In the Chancery Records Index (with images), a collection on the Library of Virginia site, slave names are indexed with a tilde (~) after their name – usually first name only. To search for a slave without a name, under surnames limit the search to “includes” and place only a tilde in the surname box. You can narrow the search to a county and/or a specific surname, plaintiff, or defendant mentioned in the case. Very often when slave names are involved there may be wills included in the packet.
In Nelson County, Virginia, I found a small chancery case from 1825 which mentioned Jordan and Hannah, slaves willed to Pamelia Smith, wife of James Smith, daughter of Elizabeth Wills, and granddaughter of James Wills Senr.
To the Court of Nelson County in Chancery sitting
Your Petitioner John Moss respectfully represents to the Court that one James Smith whom your Orator prays may be taken as Defendant hereto stands justly indebted to him in the sum of Sixty Dollars with Interest thereon fixed the first day of January 1820 due by an Instrument of writing commonly called a penal bill under the proper hand and seal of him the said James Smith which is herewith filed and prayed to be taken as a part of this bill. Your petitioner further represents to the Court, that the said James Smith hath removed himself without the limits of this Commonwealth so that the ordinary process of Law cannot be served upon him and that he hath a life estate in a certain tract of Land lying in this County willed to his wife Pamela Smith by her Grand father James Wills Senr. decd. which will is duly recorded in this County and is to be taken and considered as a part of this bill, also two Negroes namely Jordan and Hannah which is now in the possession of his said wife Pamelia or her mother Elizabeth Wills and which was willed to her by her Grand father, the said James Wills Senr. decd. your petitioner prays that this said Pamelia and Elizabeth may be considered and taken also as Defts hereto. Your petitioner further states that there is no Executions in the hand of the Sheriff of this county sufficient to consume the whole value of the personal property belonging to the said James Smith and Pamelia his wife in this state. Your petitioner therefore prays that he Court will Decree to him his debt aforesaid, against the said James Smith and that the said Pamelia his wife and Elizabeth be restrained from carrying away or otherwise disposing of any property which she may have in her possession untill the further order and decree of this Court and that should there not be a sufficiency in her hands to satisfy the said debt and Executions aforesaid that the Court will make such disposition of the land aforesaid for the purpose of paying his debt aforesaid as may seem just and equitable and such as is agreeable to the laws of the land and for the purpose of bringing the parties properly before the Court your petitioner prays that an order of publication may be awarded against the Deft James according to law and that a writ of subpoena and a restraining order be awarded against the Defts Pamelia and Elizabeth who is (sic) an inhabitant of this state and within the Jurisdiction of this Court. Your Orator prays for such other and further and releif (sic) as the justice of his case entitled him to and in duty borned will ever pray.
Perrow for Plt
James Wills Sr. family of Nelson County, Virginia, is not one of my ancestral or collateral lines. However I could not post this without taken a bit of time to do a few quick searches. The abstracted information from the 1820 census on Ancestry shows he owned 40 slaves.
A search for the will of said slave holder turned up an obsolete site with the last will and testament of James Wills, Senior (Nelson County, Virginia, Will Book B, pages 178-77-78) dated 29 September 1820 and probated 26 February 1821. It mentions slaves in the possession of some of his children but not by name.
James’ son James Wills Jr. was deceased at the time of the will and his two children, including his daughter mention in the chancery record above, were mentioned in item 2 of the will:
2nd. 1 give, devise and bequeath to my grandson. Jefferson L. Wills, son of my son, James Wills Jr. dec’d,, two-hundred and filly acres of the tract of land on which his mother now resides, the entire tract containing four-hundred acres, three hundred and sixty-seven of which was purchased under deed of trust made by my said son James to Murphy, Brown & Co., and thirty-three acres residue was purchased by me of my said son by deed of record in the Court of Nelson County which said two-hundred and fly acres having been intended to be given to my said grandson, I wish land of such manner by my said executors as to include the dwelling house to him and to his heirs forever, reserving the liberty to his Mother to use the said land and enjoy, the benefits thereof jointly with him during her natural life or widowhood. The residue of the tract being one hundred and fifty acres. I devise and bequeath to my granddaughter Pamela Smith, the wife of James Smith, to her and to the heirs of her body forever. I also give my said granddaughter the negroes (2) namely, Gordon and Hannah now in the possession of her mother, Elizabeth Wills, to her and the heirs of her body forever. The residue of my negroes on said plantation, consisting of John, Creasy, Hill and Disy (and) now in the possession of my said daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Wills (wife of James Wills, Jr. Dec’d.), 1 give and devise and bequeath to my grandson, Jefferson L. Wills and to his heirs forever, allowing to his mother the liberty as to use and profit in the same manner as the land left them during her life or widowhood. Having advanced considerable sum of money for my said son, James in his lifetime it is not my will and desire that his children should have any more of my estate nor do I wish them to be held responsible for any such advancement made to their said father.
With the above document of the chancery case and this partial abstract of the will of James Wills Sr. I RELEASE the names of his known slaves in the possession of his son James Jr.’s family in 1820: Jordan (Gordon), Hannah, John, Creasy, Hill, and Disy.
Following my three part series on the slaves of my 5th grand-father James Sims during Black History Month in February 2015 I made a commitment to write a post on a monthly basis until I’ve RELEASED all of the names of slaves owned by my ancestors. At this point in time I’ve done all the ancestors I know of who owned slaves. There are likely more as I move back in time but, at the moment, I will share names of slaves I find who were not owned by one of my ancestors.
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