Saturday, March 20, 2010

"Friend of Friends": Fariss slave record, Catahoula Parish

"A friend of friends" was a password used on the Underground Railroad.  My "Friend of Friends" series was inspired by the essay posted by Sandra Taliaferro here.  I am posting slave records occasionally as I come across them, in the hope that it might help other researchers find their ancestors.  Wouldn't it be great if more people joined a "Friend of Friends" Friday (or any day) meme?

[UPDATE: Search Geneabloggers for more "Friend of Friends Friday" posts from other bloggers. And now Sandra of the essay linked above and Luckie Daniels of Our Georgia Roots and the first Carnival of African-American Genealogy (who previously issued an impassioned plea for sharing info about slaves in order to help African-Americans trace their ancestry) have created the website A Friend of Friends, a place to post slavery records publicly or anonymously and/or find ancestors.]

These are transcriptions from the probate records of David Fariss (Farris, Faress, etc.) of Catahoula Parish, Louisiana (my great-great-great-grandfather).  I have some notes and transcriptions from files given to my mom and I by a genealogist cousin, Zola Scott Hardy, before her death. These records from the Fariss probate concern the 1841 sale of a slave named Alexander, a.k.a. "Elick" (Alec) described as a "negro boy" of "dark complexion."  His age is apparently on one document (see the third image below) but Zola could not read it.

Note: In Louisiana, the term "succession" is used for probate or estate records.  A "conveyance" is a deed.  The first two pages concern an August 1841 family meeting to discuss selling property, including Alexander.    (Click to enlarge each image below.)


My first thought is that if Alexander is a "boy," where is his mother?  Was he sold away from her, or is he being sold away from her? Is he the only slave of David and Lucy (Davis) Farris?  Inventory notes refer to two tracts of land and "negroes" [plural], but I see no other mention of slaves in the notes and transcriptions I have.  Anyone researching the Farris slave(s) should check for microfilm, if any, of the original records.

My second thought is that the document explains the reasons for the sale of Alexander and other "property."  Is this usual?  Can other researchers out there tell me? 

(The names cut off at the bottom of p. 2 are the same ones mentioned in p. 1.  My scanner is being cantankerous.)

Edom L. Fariss (he may be E.E. or Elem Earle Fariss in some records), David's son and administrator of the estate, bought Alexander at auction for $456 (his value was appraised at $400) in September 1841 (below).  The probate file is still open in 1847 when a new administrator is sought after Edom's death.  Alex's fate may be found in Edom's probate file, dated 31 Dec. 1844 (probably in Catahoula Parish).  Edom married Nancy Nettles.  After Edom's death, she married James P. Bambrick.

This is one complicated probate packet.  It spans at least seven years.  David Fariss or Farris was married first to Elizabeth Love and then to Lucy Davis.  Elizabeth's children, or their "tutors" (legal representatives for minors), seem to be disputing things with Lucy and her child (my great-great-grandmother).  Throw in land which is not selling, an administrator who dies, children who die, minors who become adults, a child or two who married their "tutor," and it gets rather convoluted.  If I can understand it all better, perhaps I'll post the rest of the probate packet in a series of posts.

For more research: The Family History Library catalog includes successions (probate records) of Catahoula Parish from 1846-1890 on microfilm.  The David Fariss packet is dated 7 Apr. 1841; I don't know if the later proceedings are included on that microfilm.  Conveyance (deed) records are available from 1807-1887.


  1. Amazing Liz! What a record for a descendant to have and a mystery to solve! I have never quite seen an explanation offered to the sale of property before -- slave or otherwise.

    Thank you for being a faithful Friend of Friends! AFoF is keeping me SUPER busy these days which speaks to how much support we have.

    Thank you for being a part of its success!:-)


  2. You're very welcome. I'm also happy to provide anyone researching Alexander with more info on Edom Farris's family if it will help.