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Finding Evidence of Enslavement in the Family



Edna Foster, Robin Foster, Adrianne McClure Benjamin, Ellis McClure standing my sign at Seekwell Baptist Church in Maybinton, Newberry County, South Carolina were Anderson Chick is buried. Photo taken by Doretha Chick in 2005.





Burial spot for Anderson Chick and Elenia Coleman Chick in Seekwell Baptist Church Cemetery in Maybinton, Newberry County, South Carolina. Taken by Robin Foster in 2005.




Have you ever wondered how to determine if there was an enslaved person or an enslaver in your family history? You may lack the understanding of how to do that type of investigating. Whether your ancestor was enslaved or an enslaver, in a series of posts I will share the first resources that you should check:

  • oral history

  • census records

  • wills

  • vital records

  • records on hand

Close up of Anderson Chick (1860-1903) at Seekwell Baptist Church Cemetery in Maybinton, Newbery County, South Carolina.. Taken by Robin Foster in 2005.


Oral History Does anyone recall your family having or being servants? Did ancestors seem to have close ties with people of the opposite color? If your ancestor had or was a servant, was your family acquainted with other members of their family? How did you come to know them? Is there a servant’s quarters or dilapidated house on the premises of your ancestor’s property? Does anyone in the family remember ancestor’s having any ties or interaction to people that could have been forged during enslavement? Record the information that you remember or discover about people and events. Remember that details can get distorted over time. Not all oral history is factual, but it can be a help to lead you to actual records where it can be proven or disproved. The Census The census can help you identify relationships going back to the point just after enslavement, and it will help you to identify most members in the family group. If no one in your family remembers these early ancestors, you will need to use the census to find clues. As you step back further in time, you will understand more clearly the relationships between the people listed next door on the census. I will use two people I am related to (Pettus Chick and Anderson Chick) to demonstrate how the census can reveal clues about relationships. For example, the only census where Anderson Chick (d. 1903) appears in the 1900’s is on the 1900 US Census in Goshen Hill, Union County, South Carolina. I was given his name in an interview with one of his granddaughters, Congee Talley Taylor, who is now deceased. He is listed with his wife, Elenia, and children. I always check the families living next door at least a page before and a page after the census page where I find my family. You never know who intermarried. They did not travel that far back then. Neither person living nearby was known to be directly related at first. Next door to Anderson (person of color) is Sarah E. Chick (white) living with her nephew, John Henderson and family.

Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004.

Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1900. T623, 1854 rolls.

A search of the 1880 US Census did not result in locating an Anderson Chick, however a search for Sarah Chick led to the discovery of an Anderson Eigner living with his mother, Eliza, and siblings next door to Sarah and her nephew, John Henderson in Goshen Hill, Union, South Carolina. Anderson appearing with a different last name than Chick could have thrown me off the trail had it not been for Sarah Chick living next door. No family oral history existed which mentioned any other surname used other than Chick, and I found no one who could tell me anything about the parents of Anderson.


Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010. 1880 U.S. Census Index provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints © Copyright 1999 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. All use is subject to the limited use license and other terms and conditions applicable to this site.

Original data:Tenth Census of the United States, 1880. (NARA microfilm publication T9, 1,454 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C.


Yet again, a search of the 1870 US Census did not result in locating an Anderson Chick, however a search for Sarah Chick led to the discovery of an Anderson Maybin living with his mother, Eliza, and siblings next door to Sarah and her nephew, John Henderson in Goshen Hill, Union, South Carolina. Anderson appears with a different last name than Eigner. They had used at least three different names over the course of 30 years. I hope you can see the importance of searching the whole family at once. That was the only way I knew this was my family because they used different last names. I actually discovered them by searching the database for Sarah Chick. I could not find them any other way.


Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.

Original data:1870 U.S. census, population schedules. NARA microfilm publication M593, 1,761 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d. Minnesota census schedules for 1870. NARA microfilm publication T132, 13 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.


I contacted a great nephew of Pettus Chick who actually told me that Pettus Chick and Sarah never had any children; he supposedly had a child by an enslaved woman. Pettus and Anderson appear on the 1870 US Census living in Goshen Hill, Union County, South Carolina. Pettus did not appear in 1880 or 1900. Sarah was widowed. So far we have not really proven a connection between Anderson (and Eliza) and Pettus (and Sarah). We have only shown how the census has helped us to see that they lived in close proximity for 30 years. So what records would you turn to next to learn more? Stay tuned to my next post in this series to find out more records that I found. #census #oralhistory #genealogy #familyhistory #slavery #robinfoster

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