Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING Names Found in the Mecklenburg County, Virginia Tax Lists

Last month I wrote An Example of What You Can Do With the Personal Property Tax Lists. An example of how these lists can be used for researching enslaved persons and their enslavers was not included.

When I found the Personal Property Tax Lists for Virginia were online, I had several paternal ancestors I wanted to find in the lists. Jeremiah Claunch of Mecklenburg County, Virginia, was one of these. Jeremiah was not a slaveholder and this was confirmed in the year-to-year analysis of his PPT entries. While browsing the tax lists I found that Mecklenburg kept exceptional records. The gentlemen enumerating the districts not only noted the number of slaves over 16 and 16 and younger, but also the names of the enslaved persons. Their names were written after the tithable’s name.

I realized having the names of the enslaved persons listed in two age groups could be helpful to people searching for their enslaved ancestors. As a test, I chose a person on the list taken by Bennett Goode in 1782, the district my Claunch ancestor lived in. The page was missing the left edge where the surname of the person of interest was written and was hard to read. However, as I followed him through the years, I found the names of the enslaved persons were being repeated and this must be the first entry in the PPT lists for John Ballard Senr. of Mecklenburg County, Virginia.1

1782 PPT list entry for John Ballard Senr. of Mecklenburg County, Virginia

In 1782, John Ballard Senr. had 20 slaves over 16 years of age and 33 who were 16 or younger. Along with the names of these enslaved persons was the name Jno. Waller. In 1783 the same Jno. Waller was listed with John Ballard which helped to prove this was the same tithable and the surname missing on the 1782 record was Ballard.2

1783 PPT list entry for John Ballard of Mecklenburg County, Virginia

The names on the 1783 PPT list were much more legible in the 1782 entry and included Jacob, Harry, Charles, George, Cate, Phebe, and Fanny who were over 16. Watt, Daniel, Bob, Biddy, Charlotte, Jacob, Stephen, Branch, Jesse, Judy, Jane, Starling, and Eliza were 16 or younger.

1784 PPT list entry for John Ballard Senr. of Mecklenburg County, Virginia

In 1784 Ballard was named with Daniel Daby (overseer) and the enslaved persons over 16 were Jacob, Harry, Charles, George, Watt, Kate, Phebe, and FannyDaniel, Bob, Jacob, Biddy, Jesse, Branch, Eliza, Starling, Sandy, Dick, and Jiminy were 16 and under.3

Watt had been on the 1783 list in the 16 and younger category and was now over 16 or 17 years old in 1783, i.e. born about 1766.

In 1785 no entry was found for John Ballard. I had not been able to find my ancestor Jeremiah Claunch the same year. After reviewing the images I found the district they both lived in was either not counted, lost, or missing.

1786 PPT list entry for John Ballard Junior of Mecklenburg County, Virginia

In 1786 the list was taken by the gentleman William Hepburn. The name of the tithable John Ballard Sr. had disappeared. Instead, a John Ballard Jr. was seen with Poole?, Peter, Absalom, Will, Jim, Pat, Phillis, Betty, Phillis, Lucy, and Judy, all over 16. The 16 and younger names were Bob, Frank, Dick, Simon, Marry, Davy, Tom, Cyrus, Sally, Nancy, Lucy, Liddy, Lukey, Silvia, Lavina, Docina, Hannah, and Milly.4

General Index to Wills and Lists of Heirs – Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Courtesy of Ancestry.com

As the names of the enslaved persons were no longer matching up with the names in the previous years for John Ballard Sr., I checked for a will that would confirm the death of the senior Ballard. In Will Book 2 beginning on page 213A, the will of John Ballard was found.5

The Last Will and Testament of John Ballard of Mecklenburg County, Virginia

In the name of God Amen. I John Ballard of the County of Mecklenburg being of sound and disposing mind and memory do make this my last will and testament in manner and form following.
First and principally I recommend my soul unto God my maker & my body I commit to the earth to be buried in a decent manner at the discretion of my Executor hereafter named and as to my estate I dispose [illegible] in the following manner.

