Today marks the 145th anniverary of the end of the Civil War. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865.
Most of us have ancestors or brothers of our ancestors that were involved in the Civil War in some way or another. I certainly do. Without access to my TMG database I can't recall all of them, but off the top of my head I can think of a few: David Eagleton and Joseph Browning, two of my direct grandfathers. Asbury Taylor Browning, Samuel D. Hoy, William Hoy, and Thomas N. Browning are some other relatives of mine that were involved. All these men fought for the Union.
I've spent so much time on so few lines -- 10 years dedicated to just one family -- that a lot of the rest of my ancestral lines are poorly researched and recorded. I've tried on occasion, and been interested in particular branches for short periods of time, but I always come back to my Brownings. It's definitely lack of research that made me believe that my ancestry was both firmly Union and firmly anti-slavery.
Well, I was wrong.
Until yesterday I'd never found any solid proof that any of my ancestors were slave owners. Then, in some correspondence with Mike Merritt, who found me via this blog! -- and who is a descendant of Thomas Merritt (father of Susanna Merritt, who married my John Nichols c1804 in Bedford Co., VA) he sent me the following notation in the deed records of either Amherst, Bedford, or Campbell Co., VA (I will find out which very soon):
10/16/1813 - Children of Pleasant Magann and Nancy Nichols. Nancy’s 6 children are mentioned in a 10/16/1813 deed giving Nancy a slave by her father Joseph Nichols. Lewis Merritt was a witness. – source??
This deed reference clearly indicates that Joseph Nichols -- whom we believe to be the father of John Nichols and the grandfather of my Joseph Nichols -- gifting a slave to his daughter Nancy and her husband. I am going to find that deed reference and when I do, I'll get the entire deed and see if the slave's name is mentioned. If it is, I'll put it here in my blog and do my small part in giving more names to those who had none.
In the meantime, remember those who fought in the Civil War today. My own thoughts today are now not only of the ancestors that I have that fought in this war, but of the new ancestry I've found and contemplating how I feel about finding out that I, too, have slave owners in my ancestry. I know that I shouldn't feel surprised at all -- goodness, as genealogists we should know better than anyone how vast the networks of ancestry really are! -- but when you find it, it hits home. You tease your teenagers about their inability to think past the "this'll never happen to me" idea.....and you find, after all, that you can do it too.
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