Saturday, December 23, 2023

Little Dixie - Tracing Pre-Civil War Ancestors


Did Your Ancestor Go to Missouri?
I was recently asked "where did enslavers come from in order to settle in Missouri?" The answer is many of the Missouri slaveholders came from Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee and the Carolinas.

The largest slave holding counties in Missouri were around Saline County: Boone, Manitou, Howard, Chariton, Cooper,  Clay, Ray, and Lafayette counties. These counties are within 90 miles of one another and nicknamed Little Dixie. Researchers will quickly learn that if you find an ancestor in one, it will behoove you to expand your research to include the neighboring counties.

Why did Plantation Owners Move to Missouri?
The Missouri land was ready for cultivation of familiar crops - hemp and tobacco. Even the transplant planters familiar with cotton growing knew that growing hemp and tobacco was similar and required an easy transition with the work of slaves. Eighteen percent (18%) of Missouri’s hemp crop was cultivated in Saline County (before 1861).

What You May Not Know
Even if you have a Mississippi ancestor, finding ties to Saline County Missouri may be found in agricultural records. Did you know that Missouri shipments, mostly from Claiborne Fox Jackson’s company in Saline County, shipped commodities -  hemp, corn, oats, salt, pork, beef – to Natchez Mississippi to feed the cotton field slaves?

Slavery in the Kansas Territory?

Full Census
Finding Records
Descendants of slaves know, too well, that researching their ancestors involve thorough the enslaver's documentation. However, the same applies when researching slaveholders. Many vital records of enslaved people before the Civil War, and many after emancipation can be used to trace 1) formerly enslaved ancestors 2) abolitionists 3) enslavers.

We can often determine slaveholder whereabouts after the Civil War using original documents. Ex-slaveholders were directly tied to newly freed persons and their identities for years following the Civil War. Here are just a few examples: 
Saline County Colored Marriages, 1865 - 1870
  1. The sale of an enslaved family, or person, is noted in the deeds of the enslaver. 
  2. Ship manifests transporting enslaved people often name the enslaver *S1: Ep2 "Ships & Plantations - Kansas Ancestor McKinney"
  3. After the Civil-War, formerly enslaved persons were documented in Civil War pension records *S3:Ep4 Combing the Barbers: KS, MO KY
  4. Legalization of former slave marriages and other freedman bureau record the enslaver and a place of origin. *S3:Ep4 Combing the Barbers: KS, MO KY
  5. Some enslavers insured their valuable "slaves" through Slave Era Insurance Policies. Read The Telling Records of Insured Slaves 1640-1865.
  6. After the Civil War, ancestors left a money trail to follow through the Southern Claims Commission. Read A Gem: Southern Claims Commission Case Files
  7. Border states also had Slave Claims.  (Future blogpost scheduled)
  8. Territorial records may include the baptism and sacraments of enslaved persons also referencing the enslaver. Read 5 Resources to Tracing Missouri Territorial Ancestors.
  9. Runaway persons were noted in newspapers by their first name tied to the enslaver, location and sometimes name of plantation*S3:Ep4 Combing the Barbers: KS, MO KY
  10. Abolitionists may have been associated with a church leading us to church records.*S3:Ep4 Combing the Barbers: KS, MO KY  (Future blogpost scheduled).
Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers

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