Monday, July 19, 2010

Madness Monday: My family and slavery

This is kind of a follow-up post to my last post. In looking into the Berry family records I have (which, it turns out, were not as plentiful as I had previously thought) I saw I didn't really have as much info on Lucinda Berry, daughter of Benjamin Berry (one of the two slaveholders I knew were in my ancestry), other than the fact that her dad left her some land in his will. I had found her in the 1850 census, living in Greene, Platte county, Missouri, with her children (her husband had presumably died by 1842, though I apparently forgot to note how I came to that conclusion). I hadn't found her in the 1860 census, though by 1870 she had moved to Montana to live near her oldset son, Thomas (my ancestor), at his farm in Three Mile. So, I decided to do some quick research to try and find a couple more census records on Lucinda.

Before going into what I found, I should note something. My grandmother, Sally Crawford, has researched this family quite a bit, and had heard somewhere that Lucinda had owned a big plantation with slaves in Kentucky or Missouri, had lost everything in the Civil War, and then decided to come up to Montana to live with her son Thomas. I didn't know how accurate that was, as I knew little (and still know little) about records showing the transmission of slaves between family members, and the only record I did know of was her father's will, which, as previously noted, didn't leave her any. I'd assumed (a bad thing to do in genealogy!) that that meant she'd had no slaves, so I just put that family story aside in doing my research.

Now, however, I decided to put that assumption aside, and do some more digging. I started by pulling up the 1850 census slave schedule on I knew where to find Lucinda in that census, and could easily verify it was her if she did appear in it. When I clicked search, I was surprised to see she did in fact appear in the slave schedule as a slaveholder. I counted the entries, and she owned 12 slaves in 1850. Almost 10 years of assuming slavery had stopped with Benjamin Berry were thrown out the window by looking at that one document. It was a bit hard to take in, that slavery had gone down another generation in my family tree. I determined to find Lucinda in the 1860 population schedule, and to see if she continued to hold slaves. Within a few minutes, I had located her, listed as LB Harris, with some of her children, still in Platte county but now in the city of Weston. I pulled up the 1860 census slave schedules, and found a listing for NB Harris with 14 slaves. I checked back at the 1860 population schedule, and there was an NB Lober listed in the household above Lucinda, and thought for a minute that maybe the census taker had confused the two households. I tried a new trick I'd taken from Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems podcast - looking for info on the neighbors of your ancestors in the census. I tried finding the Lober family in 1850 in Platte county, with no luck. I also looked at the other names listed on the pages before and after Lucinda in the slave schedule, and confirmed they were her neighbors in the population schedule. I also noticed one or two other names in the same section of the slave schedule differed slightly from the population schedule (EE Wilkerson vs EE Wilkinson, for example). So it doesn't seem unreasonable, given the last name, the number of slaves, and the slight name differences of others in the schedule, that this is my Lucinda Harris.

So, the long and short of it - Lucinda Harris was a slaveowner, for at least 22 years after her father passed away. This means I now have a whole new set of records to try and find. I also want to know how she got the slaves - did she receive any from her father before he made his will? Did she and/or her husband Lewis Harris purchase them? Did her husband receive any from his father? What happened to the slaves after the Civil War? That's my "Monday Madness" - being hit with a whole slew of questions about a generation of my family tree I had thought for 10 years didn't apply, and may not even be able to find answers for.

1 comment:

Lisa Louise Cooke said...

Thanks for the shout out on the Genealogy Gems Podcast. Glad to hear that it has helped in your very interesting search!