July 24th, 2009
Court Orders, Southampton County, VA, 1749
Nero a Negro boy slave belonging to Henry Cooker is by the court adjudged to fourteen years of age.
Zingo a Negro boy slave belonging to John Warren by the court adjudged to thirteen years of age.
Douglas a Negro boy slave belonging to Thomas Westbrooks by the court adjudged to ten years of age.
Anarcha a Negro boy slave belonging to Thomas Westbrooks by the court adjudged to nine years of age.
Juba a Negro boy slave belonging to David Edmunds by the court adjudged to ten years of age.
Tilla a Negro girl belonging to Thomas Gillum the court adjudged to fourteen years of age.
Pompey a Negro boy slave belonging to John Barrow the court adjudged to ten years of age.
During the Colonial period, slave owners were required to pay taxes on their slaves from ages twelve to fifty years old. When Africans were brought to the colonies and it was evident that they were adults they were simply added to tax rolls called tithables. When small children and teenagers arrived from Africa and their ages were uncertain, the slave owners would have to take them into court and a judge would assign an age for the slave, which was then recorded in minute or court order books. Most of the slaves were assigned English names, although some retained their true African names. Some of the court orders also list the names of the ships the Africans arrived in and the dates of arrival. Many of these individuals can be traced in later documents such as tax records, wills, and estate settlements. These records can prove to be a genealogical goldmine for African American researchers.
July 24th, 2009
Virginia Gazette, Williamsburg, December 24, 1772
Chesterfield, December 15, 1772. Run away from the Subscriber, on Sunday the 22d of November, a new Negro Fellow of small Stature, and pitted with the Smallpox; he calls himself BONNA, and says he came from a Place of that Name in the Ibo Country, in Africa, where he served in the Capacity of a Canoe Man; his Clothing is a new Felt Hat, new Cotton Waistcoat and Breeches, and new Shoes and Stockings; his Stockings were knit, and spotted black and white. Whoever secures him so that I get him shall have TWENTY SHILLINGS reward, besides what the Law allows.
A great source of tracing early African and African American ancestors is the Virginia Gazette. Slave owners ran ads describing in great detail their runaway slaves, apprentices and indentured servants. Many of these ads list native Africans, their ethnicities, country of origins, their owners, how long they had been in the colonies, and the ships they came on. These records are online at http://etext.virginia.edu/subjects/runaways/1740s.html.
July 16th, 2009
On Saturday August 8th the Terry family will tour Wessyngton Plantation as part of their bi-annual family reunion. The group will tour the Wessyngton slave cemetery, the Washington family cemetery, the grounds around the mansion and a restored slave cabin. Members of the National Black Arts Festival from Atlanta will also attend the reunion festivities. Following the tour the group will dine at the Tennessee National Guard Armory. I will also autograph copies of my new book The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation: Stories of My Family’s Journey to Freedom. The Terrys descend from Dick Terry 1818-1879 and Aggy Washington Terry born 1824. Today there are more than 1,000 Terry family members.
Terry Family Tree
July 12th, 2009
In 1860 Wessyngton Plantation was the largest tobacco plantation in the United States. The Washington family also held the largest number of enslaved African Americans (274) in the state of Tennessee. 187 of them were held on what was called the “Home Place” near the Wessyngton mansion. Eighty-seven others were held on a part of the plantation known was the “Dortch Place.”
June 18th, 2009
Wessyngton Runaways and Rebels
Enslaved African Americans used various forms of resistance against the institution of slavery. Some used passive forms of resistance such as pretending to be ill, secretly destroying tools, and work slow downs. Others used more drastic measures such as physical violence toward their enslavers and running away. Several men from Wessyngton Plantation escaped and made it to free territory. One slave Davy, ran away four times and was preparing to cross the Ohio River and go north to Canada when he was recaptured.
June 5th, 2009
Book Signing at Missouri History Museum
My presentation at the Missouri History Museum was followed by a book signing, which was well attended. I enjoyed meeting the members of the St. Louis African American History and Genealogy Society who sponsored the event.
June 5th, 2009
St. Louis African American History and Genealogy Society
On May 23rd I gave a presentation about my book The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation: Stories of My Family’s Journey to Freedom to the St. Louis African American History and Genealogy Society at the Missouri History Museum. I made many new friends among avid genealogical researchers. I had a great time in St. Louis and look forward to visiting again.
June 3rd, 2009
Washington Family Tree
One of the most exciting things about genealogical research is meeting new family members. In conducting research for more than thirty years I’ve found hundreds of relatives. I created this tree which spans ten generations and includes more than 600 names of descendants from my great-great-grandparents Emanuel and Henny Washington. I have genealogical information on all the families that came from Wessyngton including: Washington, Blow, Gardner, Terry, White, Williams, Lewis, Scott, Green and many others.
May 29th, 2009
Gardner Family Tour at Wessyngton Plantation
In 2008 the Gardners celebrated their 75th annual family reunion. As part of the reunion festivities I led them on a tour of Wessyngton Plantation. The tour included the Wessyngton mansion, Washington family cemetery, slave cemetery and a restored slave cabin. The Gardner earliest ancestors, Aaron Gardner, his wife Betty and their three sons, Daniel, George and Jackson came to Wessyngton in the late 1830s. There are more African Americans in Robertson County, Tennessee with the Gardner surname than any other family.