Genealogy Wise

The Genealogy & Family History Social Network

In a post on's Genealogy & History forum,, Lee Cook wrote:

"Personal Estate refers to things such as furniture, cash, silverware, clothing etc. . . things you can pick up and move with you. Real Estate is your land. The difference was important in Virginia during slavery for inheritence purposes.

In Virginia, sons generally inherited the land while the daughters generally inherited the slaves. This was not always the case, but it was a traditional Virginia practice.

If you are looking for enslaved ancestors in Virginia, follow the daughters."
(Originally posted in December 2005)

Has anyone had luck with this methodology?

Views: 89

Replies to This Discussion

Hello Bob,

Were the estates that you researched large ones with multiple families? If so, has any of the data that you have studied been published? This kind of information is so useful.

Bob Franks said:
George, with my last three slave research projects here in Mississippi, all three, the individuals being researched were conveyed from father to daughter. In one case, a daughter married in Wake County, NC and upon her marriage was given a slave who came to Mississippi with the newly married couple. Another case a father in Pickens County, Alabama died, leaving slaves to his married daughter in Mississippi (sons received the land in Alabama) and the other case, I had documentation of the slaves in a household (probate record) and found a conveyance twenty years earlier where seven of the slaves mentioned in the later probate record were conveyed to the daughter (wife of the decedent) at her marriage. I think "follow the daughters also" is sound advice in research.
I agree that it is probably NOT a hard fast rule, but in general, I can see a father making a decision such as "land to the son," and "slaves to the daughter". The daughter, if smart, will marry a man with lots of land (and field slaves) anyways.

However, from a research perspective, if you are following the land and the slave(s) disappeared, there's a good chance that the daughter may have disappeared also. In the absence of a will, this could be a challenge for the family historian.

In that case, you try to find the daughter under a married name in a different household. And that's where you might find that elusive slave!

Following the daughters just makes good research sense.
As much as some African American genealogist hate the terms they where indeed a fact doing the time period of slavery. Slaves were chattel and real estate. I have found that if you take the time to research the laws on slaves, inheritance, interstate deaths for the time period and the state that you are researching it will tell you who inherites slave. You can find the laws at a university law library. It is the same as today follow the paper trail. Follow the daughters is true. True - daughters are left slaves in wills but sons received the bulk unless there aren't any sons or a disagreement with the son or son is doing well and her received a bulk before the father died.

You will also have to remember that what the daughter owns when she marry the husband receives. Remember the time period women didn't have many rights. I would suggest looking for a Dower will. This is what the wife brought into the marriage. Some fathers or wealth women set up this type of arrangement so that they would not lose there property or what was willed to them when they married. Most women lost all rights to land, slaves and property if they remarried. Yes- it is easier to follow the son but as you research the owner family tree you also have to follow every member of that family. Each states laws in the begining are based on the ealry laws of VA.

You brought up many things to consider. Big thanks.

Women's Rights. This had an impact on how slaves were dealt with.
State laws. What were they and what were they based upon. What were the precedents?
Dower will. What does that entail?

So, if the former slave didn't take on the name of the last slave owner, we should first research the 'MAIDEN NAME' of the last slave owner's wife!

Michael, Quan, and all - let's keep throwing out ideas and concepts so that someone may find their elusive Ancestors.

"Guided by the Ancestors"
Dower- A property arrangement for marriage. The Dower settlement on the bride at the time of the wedding, provided by law. Provisions accorded by law to a wife for her support in the event that she should survive her husband.

The husband is legally prevented from using the wifes Dower. Usually one of the wifes male family members is the guardian of her Dower. This is hers alone to do with.

A wife can bequeath her Dower to whomever she pleases. Now a Dowry is diffrent it is what the bride brings to the marriage and can be used by both spouses.

Each state changed it a little - owned during the marriage or owned at the death of a spouse.

So also check the wifes wills. Sort of like a pre-nep now.
George to me the precedent on laws for slaves and inheritance is to keep control of the money and keep it in the family.

Before a state became a state it was a territory of another state. The territories laws are based on the state that held it as a territory. So for MO as you work your way back in time for ancestors, before the purchase you would have to go back to some of the Louisiana territorial laws. Ky held by VA as a territory.
Yes, If you have tracked down the possible last slave owner you will have to consider the wifes MAIDIEN name. Finding that name alone will take a little time to prove. What slaves she was given by her father on marriage for personal use or given to her as a wedding present. The slaves that almost always went with the wife is a personal maid,old nanny, driver and possible family members of said slaves. Those that she could trust.

My great grandmother was bought at auction in Lexington KY as a wedding gift and relocated to Henderson County KY. I have figured out who bought her but not for who's wedding yet. After Slavery she used the Maiden name Caroline Williams. She watched her parents and siblings sold deeper south.

If you hit a brick wall with the research on the wife you will have to search deed records bill of purchase for the last owner.



© 2024   Created by IIGSExecDirector.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service