Like many people tracing African American genealogy, I have hit the infamous 1870 brick wall with several of my lines on both my maternal and paternal side. Since I’ve been working as an archivist, I have attempted to increase my knowledge of resources available not only for Georgia researchers but also tips and tricks for anyone researching African American genealogy.
One great thing about working in an archives or library as I mentioned in a previous blog post is the ability to browse the shelves. Though automated catalog systems can pull items up in a blink of the eye, you first have to have an idea of what you would like to find. On the other hand, browsing the shelves allows you to take a look at an institution’s holdings while at the same time getting in your steps (smile). There are some library software packages that allow you to virtually browse the shelves but nothing beats the ability to pull the book off the shelf and flip through its pages.
Then there are times when the books come to you. While working in libraries, I enjoyed checking in materials. This was another way I learned what the library had to offer, just by seeing what materials people were returning. The same can be said about archives, though the way you discover the books there are on the reshelving carts or new book carts.
One such discovery for me was The 1850 Census of Georgia Slave Owners by Jack F. Cox.
Published in 1999, Mr. Cox created an index of individuals owning slaves in the 93 counties in Georgia that existed in that time.* Using microfilm reels for the 1850 Census from Lake Blackshear Regional Library in Americus and Washington Memorial Library in Macon, he, with assistance from his wife and son, was able to compile this list of names to create the 348 page book.* (Note: The links for the libraries will take you to their respective genealogy / local history room pages.)
Mr. Cox recorded the information that he saw though he includes a disclaimer regarding the ability to decipher the records. He stated “[a]s is common in old documents, some of the handwriting is very readable, some very difficult to decipher, and some impossible to read.”* Even with this warning, this is a good resource to consultant if you are trying to determine the possible owners of enslaved individuals in 1850.
The book is organized by surname in double columns on the pages. Each slave owner has a listing of the number of enslaved individuals owned at the time of the 1850 census. At first glance, this may not seem useful, especially since its not organized by county but with the surname organization, one is able to find any slave owners in 1850 regardless of county by the surname. Its advised to use this book in conjunction with the 1850 slave schedule to see if there are any enslaved individuals who are about the age of the ancestor you are researching.
So now that you know a little about the book, where can you find it? Using worldcat.org, I was able to find copies. I also searched gapines.org, the Georgia PINES Consortium and was able to find not only this book but several others on slave owners in Georgia. Hopefully this will be a useful resource for you.