Oct 26, 2022

Do Slave Schedules Accurately Report Owners?

This is a follow-up to my earlier article, Making Black America: Through the Grapevine, that I published last week at

That article describes Making Black America: Through the Grapevine, a four-part television series from executive producer, host and writer Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., which premiered on October 4th on PBS stations nationwide. 

In last night’s broadcast, Henry Louis Gates showed Slave Schedules. Ironically National Genealogical Society just published Tony Burroughs’ latest study of Slave Schedules, “Do Slave Schedules Accurately Report Owners?” in the latest issue of the NGS Quarterly. 

Tony’s article obviously covers much of the same information but then goes into a more detailed and more in-depth description of Slave Schedules. Tony’s article begins with:

“Before the Civil War the majority of African Americans in the United States were enslaved – the property of their enslavers. When tracing an enslaved ancestor it is essential to identify the former owner. Many researchers use a surname taken from an 1850 or 1860 federal census slave schedule to help identify their African American ancestor of that surname. However, slave schedules may not correctly distinguish owners from employers. Other genealogical records better identify the owner of an enslaved African American ancestor.”

Tony’s article then goes on to provide numerous hints on how to identify the correct surname.

If you are researching Slave Schedules, make sure you check Tony’s article in the NGS Quarterly..

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