Question from Angel:
“I ran across a will of my ancestor, who apparently was a plantation/slave owner in 1826. SUCH a sensitive subject but fascinating nonetheless, especially when I saw he made provisions for each one and obviously thought of their welfare. This is such a deep subject and people either feel one way or the other, but I do believe that some slaves were considered family and when freed, did not want to leave.
One of the things that jumped out at me was that in the will, after he provided for every one of his children and son-in-law (he was a wealthy man in Virginia and a Captain in the Revolutionary War, as well as other military assignments in Virginia), there was a mention that $50 would be set aside for "children named for me".
It especially caught my eye due to the quotation marks used. Is this a way to acknowledge a child by a slave mother, possibly by him? I do believe there was a tradition or practice for slaves to name their child after the Master, because then they would be taken care of, and maybe not separated down the line. Or am I off-base? I am trying to research more about this time in our history. What are your thoughts? I am eager to hear what you think.”
I did not know the answer to this question as I have never seen this wording in a will myself so I posed the question to the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) mailing list. I got two great answers and I asked for permission to post those answers here.
Michael Hait, CG stated, “He was more likely talking about grandchildren. I have seen wills with similar provisions, where the sons of daughters legally changed their names—including dropping their father’s surname—in order to receive the inheritance. It is extremely rare that (1) slave children were acknowledged by their owner-fathers, or (2) slave children were named after their owners."
Drew Smith stated, “Googling the phrase "children named for me" turns up some wills in Pennsylvania in which this language is used: "if any remained to be divided among any grand children named for me" and "and the remainder to be divided equally among the grand-children named for me and my first wife". A North Carolina will has the language "to each of my other grandchildren named for me or my wife $1" and a Virginia will states "to grandchildren "named for me" $50 when each comes of age". (So the latter one uses that phrase in quotations, too.) So this seems to point to its use being primarily to reward heirs for naming their kids after the benefactor, and even the phrase in quotation marks doesn't seem to point to slave children. Perhaps it's in quotation marks to provide some leeway as to how the child's name was written?”
Thank you Michael and Drew!
Michael Hait, CG’s blog Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession
Drew Smith’s blog Rootsmithing: Genealogy, Methodology and Technology
Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis