Slave Name Roll Project:           Volume 1 (Wilkes County, GA)


Contribution to Slave Name Roll Project

Christine Johnson-Williams doesn’t blog but wanted to contribute to the Slave Name Roll Project. She sent several eMail messages containing information about her ancestors’ slave connections to the Project’s Director, Schalene Dagutis. Christine has submitted images of wills from her research, along with transcripts, to be included in the Project. I have offered to assist Schalene in adding Christine’s lists to the project. The transcripts are a big help.

My post today introduces the will of Sarah Cotton-HILL (Christine’s 5th Great Grandmother) who was married to Henry HILL in Wilkes County, Georgia.

GEORGIA – Wilkes County

Will Abstract/Typescript of Sarah HILL, deceased, late of Wilkes County, Georgia; widow of Henry HILL, deceased, of Wilkes County,Georgia . . .

“Page 92. HILL, Sarah
Slave ELIZA to be sold;

$200.00 of which to son John HILL, horse, etc;
and a young bay mare to his [John HILL] son, Jas. Henry HILL;
To [my] son Abram [HILL], slave, DINAH, still, household goods, crops, etc;
To children of [my] dec’d son, Theophilus HILL, balance of proceeds of sale of slave, ELIZA, at marriage or majority;
feather bed, etc; to his [my son, Theophilus HILL] dau. Elizabeth HILL;
one bay filly to his [my son, Theophilus HILL] son, Greenberry HILL;
to [my] dau. Nancy [HILL] JOHNSON, a safe and arm chair;
to her [Nancy HILL JOHNSON] dau., Sarah [JOHNSON], a trunk;
to [my] dau. Mary [HILL] JOSSEY/JOSEY], equal parts of clothes;
and to her [Mary [HILL] JOSSEY/JOSEY] son, Henry JOSSEY, a buffet;
a bed to Kiddy JOSSEY [dau. of Mary HILL JOSSEY/JOSEY];
to son, Henry HILL, 20 shillings;
to Sarah [HILL] WOODS; John HILL; Abram HILL; Kiddy POPE, Mary [HILL] JOSSEY; Nancy [HILL] JOHNSON, residue of wearing appearell, household furniture, etc.

sons, John and Abram, Excrs.

Signed, Nov. 13, 1812.

Probated Mar 3, 1814. Jacob G. MATTHEWS, Nathaniel BAILEY, Augustine EDWARDS. Test.”

Citation: Early Records of Wilkes County, Georgia. Volume 2, Page 136.

Featured Image Components Attribution
This graphic is composed of Ready for Boxing by DukeUnivLibraries which is licensed under Creative Commons License CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 and Hawkins County Courthouse Side – Rogersville, TN by Brent Moore which is licensed by Creative Commons License CC BY-NC 2.0

News Item: PBS, Hollywood and Ben Affleck

PLEASE NOTE: Since no human can “own” another, I use the term, “slave-holder.”

There is considerable buzz among various facebook genealogy groups about Actor Ben Affleck’s request to omit evidence of slaveholders in his ancestry from a past episode of the PBS series, Finding Your Roots . What I have to say on this subject is longer than I’ve learned a facebook post should be; so I’ve decided to blog about it.

“Once we open the door to censorship, we lose control of the brand.” (Henry Louis Gates, Jr.)

Affleck’s reluctance to share this aspect of his ancestry is understandable on a very elementary level. But from a genealogical standpoint, it is neither necessary nor acceptable. My observations after reading the article are:

    • Though it was probably expressed to him, he didn’t take to heart that our ancestors’ actions and/or beliefs have no direct bearing on our own. Therefore, I hope he’s not ashamed of what someone who came before him did. If anything, the fact that his mother marched for Civil Rights could be a testament to how far his lineage has come from the slaveholder mindset. Actually, that discovery would have provided an excellent segue into this fact.
      My thinking, from a personal standpoint, centers on Christianity. Here’s how. After reading about ancient African culture, I became aware that the further back I go in my genealogy the more likely I am to find an ancestor who did not know Christ. A worst-case scenario would likely involve an idolator (which includes ancestor worship). The preferred scenario would involve a person who simply had no knowledge of Him.

