Tracing Your Roots: Who Were My Kin Born During Slavery?

By Henry Louis Gates Jr. and NEHGS Senior Researcher Meaghan E.H. Siekman

Differing surnames and living arrangements complicate the search for the parents of an ancestor born during Reconstruction in North Carolina.

Dear Professor Gates:

I am curious to know who the parents were of my paternal great-grandfather Turner Bond (1868-1925). He was a self-employed blacksmith in Windsor, Bertie County, N.C., who could read and write. He and his wife, Annie Speller, raised and supported 12 children, including my grandfather Charles Bond (1913-2001). Turner Bond’s parents were listed as Dean Jones and Judy Carter on his death certificate. I see something that says “inferred Father” on Can you please tell me who his parents were and how he got the name “Bond”? —Roklina Johnson

It appears that the lives of the Bond, Speller, Carter and Jones families have been intertwined since the 19th century against the backdrop of a local tobacco-and-cotton plantation economy in Bertie County that was heavily dependent on slavery. By 1800, African Americans were the majority in the county, with many living on large plantations, according to a web page of the NCGenWeb Project that lists local black genealogy resources.

Among the county’s largest slaveholders in 1830 were Lewis Bond, Robert A. Jones and Thomas Speller, according to a list the page attributes to Jane Turner Censer’s book North Carolina Planters and Their Children (1800-1860). As you trace your ancestors back before emancipation, we suggest that you compare their information to what is contained in contemporaneous slave schedules, property records, wills and probate documents for these men.

A Clue About How Your Grandfather Was Named

You know that your ancestors resided in Windsor, Bertie County, N.C., so we started there to trace them back. Your grandfather Charles Bond was recorded in their household there in 1920 (FamilySearch; free registration required), along with his 11 siblings. According to this record, Turner Bond and both of his parents were born in North Carolina. The record also tells you that Turner owned his home and that it was mortgaged. The family was there 10 years earlier in 1910 in the house that Turner owned…

Excerpt, read more at The Root