Linked Through Slavery–The Last Furman Slave Owner

This is the final post in my series of three on the connection of my father’s family to slavery —a 110-year legacy— and my search for African American descendants whose ancestors toiled on my family’s plantations in South Carolina. This post takes us to the Civil War and my 5th great grandfather, James C. Furman. Like his father before him, he was a slave owner, Baptist minister and educator.  Along the way, I have had the help of genealogist Sharon Morgan and Trina Roach, a recently revealed linked descendant.  Sharon helped guide me through the murky records of the censuses and other on-line research. Trina provided me with irrefutable evidence —by way of a 1916 article in a local Sumter County, South Carolina, newspaper[1]—that some of her ancestors were owned by mine.  Trina found me online through Sharon’s website, Our Black Ancestry, which links to the BitterSweet: Linked Through Slavery blog. She also provided me with information about her family from the 1870s, as well as other materials, which she has graciously allowed me to use in this post.  I thank both Sharon and my linked descendant, Trina, for their help with this journey. 

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Linking through the Internet: A Miracle

My internet connection had been down all day.  I was beginning to get very perturbed—for a lot of reasons.  One was that author and genealogist Sharon Morgan was going to help me scour the internet to look for possible linked ancestors on my father’s side of the family, a task I thought might be impossible.  (I’ll describe our work toward this effort in another post.)   I had “won” Sharon’s services at the Coming to the Table silent action in May of this year, and I was anxious to get started.

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The Furman Slave Legacy Continues

In my previous post about the Furman family’s slave legacy, I wrote about my first ancestor in South Carolina, Wood Furman, and his connection to slavery. In this post, I write about Wood Furman’s son, Richard Furman (my sixth great grandfather), and his life as a Baptist minister and a slave owner.  I’m also pleased to introduce Trina Roach, my first linked cousin on my father’s side of the family, who found me through Sharon Morgan’s Our Black Ancestry site and the BitterSweet: Linked Through Slavery blog. (See story in previous post.)  For this post, Trina has shared some of her research about her ancestors who were owned by mine.

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Looking for Links: First Steps

Introduction

This is the first of three posts about my initial efforts to identify linked descendants connected to my slave-owning ancestors on my father’s side of the family in South Carolina.  These ancestors are Wood Furman (1712 – 1783), Richard Furman (1755 –  1825) and James C. Furman (1809 – 1891).  On my mother’s side, I have a rich history of on-going relationships with the descendants of enslaved people at a plantation in South Carolina (see Shared History) that my cousins and I still own today—the remnants of what Sherman left behind.  Several African American families stayed on the place after the Civil War and maintained relationships with my family that continue to this day.   

I must begin this blog by acknowledging the tremendous advantage I have as a white person from a privileged family in undertaking this research—an advantage I recognize is not generally shared by black people or, for that matter, the majority of white people.  Because of this family legacy, I have access to historical records and documents from the early 18th century right up to the present concerning my father’s family. For African Americans, the census records do not even record names until 1870, and  most whites descended from slave owners do not necessarily have ancestors who were in this country during colonial and Revolutionary War periods. 

Using these documents, these three posts will describe my journey to find ancestral links to specific descendants of enslaved people and as well as document my paternal connection to slavery.

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I’m looking for the descendants of Sirrah, Glasgow and Jinny, three people owned by my 7th great grandfather, Wood Furman, whose descendants, sadly, I will probably never find.    An additional person, Moll, is listed as collateral with Glasgow, on a mortgage to purchase additional land by Furman in St. Thomas Parish, South Carolina (Mortgage Book AAA p. 413, no date from secondary resource provided).  These two enslaved people were surely worth a considerable amount of money to be accepted as collateral for this debt.  Just knowing the names of these four people, I can at least begin to acknowledge them and their plight.  I can perhaps imagine their lives as enslaved humans and attempt to remember and honor them.

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