Ah, the 1870 U.S. Census. It’s been a treasure and a tease for me.  This pivotal document has introduced me to quite a few of my ancestors. The identities of so many more, however, remain unknown.

(Quick history lesson: the 1870 Census was the first time formerly enslaved blacks were listed by name on a U.S. Census. Some states, including Alabama, organized their own Census, which can offer clues to where ancestors were living during a certain time).

So now that I have been able to trace as many relatives as I can to 1870, it’s time to roll up my sleeves and dive headlong into research. It’s not easy trying to find someone whose very existence has been lost to time. The roots of my bloodline fade further and further away the deeper I research my ancestors during the days of slavery.

At least 10 of my 16 great-great-grandparents were born in a time and place where they were not considered people, but property:

Henry Nance, one of my great-great-grandfathers, born in Nashville, Tenn., in 1837, most likely a slave. Parents: William J. and Lula Nance.

Annie Cotton Nance, one of my great-great-grandmothers, born in Alabama in 1865, after the Emancipation Proclamation. Parents: unknown at this point

Frank Gilley (formerly Tindall), one of my great-great-grandfathers, born in Alabama, around 1842, most likely a slave. Parents: Seaborn and Hannah Tindall, also most likely slaves, both born in South Carolina

Flora Brown Gilley, one of my great-great-grandmothers, born in Alabama, around 1855. Most likely a slave. Parents: unknown at this point

Rubin Whitehurst, one of my great-great-grandfathers, born around 1849 Barbour County, Ala., most likely a slave. Mother: Sallie Whitehurst, born in Florida

Josephene Whitehurst, one of my great-great-grandmothers, born around 1852 in Alabama. Parents: unknown at this point

Ike Pinkard, one of my great-great-grandfathers, born in Alabama, most likely a slave. Parents: unknown at this time

Narcis Pinkard, one of my great-great-grandmothers, born in Alabama, most likely a slave. Parents: unknown at this time

Crawford Bryant, one of my great-great-grandfathers, born in Georgia in 1861. Parents: Aaron and Sarah Bryant

Laura Dobbins Bryant, one of my great-great-grandmothers, born in Georgia in November 1861. Parents: Alfred and Rachel Dobbins

I have to admit that I’m breaking a cardinal rule of genealogical research: making assumptions. That said, I hope my next discovery will confirm some of the theories I have about those who may have owned my ancestors. Stay tuned.

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