Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING: Nan

Vera Marie Badertscher wrote a post recently on her blog Ancestors in Aprons about an ancestor she had been reluctant to research. In her post, Anne Marie Smith, Church and Family, I was reminded I have an ancestress whose maiden name was Smith and I had also been ignoring her.

My 6th great-grandparents David Proffitt and Elizabeth Smith married in St. James Northam Parish, Goochland County, Virginia, on 7 April 1757. This was recorded by Rev. William Douglas who kept a register from 1750 to 1797 known as The Douglas register. It is a detailed record of births, marriages, and deaths for St. James Northam Parish. The entry for David and Elizabeth’s marriage does not give the names of their parents but it does indicate they were both of the St. James Northam Parish.

Who were her parents? (Spoiler: I’m still searching!) Which Smith families were living in the parish at the time? Since this register included births, marriages, and deaths I checked to see if there were any Smith’s who might have been married at the time my Elizabeth Smith was born. I estimate her birth at about 1736, assuming she was 21 at the time of her marriage in 1757. The only marriage in the parish which was a possibility was for a John Smith and Susannah Raison on 7 October 1736. There are also birth entries for six children of this couple in the register. None were named Elizabeth.

I then took a different approach. In hopes of finding a will mentioning Elizabeth Proffitt formerly Elizabeth Smith as a daughter of a Mr. [first name unknown] Smith, I checked the wills of Goochland County for the time period. I found a John Smith whose inventory was presented and ordered to be recorded in Goochland County court on 18 February 1755. This John Smith could not be the same John Smith seen above as his wife Susannah gave birth to twins 29 November 1756, nearly two years later.

Although I cannot confirm John Smith whose goods and chattels were inventoried on 29 January 1755 was related to my 6th great-grandmother Elizabeth Smith, I did discover this man likely owned a slave named Nan. The inventory list does not stipulate Nan was a man, woman, or child but the value given on the list certainly points to Nan being an enslaved person.

1755 Inventory of John Smith of Goochland County, Virginia

1755 Inventory of John Smith of Goochland County, Virginia. Source: “Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983,” (images),, citing original data of Virginia County, District, and Probate Courts, Goochland Deed Books With Wills, Inventories, Vol 6-8, 1749-1765, Will Book 6, page 449, image 243 of 719. ( : accessed 21 July 2018).

Inventory of the Goods & Chattles of John Smith Decd of Goochland County January the 29th 1755.
Nan £35
1 Horse
1 Maire
4 Iron Potts
1 Tub 2 old pans 1 Cask 1 old Tub 1 pail 3 Piggens
1 brass kettle 1 bottle 1 looking Glass 1/2 Dozn. knives & forks
1 Ladle 1 Tub 2 Sifters 1 Can 4 hoes 2 Iron Wedges
5 Hoes 2 broad axes 1 Saddle 2 bridles 1 womans saddle
1 Coller & Hames 1 bag 2 Books
1 Bed & furniture
1 Dito & Dito
1 Chest 1 Trunk 1 Butter Pott 1 Bos
A percill of puter
2 Mugs 2 Vials 2 Ticklers 1 drinking Glass gra?
2 Rasors 1 pr. Spectacles 1 lb. Shott 1 box Iron & heters
1 Skillett 1 pr. Tongues & Shovell 1 Gun
1 peper Box Ink Glass 1 Candlestick & tin Can
1 Cross Cutt 2 Chairs 1 pr. Shares
a parcell of Carpenders Tools Shoe Tools
7 head of  Cattle 1 Trowel Hoe

In Obediance to an Order of Goochland Court We the Subscribers being first Sworn have Appraised the Estate of John Smith Decd. Given under our Hands.
John Mosely
Charles Rice
Joseph Pace
At a Court held for Goochland County February 18th 1755 This Inventory was presented in Court and Ordered to be Recorded.
Teste. Val Wood, Clerk

The search was not fruitful for the parents of my Elizabeth Smith. However, I also took another look at her husband David Proffitt and realized I did not have records proving his date of death. The Proffitt or Prophet line is yet another I have been reluctant to research. I located the Letters of Administration for his estate, his Inventory (which also included names of enslaved persons), and Guardian Bond for his grandchildren David (my 4th great-grandfather) and Augustine, the sons of his deceased son Augustine (my 5th great-grandfather). I’d like to thank Vera for pushing me to take a closer look at ancestors I’ve been ignoring.

Last month I shared Elizabeth Squires’ last will and testament when I released the names of Sarah and Benjamin. I had planned on continuing with her two sons who also left wills with slaves named. However, releasing the name of Nan who I found while searching for my unknown Smith 7th great-grandfather took precedence. Next up, in a week, will be the names found in the inventory of David Proffit. Elijah and Asa Squires’ wills will be shared during August.

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.

© 2018, 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.

15 thoughts on “Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING: Nan”

  1. So are you reluctant to look into these lines because they will be difficult (that doesn’t sound like you) or you have bad feelings about them or because they just don’t interest you? I don’t know that I have any lines I avoid, but then I can’t get back as far as you do so I have fewer lines I can research.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe reluctant is a bit strong of a word to use. The Proffitt/Prophet line has been researched by others. I suppose it is time to dig in and confirm the research and then continue further back. I don’t have bad feelings about them. The fact that I can get this far back makes it a bit of a problem time-wise to get the research done as the number of ancestors double each generation. Thank you, Amy.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is important work, and I’m sure one day descendants of Nan will be grateful for this shared discovery.

    On another matter, I’m rooting for you in straightening out matters with Facebook. Ridiculous!


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