Home > Genealogy > Exposing Slavery
When I began researching my family tree many years ago, the thought never occurred to me that my tree would be marked and stained by the scourge of slavery. The rough information indicated that branches of my tree came from England, Poland, Germany, and Sweden, and settled in places like New York, Wisconsin, and Chicago. The branch of one my great grandfathers originated in Kentucky, who left the state circa 1899 and came to Chicago. It was quite naive that the thought of finding slavery in that branch never crossed my mind.
After discovering and uncovering slavery in that branch, my only possible response was to expose it, as my personality is very matter of fact. Unlike some family tree researchers, I do not carry any degree of positive or negative emotional attachment to my ancestors. This page will serve as a framework of documenting my research on those who were enslaved by someone in my family tree, along with information on their enslavers. My intent and hope is that this information will be useful to someone in the future.
The photo shown above is a stock photograph, which was carefully selected, given the sensitivity of the topic, and the sunrise was selected to emphasize the exposure that light brings. This page will be continually updated and expanded over time.
Those Enslaved by My Maternal Ancestors
Listed below is my research and documentation on a branch of my maternal ancestry that is marked and stained by the scourge of slavery.
Enslaved and Manumitted by Stephen Osborn: Her Name is Barbary
Stephen Osborn (1741-1820) is one of my maternal fifth great grandfathers. Stephen enslaved a woman named Barbary, and she was manumitted by his last will and testament. The will was dated Tuesday, July 1, 1817, and the will was proved on Tuesday, December 12, 1820 in Scott County, Virginia, USA. There is an astonishing amount of information about the life of Barbary and her four children, who are Wesley, Senah Richmond, and twins James Washington Day and Lucinda Day. As she has such lengthy and extraordinary story to tell, it mandates a dedicated page to her, which I will be adding in the near future.
Enslaved by George Holland: Her Name is Jin
George Holland (died 1802) is one of my maternal sixth great grandfathers. It is critical to recognize that casual family tree researchers have regularly and pervasively confused two different men named George Holland. My George Holland ancestor is found in the area of Montgomery County, Virginia, which later became Grayson County, while the other George Holland is found in Goochland County, Orange County, and Louisa County. They are two different men.
There is very little biographical information known about George Holland, other than some land records, tax records, and his last will and testament. The only record identifying him as being an enslaver is his last will and testament, which was dated June 22, 1802, and which he signed with "his mark" indicating that he was illiterate. The insightful part is that George specifically names the woman that he enslaved as follows: "I also direct my negroe Woman Jin, my Bull run Tract of Land to be sold and twelve months Credit to be given and the money to be equally divd amongst all my Legatees hereafter named." With the typical incongruity an enslaver, George identifies Jin by name and refers to her as a woman, but Jin is diminished to being property and equated with a tract of land.
One possibility is that the her name was Virginia, and her nickname was Gin, but was recorded in the last will and testament as Jin. There is no indication of her age, other than her being described as a woman on June 22, 1802. That is the only information that is known about her, and I've not yet been able to identify any other possible records. It is unknown how long she was enslaved by George Holland. The 1782 Personal Property Tax List for Montgomery, County, Virginia, indicates that he was not enslaving anyone at that time.
Enslaved by John Hollon (Holland): Their Names Are Unknown
John Hollon (1777-1854) is one of my maternal fourth great grandfathers, and was the grandson of George Holland listed above. Similar to his grandfather, John was illiterate, which resulted in his surname being listed on records with various spellings, such as Hollon and Holland. John migrated circa 1800 to what would be present day Wolfe County, Kentucky. As there were numerous county formation and boundary changes in Kentucky, records reflect John living in Montgomery County, Estill County, Breathitt County, and Wolfe County, though he continually resided in the same homestead. While there is ample biographical oriented information available on John, there is very little information on him being an enslaver.
The first piece of documentation showing John Hollon an enslaver is the 1840 U.S. Census, which was enumerated on June 1, 1840. The census shows John living in what was at that time Breathitt County, Kentucky, and what would be present day Wolfe County, Kentucky. The census shows John enslaving one female, who was between the age of 10 and 24 years old, which would mean that she was born between circa 1816 and 1830. I've not yet been able to identify any other possible records or any further information about her. For the purpose of simplicity of presentation, the census mage below was digitally edited to condense and group only the relevant information.
The second piece of documentation showing John Hollon as an enslaver is the 1850 U.S. Census Slave Schedule, which was enumerated on August 23, 1850. The census shows John living in what was at that time Breathitt County, Kentucky, and what would be present day Wolfe County, Kentucky. The census shows John enslaving one young boy, who was listed as being about 3 years old and born circa 1847, and is his race is listed a "mulatto." I've not yet been able to identify any other possible records or any further information about him. For the sake of being forthright, I have considered the possibility that the boy might be the child of the above enslaved woman and John or another family member via rape or coercion. For the purpose of simplicity of presentation, the census mage below was digitally edited to condense and group only the relevant information.
There is an interesting footnote. One of John's grandsons, George Washington Hollon, later enlisted in the Union Army. George was born in 1840, and he would have undoubtedly known this boy, who was seven years younger, and enslaved by his grandfather. It could be speculated that this might have transformed him in some manner.
The following table contains summarized and sortable information of key data points from all above documentation.
© Copyright - Timothy J. Barron - This page was updated March 12, 2023