Monday, March 22, 2010

Ancestral DNA and African-American Research

Part IV – My Experiences + Resources



My Foray into Ancestral DNA Testing

I’ll admit that when I first decided to get into Ancestral DNA that I only researched yDNA and mtDNA and I probably didn’t do enough research on that - only doing enough to get a general understanding. I totally failed to do research on companies. My driving force was price. As noted by Emily Aulicino, DNA-Genealem’s Genetic Genealogy, most companies are accurate with determining Haplotype but don’t do or offer further testing to determine Haplogroup. As noted the companies that don’t do further testing guess at Haplogroup and are often times wrong. So, you can probably determine what happened.

I’m sure you are wondering how I knew that initial testing may be inaccurate because when I received my results I didn’t think anything of the Haplogroup determinations. Based on the history of slavery and oral history handed down from my family, I really had no reason to suspect that the Haplogroup determinations may be inaccurate.

First, I asked questions on AfriGeneas’ African American DNA Research Forum and on Genealogywise’s Genetic Genealogy and DNA and Family Research forums. I was lead to Blaine Bettinger’s, The Genetic Genealogist, very well written document entitled “I Have the Results of My Genetic Genealogy Test, Now What?” As a result, I learned about all these databases that I could input dad’s yDNA results and mom’s mtDNA results into for comparison, which is how I learned that those initial Haplogroup determinations may be suspect.

So, I then found myself doing what I should have done initially, researching the heck out of the subject matter as well as companies. I continue to learn more and more everyday about this area of genealogy.

After doing additional research, I decided to retest through Family Tree DNA. My initial testing was through Ancestry. Please note that this is not an endorsement of one company or a put down of the other.

Wrapping it Up

I hope you’ve enjoyed this mini series on Ancestral DNA. If there is a question I didn’t answer, please feel free to contact me and I will try to assist if in no other way trying to direct you to those that are better equipped to answer the question.


Resources

The following is a list of resources, websites, blogs and groups that I’ve used in researching this fascinating subject matter. You can also go to the testing companies websites. Most have a wealth of information to help  you understand the process


Websites

About.com – DNA Family Trees
International Society of Genetic Genealogy
ISOGG mtDNA Testing Comparison Chart
ISOGG Ethnic Origins DNA Testing Company Comparison


Blogs

The Genetic Genealogist
DNA – Genealem’s Genetic Genealogy


Forums

Afrigeneas DNA Research Forum
Genealogywise Genetic Genealogy
Genealogywise DNA and Family Research


Yahoo Groups

L3mtDNA
DNA - Newbie




Ancestral DNA and African-American Research

Part III – Evaluating Testing Companies and Ways to Save Money



Evaluating Testing Companies

I'm feeling a bit lazy today, so I hope you don’t mind that I’m choosing to refer you to Emily Aulicino’s DNA-Genealem’s Genetic Genealogy for guidelines on how to evaluate a company. Her post on the subject is very well written. I only wished I had come across it prior to my initial foray into genetic genealogy testing.


Ways to Save Money on Testing

Genetic Genealogy testing is not cheap and costs can add up quickly, so here are a few ideas for ways to save a few dollars.

  • Take part in a project – Becoming a member of a surname or geographic project is one way of saving a few dollars. The projects focus on the ancestry of persons with a specified surname or from a specified geographical area.

  • Pool Your Resources – Miriam Midkiff of AnceStories: The Stories of My Ancestors presents one way to save money. Family members who are interested in testing can select one person to do the testing but everyone chip in to help defray the cost of the testing.

  • Wait for a Sale – Testing companies are typically have a sale one to two times per year. The only drawback to this is that everyone is waiting for the sale, too, so sometimes the company may get slammed. An example of this is the end of year sale that Family Tree DNA ran on the full sequence mtDNA test. The price was literally cut in half and the response, per Family Tree DNA, was greater than anticipated.

To Be Continued


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ancestral DNA and African-American Research

Part II  - Markers and Databases - Points to Consider

For me personally, the one thing, knowing exactly where your ancestors came from in Africa, that drives most African American researchers to do DNA, was never the driving force behind my doing DNA testing. What can I say I’ve always marched to the beat of my own drummer. For me, DNA testing was just another tool to use in in hopefully breaking down brick walls on this side of the Atlantic Ocean as well as reconnecting with lost kin.


