Ancestral Digs Conference Room

The Genealogy Forum at America On Line

9:PM Eastern Time.

Louisiana Research

GFS Angela:   


\Welcome to a special event this evening.

Our formal presentation will begin in about 4 minutes.

we are all excited about hearing about the work of Dr. Hall.


Hello.  Happy to be here. Thanks for the invite

GFS Alva:     

Hello Dr. Hall, Welcome !

GFS VKN:      

Hello Dr Hall !!!


Good evening Dr. Hall

Selma's computer is not working, so she will be on the phone with

me, and I will transmit Selma is on the phone, and says to tell 

Dr. Hall, who she met at the Slavery Conf, hello


Hi, Selma.  The conference at Williamsburg?

DebbienVA:    Yes, she met you there



Hello, hello, delighted to be here

Thanks for inviting me*

GFS Angela:   

I think we are almost ready to begin our presentation for the

evening.We are most fortunate to have a special visitor among us.

Some of you especially those of you who research 

Colonial Louisiana, and St. Domingue

may already be familiar with her work.

We are fortunate to have among us

he creator of an amazing new CD about

to be released to the public in October.

In advance of that event Dr. Gwen Hall has

agreed to come and to visit our chat room to 

speak about her research.

GFS Alva will tell you a few things about Dr. Hall.

Afterwards I shall ask a few questions to her,

and then we shall open the floor for any questions 

that you may have as researchers.

GFS Alva----the floor is yours.

GFS Alva:     

It is my very great privilege and pleasure to introduce

Professor Gwendolyn Midlo Hall !!!!!

Dr. Hall is a graduate of Tulane, and rec'd her Masters from

he University of the Americas, and doctorate from Univ of


She has taught and lectured at several universities, most recently

at Rutgers in N. Jersey.

Most probably the most familiar book of hers to our group

of researchers is:  Africans in Colonial Louisiana: Development of

Afro-Creole Culture in the 18th Century".

But she has several other books that we should sample, such as:

"Social Control in Slave Plantation Societies- A Comparison of

St. Domingue and Cuba" !!

Dr. Hall has a brand new CD of Louisiana slaves coming out

with almost 100,000 names of slaves!

A number of African "nations" will be listed as a point of origin

for some of these slaves, and many arrived in Louisiana from the

East Coast!  Time period covered is 1719-1820!!!

This CD will be of inestimable value to researchers.

She also has a new book coming out in 2000!! which we are looking

forward to.

Please welcome WARMLY..... Dr. Gwen Hall.


GFS Angela:   

Thank you Alva!!!


Correction - there are about 104,000 records, almost all of

them with names of slaves linked to names of masters,

And almost 10,000 give the African ethnicity of the slaves.

It is very early, so it will take a lot of research for

researchers to go back that far

But it is the only way to link with specific African nations.

GFS Angela:   

Dr. Hall before we begin,

I have a few questions that I would

like to ask you directly before we 

open the floor to the room

for direct questions.

GFS Angela:   

1. You have a fascinating background in history having

written a book on Africans in Colonial Louisiana.

How did this interest develop?


I was born in New Orleans in 1929

Grew up during the Great Depression

My father was the only lawyer in the state

Who would accept police brutality complaints by black folks

I spent my childhood hearing all about it

And was horrified by the environment of those days

And I thought maybe studying history could help me understand

What was going on around me

I didn't like the history I was being taught

So I decided to study and write my own.

When I was studying the Pointe Coupee conspiracy testimony

I saw that some of the slaves testifying had

Identified their African nations

So I started to look at other documents in the courthouse in

Pointe Coupee Parish And found a lot of African nations identified

And African names as well

So I created this database about 15 years ago

And have been expanding it and developing it ever since.*

GFS Angela:   

You began to collect the names for the CD years ago? 

How long did the process actually take to compile the data?


Yes.  Began in 1984. And part of this went into

Africans in Colonial LA. It took 15 years,

including at least 6 years full time work for me

And I had some help from research assistants while I had a grant

From the National Endowment for the Humanities

It was a massive project*

GFS Angela:   

As a professional you are a historian more than a genealogist.

When did you see the genealogical value of the data?


I'm not really a genealogist

But I worked at the Mormon Branch Library while researching

Africans in Colonial Louisiana

And realized how dedicated genealogists are

I usually found a lot more genealogists in historical archives

and in courthouses than historians

And I've learned to respect genealogists*

GFS Angela:   

How many persons worked with you to compile the data?

Or was this a lone venture?


