On Tuesday, a new FREE database became available – Enslaved: People of the Historic Slave Trade lists 500,000 individual names of the once enslaved. You may browse by entering a person’s name, place, event or source. I gave it a whirl yesterday and although I didn’t find what I was looking for, think it’s a wonderful source to add to every genealogists’ tool kit.
The site is definitely a work in progress but then, so is every genealogical database. The goal is to enter as many names/places/events that documented an enslaved individual. With many records held in private hands, that has made the endeavor all the more difficult.
It’s been estimated that there were over 10 million Africans who survived the passage to the new world in bondage. The majority were transported to South America, Brazil in particular.
The enslaved who resided in Roman Catholic areas were often Baptized. Hence, names are more likely available. Unfortunately, that was not always the case. Entering the search term “Brazil” in the database provided me with 45,753 responses but the majority do not provide a name for the enslaved. Instead, a name of the seller or purchaser is given with a date.
I have been trying to identify the names of the enslaved individuals who were probably brought from Barbados to the New Jersey Colony by my 7th “great*” STEP grandmother, Thomasin Hassell Holinshead about 1720. Thomasin’s father was a sugar planter in Barbados. No records have been found of his death or the sale of his plantation although the location has been discovered on island maps.
Thomasin’s husband, my 7th great* grandfather, Daniel Hollin[g]shead was not a man of means but happened to marry for the second time the sugar heiress’ daughter. Within four years of the marriage they had relocated to New Jersey where Daniel sold vast tracks of wilderness. He died intestate (of course!) in 1730.
I only know of the enslaved individuals from Thomasin’s will of 3 Jan 1757 made in Somerset, New Jersey. She interestingly selected her youngest daughter, Elizabeth, to serve as administrator. Records exist that Thomasin was not pleased with her oldest son, Francis, who had served as administrator for his father, Daniel’s estate as he squandered most of the funds. Thomasin left him and her other surviving children 1 shilling, about $15.30 in today’s money. Says alot!
The clip above shows the part of the will that provides me the clue that Thomasin had enslaved individuals. I do not know:
- How many?
- How long they had been with her?
I have tried to find a will for administrator Elizabeth but her life is sketchy. Mug books mention that she married late in life and had no children. Her husband’s name has been recorded as Thomas Dean of Abington but that, too, is odd. Elizabeth’s brother, William, had relocated to Bucks County, Pennsylvania and named a daughter Elizabeth. That Elizabeth was the second wife of Thomas Bean of Abington. I’ve seen dates of birth for Thomas Bean ranging over 20 years so maybe there was more than 1 as there was more than 1 Elizabeth Hollinshead. No record for a Dean was ever found.
I tried the enslaved database to see if I could find any sale for a Holinshead (with multiple spellings) for New Jersey or Pennsylvania. Zilch. Then tried for New Jersey which lists 78 people and Pennsylvania, showing 244. None were in the areas I was looking for – Somerset County, New Jersey and Buck’s County, Pennsylvania.
Although I wasn’t successful I applaud the site for it’s compilations so far, ease of use and making it free which ironically, lists all those who weren’t.
*NOTE – clearly they weren’t so great enslaving individuals and other records found show Thomasin wasn’t so great to my 6th great grandmother, her only stepchild, but that’s another story.