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[ Transcript for: African-American Genealogy: What's Out There? ]

African-American Genealogy: What's Out There? Video Transcript

Part One of a Five-Part Series


MALE SPEAKER:This public affairs presentation is brought to you by the Missouri State Archives Office of the Secretary of State: Where History Begins.

This program is the first in a five-part series on researching African American genealogy. Your series host is Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, Family History Research Consultant.

Today’s program: What's Out There?, will help you explore and use the many resources available from the Internet and local, state and national historical repositories. So, let's join Traci for some good advice and helpful tips on discovering our African American heritage.


:50Utilizing Your Local Library

MS. TRACI WILSON-KLEEKAMP:Say you've started doing some research on your family, perhaps, you've run across slaves in your family or you are researching these once enslaved ancestors and you're wondering what’s out there, in terms of documents.

But, before we talk about what's out there, in terms of records, let's talk about what you might be able to study and read before your start looking at records.

The advent of the Internet makes information very readily available to you. So, make very good use of your local library. If the county that you're researching is not your state or county, you can visit them on the web. Make very good use of librarians, they are very knowledgeable people. They can get books for you via inner-library loan. You can also look at catalogs on-line and see if they have a book that you're looking for, go to your library and have it sent to you for very, very little money. It's very inexpensive.

1:43Books on Slave Research

But, in terms of slave research, you want to know as much about the county or the area that you're researching as possible.

I'm going to show you a few resources that, I think, that everyone should use, if they're going to be doing slave research. One of my books, I like to recommend, it's called, Soul by Soul:Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market by Walter Johnson. Walter is actually from Columbia, Missouri.

I think this is a good book that tells you a good deal about the slave market. It's focused on Louisiana, but a lot of slave trade into Missouri did come from Louisiana and Kentucky and Virginia. But, it will give you a good background on what's going on with slavery. What is happening, in terms of, the selling of slaves, some of the people who are prominent, more about the market, and just a lot of intricate details that you may or may not have known.

Another book that I recommend very frequently is called Finding a Place Called Home by Dee Parmer Woodtor. I really love this book, I think, that she lays out very well how you go about doing research on enslaved ancestors or if you have slaves in your family and your family once owned slaves this gives you an idea how you can trace them.

One of the things that's interesting about doing African American research, is that, you're actually doing genealogy twice, in many respects. You are most likely going to be following a family that passed slaves from one generation to the next. So, you have to know the genealogy of that family. And, then while you're following them, you're going to be following your family if they were their property from one generation to the next or another transaction to the next.

3:19Other Resources for Family Historians

Another thing that's really important to have is a map. I like this map. I use it all the time. You can get one for every state and I'm sure country et cetera, and I use it because what happens is sometimes you can find your family in one place and in one census and not in another and you probably need to get out your map and see, hum, where could they have gone?What's next door?And, check that area as well.

3:46Using County and Regional Histories

The other thing about doing research is you may find that somebody in the community that you're researching has written about the black community there or information about that county, maybe it's a history of Cooper County or a history of Moniteau County. You’ll get to know more about the various players who lived there and worked there. Particularly if you're trying to figure out the genealogy of a slave owning family, those old histories will tell you where they came from, when they came to that particular area, perhaps who they married et cetera, et cetera.

So, histories of various counties or histories of the various small subsections of the community are helpful. I'll show you a couple of examples:this is three The Negro Kingdom:Three Generations, the Vanished Colony by Lloyd M. Barrow. These are books that are not very expensive, I got this from the Callaway County Historical Society. Again, this is somebody who wrote about the black community there in Callaway, a small community that he was interested in.

And, another book about Informal History of Black Families of the Warrensburg, Missouri Area, and I usually, if I can, buy several of these books at once. They’re these were not super expensive and so that I can share them with other people or donate them.