These two thoughts, the need to know the exact locale from whence your Ancestors came and the need to break down brick walls and reconnect with lost kin are not incompatible with each other but may alter how you approach your research on ancestral DNA and which company to test with. In some cases, you may need to test with more than one company to obtain your goals.

Breaking through Brick Walls with DNA

When used as a tool to help break through brick walls, I think it’s important to know the size of the testing company’s database and to know how many STR markers and which ones are tested on a yDNA test and how many regions are tested on the mtDNA testing.

For yDNA testing, there are two types of markers, STR Markers and SNP markers. STR markers provide information on the personal Haplotype and SNP markers provide information on the Haplogroup. Put another way, STR markers provide information on your more recent ancestry and SNP markers, which mutate at a slower rate, provide information on your deep ancestry.

Understanding Markers

Depending on the testing company, you can order anywhere from a 9 to 91 STR marker test. A breakdown of the benefits of adding additional marker, beyond 12, to your testing is as follows:

  • 12 markers – Mainly used for anthropology projects, 12 marker testing does not provide enough information to provide conclusive results for genealogical purposes. An exact match at 12 markers means there is a 50% probability of having a common ancestor within the past 14 generations.

  • 25 markers – An exact match at 25 markers means there is a 50% chance that you share a common ancestor within the past 7 generations.

  • 37 markers – An exact match at 37 markers means there is a 50% chance that you share a common ancestor within the past 5 generations.

Some companies also offer further testing on the SNP markers providing what is known as subclade testing. This type of testing confirms the haplogroup that is predicted by STR (haplotype) marker testing.

mtDNA testing follows along a similar protocol with its coding regions. There are 3 coding regions, HVR1, HVR2, and HVR3. The majority of companies test two of the three coding regions; however, some only offer the HVR1 region. The information provided by adding additional tests regions is also similar to that of adding addition markers in yDNA testing.

I equate the adding of additional markers to starting with the ocean (12 markers) and narrowing it down to a single drop of water (67 markers). Do you need to add all the additional markers? No, but I think for genealogical purposes, you definitely need to go beyond just 12. Depending on the company you decide to test with, you can start with say 25 or 37 markers and later add more, if needed.

Database Size

If trying to break through a brick wall, the larger the database, the greater the possibility of your finding a possible DNA connection that may assist in helping that brick wall come tumbling down.

In this regard, it appears that Family Tree DNA has become the standard by which all others are judged as they have what seems to be the largest database. Please note that while I have tested with Family Tree DNA, this is not to say that you should or have to test with Family Tree DNA. This is simply provided as information for your research on Ancestral DNA.

Also, keep in mind that although DNA testing for genealogical purposes has been around for a few years now, it’s still somewhat of a novelty and is still somewhat expensive. The number of descendants of a given line researching is small and those that are doing DNA testing is probably even smaller. Therefore, while you may not get an exact match, you may still get a lead. Remember when it comes to breaking through the walls, it's a tool to be used in conjuntion with traditional research methods.

Determining Place of Origin through DNA

As determining place of origin on the continent of Africa is the driving force behind most African American researchers doing DNA testing, the size of the database and number of markers don’t play as significant a role as the type of database used by the testing company. Therefore, databases that are specifically geared toward Africa are very important.

The company most noted and probably the standard in this area is African Ancestry. If you have tested with another company, African Ancestry can take those results and interpret them to provide you with your present day African country of origin. In order to do this, your previous mtDNA results need to indicate that you are in Haplogroup L and your previous yDNA results need to indicate that you belong to Haplogroup A, B, or E. There is still a fee for this service but you do not have to submit another sample.

To Be Continued


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ancestral DNA and African-American Research

Part I – Understanding the Testing


In light of DNA playing a vital role in Emmitt Smith’s research in the recently aired episode of Who Do You Think You Are? and in the recent Faces of America series as well as pervious years airing of African American Lives, there has been increased interest in the African-American genealogy community on the use of DNA in your research. I don’t consider myself an expert on the subject of DNA or even ancestral DNA but it’s a subject matter within genealogy that I’m becoming increasingly passionate about. I will say that in part my interest could stem from the fact that in real life I’m part of the scientific community.

