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Finding Enslaved Ancestors

Edna Vance by Emory Wallace Vance, Sr.

This is a picture of my mom, Edna Vance Foster, when she was playing on her parent’s farmland in Gadsden, South Carolina back in the early 1940’s. My grandfather always took a lot of photos, but we do not have any of them because a family member took them. Because of my research, I have been able to recover some photos he sent to his cousins. This particular photo was given to us by William Louis Johnson of Asheville, North Carolina before he died. I would have never even seen it, but I met him. He shared this and several others before he died.

It is so important for me to be able to tell my daughter, Adrianne, about her grandparents, great grandparents, and great, great grandparents. I now have grandchildren who I also feel that same responsibility. I stand before them with my experiences, my mother’s experiences, my grandparent’s experiences, and even my great grandparent’s and great, great grandparent’s experiences through their eyes, through photos, and through historical records.

In my genealogy are people of different colors. No stone is left unturned. Nothing that happened is left out; no person is avoided. For me to tell the truth about the past I might have to take breaks when I make a hard discovery, but I will always carry on.

I want to be able to tell where they lived, where they worked, the struggles they had, the families that they raised, accomplishments they had, and so much more.

Over the years I have learned so much about my family. I started just like everybody else with oral history, but I have incorporated my love of history with my genealogy research. This is the first time I am teaching it on this scale.

So, you will see interspersed within this story of my ancestor’s modules numbered 1-5. They are historical periods that our families lived through. In studying the historical periods, you will find laws were created. Where there are laws created you can find people documented. The historical periods that I focus on are the following: Jim Crow, Black Reconstruction, Enslavement and Freedmen, Free People of Color, and African or Black Maroons. Taking these historical periods in conjunction with oral history, and regular genealogical information breathes life into who your ancestors were. The next thing you will need to have is the ability to research outside of yourself. Either take a brief hiatus or make friends within the Genealogy Just Ask Groups that you will work with. If this is your first visit to Genealogy Just Ask then here are all of our groups: Genealogy Just Ask Groups. Let’s begin!

My maternal line who I have photos for are pictured here. When I think of stories that my grandchildren will need to learn about, I think of the stories of enslavement and how my family survived.

The first story was told to me by my grandmother, Otis E. Tucker Vance (1905-1996). I had asked about who she remembered that used to be enslaved. She told me about her grandmother, Martha Sims Talley (1855-1936). This was the mother-in-law of Daisy B. Chick Tucker (1883-1941). I will explain how I discovered over seven formerly enslaved ancestors from seeking out the story of how Otis Edna Vance, my grandma, came to be.

Martha had spent the first few years of her life in the house of the enslaver, my 4th great grandfather, James Anderson Tucker (1801-1885). Enslavement ended. She grew up and married John Talley (1844-1922). They had sons, but one child she had was not the son of John Talley. His name was George Anderson Tucker (1882-1932).

My grandmother gave me these details easily. She loved both of her parents. She could remember George Epps Tucker, her grandfather, bringing fruit to the farm and visiting where they lived in Buffalo, Union County, South Carolina. The photo of the enslaver’s grandson hung next to her grandmother in their home. That same grandmother, Martha, lived in a home on that same farm. That was as much as I could digest before the ability to ask questions of Grandma or her sisters slipped away with their passing.

Oral history for now ended until I could meet someone else who knew them. I would next turn to basic historical documentation. I promised myself that even though my family had given me the names that I would later search out I would also record the names on the public documentation.

Otis E. Vance by Robin Foster

Ohio Death Index, 1908-1932, 1938-1944, and 1958-2007, Ohio Department of Health in Columbus

All my life I knew my grandma lived in Yellow Springs, Greene County, Ohio. That’s where she is buried. It was while listening to the family do much reminiscing after grandpa, Emory W. Vance, Sr. (1901-1973), died that I learned of this faraway place called Gadsden, South Carolina where they used to stay long ago. I could look up Greene County, Ohio Genealogy and find Grandma on a few records to document her dad, George Anderson Tucker.

The Ohio Death Index from 1996 was just one record that had Tucker for the father’s name. It also listed her birth as being in South Carolina. I could order the original record and receive more information.


Failure to follow racial rules led to being jailed, whipped, or lynched. African-Americans fled the South in unprecedented numbers rather than tolerate this racism. Some stayed.

