Thursday, October 2, 2014

Just Judith and Puggy: People in the 1850 Census who were born in Africa

Laura Ingalls (later Wilder) in North Hero, Redwood, Minnesota in 1875. [1]

Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Sangamon, Illinois in 1850. [2]

Thomas Edison in West Orange, Essex, New Jersey in 1900. [3]

Iconic figures in American history.  Well documented lives.  You can look up pictures of them and read books about them.  They are known people.

I've looked up a few famous people in the US Censuses.  Marilyn Monroe, Ayn Rand.  Sometimes features a few famous people to be found.  There is a whole blog, Famous Census Records, devoted to looking up famous people, and there are a multitude of TV programs devoted to famous people's ancestries.

It's a bit jarring to see these fascinating and complicated people reduced to names, facts, and figures on an impersonal census sheet.

On the other hand, there are the people largely invisible to US censuses before 1870, a large minority known more for their unwilling mass participation in the "peculiar" institution of slavery than for their various personal life stories.  Of course, most people living in the United States before the 1850 census were similarly under-represented, whether free or slave, as the 1790-1840 censuses only listed the head of household.

However, the gap between this representation of slave and free becomes stark starting with the 1850 census, where all household members are listed--except for the separate Slave Schedules, in 1850 and 1860, where the names of the slave owners were listed, and the slaves subsequently listed anonymously by age, color, and sex.

Here is an example of how my 3rd great grandfather Jesse T. S. Warren's 1850 Slave Schedule in Cotton Valley, Macon, Alabama, appeared.  You see his name, and then all the slaves.  Just look at all those empty spaces where names could should have been written!  If I had been there and asked J. T. S. what their names were he'd be able to tell me immedately.  I am still researching  J. T. S. Warren and hope (against hope) that someday I may be able to also determine who the blank-space people are listed below him, at least some of them.

[Description: Alabama, Macon, District 21. Source Information: 1850 U.S. Federal Census - Slave Schedules [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Seventh Census of the United States, 1850. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1850. M432, 1,009 rolls.]

Every time I look at these schedules I feel like tearing my hair out.  The problem of slavery itself put aside, it's just aggravating knowing what a difference it would have made to researchers and genealogists to have had names penciled in each of those empty boxes.  Every last one of those people had a name.  Scholarship into wills, diaries, and other sources can sometimes tease out the identities of some of these nameless people, but most of them will remain anonymous and unknown forever.

Well, I can't conjure up the names to these people any more than the next person, but it did make me appreciate (and wonder about) the black people who DO appear in the 1850 and 1860 censuses.

I've read my share of Middle Passage accounts.  Horrendous.  It was bad enough for people who wanted to come to America to make the journey by boat, but unbelievably bad for those who didn't even want to go (or even knew where they were going).  But some people lived through it.  Who were the particular individuals who survived such a voyage?  Some of them appear, by name, in the 1850 Census.

To me, that is a kind of famous.

I'll start this week with Judith and Puggy.  No last names.  Just Judith.  Just Puggy.  They lived in Warren County, Georgia (District 90).

Judith is on line 14 below:

[Year: 1850; Census Place: Division 90, Warren, Georgia; Roll: M432_86; Page: 164A; Image: 335]

Judith is listed as 110 (!) (b abt 1740), female, black, and born in Africa (possibly S. Africa, as it looks like an "S" before the Africa).  No profession listed.  She is the only black person listed on that page.

Puggy is on line 22 below:

[Year: 1850; Census Place: Division 90, Warren, Georgia; Roll: M432_86; Page: 165A; Image: 337]

Puggy is listed as 70 (b abt 1780), female, black, and born in Africa.  No profession listed.  Everyone on the page is black (or mulatto).  Everyone around her has a last name, unlike her.

I find it interesting that both women were just listed by their first name, while everyone around them had a last name.  What significance, if any, did that have?

I obviously need to do some more research in Warren County, Georgia concerning free blacks.  Consider that this is in ante-bellum Georgia, and here are black people actually listed in 1850!  Wow.

[1] "Minnesota, State Census, 1875," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 02 Oct 2014), Laura C Ingalls in household of C P Ingalls, North Hero, Redwood, Minnesota; citing p. 63, line 6, volume R - 1, State Library and Records Service, St.Paul; FHL microfilm 0565727.
[2] Source Citation: Year: 1850; Census Place: Springfield, Sangamon, Illinois; Roll: M432_127; Page: 120A; Image: 247.
[3] Source Citation: Year: 1900; Census Place: West Orange, Essex, New Jersey; Roll: 968; Page: 20A; Enumeration District: 0184; FHL microfilm: 1240968.

© 2014 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.

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