One Tulane graduate student, Phil MacLeod

Worked on the project for about 3 years full time

He is now Latin American bibliographer

At the Latin American Library at Tulane

There were others who worked for shorter periods of time

Greg Osborne came from Los Angeles when the NEH project started

And he worked full time on it for about a year

He now works at the Louisiana Room of the New Orleans Public

Library. He is a walking encyclopedia of free people of color under

slavery in Louisiana

I sometimes had a hard time getting him to stop researching his

own family On my time

But I really appreciate his dedication.

He is a very active and knowledgeable genealogist

Ulysse Ricard worked for most of a full year on the project

When it started.  He was also a dedicated genealogist

And a brilliant linguist.  He and I were the only ones

Who could read both the French and the Spanish documents

He was given a year's leave of absence from the Amistad Research

Center, where he was chief archivist.

Unfortunately, he got very sick almost as soon as the project

started And he died 2 years later.

He was almost blind throughout that whole first year

It was tragic:  a brilliant young man

The CD is dedicated to his memory


There were a few other researchers who worked for shorter periods

Mabel Macias, a Cuban-American, worked for almost a year

And she did excellent work.

There were 2 other people who each worked for a few weeks

Over the summers

The vast majority of the documents were in French

Many others were in Spanish And the rest in English

Last spring I translated all the comments, skills, illnesses,

etc. into English so the database can be read easily*

GFS Angela:   

How far back in Louisiana history do your records extend?


They begin with 1719.

Those are all Atlantic Slave Trade ships

And do not have names of slaves, only the numbers of slaves

on each voyage, where it came from

And sometimes age categories like child or adult, and gender.

Then by 1723 we have some slaves recorded in civil documents

Like sales, testimony of slaves in court cases

And estate inventories.

About one-third were slaves listed on estate inventories

There are over 1,000 records about runaway slaves

And 575 testimony by slaves

Most of the documents are sales or individual slaves

Or groups of slaves

And over 4,000 are emancipations of slaves

Masters are listed for inventories

Sellers and buyers are listed as well

As are family relationships among slaves

The database covers all parishes of Louisiana which existed

Through 1820.

There is a map on the CD so you can locate these parishes.*

GFS Angela:    

Were private collections used and was there any resistance

from anyone in your use of this information?


No. They were all public documents

Found in archives, but mainly in courthouses

Throughout the state.

The greatest resistance was an arson fire.

In the courthouse in Pointe Coupee.

After Africans in Colonial Louisiana came out

Because it showed the level of racial passing

Among "white" families.

But fortunately the Mormons had all the documents

On microfilm, anyway.*

GFS Angela:   

One final question---an important one----

When and where can the CD be purchased and for how much? 


The easiest way is on Amazon.com.

Type in my name under author

And you can order it


GFS Angela:   

What is the official title?


Databases for the Study of Afro-Louisiana History & Genealogy

It costs $45.  

I insisted on a low price

So people could afford to buy it and play with it

To find their ancestors.

But it will be used by scholars, too

Because there is a lot of information in there.

For linguists as well as for historians.

I did all the technical work myself

I got support for the research

From the French and the Spanish Ministries of Culture

Because they were very interested in the documents in

the United States in their languages.

So that's why I could keep the price down.*

GFS Angela:   

I am sure that many people have questions. We shall allow our

members to ask question.

Please indicate your question with the symbol "?"

....and all comments please indicate with the symbol

" ! " You will be called in order.

GFS Alva will monitor the queue.


(These are Selma's questions.)

How can you use your CD with the Transatlantic Slave Trade


Are the slaves directly from Africa or by way of other slaving



I have an article coming out

Which links my database with the Atlantic Slave Trade Database

Comparing origins shown on this database.

And my own research about Atlantic slave trade voyages to


With the "nations" of slaves listed in Louisiana documents.

Over time and place.

The African slaves were almost all directly from Africa

But for those who spent some time elsewhere

There is a field called VIA

Which shows where they came from after Africa and before


If they actually lived elsewhere

Almost all the slaves transshipped from the Caribbean

Had just arrived from Africa

It shows origins from the English states as well

And the few who were born in the Caribbean

It shows which island.*


Will the CD give first names, surnames and ages?  



Yes, it has first, last names, genders, ages, and status

EG., there is a field that shows

If there was a free person of African descent

Involved as master, buyer, seller, or the deceased

In probate documents.*


Was the Pointe Coupee conspiracy the fire you mentioned?"


