By Al Hester, PhD

 

Finding Information about ex-slaves is hard work.  Many who visit this site on the Web know from personal experience that their efforts are frequently frustrating and time-consuming.  The major difficulties include the lack of listing slaves' names in the U. S. federal censuses from 1790 through 1860. Between 1790 and 1840 only the white heads of households were listed by name.  Beginning with the 1850 census, all white individuals as well as minorities including Chinese, Latinos, and American Indians were enumerated by name. It was only after Emancipation, that African Americans were enumerated by name. They were also counted as being "black" or "mulatto."

Some genealogical searchers are lucky enough to find slaves listed in private records, such as plantation inventories, probate documents of slave owners, or bills of sale or wills of white owners. Newspaper advertisements often included the names of runaway slaves or sales of slaves. Frequently, only the first names of slaves were mentioned.

After slaves became free, other records began mentioning them, frequently giving valuable information about African Americans after the Civil War, during the 1860's and 1870's during Reconstruction came into being.  One of the most useful records giving family information about former slaves are the lists of deposit applications for African Americans wanting to start savings accounts with the Freedman's Savings Bank, a government effort to encourage saving.  These records are on-line at ancestry.com, the well known genealogy and history site. See search.ancestry.com › SearchTax, Criminal, Land & Wills.. It is freely available at many libraries and for a subscription fee for use by individuals at home. The ancestry.com site also has Freedmen's Bureau field office records, which contain thousands of the names of newly freed slaves (see link above). These records are also available on microfilm at the Athens Regional Library.

Tax records also are of some help in tracing the lives of former slaves and are available in the Georgia State Archives (it will be open two days a week to the public. Check the Archives site before going.) and in most Georgia counties. Marriage, probate and will records also are readily available at the court house in most counties.

But Athens area readers may also want to know where their ex-slave ancestors are buried in the local Athens area and their birth and death dates.  Black cemeteries are especially sources of information inscribed on tombstones of ex-slaves. Sometimes finding out the birth dates or death dates of the African Americans you are researching can lead to finding many other pieces of information.  Military records on-line at ancestry.com and elsewhere on the Web can be very helpful. Often, the entire military service records can be ordered from the National Archives in Washington, with indexes often published on-line by Ancestry. com or other genealogical sites. Some Georgia ex-slaves left slavery to enlist in the Union Army, especially as Gen. W. T. Sherman marched from Atlanta to the Sea. Hundreds of Georgia slaves also enlisted in newly formed black regiments in the wake of Union Gen. James Wilson's large, destructive cavalry raid from Atlanta to Macon in spring 1865.

In my work as history and research chairperson for the Gospel Pilgrim cemetery at Fourth and Bray Streets in East Athens, I have put together what may be a useful list for local Athens residents who are researching their ex-slave ancestors.

The cemetery was founded in 1882 as a 9-acre cemetery by the Gospel Pilgrim Society and contains graves of perhaps 3,500 African Americans.  Of this number, the majority of graves are unmarked, and we don't know who is buried in these graves. The list of burials and lots was lost many years ago. There are about 800 graves of African Americans, however, which are identified by a readable marker.

Among the identified graves, or from information given to us mentioning Gospel Pilgrim as a burial site, there are more than 100 graves we know are of ex-slaves. In several cases I have been happy to help African Americans or interested white persons find the graves of a specified person in whom they were interested. We have a rough spread sheet with as much information as possible on the graves with identification at Gospel Pilgrim, and I am glad to "look up" persons sought by descendants or friends. We hope to have soon an on-line spreadsheet of the known burials—a spreadsheet which will be searchable by first or last names. When this Web site for Gospel Pilgrim goes on-line, I'll mention it and link to it on this site.

Below is the list of African Americans ex-slaves buried at Gospel Pilgrim. This list includes the best birthdates and death dates we can find. Many times, especially among ex-slaves, they simply didn't know for sure when they were born.  Once you know their birthdates and death dates, you can frequently find more information, for example if these ex-slaves lived to be recorded in post-Civil War censuses, wills, deeds, or tax records.

In a handful of cases on this list, you will see an asterisk by the specific death date. This calls attention to an online image of a death certificate from the site begun by the Georgia State Archives and Secretary of State. Currently it is searchable for the years from the beginning of compulsory birth and death registrations, 1919 through about 1927.  If this site is malfunctioning, this information is also available at Family Search.com on the Web.

 

Name                                      Born                          Died

 Adams, Charlton                  1856 or 57                  ?

Adams, Obadiah, Rev.        2-13-1828                  11-19-1892

Adams, Mrs. Mete?              856 or 57                    3-31-1903

Allen, Gwen [Owen?]           Dec. 1829                  12-28-1900

Austin, Nicey                         1843                            1935

Bacon, Edward                     12-25-1854               12-13-1906

Bacon, Marenia                    10-17-1849               11-27-1917

Bacon, Mary                          10-17-1849                11-27-1917

Bass, E. W.                             8-23-1860                 6-20-1903

Barker[?], Sam[?]                  1847[?]                       Jan. 1927[?]

Bates, William                        1865                           1942

Billups, Betty McRee             1860                           1938

Brown[?]                                   1862                          1942

Brydie, Camilla                        1851[?]                        ?

Brydie, Daniel H.                     1829                           1894

Carey, Fannie L.                        7-8-1854                 12-9-1938

Cox, Mrs. Mollie                        1863                          12-3-1935

Davis, C.[?] H.                            7-8-1845                   6-11-1895

Davis, Madison                          1833                          1902

Davis, Minnie H.[?]                    1859                            1940 or 1950?

Deadwyler, Mattie                      1844                            1935[?]

