Sunday, August 14, 2016

SLAVE NAME ROLL PROJECT ~ Releasing Names from the probate of James H. Bowen, Greenbrier County, Virginia - 1851

“It’s Honorable to do…You’re RELEASING their Names and their Souls for their Descendants to hopefully find them one day.  Every time this Happens they are Rejoicing.  They have been in a book or what have you for so long.”    
          ~ True A. Lewis

This is my first post where I will be “releasing” the names of slaves owned by my ancestors.  This is a project that many bloggers are participating in, thanks to Schalene Jennings Dagutis who writes the blog, Tangled Roots and Trees.  She has a tab on her blog page “Slave Name Roll Project” where you can find links to all the posts regarding the names of slaves.
Why do this?  Because our census takers did not list household names (other than the heads of household), on census records prior to 1850.  Therefore, all you will find on these records is a tic mark indicating family members of what age.  This includes any slaves on the property.  Then, the Civil War took place along with the Emancipation Proclamation. Many of those freed people took the last name of their previous “owners.”  In order for their descendants to find them it is up to all of us to “release” the names as we find them on probate and other records.

Here is an example from the 1840 census for my 4th great granduncle, James Hamilton Bowen, a land owner in Virginia.

Name:    James Bowen
Home in 1840 (City, County, State):    Greenbrier, Virginia
Free White Persons - Males - 60 thru 69:    1
Free White Persons - Females - 10 thru 14:    1
Free White Persons - Females - 15 thru 19:    2
Free White Persons - Females - 30 thru 39:    2
Free White Persons - Females - 40 thru 49:    1
Slaves - Males - Under 10:    2
Slaves - Males - 10 thru 23:    2
Slaves - Males - 24 thru 35:    3
Slaves - Females - 10 thru 23:    2
Slaves - Females - 24 thru 35:    1
Slaves - Females - 36 thru 54:    1

Persons Employed in Agriculture:    5
No. White Persons over 20 Who Cannot Read and Write:    2
Free White Persons - Under 20:    3
Free White Persons - 20 thru 49:    3
Total Free White Persons:    7
Total Slaves:    11 

Total All Persons - Free White, Free Colored, Slaves:    18

James Hamilton Bowen (son of Anthony Bowen & Alice Hamilton) was born about 1779.  He married first Jane Mann McClintic (1782-1832) on 24 Dec 1800 in Bedford, Virginia.  He next married Nancy McClintic(1795-1866) on 29 Oct 1833 in Bath Co., Virginia.

Here are the names of the slaves listed in his Last Will & Testament from 1851.  The will is dated 26 Aug 1851, with the codicils being dated 26, 27 and 31 Aug 1851.  This will can be found in Will Book 2, page 524, Greenbrier County, Virginia.

I have listed the names as they were written.

“I also give to my wife Nancy, the following slaves, to wit, Charles, Hannah, John and Jullia.”
“to my daughter Jane Pollock’s children, one negro boy named Lewis.”
“I also give to my son, Allen Bowen’s children, tow negroes, Jesse and William.”
“I also give to my daughters, Polly and Eliza, two negro boys, Henry and Alexander.”
“To my daughter Peggy Bright’s children, four slaves, Allice, her son Washington, Peyton and Jimima.”
“I give to my daughter Sally Johnston’s children three negroes, Vina, Samuel and Mary.”
“I give to my daughter Susan Brown’s children three negroes, Willie, Jand and Franklin.”
“I give to my daughter Mirim Wallace three negroes, Rosetta, Minty and Nathan.”
Codicil 1 – “I give to my daughter Jane Pollock a negro boy named Franklin.”
Codicil 2 – “I give to my daughter Susan and her children a negro woman Alice and Washington, formerly given to Peggy Bright. And to Peggy Bright,  Mitche first given to Susan Brown.  I also give a negro named Jane, lately given to Susan Brown to Jane Pollock.”

It is my hope that in participating in this project the descendants of these individuals can find them.

Happy hunting,
Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2010-2016   Diane Gould Hall


  1. So happy to see you join us in this effort to RELEASE the names of the slaves found in our ancestors records. ~ Cathy

    1. I was overdue to join this Cathy and happy to finally have that first post online.

  2. Thank YOU! Diane!!!!! This was Wonderful! So many Surnames and who knows who and which ones took them on. I love this Piece. It's much Appreciated. Will be sharing! You just never know!

    1. True - hope you didn't mind me using your quote. I just thought it was perfect. I would be beyond thrilled if this or any future post should help someone find their ancestors.

  3. Thank you for this sacred work. I too continue searching for the names of the African and Native American people whom my ancestors enslaved in the Deep South and New England, reaching back to Tudor London and the beginnings of the transatlantic slave trade. I am writing about this in a new book, 'Tangled Vines: A Bloodline Shaped by Slavery' (

    1. Thanks Grant. It's important work and I'm proud to be part of it.

  4. Thank you so much for your first contribution to the Slave Name Roll Project! I've added a link to this post to the project page.

    1. Thanks Schalene. I put this project off way too long and it was time to just "get r done." I just found a will online, not sure if it's my relation or not, but several names in it too. I'm going to try to post every week, as long as I have the info.

  5. Awesome! You have inspired me and others with naming those we also come across in wills.

    1. Thank you Teresa, that is one of the goals of this project.

  6. Replies
    1. Thanks Michelle. Can't wait to do it again. Just need to find more probate records.

  7. This project is such an excellent concept and, as others have said, such important and sacred work. I haven't found any slave-owning ancestors yet, but if I do, your work and that of others will inspire me to release any names I find.

    1. The majority of my ancestors are from the north. However, I have those who were in Virginia and it seems like most of them were there during the time when this was a common practice. I know this project will benefit many future generations of researchers and I'm proud to be associated with it.

  8. Diane, imagine my shock to find that not only did my Deep South ancestors own slaves, by that my colonial New England ancestors did as well, many more and for a longer period than the Southern ones did. Enslavement of African and Native American peoples underpins our nation's history from day one.

    1. Grant. There is a LOT about history that most people don't know. We, as researchers, are constantly learning about the history of our country and many others. No country is immune to portions of their history that they'd rather forget. What we can do is not forget, but move on and be better.
      Thank you for stopping by.


I look forward to reading your comments. If you have any connection to the people mentioned in this blog, please let me know. I write about mine and my husband's ancestors and would welcome new information or meeting a new cousin or two. Thanks for visiting and come back soon.