The will of William Newman of was admitted to probate in December of 1840 in Bath County, Kentucky and states in part:
My negro man Sam I give him his freedom & an axe my negro woman Hannah I give her her freedom one ten gallon kettle a large oven a pair of Smoothing irons and a tea kettle and a sifter and a table my negro woman Mary I give her her freedom one Ten gallon kettle one Small kettle and a linnen wheel I also give Marys children their freedom Martha Sam Milly & Hannah with all her increase forever
I wrote about the will itself in a recent issue of Casefile Clues, but did not really address Newman’s slaves in that commentary. As a reader pointed out, based upon the names of the children, it appears that the slaves freed in this will were a family (two children of Mary were named for other slaves).
William’s 1840 federal census enumeration in Bath County, Kentucky (as Wm. Newman) includes the following individuals:
- white male between 70 and 79 [presumably Newman]
- 2 male slaves under 10
- 3 female slaves under 10
- 1 female slave between 36 and 54
- 1 female slave between 55 and 99
Newman’s will was written in 1836. The four year gap could easily account for any additional children Mary had in the interim. The adult Samuel does not appear to have been in this enumeration. Mary is presumably the female between 36 and 54 in 1840 and Hannah is presumably the female between 55 and 99.
As those with enslaved ancestors are well aware, research during this time period is difficult. However this will does suggest a family relationship which is why researchers with enslaved ancestors often utilize records of their ancestors’ former owners.
To help try and understand this apparent family unit a little better, we’ll take a look later at Newman’s pre-1840 census enumerations and see also if there are any records of the manumission of his slave in local deed books in Bath County where his will was probated.
Whether the freed slaves stayed in Bath County or left the area is something that is not known at this time.