Another interesting book that was written recently by Terrell Dempsey about slavery in the north Missouri area, this is a pretty new book. It was a little bit more expensive, but they're good materials out there to read. I have family that's from Lewis, Knox and Marion County, Missouri, and, so, I wanted to read a book that would give me a good idea of what was going on in that location, and at that time.

One more book, again, this one takes place in north of St. Louis. It's called Slavery North of St. Louis by George Lee, again, the book is very focused. It tells you about slavery in that particular area in northern Missouri.  You will find books like this all over the place. Make sure you visit the historical society of the particular area of interest to you, and see what they have, in terms of, books and local authors. And, see if you can get something that will help you.

5:58Books on African American Genealogy

Before we move on to looking at what's out there, in terms of records, to help you with your research, I'd like to talk about a couple of other resources that, I think, are very handy. Again, additional books these two books are unusual. They are by Teresa Blattner, they are called, People of Color: Black Genealogical Records and Abstracts from Missouri Sources, there is Volume One, and Volume Two. I use this book so much that the pages are coming out of it, but it covers various counties, Nodaway, Jefferson, Miller County, Dade County. It has marriage records, there is cemetery records, just a variety of different kinds of records related to African American community. You might find something of relevance to people that you're researching. I have a fetish for cemetery records because you find that people are generally buried together, and so cemetery records may give you information about someone's parents or the children and give you dates and additional information. So, again, Teresa Blattner's book, People of Color, you should be able to find them on just searching on-line for Teresa Blattner, I think, there's a shop on-line called the Blue and Gray Shop and they often have these there for researchers as well.

Every now and then, there's some books that come along that a researcher has written and turns out a pretty good story. Two of my favorite books that I've read in the past few years, are actually by the same author by Henry Wiencek. And, I like his books because he talks about how he got his information, in terms of research. If you read it, it will give you an idea of his thinking process on how he worked to solve various challenges he had in his research to get, you know, find facts or find documents.

One of them is called An Imperfect God:George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America, and, I can't tell you anything more about it, otherwise, I would give away the story. But, it's a fantastic story, it will give you a good grounding in research, what kind of records he looked at, what he did, you know, kind of stomping around to gather information. You learn about George Washington, his leadership, the war, slavery and the conflicts that he faced in his own slave ownership. So, that's one fun book.

This is another phenomenal book by the same author. These are, I would consider to be, fantastic reading if you want to do something really different. Again, he researched these families and, you know, was tracing slaves and I can't tell you a lot about The Hairstons book, because I don't want to give away what happens in the end at all. But, it is a fascinating book, fascinating amount of research. He found records that were on file at a special collection and a local historical libraries and put together a fabulous story.

So, there are lots of excellent books out there. These are just things that I've read, that I find give good background in what it takes to do the research in the kind of records that you will be looking for.

9:02Getting Started on Your Research

So, what kind of records will you find when you're doing research?What would you find?What should you be looking forward to seeing?

Ideally, when you get started on your research, you're going to work backwards, you're going to start from the 1930 census and work your back work your way back to 1870. And, 1870 is the first year where African American people are enumerated on the census. Prior to that they’re on a slave schedule, and they're just enumerated by their age, and their race, and their age with their owner. In some instances, there is a name of a slave, but I usually see that when a slave is about 100 years old or close to that age. So, what will you see?

9:44Marriage Records

First of all, hopefully, you'll have it you'll have a chance to kind of organize your thoughts and data for the particular county that you're interested in. One of my favorite records to look at are the early black marriage records, which are indexed for some counties like Cooper, Morgan and Moniteau. They took place between 1865 and 1866. Here's one of the first records that I to give you an example, and this is for St. Francois County. What makes a document interesting and it's a little bit hard to read, but it lists the children of this particular couple that got married. And, since there's not a census before 1870, you can take the data from 1865 or 1866 and compare it to the 1870 slave schedule. You may find that some of those children have gotten married by 1870 or some of them have died and passed on, but still you have some knowledge prior to 1870 of the family group that they had at that time.

