How do you document the slaveowner in your research? Here are two ideas from my own toolbox:
Create separate family trees for each slaveowning family within your genealogy software. Most people never use the feature available in most software to do this. I use Rootsmagic, but this capability is available in most all the recent software. Just create a “New File” for each family, and it will be saved as it’s own, ready to be pulled up when you need it. (Rootsmagic has a free download if you’d like to test drive it for yourself.)
It is extremely important to keep track of the slaveowner and his family in order to trace how enslaved people were transferred to daughters and sons, as they were inherited, gifted and sold during estate sales. You’ll want to include the wife’s parents, since many men came into slaveownership through their wives, men such as George Washington. Slaveowning families often married first cousins, and I have found it absolutely impossible to keep track of them without doing a separate tree. Then I can print it out and take it along with me on research trips, and check off each person as I search and find probate, deed, court, tax records, etc.
Within my own family tree, for the people who were enslaved, I create a new “fact” called “Slaveowner”:
In Rootsmagic, each fact can include associated media, so I can scan in the slaveowner will, inventory, tax documents, bill of sale, etc. as I find them and link them to the entry. That way all the relevant documents are accessible in my program. I write the Slaveowner’s name in the “Details” tab, and there is plenty of room for Notes. I can add source citations, which are built into all the major genealogy software programs today. I can also have the “Slaveowner” fact print out when I run narrative reports on my family, along with all the other facts. I can do a “missing fact” report, and see which people are missing this fact. These are just a few of the many powerful ways having our research recorded in genealogy software can assist us.
These practices have made slaveowner research a little more structured and organized for me, although I will never say it is easy. But there are any number of different ways to incorporate this information as you go. Readers, tell me what ways you have created in order to track the slaveowning family within your genealogy computer program?