Kinsearching August 17, 2008




Marleta Childs
P. O. Box 6825
LUBBOCK, TX 79493-6825

     Out of print for several years, the unique book REGISTRATION OF SLAVES TO WORK IN THE GREAT DISMAL SWAMP, GATES COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA, 1847 - 1861 by Raymond Parker Fouts is again available. This volume is a verbatim transcription of registration records of workers hired to cut the Orapeake Canal from White Oak Spring Marsh in Gates County to the Dismal Swamp Canal in Camden County, North Carolina during the era leading up to the Civil War.

     As the author explains in her introduction, the word "slaves" in the title is a misnomer. Instead of being enslaved, many employees were free. Physical descriptions indicate some may have been of Native American descent rather than of African-American heritage.

     Entries generally supply the laborer's name, age, and physical description. If the worker was a slave, the name of the owner also appears. Ages ranged from eight to seventy-two years. An example is the registration in 1854 of Jack ANDERSON, who was "of Color, said to be a free boy." He was "hired the present year by Mills ROGERS of Nansemond Co. Va and by him registered as one of his hands employed in the Great dismal swamp in the County of Gates...." Anderson's physical description states he was "...about Twenty three years of age, of a dark complexion, very low fore head, small eyes, wide mouth bad teeth and thick lips, his hair comes down very near his eyes, is free from scars and stands without shoes five feet two inches high..." The next year W. B. WHITEHEAD of Nansemond County hired ANDERSON to continue working on the canal.

     Although these registration records were created in Gates County, North Carolina, most of the laborers and their owners or employers were residents of Nansemond County, Virginia. Since Nansemond has suffered massive losses of records through the years, these documents are especially important to researchers looking for genealogical data in that county. A few recurring surnames are BRINKLEY/BRINKLY, COSTAN/COSTEN, DAUGHTRY/DAUGHTREY, EPPES/EPPS, EURE, FRANKLIN, HARRELL, KNIGHT, NORFLEET/NORFLETT, RIDDICK, SEGUIN/SEGUINE, and WHITEHEAD.

     Whether they are tracing African-American, Native-American, or Caucasian ancestors, genealogists with roots along the Nansemond County, Virginia/Gates County, North Carolina, border should not overlook this unique and interesting work. By producing this information in book form, Fouts has made an uncommon resource easily accessible to family researchers. Libraries which did not obtain a copy of REGISTRATION OF SLAVES TO WORK IN THE GREAT DISMAL SWAMP, GATES COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA, 1847 - 1861 when it was first published in 1995 will want add it to their acquisition list.

     Containing 144 pages, the volume has soft covers and a map showing the canal's location. The main index furnishes names of all individuals (including a list of female given names) and provides page numbers for topics such as ages and scars; names of slaves and free employees appear under the heading "workers." A smaller index supplies names of cities, counties, states, and towns. The book costs $30.00 plus $2.50 postage for one book and 75 cents for each additional copy. Residents of North Carolina should also add 7% state tax to the price. To order this unusual work, send your check--payable to NC Research at Home--to North Carolina Research at Home, c/o Walter R. Haun, 410 Crestview Drive, Durham, NC 27712-2335.

     Bonnie Bright Johannes, 5594 North 10th, Apt. 103, Fresno, CA 93710-6586 (e-mail: would like to know the given name of the Mr. CADE, who was the father of Alice Mildred CADE. She was born in February 1867 in Louisiana, probably in the West Carroll Parish area. Was his name possibly Brian, Bryan, or Byron? His wife was named Elizabeth. The 1870 West Carroll Parish census lists Elizabeth CADE as being 34 years of age and Alice CADE as being three years old.

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