FREEDMEN'S LABOR CONTRACTS
MADISON COUNTY, TENNESSEE 1866-1867
By Jonathan Kennon Thompson Smith
Copyright, Jonathan K. T. Smith, 1996
The genealogical value of these abstracted records from selected papers of the field office of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, State of Tennessee, is immediately apparent on examining their contents. Family relationships are defined in many instances, relationships to former owners, by names, are sometimes given and ages are given in many instances for freed persons.
Heretofore there had generally been scant records kept about the slave families of Madison County, Tennessee. Occasional documentation, that way, will be found in antebellum wills, deeds and other public records. It is still possible to find some private records in the region, kept by slave owners about their bondsfolk which cast light on family relationships. One of the most valuable of the latter lot are the lists of slaves' names and their births and deaths by date (and mothers listed with their children) either in journals or even in the family Bibles in which the white families' vital statistics were recorded. Caution in using these freedmen records is suggested, as with any type of records. Ages may or may not be reliable, the spelling of given names and a few surnames are problematical in that they are obviously rendered more by phonetic considerations than conventional spellings of such names.
Even though this publication has been prepared for persons investigating their black family origins the data compiled, including that found in the appendices, may be useful for persons interested in the broader context of black sociology for the period involved.
Appreciation is here expressed to Dr. James R. Johnson, head of the History and Travel Department of the Memphis Public Library for having called this series of valuable federal records to my attention. Mr. Jack D. Wood and Mr. Robert D. Taylor, Jr. of the Jackson-Madison County Public Library have been helpful in providing an atmosphere in which the abstract work for this compilation could be done. Several members of the staff of the Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville, were also quite helpful in suggesting "interpretations" of certain legislative petitions found there.
Jonathan K. T. Smith
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