I wonder if Princeton University will give me some kind of honorary degree for all of the hours I’ve been logging in their microfilm library.
In the past two weeks, I’ve been down there three times. (No easy feat with two kids, boxes that still need unpacking from our move and the two hour long round trip drive).
But I had to do it.
Amongst the vast records archived at Princeton’s Firestone library is a microfilm copy of the The Stirling Family papers. The Stirlings had at least three plantations in Attakapas, Louisiana which encompasses St. Martin and St. Mary parishes. They owned at least 100 slaves including my third great grandmother, Eliza Burton and some of her children. I keep returning there in hopes of finding any mention of Eliza or her family.
On my last visit, looking through the last of the five microfilm devoted to their papers, I came to the best part of the documents – the Register of Slaves. When I say best, I mean the part that holds the most promise. Emotionally, this discovery is close to the the worst part of the papers. The register shows that some of the slaves died as infants. Almost none are listed with last names. But sometimes, both the mother and father of the child are listed. Reading the register is like walking through an emotional minefield. One must proceed slowly and with caution.
But read I must. The Stirling’s meticulous record keeping of the births of their slaves could help me recover my ancestors. While an Eliza is mentioned, as well as a Tempe, Eliza’s daughter, I don’t think they are my Eliza and Tempe. The ages of these slaves would make them too young to be my people. But perhaps they’re your Eliza and Tempe. Once I figure out how to upload this 22 page file, you can check the register of slaves by clicking on the tab, “Enslaved People of Louisiana.” In the meanwhile, just shoot me an email if you want to look for your ancestors in the register and I’ll email you a copy.
I still have about a half a microfilm left to go so, after I catch my breath again from my own life and that of my ancestors, I’ll go back down to Princeton in hopes of reclaiming my people and maybe yours as well.