The Legal Genealogist's Judy G. Russell recently encouraged her readers to read the directions (.PDF) that the Federal census enumerators had to read, so I did. Actually, I've looked at them before, but I always see something new that I hadn't noticed before whenever I review them.
This time I realized the 1850 and 1860 slave schedules included a column to indicate slaves who had escaped within the year! How could I have missed that? It's not like these are complicated forms.
But it is very satisfying to see the evidence that some were escaping. I'm over here cheering them on.
And this lead me to discover that this affected some of my own ancestors. A close look at this 1860 US slave schedule in Georgia shows that my ancestress Mary (Henderson) Turner had lost her one slave (a 48 year old mulatto woman) and son Shadrack Turner had lost a total of 18. Other neighbors were having the same problem. That is something I didn't realize I was seeing before.
This is exciting, because I do know that Mary got 3 slaves from her husband in his will in 1851 in Newton County, Georgia:
""I give unto my beloved wife Mary Turner, during her natural life or widowhood Charles a negro man, Viney a negro woman and Mourning a negro woman."**"So I'm not certain, but the runaway woman may have possibly been named Viney or Mourning. I tried looking through the Georgia Historic Newspapers: Milledgeville database to see if the Turners advertised for these lost slaves, but that site is running really slowly and I will have to follow up on this lead later.
So it really does pay to read the instructions. Even, maybe especially, if you have been working with these records for a while. It is easy to get lazy and complacent.
**"Georgia, Probate Records, 1742-1990," images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-30463-13550-21?cc=1999178&wc=9SBS-YW5:267728901,267884801 : accessed 30 March 2015), Newton - Wills 1823-1871 vol 1-2 - image 167 of 350; county probate courthouses, Georgia.
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