Monday, April 3, 2017

Slave Name Roll Project: Tracing Descendants of Former Slaves

On 3 March 2015 I wrote a post about the Slaves of Harvey Claytor (1800-1871) of Franklin County, Virginia. I used Cohabitation Registers I found in the digital holdings of the Library of Virginia. These registers are often the first time that a former slave appeared officially in a public record and included extensive information about their families and former owners, enabling researchers to perhaps link a former slave to the 1870 census. These records also included the surname used soon after emancipation.

According to an Out of the Box, a blog written by staff members of the Library of Virginia, post, "Virginia provided no legal recognition for slave marriages. The commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands directed assistant commissioners of states to order the county clerks to make a registry of such cohabitating couples in 1865. A year later the Virginia General Assembly passed an act to amend the Code of Virginia to legalize the marriages 'of Colored Persons no Cohabiting as Husband and Wife'."

I found four people formerly enslaved by Harvey Claytor, my first cousin five times removed, in the Floyd County registers. After watching the educational video entitled Documenting the Enslaved with Crista Cowan, I decided to handle the slaves owned by my ancestors in the manner outlined in the video. I went through all the blog posts I wrote about named slaves. As I created a person in my tree for each for each named slave and associated wills, estate inventories, probate documents, deeds, letters, and other documents to those people, I would search for additional records about their lives after they were freed.

Web links added to owners and enslaved people when there is no known
blood relationship. Also included is a blog link with more information;
image courtesy of

Facts added to formerly enslaved Samuel "Sam" Henry Claytor. Most of
this information came from the Cohabitation Registers but I have not yet
made a source citation; image courtesy of

I had success with two families I found in 2015. This post is about:

Samuel Henry Claytor and Adaline Lemons, Floyd County, Virginia

Samuel "Sam" Henry Claytor[1} was born on 13 February 1845 in Franklin County, Virginia, and was born into slavery owned by Harvey Claytor. In 1866 he began cohabitating (marriage between slaves was not legal) with Adaline Jane Lemons[2], who was born about 1849 also in Franklin County, and was enslaved by Creed Lemons at the time of her birth. On 27 February 1866 when the cohabitation registers were created, they lived in Floyd County, Virginia, but had no children.

The 1870 census indicated Sam and Adaline lived in Jacksonville, Virginia; Sam worked as a day laborer. In 1880 the family remained in Jacksonville, but Samuel may have run afoul of the law and served time in the county jail. He was also enumerated with his family in Jacksonville. By 1910 Sam's family owned a farm on Franklin Turnpike in Floyd County and he farmed his land while several of his children worked outside the home. Adaline had eleven children during their marriage and two were no longer alive. In 1920 Sam and Adaline were still living and working on their farm. Three of their sons worked the farm with them and several other children had married and left home.

Adaline died on 25 October 1922 of apoplexy and Sam died on 9 September 1923 of broncho-pneumonia following a bout with the flu. Adaline's death certificate indicated she was interred at Robertson Graveyard in Floyd County.
  • Baltimore "Balty" Claytor, born 3 October 1866 in Floyd County; died 4 June 1936 in Floyd County; married Judie Loretta Banks, daughter of Bruce and Ellen Banks, on 18 December 1909 in Floyd County. Two children: Ada M. Claytor (about 1900) and Mary E. Claytor (about 1903)
  • Mariah Jane Claytor, born in 1871 in Floyd County; died 9 November 1935 in Floyd County. Never married
  • James Claytor, born 11 May 1873 in Floyd County[3]
  • Peter Claytor, born about 1875[4]
  • Adelaide Claytor, born on 30 November 1875 in Floyd County; died 10 March 1961 in Floyd County; married Doctor "Dock" Simpson Turner, son of Stephen Turner and Frances Patterson. No children.
  • John Claytor, born about 1878[5]
  • Mary Claytor, born 20 June 1879 in Floyd County[6]
  • George W. Claytor, born about 1882 in Floyd County; married Clyde A. Jones[7], daughter of Richard and Edna Jones, on 4 November 1906 in Floyd County. No children.
  • Palmer "Pal" Claytor, born 20 March 1885 in Floyd County; died 29 June 1957 in Floyd, Virginia; married Eva Baker on 11 March 1914 in Mercer County, West Virginia; divorced before 1920
  • Anna "Annie" Claytor, born about 1889 in Floyd County; died 7 March 1961 in Floyd, Virginia; married Falos Morris Akers, son of David and Albina Akers, divorced; married Elliott Pritchett. One child: Vernon Akers
  • Minnie Claytor, born 15 February 1897 in Floyd County; died 21 August 1958 in Radford, Virginia; married William Reed Columbus Ingram, son of George Ingram and Laura Beaver or Moran, on 6 October 1938. He was married previously with several children; Minnie had one son: Oscar Claytor.
In reviewing the Member Connect feature available through, many people have some of this information, but not all of it. It appears they have worked their family trees backwards in time, as is recommended. However, I worked from the 1867 Cohabitation Registers forwards and in this particular case, it enabled me to break through the 1870 census which is frequently a brick wall for African-American family historians and genealogists. I hope this information will help descendants of Sam and Adaline (Lemons/Menefee) Claytor break through their brick walls. 

[1] The Claytor surname is often written in records as Clayton.

[2] Adaline's maiden name was often recorded in documents about her children as Menefee. Her death certificate listed Steven and Harriett Menefee as her parents. However, she was listed in the cohabitation registers as Adaline Lemons. I do not know the origins of the Menefee surname.

[3] Information about James Claytor is from the Virginia, Floyd County Births, 1873-79.

[4] Information about Peter Claytor is from the 1880 Census.

[5] Information about John Claytor is from the 1880 and 1900 Census.

[6] Information about Mary Claytor is from the 1900 Census and the Virginia, Floyd County Births, 1873-79

[7] Clyde (Jones) Claytor married James Lemuel Redd in 1923. I do not know if George W. Claytor died before that date or if they divorced.

Slaves of Harvey Claytor (1800-1871) of Franklin County, Virginia
In Celebration of Black History Month (or More DNA Discoveries)


  1. I find it rewarding to follow through on the persons listed as slaves in the documents. I get to practice using my know how on a family I know nothing at all about.

    Even before you started the Slave Name Roll Project and I wrote about my ancestor James Sims, I had his slaves attached to him in my database which is on Rootsweb. It might not be an acceptable practice in genealogy but it was the only way I could think of to show the relationship. ~ Cathy

    1. Whatever works! In my situation Harvey Claytor had legitimate children and children with at least one slave as proven by my DNA matches and documentation. These slaves were not related to Harvey Claytor biologically and I wanted to distinguish the difference, especially since the formerly enslaved fathers claimed responsibility for their children.