Using Colonial Records to Trace African American Genealogy

July 24th, 2009

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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.  

                                                                                                                                         Richard Booker

 

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.    

Terry Family to Tour Wessyngton Plantation for Bi-Annual Reunion

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

Terry Family Tree

Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation Featured on BlackPast.org

July 13th, 2009

Check out my article on BlackPast.org.   It is an excellent resource for African American history and genealogy.

Enslaved African American Families on Wessyngton Plantation in 1860

July 12th, 2009

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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.”

 

Runaways and Rebels on Wessyngton Plantation

June 18th, 2009
Wessyngton Runaways and Rebels

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.

Book Signing at Missouri History Museum

June 5th, 2009
Book Signing at Missouri History Museum

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.

Presentation for St. Louis African American History and Genealogy Society

June 5th, 2009
St. Louis African American History and Genealogy Society

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.

Creating a Family Tree

June 3rd, 2009

Washington Family Tree

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.

Gardner Family Tours Wessyngton Plantation for 75th Family Reunion

May 29th, 2009
Gardner Family Tour at Wessyngton Plantation

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.

Dedication of Enslaved Memorial at The Hermitage

May 18th, 2009
Baker at the Hermitage

Baker at the Hermitage

On May 17th a dedication ceremony was held at The Hermitage, the plantation owned by President Andrew Jackson, in honor of 60 African Americans who had been enslaved on the Ingleside and Cleveland Hall Plantations. Both plantations were owned by nephews of Rachel Jackson and had ties to the enslaved population at The Hermitage.

As reported by the Associated Press, a memorial sculpture of seven oak trees in the shape of the Little Dipper was laid out among a circle of thirty boulders. The piece by Lee Benson is named “Our Peace, Follow the Drinking Gourd.” Slaves fleeing to the North would follow the North Star, one of the stars in the Little Dipper.

Following the ceremony I gave a presentation and did a book signing.  It was a very special and meaningful event.