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Public historian David E. Paterson studies people who lived in nineteenth-century Upson County, Georgia, especially those who experienced slavery and Reconstruction. A civilian employee of the US Navy by day, he spends his leisure hours researching and writing local history. David has helped manage the Slave Research Forum at AfriGeneas.com since about 2001. David emigrated to the U.S. in 1958 from Scotland and was granted U.S. citizenship in 1975. He lives in Norfolk, Virginia.
We will discuss the most fruitful probate records for slavery research in most states, for the period about 1800 to 1865. The discussion may be less useful for the colonial period, or for the records of Louisiana or Spanish colonial Florida whose laws and processes derived from different legal traditions. In addition, David will describe the process flow from one record to the next – the purpoe of each record – and what kinds of slavery-related information maybe found in the record. Particular attention will focus on records that are sometimes overlooked in guides or how-to books; especially annual returns and vouchers. Researchers may find records of a deceased slaveholder separated by many years – in cases when a “life estate” came back under supervision of the court as a “residual estate.” Finally we will show the connections and similarities between probate records and guardians’ records.