Schalene at “Tangled Roots and Trees” has a great idea. She calls it the Slave Name Roll Project. Those of us with slave-owning ancestors will post the names of slaves that we find in deeds, wills and other documents so that they can more easily be found by our fellow genealogists with slave roots.
As a white southerner going back over two hundred years on all sides of my family, I have found many references to slaves in my research. I’ve found even more lately, as I have been working on Miles Bembry‘s connections in colonial North Carolina.
If you find your ancestor in this series of posts, please let me know. DNA tells me that at least some of the individuals listed were related to me. History was what it was: I consider these to be “lost” branches of the family, and would like to know about them.
Here’s the first installment, listing all the slaves that I know were owned by Bembrys. I have yet to find any deeds in which Bembrys purchased slaves (though it must have happened on occasion). They seem to have acquired most of their slaves by inheritance, chiefly from the Mayo, Wiggins and Bryan families. More on those names to follow shortly.
The first slave that Miles Bembry owned actually belonged to his wife. She is found on the 1790 Martin County census, and her name was Hannah. Needham Bryan, Ann Bryan Bembry’s father, gave her to her permanently in his 1797 will.
“I give unto my Daughter Ann Bembray one hundred acres of land where James Bellflower formerly lived now possession of said Bembray also one Negro girl named Hannah which she now has in possession to her and her Heirs forever.”
There are no more mentions of named slaves that I can find until a court case mentions Miles will, dated 14 September 1832. It names Dinah, Dick, Alice, Saline, Berry, Jacob, and Oran.
On the 14th day of September, 1832, one Miles Bembry executed a conveyance to his four grand children, Penelope L., John, Kenneth, and Sarah Ann Bembry, children of his son, John Bembry, of certain negro slaves, to wit: Dinah, Dick, Alice and Saline, retaining a life estate in the property and providing that the same should be kept together until Kenneth, the younger, should come of age, and then to be divided between the four.
This conveyance was immediately thereafter duly recorded and the property placed in the possession of John Bembry, senr., the father of the donees, who kept the same until his death, except Dinah and her children.
Miles died in 1838, John his son, having departed this life previously.
Upon the intermarriage of Penelope with David Scarborough, Dinah and her children were permitted to go into their possession, upon what understanding or terms does not satisfactorily appear.
In 1841, Dinah and her children, Berry, Jacob, Eleanor and Oran were levied upon by the Sheriff, under certain executions against David Scarborough, and sold.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a copy of this will. It may have been burned in a Martin County courthouse fire in the 1880s.
As for Miles Bembry’s sons, I have found a few mentions of slaves in their records.
John Bembry‘s wife, Maria Wiggins, inherited several slaves upon her marriage, one with a name I can’t decipher, Dinah, Hasty and Richard. Note that two of the names correspond to the names above.
Edge. Co. Db 16, page 315, date of deed July 1814, date recorded Feb Ct. 1819, John Wiggins, Edge. Co. for love and affection for my daughter Maria (Barnby) of Edge. Co. four Negroes ( ), Dinah, Hasty and Richard. FHC film 0018892, 2-16-00.
Later on, after John’s death or disappearance, Maria Wiggins Bembry sold several slaves in Dooly County, Georgia. It seems that she was having serious financial difficulties.
On 2 May 1843 She sold the following individuals: Jacob age 30, Dick age 25, Cate age 20, Amy age 11, Caroline age 8, Hannah age 6, Aron age 4, Jane age 2, and Tone age 6 months. The children appear to be from the same family, judging from the ages. We can only hope that they were all sold together with their parents, but it’s not very likely.
On 25 July 1843, the following sale was announced in the Macon Weekly Telegraph. Note that this appears to be the same slave named Dick that was listed for sale in May.
Will be sold on the first Tuesday in SEPTEMBER next, before the Court House door, in Vienna, Dooly county, between the usual hours of sale, the following property, to wit:
Also, two Negroes, to wit: Jacob, about 30 years old and Dick, about 25 levied on as the property of Maria Bembry, to satisfy three fi fas issued from a Justice’s Court in favor of Nathaniel Wade, for the use of James Boatright vs. Maria Bembry and David Scarborough. Levy made and returned to me by a constable.
And again, in September, Jacob, Dick, and Cate were listed for sale. What happened to the kids? Perhaps a bill of sale will emerge one day that tells us.
Miles’ second son, William Miles Bembry, also married a daughter of a wealthy slave owner. Marina Mayo inherited several slaves from her father. The information is buried in a lengthy probate case however, and there are several other Mayo deeds concerning slaves as well, so I will cover those individuals in a separate post to follow.
Thomas Bembry, the third son, and my ancestor, owned just a few slaves. There are five individuals shown on the 1830 census, three women and two men, all adults. They were probably inherited from his wife’s wealthy grandfather and guardian, Nathan Harris.
By the 1840 census, Thomas owned just three slaves, one male and two female. He must have bought or inherited more by 1843, though, because three male slaves, Frank, Brister, and Dempsey, were sold in Pulaski County, Georgia in 1843 to satisfy debt—along with a lot of other property including horses and household furniture.
Frank, 45 years old, Brister, 29 years old, and Dempsey, 18 years old; levied on as the property of Thomas Bembry to satisfy sundry fi fas from Pulaski Superior Court, Thomas M. Gatlin vs. Thomas Bembry.
By 1850, Thomas Bembry owned no slaves, and had become a tenant farmer in Florida.
Miles Bembry’s last son, the ethically challenged Kenneth, was the wealthiest of the four, and owned 40 slaves in 1850 in Leon County, Florida. Unfortunately, I have not found any records listing these individuals by name.
That is all the Bembry slave transactions I have found to date. If I find more, I’ll be sure to update this post.