Before I became interested in genealogy my cousin told me that she’d researched our family. She said she’d discovered the plantation where some of our ancestors had been enslaved. My maternal grandmother’s birth surname was Strozier and that is not a common name in the US. It was ranked #14,599 in 2010. (In comparison, my surname, Jones, is ranked #5.) Because Strozier is uncommon and my grandmother and her ancestors were from Georgia, my cousin probably wondered before she researched if there was a slave owner with the last name of Strozier in Georgia. And there was.
Reuben Strozier (1782 – 1850) owned three plantations in Meriwether County, Georgia: the Strozier Plantation, the Adams Plantation, and the Brooks Plantation. The 1850 US Slave Schedule records him as having 58 enslaved people across the three plantations. The US only produced slave schedules for 1850 and 1860.
My 3rd-great-grandfather, Brice A Strozier, was born about 1825 in Georgia. Brice’s name is recorded in Reuben Strozier’s 1850 will in which Reuben “bequeathed” him to his son Callaway upon his death. So, I have proof that he had been enslaved and by whom. Reuben died in 1850, so it is certain that Callaway was also one of his slave owners since that was before Emancipation (1865). This is Callaway’s 1860 US Slave Schedule record for an unnamed male slave born in 1825. The enslaved aren’t usually named in these records. It is unclear where Brice is in Reuben’s 1850 Slave Schedule records because there is no male born in 1825 listed in any of his three records, though there is one in the Strozier Plantation record that was born in 1823.
In addition to Brice being listed in Reuben’s will, there are also the names, biological sexes, and life stages (man, woman, or child) of 52 other enslaved people. I documented them all for my training project for the USBH Project Heritage Exchange track. I chose to do this track because I wanted to learn how to document all of the other enslaved people in Reuben Strozier’s will.
My next task (which is beyond the scope of the track) is linking the names from the will to newly freed black people in the 1870 census, which is not nearly as easy as it sounds for the following reasons (not an exhaustive list):
- Not every freed person adopted the surname of their former enslaver.
- Freed people may not have remained in the area where they had been enslaved.
- Sometimes the age recorded for a person isn’t accurate.
- Some freed people were probably not enumerated in the 1870 census at all.
There are multiple search methods. The simplest is to search for the first name of a person with Strozier as the surname in census records then filter the results so that it only contains black people. I did that for the 1870 census for black people with the Strozier surname in Georgia and Family Search returned 164 people. The high number is because there were other Stroziers who owned slaves, some of whom were Reuben’s other children and his wife after his death. Others are the spouses and descendants of former slaves.
Another method to match people is to find the 1870 census record for the former enslaver and then look at their neighbors on the actual images of the census pages. If there is a black household near a white household with a matching surname, there’s a high chance that members of the black household had been enslaved by a member of the white household. There are multiple households of black Stroziers living near Reuben Sr.’s sons Reuben Jr. and Peter. There is also a household of black people with the surname Brooks (Reuben Sr. also owned a plantation named Brooks) near Reuben Jr. Ironically, there are more black Stroziers alive today than white ones.
A third method that I unsuccessfully used before I realized there was a much easier way to do it, is to look people up in the US Works Project Administration’s Slave Narrative series. The volumes have an index, but people are in the volume associated with the state they were living in when they were interviewed, not where they had been enslaved (if it wasn’t the same state). I didn’t find any Stroziers in the indexes, but that doesn’t mean no one enslaved by Reuben Strozier was interviewed. I didn’t find out that Project Gutenberg has searchable transcriptions for all volumes until recently.
A fourth method (one that is difficult to use) is to search the Freedmen’s Bureau records. FamilySearch has a searchable index for only some of the subcollections. You have to manually search through scanned images of documents written in old-timey cursive for the rest. So far, I have not found any family members using the site search feature.
Here are more tips for finding enslaved ancestors from the USBH Project on WikiTree.
Some people will only be linked to their descendants and former enslaver by going backwards in time from the present the way I did. Others will never be linked. I will create profiles for them regardless because they deserve to be known.