Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Black History Month – Part 1

I’ve collected little tidbits about the black people mentioned in my family records. They are just little fleeting records, such as names mentioned in wills and in vital records. In New England, some families owned one or two household slaves, and sometimes they were not mentioned by name. I always thought someday I could turn them into stories, but such tiny fragments of information just collected dust in my files while waiting.

Then I read the blog postings by Luckie Daniels, a genealogy blogger at “Our Georgia Roots” http://ourgeorgiaroots.com/ She pleads for information about black people, any sort of information – even tidbits- to be posted. I agree with Luckie. I’ve been blessed with records that have been fairly easy to find, but I’ve also struggled and searched the archives and internet for clues. There is not a single black ancestor in my family tree, but there are black people in the family history. I know that a lack of records plague African American researchers. Why wait to turn these bits into stories when these little fragments of information might be important to a descendant searching for genealogical clues today!

A collection of tidbits….:

John Wass, d. Aug 1741 m. Ann Wilmot (my 8x great grandparents) m2 Mrs. Elizabeth Slaughter. John Wass died near the end of August, 1741, as his will was filed Sept. 1, 1741. His will is on file in the vaults of the Old Suffolk County Court House, Boston, and shows that he owned a black woman slave named Moll. This will is still on file at the Old Suffolk County Court House, Boston, Massachusetts, and a copy is available for interested researchers.

Francis Wyman (1619-1688) is my 10x great grandfather. He was a tanner in Woburn, Massachusetts. It was a smelly job, and he had many indentured servants, including some Scots prisoners of war in 1650. He left "a Negro girl named Jebyna" to his wife in his will. Nearly a century later, four Wyman households in Woburn had one "servant for life" each. From SLAVERY WAS PART OF WINCHESTER HISTORY By Ellen Knight © Note: this article was first written for Black History Month, 2000, and published in the Daily Times Chronicle, Winchester Edition, on Feb. 24, 2000. (Winchester was part of the original Woburn, Massachusetts)


Update: the following is from the website http://dougsinclairsarchives.com/ellingwood/ebenezerellinwood.htm by Douglas Sinclair

Captain Ebenezer Ellingwood (1719-1771) (my third cousin 9 generations removed) Ebenezer was abated part of his taxes for the "loss of his negro" in 1758, who is undoubtedly the unnamed slave who drowned in that year in Ebenezer in Rev. Hale’s Beverly, Massachusetts death records. Those records also mention the death of a slave infant in 1757. The tax list for 1760 includes 2 slaves. They were likely a couple named Jethro and Juno, who had a child baptized in 1763. Jethro is the only slave named in Ebenezer's estate inventory, suggesting his wife and child had died or had been moved or sold elsewhere.

Joseph Estabrook (1690 - ?) (His daughter, Millicent, married a distant cousin) Joseph, had a slave, Prince Estabrook, whom his son Benjamin inherited. Prince, and Benjamin's son Joseph was present at the battle on Lexington Common, 19 April 1775. Prince, who is said to have had outstanding courage and character was wounded. Prince Estabrook is a well known figure in American History. At this same battle my 5x great grandfather, Andrew Munroe, lost a brother, a brother-in-law, and several cousins.

Samuel Libbey (1690 – 1754) of Scarborough, Maine. He wrote his will on April 6, 1754. To son Samuel, "One Hundred and ten Acres of Land that I bought of William Cotten, with Ten Acres more that I laid out adjoining to the Same, and one half of my Land and Meadow at Nonesuch River, And one half of that piece of Land adjoining to Martyn Josse's Land where Said Jose now lives. And one half of my part of that Land that I bought of Benja Hartford. And also one half of my Negro Man Nimrod to be Sold or to work for him one half of his time as he and his Brother can agree." To son Enoch, "my Homestead both Land and Marsh, excepting the three Acres of Marsh that I bought of Martyn Jose, as also my part of the Saw mill," the other half of the lands at Nonesuch river, half of the land next Martyn Jose's land, half of the land bought from Hartford, half of the slave Nimrod. The will was probated July 8, 1754. Samuel’s daughter, Mary Libbey, married Joseph Waterhouse in 1672 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. His father was married to Mary Swett, my 8th great grand aunt (daughter of Benjamin Swett, my 9x great grandfather.)

William Seavey Jr (1648-1732) He was a surveyor in 1683, and at the proprietors meeting it was decided that he was to be excused by reason of "age and infirmity" from further service of laying out land. He owned a black slave Ammi. William was an important figure in the general Portsmouth area. He owned land at Greenland, Sandy Beach, and New Castle. He was a surveyor, and also handled many estate inventories. His daughter, Hannah, married Samuel Wallis and became a first cousin to me, eleven generations removed.

Benjamin Muzzy, (1657 – 1735) resided in Lexington, Massachusetts. He married Sarah Langthorne (1660- 1710). Sarah is my 7th great grand aunt, her father, Richard Langthorne is my 8x great grandfather.

In 1675, when he was a trooper in King Phillip’s war, Benjamin lived in Rumney Marsh. In 1693 he bought property in Lexington. He opened the first Public House there, which was later operated by his son John, and later by John’s granddaughter and her husband, John Buckman. It is still in existence, known as the "Buckman Tavern". The tavern was the rendezvous of the Minutemen, and it was there that Paul Revere came to give the alarm that the British were coming. It faces on the green where the battle was fought, and is a museum today. At Benjamin’s death, among other things listed in his possession were three slaves--a man valued at 80 pounds, and a woman and child valued at 60 pounds.

Samuel Maverick (1602-bet. 1669 and 1676) His father, John Maverick, was my 11x great grandfather.

