Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Researching a Slave Forward in Time from a Bill of Sale

The McWhite family in the 1880 census
The PBS program History Detectives continues to have interesting segments related to family history.  The most recent episode included the story of Jeanie Hans, a woman from Wichita, Kansas, who was going through some of her grandfather's possessions and found an original 1829 bill of sale from Charleston, South Carolina for a 17-year-old slave girl named Willoby.  She was sold by Asa Brown to Stephen McWhite.  Hans contacted History Detectives because she wanted to know whether Willoby had survived to see emancipation.

The research on Willoby began with a visit to Nichole Green, director of the Old Slave Mart Museum in Charleston.  Green had found the will of McWhite, the buyer.  He died in 1831 and had bequeathed Willoby to his sister, Mary Daniels.

To research Mary Daniels and her husband James, Pagán went to the Marion County Archives and History Center.  There archivist Maxcy Foxworth and Cynthia Greenlee-Donnell, a doctoral student at Duke University, had found James Daniels' probate and other documents relating to Willoby.  They also found Willoby and her husband (under different spellings), using the last name McWhite, in the 1870 and 1880 censuses.  So she did live past emancipation!

For the final scene Pagán met with Hans on some property that had belonged to Willoby's husband.  Foxworth and Greenlee-Donnell had found a deed indicating that he had purchased 160 acres from another Daniels for $150.

I know they keep these segments compact, but I wish they had gone backward in time with their research also.  Maybe we would have learned if Willoby (or her husband) had had a family name previously.

The Web page for the segment includes a transcript and viewable (but not downloable) images of several of the documents shown.

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