Guess what came up?
A book called African Americans of Washington County, Georgia: From Colonial Times Through Reconstruction.
Pulled from records at the Probate Office, the Genealogy Research Center at the Old Jail Library, the Georgia Archives, and more, it was compiled by Adam Adolphus, Sr, who was at the time researching his African American roots in the county. I came across it on the Lowcountry Africana website, which pulls together resources and research tips for people doing black genealogical research in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. Not only can you read the book's Introduction on their website, you can access the Table of Contents as well as the Index. And I found the name July in the book multiple times, including twice as July Cooper. (Note to Self: Spend more time exploring this site!) You can't read the whole book online, though, so I needed to find another way to access it.
A search on WorldCat, which calls itself the World's Largest Library Catalog, told me that the nearest copy was at the New York Public Library. I don't live in New York. I will happily travel there when I need to, but did I have any other options?
Well, I'm lucky enough to have right in my own backyard the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, which prides itself on having the "largest genealogical collection in the Mid-Atlantic region". (Full disclosure: I am a member of their Genealogical Advisory Group.) So I figured I should do a search and see if they had it.
So after work one day, I headed down during their extended evening hours and took a look through the book. What did I find that was of interest? Some tantalizing tidbits:
- In a list of names pulled from Union Baptist Church Minutes, there's a July Cooper who is "received by experience" on September 25, 1858. His "Holder" was a man named Archalous Duggan. This is promising because my great-great-grandfather, July Cooper, Jr, was born in 1858, and in tax records listing Freedmen of Washington County, his and Sr's employer is listed as a man named A. Duggan or A.C. Duggan. The listing for the person below July in the Washington County book lists her Holder as A.C. Duggan. Is this July perhaps my Sr, joining a church the year his son was born?
- In the extract from the Probate Appraisements Book A for Washington County, there's a July who is owned by Robert Cumming (dated Sept. 3, 1857). This one's tantalizing for a few reasons. First, the family tree and oral history state that July Sr's brother Noah was taken in by a Cummings family, so a connection to this surname is interesting. Second, also listed in this appraisement is an enslaved man named Kinion. In the set of tax records I wrote about at the link above, just up the page from July Cooper Jr and Senior in the book for 1872-77, you see a man named... Kinion Cumming.
What are the chances Kinion would be enslaved with a July and then end up near a different July in the same county? And third, the Cooper/Cummings family tree states that July Sr's spouse was a woman named Harriet. Guess who else is enslaved in the household of Robert Cumming? A woman named Harriet and her child. In fact, July, Harriet, and Harriet's child (only named as such) are listed one after another in the extract. It is possible they are a family group.
- In the same Appraisements Book, there is a child named July who is owned by Matthew C. Williamson. It is January of 1863 and he is 5 years old, making his birth year 1858. This is the same birth year as my July Jr.
- In the 1867 Reconstruction Returns for African American Voters, there is a July Cooper. A scan of the original record (listing both "colored" and white voters) is available on Ancestry.com. This one's tantalizing because you can see that about 8 lines down from July, there's that A.C. Duggan, who is my July's (or at least a July I strongly expect is mine) employer across several years of tax lists.
|Ancestry.com. Georgia, Returns of Qualified Voters and Reconstruction Oath Books, 1867-1869 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.(Washington County, Election District 20, Precinct 8.)|
- There's a July who is owned by a John Duggan when Duggan's estate is appraised in 1854. Given the A.C. Duggan connection in 1867 and the 1870s, this is of interest. In fact, if you look back at the 1867 Qualified Voters and Reconstruction Oath Book, you'll see that just 2 rows above A.C. is a J.C. Duggan. Is this John?
- Finally, there's a listing in the extract of the M.C. Smith Funeral Home Records for a Charlie Cooper, who was born 28 January 1883 and died 19 February 1935. His parents are listed as July Cooper and Amanda Duggan. Other records show that July and Amanda married in Washington County in 1892. Right now, this isn't enough to connect to my Julys, but stay tuned for another post that explores this further.
The rest of the July mentions are much harder to discern any relationships from, but they're still interesting and worth noting. For example,
- There's a July who in 1862 is owned by John G. Bryant and is hired out for $60, according to the extract of the Probate Office Record of Returns F.
- There's a July listed in the Probate Division of Estates Book A. He was owned by Ezekial Finney and was valued as part of a lot of 3 men worth $1750 when Jacqueline Finney purchased or inherited him in December of 1851. (Jef and Dan were the other 2 men.)
The more information I find, the more questions I have, but overall, I do feel like there's a blurry picture that is slowly (s-l-o-w-l-y) coming into focus. With more time, more digging, and more focused analysis, maybe I'll have a few new stories to share in time for next year's family reunion.
Before I sign off, though, here's one more thing I came across in the book, which broke my heart a little bit (as though there wasn't enough in the rest of these extracts related to enslaved men, women and children to break my heart). This takes us back to the first record I mentioned, for Union Baptist Church. Read the listing for Cherry:
In August, the church wondered where she was. In September, they learned she was gone, "carried off to Florida". This just makes my heart hurt. My great-great-grandfather was July Jr. His wife was Scoatney Scott. Her mother's name was either Cherry, Chansy or Chaney. I can't say that this is her, but whoever this Cherry is, she had a community, and they noticed when she disappeared.
These people were real people.
Slavery research is going to be hard.