An Enslaved Community: Tracing Ancestors from 1867-68 Slave Statistics in Prince George’s County, MD

If I seem to have disappeared from Facebook, correspondence, and life in general, it’s because I have been working for a couple of months on this huge project, An Enslaved Community: Tracing Ancestors from 1867-68 Slave Statistics in P.G. County.

Please visit the page! Navigation has been improved.

It began as a bit of a wander into the family of Eleanor Hall (widow Clark) Magruder (1765-1852), wife of John Smith Magruder (1767-1825), but expanded dramatically when I discovered that one of her nephews, Francis Magruder Hall Sr. (1786-1826)–a descendant of James Magruder Jr (b1721) and his daughter, Margaret–included in his will a remarkable amount of detail on the family relationships of the many he had enslaved. I soon discovered that this tendency seemed to run in the family. No other document matched that first discovery, but many included enough information to connect individuals and families through multiple events. Most exciting of all, I was able to trace Hall family relations through four generations to three men who appear on the 1867-68 Slavery Statistics for Prince George’s County, MD–namely Charles C. Hill, Richard Wootton, and Walter W.W. Bowie.

The records known as the Slave Statistics were recorded after the legislature passed a resolution asking the federal government to reimburse the “loyal citizens” of Maryland for the loss of their enslaved labor via Maryland Emancipation or induction into the Union army. That ship had sailed, but it’s lucky for us that many slaveholders were optimistic enough to visit the county court and “declare” their lost laborers, including in most cases their full names and ages. All those slavery records that record only given names? Those were designed to perpetuate the illusion that the enslaved had no surnames, no family ties or genealogy. But, lo and behold, whenever it was in slaveholders’ interest to record complete information about an individual it turned out they knew perfectly well the full names and, often, the family relationships of the people they held in bondage. The Slave Statistics are a great example, and therefore a great resource.

My hope is that African American descendants who can trace their family back to an individual named in the 1868 declarations by these three men can match that person to the family information and inheritance pathways I have assembled to trace their lineage beyond the barrier of slavery, and perhaps much further. My sources extend from 1868 back to the turn of the century. Some families and individuals can be tracked through multiple inheritances and transfers among Hall, Hill, Wootton, Weems, and Bowie family members. The page includes links to probate records for about a dozen people, Certificates of Freedom, and other records, plus six downloadable files. Downloadables include the family relationships detailed in Francis Magruder Hall’s will; a family tree to help keep track of the intermarried white families and the pathways by which the enslaved were moved around; and a database holding hundreds of names–every enslaved person named in the twenty or so documents I link to.

This is the first of two, possibly three, projects on related families. What I’m working on now documents the enslaved community held by P.G. County and Washington DC enslavers named Magruder and McGregor, as well as those they intermarried with–Hall, Bowie, Berry, and Hamilton.

Want to help?

To make names in the Slave Statistics findable by anyone searching a name online–and thus lead them to this information–I am looking for a volunteer or two to transcribe all names declared by Charles C. Hill, Richard Wootton, and Walter W.W. Bowie. Please Contact me if you can help. If you download the Slave Stats PDF you can get an idea of how many names it would be. All I need is a typed list, which I can then transfer to this site.