Here's another black marriage record, again, it's interesting. I pay attention when I'm looking at records, not just to the couple or person I'm interested in looking at, but who's listed next to them and who's on the same page. In this instance, there's Richard Johnson and Hannah Lewis and Carter Lewis and Ms. Rutha Wilson and it turns out that Carter Lewis and Hannah Lewis are brother and sister. And, they were married on the same day. I also pay attention to where they get married at and who marries them. So, it looks like Harrison Green married them and it looks the it says M, I don't know if it's the Methodist, Baptist Church is what it looks like, but, again, an interesting record. Almost I almost missed it, because I was only just focusing on the one couple for a minute. Other things about marriage records you might find out, in this case, this is William Isaac and he married Lena Stapleton, and it says that her father Claves Stapleton gave his assent to the marriage because she was underage. Again, that's not something that you would find out, necessarily, on the census, when they got married if she was underage or he was underage. It also gives you information about her father. That was a pretty exciting document to come by.

This is just a regular marriage record. Sometimes it doesn't say if the person is colored or not. This marriage record is dated 1909. Sometimes I find little clues in the documents that maybe indicated that it might be a person of color. And, this one it says minister of the gospel, and, so, and sometimes I recognize certain minister's married colored couples. So, in this case, I was it turns out this was a relative and this was made it a little bit easier to follow.

12:50Circuit Court Records

Other interesting records, this is a circuit court record, and it looks like any other piece of paper except for it's a divorce record. So, Ethel and Isaac got married and then Ethel and Isaac got divorced. I like these records also for the signatures here. If you have a relative and you want to have some kind of keepsake about them, you can scan their signature and put it in your scrapbook.

Other interesting records, circuit court records, pre the end of slavery where you can see that there was conflict in issues regarding slaves. This one was in 1859 in Cooper County, Nancy Higgerson versus her husband James, and he's been charged with adultery with his slaves and then and she's accusing him of having some illegitimate children, twins. And, she didn't really want a divorce necessarily, but she wanted to be supported. Anyway, lots of interesting cases like this that you'll find in the circuit court records, but it takes a little bit of digging and quite a bit of reading.

Again, circuit court case, I was interested in this Penda Jackson. Found out a little bit more by going through the circuit court records and it looks like someone stole her cow and she wanted it back, but she also noted that she bought her cow from somebody named Eugene Miller, who turned out to be another family member. But, what I found out about this is that, Eugene Miller had gone to prison. So, I would not have learned that from reading the census or any other record. I found it kind of in a round-about way looking through circuit court records.

14:33Emancipation Papers

Other interesting records that you may find prior to 1870 that may be relevant to you are emancipation papers. Emancipation records can be written differently each time, and it can be easily missed. They don't have like a standard format. This one, I almost missed, just because it doesn't say it didn’t have a listing for emancipation before or after the record. So, I had to really pay attention when I looked at the index and then looked at the actual page. But, two slaves are emancipated by Jane Bear in 1864.

Here another emancipation this one’s interesting, because a person of color who's freed buys his wife from her owner. They are enumerated on the 1850 census as free people of

Here is another emancipation, although this one is written in French. If you're doing research in Ste. Genevieve or St. Francois County, Missouri, or even Cape Girardeau you may find a lot of records written in French. In this case, I was just liked the idea that it was written in French, but I was doing some research there and couldn't translate all the
number of the records, so I'll have to get some help dealing with the French translation.

15:50Probate Records

Another interesting record of probate. When someone died prior to 1865 and they owned slaves; it's a good possibility in their estate records when their when their everything they owned was inventoried and appraised you'll find a list of slaves that they owned. Sometimes there's the name and how much they're worth and also their age. In this case, this is from 1824, John Corum owned all these slaves at that time and they each have a name, an age and how much they were valued at that time.

