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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Uncovering Records That Link the Slaveholder and Enslaved

Will of Pettus Wales Chick (1806-1878)
"South Carolina Probate Records, Bound Volumes, 1671-1977," images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 02 Dec 2013), Union > Wills book, 1868-1911, Vol. D > image 93 of 332.

In Untangling the slaveholder and enslaved relationships, several questions were raised about a possible link between Anderson Chick and Pettus Chick after it was discovered that Anderson and his mother, Eliza, lived next door to the Chick family for decades. If you are on a quest to determine if slavery links two family groups in your research, this article will provide clues that may help you.

Oral history
Review the stories about slavery that were passed down in your family. Small clues can point to records that might validate any theories. In the case of Pettus Chick, a great nephew actually shared some information that provided insights about which direction to take next.

According to the story shared, Pettus Chick and Sarah never had any children; he supposedly had a child by an enslaved woman. Pettus and Anderson appear on both the 1870 and 1880 US Censuses living in Goshen Hill, Union County, South Carolina. Pettus did not appear in 1900. Sarah was widowed. So what records would you turn to fill the gap between 1880 and 1900 when Pettus died?

Sometimes wills mention the names of slaves. If Pettus had an enslaved child (and in this case an only child), it would not be unreasonable to expect to find clues in a will. Would it be worth searching for a will if Pettus lived beyond the end of slavery? What need would he have of mentioning Anderson after 1880?
Actually two wills were discovered for Pettus. He submitted the first will in 1876 where he gives land to Eliza and two of her children, Anderson and Pettus:
“The share herein given to Eliza, commonly called little Eliza (my cook) for her life shall at her death vest in fee simple in her two children, Anderson and Pettus…”
Pettus also included a clause that if any particular family members challenged this will in the court, they would forfeit any right to an inheritance he provided for them. In 1878, Pettus submitted an updated will keeping the above provisions intact (click here to read the 1878 will).

While the will alone does not prove Pettus was the father of Anderson, it does validate the theory that Pettus was a former slave owner and had close ties to Eliza and her two oldest children. It also sheds light on why Anderson changed his name between 1880 and 1900 from Eigner to Chick.

The quest does not end here. The next objective would be to search out other records that could possibly provide more information. More questions arise such as:
  • What surname did Eliza use before 1870?
  • Where did Eliza live before 1870?
  • How many children did Eliza have?
Records that fill the 1865-1870 gap
If you have reason to believe an ancestor was directly linked to slavery, you will need to track that person and his or family back to at least 1870 being sure to closely observe the people and families who lived near them. In many cases, you will find other records exist prior to 1870 in certain localities. These additional records may help you to further understand more about the relationships between them and others living in close proximity.

You must search out the records available in a specific locality, and be advised that some records that could be useful to you may not even be online or categorized as being useful to genealogical research. Records can vary by type and date recorded in each state. Some of the most common record types that exist before 1870 are:
  • state censuses
  • voter’s registers
  • wills
  • agricultural censuses
  • tax records


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