When I first began searching for my family’s owner I was focused on Thales Neal’s family. However, I was frustrated when I couldn’t find any documents related to Thales or his father John Mayfield that proved they were my family’s owners. What I realized is that I needed to widen my scope when researching this family, not just focusing on the last one before slavery ended. I believe my ancestors sent a sign that I was looking in the wrong direction.
I subscribe to a few different forums on African American genealogy on Facebook. One day I happened to open my page and it automatically opened to the “Our Black Ancestry” forum. There was a post from a woman who had just started researching her African ancestry after discovering her 3rd great grandfather was a free person of color. She had been working with a lot of probate records and wanted to know if there was a place to record the names of slaves that she was finding among the records. I wanted to respond to thank her because I know how valuable that information is to those researching African ancestry, and there are quite a few that I have encountered who were not so friendly and forthcoming. As I scrolled through the many other responses and questions under her post I stopped dead at the last one that read “Yesterday I was researching my Neal side in Franklin County, GA and came across probate that had like 10 or 15 slaves names listed.” I couldn’t compose myself quickly enough to form a reply because I knew that was MY family she was talking about!
We exchanged information back and forth just to make sure, and she gave me a copy of the estate file that she had been looking in. It was for William Neal, who died in Franklin County in 1835. On the jacket of the file is a list of negroes: Terrell, Mahely (1844), Berry (12), Silvy (1842), Nancy (50), Reuben (28), Patience (27), Mary (19), Gabriel (12), Queen (8), Lewis (6), Sarah.
I found another cousin today! I can’t say enough about my distant family and the help they have provided to link our family trees. I have a profile coming up about my cousin Robert Lee Neal, and I was able to find out so much information from his nephew on Ancestry. Today I decided to review our correspondence for any possible clues I missed. There were quite a few, actually, that rekindled my curiosity for this line that relocated to Ohio from Georgia. There were two females and I did not know if they had married, and what their new surnames would be. Looking more carefully I realized he had provided one of the surnames that I thought was a first name. After making this correction I was lucky enough to find that the husband had a very unusual first name (love it when that happens), and had a son named after him. A quick check on Facebook and BAM!!! Two new third cousin connections!! I plan on doing a post later on how I make connections to living descendants using Facebook and other resources.