Archiver > TRANSITIONAL-GENEALOGISTS-FORUM > 2009-06 > 1244945802

From: "Michael Hait" <>
Subject: Re: [TGF] Survey of Slave Surnames
Date: Sat, 13 Jun 2009 22:16:42 -0400
References: <COL108-DS9F37E6E57B8CB9CF52C6E92400@phx.gbl><007b01c9ec8c$3b375b70$b1a61250$@net>
In-Reply-To: <007b01c9ec8c$3b375b70$b1a61250$@net>

Thank you for responding, and I understand that you will not be able to
respond to the survey immediately -- this will probably apply to quite a few
researchers (hopefully, someone will still spread the word; I'd hate for
this study to suffer from poor timing.)

To provide a little more information about my own study of Prince George's
Co., Maryland, slaves:

The starting point of my research was the "Slave Statistics." In 1867, the
General Assembly of Maryland created a county position called the
"Commissioner of Slave Statistics"; each county appointed its own
Commissioner. The purpose of the Commissioner was to enumerate (much like a
census) each slave owned by each slaveholder in their respective counties,
as of 1 November 1864, when the new state constitution abolished slavery
within Maryland. I have completely transcribed the original Statistics for
each slaveholder in Prince George's Co., Maryland, that are available at the
Maryland State Archives. This accounts for just over half of the slaves
(over 6,000) enumerated in the 1860 federal census (just over 12,000).
These Slave Statistics were then recorded in a separate register book, that
holds many additional records no longer extant. I have not yet transcribed
these additional records, as I am working with the originals first. (Don't
want to bite off more than I can chew at one time.)

I have already located several hundred of these former slaves in the 1870
and 1880 census records, using the same names as were recorded in the Slave
Statistics. I have taken several families further forward, and have several
dozen death certificates, funeral home records, land deeds, several Civil
War service records and pension files, Freedman's Bank and Freedmen's Bureau
records, etc. Eventually I would like to account for as many of the former
slaves as possible.

I am also transcribing the estate inventories/sales and chattel bills of
sale for Prince George's Co., to trace these former slaves to previous
owners as well. I am also recording what I can find concerning

Certainly, it is an ambitious project, but hopefully it will be a
contribution to the overall literature on the subject. It will likely take
a few years before completed.


From: <>
Sent: Saturday, June 13, 2009 9:05 PM
To: <>
Subject: Re: [TGF] Survey of Slave Surnames

> Michael,
> I am keenly interested in your project, but can't respond now. (Samford
> starts tomorrow.) Years ago, I did a similar project from the records of
> the Southern Claims Commission, testing "Creole Louisiana" against "Anglo
> Alabama" for a possible difference in patterns; but I can't dig out the
> statistics until I'm back home again. (I also published a part of it
> somewhere, but I've written too much to remember everywhere everything
> ended
> up. :)
> With regard to your overall conclusion vs. that of the Georgia researcher,
> geography would be just one factor affecting the pattern. Among other
> factors would be (a) the point in time at which you pegged their surname;
> and (b) the extent to which you traced each of them over a goodly number
> of
> years to identify name changes after emancipation. Many freedmen appear on
> the 1870 census under one surname and the 1880 census under another--with
> other possible names being used between those dates. (Frederick Douglass
> famously went through five different names before finally settling on
> one.)
> Elizabeth
> ----------------------------------------------------------
> Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG
> APG member, Tennessee
> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> [mailto:] On Behalf Of
> Michael Hait
> Sent: Saturday, June 13, 2009 6:55 PM
> To: APG mailing list;
> Subject: [TGF] Survey of Slave Surnames
> [I have cross-posted this to both the APG and the Transitional
> Genealogists
> mailing lists. Please also feel free to forward this message to any other
> mailing lists or individual researchers that may be interested.]
> In an ongoing study of slaves in Prince George's Co., Maryland, that I
> have
> conducted, as well as client research for African-Americans, mainly in
> Maryland, I discovered that an amazingly small number of freedmen after
> the
> Civil War chose to use to the surname of their last owner. I wrote an
> article reporting these findings, and challenging the common conception --
> and a technique that is commonly taught to beginning African-American
> genealogists -- that you can identify the last owner of slave ancestors by
> searching for white families using the same surname. This article was
> itself challenged by a researcher in Georgia whose own studies proved the
> opposite - that most slaves did indeed use the surname of their last
> owner.
> After several private discussions (via email) between the two of us, as
> well
> as discussions with other researchers, I believe that geographic or other
> factors may have caused some of the differences that have been discovered
> in
> this matter. However, to my knowledge, no broad studies on how freedmen
> chose their surnames has ever been done. As such, I have created two
> surveys -- one for pedigree researchers, and one for community researchers
> -- to try to enumerate the experiences of researchers across the country.
> I would like to invite any African-American researchers, whether
> researching
> your own or clients' families, to take a look at these articles and
> complete
> the surveys. For professional genealogists, you can complete the survey
> multiple times for multiple client families. Please feel free to email me
> with any questions/comments on the surveys or to discuss the topic in
> general. You can reach the most recently posted article at this link:
> Thank you for weighing in your experiences.
> Michael Hait
> Author, The Family History Research Toolkit (
> Administrator, Prince George's Co., Maryland, Genealogy Trails
> (; Charles Co., Maryland
> (; St. Mary's Co., Maryland
> (
> Master Editor, Civil War book project, Albany Hilltowns wiki
> (
> Instructor, African-American Research, (
> National African-American Genealogy Examiner
> (
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