Surname Saturday: digging up the root of our Burton name

Allen Burton's estate listing his slaves, including a woman named Tempy (with name spelled Tempey).

1839 listing of the slaves in Allen Burton’s estate includes a woman named Tempy, like my great, great-grandmother.

Happy Summer!  Mine has been speeding by at a breakneck pace which is why it’s taken me until the dog days to post.   But I’m not complaining.  Amid driving kids to summer camp, packing and unpacking for family trips and trying to stay submerged in water to fight the heatwave in our state, the genealogy gods still managed to throw me a bone.

Right before we took our annual family vacation to Hilton Head in late June, I tried to follow up on some things in my research I’d been neglecting.  Namely, the Thomas Burton papers.

Thomas W. Burton and his wife Nancy lived in Yanceyville,  North Carolina, from about 1850 to 1908.  His collection of papers, archived at North Carolina State University at Chapel Hill, include correspondence between Burton and family members in Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama as well as missives on everything from their health to the price of slaves. Since the people first documented as owning my great, great-grandmother were also from North Carolina, and she ended up in Mississippi with a possible tie to Alabama, I figured I should check out these papers, long shot or not.  I hoped they would help me discover  how my great, great grandmother Tempy Burton got her last name.

But instead, they bored me to tears.  Except for a few interesting exchanges from a relative to Mr. Burton, pestering him for never writing, some mentions of a slave, and how the Civil War was dragging ong, the collection was mostly receipts and ledgers. Worried that I might miss a clue pertaining to my family buried in the receipts,  I tried to drum up the courage to wade through the ledgers once more stored on my laptop.  As often happens, my ennui lured me to Google.  I typed “Burton, slave owners” and “Burton slaves” into the search engine, (so similar to the search words I used to find the picture of my family in the header above).  The search returned a bunch of links like the slave narratives of Annie Burton and a doctor, William Burton (whose mom’s name was Eliza like my third great grandmother).  There was also  a link for the Digital Library of American Slavery. Compiled by the Race and Slavery Petitions Project and libraries at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, this digital collection encompasses 15,000 petitions  to Southern courts pertaining to enslaved people, their owners and free people of color in the slave owning states.  In one such petition a woman, “Tempey” is listed as Allen Burton’s slave.  (I’ve seen my great, great-grandmother’s name spelled with and without the “e”).  Among Burton’s other slaves listed were Polly, Nancy and Albert – the names of Tempy’s siblings. (Tempy had another sister, Liberia but she was freed as a child.)  Of the 50 or so other petitions I looked through on the database, this was the only one with a slave named Tempy.  The petition was made in 1839 to  Allen Burton’s estate in Alabama, two points of fact that intrigue me.  In the 1910 census Tempy lists Alabama as her father’s birth place. The filing year of the petition, 1839, was seven years before Hill Jones’ 1846 will where Tempy first shows up in a public document. I still have more work to do, but what if I’ve found the original owner of Tempy?

 

Finding Temple's ancestors: which way should I go?

My great, great-grandmother, Temple Burton in the middle with her final owners, Col. W. R. Stuart and his wife, Elizabeth. We believe the girls on either side were two of Temple's daughters. (Picture courtesy Ray Bellande's website via Renee Smith's collection at the University of Southern Mississippi McCain Archives)

By the time Monday comes around, I’m eager to send my kiddies off to school so I can get down to  digging up my roots.  But today, I was overwhelmed by the size of the task.  It seemed a million different directions beckoned me to, “Look Here!” Today, it felt like I had too many leads to follow.

In order to find out more about my great, great-grandmother, Temple Burton, born a slave around 1820, possibly in Louisiana I could research:

  • family histories in Warren County, North Carolina where Hill Jones was born. Jones was Temple’s earliest owner that I’ve been able to find.  Family histories might  record how Temple entered into the Jones family, perhaps as part of a will or through a marriage.
  • track down deeds of sale belonging to Hill Jones which may show who Hill Jones bought her from if she wasn’t passed down to him through his family.
  • Burton slave owners, since Temple’s last name is Burton and slaves often took their owners’ last name.

While three directions doesn’t seem like an awful lot, each of them splinters off into many more trails.   For example, I’d need to look up Burton slave owners in several different places.   Temple’s census records aren’t consistent and list several different states as her parent’s place of birth. That means,  I have to consider Burton slave owners in  Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, the states listed as her parents’ places of birth.

It’s doable, but not in one school day. By the time I called the Warren County records department in North Carolina, was redirected to their state archives, and abandoned that trail to try my hand at a hail mary search of Burton slave owners in Alabama and Mississippi,  it was already time to meet the girls at the bus stop.

I did at least find information about another Burton, Annie who published her memoirs on her childhood in slavery.

But I need to get organized.  I know I’m not going to find any specific record in one day, but I probably need to focus on one set of records at a time, lest I get waylaid like I did today.

What do you think is the first trail I should follow on this leg of my journey?

The Slaves of Hill Jones

List of slaves bequeathed in the 1846 will of Hill Jones

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, a will that listed my great great-grandmother, Temple Burton as part of Hill Jones’s property also listed many other slaves as well.  His will was notarized on September 8, 1846 in Madison County, Mississippi. Jones didn’t have hundreds of slaves, but he did have at least two dozen and I’ll list them and their owners below in hopes of helping one of my fellow researchers trace their family tree:

To his wife, Judith Jones:  Tiller, Vincent, William, Tempy, Marian, Phil, Reuben and Susan.

To son, Willis B. Jones:  Edmund, Philip, Martha (sp.), Austen or Auster and Rose, his wife, Alford, Rene or Remy (sp.?), Richard & Chaney (sp.?) his wife and their three youngest children Cornelius, Catherine & Eliza, also George and “my two blind boys Isaac and Britten.”

To daughter, Mary M. Whitehead:  Mose, David and Solomon.

To daughter, Martha McCauley:  John, Louisa, Grace or Green? and Jack

To daughter, Elizabeth Howcott: Essex and Huldy

To daughter Rebecca, Charles, Handy and Collier (sp.?)

Thanks, Liz for helping me decipher this challenging text!

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