      My immediate reaction was to ask God’s forgiveness for any of my ancestors who had unknowingly offended Him and His commandment to, “. . . have no other gods before Me.” And, yes, I’m aware that once a person dies, his eternal destiny is irreversible. And while I have no Biblical reference that leads me to pray for someone who has already died, my heart led me to do so. I then asked God for His divine protection over past, present, and future generations from inheriting the punishment for this sin of the fathers. And it certainly didn’t prevent me from disclosing it to my Christian friends for the purpose of prayer.

      If anything, this is an aspect of my heritage that I want to know more about (not sweep under a rug). It would help me understand more in order to express my concerns to my family or those who share a similar background.

    • In that same vein, it’s unfortunate, but not surprising, that producers would consider “a 3rd great-grandfather who was an occult enthusiast” to be a “more interesting aspect” than a slaveholder. The former aspect appeals to the general public while the latter, to the genealogical community. However, I am not surprised because of the current selections of occult-based and/or vampire-themed “entertainment” that flood our airwaves, cyberspace, and book store.


“In the case of Mr. Affleck — we focused on what we felt were the most interesting aspects of his ancestry — including a Revolutionary War ancestor, a 3rd great-grandfather who was an occult enthusiast, and his mother who marched for Civil Rights during the Freedom Summer of 1964.”

While I do understand Affleck’s response to this unexpected discovery, I’m discouraged that (1) Mr. Gates’ contract did not give him license to make the call — prompting him to seek guidance on how to handle the situation; and (2) the show’s producers did not take genealogy seriously enough to understand that it makes no allowances for the censoring of data for the mere sake of appearances. Rather, they should have been encouraged to pursue avenues of questioning along the following lines regarding the first slaveholder. (Please note these questions are from a slave descendant’s perspective.)

      1. who was the first slaveholder and how did he acquire his slave(s)?
      2. what was the relationship between slave and slaveholder before and after the Civil War?
      3. what was the origin of the first slave?
      4. are there any references to deed books, bills of sale, inventory lists?

I’ve considered two possible reasons for Affleck’s desire to disassociate from his ancestor’s slaveholder past. The first is that maybe he was uncomfortable discussing it with a person of color. To this I would say, due to his professional association with genealogy and the requirement (though probably unspoken) that he detach himself from slave-related findings, Mr. Gates is the person with whom he should feel most comfortable discussing slaveholding ancestors. The second possibility is that he may be considering a future in politics. And to that I say, without pointing fingers, that many SUCCESSFUL candidates have had to wrestle more scraggly skeletons than slavery back into the closets of their ancestors.

In closing, “the peculiar institution” is a part of this country’s history. Unless he harbors the same beliefs, no individual should feel discomfort from having ancestral ties to either side of it. And the show’s producers should not jeopardize the future of Finding Your Roots by disregarding the expert advice of such an experienced genealogist as Henry Louis Gates.

Further Reading:

National Siblings Day 2015

My siblings and me after an engagement in Gary, Indiana. Left to right:  Pat (my sister), Billy (my brother), DonnaJeanne (me), Alfred Johnson (our accompaniast), Floretta (my Mother), Charles (my brother)

My siblings and me after an engagement in Gary.
Left to right: Pat (my sister), Billy (my brother), DonnaJeanne (me), Alfred Johnson (our accompaniast), Floretta (my Mother), Charles (my brother)

Yesterday I noticed, and commented on, several facebook posts of friends pictures with their families. Later on in the evening, I noticed my grand-nieces posting collages consisting of various snapshots that it hit me. It was National Siblings Day.

At first, I thought it was a social media thing. Wanting to “join in on the fun,” I quickly scrambled for photos of my siblings that I could post. Two of them have been “on the other shore” for many years. And it’s been almost two years since the remaining one joined them. I just don’t have a lot of photos of us together; but I have an awesome idea for next year.

With this being an “ancestry” blog, I don’t have plans to post about family in general — just ancestors. But stories about my siblings will undoubtedly be woven into some of my future posts. So, in observance of Siblings Day 2015, I will just share the photos I used on facebook yesterday.

My quickly-thrown-together facebook cover photo in observance of National Siblings Day 2015.  It's a portrait of my sister, Pat, and me circa 1975.

