Friday, 7 August 2015

Slave Owners in the Family Tree

 This month my Progen homework was to transcribe and abstract a will. I chose the will of my maternal 3rd Great Grandmother Charity Stafford.
  Charity was the wife of Joshua Stafford and lived in Sumter District, South Carolina. Charity's parents and birth are unknown. Her will was written in February of 1839 and proved on 9 November 1840.

Last Will and Testament of Charity Stafford

    The following is the transcription of Charity's Will:

  In the name of God Amen. I Charity Stafford, of Sumter District, South Carolina, being in sound health and disposing mind, do make and publish this my last Will and testament.
Item, 1st it is my will that all my just debts be paid by the sale of my two negroes, Viz, Judia and her child, Bluford and the balance of the money arising from the sale of said negroes after my debts are paid together with my household furniture and all my stock to be equally divided between my two sons Lunsford C. Stafford and Hartwell Stafford.
Item 2nd I give and bequeath to my beloved Grand Daughter Barbary E Stafford my plantation whereon I now Live to be for the benefit of her father J Stafford till she my Granddaughter B E Stafford becomes of age, but not to be subject to any debts already or hereafter to be contracted either by her or any other person or persons.
Item 3rd I give and bequeath to my beloved Barbary Jones my three negroes, Viz, Robert, Molly, and Elmirah; during her lifetime, but not be subject to any debts already contracted, or that may hereafter be contracted by her or any other person, or persons.
And at her death, It is my wish that the three negroes (To wit) Robert, Molly, and Elmirah, together with their increase be given to her three children in the following manner Viz, I wish Hartwell E Jones to have Robert; and. Charity E Jones to have Molly with her increase; and Mary F Jones to have Elmyrah [sic] with her increase, and in case either of the children die before they become of age or marry their part of the negro is to go to the surviving one or ones, and neither the negroes nor their increase is to be liable for any debts now contracted or that may hereafter be contracted by any of the heirs or any other person or persons-(Turn over)

 In witnesses whereof I the Said Charity Stafford have to this my last Will and Testament set my hand and seal this the 16th day of Feby in the year of our Lord One Thousand Eight hundred and Thirty nine
Charity x Stafford (SEAL)
Signed Sealed published and declared by the Said Charity Stafford as her last will and Testament in the presence of us who in her presents [sic] and at her request have here unto set our names as
Noah Graham
Samuel P Hatfield
Alfred China

Recorded in Will Book D-2, Page 32
Sumter, South Carolina

 Judia and her child, Bluford to be sold to pay debts.
Robert, Molly and Elmirah and any children they may have to be given to her grandchildren. Human beings being sold and given away as property. So hard to comprehend.
Further in the probate package is a page listing some of Charity's "property" and the worth of each item. Listed just above the cattle and hogs are Judia, Buford, Robert, Molly and Elmirah.

Property List
Charity Stafford
Probate Package
Bundle 132, Pkge 2 pg.3
Sumter County, South Carolina

The 1840 Sumter County, South Carolina Federal Census shows 
Charity Stafford in a household most likely with the enslaved named in her will-
1 Female 70 & under 80,  2 male slaves under 10, 2 female slaves under 10, 1 female slave 24 & under 36.

Placing the names of those in the will with the ages from the census, it is probable that Judia was between 24 and 36. Her son Bluford was under 10 as were Robert, Molly and Elmirah.

 There is no record in the probate file for a sale of Judia and Bluford.

In 1842 there is an auction and it appears that even though the will of her mother Charity left her children the slaves Robert, Molly and Elmirah, Barbary Jones buys them when they are, according to the document, "sold to the highest bidder".
Charity Stafford
Probate Package 
Bundle 132, Pkge 2 pg.7
Sumter County, South Carolina

What became of Judia, Bluford, Robert, Mollie and Elmirah? Did the three 10 year olds stay with the Stafford and Jones families as Charity's will instructed? Were Judia and her son Bluford sold together or were they torn apart?
 Perhaps further research will locate them in family documents.
 Until then, adding the information contained in Charity Stafford's probate package to  The Slave Name Roll Project may be one way to discover what happened to them and reunite them with their families.
  We can't judge our ancestors for actions we don't understand or times we didn't live in. We can only gather and share the information we find.

Do you have slave owners in your family tree? How do you deal with this difficult subject while still honoring your ancestors?
  I would love to hear from you.



  1. I always wondered about my ancestors in the will of Solomon Jennings 1854 Oglethorpe county Georgia all listed as Mulatto except one "Julia " is listed as black and I believe she was Native ; shes my g-grandmother .Any thoughts on this ?

    1. What makes you think she was Native American instead of a slave with little or no Caucasian blood? Based on what I know of Georgia history and when they pushed most of the Native Americans out, I would think it more likely your great grandmother was African-American. Of course, it wouldn't be impossible for her to be Native American but not as likely. Have you taken an autosomal DNA test?

    2. Cheryl, it's hard to know why people were listed as they were. I agree with Schalene. A DNA test would probably be helpful. Thanks so much for reading!

  2. Cheri,

    I've added a link to this post to the Slave Name Roll project. Thank you so much for contributing!

    1. My pleasure, Schalene! Thank you for your wonderful project!

  3. I recently came across a lengthy UK newspaper article for 1862 I believe. It relates to an individual who was part of my one-place Study & does mention one of my ancestors as a witness. The individual a man called Charles Crouch went to the Caribbean as a slave master. Whilst it is fascinating to research it is a disappointing part of our history.

    1. I agree, Julie. Disapointing, yet a reality for many. Thanks for reading!

  4. I have discovered my ancestors listed in two wills and left as slaves to members of the family. I was quite happy when one of the wills wasn't probated until 1870 when my ancestors were already free. Very emotional for me to find them listed there.

    Thank you for sharing the information. Some of those in your will would have only ben in their 30s or 40s when freedom came. They might be found living in the neighborhood by looking through the census for 1866 and 1870.

    1. Very emotional. I would love to hear that through this post families were able to find each other. Thanks so much for reading!

  5. Hey Cousin Cheryl, I DNA tested, I have about 1% native soooo you know it looks like it's more European than Native. I'm a William Jennings descendant, brother to Solomon.


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