Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING: Giles, Litt, Eby, Sampson, Bridgett, and Levill

There’s no need to wait until you find an ancestor who was a slaveholder to be part of the Slave Name Roll Project.

A distant cousin and descendant of our Johnson common ancestor wondered if the will entered into the Greenbrier County, West Virginia, Will Book 1 in 1803 for one William Johnston was for our 5th great-grandfather. Since our ancestor William Johnson died in 1805 in Nicholas County, I quickly replied it was most likely not the same person.

To be sure I looked up the Last Will and Testament and the Appraisement in the Greenbrier Will Book. The name of the wife of the deceased did not match our ancestor’s wife’s name nor did the children named. However, since the documents included the names of several slaves, I saved the link to share in this post.

Wm Johnston’s Last Will

“West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 31 October 2017), Greenbrier > Will book, v. 001 1777-1833 > image 99 of 400; county courthouses, West Virginia.

In the Name of God Amen ~ I William Johnston of Greenbrier County and State of Virginia, being at present in a doubtfull State of health, and well aware of my Mortallity, and the uncertainty of Life, Doin (sic) Duty to my Family and such Creditors as has pleased to indulge me in just Debts, Make ordain and Declare this Instrument of willing to be my last Will and Testatment revolking all other by me before made.
1st Item. To my well beloved wife Jane I give and bequeath the plantation whereon I now live during her natural Life time, on the condition that the profits and Encoluments from the same shall be applied as well to her own use as to the use of my Children; as long as they or such of them as shall continue to live with her, in such manner as she may deem most equitable and necessary to their respective Circumstances, and Conditions; and I also leave to her in the same manner and for the same purpose aforesaid my three Negroes, To wit, Litt, Giles, & Eby. But if my said wife sould (sic) die before the said Negroes, or any of them, then the said Negroes or the Survivors of them shall be sold by my Executors and the money arising from such Sale to be divided between my four oldest Children. To wit James, Polly, Samuel, and Sally.
2d Item. To my son James I bequeath my little negroe Boy Sampson, which I have heretofore disposed of to him in consignance of much Services rendered by him to me this small recompense I hope will be accepted by him as the only reward in my ___fore his many Services. I also bequeath to him the Bay horse now his riding Horse and a sorrel mare which is at present in the possession of my Brother Silas in Kentucky.
3d Item. To my Daughter Polly I Bequeath my little negroe Girl named Bridgett and her bay riding Mare known now to be her claim, and the Panteloon Philly which came of the said mare, & three Cows the Choice of my Stock.
4th Item. To my son Samuel I bequeath a young black horse and dark bay Mare both rising four years old and of the blood of the stud Horse kept by Joseph McNut. Also a sorrel horse of the Bachelor bread now four year old.
5th Item. To my Daughter Sally I bequeath my little negro child named Levill, also a Mare and Colt now at my Brother James Johnstons, and the same that was the claim of my Daughter Rebecka Deceased.
6th Item. To my four youngest sons, to wit, William, George, John & Andrew I bequeath my plantation whereon I now live, after the Decease of their Mother allowing the same to be sold and the money divided equally between them and the Title to be conveyed by my Executors to the purchaseor, or by their legal representatives in case of their Decease. But if my wife should die before my youngest son Andrew should arrive to full age of twenty one years the sale of the said Land to be suspended until he shall be of full age, or the youngest survivor of them shall be of such age, and not before. But the rents and profits of the said place shall be applied while such period as is heretofore directed in the 1st Item in this INstrument.
Item 7th. All my household and Kitchen Furniture with plantation Utensils to remain in the use and possession of my wife with my waggon and gears and necessary working Horses such as are no occupied in Labouring the plantation, all which are to be kept by my wife for the use of the plantation and disposed of at her Discression for her use and the use of the Children.
8th Item. To my son William I bequeath a young last spring’s Colt that came of the mare heretofore bequeathed to my son Samuel in the fourth Item of this Instrument.
9th Item. All the rest of my Stock of Horses and Cattle of every kind to be kept on my plantation to be sold annually by my Executors as they may become felt for market, and applied by my said Executors to the use of my

“West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 31 October 2017), Greenbrier > Will book, v. 001 1777-1833 > image 100 of 400; county courthouses, West Virginia.

Family in as equal and Just a manner to each of them as they __ convocunity(?) do, so to the discharge of my Just debts.
10th Item. All my Land lying on Anthony’s Creek in this County, and such lands as I hold in partnership with Patrick Boyd in Monroe County or any other Lands whereof I am now possed and not here before mentioned to be sold by my Executors or their legal representatives and the money arising with all Debts due to me by Bond Bill or open accounts to be applied to the discharged of my Just Debts and the overplus if any to be divided equally amongst my four oldest Children or otherwise to Educate my my (sic) son John as in the Judgement of my said Executors shall be thought best. But if applied to the Education of John the same to be reimbursed by him out of his part of the Land Bequeathed in the 6th Item of this Instrument.
11th Item. My panteloon Stud Horse to be sold and the money applied as in the 10th Item next above.
And this I do declare to be my last will and for the Due Execution of the same I do hereby appoint my trusty and well blessed Friend Majr. William Renick and my son James Johnston Executors hoping & trusting that all things done by them will oblige the rec___ and reward of the Just. In Testimoney whereof I have hereonto set my Seal and Subscribed my name this 25th day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand eight Hundred and two.
Wm Johnston *Seal*
Signed Sealed & acknowledged
in the presence of us 
Jame Davis
Charles Arbuckle
James Withrow

At a Court held for Green (sic, Greenbrier) County the 25th day of January 1803
This last will and Testament of William Johnston Deceasd was presented in County & proven by the Oaths of Charles Arbuckle and James Withrow, who also made oath that they seen James Davis the other Witness sign the same in their presence & William Renick and James Johnston the Executors named in the said Will made oath according to Law and thereupon entered into Bond with Joseph Mathews and Christopher Vanhab their Securities in the penal sum of 4000 Dollars with condition as the Law directs.
John Stuart C.G.C.