Today because of Jim Crow African-Americans have a wealth of history that identifies them. Here are just three examples:


Otis and Edna Vance in Gadsden, SC. Taken by Emory Wallace Vance, Sr.

Grandma told me she lived in Gadsden, South Carolina. Gadsden is in Richland County, SC. So I could look into what records can be found there at Richland County, South Carolina Genealogy. This is another of the photos that Granddaddy sent to Cousin Bill and he gave them back to us. This is one of two houses Granddaddy built on the farm. On the steps is Grandma Otis with my Mom, Edna, out in front. I found my family on census records and on death certificates.

Death of Daisy B. Chick Tucker (1883-1941)

Meanwhile, in Buffalo, Union County, South Carolina, I found the death certificate of my great grandmother, the mother of Otis, my grandmother. Her daughter, my aunt Cat, had told me she walked from a store in town where she was selling eggs, and she just fell to the ground dead. Her mother and father were Anderson and Elenia Coleman Chick. I will have to tell you their story another time. The informant was the oldest son of George Anderson Tucker and Daisy B. Chick, James Tucker. Remember I told you about an enslaver named James Anderson Tucker? That would be George’s great grandfather.

"South Carolina Deaths, 1915-1965," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 18 April 2016), 004181100 > image 216 of 1642; Department of Archives and History, State Records Center, Columbia.

Otis E. Tucker Vance and family on 1940 US Census

"United States Census, 1940," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 14 February 2020), Otis Vance in household of Emory W Vance, Ward 9, Columbia, School District 1 Columbia, Richland, South Carolina, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 40-40, sheet 5A, line 38, family 88, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 - 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 3833.

Before living on the farm, they stayed downtown on 1501 Manning Ave. in Columbia, SC. My grandfather, Emory, my grandmother, Otis, my mom, Edna, and my aunt, Cat, my grandmother’s youngest sister were staying together. She stayed with them and went to Booker T. Washington High School then Benedict College. Then she taught at Booker T. Washington High School. My great grandfather, Rev. Lafayette Franklin Vance, my granddaddy’s father, and his wife who was a teacher, Martha Vance lived nearby. It really felt good to see so many of my ancestors together.

Daisy B. Chick Tucker on 1940 US Census

The oldest son, James Tucker was head of the house in Buffalo, Union County, SC. George, husband to Daisy had died.

"United States Census, 1940," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 14 December 2019), Daisy Tucker in household of James Tucker, Bogansville Township, Union, South Carolina, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 44-3, sheet 10A, line 31, family 155, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 - 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 3843.

"South Carolina Deaths, 1915-1965," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 5 April 2018), 004177709 > image 1406 of 1835; Department of Archives and History, State Records Center, Columbia.

Here is the death certificate of George Anderson Tucker. Daisy was his wife. That is why George did not sign Daisy’s death certificate: He passed on 11 December 1932. His parents are George Epps Tucker and Martha Talley as told to me by my grandmother many years before. I could not find this death certificate at first. Not until I was told that he had gotten sick and Grandma Otis was caring for him down in Columbia, SC. I was told this by her cousin, Julius Tucker of Union County, SC. So, I looked for his death in Columbia where I found it. Also, guess who was the informant? Emory W. Vance, Sr., my grandfather.

Family of George and Daisy

Parents of Otis E. Tucker Vance, my grandmother

George Anderson Tucker. Owned by Robin Foster.

Daisy B. Chick Tucker. Owned by Robin Foster.

These are photographs of my great grandparents, George Anderson Tucker and Daisy B. Chick Tucker. They had twelve children. My grandmother, Otis, was the oldest. They farmed land given to them by George Epps Tucker. I remember asking Aunt Cat where they had vacation. She said that they never took a vacation. On the farm, they produced what they needed. They had meat and produce. I can remember when I visited Grandma in Yellow Springs, Ohio. She still canned. She would have put away mason jars of jellies and my favorite, pear preserves. She would tell us about making soap with lye. I even can say I developed a great talent for sewing and dressmaking because of her.