In following the genealogy of John Corum's family, I found that his daughter Melinda Lowry married well, Melinda married a John a William Lowry and she still has this slave Sharlotte, who is 45 here in 1870. But, Sharlotte is freed in 1860 and living with Ms. Lowry.

So, lots a little pieces you can put together if you're following the genealogy of the slave owning family and tracking them from family to family as people die.


Another interesting thing is, it's not just probates where you can find slaves. Sometimes slaves were hired out or given as gifts or mortgaged and you will find those in deeds. So, you'll still have to consult a deed index and get the various transactions that went on with each family to see if any of those in transactions included slaves.

17:17Probate Records and Newspapers

And, here's Sharlotte she's living with Melinda Clory, I'm sorry; Melinda Lowry in 1860. She's 76 years old and she is a free person.

Other things that you'll find out there on when you're doing research, in terms of documents, is via newspapers, lots of interesting information, not only will you find probate records at the courthouse, but the newspapers often time would cover an estate record and list all the slaves that were going to be sold at a public sale or noting how much they were sold at a public sale. And, telling you sometimes their name and their age and how much they sold for. This is from 1857, the Lexington Weekly Express, for Colonel O. Anderson.

Again, another probate record, all these records, of course, were most of the time in these early days, handwritten not typed, as the records do come later. Again, giving the disposition of an estate and what happens with each one of the slaves, who bought them and how much they were sold for.

Some of these records require a little bit of patience 'cause they're handwritten and they are not necessarily very easy to read and it's easy to get these records and glance through them real quickly and say, "Well, I didn't find anything. "So, I often will get handwritten records like this and read them many, many times over and over again to make sure that I'm really seeing everything that's on the page.

18:46Church Records

Here's another interesting record, another resource is church records, if you happen to know where your relative lived and there was a church in the area that's associated with the cemetery. You may find that people of color were members or went to the church. So, in this case, this was Big Rock Primitive Baptist Church, it's in Morgan County, Missouri. And, indeed, there are several people of color who are listed in their church records.

Again, notice they're a little bit hard to read, that's the challenge of some of these old records that are well over 100 years old.

19:22Coroner Inquests

Another interesting document that you might find out there, and might not think about looking at is coroner inquest records. This kind of caught me by surprise. I didn't think I would find anybody I knew on coroner's inquest, which was kind of silly, but there were several people there who had died and their death was investigated by the coroner. Some of these are very interesting. This one is actually pretty sad. This person committed suicide, and apparently had a history of melancholia. These are things that, if you're doing research on these families, you find out additional information about them.

19:57Following Slave-Owning Families

I've had a few challenges sometimes in following some slaves. In this case, I was looking for a slave named Addison. He was owned by a John Eustace, and when John Eustace died, his brother William took over administrating his estate. When I was looking at the probate record or the estate record of John Eustace, this kind of this paragraph up here, sale bill from Esther C. Payne, widow of George W. Payne conveying all her white titled interests to John Eustace, who's her brother, of Negroes belonging to the estate of belonging actually to her husband's estate. So, she gave her the slaves and land that belonged to her husband to her brother.

So, later when John Eustace died, and I saw a list of slaves there, but it referenced this old deed. So, when I went back and pulled this old deed, I see the slave Delilah here, and she matched the estate record of John Eustace. But, it was really interesting, because Delilah's son is Addison. And, he didn't really show up. He shows up in the probate record, but then I couldn't find him later. He went into the Civil War and claimed that a James Madison Howell owned him. But, I couldn't find a deed of sale for him, but I did find that James Madison Howellett gave power of attorney to his son and Addison shows up in the record there.

James Madison Howellett had married William Eustaces' married William Eustace who was the administrator for the estate and the brother to John Eustace. So, I'm talking about family relationships, which may sound confusing to you, but all of these relationships that these slave owners have with each other indicate a path to following slaves.

