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AfriGeneas Slave Research Forum

Tracing Slaves Name To Present Survivors

I second Chuck's sentiments about preserving the book at a public archive - might I suggest the Virginia Historical Society?

In answer to your question about tracing descendants (vice tracing ancestors). Actually, it is theoretically very much easier to trace forward from particular enslaved persons to their descendants, than to trace from a particular descendant back to enslaved ancestors. The natural flow of documentation follows chronological order from older to newer; genealogists are forced to trace back, rowing upstream against the documentary flow! That is why there are so many "brick walls" for genealogists to knock down (I guess in my analogy, they would be "rapids" to cross).

Your idea of learning more about these enslaved people could provide you a rewarding historical research project as you follow them and their children through slavery, emancipation and Reconstruction. As a caution, I would suggest that if you undertake this research project, do it as a an adventure in personal discovery of how your own heritage fits into the broader American story of slavery and its aftermath. I would not be anxious to trace the slaves' living descendants and confront them with your findings. Some of these descendants may seek their past (and those persons will find you), but others will not want to hear of these things, and will not be comfortable with you.

Should you decide to embark on the adventure, read a standard A-A-oriented genealogy book like Dee Parmer Woodtor's "Finding A Place Called Home" and work the techniques in reverse. Read scholarly secondary books about virginia slavery (your local University history staff should be happy to recommend a list of books). You might also pick up useful insights into this venture by reading the recent book by Edward Ball, "Slaves in the Family." Read, read, read!


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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