Friday, March 25, 2011

Correction on a 1861 law I posted about before

Hi all! This past week I was contacted by a student who is doing research on free blacks who petitioned to become slaves in the late 1850s and early 1860s. I wanted to let you know I made an error on something that was actually never a law. I had stated in an earlier post that there was a law passed in 1861 that allowed free blacks to petition the court to become slaves and choose their masters. When I was a graduate student, I was taking a legal history course back in 2004, which is when I did all the research. At the time, I did not know all the details about how a bill became law in North Carolina, but after I was contacted by the student, I wanted to refresh my memory about this supposed law and with my better understanding of the legislative process as well as contacts at the legislative library onf North Carolina, I discovered this was never a law in the first place. Let me tell you about about this Senate Bill No. 8, 1860-1861.

First off, there were many free blacks in North Carolina who petitioned to become slaves during the late 1850s and early 1860s. It appears there was some sort of law regarding this, due to the wording of the petitions I have copies of at home, but I have not found one. As Dr. Franklin says in his book Free Negro in North Carolina, 1790-1860, the courts were not always following the wishes of those who petitioned to becomes slaves. In 1860, a "Mr. Humphrey" of Onslow County introduced a bill - Senate Bill 8, Session 1860-'61 - that would have allowed and guaranteed that free blacks could petition the courts to enter slavery and choose their own master. I read this bill online at UNC-CH Docsouth website ( I also read the Senate Journal 1860-1861 at the State Library of North Carolina, which states that "Mr. Humphrey" read a bill concerning "free negroes" which was passed. Back in 2004, I thought this meant that the bill has passed and became law. Turns out I was wrong. I found out from my contact at the legislative library that the bill, which Dr. Franklin referred to as the "Humphrey Bill", died in the senate after the first reading and passage. In order to become law, a bill must be read and passed 3 times in both the house and senate, but the Humphrey Bill was only read and passed once and there is no evidence that it was ever read again. Also, if the bill had passed, it would have appeared in the Public Laws of North Carolina for the year it passed, but I cannot find any reference to the bill becoming law.

By the way, the State Library of North Carolina is working on digitizing and making the Public Laws of North Carolina available online. This is a continual work in progress and currently only those laws of the late 1850s-early 1870s are online.

Hopefully soon I will be transcribing and putting online 2 petitions I have found back in 2004 for a Jenette Wright and John Phillips from Guilford County in 1861. They both petitioned the court to become slaves and both petitions were granted.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Tale of 2 Edmunds (Pettiford)

I get asked a lot about Edmund Pettiford in Guilford County who his parents were by researchers that
are trying to tie him into George Pettiford, the Revolutionary War Vet in order to join DAR. I am
sorry to inform you that there were actually 2 Edmund's and that the Edmund from Guilford County is
likely not directly descended from George.

First, let's look at the facts about Edmund Pettiford from Guilford County and died in Grant Co., IN:

1795 - born August 8th (source: obituary)
1816 - married Sarah Carter December 13th in Chatham County (Source: Marriage Bond)
1820 - I have not found him in the census - yet
1830 - Wake County, NC census Little River Township, pg. 473 line 16
1840 - Guilford County, NC census page 229
1850 - Guilford County, NC census, Southern Division with wife Sarah, p. 272a
1860 - Grant County, IN census, Liberty township, p. 309

Now, let's look at the Edmund in Granville County records:
1800 - born (Source: age 50 in 1850 census)
1820 - I have not found him in the census
1830 - I have not found him in the census
1832 - married Rebecca Johnson March 19th Granville County, George Anderson bondsman
(source: marriage bond)
1840 - Granville County, NC census pg. 149
1850 - Granville County, NC census, Oxford District, dwelling/family 53, pg. 103a
1860 - I have not definitely identified him yet, but there is an Ed Pettiford age 60 in
Cedar Creek, Granville County, NC, dwelling/family 1199, pg. 304b

As you can see, there are two separate Edmunds.

