“Paying It Forward”: The Importance of Sharing the Slave History from your Family Trees Part Two



“Pay it forward is an expression for describing the beneficiary of a good deed repaying it to others instead of to the original benefactor.”

This term and idea has been around for a very long time. In the year 2000 it became a popular movement after the movie “Pay It Forward” premiered. Everyone began talking about how we can all do this in our lives so it may not only enrich others but also ourselves. Let’s take this one step farther and apply this concept to our Genealogy work.

A week ago I wrote a blog entitled “The Importance of Sharing the Slave History from your Family Trees”. I was absolutely blown away with the positive response I received. It all stemmed from a question I had asked on a Black Ancestry Facebook page. I just wanted to know how I could add the names of the slaves that I found in the Wills, Estate Records or the 1850 and 1860 U.S. Federal Census Slave Schedules so that others could find this vital information. After reading all the posts I decided that I needed to do something more.

So here is the CHALLENGE:  While you are searching and researching your Family History think about how you can also help others in their quest to find family. How can you “Pay It Forward”?

#1 As you find information in ANY document that lists the names of slaves or other information i.e. age, race, relationships etc, copy that document to your Ancestors tree.  In Ancestry.com I use the “fact” button and start a new category called “Slave Owner”. Here I add the year, how many slaves were listed, any names, ages and so forth. By attaching the document to this ‘fact’ it makes it easier when a person looks at your Ancestor  because they can just click on it to view the information without having to go looking for it.

#2 One suggestion was to start a new tree with just the slaves names. One of my Ancestors, Permelia Allen had two slaves, Ambrose and Caroline Collard. So I would start a whole new tree with just these two people in it. I would include all the information I can find concerning them then I would link it back to the slave owner so that whoever is looking for Ambrose and Caroline can find where they were and where they came from. You can also attach documents here also.

#3 Submit your information to some databases that can upload it to their site so others can view it.

                OBA Shared Legacies – Cifreo  www.ourblackancestry.com

                AfriGeneas ~ Slave Data Collection  www.afrigeneas.com

 #4 Write to your local Historical Society to encourage them to release the names of Slaves they may have in their Historical Records. Oftentimes they are not listed anywhere because they are overlooked. Stress the importance of doing this so others may find them.

#5 Contact Ancestry.com, FamilySearch and other Genealogy sites and encourage them to develop a way to add this information to our trees so that it can be searchable.

#6 SPREAD THE WORD. The more people we can get to do these 6 things, the better chances others may have in finding their Ancestors.

 You can be a blessing to others so please just “Pay It Forward!”


The Importance of Sharing the Slave History from your Family Trees.


About a month ago I joined a Black Ancestry Group on Facebook. You may think this is an odd thing to do considering I am not Black. I did it for a specific reason, to ask a question that had been plaguing me for a long time.  The following is the question that I finally asked about 5 days ago.

“I have had this question rolling around in my head for several years but didn’t know who I could ask about it. I have been afraid it may offend people but I have read some posts on here so I feel comfortable asking. Let me preference it with this: Unfortunately, I have several slave owners in my family tree, some dating back into the late 1600s. I have some wills that give names and locations. Would it help others if we were able to list those names and locations on our trees so their family could find them? If this were possible what would be the correct way of doing this? Thank you in advance for your answers.”

I was hoping for a little direction or maybe a few ideas as to how to share this information in a way that would benefit those who would need it. I was overwhelmed with the numerous responses I received! Here are a few of them:

“Valerie Hughes, bless you for wanting to do this….and for overcoming your fear History IS what it IS, and we’re all in it, no matter how we got here. It’s highly refreshing to have come across you, and your willingness to share your information with those that can benefit. Hey, Black folks just wanna KNOW some stuff, and for those of us who do, MUCH THANKS to you.”

” I haven’t begun to find a slave master for my ancestors so I say list the information and thank you, Valerie Hughes, for your forward-thinking. “

“You are a blessing to so many looking for slave families. I wish ALL descendants of slaves would make the wills available. Thank you, Valerie Hughes!!”

I was so incredibly humbled by the excitement and encouragement I received. I started thinking how can I help to pass this along so that others can also share what ‘slave owner/slave’ information that they may have?

A couple of the group members gave me websites so I could add the information I had found on the wills, Estate Records and the 1850 U.S. Federal Census Slave Schedules to them. I have submitted 3 family records so far and I will be adding more as I am able. Then I started thinking, what else could be done? Surely I am not the only one with this vital information. I know how I feel when I come upon a brick wall in my family and I also know how I feel when I am able to break through that wall and find the information I desperately needed. It is the best feeling in the world and I think everyone should have a chance of experiencing it. So here is what I can up with:

#1) As you go through your family trees or your documents take the time to copy any ‘slave owner/slave’ information that you find. This can include any oral histories you may have.

#2) Submit them to the appropriate websites. (I will post the 2 that I have at the end of this blog)

#3) Tell others about doing this. Paying it forward is always a good thing!

#4) Contact Ancestry and Family Search and encourage them to develop a way of adding this information to our trees in a way that can be searchable.

I want to encourage everyone who reads this to take the time to do these things because in doing so we can enrich the lives of others who are also searching for their Family History!

AfriGeneas ~ Slave Data Collection


OBA Shared Legacies – Cifreo


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.