“West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 31 October 2017), Greenbrier > Will book, v. 001 1777-1833 > image 101 of 400; county courthouses, West Virginia.

The Appraisement of the Estate of the late William Johnston deceased was returned into Court and ordered to be recorded at the Greenbrier June Court 1803. Included in the appraisement were Giles, Litt, Hebe, Sampson, Briget, and Lewisa. The names appear to be the same as those seen in the will except that Ebe is seen here as Hebe and the child named Levill may be Lewisa. Since the will was written by the slaveholder I have used his version of the names for the time of this post.

Section of the appraisement with the names of the enslaved persons

Following the death of William Johnston, the next census was the 1810. From Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1920 by Wm. Thorndale and Wm Dollarhide, the 1810 censuses for Cabell, Greenbrier, Hardy and Tazewell counties were “lost”–no details as to how.

By 1817 son Samuel had died and left a will naming his sister Mary (seen as Polly in the 1803 will of father) and his brother William. Samuel, who had not received an enslaved person from his father, mentioned only leaving his real and personal property to his sister.

By 1820 the only Johnston household in Greenbrier County with slaves was that of William & George Johnston who were in one household with both names. They were likely the two oldest of the younger sons of William Johnston who died in 1803. Their mother appears to be in this household as well as the two youngest sons and another male. There are 5 slaves in the household.

1820 U.S. Federal Census
Greenbrier County, Virginia
Free White Persons – Males – 16 thru 18: 1
Free White Persons – Males – 16 thru 25: 2
Free White Persons – Males – 26 thru 44: 3
Free White Persons – Females – 26 thru 44: 1
Free White Persons – Females – 45 and over : 1
Slaves – Males – Under 14: 2
Slaves – Males – 45 and over: 1
Slaves – Females – Under 14: 2
Total Slaves: 5
Total All Persons – White, Slaves, Colored, Other: 12

Could Giles, Litt, and Eby be three of the five slaves in the household? When did William Johnston’s widow die? Did she leave a will?

More to come next month….


True's statementFollowing my three part series on the slaves of my 5th great grandfather 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 or owned by persons I’ve researched who were relatives or neighbors of my ancestors.

These posts are part of the Slave Name Roll Project (About the Project) administered by Schalene Jennings Dagutis who also blogs at Tangled Roots and Trees.

© 2017, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Author: Cathy Meder-Dempsey

When I’m not doing genealogy and blogging, I spend time riding my racing bike with my husband through the wonderful Luxembourg countryside.

10 thoughts on “Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING: Giles, Litt, Eby, Sampson, Bridgett, and Levill”

    1. These I found on FamilySearch under West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971. They have an index for this collection but it does not cover all counties. The collection was updated on 11 Oct 2017 and it looks like it includes newly indexed records. I usually go straight to the browse version, check for county, then view the collection that has the index from the books. For most counties in WV there are wills or inventories in the pre-1850 books which have slaves named. I’ve found people who had enslaved persons were generally linked by marriage to other families who also were slaveholders.
      The same collection is also on Ancestry and part of the US subscription. The problem is that they are not searchable by slave names or even flagged to have slaves mentioned.
      Another collection I often refer to is the Virginia Memory: Chancery Records at the Library of Virginia:
      Most of my research in the US is in WV and VA so it is not unusual to run across a document with names of slaves.
      Thank you, Amy, for asking this question.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for the answer! So when you do this, you are looking for the will of a specific person, right? Not for a slave who is or might be named in a will? Since almost all my ancestors arrived either shortly before the Civil War or after and lived in the North, I’ve never encountered any slaveholding relatives. But I also rarely have seen any wills for any relatives. Thanks, Cathy!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It is mostly by chance when I find a document with a name of a slave. But I have also checked the pre-1870 census listings for an area an ancestor lived in to find out which of his neighbors or possible relatives may have had slaves. Then I check the wills and chancery records for these people. Most of my ancestors were laborers and not owners of large pieces of land or plantations.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I am so impressed with how you do this. Like you, my ancestors were not landowners—they were urban dwellers working either as merchants or factory workers or peddlers. They were in many cases lucky to have enough to eat themselves.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Wow! While my relatives were not slave owners–they arrived to this country too late, thank goodness. But I think that grandmother’s brother-in-law, a southerner, came from a slave-holding family. Thanks for bringing up this project that most of us can contribute to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As I mentioned to Amy, my ancestors were mostly not large landowners. We all have a geographical area we are well acquainted with, research-wise, and our knowledge can be used to seek out the records with names of enslaved persons. Thank you, Luanne.

      Liked by 1 person

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