Before deciding to delve head first into ancestral DNA, the best advice is to 1) decide exactly what you hope to accomplish through DNA testing and 2) do as much research as possible on the subject so that you understand what can and cannot be accomplished through testing.

Types of DNA Testing

There are three basic types of testing with regard to ancestral DNA – yDNA, mtDNA, and autosomal (admixture).

yDNA

Ah, the Y Chromosome, it’s what makes males males. It’s passed from father to son each generation. Therefore, yDNA testing follows the direct male of an ancestor. Ex. your father, his father, his father, and so on. Visually, from a pedigree chart standpoint it follows the upper outside line. Only males can participate in yDNA testing.



mtDNA

The mitochondria is similar to the Y Chromosome with the exception that it is passed from the mother and it’s passed to both her male and female children. Which means both males and females can test the direct female lineage. mtDNA follows the path of your mother, her mother, her mother, and so on. In essence it follows along the lower most outside line of the pedigree chart.


mtDNA, due to its slow rate of mutation, can reveal more of your deep ancestry than it does closer relationships. Because of this, if two persons are an exact match in their mtDNA, it’s more than likely they shared a common ancestor.

Markers used in these two tests are used to determine Haplogroup, which is a grouping of individuals with the same genetic characteristics.

Keep in mind that unless you do testing on descendants of Ancestors that fall within the two outermost pedigree lines yDNA and mtDNA only captures about 2% of your ancestors. Ex. You would need a maternal uncle (one of your mother’s brothers) or one of his male children to do the testing for a maternal grandfather’s line.

Autosomal or Admixture Testing

Autosomal, also know as Admixture, Testing looks at the entire chromosome. To try to explain it in layman’s terms, you acquire half your chromosomal makeup from your father and the other half from your mother. It’s what makes each of us unique as what is passed on is unique for each child. It explains why full siblings can look alike or be as different as night and day.

This type of testing can give you an insight into some of the ancestry that lies between those two outermost pedigree lines. This is the testing that revealed to Emmitt Smith that he was 81% African. Autosomal testing won’t reveal what part was contributed by your mother and what came from your father.

To Be Continued 


Wordless Wednesday



First Hosch Family Reunion ca early 1960s
From the personal collection of O. Hosch Jones



Monday, March 15, 2010

Grandpa Jasper and Grandma Jane (Part III)

White Plains, Georgia


View Larger Map

White Plains, GA – Although I’ve never been there, it’s the type of town that I call a spit in the road or say if you blink you would miss it when passing through. But, last week, when I was thinking of Grandpa Jasper and Grandma Jane Pierce, I decided it’s time I learn more about this ancestral area. I have read a couple of books on Greene County over the past year but still know very little about the White Plains area of Greene County. White Plains as well as the southeastern part of Greene County seems to warrant hardly a mention in historical discussions of Greene County.

White Plains was incorporated in 1834 and is 4.6 sq miles in size. It is located in what is known as the Greylands area of Greene County. The Greylands area is noted for, and acquired its name, due to the light colored soil of the region that was tough to produce anything on.

Back when cotton became king and totally transformed the economic support system of Greene County, White Plains didn’t seem to reap the rewards of that economic boom the way the rest of Greene County did. The poorest of the poor, both black and white, of Greene County appear to have resided here. Farmers in the White Plains area tended to own 200 acres are less. Most didn’t have slaves. Those that did usually worked alongside their slaves.

From my observations, based on Google Maps, I doubt that White Plains has changed much in the past 100+ years. As of the 2000 census, 283 people resided in White Plains. I wonder if any of my collateral relatives are included in that number? It’s doubtful. Something tells me that by 1900 most if not all my family was either deceased or living elsewhere. Why do I think this? By 1900, 4 of Grandpa Jasper and Grandma Jane’s children were elsewhere in the state of Georgia. And if this is Grandma Jane (handwriting somewhat difficult to make out) and grandson on the 1900 census, only 5 children are still living.