Now, let's take a look at George who served in the Revolutionary War:
1757 - Paul Heinegg estimates his birth year as this
1771 - inherited a bed from George Anderson (Oh! wait, wasn't a George Anderson bondsman for
Edmund Pettiford's marriage to Rebecca Johnson?)
1785 - Tax list for Granville County
1786 - State census for Granville County, NC
1790 - Granville County, NC census
1800 - Granville County, NC census, Hillsborough District
1810 - cannot find him in the census yet
1820 - Granville County, NC census
1830 - Granville County, NC census; North Regiment, pg. 19
1837 - married to Tabitha Johnson May 1st, Granville County, **Edmund Pettiford as bondsman

So let's look at this. The question here is which Edmund was the bondsman? This is where it starts
to get interesting and starts to fall in place, but it is also important to note that at this point
it is speculation, an educated guess if you will, as there is not been any definite proof to show
either way. The first piece to fall into place is the marriage of George and Edmund - Edmund
married a Rebecca Johnson in 1832 and now George married a Tabitha Johnson in 1837. Let's continue
with the time line for George:

1840 - Granville County, NC census pg. 149 (**note: he is living near and listed on the same
page as Edmund)
1850 - Granville County, NC census, Oxford District dwelling/family 52 page 103a (**note: Now he is
living next to Edmund)
1860 - I cannot find him in the census and he may have died by now (**note - the Ed Pettiford I
found in Granville County is sharing his household with a Tabby Pettiford - this is interesting.
Unfortunately the 1860 census does not list relationships so they may be husband and wife or they
may be widowed in laws sharing a house)

Although it is possible that the Edmund in Guilford County could have come to Granville to be the
bondsman of George's wedding and then returned, it is more likely that it was Edmund of Granville
County. Another piece to fall into place - the 1830 census. Edmund of Granville County was not
found, but in the 1850 census he is listed as 50 years old. In the 1840 census, he is listed as
being between age 34-55 and was likely about 40 years old. In the 1830 census, he is not found, but
looking at the ages from 1850 and 1840, he is probably about 30 years old and single (as his
marriage to Rebecca was 2 years later). George just happens to have a man between the ages of
24-36, so it is possible that a 30 year old bachelor Edmund was living with his father George, but
again, this is just speculation.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

my absence

Hi folks! I'm sorry I've been away from the blog (and sister website) for so long. I'm still pretty involved in my research of the Pettifords, trying to find some untapped resources. Be sure to keep your eye on the database ( as I am constantly updating information there, mostly for Pettiford, but any other free blacks in antebellum NC are added there as I find new information. For instance, today in the database, I added information on Judy Artis who married Reuben Pettiford and resided in Washington County and also her son Alfred Artis Pettiford, both of which filed claims with the Southern Claims Commission (SCC).

Actually, this is one of the untapped resources I've recently discovered! The records for the SCC have been indexed and the records available on (click the link to go directly to the database - you need to be a paying member to access the information though) and also in book format (Gary B. Mills. Southern Loyalists in the Civil War: The Southern Claims Commission. Baltimore, MD, USA: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2004.) If you don't have a subscription to Ancestry, then check your local public library to see if you can get this through Interlibrary Loan and a plug for the State Library of North Carolina, if you are someone who visits the State Library of North Carolina, this book is available in the Genealogical reading room.

What is the SCC? From my understanding, The Southern Claims Commission was created for pro-Union Southerners could apply for reimbursement to any damage and losses to their property as a result of the Civil War. The one potential problem with this source is that it does not identify anyone by race. It may take a bit of research to figure out if a person who filed a claim was African-American or white (from what I saw today, most of the claims took place after the Civil War was over, so I say "African-American" instead of "free Black" because at that time they most likely were all free - there could be some that were dated earlier that I did not see today, so that is why I say "could have been", sorry for any confusion)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

My Pettiford Research and the FreeAAinNC database is online!

Hi Folks,

It's been a long time since I last posted anything to this blog and I apologize for that. I have not posted much to the website, but there are a few new things.

I apologize to everyone for all the spam in the comments sections of the blog. Last thing I posted in September had 33 comments, 20 of which were spam that I deleted, and a few that are left I'm not sure if they are legitimate or not. I may change the way folks can leave comments so they have to be approved by me first in order to keep spammers off.

Well, I'm sure some of you are wondering what I've been doing with the research. I have spent the past year doing indepth research specifically on the Pettiford family in NC. The Pettiford family is a prolific group! I have traced over 500 Pettifords who all descend from 3 Pettifords (George, Lawrence, and Lewis) who were first recorded in Granville County in the 1740s and 1750s. George, Lawrence, and Lewis are all likely brothers, but so far I have found nothing that ties the three of them together. The descendants of these 3 men are found primarily in NC before the Civil War, but many began to move out of the state in the 1800s. Other states Pettifords moved to in the antebellum period are Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. There is also a line of Pettifords in Kentucky that I have not yet been able to tie them into the North Carolina lines, but I believe they are a branch. They seem to be descended from a Fanny Pettiford who was listed in the 1790 census in Kentucky, a free black woman, and I have not been able to connect her to anyone yet, but then again my focus is on North Carolina and I have not spent much time on Fanny and her descendants.

