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 › Search › Tax, 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.