Slave Given Names: A Closer Look

For obvious reasons, great emphasis is placed on surnames in genealogy. Without a surname list your research will not take you very far. But at a recent lecture, the presenter’s advice to “look at the given names” stuck in my mind. It didn’t take long for me to learn that this practice will take you further than you may think. Yes, it applies to obvious misspellings. But where it really began to shine for me was when I realized that many given names of slaves — especially females — are actually nicknames.

Also, among the artifacts displayed in the Black History Month exhibit at the Clayton Library for Genealogical Research included a framed sheet of slave nicknames. As I scanned the paragraph-style presentation, I came upon the name, “Sukie” which is a variable of the spelling of my great-grandmother’s given name. After many unsuccessful attempts to find her in any Census record, I set her aside and continued my research.

Link Graphic Female Nicknames copy

Female Nickname List

The presentation of the nicknames was in paragraph form with each nickname in bold followed by the associated given names. This was an attractive presentation. But I needed the information in list form. So I expanded on the exhibit copy and a few lists I found online and came up with these lists for starters. I also separated the lists into male and female. I hope they will be of benefit to you.  The link to the female list is to the left.  The link to the male list is at the end of this post.

CCAL_Barge_Papers_Page_4 copy

Page 4 of “The Barge Papers” Courtesy of the Cobb County Arts Alliance

When I got home, I went through some material I had obtained earlier from a gentle lady at the Cobb County Arts Alliance, I came upon a handwritten page from “the Barge papers.” On that page were variations of the ancestor I had been calling, “Seuk”: “. . . Suckey, Sukie, Sook, Suck . . .” No one knew how to spell it. Then just as I surmised I should include these variations in my search, I thought to take another look at the slave nickname list from the exhibit, it hit me. Her name was Susan.

Then, I went through my Legacy Family Tree records and there she was — right under my nose as I had suspected. Susan JORDAN — enumerated in the 1880 Census with her parents and two siblings. A quick analysis indicated she was 10 years younger than Thack. Now, I can focus on how close in proximity their families lived. I’ve already determined that the entry of one of her relatives is directly above Thacker’s in the 1867 Return of Qualified Voters and Reconstruction Oath Book for Cobb County, GA. This tells me they could have gone to the court house together. And they, more than likely, were neighbors. So this weekend at the library, I’ll take a closer look at the Jordan family. (As she rubs her palms together . . .) Can’t wait!

Link Graphic Male Nicknames copy

Male Nickname List

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