrived in Liberia on 19 February 1828. The voyage had lasted 54 days:

Now that I had a date, and the name of the ship, I could start searching for passenger manifests. Two family groups immediately leapt out at me: the Outlands and the Peeles. These freed slaves who had journeyed to Monrovia Liberia were my cousins on my mother’s side of the family tree.

All of the individuals below, highlighted in red, are my ancestral cousins (apologies for any formatting glitches. WordPress doesn’t make it easy to create tables):

Names
Age
State or place from which they emigrated
Free born or otherwise
Emancipated in view of emigrating to Liberia and by whom
Where located on their arrial in the colony
Extent of education
Profession
Date of death
Cause of death
Removed to what place
Removal date
Lucretia Outland
70
North Carolina
Unknown
Millsburg
1830
Old age
 
 
Bryan Outland
20
do
do
do
1837
Pleurisy
 
 
Joseph Outland
40
do
do
do
1838
Consumption
 
 
Jane Outland
30
do
do
do
1838
Consumption
 
 
Annet Outland
15
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
Kader Outland
13
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Allen Outland
12
do
do
do
1828
Fever
 
 
Byas Outland
9
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Gatsy Outland
7
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Owen Outland
5
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Zachariah Outland
3
do
do
do
1828
Fever
 
 
Dorothy Outland
42
do
do
do
1843
Decline
 
 
Isabella Outland
12
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Penina Outland
10
do
do
do
1828
Fever
 
 
Rufus Outland
8
do
do
do
1829
Pleurisy
Olin Outland
6
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Harry Davis
45
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Darcus Davis
45
do
do
do
1828
Fever
 
 
Tabitha Davis
14
do
do
do
1828
Fever
 
 
Cherry Davis
12
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Joseph Davis
10
do
do
do
Stephen Davis
9
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Mary Davis
7
do
do
do
Marinda Davis
5
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Council Davis
3
do
do
do
Penina Davis
2
do
do
do
Rhody Outland
18
do
do
do
1829
Unknown
 
 
Jane Outland, infant
do
do
do
1828
Fever
 
 
Rosetta Outland
22
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Reddick Outland
8
do
do
do
1828
Fever
 
 
Tobias Outland
6
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
Maria Outland
4
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Garcy Outland
1
do
do
do
1837
Pleurisy
 
 
Phoebe Outland
16
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Erone Outland, infant
do
do
do
1828
Fever
 
Luke Kennedy
32
do
do
do
Jesse Kennedy
38
do
do
do
C. Kennedy, twin
12
do
do
do
B. Kennedy, twin
12
do
do
do
Asbury Kennedy
10
do
do
do
1836
Anasarca
William Kennedy
8
do
do
do
Shedrick Kennedy
6
do
do
do
Wiley Kennedy
1
do
do
do
1840
Unknown
Christian Outland
17
do
do
do
Farmer
 
 
 
 
Hilliard Outland
1
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Delila Outland
20
do
do
do
1828
Fever
 
Zaney Overman
1
do
do
do
Joseph Peele
37
do
Mr. Peele
do
1840
Consumption
 
 
Chany Peele
23
do
do
do
1840
Consumption
 
 
Mary Peele
5
do
do
do
S. Leone
1837
Parthena Peele
4
do
do
do
1828
Fever
 
 
William Peele
1
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Catharine Peele
56
do
do
do
1839
Consumption
 
 
Isaac Peele
15
do
do
do
1839
Anasarca
 
 
Wiley Peele
12
do
do
do
1840
Anasarca
 
 
William Peele
19
North Carolina
Mr. Peele
Millsburg
U. S.
1828
Venus Peele
30
do
do
do
1833
Anasarca
 
 
Abraham Peele
7
do
do
do
1840
Pleurisy
 
 
Peter Peele
5
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lydia Peele
3
do
do
do
1836
Pleurisy
 
 
Catharine Peele
1
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Bridget Peele
30
do
do
do
1837
Diseased lungs
 
 
Winney Peele
14
do
do
do
1838
Diseased lungs
 
 
Charles Peele
10
do
do
do
1828
Fever
 
 
Judith Peele
7
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rachel Peele
38
do
do
do
1843
Consumption
 
 
Penina Peele
5
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
Harriet Peele
3
do
do
do
1828
Fever
 
 
Edmund Peele
1
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Ceily Peele
57
do
do
do
1829
Decline
 
 
Loretta Peele
14
do
do
Monrovia do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Chaney Peele
63
do
do
do
1829
Decline
 
Edith Peele
35
do
do
do
1836
Decline
 
 
Peggy Peele
41
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Edney Peele
14
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Anaka Peele
12
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Edward Peele
10
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sylvia Peele
1
do
do
do
 
1828
Fever
 
Ceily Peele
61
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Nancy Peele
14
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Olive Peele
11
do
do
do
 
