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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Indian Slave Trade and the Generic Negro


Your ancestors lived in very interesting times on the James River. For more than 50 years before LaForce arrived in Virginia, the James had been the base for Indian trade with the Ocaneechi, Tuscarora, Catawba, and Cherokee. William Byrd and his uncle before him, Thomas Stegg were captains of the trade for deer skins and captured Indian women and children. Many surviving Tuscarora and Catawba surnames can be traced back to these 17th century traders. The Catawba became central players in the Indian trade by trading captured enemies, principally Cherokee, to the James River traders. The victims of this trade can be found in Paul's section on Indians.

A very few of these captives acquired surnames which found their way into records - among them Busby, Gaines, Findley, Pinn, Tyler, and Venie. Were it not for the survival of specific court records that these few families happened to generate, they would have joined the ranks of "generic Negroes" with a supposed origin on the west coast of Africa.

A Rickman family from Chicago which moved to the DC area some 60 years ago retained the tradition of Choctaw ancestry. Paul's account of the Findley family verifies this oral tradition. While I am a professed book worm, there is much unwritten history to be learned from living people. This point can not be overemphasized. It does require moving beyond the prejudice that people of color supposedly don't know who they are or where they came from.

Just in this month it was noted that a community in Greenville, VA and Northampton, NC has the tradition of Portuguese ancestry. In 1650 we noted that Manuell ye Portuguesee of Lower Norfolk had fathered a child by Ann Watkins. In Paul's account of the Watkins of Greenville County the name Ann Watkins occurs four times. It should be noted that the records of Manuell and the other Portuguese in early Norfolk county bear no suggestion whatever that these men were persons of color. Nor does the record of Simon the Turk or of the Persians or of Maro Mello/Mills.

The naturalization record of the Dutchman William Mosely and the headrights claimed for Negroes speak to the ethnic diversity in early Norfolk County, VA.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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