Tag: 1870 census

A Lucky Glimpse: Family Lines of Slaves


Fraser, enslaved families, Boone, Hickman, Atkinson

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.

Nanny’s Descendants:

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:

Fraser, enslaved families, POCGenealogy, Washington, Lynch, Postel

  •  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:

Fraser, enslaved ancestors, Jones, Paris, Atchison, POC genealogy

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:

  • Nanny
  • 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:

Hickman, Fraser, enslaved families, slavery, African-American genealogy 

  •  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.)

  • Nanny
  • 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:

  • Atchison
  • Atkinson
  • Baxter
  • Boone
  • Hickman
  • Jones
  • Lynch
  • Paris
  • Postel
  • Washington

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.

First Names of Slaves: Can You Locate Your Ancestors By Using My Ancestor’s Will?

African-Americans looking for enslaved ancestors often meet brick walls. There is no comprehensive index of African-American slave names—either their first names during enslavement or their first-and-last names when freedom finally came.

Some of the best clues to this information are in the documents of slaveholding families.  An uncounted number of slaveholder wills do identify the first names of slaves who are being bequeathed as “property.” Because popular first names can pass down through a family, it becomes crucial to know the first names of one’s enslaved ancestors—in case they re-appear on the landmark 1870 census.

Slave ancestors may also have chosen to take the surname of their owner, or a variant of that surname, when they were freed. Having a plausible theory of both first name and surname of an enslaved ancestor can help bring about revelations from the 1870 or 1880 censuses.

In my opinion, there should be a complete database of slaveholder wills online, full of first names of slaves, and well indexed. Descendants of slaveholders could join to make this happen. It would be only fair.

Until that time, we soldier on individually.

Right now I can share 55 first names of slaves from the 1820 will of my 3 x great grandfather, John Baxter Fraser (1767-1820). I discovered his will last week.

Some background: John Baxter Fraser had a plantation in the Sumter District of South Carolina. He began working the fields in the 1790s, farming inferior land and living under frontier conditions, with 2 or 3 slaves. Through settlements of his white relatives’ estates, he owned 20 slaves by 1801. He lived in a 28 x 20 foot log house, and his slaves built log houses for their families. By 1820, his wife Mary and two children had died, but he had 9 remaining children, ages 11 to 30, to whom he bequeathed his farm supplies, his land, and his (by then) 55 slaves. In his will he kept together all of the slave families whom he owned.

Here are further ideas for anyone searching for enslaved Fraser ancestors. John Baxter Fraser also bequeathed his slaves’ “future increase” (children) to his own children, and instructed them to bequeath these slave families and their “increase” to their own children—or if they had none, to their surviving white siblings.

Therefore, until the end of the Civil War, the families of these 55 enslaved people would probably have lived with some white family surnamed Fraser (Frasier, Frazier, Frazer) either in the Sumter District of South Carolina, or wherever that family moved. Here I give the BD dates of each of the 9 Fraser children, and the probable married names of the Fraser daughters, to aid genealogical searches. I also include possible places to which each Fraser sibling may have relocated. (These relocation suggestions are from those infamously unverified public family trees, but surely every hint is welcome in a caring search.)

As it happens, one of John Baxter Fraser’s sons is my 2 x great grandfather, Ladson Lawrence Fraser (1804-1889):

Ladson Lawrence Fraser Sr

Ladson Lawrence Fraser (1804-1889). Photo owned by author.

He and his wife Hannah Boone owned a Boone-Fraser plantation, Booneland:

Booneland Ladson Lawrence Fraser Hannah Boone

Booneland. Photo owned by the author.

First Names of Slaves in the 1820 will of John Baxter Fraser, as willed to his children:

To Samuel Fraser (1790-1843): Ben, Diana her child Xury and her future increase, and the negro girl Delia my negro slaves Toney & Affy   Samuel may have been buried at Pawleys Island, Georgetown, South Carolina.

To Mary Fraser (1792 – ): Cyrus, Milly and her children to wit Amoutta, Satira, and July and my waiting Boy Primus, Lucy and her two children Labinia and Abeline  Mary may have been married to Sinclaire Deschamps.

To William Hickman Fraser (1793-1864): Caesar & his wife Dorcas, George, Liddy and her two children Lembrick and Dorcas  William may have died in Darlington, South Carolina.

To Jane Baxter Fraser (1794-1840): George & his wife Brunette, Lucy & her two children To wit Peggy & Nelson, and my negro girl Charlotte Jane may have married Thomas Boone in 1827.

To John Glasgow Fraser (1796-1860): Tome and his wife Dince & her child Heriott

To Thomas Fraser (1798-1863): Judith, Frank, Prince, Silla & her two children. Viz. Sylva and Abigail  Thomas may have moved to Alachua, Florida, and had many children.

To Robert Fraser (1800-1886): old Ben, old Suckey his wife, Tyler, Nero, Dandy, Maria and her child Argen  Robert may have moved to Bishopville, South Carolina.

To Ladson Lawrence Fraser (1804-89):  Dick, & his wife Kate, Nanny & her three children vix. Heram, Rufus, and Susanna Ladson stayed in Sumter District, South Carolina. 

To Elias Lynch Fraser (1809-51): Anthony, Ambrose, Marianne, Daphan young Suckey, and Sophronia Elias may have moved to Lancaster, South Carolina, and had a number of children by his first and second wives.

Given the terrible reality that people were enslaved and then bequeathed as property, I hope this information can help some African-Americans trace their ancestors and learn more about their families.

Sources: The full source for John Baxter Fraser’s history is Cotton Culture on the South Carolina Frontier: Journal of John Baxter Fraser 1804-1807, edited by John Hebron Moore and Margaret DesChamps Moore. This book holds some more information about the 55 enslaved people and their lives with John Baxter Fraser. It is available from the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.

The entire 1820 will of John Baxter Fraser can be found here.


*** Footnote relating to my last blog: I’ve received a brief, tentative response from my letter. My relative is considering what to do and talking the matter over with her aunt. She says she’ll let me know. I am waiting hopefully.