From Northampton County, NC to Roberts Settlement, Indiana: The Hidden History of Free People of Color

It sometimes strikes me that no one really seems to know what to do with Free people of Color who lived in the United States. While they were free, they were not “white free.” That is to say, they did not have equal standing with white people; not in law and certainly not socially. Nor were their lives controlled to the extent of the lives of enslaved people. Free people of color inhabited a twilight world between whites and enslaved African-descended people. The hidden history of Free People of Color is something Genealogy Adventures will feature more often.

Timing seems to be everything when it comes to genealogy. You can search and search for clues to mysteries for ages.  And then *BOOM*, out of the blue, something amazing can happen.

I’ve been engaged in deep research on ancestors who lived in early 19th Century Northampton, Warren, and Halifax Counties in North Carolina. Out of the blue, Fontaine, a Sheffey cousin, forwarded a video to me. He’d had no idea I’d returned to researching these North Carolina counties. He’d forwarded it to me in the hopes it might have some answers when it came to his father’s maternal lineage. At that point, we had no idea that we were related in any other way besides the Sheffey family of Wythe County, Virginia. It turns out, we share some North Carolina lineages too.

The video below is the one he brought to my attention. The video didn’t specifically help me in my research of his father’s maternal line.  However, it certainly answered some questions about what became of some of my own maternal ancestors who had seemingly vanished into the ether. The families involved were: Bass, Byrd, Scott, Stuart/Stewart, and Walden/Waldron.

The answer to what happened to them was pretty simple in the end. They had removed themselves from North Carolina to settle in Indiana. I won’t spoil the video. Their journey is a remarkable story.


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4 thoughts on “From Northampton County, NC to Roberts Settlement, Indiana: The Hidden History of Free People of Color

  1. This is an amazing post and video! Thank you so much for sharing this; I’ve been tracing my family line in the Scotts/Baumans (Bowmans?)/Boones, who were born in North Carolina in the 1830s but were present in Indiana by 1860. This is so helpful — I wonder if there might have been more Roberts-like settlements in Indiana?

    1. Additional settlements is something I’ll be looking into. I know of two others in Ohio. When the Northampton County, Quaker Peeles freed their slaves, they gave them money and land in Ohio, which is another place I’ll need to investigate further.

    2. I have an Boone ancestor….his name was Daniel, born in 1830 North Carolina. He lived in Indianapolis in the 1860s.

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