Martha Sim Talley, Mother of George Anderson Tucker, Dies

This is the death certificate for Martha Sim Talley. She was George Anderson Tucker’s mother. Her date of birth is wrong on the death certificate. She was a small child when enslavement ended according to my grandmother. You will see later that I found her with her parents in 1870. I have been to the cemetery where she is buried at Maple Ridge Baptist Church in Union County, SC. What really struck me when I found this record is the fact that I was looking at her parents’ names for the first time. Henry Sims and Druscilla Chick took me further back into enslavement.

"South Carolina Deaths, 1915-1965," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 18 April 2016), 004179139 > image 315 of 1343; Department of Archives and History, State Records Center, Columbia.

1930 US Census

1930 is the year that George Anderson Tucker introduced Emory Wallace Vance to Otis, his daughter. Little did he know they would elope and move to Columbia, SC. That is why she is not home here:

"South Carolina Deaths, 1915-1965," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 5 April 2018), 004177709 > image 1406 of 1835; Department of Archives and History, State Records Center, Columbia.

The grandson of the enslaver, father of George Anderson Tucker passed away. I had a chance to question my grandmother and two of her sisters about this relationship. They all told me how George Epps Tucker used to come over with fruit and to visit with his son, George Anderson Tucker. They told me about George Anderson Tucker going to church with Epps, as they would call him. I searched for a marriage to another woman besides Martha. I saw there was not one. Photos of Martha and Epps hung in George and Daisy’s home.

Epps, left property to George in his will. Family members could not take from George what was rightfully given to him by Epps. My great aunt, Eppsyline Tucker Wilkins, was very proud to tell me that she was named after Epps. He suggested the name. This plus the economic advantages that Epps left them in allows me to post the following:

George Epps Tucker (1859-1927),

Father of George Anderson Tucker

George Anderson Tucker,

Son of George Epps Tucker

Owned by Robin Foster

I found the death certificate for George Epps Tucker. His father and mother were George Anderson Tucker and Annie Sanders Tucker. My great grandfather carried his grandfather’s name. I also found the will of George Epps Tucker.

"South Carolina Deaths, 1915-1965," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 26 March 2020), Epps Tucker in entry for George A. Tucker, 11 Dec 1932; citing , Tucker, George A., 1932, Department of Archives and History, State Records Center, Columbia; FHL microfilm 1,943,786.

The will of George Epps Tucker

He left to George Anderson Tucker, my great grandfather, a lot and three new houses in Columbia, SC, among other items:

South Carolina. Probate Court (Union County); Probate Place: Union, South Carolina, Estate Files, Box 114, Package 25-Box 4, Package 47, 1916-1919

1920 US Census

Otis was the oldest child home in 1920. Notice George has an “O” by has name. He owned the farmland where the family stayed. Martha is listed as a widow meaning John Talley was deceased.

"United States Census, 1930," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 6 August 2020), George A Tucker, Bogansville, Union, South Carolina, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 2, sheet 3B, line 77, family 49, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 2214; FHL microfilm 2,341,948.

1910 Census

Ten years prior to 1920, the family was smaller. Martha Talley had five of nine children living.

"United States Census, 1910," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 17 Apr 2013), George Tucker, 1910.

1900 US Census

On this census, George Talley is George Anderson Tucker. His father was not born in Virginia. His father was not John Talley but George Epps Tucker. I would have been so confused by this had I not been told by my grandmother and two of her siblings.

"United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 5 August 2014), South Carolina > Union > ED 68 Fish Dam Township Carlisle village > image 35 of 45; citing NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

The grandfather of George Epps Tucker became his legal guardian because first his father, George Anderson Tucker, then his mother died. George Epps came to live with him until he was of age. The father of George Anderson Tucker, father of Epps, is James Anderson Tucker.

J. A. Tucker aka James Anderson Tucker

(1801 – 9 November 1885)


George Anderson Tucker

23 November 1827 – 11 November 1860


George Epps Tucker

1859 – 5 April 1927

George Epps Tucker. Owned by Robin Foster

Will of James Anderson Tucker

Father to George Epps Tucker died and then his wife died Probate Records, Box 43, Packages 1-40 . The grandfather to George Epps Tucker was James Anderson Tucker. James took Epps in following his parents’ death. “I will devise and bequeath to my beloved grandson, G. Epps Tucker…” Will Books, Vol C, 1849-1868; Will Books, Vol D, 1868-1911

1880 US Census

This was John and Martha Talley and sons before George Anderson Tucker was born in 1900.

