Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Revolutionary War Research - Ridiculous Mistakes

Many of you have asked how to see the North Carolina original records of Ned Griffin, our subject of the Hittin' the Bricks Podcast Episode:  Finding Ned: Church Records, Court Papers & Contracts. Let's be reminded that there are tons of paper waiting for your discoving.  Here are out top 5 Revolutionary War research go to record collections: 

1) Land Records.
Edward Griffin: Revolutionary Soldier, Proquest

One way to prove parentage and ancestral lines is to prove land inheritance. This was used in uncovering Ned Griffin's movements. These records can show when and where land was probated and to whom. Land records often name children, spouse or siblings. If not close ties to others in the community. They too should be researched. Minor children may be named and guardians.

2) Guardianship Records. Mothers were not usually granted guardianship of their minor children during the Revolutionary War Era, but if they did, it usually was through the court system. So a guardianship record should be available for any minors. These records would list minor heirs and guardians and maybe even other inventory and probated information.

3) Church Records. During the Revolutionary War Era churches kept a lot of family records to include children baptism, christening, marriage banns, and licenses. You are doing a disservice if you haven’t researched these genealogical gems.

4) Newspapers and Journals. Don’t forget newspapers and journals. Don’t underestimate the holdings at Local public libraries and State Archives.

5. Other Court Records. Early American court records are the best. It took Ned from 1783 to 1784 to get his case tried, heard and settled from the North Carolina General Assembly. But it allowed plenty of time form the court to gather depositions, statements, affidavits and a law changing decision.

The court record, that is popularly known as An Act for Enfranchising Ned Griffin, Late the Property of William Kitchen, and was recorded in 1784 April 19, 1784 - June 03, 1784; Volume 24, Pages 543 - 649.

In 2000-2004 when seeking this record, there was not yet a digitized copy, but I wanted to avoid abstracts or transcriptions. I know, early records are challenging to read, but so much can be lost, or typos can lead to misinterpreting using abstracts or transcriptions of court records. Be sure to get at minimum a full image of the original record (with any sidebar scribbles).

Three More Life Lines  
  •  State Archive
  •  NARA State Collections 
  •  Congressional Serial Set 


Colonial and early American records are most assuredly, if extant, held in the State Archives, but don't forget the State Collections held within the National Archive and Records Administration (NARA).  And one of my favorites, the Congressional Serial Set records hold a wealth of information on the colonies as laws were being made for new Colony and later states.  

But Don't Rely on Abstracts 
Absracts usually address someone else's genealogical question.  Although we are greatful for them, the abstractor (is that a word?) had an agenda. You are looking for the citation! Where was the resource held at the time of abstraction? Which book, volume, and  page can I find the information. When the date of abstract took place helps us guide the repository when the book was spotted at their repository. 

Ned Griffin's full 17 page NC General Assembly Session Records of case, has now been digitized on the North Carolina Digital website with witness statements and hearing information, but that was not the case in 2000-2002 during my initial search.

Let's look at issues with his Abstract at that Time
The North Carolina Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), published the story of Ned in abstract form in 1932.  So many details were missing. The first being that he was a man of color, but they also used the name Edward Griffin, Pvt, to describe him. If we only relied on secondary sources or artists interpretations, we would be missing the facts. Here are a few: 

1)  Ned was considered mulatto, and mixed blood.  The statue that honors him does not capture that description.
2) Wm Kitchen was a deserter in 1781, and needed a substitute.
3) Ned served Griffin's stead from Jun 1781  - Jun 1783
4) Ned not only got his freedom but 640 acres of land in 1783.
5) For his freedom, Ned was required to serve the remainder of Wm. Kitchen's term.
6) Ned entered into service as a free man.
7) Wm. Kitchen "seized" and resold Ned Griffin to Abner Roberson.

As mentioned in the podcast, Ned was supported by the community and military. There were several affidavits and secured states to inlcude 1) Lt. Col Murfree of Camp near Bacon Bridge, in Jul 1782,
2) Joseph Fort's affidavit of Edgecombe County dated March 1784, who was able to recall a 1781 conversation between Ned's original enslaver, William Griffin & William Kitchen 3)William Griffin, the earlier enslaver.

Kathleen Brandt

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