Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING: Shocoe, Neaten, and Nicholas

Our ancestors didn’t live in bubbles. Their interaction with others can often help with the research questions we have – or the questions others have about their own ancestors.

Last month my search for the parents of my 6th great-grandmother Elizabeth Smith (ca. 1737-1793) of Amherst County, formerly of Goochland County, was not successful. But it led to the inventory of a man named John Smith whose goods and chattels were inventoried on 29 January 1755 in Goochland County, Virginia. The inventory included an enslaved person named Nan. She was not the only person I found while trying to solve the question of who Mr. and Mrs. Smith may have been.

Often I find myself reviewing an ancestor’s documentation, checking what has been looked into and what may still need to be searched for. These bits and pieces bring our ancestors’ stories to life. Elizabeth Smith’s story includes a husband and children. She married David Proffitt on 7 April 1757 in St. James Northam Parish, Goochland County, Virginia. When I skimmed over his timeline I realized I didn’t have a record to support his date of death.

To prove when he had died, or at least narrow down an estimate for when the event may have taken place, I checked the Will Books of Amherst County, Virginia. The Letters of Administration for his estate, his Inventory, and Guardian Bond for his grandchildren Augustine and David (my 4th great-grandfather), the sons of his deceased son Augustine (my 5th great-grandfather), were found.

1803 Letters of Administration for John and Rowland Proffitt

On the 19th of April 1803, John and Rowland Proffitt were bound as administrators of the estate of the deceased David Proffitt. John and Rowland were his two oldest sons. They were given letters of administration as their father did not leave a last will and testament.1

1803 Inventory of David Proffitt of Amherst County, Virginia

On the 6th day of May 1803, three undersigned subscribers appraised the Estate of David Profitt decd.

Inventory of the estate of David Profitt (part 1)

The inventory began with:

One old negro man Shocoe £25
one negro woman Neaten £80
one negro boy Nicholas £65

and continued with livestock, tools, household goods, furniture, etc. from the estate of David Profitt (as the name was spelled).2

Inventory of the estate of David Profitt (part 2)

Given under our hands the 6th day of May 1803.
Shelton Crosthwait
Charles Edmunds
Zachary White.

At a court held for Amherst County the 20th day of June 1803. This Inventory & Appraisement of the Estate of David Profitt decd was this day returned into Court & ordered to be Recorded.3

Releasing: Shocoe, Neaten, and Nicholas

My 6th great-grandfather David Proffitt died before 19 April 1803, the date his sons were bound as administrators of his estate. He likely died the same or previous month.

Tax lists for Amherst County are available free online on Binns Genealogy for the years 1782, 1790, and 1799. These show David had one enslaved person in 1782 and 1790 and two in 1799. Shocoe may have been part of David’s household as early as 1782 as he was described as an old man. Did Neaten become part of the household between 1790 and 1799? What about Nicholas? Was he a son of Shocoe and Neaten, or only of Neaten, or neither of them? Did he become part of the household in the period between 1790 and 1799 or only after 1799?

At the time of David’s death there were ten living children, only my 5th great-grandfather Augustine pre-deceased his father. I have only found the 1830 administrator’s bond and inventory for the estate of John Proffitt, David’s oldest son. There were no enslaved persons in the inventory. Will Shocoe, Neaten, or Nicholas be found with one or more of the other children of David Proffitt? Future research may answer this question.

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.

  1.  “Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983,” (images),, citing original data of Virginia County, District, and Probate Courts, Amherst Will Books, Vol 3-4, 1786-1810, Will Book 4, page 366, image 538 of 673. Letters of Administration for the estate of David Proffitt. ( : accessed 21 July 2018). 
  2.  Ibid., Will Book 4, page 117, image 412 of 673. Inventory of the estate of David Profitt(part 1). ( : accessed 21 July 2018). 
  3. Ibid., Will Book 4, page 118, image 413 of 673. Inventory of the estate of David Profitt (part 2). ( : accessed 21 July 2018). 

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.

7 thoughts on “Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING: Shocoe, Neaten, and Nicholas”

  1. Such interesting names—Shocoe and Neaten. I wonder where they came from. Where they derived from African names or were they the names the slaveowner assigned to them? Another disturbing reminder of our US past. Great work, Cathy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I searched for the names online as they are unusual. I found a reference to Sho-sho-coes being “walkers” or people who did not own horses which made me wonder if Shocoe was a native American or perhaps named after Shockoe Bottom or Shockoe Hill in the Richmond, Virginia, area. Nothing on Neaten as a name. I’m hoping someone can tell me if they are derived from African names. Thank you, Amy.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank You so much. Your family dynamics and history is so incredible. I just love your History and the way you write it about it and give us an understanding of what was going on. I am glad you are able to release the names of the Enslaved. Shocoe – Neaton – and Nicholas. I wonder if where they Originated from once Sold do those names have in common with the Enslavers in their Community? Their neighbors and such. I will keep these names on my mind in case I come across someone I can ask. Beautiful piece! Thank You once again! I’m so Proud of your Work Cathy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, True. I am always so happy to hear your thoughts on my family history writing. This is a time period I have not done much research for in America.
      It is unfortunate that the tax lists are not available as freely as the census. People would be able to find their ancestors who were enslavers and would know to search for the supporting documents.


  3. I am so grateful I do not have ancestors who were slave-holders (at least none found yet). How good of you to find these slaves and their names and “release” them. This was an interesting post to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought I’d found all of my ancestors who had enslaved persons but as I work my way back I expect there may be more. We cannot change what our ancestors may have done but we can help others by sharing the records. Thank you, Nancy, for dropping by and leaving a comment.


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