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:

Seeking Thacker 2: 1867

I finally cracked the 1870 brick wall! With the help of author, lecturer, and librarian, Franklin Smith. He got me out of my 1870 brick wall rut when we found an entry for my Great-grandfather, Thacker MABLE, in the 1867 Return of Qualified Voters and Reconstruction Oath Book for Cobb County, GA. At his lecture on African American genealogy, I took a lot of notes; but came away with two things that I could put into practice immediately with respect to Thacker:

  1. Frank’s Rule of 70: Look at everything very closely in 1870 (lose the tunnel vision); and
  2. Pay attention to given names.

Afterwards, I became reacquainted with the facility; but I couldn’t wait to talk to him about Thack. Sure enough, the following weekend, he spent all of ten minutes with me; and I was looking at the document below. I am still amazed. I thought I had seen every possible misspelling of Thacker’s name. But, as I scanned the index — seeking Thacker — there he was in all his misspelled glory: “Shack MABLE.” I knew that was him. A careful handwriting comparison — not only of his entry, but of the one above his — indicated he signed with an “X.” Two areas of the document include handwritten notes of his race: simply, “(Col” (Colored). Then I finally deciphered the words above and below the “X” as, “his mark.”

Thack - 1867 RQVRO Book Georgia, Returns of Qualified Voters and Reconstruction Oath Books, 1867-1869 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.
Original Data: Georgia, Office of the Governor. Reconstruction registration oath books, 1867, Georgia State Archives, Morrow, Georgia.

State of Georgia                                                                                         No. 80 County of Cobb PERSONALLY APPEARED before me this 17th day of July, 1867 Thack Mable (Col who states that he resides in the 895 Election Precinct of Cobb COUNTY, GEORGIA, and who makes oath as follows:”I, Thack Mable do solemnly swear

in the presence of Almighty God, that I am a citizen of the STATE OF GEORGIA; that I have resided in said state for 12 months next preceding this day, and now reside in County of Cobb Coxes Prect in said State; that I am 21 years old; that I have not been disfranchised for participation in any rebellion or civil war against the United States, nor for felony committed against the laws of any state or the United States; that I have never been a member of any State Legislature, nor held any executive or judicial office in any State and afterwards engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof; that I have never taken oath as a member of Congress of the United States, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State Legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State to support the Constitution of the United States and afterwards engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States or given aid and comfort to the members thereof; that I will faithfully support the Constitution of the United States and will to the best of my ability encourage others to do so. So help me God. The said Thack Mable further swears that he has not been previously registered under the provisions of “An Act supplementary to ‘an act to provide for the more efficient government of the rebel States’ passed March 2, 1867–and to facilitate restoration,” under this or any other Election District; and further, that he was born in ___ and naturalized by ____ on the ____ day of ____________ in the ____________. /s/ Thack X Mable [The notation, “his mark” written above and below X ] (Col SWORN AND SUBSCRIBED before me [undecipherable] Spalding Register of the 35th Registration District

Green font denotes handwritten text

It’s unfortunate that the birth, residency, and naturalization spaces are vacant for Thacker and Mr. Jordan. I’m going back over the book to see if a pattern exists for all “colored” registrants. I’m the optimist; so it could be that way for everyone. We’ll see.

So, even though I still haven’t found Thacker in the 1870 Census, I’m thankful for Frank’s knowledge and experience.  He asked the key questions that led me to this document.

My next step will be to learn more about Mr. Jordan who signed his “X” mark on the entry above Thack’s. I suspect he’s Thack’s in-law because, reviewing my Legacy Family Tree database this weekend, I was reminded that Susan Jordan is probably Seuk.

