In either the spring or fall of 2000, I took a class on slavery throughout the world. We only had 1 assignment: a term paper, which we worked on all semester. Before I started the class, I had just read Dr. John Hope Franklin's The Free Negro in North Carolina, 1790-1860. I had a lot of questions after reading it, but the main question I had is who were these people Dr. Franklin gave so many statistics about? I was also exploring the possibility that one of my ancestors was a free African American. I decided to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, and decided for my paper to study the manumission practices in antebellum N.C., partly to see if I could find my own ancestors manumission papers and partly to find out who these freed slaves during the antebellum period were. I never did find my ancestors papers, and further research into that line leads me to believe he was not African American, but rather German as I found him named in his father's will, a known German immigrant. Despite this setback, I was hooked to this research! After that class, I continued to pursue this project and with each history class I took after I started, I continued to use this project to explore new avenues in my research, most notably the laws that affected manumission, which turned into exploring the laws that affected pretty much every avenue of their lives.
Eventually, I'd like to write a book about my findings; however, although I have a lot of information, I don't feel like I have enough. Please understand that writing a book is not intended for monetary gain, but to get the knowledge out there. I have done talks, both online and off, and I continually surprise people with the information I've found, especially the sheer numbers of free African Americans in N.C. before the Civil War even started. I've always wanted to be a history teacher since I was in high school to teach the truth, things that I've always known, but was never taught in school and had to learn on my own. Being deaf now makes the idea of teaching practically (but not completely) impossible, so I see this project, both publishing my findings online and in book format, as my way of teaching.
At the moment, all transcriptions on this site fall into the following categories: apprenticeship records, estate records, freedom papers, land deeds, manumission records, newspaper articles, petitions, sheriff notices, and wills. At the moment, each category has only a few records of each type. Please note that some records are for those born after the Civil War. They are included because they are descended from those who were free before the Civil War. Part of my research continues to follow families after the Civil War.
I am currently working on creating indexes by name and possibly county as well. The index I create will help give researchers more options to find records, either by name of the person involved (or name of anyone mentioned in a record!) or by record type and possibly by county as well. Right now, the index is not up, but there are only a few records to look at anyway. For the time being, to be notified of any new transcriptions added or any updates made, please be sure to visit this site's blog, which is where I'll be posting information about new and updated transcriptions. If you have a blog reader, such as bloglines or google reader, you can receive notices via RSS by subscribing at the very bottom of the blog.
Each transcription is an exact copy of records I have found at the State Archives of North Carolina in Raleigh. In all cases, exact spelling has been kept in tact. In most cases, spacing has also been kept intact. This means that if a record was 14 lines of text, the transcription is 14 lines of text. There will be be differences because I cannot duplicate the handwriting on the document, which means I cannot duplicate the exact space used. Some transcriptions are from 2005 and may look a bit different. I apologize if that confuses you. All document transcriptions are in PDF format so you can save them to your computer, etc. I have not and will not scan copies of documents I have from the archives. I know some people would rather I do that than just transcribe (and believe me, that would save me a lot of time!), but I do not want to take away any business from the archives. If you want a copy of the document, you can contact the archives and ask. To help you in getting a copy from the archives, at the bottom of each document is the source information which includes the archival call number and then the citation information. The citation information follows this pattern:
An example is:
Nash County. Wills, 1778-1922. Pace-Rowland.
Pettiford, Archibald, 1889 (date of writing)
In this case, Nash is the county, "Wills, 1778-1922" is the series, "Pace-Rowland" is the box, and "Pettiford, Arhcibald, 1889 (date of writing)" is the name of the folder. Some of the older transcriptions are written a bit different, as in the bulleted format above.
Since I started adding transcriptions, I noticed that earlier records I did not note every aspect of the citation, but in order to get the documents up, I am putting them online and will later update the transcription to include the full citation. If the record you are interested in does not have the full citation, let me know and I will try to get it fixed as soon as possible.