Now, with my insight into White Plains becoming clearer, I decided to change my initial approach in trying to pursue my 2nd great grandparents into slavery. I decided that it’s time to start knocking on a few doors, as conventional methods (is there such a thing) probably aren’t going to lead me to where I want to go.

My initial door knocking will begin with:

1. White Plains Baptist Church – As can be seen in the street view of Google Maps, the heart of White Plains appears to be White Plains Baptist Church. Based on what I know about the history of this church, chances are strong that my ancestors may have attended here during their lives as slaves and perhaps even after they were free.









2. Second Baptist Church – I’ve not determined exactly how many churches there are in White Plains much less the number of African-American churches but this church, located in White Plains, was mentioned in the Black America Series book on Greene County, GA.

3. Last door of the initial door knocking is Mrs. Mamie Hillman of the Greene County African –American Cultural Museum and Resource Center. After reading Ms. Hillman’s contribution to the Black America Series of books. I thought that she might be able to provide some valuable insight, beyond that covered in her book on Greene County, which might help in my quest to peel back the cloak that covers my ancestors.

Last week, I contacted, via snail mail, White Plains Baptist church and Mrs. Hillman. This week, I plan to knock on the door of Second Baptist Church. Hopefully, all three can provide answers.

To Be Continued



Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Blogger Template Designer

I have tendency to get bored very easily with certain things. So, for the past few weeks I had been looking for a new template for the blog. Not finding anything that really struck my fancy, I decided to just continue using what I had. Well that is until tonight when Geneabloggers made an announcement about the New Blogger Template Designer. I dececided to check it out, and voila, Georgia Black Crackers  now has a new look and feel while retaining my green color scheme. Except for a few tweaks that will be made as soon as I learn a lot more about HTML coding, I like the way it came out and I hope you, my readers, do, too. But be forewarned, I'm sure this will not be that last change during the life of this blog. 

21st edition of Smile for the Camera

Give Their Face a Place


Sallie or Sarah Robinson or Robertson
From the personal collection of L. Evans


I have a name and my aunt’s interpretation of who she was. The faint handwritten of no doubt my grandmother Mary can be seen in several places on the board of this picture card. I’ve blown it up several times and from what I can make out, the name appears to be Sallie Robinson. On the back of the card, the infamous Aunt Lucille has written Sallie / Sarah Robinson / Robertson, mom’s great aunt, ex-slave.


I have checked the 1870, 1880, 1900 and 1910 censuses and so far come up empty when using the name Sallie Robinson. But I do find a Sarah Robertson, age 56, and a widower on the 1900 census for Walton County, GA. Sarah is listed as head of household and has a niece, Mollie Hearnord (Ancestry interpretation) living with her, who I’ve always suspected was the older half sister, Mattie Henyard Martin, that my grandmother passed along to us. On the 1910 census, there is a Sarah Robertson, age 70, living with grand Aunt Mattie Henyard Martin and her husband Tom Martin and their family. However, the enumerator listed the seventy year old Sarah as the twenty-eight year old Tom’s daughter. What was he smoking? The problem is that due to the spelling / interpretation of the Mollie / Mattie on the 1900 census, do I dare say that that these two Sarah’s are one in the same. I think they are but proving it may be an altogether different story.

My gut tells me that Sallie / Sarah is great grandma Fannie’s, of the many surnames, aunt. And of course my untrained eyes see a certain similarity (the high cheek bones) between Sallie / Sarah and Grandma Fannie.


Great Grandma Fannie
From the personal collection of the owner of this blog.

What do you think?

I'm thankful for the picture of Aunt Sallie / Sarah as it's the only picture I have of any ancestor (direct or collateral) past my great grandparents generation.



Monday, March 8, 2010

Madness Monday - Determining the Last Slave Owner of Grandpa Jasper and Grandma Jane Pierce (Part II)

In my previous post in this series, I laid the groundwork as to why I will be doing further research on Jessie Pierce as the possible last slave owner of my 2nd great grand parents Jasper and Jane Pierce.


Was Jessie Pierce a slave owner?

The answer is yes. A review of the Green County Georgia 1830 and 1840 Federal Censuses plus the 1850 and 1860 Slave Schedules shows a Jessie Pierce owing slaves.

