Getting to grips with the 1850 and 1860 Slave Schedule census – Part 2

What’s the detective work when searching for your ancestors in the Slave Schedules?

A bit of background is needed:  Joe Blogs got his surname in one of two ways: he (or one of his ancestors) was a direct blood descendant of a white farmer or plantation owner. So he (or his ancestor) took that family’s name as their own.  Alternatively, Joe Bloggs just assumed the name upon being freed.

The next step is to look for white slave owning Bloggs in Wythe, Virginia.  You can do this on or – both have 1850 & 1860 Slave Schedules.  If you’re lucky, there will only be one or two Blogg families in Wythe who owned slaves. For this example, there was only one.

In the list of slaves on the 1860 Slave Census, you will be looking for a black male aged 33 (or close to this age). With luck he’ll be there.  If not, look at other slave holding families who lived near or around the white Mr (or Ms – because women owned slaves too!) Bloggs. If you haven’t found your ancestor via this route, there is a link at the bottom of this post with information about other routes you can try.  So don’t give up!

In this instance, we’re going to say that you did find a black male aged 33 listed as a slave of a Mr Daniel Bloggs.  That slave now has a name – the ancestor you were looking for.

So we do the same thing for the 1850 Census Slave Schedule; this time bearing in mind that Joe Bloggs would be 23.

Now if your ancestor Joe Bloggs was married to Jane, aged 42, in the 1870 census with children (say he had a son aged 11, a daughter aged 14 and another son aged 20) you can probably find them on the same census records.

So here goes:

You found Joe Bloggs in the 1860 census.  He was the 33 year old Black male.  There is a female slave with an age of 32, a 1 year old male, a 4 year old female and a 10 year old male – you have probably found Joe Blogg’s wife and children.

Going back to 1850, you found a 23 year old male (Joe Bloggs).  Along with him, there is a 22 year old female, and a 5 month old infant.  Again, you have probably found his wife and eldest son.  So it’s safe to give them names.

The above examples work very well with farms and plantations with a small number of slaves – anything up to 10 or 12.  It’s not impossible to do with larger plantations – just more time consuming.

Have a look at a 1860 Slave Census from 1860:

a blank Slave Schedule
An example of a Slave Schedule

So what happens if you want to go further back than 1850?  Catch the next post for some tips and tricks.

Here’s a link to a great article with more tips on how to use the 1850 & 1860 Slave Schedules:

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