I recently learned that Sook, Sookie, and Sukey are all nicknames for Susan. I knew her name was pronounced, “Sook” — and that she was sometimes called by the above variations. But, having limited knowledge of slave nicknames, I didn’t think it was spelled that way. I’ve also seen it spelled, “Seuk”; and accepted that spelling because I thought she may have been the Cherokee that I’ve heard about from my mother and aunts. And I imagined the spelling would have been along those lines. Honestly, I was probably going for the more ethnic spelling. Thackers_Mark copy

Follow the series:

Seeking Thacker 1: Born on This Day in 1844

DISCOVERY: Slave Name Roll Project

The 1870 brick wall is no less surmountable in cyberspace than it is in the analog archives of today’s courthouses. Court records from times past divulge varieties of slave/slaveholder relationships. Knowing the records exist is not the same as locating and examining them for myself. I do realize this problem is not exclusive to African Americans. But the fact still remains that it is more difficult due to the fact that my enslaved ancestors were considered chattel property; and, prior to 1870, they had no surnames. And even their given names are inconsistently recorded in the census records that followed.

Brick_Wall_Refocus copy
Some have managed to scramble over their brick walls — only to find . . . yet another. Then what do we do? We dust ourselves off and rescale to the other side to devise another way.

Insurmountable? Maybe. Impenetrable? Not if Cathy Meder-Dempsey and Schalene Jennings Dagutis have anything to do with it. This morning, I had the pleasure of reading their respective blogs: Opening Doors in Brick Walls and Tangled Roots and Trees. Both of these women have taken up the mantle of sharing the names of slaves found in their own genealogies. For them, they aren’t just names. They sense that descendants of these indirect extensions of their families could be searching for their histories as well.

Because of Cathy’s insightful blog, I’ll never look at a brick wall the same way again. She begins her three-part series with an introduction to her 5th Great-grandfather, James Sims (1754-1845). Then she meticulously describes her encounters of slave names among the inventory records of various Virginia counties.

In Parts 2 and 3, her account of Mr. Sims’ slave connection, and the steps he took in manumitting Isaac, make for a compelling read for either side of the unfortunate institution. Cathy not only posts images of the artifacts (Deed of Manumission, Manumission Letter, and Petition to Grant Residence). She precedes each with a brief introduction and follows with a full transcription. The descendants of Isaac Sims of Nicholas County, Virginia have an insightful look into his life.

And Schalene’s idea to launch the Slave Name Roll Project is an honorable undertaking of which I’ll be sure to make my colleagues aware. She started with posting anything relating to slaves that she found among the wills and property records of her ancestors. She describes her process here. She ends her introduction with a simple question:

If your ancestors owned slaves, will you join us in contributing to the Slave Name Roll Project?

Of course, these details are included in court house records, library collections, and family histories. But the fact that a slaveholder’s descendant reaches out to a slave’s descendant is a welcome advance in African American genealogy.

Born on this Day in 1844 Thacker MABLE

Birthday_Tribute_Thacker_500 copy

Thacker's past is a fragmented jumble. This mosaic of the image I use to represent him alludes to the pieces I've gathered thus far.

Thacker’s past is a fragmented jumble. This mosaic of the image I use to represent him alludes to the pieces I’ve gathered thus far.

This is the first installment of my Finding Thacker series. Thacker Mable is my great-grandfather. I only heard his name mentioned a few times growing up. Actually, it was my grandfather’s name (William Edgar Thacker MABLE) that put me on track to even find “Thack.” I will fashion the fragments I gather about him into future installments of this new series.

Granpa “Thack”. We know you were once a slave on the Mable Plantation — and that your carpentry skills made a direct contribution to the building of the ancestral Mable House in Marietta. We know that your and Grandma “Seuk’s” remains were buried at the Mable House Cemetery. This diligent Daughter is working to gather all the fragments to know more about our MABLEs.

You’re my link to this, Thacker. How did the AYCOCKs acquire your lineage? Is Frances your mother? What family is Seuk from? I get the feeling she’s right under my nose.

Follow the series:

Seeking Thacker 2: 1867

The background of the Featured Image for this series is attributed to Gary Doster’s submission to the Georgia GenWeb Project.