52 Documents in 52 Weeks #38: Slaves Named on 1783 Cumberland County, Virginia Tax Roll

Recently, while working through my Mary Williams Love puzzle, she being the daughter of Samuel Williams, I decided to take another look at records for Samuel, who died in 1823. He is not my husband’s direct line. In fact, his presumed father, Thomas, was the brother of my husband’s Mathias Williams, so the cousin link is quite a bit removed in the past.

I also have made contributions to Schalene Dagutis’s The Slave Name Roll Project, which she created in February 2015. While researching my husband’s lines in the American South, I frequently come across records of enslaved people and I blog about these discoveries.

Samuel Williams was a wealthy man for his time, although much of his wealth unfortunately was based on being a slave owner. Samuel’s 1823 will made mention of old and infirm slaves and Samuel’s desire that his slaves who had families not be sold out of the neighborhood, but he did not name a single slave.

I decided to take another look at the Personal Property Tax list for Cumberland County, Virginia, where Samuel Williams lived. Those tax rolls survive all the way back to 1782!

For most of the years at which I looked, the tax list only included numbers, e.g., # of white tithables over 21, # of slaves over 21, # of slaves aged 16-21, # of horses, # of cattle and acreage owned.

However, the 1783 list was much more detailed. I found a list of all tithable males, but a separate list which actually named each of the slave owners and the names of their slaves. Here is Samuel Williams’ listing:

Samuel Williams, himself, Neptune, Peter, Peg, Aggy, Sarah,
Hannah, 6 – Moll, Bella, Nancy, Jacob, Jos? or Jas?, 5

Samuel passed away 40 years later, but he referenced his old, infirm slaves. It is possible that some of the people on this list were living in 1823.

Here is a sample of part of one of the W pages:

Men with Surnames Beginning with W on the 1783
Cumberland County, Virginia Personal Property Tax Roll

If you believe that an enslaved ancestor of yours might have lived in Cumberland County, Virginia, you should check the tax rolls to see if, by chance, he/she is named on those rolls. Most of the pages I looked at were quite readable and they are on microfilm in the Family History Library. (Years 1782-1816 = Film #2,024,521, 1817-1836 = Film #2,024,522, 1837-1844 = Film #2,024,523).


2 thoughts on “52 Documents in 52 Weeks #38: Slaves Named on 1783 Cumberland County, Virginia Tax Roll”

  1. The separate or addendum list with the names of the enslaved makes me wonder if all of the tax records included this information but were lost over time. The 1783 list is an important find and is a good reminder to explore all records.

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