Strange Currency: 1844

In a previous post, I shared how I located my fourth great-grandmother, Emeline Potts, in an 1861 deed of trust, involving John W. Potts, John R. Chambliss, and John T.J. Mason. This legal document listed a total of 11 enslaved souls as security for Pott’s debts to Mason.

That powerful example is sadly just one of many, many, too many documents which list humans as chattel. The surviving records are an emotional rollercoaster to sort through, but they are wholly important as we trace our lineage through the “peculiar institution” of American slavery.

If you are not able to locate your African-American ancestor in census records prior to 1870, this more than likely means that they were enslaved. So, it is very necessary to comb through the legal, financial, and personal records of the person(s) that you believe to have held your ancestor in order to learn more about your ancestry.

In this blog post, I will share some examples of these records, including a deed of trust and an inventory or “valuation” list. Both are from the year 1844 and both are from Southampton County, Virginia. Digitized images of which are courtesy of Library of Virginia Chancery Court Records Index.

Let us begin with the 1848 case of EXR of Henry Harrison v. James D. Westbrook TRST ETC which includes the 1844 deed of trust involving Henry Harrison, John Ivey, and James D. Westbrook:

1844 Deed of Trust, p.16

1844 Deed of Trust, p.17

There are 10 enslaved souls named as security for Henry Harrison’s debts to John Ivey (1844):

Jim

Charles

Charlotte + three children, Harry-Sarah+Ben

Lucy

Clary

July

Carter

It is possible that the above named people, after Emancipation, used the surname Harrison. However, they could have chosen any other name for any number of reasons. If Carter, listed above, was alive and still living in Southampton County, Virginia during the 1870 US Federal Census…

Is this Carter in 1870?

I searched Ancestry.com for the other people named in the 1844 deed of trust. Using the surnames of Harrison and Westbrook, I was not able to locate any other leads aside from the possibility of Carter and family in 1870. Even so, ancestral discoveries are always just around the bend, remember.

Another example of enslaved souls being listed in a legal document is included in the 1848 Southampton County Chancery Court record of John W. Claud v. EXR of Joseph Claud ETC. It is the 1844 “valuation” or inventory the many enslaved souls held in the estate of Joseph Claud:

1844 Southampton County Valuation of Enslaved

1844 Southampton Valuation Continued

1844 Southampton Valuation of Enslaved Final Page

Here are the names of dozens of enslaved souls included in the 1844 “Valuation” of the Estate of Joseph T. Claud, dec’d:

Mingo
Anthony
Solomon (blacksmith)
Jacob
Davy
Claiborn
Washington
Dick
Starlin
Dred
Jim
Thorpes Dick? (life estate of Eldridge Haywood’s wife)
Harry
Ben
Ruben
George
Frederick
Dedon (Dedom)
Peter? (illegible)
Moses
Fed
Tom
Hartwell

Henry
Willis
Charles
Callie
Jim
Ned
Meria (a specific legacy)
Sarah
Cherry
Hannah
Evalina + child Jim
Isabel + child Sam
Jim of Isabel
Jimmy + two children Sarah + Anthony
Fanny + three children Allen Alford + Starlin
Penny + child Lewis
Old Mason
Sally + two children John + Alford
Yellow Jimmy+ two children Peter + John
Eliza + two children Jane + Evaline
Sidney + two children Peter and (blank)
Mary and child Jacob
Ava and child Nathan
Dolly
Ceila (old woman) {even}
Harriet (a specific legacy)
Yellow Harriet (a specific legacy)
Rachelle
Cherry of Sidney
Jimmy
Caroline
Clara
Mason of Penny
Ann
Amy

Albert
Joe
Echo
Jane
Old man Nat (sut for board + clothing)
Old man Sam (minus)

$17,077.50 is the total “value” of the enslaved souls, according to the record. Per an inflation calculator, $17,077.50 in 1844 is the equivalent of $474,919.89 in 2019.

The enslaved souls named above were divvied up among the beneficiaries of Claud’s estate. If you have a Southampton County, Virginia ancestor who you believe to have been enslaved, with any type of surname connection to Claud, you certainly want to take a closer look at this record.

Solomon in the 1870 Census?

Just as I searched for clues to the ancestral fates of the enslaved souls listed in the Harrison/Ivey/Westbrook 1844 deed of trust, I checked for Solomon’s name. According to the 1870 US Federal Census record, there was a 67 year old Solomon Claud, living in Drewryville, Southampton County, Virginia. Drewryville is where Joseph T. Claud lived.

With the examples of these two chancery cases, we see how we can potentially make genealogical connections that break through the wall of 1870. As difficult as these documents are to see and read through, they are absolutely important for our search. We steel ourselves.

Once again, the above digitized records are courtesy of the Library of Virginia’s Chancery Records Index. Many thanks to the Library for making these invaluable records available to us. They are available for anyone to search and are filled with examples of the systematic use of a strange currency.

The Genealogy Situation Room

One thought on “Strange Currency: 1844

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s