One of the things I have been doing with the Pettiford group is tracking them in the census records. I have pulled all Pettifords (and variant spellings) from the census for 1790-1900 and I plan to do 1910-1930 still. One of the things I discovered while pulling the census information is that many of the Pettifords born in the antebellum period were still alive in the 1900s. That is why I'm pulling census information post-Civil War.

For all you Pettiford researchers out there, be sure to check the surname index of the website out as there are 11 Pettifords listed. I have a whole lot more at home, just haven't had the time to transcribe them. Hopefully this summer I can get to that.

I will continue to work on the Pettiford family through the end of 2010, but beginning 2011, i need to move on and plan to start working on the Mayo family. Why Mayo? It's actually the first family I started working on all those years ago in the fall of 2000!

Finally, I have my database online! The address to my database is According to the statistics for that site, there are 1640 names in the database with the top surnames being Pettiford, Carter, and Chavis. I actually have more people to add in the future. Some of the people listed in the database are listed only because of marriage bonds I found for them and nothing else.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Website revised and index by surname up

Hi folks!

I've been playing around with the website lately and have made some changes. Almost all the information on the main page has been removed and used to create an "About Us" type of page, divided into sections "About the Project", "About the Website", and "About the Transcriptions", and I'll probably add and "About Me" and "Announcements" section later. Please feel free to take a look at the new main page and leave comments here if you think it's good or how it can be improved for functionality. I like the top part of the page the best, links to the blog, dictionary of terms, surname index, and "about us" right at top so you don't have to go searching for that. I really detest websites that make you search for information like that which should be right at your fingertips.

The other news is that I now have a surname index up! The index includes ALL names (white and black) that are mentioned in all transcribed documents. The index is alphabetical by surname, then given name, and then county. I've been trying to figure out the best way to do the index and the way it is now seems to work. Let me know if you have any suggestions for improvement. I'll take all suggestions into consideration, but if it's more work than the way it is now to enter new names, I'll probably pass because the index is very time consuming.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Website is up!

Hi folks,

I've been working on a website for the past 6 months or so. It's been very slow going due to a somewhat hectic life, but I finally have it up and running and the first 18 documents ready. The address is What this site is, is transcriptions of documents I've come across during my research of FPOC in antebellum N.C. I started transcribing these about 5 years ago, so they all appear a little bit different (source info located at the top or bottom of the page, etc.), but they all include the source information so you can request copies from the State Archives of North Carolina (which is where these all come from).

So far, I have over 100 documents to transcribe (and more keep coming), but it's slow progress and I hope to get at least 1 document a week added to the website. Right now, the first page you go to has information about the website and at the bottom, you can click to enter a temporary index. As I work on the site, eventually all of the information on the main page will be used for an "About this site" page and the information of the temporary index will be moved to the main page in a more user friendly format (please feel free to give feedback on how I can make it more user friendly). Soon, I hope to create a surname index that will include all names mentioned in the records, whether the record is concerning them or not. I will also be adding a dictionary of terms to help explain different terms used throughout the records. **note, be sure to bookmark the main page, not the temporary index because once I move the data, that page will be gone**

Initially, I planned to add all the transcriptions to this blog, but I decided I would create a separate website. My plan is put the transcriptions on the website and now use the blog to talk about the history of FPOC in antebellum NC and possibly highlight transcriptions that I think are valuable to understanding the life and times of FPOC in antebellum NC.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

request, a new chart, and an announcement

Hi folks,

I have 3 things for this entry.

First of all, I just discovered I had a bunch of replies that I did not realize were there. Some of the requests were for personal assistance, but not email address was left. Please, if you would like me to repond, leave your email address if the following format (so you don't get increased spam) userid (at) whatever.huh such as freeaainnc (at) (which is my email address. This will hopefully help keep you from getting more spam and also make it so I can respond to you 1 on 1 and work with you that way. You can also email me directly if you still don't feel comfortable with posting your email address.

Now for my news!
I recently got into a debate with a person about the south having more free blacks from the 1790-1860 census. I created a chart to help prove my point and you all are available to use this, just be aware that it is copyrighted (the format, not the actual content because the data itself is not copyrightable for anyone). It is available online at: It turns out that the main problem the person has with this is that the research is done using census data, which is admittedly not very reliable, at least when it comes to names and age, but I also believe it to be the best source we have on population data for the entire country during the time given. The census is not perfect, but until a time machine is invented and we can go back and count every single person for ourselves, it's the best source we have for population statistical data.

Finally, I am WAAAAAYYYYYYY behind on the new website. I'm pushing back the date to September 2nd, 2008 when it will be available (day after labor day). Hopefully I can meet that at least. My goal is to have 50 transcribe documents on the site before I open it up.