St. Louis city officials maintained registers in which they recorded a person’s date of death, along with age, place of birth and death, marital and racial status, occupation, cause of death, and name of cemetery. Separate registers for the races were not kept – names of whites and blacks appear together in the same books. These registers were used prior to state-wide requirements for filing such records. Have you found similar records?
Probate records are among the most important to family historians. Wills contain a variety of information, including relationships. Here are two examples of wills written by free women of color: Charlotte, also known as Charlotte Davis of St. Louis, Missouri, and Margaret Trouillet of Mobile, Alabama.
Voting records are another important type of genealogical records. These valuable lists vary widely over time and place and may show one’s racial status. For instance, Alabama maintained a list of qualified voters in 1867, and these lists are available online at http://www.archives.alabama.gov/voterreg/index.cfm (bottom left image.) A 1904 St. Louis register of voters may show the voter’s name, residence, birthplace, color, age, occupation, length of residence in the city, naturalization data, and signature (top image). Also in St. Louis, canceled voter affidavits may show, for example, name of voter, race, address, and date of birth (bottom right image).
Among the many records of the Mobile probate court is a record book of runaway slaves. The 30 slaves of the estate of Zeno Chastang, Sr., a free man of color in Mobile County, Alabama, were appraised at $23, 525 in late 1860. Among those appraised was Felix. Zeno Chastang, Jr. appeared before the Mobile Probate Court judge on March 1, 1865, and testified that he knew the slave named Felix, committed as a runaway slave, and that Felix was the slave of Edward Z. Chastang, Zeno’s younger brother. Felix may have been the slave of Zeno Sr., whose slave named Felix Monroe was born and baptized in 1845. A slave named Felix also appears in Zeno’s inventory. Shown below is the Chastang record in the runaway slave book in Mobile County. Have you thoroughly checked all probate records where your ancestors lived?
Tax records are valuable resources for historians and genealogists. They may be used as a substitute for census records. Researchers should examine tax laws to understand data in the records. For additional information, see Gary M. Smith and Diana Crisman Smith, “Using Tax Lists,” NGS Magazine 35 (April—June 2009):56-59, and Elizabeth Shown Mills, “Using Tax Rolls Creatively,” Quick Tips: The Blog @ Evidence Explained website, https://www.evidenceexplained.com/quicktips/using-tax-rolls-creatively (accessed Nov. 18, 2014). Check newspapers for delinquent tax payers. As with some other records, race was not always shown in tax records or lists of delinquent tax payers. Shown below is a copy of a Virginia tax list that I received from certified genealogist Alycon Trubey Pierce as well as a list of Mobile residents who did not pay their taxes. Some free people of color appear on this list; however, their racial status does not appear.
“African Americans have served in U. S. military units continually since the colonial period, and numerous records document the contributions made by these troops. These resources are available at the National Archives, state archives, historical societies, and libraries.” (Chris Nordmann, “Basic Genealogical Research Methods and Their Application to African Americans,” in Paula K. Byers, editor, African American Genealogical Sourcebook. New York: Gale Research Inc., 1995. Part 1, p. 27.) In the example shown here Charles Lalande, a free man of color in Mobile County, Alabama, appears in the Mississippi Territory militia muster and pay rolls, War of 1812. His race does not appear on the rolls, but other records show that he was nonwhite. Did your ancestors serve in the military?
Probate records are among the most valuable records for African American research. Among them are wills, orphans court records, inventories and appraisements. Wills contain a variety of information, such as family relationships, former residences, and names and ages of slaves. Inventories may also list names of slaves and family relationships. For instance, the inventory of William Edwards of Fauquier County, Virginia, shown here, shows the names of Ned, Charlotte, and their children.
Newspapers are an excellent source for historical and genealogical information. They may contain notices about birth, marriage, death, delinquent taxes, runaway slaves, manumissions, and lists of free people of color. Here are examples of emancipations as they appeared in a St. Louis newspaper. What types of information have you found in newspapers?
Are you looking for the name of your ancestor’s slave owner? Have you examined House of Representatives Executive Documents published in the Serial Set? Here is an example of one such record dealing with the activities of the Freedmen’s Bureau in which a former slave mentioned the name of her former owner.
I am a professional genealogist specializing in tracing the lives of African Americans. I earned my Ph.D. in history from the University of Alabama.