Enslaved People of the Vance Family

Retracing the lives of enslaved people is a long and difficult process. The census records, so valuable in tracking other ancestors, are often of little help when researching enslaved people. The earliest records only count the number of slaves, with no regard to age or gender. Although the details improve with time, enslaved people never had their names recorded in the census records.

Owners' wills and deeds of sale are often far more useful. An enslaved person's name, and occasionally their age, would be listed in these records. They also offer a defining point between living in one place and another. Letters and biographies of slave owners may also mention slaves, but it is important to consider the potential bias of those sources.

These sources are most useful for those few people that can be found in multiple records and those who stay in one place or with one family. But, many people are only seen once or twice and very little is known about them. Some are lost to history, known only as numbers on a page. Nevertheless, they are remembered here with as much information as we can find.