The Alabama Black McGruders, published at last!

Thirteen months ago I announced that this greatly expanded book by and about the Alabama Black McGruders was nearing publication. Ha ha! But this time it’s happening–available for purchase today on Amazon.

The Alabama Black McGruders tells the story of Charles McGruder Sr. (1829-c.1900) and his parents, Ned and Mariah McGruder. The enslaved black grandson of Ninian Offutt Magruder (1744-1803), a white enslaver, Charles was born in Alabama on the plantation of his white aunt, Eleanor Magruder Wynne. Through a series of events, Charles came to be exploited as a breeding slave and, according to oral history, fathered 100 children.

During the Reconstruction era, Charles and his last wife, Rachel Hill (1845-1933), acquired ownership of land, possibly with help from his white cousin, Osmun Appling Wynne (1804-1877), and established a McGruder homestead where Charles gathered many of his children. They, in turn, established family and community networks of solidarity that allowed them to withstand the rigors of KKK terror and Jim Crow oppression. Now scattered throughout the U.S., and abroad, the Alabama Black McGruders have preserved their oral history, expanded it through research, and maintained their family identity.

In addition to the story of Ned, Mariah, Charles, and Charles’s children, you will meet numerous descendants and learn of their contributions to American arts, education, government, law, science, medicine, and business. The narrative is augmented by nearly 200 pages of archival records, photographs, and newspaper clippings.

J.R. Rothstein, a family member and the principal author, has worked with a team of family historians and genealogists, other researchers, and editors, to craft and document this narrative of the family through multiple generations. I am honored to have worked on the manuscript, in a role that evolved into lead editor and chief nag, taking hundreds of hours over the past year and a half.

The current price of $19.99 for this hardback book of more than 500 pages won’t last–J.R. will need to raise the price considerably to break even–so order your copy now (and maybe another for your local library or historical society). At the moment the shipping time is long, but that may improve as more copies are purchased.

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.

McGruders / McGroders / McCrues in Monaghan, Ireland

In January, in response to a message I posted from Duncan McGruther, a reader posted this comment : “There is or was a cluster of rural McGroders just north of Carrickmacross, Monaghan, Ireland; perhaps they were an independent plantation from Scotland, as most were RC.

“Many immigrated to Iowa, Illinois, and several other places in the USA, Durham UK, & Australia ; it might be a variant name of the McGregor? Or McGrother. Some fought on both the Confederate and Union sides, like many Irish in America. Some in the USA changed the spelling to ‘McGruder.’”

To which Duncan McGruther has responded : “I think the Monaghan McGroders are likely to be the same family as the McCru/ McCrue’s of the 1630s in the Belfast records, whom I believe were in turn derived from the McGruders of Perthshire. It would be nice to hear from a descendant from Ulster with some knowledge of their ancestry.”

Does anyone have any information for Duncan? Maybe you have some Irish relations you could ask?

New info re: people enslaved by the P.G. County McGregor family

In 1820, John Smith Magruder changed the surnames of his children to McGregor. After his death, one of his sons, Roderick McGregor, took over the family plantation. Another son, Nathaniel McGregor, opened a business in Washington, D.C. Roderick married, but separated from (perhaps divorced) his wife between 1840 and 1850. He died childless in 1857 and his estate was inventoried in 1858, with additional inventory added in 1860. The land and most of the enslaved people were left to Nathaniel’s sons, Roderick and John Francis. They being minors when their uncle died, the estate was managed by Nathaniel. Family letters show that Nathaniel’s family lived primarily at the plantation in Prince George’s County. Nathaniel kept his office and residence in Washington, and traveled frequently between the city and “home,” as the farm is called in the letters.

I have been working off and on for years to identify people enslaved by this family, and have recently added new information to the page Will of Roderick McGregor, including surnames for several people. From various sources I can identify with some certainty: Pinkney Belt & Chloe Belt, their two oldest children, Charles Belt, Martha Belt; Otho Berry; Warren Berry; William Bowie & Matilda Bowie, their children Jack Bowie, William (Bill) Bowie, Tom Bowie, Nathaniel Bowie, and Margaret Bowie; Henry Buchanan; Emanuel Carroll; Frederick Chapman; Anthony (Tony) Chase; John R. Dodson; Ned Dodson; John Godfrey; Basil Mullin, Hanson Shaw; Robert (Bob) Turner. I am not sure if Tom Vermillion, identified in a runaway ad, is the “Tom & his wife Mary” who appear in the inventory. I have not found surnames for George, Sam, Ambrose, Jeff & Adeline & their 5 children, or Esther.

Eight of the men–Otho Berry, Warren Berry, William (Bill) Bowie Jr., Emanuel Carroll, John R. Dodson, John Godfrey, Basil Mullin, and Robert Turner–enlisted or were drafted into the Union army, and it is likely some did not survive the war. I am still looking for them in post-war records.

