I have previously written about how maps can be an invaluable research tools in my article Using maps in your genealogy research (https://genealogyadventures.net/2017/09/13/using-maps-in-your-genealogy-research/). I’m currently in a research phase in my South Carolina research where I’m back to using maps again.
The first names my enslaved Old Ninety Six District families used are like finger prints for different family groups. Show me a woman named Muhulda/Huldy, I’ll show you how she links back to the Holloway family. Give me a Georgian(n)a / Georgia Ann / Georgie Ann or a Savannah/Versey, and I’ll show you how she links back to the Petersons or the Williams (who were really one in the same family). Show me an Albert, Elbert, Eldred, Gertrude, Anna, or similar Germanic name and, eventually, they will lead back to a Dorn, an Ouzts, or a Timmerman – the German descended families in this region.
Isabella, Wylie, Alfonzo, or Wesley? These are classic Settle(s)/Suttle family names.
Jacob, Levi, Obediah, Permelia, Keziah/Kizzie, Hannah, Suzannah, or similar classic Quaker names? These will lead back to the enslaving families who, while no longer practicing Quakers, still used Quaker first names.
There is a fairly straightforward reason why my enslaved families used the same first names that were so prevalent in the families who enslaved them. Their enslavers were also their blood relations. At least so far. I have yet to come across an exception.
Naming conventions can be an invaluable genealogy research clue.
I decided to create a map of the Ninety Six District of South Carolina. My aim was to plot the locations of my ancestors’ enslaving families, who were also their kin, and then add the top six male and female first names for each family.
In the midst of doing a Google search for old colonial era maps, I unexpectedly struck gold. I found a series of 1773 and 1825 maps for the region I’m researching which plotted where the large and medium sized landowners were. While all of these land owners weren’t enslavers, most of them were.
Seeing these families plotted out like this answered a number of questions:
- Why they married into some families and not others – and an understanding of why these inter-marriages were so frequent;
- Why enslaved people were sold to certain families and not others; and
- Why, after Old Ninety-Six was split into many different counties, marriages and transactions still occurred within certain groups of families, even if some of those families were located in a neighboring county.
It was all about location, location, location. The ties that bound different enslaving family groups together were so deeply entrenched during the Old Ninety-Six District era that it didn’t matter if part of one family group was in Edgefield while others they were related to were just over the border in neighboring Abbeville, Barnwell, Newberry, Greenwood, Greenville, McCormick, or Saluda. Enslaved people were also being passed back and forth over these newly established, and ever-changing, county boundaries.
Blood ties, it would seem, trumped county boundaries.
I’ll give an example to bring this all together. If I find an Elbert Harling, born around 1830 and living in Gray Township in Edgefield in 1870, I know I need to focus on three things.
First, I need to research his connection to my white and black Matthews family. Second, I know I need to focus on the northwestern part of Edgefield that became part of Saluda. This area was first known as the Saluda District, Edgefield, SC, and then as Saluda Regiment, Edgefield, SC, which eventually was absorbed into the newly created Saluda, SC. Third, I will need to research the Dorns, Timmermans, and Ouztses in Meeting Street, Edgefield too. Either Saluda or Meeting Street will be where the earlier part of his ancestry will lie.
Why focus on these two places? Elbert was a name largely used by the Dorns, Ouztses, Timmermanns, and their descendants. The northwest quadrant of Old Ninety Six, and then Edgefield, was one of their strongholds until this part of the state became Saluda. Meeting Street was their other stronghold.
Those researching ancestors in any one of the above counties need to be mindful that they will need to research records in all of the surrounding counties.
You will find the maps I’m working with below: