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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Re: use of "by" in surname
In Response To: use of "by" in surname ()

I'm not surprised that few of the free persons of color listed in the census are women. The 1820 and 1830 census only lists heads of households. And the women listed in 1820 might not appear in the 1830 census because of marriage, or they moved from the area, or were living with another family (or even that they were re-enslaved).

If for instance "Caty by Selby" means that Caty was freed by someone of the surname Selby, then there 'should be' an official document recorded in the courthouse to document the emancipation. Usually these appear in two kinds of courthouse documents: Either Selby wrote a deed of emancipation or Selby freed them by his last will and testament.

A deed of emancipation will be recorded right along with land deeds in the county Deed Books. To find slaves Selby granted emancipation, look in the Grantor indexes of the Deed Books at all the Selby entries and then examine all the deeds where Selby is a grantor. In the grantor index you are looking for the white Selby who emanicpated his slaves. You may or may not find the slave named as a grantee (depending upon how the county was indexing deeds).

To see if Selby freed them in a will, look for wills by Selby family members and examine each one, word by word. If you find a will that frees slaves, then look at the inventory and appraisal for this estate. All slaves should be listed as personal property, including their first names and value. Often slaves emancipated in a will were not actually free until the estate closed. This meant that they were "rented out" for sometimes several years after the death of their emanicpator. The annual rental income from the slaves will be listed in the estate account settlement(s) and the names of the people who rented the slaves will be included.

Occasionally I've found where the executor of the estate kept the estate open seemingly forever and the slaves enter a lawsuit to obtain their rightful freedom. You'll find entries pertaining to the court appearances for the lawsuit in the court order/minute books.

I have found also that sometimes deeds of emancipation were not recorded in the courthouse. For instance, I found a man in the Washington Co., MD register of free persons who stated that he was freed on a given date some years earlier by a deed of emancipaton granted by a named woman in Allegany Co., MD. Evidently this man had a copy of the emancipation in his possession and the clerk in Washington Co. acknowledged that and registered the man. I went looking for the deed of emancipation in Allegany Co. MD and could not find it recorded in the courthouse.

When you located these people in the 1830 census, what were they using for a surname? Were they still listed as "by Selby" or had they taken the surname of Selby?

Hope this helps,

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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