1837
Pleurisy
 
 
Rachel Peele
9
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Willis Peele
17
do
do
Millsburg
 
Farmer
1839
Casualty
 
 
Sarah Peele
21
do
do
do
 
1836
Pleurisy
 
Elizabeth Peele
5
do
do
do
 
1828
Fever
 
 
Allen Peele
18
do
do
do
 
Farmer
1828
Fever
 
 
Mary Peele
16
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Reuben Peele
29
do
do
do
 
Farmer
 
 
 
 
Abraham Peele
20
do
do
do
 
Farmer
 
 
Patience Peele
25
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Richard Peele
8
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Charity Peele
16
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
Benjamin Lawrence
26
do
Unknown
Caldwell
Farmer
1838
Diseased lungs
Adeline Lawrence
1
do
do
do
Judith Lawrence
46
do
do
do
1839
Diseased lungs
Isaac Outland
16
do
do
do
 
Farmer
 
 
 
 
Edward Outland
48
do
do
do
 
Farmer
1839
Diseased lungs
 
 
Hester Outland
30
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Jeremiah Outland
15
do
do
do
 
S. Leone
1837
Elizabeth Outland
13
do
do
do
 
1836
Unknown
 
 
Penina Outland
12
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Henry Outland
5
do
do
do
 
1828
Fever
 
 
Dempy Outland
27
do
do
do
 
Farmer
 
 
 
 
Winney Outland
23
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Samuel White
48
do
do
do
 
Farmer
 
 
 
 
Axem White
22
do
do
do
 
do
1829
Diseased brain
 
 
Hester White
15
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Penina White
13
do
do
do
 
1828
Fever
 
 
Lucinda White
11
do
do
do
 
1828
Fever
 
 
John White
1
do
do
do
 
1828
Fever
 
 
Margaret White
17
do
do
do
 
 
 
Morning Toms
27
do
do
Monrovia
1843
Decline
Jacob Toms
1
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Cambridge Toms
77
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Francis Toms
56
do
do
do
Farmer
1828
Fever
Charlotte Toms
15
do
do
do
1830
Decline
Marinda Toms
12
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Dempsy Toms
9
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Mary A. Toms
5
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Emily White
15
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
Chancy Fletcher
30
do
Mr. Fletcher
do
1833
Anasarca
Lydia Fletcher
12
do
do
do
C. Palmas
Matthew Fletcher
5
do
do
do
Mary Fletcher
3
North Carolina
Mr. Fletcher
Monrovia
Ann Fletcher, infant
do
Unknown
Caldwell
1828
Fever
Rhody Jordan
27
do
do
do
 
 
1832
Consumption
 
 
Chancy Jordan
8
do
do
do
 
 
1828
Fever
 
 
Nixon Jordan
6
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lusanna Jordan
4
do
do
do
 
 
1828
Fever
 
 
Miley Jordan
2
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Solomon Jordan, inf.
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
Ruth Trublood
12
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Hannah Trublood
10
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Diver Fletcher
22
do
Mr. Fletcher
do
Thomas Fletcher
20
do
do
do
1840
Drowning
Jesse White
21
do
do
do
Gilley Toms
18
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Ceiley Fletcher
30
do
do
do
1840
Consumption
Annis Fletcher
25
do
do
do
1840
Consumption
Calvin Fletcher
7
do
do
do
Clarissa Fletcher
3
do
do
do
Dempsy Fletcher
51
do
do
do
1832
Decline
Cave Jones
55
Virginia
Unknown
do
 
 
1828
Fever
 
 
Winney Jones
65
do
do
do
 
 
1834
Decline
 
John Brisbane
29
do
do
do
1830
Consumption
Jane Brisbane
27
do
do
do
1833
Consumption
John Brisbane, jr.
5
do
do
do
Catharine Brisbane
3
do
do
do
1838
Consumption
Francis Brisbane
1
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Wiley Reynolds
24
do
do
do
U. S.
1828
Remus Harvey
30
Maryland
Free born
do
 
 
1836
Diseased lungs
 
 
Malvina Harvey*
25
do
do
 
 
1838
Decline
 
 
Rebecca Harvey
6
do
Free born
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Susan Harvey
3
do
do
do
 
 
1828
Fever
 
 
Elizabeth Harvey
1
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
John Stansbury
19
do
do
do
Maria Stansbury
22
do
do
do
1833
Consumption
Jane Bryant
4
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
Jane Bladen
30
do
do
do
1828
Unknown
Richard Prout*
45
do
do
1828
Fever
Susan Prout
12
do
do
do
William Prout*
8
do
do
do
C. Palmas
1834
John Brown
37
do
do
do
do
1836

Source: Christine’s Genealogy Website – Emigrants to Liberia – Ship Lists
http://www.ccharity.com/contents/roll-emigrants-have-been-sent-colony-liberia-western-africa/emigrants-to-liberia-ship-lists

This document is illuminating for a few reasons. There seems to be a high mortality rate amongst those who arrived in Liberia via the 1828 trip. The illnesses which they died from pretty much speak for themselves.