1880 Federal Census for Greene County, GA

The enumeration for Grandpa Jasper and Grandma Jane is as follows:

Pierce, Jasper; Mulatto, Male, 30, married, Farmer, cannot read, cannot write, born in Georgia, father born in Georgia, mother born in Georgia

Jane; Black, Female, 36, married, Keeping House, cannot read, cannot write, born in Georgia, father born in Georgia, mother born in Georgia

They live in Enumeration District 35 and reside in District 144 of Greene, County.

I did not list any information for their children as none of them would have appeared on the 1860 slave schedule.

1860 Slave Schedule

Based on the 1880 census, in 1860, Grandpa Jasper would have been about 10 and Grandma Jane would have been about 16. I’ve often wondered if the age given for Grandpa Jasper on the 1880 census is correct. But, if my theory of Jessie being their slave owner is correct, I believe the age given on the 1880 census is fairly accurate. You will see why I believe so in a minute.

The 1860 Slave Schedules indicates that Jessie Pierce owned the following 16 slaves


Amongst the slave listing is a 12 year old mulatto boy and a 17 year old black female. The dates aren’t exact, but unless you can find an old bible or other documentation which records the year of birth, the year of birth, prior to the keeping of vital records (birth certificates), is a guesstimate at best. Throughout the research years, I’ve learned to consider anything within ± 10 years somewhat accurate.

1850 Slave Schedule

In 1850, Grandpa Jasper may not have been born, yet, but then again, he may have already been born. Basically, based on the census and 1860 slave schedule, he could be any where from 0 to at least 2 years (maybe more) of age.

Grandma Jane should be around 6 or 7.

The 1850 slave schedule shows Jesse F. Pearce* with 15 slaves. Although the slaves are grouped differently on the 1850 schedule compared to the 1860 schedule, a comparison of the two schedules indicates that these are no doubt the same set of slaves 10 years earlier.


The 1850 Slave Schedule shows a 3 year old mulatto male and a 7 year old black female. These look to be the same two children identified on the 1860 Slave Schedule and hopefully are Grandpa Jasper and Grandma Jane.

*Please note that at this point in history, much of the country was illiterate, both black and white. Also, there are various spellings and misspellings of various surnames. Therefore, the totality of the evidence on census records must be examined to ensure that the same persons or person are being followed from census to census. In this case, there are various spellings of the surname Pierce. In 1850, the enumerator spelled it Pearce and in 1860, Pierce. But an examination of the slave schedules themselves points toward Jessie Pierce / Pearce being one in the same person.

To Be Continued


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Carnival of African – American Genealogy

RESTORE MY NAME

As an African-American whose family is deeply rooted in the South, there was never any doubt that my ancestors were slaves. Even knowing this, there are still surprises along the way.

You see I had always had this, what now appears to be, idealist notion that most plantations were gigantic. For some reason, I figured this would make it easier to find my Ancestors. However, what I now know is that at least for my ancestors there were no giant plantations, which means that while my ancestors can still be found, it just may take a bit more work, but it can be done.

As you know, to date, the only documentation I have on any of my ancestors during slavery comes through my Hosch line.

First, there is the will of Matthew Hosch that lists the names of his slaves, which includes my 2nd Great Grandmother Matilda as a girl. Approximately thirty years later, Grandma Matilda and child, more than likely Grand Uncle Allen Hosch, can be found in the appraisal and distribution of Henry Hosch’s estate.

However, my greatest treasure can never be found in old probate records, deeds, etc. My greatest treasure is the names of the “Negros” listed in the family bible of Henry Hosch and his wife Matilda. My Great Grandfather’s, Monroe Barto Hosch, birth is recorded here. If you look closely, you will notice that the recording of the births doesn’t necessarily go in chronological order, which typically means the names were added after the fact and could mean some of the dates may not be exactly accurate. For Grandpa Barto, the dates recorded in the bible correspond (1 year difference) with information provided on the 1870 and 1880 census. So, I’m fairly confident in this information and the aunthenticity of it.

