A few weeks ago, my first cousin and I found an old, weathered journal in her attic. This journal was one among many, in an unexamined box of documents left to her by her mother.
The cover reads, “Negro’s Age’s 1848,” [sic] and underneath, “L. L. Fraser.” The writing is barely visible in a bright light.
There are 37 handwritten pages. The title of each page is the first name of the parent—typically an enslaved African-American woman. Underneath is a list of children, by first name and birth date. The dates range from 1804 through 1879.
Several Fraser patriarchs owned slaves in my family. Here is a father-son-grandson line:
- John Baxter Fraser, 1767-1820 ( my 3 x g grandfather)
- Ladson Lawrence Fraser Sr., 1804-1889 (2 x g grandfather)
- Ladson Lawrence Fraser, Jr., 1862-1918 (great-grandfather)
These three men all believed in keeping slave families together—they did not separate them by selling them or willing them to others. Therefore, Ladson Lawrence Fraser Sr. lived with the same enslaved families all his life, in the Sumter district of South Carolina. By scrutinizing this “Negroes’ Ages” journal, we can find tentative generational lines for some of Ladson’s enslaved families.
I’m color-coding in bold for clarity. Parent is green. Children are red. Grandchildren are blue.
One enslaved woman, Nanny, was given to Ladson Lawrence in his father’s 1820 will. See November 2012 post. Ladson received six slaves: “Dick, & his wife Kate, Nanny & her three children vix. Heram, Rufus, and Susanna.”
Here is a page from the “Negroes’ Ages” journal:
- Nanny’s Children No. 14th
- 1 Herram was born [Deceased 1843] May 5th 1813
- 1 Rufus was born Oct. 9th 1816
- 2 Sue was born March 18th 1818
- 3 Cyrus was born May 15th 1820
- 4 Brister was born June 7th 1824
- 5 Minirva was born June 30th 1828
- 6 Isaiah was born Sept. 23 1834
- Cyrus died April 13th 1882
- Isaiah died Aug 27 1889
- Sue died Feb. 8th 1900 age 82 yr 10 m 8 d.
- Rufus died Apr. 12 1904 Age 87 yr 6 m
Notice that here are the birth and death dates for four of Nanny’s children: Rufus, Sue, Cyrus, and Isaiah.
Their death dates are after Emancipation. These people may have stayed with their former owners (Frasers in the Sumter district) under one of those newly established work contracts. I’ve read how oppressive such contracts usually were. I always hope for exceptions—a little light in the deep woods.
Another journal page gives the children of Sue, Nanny’s first daughter:
Sue’s Children No. 18
- 1 [crossed out, perhaps died in infancy]
- 2 Betsy was born Dec. 26 1848
- 3 Hiram (?) was born Sep. 1st 1852
- 4 Minerva was born Aug 1st 1854
- 5 Nanny died Feb. 58 Jan 23 1857
- Betsy died Dec 2nd 1884
I believe this Sue is likely Nanny’s daughter because the comparative ages seem right, and there are no others named “Sue” in this journal. We may have three generations here:
- Sue b. 1818 d. 1900
- Betsy b. 1848 d. 1884 (There is no list of Betsy’s children.)
Nanny’s second daughter, Minirva/Minerva b. 1828 [not the same as Sue’s daughter Minerva] had many children. Here is the journal page:
- Minerva’s Children No. 13
- 1 Martha was born Dec 7th 1846
- 2 Robert was born May 21st 1850
- 3 Susan was born April 11th 1852
- 4 Ralph [crossed out] Dead April 1st 1854
- 5 Winny was born April 26 1856
- 6 Nanny was born June 10 1858
- 7 Lizzie was born May 28th 1860
- 8 Mariah was born Nov. 25 1862
- 9 Ralph was born Oct 31 1864
- Willie was born Feby 1870
Again we have two more generations after Minerva’s mother, Nanny.
Minerva and her children probably lived past Emancipation. The census or the Freedmen’s Bureau may hold clues.
Finally, Sue’s son Hiram b. 1852 may have taken the surname Hickman after Emancipation. Hickman was a popular middle name within the Fraser family. Hiram’s age would fit with these birth dates for his children in the journal:
- Hiram Hickman’s children
- Charley – 4 years old Decr 1st 1872
- Brister – 2 years old March 19th 1873
- Fanny – 9 years old Feby – 1873
If my guess is correct, then, this journal when seen as a whole includes four generations of at least one family line of slaves. (I’ve coded the great-grandchildren pink.)
- Sue and Minerva
- Hiram and many other grandchildren (above)
- Charley, Brister and Fanny
Hiram’s family might be in the 1870 census under that “Hickman” surname, in the Sumter, SC district. This family line might easily yield to more research. With luck.
Any genealogical clues are precious. I’m tagging this blog with surnames that were also used as middle names in the Fraser family, just in case the Fraser slaves adopted these last names when freed:
Maybe there are other slaveholders’ journals out there, waiting to be found—with birth dates, death dates, and relationships that can be inferred.
I’m copying each page of this “Negroes’ Ages” journal with my Flip-Pal before I turn it over to the South Carolina Historical Society for the archive. Maybe these pages can be used to detect more family lines. I’ll put them in a later post.
And I’m fervently hoping there is someone out there in genealogy land who will find this post helpful in their family research.