Samuel Maverick, Episcopalian and Royalist, settled Noddle's Island and was its first recorded resident. Noddles Island is now East Boston, where the airport now exists, was used for grazing sheep and livestock. Samuel Maverick may have been the earliest slave holder in Massachusetts. He purchased several natives of Tortugas in 1638. On the other side, Maverick was an early champion of religious tolerance for which he was fined and imprisoned. Winthrop, referring to Samuel Maverick's kindness to the Indians during an epidemic of small pox, wrote: "Among others, Mr. Maverick of Winnesemett is worth of a perpetual remembrance. Himself, his wife, and servants went daily to them, ministered to their necessities, and buried their dead, and took home many of their children."

(The slaves he purchased were natives of the Tortugas were not Africans, but I think they deserve mentioning here, too)

From the website http://www.afrigeneas.com/slavedata/Choate-MA-1714.html 30 March 2003 and also from "The Choates in America 1896. John Choate and His Descendants, Chebacco, Ipswich, Mass" by E.O. Jameson: The first mention of negro slavery in connection with the Choate family occurs as follows: "June 30, 1714. A negro boy, who had been bought by Thomas Choate of Hogg Island of one Joseph Norwood of Gloucester and sold to Jonathan Bunker of Charlestown." [Thomas Choate was my 8x great grandfather.]

“Then Thomas Choate, while a member of the General Court, bought on Long Wharf, Boston, for his son, Francis Choate, a negro boy just arrived from Africa by the name of "Ned". He was about eighteen years of age when purchased. He subsequently married the girl Sabina, or "Binah", as she was called, a negress for whom one "Phillis" was exchanged with Robert Choate, of Ipswich. Vid. Bill of Sale. Ned and Binah had seven children, all of whom were baptised as Ned was a member of the church. Their names were Edward, Titus, Peter, Caezar, Jane, Violet, and Peggy. Edward went to Leicester, Mass. with Isaac Choate; Peter was sold to John Choate, Esq.; Titus and Caezar remained with the family; Jane and Violet, when girls, took cold by sleeping in the barn after a famous husking, and died. They lie buried in the corner of a field near some large rocks, the only burials on the Island except those of Indians. "Uncle Ned" remained with Esquire Francis Choate after "The Governor" Thomas Choate removed to the main land to a house which stood next to the one now occupied by Mrs. Abby P. Choate. He lived to be full ninety years of age and died in 1800. "Ned and Binah" remained slaves until 1845 when Mr. Francis Choate gave them their freedom if they wished to take it, otherwise they were to be supported. They chose to remain with the family and accordingly were cared for as long as they lived.

"Know all men, by these presents that I, Robert Choate of Ipswich in the county of Essex and Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, yeoman, for and in consideration of a certain Negro-woman slave to me sold and conveyed by Francis Choate of Ipswich afresaid yeoman in Bill of Sale equally dated. With these presents (said Negro named Phillis) wherefore I do hereby sell, convey, make over, release, confirm and deliver unto the said Francis Choate and his heirs and assigns a certain Negro woman slave named "Binah" or Sabina for and during the term of her natural life according to the deed and form of law in that case. To have and to hold said Negro woman for the purpose, benefit and behoof of him the said Francis Choate his heirs, executors, administrators and assigns the term of her natural life aforesaid and I the said Robert Choate for myself, my executors heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, against all and all manner of persons shall warrant and forever defend by these presents for witness whereof I hereunto set my hand and seal. Of our sovereign Lord, George the Second, by the grace of God of Great Britain France and Ireland Being Defender of the Faith &c. And in the year of our Lord God Annoque domine one thousand seven hundred thirty & four. Robert Choate. Signed sealed and delivered in the presence of Jacob Story and Jeremiah Foster."


Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo
Submission for the Carnival of African-American Genealogy: March 19th: Restore My Name--Slave Records and Genealogy Research

For Part Two Click Here

For Part Three Click Here   


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Black History Month – Part 1", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 16, 2010, (  https://nutfieldgenealogy.blogspot.com/2010/02/black-history-month-part-1.html: accessed [access date]).


  1. Heather,

    These records hold some very valuable information to some researcher(s) somewhere. These "little fleeting records" (as you describe them) can break through some big brick walls. I certainly appreciate you posting and sharing them. Thank you.

  2. Heather,
    I just want to thank you so much for posting this information. Although these are not my ancestors, you may have just opened the door for some other reseacher to knock down a brick wall. Thank you.


  3. Heather,

    I was as excited when I read your post, as if these were my own ancestors. You are a trendsetter and I appreciate you sharing what information you have. Someone, somewhere has been searching for these tidbits for years.

    Thank You.


  4. Thanks for all the comments. Please stay tuned for tomorrows post, which will be a continuation of this theme. I've also posted a few stories about extended family in Hawaii, a story that was buried by my family for racist reasons in the early part of the 20th century. I'm sad to say that my cousins in Hawaii were totally unknown to me, but we've had a very happy reunion this year. Hopefully we can put back together some of the lost stories and rebuild the family connections in this next century.

  5. GREAT information! I am extremely happy that you posted this information, and hope that other Geneabloggers will follow your lead.

    One correction though: there is not really a lack of records, it is a lack of knowledge of the records that are out there!

  6. That is quite a collection of tidbits. You have done a great job of keeping the tidbits organized and available.

  7. I wonder why you didn't cite the sources for these tidbits. In the case of Ebenezer Ellinwood, this is from my website where I present many years of historical research. You then post your copyright information below. You've presented these as though they were your discoveries and you've been congratulated as such. There's nothing terribly noble about that. At least give credit where it's due to the people who've put the in the time to find and present this material.

  8. Dear Mr. Sinclair, I've corrected the post to cite your website. I was passed this information from an Ellingwood cousin, and I never knew it was from your website. I appologize for not citing your own research. As you can see, I did cite sources for some of the other books, documents and newspapers.