The fire was of the beautiful colonial documents

GHall1929:    Bound in books.

they were so badly charred

That no one is allowed to touch them

It included the Pointe Coupee Conspiracy documents

But I have a xerox of them.

At my collection at the Amistad Research Center.

There are databases and spreadsheets

By Paul LaChance and by Jeffrey & Virginia Gould as well

On the CD

LaChance has censuses, mainly from the French period.

Gould has Pensacola and Mobile censuses as well

I have the 1778 Census databased for New orleans

Which I databased directly in the Archives in Seville

From the original manuscript census.*


Selma wants to know how many slaves were imported to LA between



We have to guess -

There are over 8,000 slaves on the database

Who arrived via Atlantic slave trade voyages,

And about 2500 thru transshipment from the Caribbean,

But there had to be more than that.

We simply don't have all the documents

Besides, there was a lot of smuggling in of Africans

After the African slave trade was outlawed.

This is a problem in historical demography

Which we are talking about, but no clear solution is available.*

GFS VKN:      

Dr. Hall what are the Nations of origin of the 10,000 identified

ethnics ?


The main ones were"  Bambara, Mandinga, Fulbe, Moor, Wolof

Kisi, Canga, Fon (Dahomey), Mina (from Togo), Konkomba (Bight of

Benin), Hausa, Yoruba,      Congo, and Makua

There were many other "nations" but in very small numbers.

Usually only one or two.

I have a list of numbers and percentages.

Of Africans of various nations. In an HTML file

Which I can send out over the web.

With all the names of slaves and masters, buyers, sellers, freers.*

GFS Angela:   

Let me note that the data will be available soon on the WEB.

VKN has received the file.


Do you know of anyone doing your type of work in the Caribbean?

And thanks for answering. 


There is work done in Cuba

But I don't think it has been databased.

There is a Costa Rican historian, Rima Caceres

Who is helping organize some Caribbean and Latin American 

projects.  She will be at the conference at Howard University

This Friday and Saturday where I will be speaking

And we expect to start scheming.

About standardizing the databases being developed

In Latin America and the Caribbean.*


Valencia and others, this demonstrates why I am going after a

grant.  It really helps to have funding to help with the research 

and resources.

Dr. Hall, Someone mentioned earlier that you had written

a book on social structures of Slavery on 

Carribean plantations. Do you draw any parallels between

those and the "caste system" on 

antebellum plantations in Deep South???


I made a few remarks at the end of the book

That's a big question

And a very interesting one.

Which I can't go into here.


It's a big issue!  :-)


But a lot was implied in the book you mentioned

Which discusses how slave systems changed over time

Depending on prevailing conditions

And the impact of the slaves themselves

Rather than the way the history is usually dealt with.

Assuming that all power was in the hands of the masters.

And the slave system depended entirely upon their benevolence.

Especially I argued against the myth.

That the Spanish slave system was mild.*


Do you have an estimate of the numbers of Africans who left

Louisana and went to other states 


That's a little late for the time I researched.

Most slaves were coming into Louisiana from the East Coast.

And some of them were being shipped out to Miss & AL as well as

upstate and northwest LA during that time.

I do have a field (as you might guess) which shows

Where the master they were sold to lived.

and where the seller lived as well.

But that is, of course, only partial information.

GFS VKN:      

Dr. Hall  in summary what  do you identify  as your most

significant findings?


African "nations" of origin and their clustering by time,

place and language group.  I'll send you a copy of my essay

when it is finished.

GFS Angela:   

Why don't we formally end the Q & A and thank Dr. Hall

while we can do so with full enthusiasm.

I am sure that she will remain

to take further questions.

Thank you so very very much

or visiting our chat, Dr. Hall!!!

I mentioned to a colleague that I don't even

research Louisiana and I intend to purchase the CD.


Surely, one of your ancestors was from LA

If you go far back enough.  Right?*


This will surely inspire us all to renew the search for the African



Mine were more like AOG (All Over GA), Dr. Hall!  :-)


Look... we must all purchase the CD, then utilize the method

and collect data from our own localities.


Hi, Rostew!  I remember our great times in Chicago a few years

back.Tell all my friends there hello.*


It's great to "see" you again, GHALL!!!

I will do so

GFS VKN:      applause Applause!!!

GFS Angela:   thank you thank you thank you!!!

GFS Angela:   clap clap clap clap clap !!!!!!!!!!!!!

GFS Alva:     clap clap clap clap clap..... this was WONDERFUL !!

DebbienVA:    CLAP!! CLAP!! CLAP!! CLAP!!!!!!!!

