free blacks, african american, georgia

Books reveal vital details of African-American history

We are pleased to share that two of our new releases were reviewed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on November 14, 2015. Georgia Free Persons of Color, Volume I and Georgia Free Persons of Color, Volume II, by Michael A. Ports. Both of these volumes provide crucial information which will help researchers trying to trace their own African-American history.

An 1818 statute of the Georgia legislature required all free persons of color to register with the inferior court of their county of residence. According to the statute, county clerks were required to inscribe each freed man or woman by name, age, place of birth, residence, year arrived in Georgia, and occupation. While not all clerks performed their duties to the letter of the law, these source records contain vital identifying information for African-American Georgians long before the Civil War or the watershed 1870 U.S. census. The ensuing registers, varying in their completeness, survive for twenty-one Georgia counties. (Incidentally, the only way to emancipate a slave in Georgia was by an act of the legislature. Antebellum manumissions, though rare, were granted for unusual acts, such as defending an owner’s property during a British incursion during the War of 1812, extinguishing a fire at the state capital, and other faithful service.)

Please see the review by Kenneth H. Thomas Jr. excerpted below. You can read the entirety of the review at my

Two new books compiled and edited by Michael A. Ports of Jacksonville contain copies of the Georgia laws from 1818 to 1834 relating to “free persons of color.”

“Georgia Free Persons of Color, Volume I” contains lists from Elbert, Hancock, Jefferson, Liberty and Warren Counties. “Volume II” contains lists from Appling, Camden, Clarke, Emanuel, Jones, Pulaski and Wilkes Counties, as well as Morgan County from an original manuscript at the Georgia Archives (though that county was omitted from the cover).

That volume includes legislative manumissions, or freeing of slaves. The author used the original county records on microfilm from the Georgia Archives, while the originals remain in the courthouses.

Each entry contains the name, age, place of nativity, residence, date the person came to Georgia, occupation and date of registration. Under occupation, some give the name of their employer, and some counties used this column to list the white person who was named guardian to the free person. (Under Georgia state law at the time, free persons of color had to have a guardian.)

These books are a very important source for African-American history, bringing to light a source that has long needed to be accessible. They also can help genealogists connected to either the free persons or their guardians find a link back to some other states, since nativity is listed.

Image credit: Card showing African American slave reaching freedom. Stephens, H. L. (Henry Louis), 1824-1882, artist, via The Library of Congress.

missouri, family history

Use the Holidays to Learn About Your Family History

Editor’s note: The following post is a reprint a guest column by Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander. You can see the original post, printed online in The Missouri Times, at this link. While he focuses on Missouri resources, he mentions some fantastic resources that exist in other states as well. His ideas of where to start on a very simple level, taking advantage of the time with family that presents as a natural opportunity during the holidays, apply no matter where we live.

If your family has ties to Missouri, we recommend utilizing the state-specific archives mentioned in Mr. Kander’s column. In addition, there are several publications you may find useful. A History of the Pioneer Families of Missouri contains the genealogical histories of more than 800 families from the five early Missouri counties of St. Charles, Montgomery, Warren, Audrain, and Callaway. Missouri Marriages Before 1840 is an extraordinary compilation which contains the records of 16,000 marriages from fifty-one Missouri counties formed before 1840. Its importance as an aid to research is incontestable, for it is now the chief means of identifying those settlers who were in the state of Missouri prior to the first and second censuses of 1830 and 1840.

Please note that all links have been added to the content below to help our readers learn more about the topics and resources mentioned, as well as direct to further reading that may help you get started in recording your own family history: Continue reading…

Church Records

How to Locate Church Records

Editor’s Note: The following post is by Myra Vanderpool Gormley, CG. She is an accomplished researcher and writer, known to many of us from her work as the columnist of “Shaking the Family Tree,” as the former editor of RootsWeb Review, and as a founder of the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors.    

Locating and Using Church Records

Church records are rich sources for genealogical information. However, finding the old church records of interest can be the challenge. To determine the religious affiliations of your ancestors, search through obituaries and cemetery records. Pay attention to family traditions; children’s names; marriage returns; and the style, translation, and language of old family Bibles; and check local histories and county history biographies (often called “mug books”). Local histories frequently mention early churches or the predominant denominations in their localities. Don’t overlook local newspapers and deed book entries. Many of our forebears’ names appeared in the local newspapers, and many donated land to churches. Continue reading…

south carolina

Early South Carolina History

Editor’s Note: Many of the titles hyperlinked or referenced in this article will be on sale for 24 hours, beginning December 1 and ending at 11:59pm EST, 2015, at, the parent company of this blog. If your ancestors were part of South Carolina’s storied colonial, Revolutionary, or early national period, this is a great opportunity to buy high quality reference materials, written by leading experts in their respective fields. 

In 1663, England’s King Charles II ceded the Carolinas to Anthony Ashley Cooper and seven other proprietors who had supported the Stuarts in ending the Cromwellian Revolution and returning Charles II to the throne. Although the Crown did not divide the Carolinas into two quasi-self-governing regions until 1691, British colonists established the first permanent settlement in what would become South Carolina in 1670.

The border dispute between North and South Carolina was not settled until 1772. Prior to this North Carolina had issued more than 1,000 grants for land in an area that is now South Carolina but which was then thought to be in the North Carolina counties of Bladen, Anson, Mecklenburg, and Tryon. The records of these grants–plats and warrants for the most part–form the basis of North Carolina Land Grants in South Carolina. The data provided includes the name of the grantee, the file, entry or grant number, the relevant book and page of the original record books, the location of the grant, the names of owners of adjoining property, and the dates of the various instruments. Continue reading…

tax lists genealogy

Tax Lists and Genealogy

Are you getting the most out of tax lists for your genealogy research? Do you even know where to start?

As Cornelius Carroll states in the beginning of his book, The Beginner’s Guide to Using Tax Lists, “Tax lists are one of the most valuable, but most neglected sources of genealogical information. They cannot only be used to trace migration and determine the taxable property of ancestors, but they are also important because they can be used to prove parentage when no other records are available. There are also many other uses which many genealogists and historians do not suspect.”

We like having a handy guidebook to lay out the basics of topics that can be overwhelming or take a researcher down a rabbit hole. To this end, we recommend Mr. Carroll’s guide as an excellent starting point for the beginner, or a solid refresher for the more seasoned researcher.

The Beginner’s Guide to Using Tax Lists explains the various kinds of “tax lists,” namely, personal property tax lists, tithables, poll lists, land tax lists, and rent rolls, and it informs the researcher about the genealogical uses of each. For example, tax lists are helpful in determining parentage, birth and death dates, indentured servitude, slavery, manumission, and racial status. They may also indicate the relationship of individuals in a household and their approximate ages. For instance, did you know that, in the absence of other sources, you could establish the approximate ages of the children by following the taxpaying head of household over a sequence of tithables? If not, Mr. Carroll shows you how by using actual Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee tax lists.

If you’re not up to speed on all the genealogical possibilities to be derived from tax lists, or would like to know more than what you’ll glean from a quick Internet search, Mr. Carroll’s diminutive guidebook is well worth the investment.

Image credit: Manumission note, By George Rohm [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. The text reads:  “On this 30th day of April 1828 personally appear George Rice before the ?abricut a justice of the peace in and for said County, and made Oath on the Holy Evangely of Almighty God that James Tooley the Negro man now in my presence is the same that manumitted and let free by Phillip Winebrenner. Sworn before George Rohm”