Thursday, September 3, 2015

Slaves Listed in the Estate of John Woodard

I know many people watched the episode of Who Do You Think You Are? that followed Alfre Woodard's quest to learn more about her ancestors.  During that program, one of the resources used was documents relating to the estate of John Woodard, said to be one of the owners of Woodard's great-grandfather Alex Woodard.  While the focus of the program was on Woodard's ancestor, additional slaves were named in those documents, and their names deserve to be recovered also.

The scene took place in Perry, Houston County, Georgia at the courthouse.  The first page Woodard looked at was "The Appraisement of the Estate of John Woodward, Deceased", dated April 2, 1851, which listed the following people at the top of the inventory:

Peggy and child, $900
Amanda, $300
Epsey, $200
Milly, $600
Alec, $200
Easter, $500
Benjamin, $400
Luvenia, $800
Polly, $500
Harriett, $200

These individuals appeared to be the only slaves owned by John Woodard.  Alfre Woodard commented on the small number, and the researcher helping her, Dr. Daina Ramey Berry, replied that Mr. Woodard was a typical small slave holder.

From the inventory appraisal Woodard turned to the "Distributing of the Estate of John Woodard, Decd", dated September 1, 1856, of which we saw only small parts on screen.  I was able to piece together the following:

Martha Blount, formerly Woodard, who was hypothesized as John Woodard's daughter, received Milly, then valued at $1,000.

Laura Woodard (probably another daughter of John Woodard) received Harriet, valued at $500 (discussed on screen), and Mandy (in all likelihood Amanda), valued at $500 (not discussed but visible in shots of the distribution papers).

William Woodard (probably John Woodard's son) received not only "Elic", who should be Alec/Alex, valued at $700, but also the following (who were not discussed but who could be seen in shots of the papers):
Peggy and child Laura
unseen name
unseen name
unseen name "and child"

This section followed the listing of Elic and read "and the following Negroes appraised as follows (Viz)."  These seven individuals were in a column on the left, and then a column to the right said "Value", but I did not see values listed, only ditto marks.  I was able to extrapolate that three names came after Epsey because of the ditto marks and the fact that I could read "and child" in the last row.

So from the original list of slaves from the 1851 appraisal, Peggy and child (now named as Laura), Epsey, Amanda, Milly, Alec, and Harriet are accounted for in the distribution.  Because the rest of the names were not shown, we do not know which of Easter, Benjamin, Luvenia, and Polly were among the three additional slaves inherited by William Woodard, or which of the three women had a child between 1851 and 1856.  We also do not know what happened to the fourth person.

Later in the program we saw William Woodard in the 1860 slave census, which showed he had a 32-year-old female and an 8-year-old male in addition to Elic/Alec/Alex, so we can hypothesize that the last name from the above list and her unnamed child might be the woman and child on that census listing, but only additional research, such as in tax lists, can determine if that is correct.


  1. I found a direct ancestor with a will that specifically names a slave that's to have is choice of which heir and what property to live on, that he is not be sold or divided. This ancestor had so much human property that I couldn't possibly track them all down, but perhaps I can learn more about their fate by looking into the man and his son who were named twice in the will.

    I think it will be a giant project, but I can think of a million reasons why it would be worthwhile to try.

    1. You're right, it probably will be a big project, but it will also be incredibly worthwhile. I hope I hear about what you find.

      If you have a blog, I encourage you to post a list of all the slaves named in the will, to help others with their research. If you don't have a blog, I will be happy to host a guest post from you so that the information can be shared.

  2. Lisa Chan, do you have a blog for Woodard slaves. I am researching my family history and I found a Carrie Lizzie Boston who married a Woodard..She was found in the 1940 census records of Dooly County. I am quite sure, her husband is a descendant of the Woodards.

    1. If Lisa doesn't reply to my blog, I'll send a message to her another way to make sure she gets your information, Dar.

  3. My grandfathers name was John Wesley Woodard and we've traced it back to Wheeler County Ga.

    1. It's good that you have found your grandfather and have traced him back to a specific county. You did not say what the earliest year was that you found him, so it's difficult to determine what your next steps might be.

  4. I have been able to trace my Woodard connection back to John L Woodard in Georgia (Culloden). He is listed as the father of my 2nd great uncle who was mulatto in records I found through the Freeman's Bureau. It appears that he was a large slave owner and either he or his son(more likely) is the father of my ancestor. So I am interested in any information that anyone has on any Woodards from Georgia, particularly John L.Woodard. I would love to be able to find his last will and testament. It appears that the father died in 1869. I found his widow on the 1870 census living with another family but cannot find anything on the son. Any guidance would be appreciated.

    1. If you are looking for someone's will and probate documents, generally you should check first with the county courthouse in the county where the person died. If that courthouse does not have the records, the people there should be able to tell you what repository does have them.

  5. I am researching a John Woodard also, the only information that I have is that he was killed in 1906 according to my Family bible. My ancestor was born in blackstock chester s.c. Franklin family I am trying to find out how they relate because it is my understanding that only relatives are listed in family bibles.

    1. Does the bible give any indication how John Woodard is related to the rest of the family? Does it say when he was born or how old he was when he died? If the latter, you can try to find him in the 1900 census.

      Generally, yes, only relatives are found in family bibles, but there can always be exceptions.


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