In my local rag, Margaret Matray writes of the effort by the Virginia State Historical Society to make historical information about slaves available for genealogical research.
It is a difficult task, as little is preserved, other than sales transactions, bequests, and gift records, for black slaves were considered on par with cattle. Indeed, as anyone who has ever dealt with prize cattle will know, more attention was likely paid to the ancestry of cattle.
The whole article is worth a read (it appeared in the print edition two weeks ago), but a few nuggets will remind you that, when persons speak nostalgically of “The Lost Cause,” this is the cause that was lost:
- A receipt from a slaveholder in Richmond in 1850 details the sale of a man named Nate for $850, his condition listed as “sound and healthy.”
- In a written agreement from King George County in 1762, a slave owner gives his daughter a wedding gift: a slave named Diana.
- In a 1758 estate inventory from Essex County, a woman named Leek is valued with her child, London, at 65 pounds. Their names appear on a list with other slaves, alongside silverware, furniture and cattle.