My quickly-thrown-together facebook cover photo in observance of National Siblings Day 2015. It’s a portrait of my sister, Pat, and me circa 1975.

I am one of many who are particular about what they share on social media. So I hope this catches on in the blogging community.

Genealogy Do-Over: Week 1, Cycle 2 (3-9 April 2015)

After my re-entry to the blogosphere in February, it wasn’t long before I came across the Genealogy Do Over. The initial read-thru told me it was something I probably needed to do — at some point. After all, I needed to set up my blog, write some posts, KC_Do-Over copyresume my research . . . Yet, whenever I opened the (RSS) Reader, there was a blogger talking about the Do-Over. Well guess who’s sporting the big red button this week? And I’m “all in” — for the most part — which means I’ll reserve the “modified” approach for only a few of the assignments.

Do-Over Creator Thomas MacEntee gives bloggers a wide berth to review and refine their research strategies. The main objective of the 13-week project is “to improve genealogy research skills.” My first encounter with the Do-Over was during about Week 3 of Cycle 1. I thought about just digging in and, either trying to catch up or resolving myself to being three weeks behind. The first option was self-defeating. The latter would have left me with no peer support because my focus would not have been on the current assignment. I finally resolved to focus on launching my blog and pacing myself through the Do-Over later. And I’m so glad I waited. So this is Week 1 of Cycle 2. And I’m rarin’ to go.

Thomas has developed the following starting points which set the tone for the remainder of the project. The format is simple. For each focus area, he states:

  • What he’s doing
  • Suggestions for the “all-in” participant
  • Suggestions for the “modified” participant


Focus of Week 1, Cycle 2

Setting Previous Research Aside: (All-In)     I’ve begun to use Evidentia; so this is a given. What I’ve gathered so far is no one should be added to a pedigree chart until Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) is established. I’ll leave my current Legacy Family Tree (LFT) database intact and create a fresh one that’s based solely on GPS. I’m sure all of my entries can, at least, be found on a census form. And I have vital records for many of them. So, I’m really expecting my new database to be a close replica of the original.

  • Binders, folders and papers:     My vital records are already secured in a binder and encased in archival-quality sheet protectors. The original naming conventions I set up for them are still relevant. I also have separate binders for pedigree charts and family group sheets — both of which I’m constantly rummaging through; so they could stand some work. But I’ll set them aside for now.
  • Reserving specific items:     I’ve finally gotten around to scanning my vital records. This means Evidentia will work better for me. Things are already falling into place; because then they will be added to my . . .
  • Digital holdings:     I didn’t realize the big part Evidentia would play in this stage of the project. Most of my census and other records are already digitized. Photos are already in folders according to my patriarchal and matriarchal lines. I’ll leave them where they are in case I need them for a blog post. But I will create a holding folder specifically earmarked for the Do Over. That will ensure that the other files are off-limits for the duration of the project.

Preparing to Research: (Modified)     Because I work during the day, sometimes my research is done at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. The main thing I want to do here is leave off in a way that makes it easy to resume. That means developing a solid Research Log and To Do List for each ancestor. I have an analog one that worked well. But digital will enable me to access my data whenever I need it. I know both are available as reports in Legacy Family Tree. I just have to determine if the features I want are available. I’m already using Evernote for Genealogy.

I’ve come up with a name for my “must have” items: E3 for Evernote, Evidence Explained, and Evidentia. I don’t have Evidence Explained yet. But I will have it soon.

Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines: (All-In) This, as my former pastor says, is where the rubber meets the road. Honestly, my outline of procedures and best practices may carry over and demand part of my focus for the next assignment. But I’m sure I can come up with at least five solid procedures that I can incorporate over the 13-week period of the project.

  1. Incorporate GPS principles into research procedure.
  2. Document each new item of evidence before it is added to my LFT database.
  3. Strive for proficiency at citing sources until it becomes second nature.
  4. Become more proficient at attribution before sharing photos and/or documents.
  5. To be determined (it has to be something that will not be improvised).

Okay — now it’s back to learning Evidentia. I may as well make my GDO posts into a series. Just look for the feature image on the *Front Page with the updated week number.