"United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 15 July 2017), Martha Talley in household of John Talley, Fish Dam, Union, South Carolina, United States; citing enumeration district ED 154, sheet 504B, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,255,242.


2. Black Reconstruction 1866-1876: Black Reconstruction Genealogy! Just Ask!

The records that were generated during this period identify African Americans or Black people before enslavement. If you want to identify your enslaved ancestors, you will document them during Black Reconstruction. Some record types to look for: voting records, historic newspapers, militia enrollments, state census, criminal records, agricultural census, senate testimonies, just to name a few.

1868 Voter’s Registration

Secretary of State, Abstract of Voter Registrations Reported to the Military Government, 1868, Union County, Fish Dam Elect. Prect., Image 405, South Carolina State Library, Columbia, SC, <>

Henry Sims, the father of Martha Sims Talley. Below is the voter’s registration for J. A. Tucker. At this time Druscilla, the wife of Henry, worked in the home of J. A. Tucker. See the 1870 Census.

J. A. Tucker aka James Anderson Tucker is the grandfather of George Epps Tucker.


1871 Guardianship Request

I found the Guardianship Request of James Anderson Tucker for George Epps Tucker, his grandson: Guardianship Request Helps Identify Ancestor’s Real Father

1870 Census

The 1870 Census is the first federal census that names persons who previously were enslaved. Next door to J. A. Tucker, grandfather of George Epps Tucker, is Henry and Druscilla Sims. Martha Sim Talley is 15 years old. She would have been freed at about 10 years old. Druscilla was a cook for James Anderson Tucker. I had actually found the parents of Martha Sim Talley. Finding Henry Sims and Druscilla with their family was something I know my grandmother would have been proud of me.

"United States Census, 1870", database with images, FamilySearch ( : 19 March 2020), Martha Sims in entry for Henry Sims, 1870.


3. Enslavement and Freedmen 1866-1872: Enslaved Ancestors and Freedmen Genealogy! Just Ask!

In 1866, one year after they had been enslaved, I found Henry Sim and Druscilla had entered a labor contract with James Anderson Tucker. None of their children were mentioned. Here is an article telling how it found them: South Carolina’s Freedmen’s Bureau Contract Provides Post Civil War Snapshot of Ancestors. Records that have to do with enslavement can also be found here. For example, Wills, estate records, manumissions, deeds, etc.


1860 Census

I was able to find George Epps Tucker in 1860 living with his mom, Anna, and dad, George Anderson Tucker. Eleven years later he would be taken in by his grandfather, James Anderson Tucker. Martha is not born yet. I do not know yet if her parents were owned by George Anderson Tucker or James Anderson Tucker. 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Original data:1860 U.S. census, population schedule. NARA microfilm publication M653, 1,438 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d

___________________________________________________________________________________________ 4. Free Person of Color: Free Person of Color Genealogy! Just Ask!

For the research of ancestors who were free before enslavement.



"Known as maroons, they lived on their own or set up communities in swamps or other areas where they were not likely discovered," Slavery's Exiles by Sylviane A. Diouf. Discover ancestors who were maroons in America during enslavement. See Did Your Ancestor Spend Time as a Maroon During Enslavement?


My Formerly Enslaved Ancestors from the Lines of George Anderson Tucker and Daisy B. Chick Tucker

· Henry Sims (1820 - ), father of Martha Sims Talley

· Drucilla Chick Sims (1830 - ), mother of Martha Sims Talley

· Martha Sims Talley (1855-1936), mother of George Anderson Tucker

· Eliza Maybin (1845 - ), mother of Anderson Chick

· Anderson Chick (1860 – 1903), father of Daisy B. Chick Tucker

· Elenia Coleman Chick (1860 – 1933), mother of Daisy B. Chick Tucker

· Theophilous Coleman ( - 1900), father of Elenia Coleman Chick

· Sue Butler Coleman (1840 - ), mother of Elenia Coleman Chick

These nine persons were formerly enslaved. Martha Sims Talley was the only person whose name I knew. I lovingly discovered the names of my other ancestors. My research on them has only just begun. If you believe this form of research can assist you in the discovery of your ancestors, leave a comment below, and join one or more of the modules that will help you discover historical documentation.

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