I direct that all my just debts and funeral expenses be first paid and satisfied. I lend to my beloved wife Faitha during her life all my estate both real and personal and at her death to be disposed of as follows.
I lend to my daughter Lucy Holmes during her life a boy named Watt, a Girl called Biddy, a man named Harry and a girl named Lizzy and at the death of my said daughter I direct that the said negroes and the increase of the females be equally divided amongst all my said daughters children to whom and their heirs I give them forever.
I lend to my daughter Becky Hollaway a negro woman named Peib (sic, Phebe) and her children Charlotte, Judy and Doll and a negro man named Charles during her life and at her death, I direct the said negroes and the increase of the females to be disposed of by my executor in such manner as he may think will best contribute to the support of my grandchildren by my said daughter Becky until her youngest surviving child shall arrive at lawful age and at that time, that the said negroes and the increase of the females be equally divided amongst my said daughters children to whom and their heirs I give them forever. I also give to my said daughter Becky a good feather bed and furniture.
I lend to my daughter Martha Hollaway four negroes named Fanny, Cawcy, Jenny, and Dick during her life, and at her death, I direct that the said negroes and the increase of the said females be disposed of by my executor in such manner as he may think will best contribute to the support of my grand children by my said daughter Martha until her youngest surviving child shall arrive at lawful age and at that time that the said negroes & the increase of the said females be equally divided amongst my said daughters children to whom and their heirs. I give them forever.
I lend to my daughter Betty Cook two negro boys named Jacob and Stephen during her life and at her death, I give the said negroes to such child or children as she may then have equally to be divided between them, to them and their heirs forever. But if my said daughter Betty shall die without leaving any child, then I give the said negroes to my son John Ballard and his heirs forever. I also give to my daughter Betty one hundred and twenty five pounds ____.
I give unto my son William Ballard two negro men named Jacob and Jiminy, a negro woman named Kate and a boy named Starling to him and his heirs forever. Further I lend to my said son William a negro boy named Sandy during his life and at his death, I give the said negro boy to my grandson Francis Ballard and his heirs forever. I give and bequeath to my son Robert Ballard two negroes, ____ Anthony and Bob the land and plantation whereon I now live and one new feather bed to him and his heirs forever.
I give to my son Roberts’s oldest son living at the time of my death a negro boy named Jesse to him and his heirs forever; but if my son Robert should have no son alive at my death then I give the said negro boy to my said son Robert and his heirs forever.
I give to my grand daughter Mary Garland Ballard a negroe boy named Branche to her and her heirs forever.
All the rest and residue of my estate I give to my son John Ballard and his heirs forever.
I do nominate and appoint my son John Ballard sole executor of this my last will and testament hereby revoking all former wills by me heretofore made. In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal this 26th day of August 1783.
John Ballard (seal)
Sealed published & declared by the testator as for his last will & testament in our presence
John Brawn
[illegible] Nicholas
[illegible]

At a Court held for Mecklenburg County the 9th day of July 18 This will was proved by the Oaths of John Brawn & Lewis Earham witness thereto and ordered to be recorded. And on the motion of John Ballard the executor therein named who made Oath thereto and together with William Hepborn, William Johnson & David Stokes his securities entered into and acknowledged their bond in the penalty of five Thousand pounds Conditioned as the law directs Certificate was granted him for obtaining a probate of the said will in due form.
Teste
John Brawn

The names released from John Ballard Sr.’ tax lists and will

Jacob, Harry, Charles, George, Cate, Phebe, Fanny, Watt, Daniel, Bob, Biddy, Charlotte, Jacob, Stephen, Branch, Jesse, Judy, Jane, Starling, Eliza, Sandy, Dick, Jiminy, Lizzy, Doll, Cawcy, Jenny, and Anthony

The names put down on paper 235 years ago in the tax lists give more meaning to those found in the last will and testament of John Ballard Sr. Every record counts when so few were produced for enslaved persons.

Click here to go directly to the list of Virginia and West Virginia counties with PPT lists in the Family Search catalog!

Following 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 monthly post 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.

© 2021, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.


  1. Virginia. Commissioner of the Revenue, “Mecklenburg County, Virginia, Personal property tax lists, 1782-1850,” (browse-only images), <i>FamilySearch</i>, citing Microfilm of original records at the Virginia State Library and Archives in Richmond, Virginia., Personal property tax lists 1782-1805, Film 1854098, DGS 7857023, image 29 of 1116, Taken by Bennett Goode Gent., line 10, ___ John Senr. (surname cutoff). 1782 John Ballard Senr. PPT list entry (2 20 33 6). (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CS73-991R-5?i=28&cat=638357 : accessed 30 April 2021). 
  2. Ibid., image 50 of 1116, Taken by Bennett Goode Gent., line 12, Ballard John. 1783 John Ballard PPT list entry (2 7 13 36). (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CS73-9S96-8?cat=638357 : accessed 30 April 2021). 
  3. Ibid., image 86 of 1116, Taken by William Johnson Gentleman, line 8, Ballard John. 1784 John Ballard PPT list entry (2 8 11 38). (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CS73-991V-V?i=85&cat=638357 : accessed 30 April 2021). 
  4. Ibid., image 158 of 1116, Taken by William Johnson Gentleman, line 8, Ballard John Junior. 1786 John Ballard Junior PPT list entry (1 11 18 22). (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CS73-9SMB-C?cat=638357 : accessed 30 April 2021). 
  5. “Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983,” (images), Ancestry.com, citing original data of Virginia County, District, and Probate Courts, Mecklenburg County, Virginia, Will Books, Vol 1-3, 1765-1798, Will Book 2, p 213A, 214, 214A, and 215, image 352-354 of 619. 1787 Last Will and Testament of John Ballard. (https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/9085/images/007645459_00352?dbid=9085&h=1556387&ssrc=pt&tid=11910416&usePUB=true&treeid=11910416&personid=12782146987&hintid=&usePUBJs=true&pId=1556387 : accessed 30 April 2021). Note: The state of Virginia (and its respective counties who originally created these records) did not provide the appropriate permissions for these records to be placed online. The collection was removed from Ancestry‘s Card Catalog before June 2016. The images were accessible up until February 2020 and are once again accessible. 

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.

3 thoughts on “Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING Names Found in the Mecklenburg County, Virginia Tax Lists”

  1. The phrase that these human beings would be “disposed of” after being loaned to various family members for their lives is just bone-chilling and disgusting.

    Tithable was a new word for me.

    Thanks, Cathy. I hope this helps someone to find their enslaved ancestors.

    Liked by 1 person

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