Again, this small paragraph looked very innocuous on the page, but it actually made a reference to an earlier date and time about a slave transaction and it was even dated, so I could go right to the courthouse, pull that exact record, and it brought me back to the transaction in 1839 and there are the slaves listed here.

I used Delilah as my marker, because she was in the probate of John Eustace. So, this took me back to where she was in 1839 to 1859.

In other records, Western Historical Manuscript Collection is in Rolla, St. Louis and Columbia. I was interested in Nathaniel Leonard of the Ravenswood Farm in Bunceton, Missouri, and I believe this record is for his wife's mother, whatever the case may be, this record shows where there is a slave Ann. Ann was sold to, again, as far as I can tell, even the people that she was sold to are relatives of the family. So, you still need to know the genealogy of the particular family that you're studying.

Here's another record when Margaret Hutchison's husband died. She was married to a man named William Johnston, when he died these were all the slaves that were in his estate. These are ancestors of mine. It tells their age and about how old they were and this was in 1830.


The other great place to look for records, although it's a little bit difficult and tedious, is in newspapers, old newspaper records. And, sometimes really surprising articles show up. This one, for our relative George Lindsay, and, this George is actually listed on this page, right here, and the slaves of William Johnston. He's George here about 28. He lived to be about 104 years old, and this is an obituary for his death. Really surprising to find something like that, but he was still around at 104. And, his obituary mentions that he used to belong to the Wallace family. I thought it was very interesting that in 1923, when a person of color died, they were still tied to who used to own them.

Here's another example, this is a marriage record that ran in two different newspapers in the same area. The Boonville Weekly Advertiser and the Bunceton Eagle, both very positive about a couple that got married. And, I found a lot of the articles about people in the black community or of the African American Community very telling about the times, giving you kind of a glimpse of who they were and how they were valued by the community.

Here's some other articles. All of these are say something about the community, at the time, just showing the black community or people of color getting organized and being politically involved in their community, and caring what happens to their school and their church and participating in the political process. So, a little bit of variety there.

Sometimes news articles can lead you to really interesting discoveries. I was happened to be reading a newspaper articles in the Saline County newspapers, the Sweet Springs Herald and I saw an article about George Buchanan who died near Bunceton, which is where my family is from. And he left 7 Negroes the article said, a total of about $24,000. 00 which would be a lot of money in 1912. When I checked the census, I saw that George Buchanan lived next to Rosie Dorris. And, so I went and pulled his estate record, just to see, who it was. And, turns out it was Rosie Dorris. So, here is his will. It says he gave money to Rosie Dorris, $6,000. 00. And, it turns out as I've been doing my research, I've collected a bunch of pictures and I even had a picture of Rosie Dorris.

Six thousand dollars is an extraordinary amount of money in 1912, particularly for someone in a black community, African American Community, to inherit money from someone they were a servant for.


So, let's go back and review just a little bit. A lot of records can give you details that you may not expect. Newspaper articles require some patience, because you have to read them off of microfilm and sometimes the print’s not that great. And, -- but, you just need to just keep collecting those little pieces and putting them together. I urge you to make good use of your local library. Look at their catalogs on-line and find out what kind of records and books they may have for people who are doing African American research. Use your librarian if you don't have access to the Internet. Work with your librarian to help you get the records that you need, in terms of, books or reading materials.

Additionally, your local family history library. At the Church of Latter Day Saints, many of their facilities have microfilm and other resources, and they are equally willing to help you get records for very little cost, and to make it as convenient for you, as possible, to do research.

So, that's what's out there, have fun.


MALE SPEAKER: Thank you for watching What's Out There?, the first program in a five-part series hosted by Family History Research Consultant Traci Wilson-Kleekamp.

This series provides helpful techniques in researching African American genealogy through the Internet and local, state and national historical repositories.

This public affairs presentation is brought to you by the Missouri State Archives Office of the Secretary of State: Where History Begins.

Please join us for another program in this series. Thank you for watching.