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July 16th, 2009
12:48 PM ET
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    Before the census some slave owners kept records of their slaves with the records of their livestock (horses, cattle, etc). One person I know traced her family back this way – found the ancestor in the livestock records and then found where and when was bought; from there found what ships had come in to supply the market with slaves and then checked the ships log which only listed counts – so many males, so many females – but it also said where they had sailed from. It doesn't get you back to an individual but it does get you back to the general area of Africa where your family may have started.

    July 16, 2009 at 10:31 pm |
  2. Mike

    The written article states:

    "The shacks probably weren't much refuge from the vicious clouds of mosquitoes, chiggers, fire ants, and other pests that still impinge on a person's every move on the plantation."

    There were undoubtedly bad things going on, but FIRE ANTS was not one of them. Not in the 1800's in South Carolina.

    July 16, 2009 at 5:45 pm |
  3. Sarah

    The article "Tracking Michelle Obama's slave roots" was very interesting and as a descendant of people who were enslaved, it touched home. While other immigrant group share with pride the stories of their embarkment on the shores of the U.S., and have kept track of their family history, culture and language, people who were enslaved from African roots were not considered human beings but property. There was no sense of pride for people who were sold into bondage by both their own people as well as Europeans around the world. As the emmancipation of slaves took place, descendants of these people tried their best to move away from slavery by not talking about. Slavery was a humiliating and shameful experience and later descendants did not want to talk about it with younger generations. The trail from slavery has turned cold in many families because aunts, uncles, great-great-grandparents did not want to talk about it because of the hurt. In essence, trying to find out more about one's family with African roots is all the more difficult because of the obvious lack of a paper trail but because the shame proved too great to talk about.

    July 16, 2009 at 5:14 pm |
  4. Ann Moody

    In the story about Michelle Obama's roots you mention that the slaves had to battle mosquitos, chiggers, 'fire ants,' etc. There's little doubt that there were ants on the plantation, but fire ants? It's my understanding that fire ants in the US is a relatively recent phenomenon, the ants having moved northward from Mexico in the last 30-40 years.

    I was very happy to see this story, but I would like for you to check out the business about fire ants. I don't think there were fire ants in SC in the 1800s. If I'm wrong, I would like to be corrected.

    Ann Moody

    July 16, 2009 at 5:02 pm |
  5. Dev Brown

    Two comments on your article/video.

    1. No slaves dealt with fire ants, those pests arrived in the 20th century well after slavery had ended.

    2. As far as the census, (white or back) no one other than the head of a household was identified until the census of 1850.

    July 16, 2009 at 4:17 pm |