finding your roots

Escaping Slavery

Linda Williams Dorage May 23, 2012

I grew up hearing a story of how my mother’s grandfather had been a slave when he and his older brother escaped towards the north during the Civil War. I remember hearing that the brothers had reddish hair which I found odd for an African American slave. The older brother died enroute and my great grandfather somehow met up with a battalion of Union Army soldiers. They took him in and he became the troop’s bugler. He settled in Illinois after the war and at age 54 or so married a woman 20 years his junior (my great grandmother) and they had 6 children. (He fathered children in his 60′s!) I have begun putting together the pieces of my family tree and although records for Black people aren’t all that plentiful, I’m finding out a lot. And my great grandfather’s red hair? I have yet to identify his parents but on one of the census, he listed his mother as being from Mississippi and his father – from Ireland! Was he the slave owner? I’ve become a little obsessed with finding my roots – as tangled and unique as they may be.

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  • Judy Cassidy

    July 8, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Mississippi can be a difficult state to find original information if you are searching for slaves, If you are near Attala Co., however, the Library t here has an excellent genealogical section, you might try contacting them.

    There are marriage and deed records in many of the court houses for black people in the 1800′s, give it a try. Check the 1870 census and try and find those black and white individuals with your surname in a given county, and also check the slave census for those surnames. This might help you narrow down a specific county where your ancestory could possibly have lived after the civil war as well as the family they belonged to.

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The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the new 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Filmed on location across the United States, the series premieres nationally Sundays, March 25 – May 20 at 8 pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

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