Are you an American McGruther or McGruder who is not descended from Alexander Magruder?

If you have been trying in vain to figure out how you are descended from Alexander Magruder, take heed!

It has long been believed that every Magruder and McGruder in America is descended from Alexander Magruder, who was brought to Maryland as a prisoner of war in the 1650s. I recently learned from Don McGruther in Scotland that other families came to the U.S. during later waves of immigration. Some of those families arrived via Ireland and their descendants today may think of themselves as Irish American.

Don would like to find any McGruthers, McGruders–or those with other versions of the family name, such as McGrew, McCrew, or McCrue–who came separately to North America. He has compiled extensive information from public records and may be able to help you trace your Scottish ancestors. If you are interested in having your DNA analyzed, it may also be possible to establish how closely you are related to Don’s line, to the Alexander Magruder line, or to others, even without a paper trail.

The spelling of your name might be a clue. In Scotland the name was spelled variously, with McGruther, McGruder, McGrudir, and McGrouther among the most common. Magruder is a uniquely American spelling, adopted from the signature on Alexander’s 1677 will. If your family arrived later, it’s most likely you are using one of the Scottish spellings–or perhaps a different spelling altogether. A few of Alexander’s descendants do use one of the Scottish versions of the name, so to find your line of descent you’ll need more clues than just the spelling…but it is one place to start.

If you know or believe you might be descended from later immigrants, please get in touch. You can write to Don at mcgruther(at), or contact me via the Contact tab at the top of this page.

Don’t be a stranger!

African-American Magruders in Washington DC Slavery Petitions, 1862

I’ve just published a page on Af-Am Magruders Named in Washington DC Slavery Petitions, 1862.

All those enslaved in the District of Columbia were emancipated by the Compensated Emancipation Act of 16 April 1862. Slaves were freed immediately and slave holders had 90 days to file a petition for compensation. Though the 3,100 slaves emancipated comprised less than 1% of enslaved people in the U.S., its ultimate impact was far greater, providing a legal framework and precedent on which the Emancipation Proclamation was modeled.

The website Civil War Washington has transcribed and indexed those petitions, with images of the original documents attached–an outstanding resource for any African-American searching for ancestors in the city. Because both owners and the enslaved frequently moved back and forth across city limits, this source also should be searched for those with Maryland or Virginia roots. Most former slaves left their owners immediately and by 1870 70% of the approximately 3,100 emancipated people had left the city. So even if your family has no known connection to DC, you should take a few minutes and search these petitions. The site is well designed and both quick and easy to use.

As always, the best sources for details about enslaved people are those created at moments when it was in the slave owner’s interest to provide a full name and a full description. In this case, owners had to present their slaves for examination, or, if a person had run away, produce witnesses who could testify to the slave’s condition and value. Petitions provide surnames, physical descriptions, and, in many cases, details about the enslaved person’s skills, living situation, and family members. Petitioners also had to say how and from whom they acquired each person–more priceless detail for genealogists.

More than 150 slave holders failed to file a petition. To receive compensation, each had to swear (among other things) loyalty to the Union; so most of those who failed to file are assumed to have been Southern supporters or known sympathizers. Others were residents of Maryland or Virginia, whose slaves had been living–perhaps hired out, perhaps fugitive–in the District. On 12 June 1862 Congress passed a supplemental act allowing slaves whose owners had failed to petition to file petitions for their own freedom. Each of these supplemental petitions includes the individual’s request for freedom plus the testimony of witnesses who could verify ownership, residence in the District, and other details. These “supplemental petitions” were the first instance in which slaves were allowed to petition and give testimony in a Federal court, another legal precedent with far-reaching consequences.

On my page, I list the African-American Magruders I found named in the petitions, with a few notes on their circumstances and possible connections to other families or individuals.

Bernice Bennett’s Geneaology Blog Talk Radio

Yesterday I met an extraordinary woman, Bernice Alexander Bennett, and discovered her Thursday evening Blog Talk Radio program, “Researching at the National Archives & Beyond.” Bernice’s guests are authors and researchers with wide experience. Topics among recent programs include searching incarceration records, genealogy resources in Louisiana, and Freedmen’s Bureau records. Last week’s show, Dr. Maurice Gleeson on “The Irish in the Slave Trade,” addresses both Irish men sent as bound labor to the West Indies and American colonies and Ireland’s participation in the African slave trade, and also debunks a few unfounded beliefs about these histories.

All shows are broadcast live, including call-in and write-in questions and comments from listeners, and all shows are archived–174, so far. Sound quality is not like commercial or public radio, but it’s fairly good. Broadcast is Thursday evening, 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time…and one upcoming program features Edward E. Baptist, whose book The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism I am reading now and highly recommend. From now on, you’ll find a link to this program in my blogroll, listed as Bernice Bennett: Genealogy Live Talk Radio.