AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum
Re: Man name Tom mentioned in will
In Response To: Man name Tom mentioned in will ()
You can start by researching the background of the man/woman who willed items to Tom, so as to uncover records that might shed a light on the relationship between the two.
For example, you may find an record of indenture pre-dating the will, showing that Tom apprenticed under the decedent, and was due money or items (e.g. freedom suit, tools, portion of a crop, livestock, etc) at the termination of such indenture. If such a document exists, then you can analyze it's terms of agreement to determine if the decedent was giving (via the will) items that he/she knew Tom was entitled to receive. Thus the will was used to strengthen or enforce the intent of the indenture.
It may be that Tom's labor supported the decedent and his/her family, and that this individual felt that Tom should be rewarded for such service.
There are of course, any number of reasons why the decendent willed items to Tom, so you have to search through records for research leads.
You should also search through the estate/probate records to determine if Tom actually received the items willed to him. This will at least give you an idea of whether or not Tom was still alive at the settlement of the estate, or unfortunately, living in a condition whereby he was unable to claim his inheritance. Finding him alive at a certain date will help you to establish a timeline on his life.
If the items he was willed were taxable, then you should turn to the
You should also check North Carolina laws concerning manumission before assuming that he was freed. The laws specified the terms under which a slave owner could free a slave. In the early years, much of these transactions were handled by the state legislature through a petitioning process. So check the manumission records to determine if he was indeed freed.
There were of course several avenues to freedom, and it may be that Tom was born to a free mother, and thus was himself freeborn.
Also, what kind of property was he willed? Have you found him mentioned in any other records? Have you searched court records in the county for him or any other Negro named Tom?