Wednesday, August 7, 2013

My Ancestors were Slave owners... Among other things

Yes… my ancestors owned people – as early settlers of Kentucky, they were slave owners… And while I realize that this is a fact of history, I still find it somewhat disturbing when reading the will of a fore bearer and listed among the pots, pans, and furnishings is a “Negro Woman named Peg”.

Unfortunately, this branch of my family is one I’m not well researched or informed on – so I don’t know what their beliefs were regarding slavery – or the Civil War. Also, my direct ancestors ended up leaving Kentucky for Missouri – and I don’t know much about them during the 1840-1860 time frame, or even if they maintained their "slave holdings" up to that point.

Personally, I’d love it if they were vehement abolitionists but since they were slave owners who went on to will their slaves to other family members – it goes without saying they were in favor of slavery.

So I’ve become curious as to the lives of these people my family owned – I hope they were treated well – and at what point, if any, were they freed?

And I’ve also wondered what happened to them after they became free – what their lives were like (though I can imagine) and also what their descendants are up to today… and what, if anything, they know about their history.

While reading the will of one slave owning Grandfather, I noticed among the "inventory", some younger slave women & their "mulatto" children. There is, without a doubt, a strong likelihood that these "mulattoes" were fathered by members of my ancestors household. While not uncommon, it adds another dimension to the story.

If I had fewer genealogy quests and the knowledge on how to begin, I’d be tempted to try and research these people, and find some answers. I see their names listed on inventory lists – and I feel a connection -- and sense of wondering --  though even if I did find descendants of these slaves today… I don’t know how I would even approach them… “Hi, I’m Nick… My family used to own yours… And I think we actually may be blood kin...”

Has anyone else experienced this research issue? Have you ever delved into slave research? What about groups documenting slave history? I’m sure they must be out there….


  1. I ran into the same situation visiting in SC. My husband's ancestor's will listed names, then it dawned on me they were slaves, I was shocked and gasped out loud, archivist must have thought I was a crazy Yankee (which I am). I never had any luck tracing the slaves, there are slave census schedules, and websites devoted to finding African ancestors, this might be a good one to start with
    Lots of luck, Ellie

    1. Thanks Ellie, for the link. I tried searching slave census records, but had no luck. I wish I didn't have so many other quests and could devote time to really working on this. Maybe this Winter... nothing else to do in Minnesota then (my garden will be long dead).
      Thanks again!

  2. don't panic(I did) but it appears Christian wirth was related-have you came across this yet?and most of the slavia dutch ancestors were Nazis too-I cried-I keep hoping I can find a mistake but haans wirth is the oldest relative listed in my weerts line and how many weerts families can there really be?id love to hear some of your findings too-:) I believe haans was actually johanness haans-syrbia is another place relatives are from and there are many weerts alive in marcedonia kumanova-

  3. My great grandparents had two slaves on the farm I grew up on. When I was a child, my grandmother stopped to chat with a lady on the street and later told me she was "Aunt Lottie" and was the (Grand?)daughter of one of those slaves. Later, at a gathering of the great aunts and uncles, a lady came to have lunch, but sat on the back porch with the children. She was the sister to the first lady and was called "Aunt Minnie". I later found them and their father on a census. Not all slave/owner relationships were abusive, and the families stayed in touch.

  4. My family is in Louisiana. My dad told me about my grandfather's lineage going back to Glynn, La. I thought the plantation was long gone, but I've been looking up the wrong name. The town is named for an Irishman, Martin Glynn. I believe it would've been one of his sons or grandsons that fell in love with a black woman (not sure if she was a slave or freed slave). But he was forbidden to give her the Glynn name (as the story was told to me), therefore he took her last name (our family name). I always knew some of my ancestors where white, I'm just finding out that they were Irish. Pretty interesting. His great great grandson owns the plantation today. I'd love to meet him, but not sure what kind of response I'd get. But like you guys, I'm curious to know who my black family members are that were also from that plantation.