Monday, August 31, 2015

The Slave Name Roll Project - Releasing the Names of 16 Slaves

In February of this year, my friend and fellow blogger, Cathy Meder-Dempsey, who writes the blog, Opening Doors in Brick Walls wrote a series of posts for Black History Month about her 5th great-grandfather, James Sims (1754-1845). You can read her story of James Sims, here (Post 1 for James Sims, Post 2 for James Sims, Post 3 for James Sims). Here in these posts, Cathy released the names of 9 known slaves formerly held by James Sims. Cathy's articles gave my fellow blogger, Schalene Dagutis of Tangled Roots and Trees, the idea to create The Slave Name Roll Project. 

My children's paternal grandmother was born in the state of South Carolina. Her family lines came to South Carolina as early as the late 1600's from England and Bermuda. Once here her family lines spread across the state of South Carolina and down to Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and eventually across the United States. There are several generations of slave holders in the many years prior to the Civil War. Earlier this month I found 5 wills pertaining to the Maxwell lines and some of the allied families. This particular will is that of my children's 7th great grandmother, Mary Simons Maxwell. She married James Maxwell on September 7th, 1722. She was born in South Carolina to Benjamin Simons and Mary Ester DuPre.

Mary's will is unusual to me because I have not seen a will where the slave owner lists both the name of the slave and their mother's name. Could it be that Mary payed closer attention to the slave women she owned and recorded their births as well? Or was it possible that this is how things were done in the Province of Georgia in Saint Philip Parish (now known as Bryan County, Georgia)? I don't have all the answers yet but I do intend to find how the records were kept, providing any of them still exist. Mary Simons Maxwell wrote her will in 1770 and it was recorded in November 1774.

On the first page of her will she bequeaths to her grandchildren the following: " grandson, Morgan Sabb, my Negro boy named Stephen, son of my wench, Lizette; granddaughter, Mary Caldwell, my Negro girl named Maria; grandson, Elisha Maxwell, a Negro boy named July, son of my wench, Mary; grandson, John Butler Maxwell, a Negro boy named Peter, son of my wench, Patty; grandson, James McKay Maxwell, a Negro boy named Tom, son of my wench, Elsey; grandaughter, Ann Jackson Maxwell, a young Negro wench named Patty, being a house wench; grandson, James Benjamin Maxwell, a Mulatto boy named Sam, son of my wench, Clarissa; grandson, William Maxwell, a girl named Fanny, daughter of my wench, Snolly (?); grandson, Adam Joseph Gray a Negro boy named, Gibby and to my grandson, Dunbar Gray a Negro boy named Toncy."

After she is done with bequeathing to her grandchildren she turns to her children and bequeaths to them land,dry goods and livestock. She lists her children as John (now dec'd) and sons James and William. She lists her daughters as Mary Ester Nichols (widow & 6th great grandmother to my boys), Elizabeth now wife of Thomas Young, Esquire and Jane now the wife of Joseph Gray.

It is now my turn to release the names of Mary Simons Maxwell's known slaves as listed in her will. I release these names in the hope that one day it will release their souls and be reunited with each other. I release Stephen and his mother Lizette, Maria, July and his mother Mary, Peter and his mother Patty, Tom and his mother Elsey, Patty, Sam and his mother Clarissa, Fanny and her mother Snolly, Gibby and Toncy.

Over the years, I have been helped by many other genealogists and I have always tried to pay it forward as often as I can. I hope in some small way that I am helping someone else to find their family.


Georgia Virtual Vault, Colonial Wills, Colony of Georgia, digital collection, Georgia Virtual Vault (cdm.georgiaarchives:2011 : 2 August 2015), entry for Mary Maxwell; citing Georgia Archives, Record Group: 49-1-2, Record Id: cw20154, Date: 1774-11-01.

William Harden, "A History of Savannah and South Georgia", digital book ( : 2 August 2015) entry for the wedding date of James Maxwell and Mary Simons, page 1086; Original Publisher: Lewis Publishing Company, Publication Date: 1913.


  1. You've done a wonderful thing Dawn. Thank you for the mention. ~ Cathy

  2. Great post! Yes she was quite clever in the way she recorded all their names and thrift mothers name.

  3. That's so much for the addition to the #SlaveNameRoll project. I've added the link.

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  6. I thank you so much for your courage and compassion to release the slaves owned by your ancestors. My hope is for every person who knows that their ancestors owned slaves would do the same.