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Records prior to 1870 where former slaveholder and enslaved may appear

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In Uncovering records that link the slaveholder and enslaved, it was proven through the wills of Pettus Wales Chick (1806-1887) that some tie or link existed between Pettus, Eliza Eigner, and Eliza’s two eldest children, Anderson and Pettus. So far only records generated after 1870 have been used. At this point you might conclude that there are no other historical records to trace these individuals back any further. This article will reveal ways to document them prior to 1870.

Keep in mind that different localities may have generated different records types. Study the record types that exist at the federal, state, and county or parish level. One way to learn more about records in an area is to ask local archivists or historians. The Research Wiki is another great place to learn about records by locality or topic. Be sure to explain that you are also interested in reviewing records that may not be traditionally used in genealogical research. Consider the following to know if a record set may be useful to your research:

  • Was the record set generated during the time period you are looking to document?
  • What type if information will you learn about people or events from the record? Study the record content.
  • Does the collection cover the exact location where you are researching, or are certain counties or parishes excluded?
  • How is the collection organized? Is there an index, or will you have to sift through original records?
  • If an index is provided, how do you locate the original record?

Uncommon records

Remain inquisitive about record types. You may become aware of other helpful collections throughout your research. You will then be able to glean more information in light of what you have already documented.

Discovering formerly enslaved people documented prior to 1870 can feel like a spectacular event, however, it has become the norm in South Carolina research do to the great diligence to identify historical records with as much vigilance that is paid to identifying ancestors. Remember, some of the greatest breaks in your research challenges will be in the use of records that are not readily available online. You can actually contribute to the pioneering effort to bring light the importance of records that are not commonly discussed in the genealogical arena…yet!

Documenting prior to 1870

This is not an effort to provide an exhaustive list of record types, but the purpose here is to illustrate the possibility of finding success in this type of research. The Chick family is the family of the National Genealogy Examiner.

When the quest to document Anderson began years ago, very few words of encouragement were offered at the time. Many even remarked that it was not possible to document African Americans prior to 1870. The information shared in this series has opened the eyes of understanding of countless researchers who have found access to the same records.

State Censuses

The first place to check prior to 1870 is the state census in the area you are researching. Cross your fingers and hope that you will find that a state census between 1865 and 1870 was taken. Next keep your fingers crossed and hope that the record still exists for the county or parish that you need.

Fortunately, a state census was taken in South Carolina in 1869. For some reason, this census which is on microfilm at county libraries and the archives is much more legible than the 1870 US Census which in many case only lists the first two initials and the surname of individuals. So if you cannot locate the person you seek on the 1870 US Census, you might want to keep your fingers crossed and hope they are living in the place you think they should be in 1869.

After it was stressed that the possibilities of finding documentation for Anderson’s parents were virtually inconceivable, it was a totally breathtaking moment to see her name on the screen of the microfilm reader on the 1869 State Census for South Carolina living in Union County next to Pettus W. Chick.

This census only names the head of household and gives

  1. number of males and females between 6 and 16
  2. number of males over 21
  3. total number of males and females

In Eliza’s household there was one male between six and 16, four males, and one female. Everyone was listed as “colored.” With this information, a comparison can be made against the names of children listed with Eliza on the 1870 census.

In the household of Pettus W. Chick, there was one male over 21 with a total of one male and two females. One of the females listed in Pettus’ household is probably is wife, Sarah. The other female might be a member of Sarah’s Henderson branch of the family.

In the next article you will learn about more records that document slave owners. Be sure to subscribe to you can be among the first to receive it.



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