Derricotte, Bernard[?]                1858                            1890

Derricotte, Charlotte L.             4-13-1863                  11-5-1927*

Derricotte, Edward                    1863                            1927

Derricotte, Isaac Thomas        1860?                          1951?

Derricotte, Laura B.                  1865?                           1951

Derricotte, Randle                    3-8-1812                      ?

Derricotte, Savannah              11-17-1852                   9-25-1900

Dillard, William                         1838?                            6-7-1908

Downer, G. T.                            1862                              2-2-1915

Drake, Laura L. T.                     1862                              5-24-1905

Dukes, Mary                              1833 or 1843               1908

Favors, Tom                               1806                              1931

Fields, Eldon                              1849                               1-29-1925*

Fields, Susie                               1859[?]                          9-29-1927*

Fisher, Lula                                 1859                              1904

Foster, Emma Shropshire        5-20-1860                     1-6-1949

Gilham, Laura                            1863                               1943

Harris, Elizabeth (Lizzie)          8-10-1857                     1920*

Harris, Henrietta                         1857                               1932

Harris, Robert                             1836                               8-6-1914

Hawkins, Ida                               5-12-1861                     3-11-1909

Hawkins, S. H.                            1859                               1937

Heard, --et                                   1832?                            8-28-1890

Heard, Bartlett                             1832                             7-26-1890

Heard, J.  A.[?]                             1855                             1908

Heard, J. H.                                  6-6-1855                      12-30-1908

Heard, Mattie                               Oct., 1865                     11-13-1943

Heard, William                            Apr. 1865                       9-26-1939

Hicks, Charles                             1841                              12-8-1916

Holt, Carolyn                               1-21-1839 or 49           10-8-1902

Houston, Charlie                        1858                               10-29-1942

Hudson, Charlie                           858?                             10-29-1942

Hunter, Richard                           1857                               1929

Jackson, Alfred                           10-5-1824                       2-14-1884

Jackson, Louisa                           12-9-1825                     11-3-1895

Johnson, Alice V.                          1857                               4-4-1918

Johnson, W. D., Rev.                   1842                               4-1-1909

Jones, ---                                         1814                              1903

Jones, Georgia                             2-7-1849                       12-9-1923

Jones, John W.                             1832?]                           1917

Jones, Louisa Beale, Mrs.          1854                              10-11-1910

Jones, Luvenia                              3-20-1852                  9-14-1922*

Jones, Tena, Mrs.                         1843 or 1848             1888

Jones, Lula, Mrs.                           3-18-1859                 4-3-1930

Jones, Sallie, Mrs.                        1860                             7-25-1885

Jones, Thomas                              1825                            10-13-1900

Jones, Vinnie                                12-25-1825                 11-7-1887

Jones, W. A.                                   1855                             11-5-1905

Jones, W. A., Jr.                            1855                             1905

Jones, Willis A. Sr., Rev.             2-28-1814                     3-3-1913

Lawrence, Carrie                          Aug. 1850                  12-15-1924

Livingston, Emmaline                  1828                             1912

Mack, Charlotte M. or H.             1862                              1933

Mack, John R.                               1856                              1918

Mason, Mattie Shaw                     Apr.  1854                    ?

McCleskley, Edward                   1865                              1932

McClesky, James                         1857                              1944

McCray, Laura                               6-7-1818                      12-5-1913

McQueen, Amanda                       3-26-1858                   12-31-1916

McQueen, W. M.                             11-15-1850                 3-19-1905

McRee, Edward                              1860                             1955

Morton, Amanda                             1850                             1885

Morton, Elizabeth, Mrs.                  1834                             1885

Morton, Elizabeth                           1836                               1-10-1886?

Morton, Monroe B.                        1855                                  1919*

Morton, Tallulah                            1862 or 1867?                 1941

Nesbitt, John                                  1853                                  10-13-1895

Owens, Isabella                              1859                                11-8-1919*

Pinckney, Mrs. Hopie                  1862                                    1888

Pledger, William  A.                      1849 or 1850?                  1-8-1904

Pope, Celie                                    1780?                                 1895

Powers, Armstead D.                  11-24-1834                         ?

Powers, Harriet                            12-9-1837[?]                       ?

Pure, Mrs. Ossie                           1857                                    1925

Randolph, Susan                           1854                                  1929

Reid, Lorenzo W.                            1863                                  1947

Rhodes,  Bessie                              1865                                 1935

Sanders-McGee, Sarah                 1854                                  7-21-1934

Scott, Samuel S.                             1862?                                ?

Sheppard, Anna M. H.                  8-17-1862                         4-25-1885

Smith, Candace C. Wiley              1845                                   1929

Smith, Martha                                 1864                                     5-30-1922*

Spaulding, Amanda McQueen   1858                                     1916

Stephens, Mrs. Nancy                  1856                                      ?

Stephens, Oliver                            1849                                    9-8-1880

Stevens, Julia                                1844                                    1941

Virgil, Emma                                  1860                                     1944

W. J., Mr.                                         1855?                                   1932

Whitfield, W. M.                              1865                                    1939

Williams, Harriet                            10-11-1853                         2-24-1930

Williams, Jane                                1837                                    1-13-1891

Wiley, Candace                              1845                                     1929

Young, Agnes, Mrs.                        March 1837                        1-10-1898

114 Total slaves in G. P. + many, many more in unmarked graves or in uncleared portions of the cemetery.
Dates with question marks indicate difficulties in reading the date on the tombstone.

Below is an example of the death certificate of Charlotte L. Derricotte of Athens, Georgia.  In addition to date and cause of death, we also find the name of her spouse, her age, her occupation [cateress], her address where she died, where she was born, and the names of her father and mother--a rich bonanza for her descendants.

 

                 

                                   


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