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Taking Back What Was Once Lost

Posts in category Slaveowner Research

There Were No “Good” Slav...

There Were No “Good” Slaveowners

I’m convinced that slave research and the research of slaveowners is one of the toughest kinds of genealogy research the field will ever see. This is a long post, because this has been on my mind for awhile, and I hope you’ll read it all. I don’t usually do “opinion” pieces, but I will because it […]

Slave Distributions

Slave Distributions

One of the most important pieces of information those of us researching enslaved ancestors need to know is how the slaves are distributed after the owner’s death. If we’re lucky, there’s a will that tells us to whom each slave is bequeathed. Most of the time, there’s not. There are many wills that simply say […]

Slave Research in Tennessee Bibles

Slave Research in Tennessee Bibles

Slave research is a little easier in Tennessee. The Tennessee State Archives and Library (TSLA) is one of the country’s best, and the service I have received over the years from its dedicated employees has been magnificent. They just finished digitizing and uploading hundred of bibles in their collection. I spent some time perusing through the […]

Freedmens Bureau Labor Contracts

Freedmens Bureau Labor Contracts

Familysearch is rolling with Freedmens Bureau Records. They now have Field Office Records digitized for Alabama, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia! I have been looking at Alabama, which is one of my research states, and I am struck by several things. Labor Contracts are one […]

Documenting the Slaveowner in Your Ge...

Documenting the Slaveowner in Your Genealogy Software

How do you document the slaveowner in your research? Here are two ideas from my own toolbox: Create separate family trees for each slaveowning family within your genealogy software. Most people never use the feature available in most software to do this. I use Rootsmagic, but this capability is available in most all the recent software. Just […]

The Crown Jewel: Civil War Pensions, ...

The Crown Jewel: Civil War Pensions, Part 2

I hope everyone is returning from a wonderful holiday season and excited about a bright New Year. In Part 1 of this post, we began looking at examples of the riches that can be found in civil war pension records. We’ll continue in this post looking at how the lives of enslaved people are illuminated, […]

The Crown Jewel: Black Civil War Sold...

The Crown Jewel: Black Civil War Soldiers and Pension Records

Civil War Pensions remain, in my opinion, the crown jewel of genealogy research for those with enslaved ancestors. The first-hand descriptions of their lives given in the testimonies, both before, during and after the war still take my breath away. I do not have any direct ancestors who served (although I have some collateral), but […]

Tracking Mason Garrard

Tracking Mason Garrard

The Garrard saga continues, as I have now extended Mason’s history even further. I discovered that Daniel Garrard was the father of the slaveowner William Garrard, who I discussed in the previous post. In Daniel’s will, written March 1812 in Bourbon County, KY (and images lovingly posted on, he included the following bequest: My 4th […]

Mason and Rachel Garrett: Their Ensla...

Mason and Rachel Garrett: Their Enslaved Past

My great-grandmother Mary Garrett married John Wesley Holt and they settled in Hardin County, TN and raised a large family. Mary was from neighboring Decatur County, and her mother’s death certificate (whose name was also Mary) indentified her parents as Mason and Rachel Garrett (thus, my Mary’s grandparents). Mason and Rachel Garrett were easily found […]

Mind of the Slaveowner

Mind of the Slaveowner

I gave a lecture last Saturday on researching the enslaved at the Montgomery County Historical Society. I had a great time. My Prather relatives are from Montgomery County, Maryland. I found a lot of Montgomery County Runaway Ads online through the Maryland State Archives’ Legacy of Slavery webpage. This database is jam packed. One night […]

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About Me

I blog, teach, write and lecture about family history research and it's just as rewarding today as it was when I began 18 years ago. This lifelong quest has helped me to better know my past and I've taken back--reclaimed- my kin and some of that lost memory.  

Post History

What I Talk About

Locations and Surnames

Hardin, Chester and Lawrence Counties, TN
Holt, Barnes, Harbour, Bradley Springer and Fendricks
Lawrence County, AL
Springer and Fendricks
Montgomery County, MD
Prather, Simpson
Somerset County, MD
Waters, Fountain, Curtis
Duval and Madison County, FL
Smith, Harris, Garner

Favorite Family History Quotes

"The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past."
-William Faulkner

"Call it a clan, call it a network, all it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one"
- Jane Howard

"Friends are God's apologies for relations."
-Hugh Kingsmill

"No matter what you've done for yourself or for humanity, if you can't look back on having given love and attention to your own family, what have you really accomplished?"
-Elbert Hubbard

"Families are like fudge; mostly sweet with a few nuts."

"If you can't get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you might as well make it dance!"

"Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city;)"
-George Burns

"Where does the family start? It starts with a young man falling in love with a girl. No superior alternative has yet been found."
-Winston Churchill

"The great gift of family life is to be intimately acquainted with people you might never ever introduce yourself to had life not done it for you."
-Kendall Hailey

"If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all the generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people."
-Thich Nhat Hanh