JazzyG4202:   {{{{{{{APPLAUSE!!!}}}}}}

GFS Marol:    Absolutely Wonderful!

JArrin1056:   Thanks!

Otey50:       Presentation was thoroughly enjoyed!!

Rostew:       Clap Clap Clap Clap !!!!!!!!!!!  Clap.!!!!!1

GFHVee:       CLAP!! CLAP!! CLAP!! CLAP!!!CLAP!! CLAP!! CLAP!! CLAP!!!!!!!!

GFS Angela:   fantastic presentation!!!!!!!!!!!

MaryT73352:   Thank you!!

GHall1929:    Thanks all of you.  I really enjoyed it.*


Can we get a copy of the chat? Signed in late!

GFS Angela:   

no problem DParmerwoo. We shall post the interview

in a future newsletter!!!


Dr. Hall, what are your future research plans?


Finishing an article called "Africans After the Atlantic Slave

Trade:Randomized, Fragmented, or Clustered?" which argues for

continuity of African communities

From calculations on the database.

DebbienVA:    Where will it be published?


I have a book under contact with Univ. of NC Press.

GFS Alva:     

Dr. Hall,  Can you tell us a little about your upcoming book?


Called Race & Ethnicity, Slavery & Freedom:  a Comparison of 

French, Spanish, and Early American LA (1719-1820).

But I'm speaking a lot these days and I need to stop doing this

So I can finish the book.

Now that the database is finished

hope to have the next book done soon

then in about a decade, maybe I can retire from retirement!*

GFS Angela:   

Oh no, never retire, your work is much needed!!!


It will cover all of Louisiana through 1820

And uses the database a lot.*


Dr. Hall, any presentations planned for Nashville, TN?

GHall1929:    NO.


But we need to hear you too...


GFS Alva:     Los Angeles ?

GHall1929:    NO

DebbienVA:    Will you come to Virginia--like William & Mary first?

MNHWMAS:      San Diego ?

GFS Angela:   or Baltimore?

GFS Angela:   And where will you be in DC?


NO PLANS.  I'm staying at the Holiday Inn Downtown and speaking

at Howard Univ. This Friday morning.

HJones4963:   Where will you be appearing in the coming months, in order.


I'm then speaking in Baton Rouge, then New York City, then

Toronto, then New Orleans at Dillard Univer by mid-November.*


Dr. Hall, you mentioned your father and his impact upon you at

the beginning of the chat.

Would you describe him as sort of an Atticus Finch in

"To Kill A Mockingbird?"


I guess there are some parallels with Atticus Finch and my



t appears that he gave you a strong social conscience!


Yes, he did.  It runs in the family, right Haywood?

I think my son, Dr. Haywood Hall, is in this chat.


Dr Hall I recently found a possible family connection to the 1811

Slave Revolt in Louisiana.

would you have any information about the slaves that participated.


All those involved in this revolt are recorded in the CD

GFS Angela:          

Well Folks...

the hour is winding down unfortunately.

We have had an incredible evening.

We shall bring this session  to a formal close.

As you know we will be here

next week same time, same station.....

you are all welcome to stay and chat....

but I am sure that our presenter 

must be worn from all of that typing, too. 

We cannot tell you how much

your presence here is appreciated.

Moreover, THANK YOU for the dedication to this

5 year effort and for sharing it with the world.

Many descendants will be forever appreciative of your work.

GFS VKN:      Thanx so much again and again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

DebbienVA:    Thank you, thank you, thank you

GFS Alva:     this has been truly wonderful !!!   thank you Dr. Hall

Rostew:       Yes, thank you for that great presentation.

GFS Angela:   Dr. Hall thank you again!!!!!


Thank all of you.  It was great!!!

Yall are doing a great job!!!

DebbienVA:    This was absolutely wonderful.  Thank you so much.  This will be

topped off with Gordon-Reed and Ira Berlin this weekend. 


GFS Alva:     WOW.... what a week !!

GFS Angela:   Debbie, where are they speaking?

DebbienVA:    It doesn't get any better than this.  Sorry about not being at

Howard U

DebbienVA:    they're at the Mariner's Museum

GFS Alva:     Good luck to all you guys in harm's way...hurricane...

GFS Alva:     will say some prayers for you!

GFS VKN:      Yes do take care!!!!!!

GFS Angela:   Good night to everyone.

GFS Angela:   Thanks for coming.

GFS Angela:   Our formal event has closed.

GFS Angela:   Have a good evening Dr. Hall.


GFS Angela:   Logs closed.

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