By Natonne Elaine Kemp
Before proceeding to the next step, I wish to acknowledge Char McCargo Bah, a Virginia-based forensic genealogist, who introduced me to the resources listed at Steps 3 and 4 during a class on Intermediate African American Genealogy in March of 2010.
Step 3: consult the five volume set, Virginia Slave Births Index, 1853-1865. These bound volumes may be found at repositories such as libraries and archives. This set is organized alphabetically by the surname of the slave owner. In consulting Volume 1 (A-C), under Coates, John B., I confirm the births of Elisha Jackson and Maria Coates. To my surprise, I find a third record.(7) In April 1855 Aleck was born to a Mildred in the household of John B. Coats.(8) I believe this Aleck is Ellick in the 1870 census. This finding was unexpected because, according to the 1870 census, Ellick was 20 years old and thus would have been born about 1850. From this finding I learn the spelling of the slave owner’s surname varies (Coates/Coats).
Step 4: consult the ten volume set, Index to Virginia Estates, 1800-1865. These bound volumes may be found at repositories such as archives and libraries. This index is organized by county or city. Within each volume the information is organized alphabetically by surname. In addition to the name, the index identifies the location (county or city), what (e.g., will, inventory, sale), year and reference(s) (where the record can be found). I look for John B. Coates/Coats of Louisa County in Volume X but could not find any record.
This index may not yield immediate results. If this is the case, I recommend conducting additional research on the slave holding family. In my case I discover John B. Coates/Coats “married up” and his wife, Jane Field Moss, appears to come from a well-to-do family. Jane Field Moss was the daughter of Nelson Moss and Martha Susan Fields. Jane’s stepmother was Mildred Cosby. I consult once again theIndex to Virginia Estates, 1800-1865 and find seven entries for Nelson Moss and three entries for Mildred Moss. Among the records for Nelson Moss is an 1839 Will.(9)
The 1839 Will of Nelson Moss states in pertinent part, “To my daughter Jane F Coats I have given two girls, each of which I charge at three hundred dollars, making a charge to her of six hundred dollars.” Unfortunately the two girls are not named. Nelson Moss’ Will is dated 21 September 1837.
Additional steps: My search could end with Nelson Moss’ Will but I look for other records. An excellent resource is the Library of Virginia’s website, http://www.lva.virginia.gov. Under “For the Public” click the hyperlink “Virginia Memory.” Once on this page, hover over “Digital Collections”, and then scroll to “Collections A to Z.” Once on this page, click the letter “C” and scroll to “Chancery Records Index.” Click the “search this index” hyperlink. Once the search page appears, select the county or city of interest and type the given and surname of the individual you seek. I discover, although Nelson Moss died in 1839, his descendants were squabbling over the estate for another thirty plus years. A court ordered accounting was conducted about twenty years after Nelson Moss’ death. Unfortunately no one ever bothered to identify by name the two Negro girls given to Jane F. Coates.
Another resource to consult is a two volume set, A Guide to Bible Records in the Library of Virginia, Volume One & Volume Two. These bound volumes may be found at repositories such as libraries and archives. From this guide, in volume one, I locate two sets of family bibles for the “Moss-Coates Family, Louisa & Hanover Counties.” I know from researching this slave owning family that Jane Field Coates died in Louisa County and John B. Coates subsequently moved to Hanover County and died there. I know I have the right family. One family bible spans the years of 1808 to 1872. The other family bible spans the years 1853 to 1854. The two volume guide to bible records includes an accession number for each bible. (11)
7 Virginia Slave Births Index, 1853-ˇ1865 , Vol. 1 (A-ˇ C) (Westminster, Maryland 2007), p. 533.
9 Wesley E. Pippenger, Index to Virginia Estates, 1800-ˇ1865 , Vol. X (Richmond, Virginia Genealogical Society, 2010) p. 487.
10 Lydon H. Hart III, A Guide to Bible Records in the Library of Virginia, Vol. One (Richmond, Library of Virginia, 1985).
11 Because the Library of Virginia continues to acquire family bibles since the publication of A Guide to Bible Records in the Library of Virginia, Volume One & Volume Two , a researcher should search the Library of Virginia’s website (http://www.lva.virginia.gov ) for recent acquisitions. Alternatively, instead of consulting the two volume guide, a researcher may search for family bibles exclusively on the Library of Virginia’s website. Under “For the Public” select “Search the LVA Catalog.” Once this page appears, in the search box type the name of the surname you are researching plus the phrase “family bible.” Forexample, if I type “Diggs Family Bible,” I receive 20 results.