Maryland Archaeology Month

April is Maryland Archeology Month! This year’s focus is The Archaeology of Healing and Medicine, with articles on nine topics, including Personal & Tribal Health prior to white arrival, Health & Mortality in Early Maryland, Medical Artifacts, and Archeobotanical Evidence for tobacco. Download the booklet and check out multiple online events, including Healing & Medicine, the Riggs House in Montgomery County, an African American cemetery in P.G. County, the original St. Mary’s City fort, the Jonathan Street cabin in Hagerstown, how to become an archaeologist, and more. Online events run April 6-22.

Julia Magruder, novelist

Have any of you read the novels of Julia Magruder (1854-1907)? I have heard of her often, but never sought out her works, principally romantic novels in which (of course) the heroine must overcome obstacles to true love. Many of her sixteen novels were serialized Ladies Home Journal, and were known for their defense of Southern culture. Much admired in her day, she is nearly forgotten in ours. Wikipedia says that a week before her death she was awarded the Ordre de Palmes (Order of the Palms) by the French Academie for service to literature, though I have not looked into that claim. (The same page says her birth in 1854 was around the start of the Civil War, so draw your own conclusions.) My attention was struck by finding an announcement of one of her novels in the Washington Bee newspaper, a black-edited paper that published in Washington, DC, from 1882-1922 and was read mostly by African Americans. I guess everyone loves a romance.

The youngest daughter of Alan Bowie Magruder, a prominent lawyer, and Sarah Gilliam, Julia Magruder was born in Charlottesville, VA, but lived most of her life in D.C. Her home, in what is now the Adams-Morgan neighborhood, still stands. She was also the niece of the Confederate General, John Bankhead Magruder.

So, I’m taking the plunge with her first novel, Across the Chasm (published anonymously), about a southern woman’s marriage to a northern man. Magruder is said to have been a great admirer of George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans), but I suspect her work did not achieve the moral clarity or social complexity of that great writer. (That’s an example of understatement, in case you needed one.) It’s free on Google Books and almost free for your Kindle.

Have you joined the Magruder/McGruder Facebook groups?

Go ahead, take the plunge! It’s an exciting time in Magruder/McGruder family research. You’ll find ongoing queries from white and black descendants seeking and offering help on family trees, how to use records, locations of farms and plantations, DNA, grave sites, and more. Even if you avoid social media in general, I think you will like this community of warm and helpful fellow searchers. Magruder/McGruder Family Genealogy / African American Magruder/McGruders

Who Are Black Magruders & McGruders?

For black Magruders, McGruders, McCruters (and other name variants) there are three likely origins of the name: a blood relationship to white Magruders; adopting the name at Emancipation; or acquiring the name earlier, perhaps in the 17th or 18th century, and carrying it from then on, no matter where descendants ended up.

Not all black Magruders and McGruders are related to the Alabama Black McGruders featured on ABC’s Soul of a Nation. In the two Facebook groups, African American Magruder/McGruders or Magruder/McGruder Family Genealogy, you can connect with people currently searching for ancestors in Maryland, Virginia, Mississippi, Indiana, and elsewhere. Read through the old posts to see if anyone might be related to you, and post your own questions there. You’ll find a warm and helpful group of fellow searchers.

The Alabama Black McGruder tribe trace their families to Charles McGruder, Sr., who established a homestead in the Sawyerville area for his several wives and many children. Some of his descendants use other spellings, including McCruter. Charles’ parents, Ned and Mariah Magruder, were born in Georgia around 1795, on the plantation of Ninian Offutt Magruder. Ninian migrated from Maryland to Georgia in the early 1780s, along with his first cousin Ninian Beall Magruder. In Columbia County they joined an already established community of Magruders and related families, including the surname Drane, and all these families intermarried extensively.

Ned Magruder was the son of Ninian and an unknown enslaved woman. (When The Alabama Black McGruders book comes out, you can read speculations about who Ned’s mother might have been.) Ned and Mariah, along with their children, were taken to Alabama by Ninian’s youngest daughter, Eleanor Magruder Wynne. One of Eleanor’s brothers, Zadok, also settled in Alabama; the enslaved people he took with him have not been researched.

If your family goes back to either Georgia or Alabama, you might find DNA matches among the Alabama Black McGruder family. If you think you are directly related to them, post on one of the Facebook groups and one of the family members or researchers there will help you figure out the family tree.

If you get a DNA match, but are not descended from the Alabama family directly, there are at least two places you can start looking. If your family is from Macon County, your people may have come from the plantations of William Reardon Magruder, son of Zadock Magruder, who was Ninian’s son and Eleanor’s brother. If that doesn’t sound like your locale, you can start searching records pertaining to the slaveholding Magruder, Drane, and related families in Georgia. If you have traced your family back to, or close to, Emancipation, and/or you know where they were living, I might be able to help you identify some families to start searching. Georgia and Alabama records are relatively easy to use on FamilySearch.org (much better than MD records). Some of the Georgia Dranes and Magruders also migrated west into Mississippi, Kentucky, and elsewhere.

For information on the Alabama DNA project, contact Jill Magruder Gatwood by posting on one of the Facebook groups—African American Magruder/McGruders or Magruder/McGruder Family Genealogy. I cannot help you with the DNA project; if you write to me I will simply forward your message to Jill. I am happy to do this if you can’t use Facebook, though I urge you take the plunge and join these two marvelous groups.