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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Re: Free persons of color in Norfolk,VA

Tommy Bogger has published: Free blacks in Norfolk, Virginia, 1790-1860 : the Darker Side of Freedom, and that will provide you with the historical context of time in which your ancestor lived in the city. Your ancestor was not mentioned in the book, but by consulting the bibliography and footnotes, you will learn what types of records Bogger consulted in researching and writing on Free Negroes in the city.

There was another recent publication by C. Bernard Ruffin titled: Norfolk, Virginia Registry of Free Negroes 1835-1861 Abstracts, that does list your ancestor. The entry on page 188 shows that he was born free in 1811 and was originally from Norfolk County. He registered in Norfolk Borough (later city) on the following dates: February 19, 1844, November 23, 1846, and July 26, 1858. Heritage Books sells this, so if you want to purchase a copy, go to this link:

Thus you will need to search through Norfolk County records for more information on your ancestor prior to 1844 when he first registered in Norfolk Borough. The Library of Virginia has a copy of the Free Negro Registers for Norfolk County, on microfilm I think, but it may also be available in paper copy in the Archives, rather than the library.

Several years ago a group of researchers were transcribing the records, but I don’t know how far they’ve progressed. There was a genealogist, Deborah Cuffee, who descends from a free family (Cuffee) with a long history in the county, who was one of the primary researchers in the area. I don’t have contact information for her, but I imagine if you contact a library in or near Norfolk County, they may be better able to provide you with her information.

Another source you will want to consult is the lineage work compiled/amassed by Paul Heinegg. He has documented free members of a Webb family from Northampton County, essentially Eastern Shore Virginia folks. At the very bottom of this section on the Webb family, you can find one reference to “a” William Webb in the 1810 Norfolk County census. This man may be related to your William Webb, but without additional research, it is difficult to say.

Heinegg doesn’t make a direct link between this Norfolk County Webb and the multitude of other Webbs in Northampton and other Virginia counties, but his research provides you with an ample number of names and record sources from which to compare/supplement your own research. It would not be too far of a stretch for someone from the Eastern Shore to have settled in Norfolk, as they probably would have traveled across the water—you would have to do the research to show the connections.

The most significant thing to note about Heinegg’s research is that he’s found evidence of “free” Webbs dating back to the 17th century. This is encouraging as it suggests that members of the Webb family left a documentable trail in Virginia records during a time when most researchers assume few African Americans can be documented.

Go to the following link and locate the section on the Webb family:

As for finding additional information, the record sources are rich and abundant. You’ll have to dig through the originals (or microfilmed copies), as few of the records pertaining to African Americans have been transcribed. Some records are at the Library of Virginia in Richmond, and others are still at the courthouse in Chesapeake. Fortunately, Norfolk County and Norfolk City did not suffer during the Civil War from large-scale record burning. And the records for the county date back to the 17th century in some cases.

I wish you much success with your research.

Messages In This Thread

Free persons of color in Norfolk,VA
Re: Free persons of color in Norfolk,VA
Re: Free persons of color in Norfolk,VA

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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