Which line to follow?
While I would dearly love to follow both my Rome and Pierce lines at the same time, for now, I’ve decided to start with the Pierces as I have a much better feel in which direction to head in trying to identify the last owner of my 2nd great grandparents, Jasper and Jane Pierce.
Free or Slave?
While the probability is high that grandpa Jasper and Grandma Jane were slaves, I check and recheck to see if perhaps they are listed among the Free Persons of Color in Georgia. I do not find any Pierces, much less my Pierces, listed among those who were free.
Approaches in Determining the Last Slave Owner
Contrary to popular belief, most former slaves did not take the surname of their last owner. Selection of a surname by a former slave may reveal something about their life during slavery, or it could mean nothing at all.
In the early years, after emancipation, former slaves more often than not tended to stay near their former owners. Therefore, noting the makeup of the neighborhood on the 1870 and 1880 censuses can offer possible leads to the former owner. When scouring the neighborhood, I’m looking for similar surnames and / or someone with enough wealth that would be suggestive of a former slave owner.
1880 Federal Census – Greene County, GA
As noted in my post Working Toward a Research Trip, I’ve identified Jesse Pierce as the possible owner of Jasper and Jane. The criteria I’ve used to base this on is as follows:
- Jesse Pierce’s household is the only white Pierce household followed by several households of Black Pierces, 7 to be exact, with my ancestors, Jasper and Jane and their family (great grand aunts and uncles) being amongst this grouping. Cornelius Pierce, great granddad, is not living with the rest of the family at this time but is in Greene County.
1870 Federal Census – Greene County, GA
I’ve never been able to locate Jasper, Jane, and family on the 1870 Federal Census for Greene County, GA. (I’ve even checked surrounding counties to no avail.) However, the death certificates for my great grand uncle, Lonnie Pierce, and my great grand aunt, Nuna Pierce Sims, places my ancestors in White Plains, GA at the time of the 1870 census.
While I’m unable to locate my ancestors on the 1870 census, I am able to locate one Jesse Pierce, suspected slave owner. Walking through the 1870 census neighborhood reveals many of the same black Pierce families / names that were found on the 1880 census. For now, I am confident I am on the right track. One hundred and forty years later, I can only surmise why my ancestors weren’t enumerated. Were they threatened, were they suspicious of the government officials or were they simply not home on the day of enumeration?
In future posts, I’ll begin comparing my family, more specifically Jasper and Jane, on the 1880 census against the 1860 and 1850 slave schedules and begin the search for possible documentation of my ancestors during slavery.