The other reason this discovery is so profound for me, yet equally simple: There were enormous holes, dead ends and brick walls in my genealogy research for many of my Rich Square black ancestral lines. Hundreds of people simply vanished from all of the usual American records just before 1830. Now I know why. These people were no longer living in America. They were living in Liberia. Now I can update the information I have for them in my family tree. And, hopefully, connect with some of their descendants in Liberia.

Next will be researching the freed families who quit Rich Square for Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. And, of course, reading up on what it was like in Liberia when these Americans arrived.

For now? It’s dad dance time. And I’m fine with that.

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My first African ancestor discovered

When it comes to African American genealogy, finding an African ancestor seems like a pipe-dream. It’s like winning the lottery jackpot. It’s the holy grail. The idea of it seems so impossible, it brings to mind an image of Don Quixote fighting windmills – well, it does to my literary mind at any rate.

Thanks to three Rich Square, Northampton County, North Carolina Josey family cousins…I have my ancestral lottery mega millions win. I have my first direct ancestor who was born in Africa.

I have found African progenitors for other ancestral lines like Goins/Gowen, Christian, Cumbo, Barbour and Munzingo. I was pretty excited to find them too. However, these were families that my various ancestral lines married into. Finding my own African ancestor…well, I’m still somewhere circling Cloud 9.

So who is this ancestor? One of my maternal 4x great grandmothers, Venus. Venus “The Elder” would go on to take the last name Josey, the name of family who owned her. It’s also the surname of James Henry Josey, the man who fathered the four children of her daughter, Venus Josey “The Younger”. To distinguish between the two Venuses, I’ll refer to the elder Venus as “Venus” and the younger Venus as Venus Josey.

I’ve spent a few hours chatting with 3 newly discovered cousins from the wider Josey family. While they didn’t have many stories about Venus, what they did tell me shed some interesting light on her life.

Born around 1806, Venus arrived in South Carolina around the age of 13. That is a very useful, seemingly insignificant factoid. It will (hopefully!) help me identify the slave ship she arrived on. I can start researching slave ships that left the west coast of Africa for the southern states between 1817 and 1822. This 5 year spread takes into account her age – she might not have been 13 when she made that Trans-Atlantic slave ship voyage. And 1806 is only an estimated year of birth, given in 1870. Her first child was born in Rich Square, Northampton, NC in 1825. 1824, the year her daughter Venus Josey was conceived, would be the uppermost limit for the slave voyage search range.

mtDNA tests suggest Venus either came from Gabon or Cameroon.

Now that all seems rather straightforward in terms of research parameters. However, looks can be deceiving. The US Congress passed the Act to Prohibit the Importation of Slaves on 2 March 1807. Thomas Jefferson promptly signed it and it came into effect on 1 January 1808. This was about a decade before Venus’s transportation from Africa to South Carolina. And this is where things will get murky. This means she was illegally transported across the Atlantic and sold. Like any illegal activity, the chances of any documentation is slim. Very slim.

Trans-Atlantic slave trade map

Then there’s the question of what port this ship arrived in. Wilmington was an established slave port before the importation of slaves was outlawed. South Carolina, particularly Charleston, seems a more likely port prospect. Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana are just as likely in terms of ports of arrival. However, my instinct tells me that she arrived somewhere in South Carolina, where many of the North Carolina slave owning Joseys had purchased slaves previously.

illustration of a slave ship hold

That’s the historical aspect of this discovery. There is a human element too. I try to think of that 13 year old child crammed into the dark, dank hull of a slave ship for approximately a month with all the foul smells and filth that journey entailed. I can’t. I try to touch upon the fear she felt. I can’t do that either. It’s unimaginable. There are no family stories of any family members accompanying her on that journey. Presumably, she made that journey alone, leaving everything and everyone she knew behind. That she survived is a testament to her fortitude. There’s a glimpse into that fortitude in one last story about her.

Another family tale is that Venus was a princess or, at the very least, a younger daughter of an African chieftain.  While it would be a sensational find, I’m remaining sceptical. Like the many tales in my family of Native American ancestry – which DNA testing has over-ruled – I’m not going to get too excited by this claim 😉

There is one history sliver that my white and black Josey cousins have relayed to me. James Henry Josey freed Venus “The Younger” and her mother when Venus “The Younger” gave birth to the first of their four children. He freed their children too. James’s mother was, by all accounts, very fond of her mulatto grandchildren. She paid for their education and ensured that the money her husband had bequeathed to their grandchildren and Venus “The Younger” was safeguarded and duly handed over. In short, she ensured her grandchildren’s future prospects.

There is one story that I absolutely love. Venus came to understand English. However, she refused to speak it. Nothing could compel her to do it. That snippet of her history speaks volumes to me.

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