A Possible Brick Wall Buster via the Digital Library on American Slavery?

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Lisa Louise Cooke for the Family Tree Magazine monthly podcast! The theme of November’s episode is about busting through brick walls and Lisa interviewed me for a segment covering resources from the magazine’s 101 Best Websites list. Listen to Lisa, myself, and her other guests in the November 2015 episode to learn more about busting brick walls.

One resource I covered was the Digital Library on American Slavery. Covering the database was easy for me. As I stated during the podcast, it is one that is “near and dear to my heart” as it is a project out of UNC-Greensboro. I was raised in Greensboro so the city has a fond place in my heart. When this database first came out, I’d back then, found a record in it for whom I believe to be my family, but didn’t follow-up on obtaining the full petition until Sunday as I prepared for the podcast interview. I’m so happy I did follow-up too!

This image is excerpted from a North Carolina legislative petition (#21284706) addressed in the Jones County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions in November 1847. Six white slaveholders, John S. Koonce and wife Susan, Isiah Wood and wife Elizabeth, Benjamin Brown, Asa Brown, Zachius Brown, Mary Brown, Orne Brown, and Isaac Brown (the last five being children in the care of Zachius Brown) appeared to request division of ownership of six slaves – they were requesting 1/8th share each. Obtaining that 1/8th share could have meant selling them and splitting the proceeds. The Digital Library on American Slavery provided the index, but through information on their page on “Obtaining Copies of Petitions,” I was able to get the full petition.

Well, the six slaves at hand here are James, Jonas, Mariah, Allen, Hannah, & Sarah (sometimes called Harriett).  I highlight three of these slaves’ names because they match names found among my own family!.  The reasons being as follows:

  • Independent of this record, I’d traced my Koonce line back to a former slave, James Koonce of Jones County.  From census records, I know James had two partners, Susan and then Isariah (sometimes appearing as Mariah in documents I’ve already located).
  • James’ mother was named Hannah.
  • From oral family history shared by a cousin of mine, Isariah/Mariah was probably just a Koonce by marriage, and may have been the offspring of a white Wood male family member. Given that this petition has both Koonce & Wood family members, it makes this an intriguing possibility for being tied into my family tree 
  • The name “Caff” appears next to Jonas’ name, and MY James’ first wife Susan was a “Craff” in documentation I have in my files. Could Caff/Craff be one and the same name?

I think I have already identified who John S. Koonce is (I’m thinking it is John Speight Koonce) and I found Isaiah & Elizabeth Wood in records as well. This is definitely something I need to research further! Perhaps this clue can lead me to busting my own brick wall! Research in action. 🙂

So, thanks to Lisa for the impetus I needed to finally request this record! And for my readers, be sure to check FamilyTree Magazine’s podcast page over the next few days to look for the November 2015 episode and hear the show!

Comments (9)

  1. John Head

    Very interesting, good research, John Koonce was my linage relative, my family tree starts in North Carolina and I am in the Koonce family tree you have on line. I have read that John Koonce had several slaves.
    John C Head

  2. Taneya Koonce (Post author)

    Hi John – yes, after this, I am going to look more into John S. family documents and see if I can find anything else that may help learn more conclusively if he was our slave holder or not. I would be interested in knowing where you’ve read about his slaves? Maybe it can be something I follow up on!

  3. Lisa Louise Cooke

    It was such a pleasure having you on the show!

  4. Taneya Koonce (Post author)

    Thanks Lisa!

  5. Barry Miller

    In the podcast, you indicate that the Digital Library on American Slavery has primarily NC resources. Not really. The Race and Slavery Petitions Project has records from courts in 15 southern states. That project is not just NC resources. There are 771 records from Alabama, 118 records from Arkansas, 838 from Delaware, 357 from DC, 267 from Florida, 1104 from Georgia, 908 from Kentucky, 2413 from Louisiana, 1347 from Maryland, 346 from Missouri, 790 from Mississippi, 1426 from North Carolina, 2654 from South Carolina, 1463 from Tennessee, 416 from Texas, and 2246 from Virginia. The older slave-holding states have more records, as the project covers 1775-1867. And the records came from the courts themselves, and copies were made into the microfilm set. The database was built form the court records, not the microfilm.
    Barry Miller, Director of Communications and External Relations for the University Libraries at UNC Greensboro

  6. Taneya Koonce (Post author)

    Hi Barry, thank you so much for your comments on the blog post. It is great to have someone who is even more familiar with the project provide further clarification. The Digital Library on American Slavery is a wonderful resource – the team at UNCG is doing such great work and many of us benefit from the efforts, as indicated by my own family-related find. Kudos! In response to what I stated in the podcast, I did say that the DLAS has a “focus primarily on NC resources” as the About DLAS page also says the focus in on NC, but I did mention there are records from other states. However, having the information from the other states is unique so thank you for further emphasizing the point. And, thank you for correcting the incorrect statement that the records were drawn from microfilm. I said it correctly the first time, but misspoke the second time. Thanks again for your feedback and I look forward to seeing the DLAS continue to grow!

  7. Riah Lee

    Looking into this as my next ancestry project! Already found a few things in the probate papers of Elizabeth Wood’s first husband, William Brown.

  8. Riah Lee

    All of the slaves were sold at auction, as an equal division could not be reached Here are the names of the buyers:


  9. Pingback: And Yes, They Were Sold – Taneya’s Genealogy Blog

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