In African American research, the county land deeds are used to trace the buying and selling of a slave. If your goal is to document the Irish slave owner or Irish ancestor, then the deeds are a prime resource. Upon a sale, a deed was registered with the county officials. Some families would even use the county deeds in place of registering a will or estate. In this case, the farm and slaves were usually turned over to one of the children. County deeds are a link between your slave ancestor and the owners.
To approach the county deeds, there are a few important facts you need to be aware. Most important is that slaves will not be listed by name in the county produced manuscript deed indexes. They may be if a genealogical society or individual has transcribed, and indexed the county deeds. When using the manuscript county copy, you have to already know the last owner’s name. So you are researching the slave owner in order to access information about the slave.
Also, in researching the buyer and seller, be aware of where the deed stated everybody is living. A transaction may occur in one county, but the parties involved may be from another county. These are clues to where your slave ancestor was from.
There is usually a format to a typical deed. Although I am mainly talking about buying and selling, be aware slaves were also used as collateral in some legal matter or even leased out to another plantation. A slave deed usually includes: date of transaction, name and residence of buyer, name and residence of seller, name of slave, age of slave, color of slave, relationship of slaves to each other, witnesses to the transaction, and date deed was registered
As stated, the slave will usually only be listed by first name. This doesn’t mean they didn’t have last names, it just meant there was little reason for the owner to even known what it was. Once you have a clear path to who owned the slaves and when, then you are ready to address if one of them could be your Irish ancestor.
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