I received copies of this wonderful treasure through Henry’s great granddaughter (hope I have the number of greats correct) who I’ve had contact with off and on for the past 10+ years. When I initially received the copies of their family bible, I had discussed with Pat, Henry’s descendant, about using them on my blog. I always wanted the moment that I posted them to be just right and today I couldn’t think of a better time than the first Carnival of African-American Genealogy. Having restored the name of Grandpa Barto awhile ago, it’s now time to restore the names of my collateral relatives as well.



 
 
 
 
From the personal collection of P. Hardin (http://picasaweb.google.com/pfhardin/HenryHoschAndMatildaCamp#).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - A Murder in the Family

Nuna Pierce Jackson
Dec 25, 1898 - June 3, 1929

It always amazes me how one's research takes unexpected twists and turns. This one came flying out of left field around 12:00 this morning. (You do know I'm an aging night owl and do some of my best research in the wee hours of the morning.)

Cousin Nuna's grave

Where do I begin? I know. Last week's trip to the family history center.

My microfilm and microfiche finally arrived, so this past Thursday, I made the trek to the Family History center to begin viewing In remembrance, Cemetery Readings of Walton County, Georgia (Historical Society of Walton County, Inc.). This is the microfilm I had viewed 13 years ago but at that time, paid no attention to possible collateral relatives. Yes, all I was interested in was my direct line ancestors.

Now armed with new information attained during the past year, I anxiously and excitedly "walked" back through the cemeteries of Walton County. I paid particular attenttion to Sheats Cemetery, where my great grandfather, Cornelius Pierce, is interred, since it was there that I recently discovered my third cousin twice removed (my grandmother's first cousin), Mood Pierce was also interred there.

As I viewed the names in Sheats, I was actually hoping to find my great grand uncle's, Lonnie Pierce, grave. Instead, I came across what most surely had to be his daugther Nuna. A Nuna Jackson was the informant of Uncle Lon's death certificate. Surely this Nuna Jackson was the same Nuna Jackson. The information contained in the book showed that Nuna died just four years after Uncle Lon at the age of about 31. My natural assumption was that she died during childbirth, a flu epedimic, or other natural cause.

No Routine Death 

When I should have been in bed resting up for the next days work, cousin Nuna would have none of it. Obviously, she was restless for whatever reason. I realized that her death put her in the time period of Non-indexed death certificates that can be located on Georgia Virtual Vault. When I realized this I begin hunting for her death certificate with the sole purpose of getting a clue about the other Fannie, Uncle Lon's wife. If you've followed my blog, you probably have figured out what I was thinking. "Maybe Uncle Lon's Fannie could help lead me to my own grandma Fannie."

Checking the index first. Yes there was a death certificate for a Nuna Jackson in Walton County. Dates are matching. Felt like I couldn't point and click fast enough. Finally, getting to the appropriate batch of death certificates. NO, say it isn't so. Cousin Nuna was murdered!

I came across the amendments to her death certificate first, which ruled her death a homicide. Cause of death was a gunshot wound. Third click produces the actual death certificate confirming that his is our Uncle Lon's Nuna.

In that instant, in the wee hours of this morning, my ancestors became even more real to me and it brought home one more time that this pursuit is more than just names, dates, places and events. It's about telling their story. How they lived, played, worked, and died. So, I can't just let this be the final word on Cousin Nuna's death. I must find out the how, why, and by whom. Please don't let the by whom be "persons unknown."

To be Continued

Monday, March 1, 2010

Madness Monday - Determining the Last Slave Owner of Grandpa Jasper Pierce and Grandma Jane Pierce (Part I)

On my maternal lines, I’m ready to try to push into slavery on two of my four lines. The two lines that are now ready for the attempt to venture past the 1870 wall are the Romes, my maternal grandfather’s maternal line and the Pierces, my maternal grandmother’s paternal line. There is a third line, my Hosch line that is at actually past this point, and while I will continue to work on it from time to time, I’m putting it aside for now. My second cousin, Roy Hosch, did an incredible job of researching our Hosch line during the slavery era, and I’m slowly resigning myself to the fact that Roy is probably right in that barring an incredible breakthrough, our 2nd great-grandmother, Matilda Hosch will be the end of the research on this particular line. And you know what, I’m actually okay with that as I think we gave it our best shot.


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:

  1. 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?

Next Steps

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.