The February 2011 issue of EssenceMagazine contains an article entitled, “A Legacy of Love and Pride,” by Robin D. Stone. In this article, a living descendant of slaves of Victoire Vincendiere visits the newly-rediscovered remains of the Vincendiere slave cabins in Frederick County, Maryland. Though uncredited by name in the article, I served as the chief researcher in Maryland. This series of articles will explore various aspects of the research I conducted.
The first task, when attempting to research the descendants of any common ancestor, is of course to gather information on that ancestor. When working with enslaved people, this task becomes that much more difficult due to the lack of much information about their enslaved lives.
In this case, I was provided with the name of the slave owner, Miss Victoire Vincendiere. Her identity was known, as the owner of the plantation on which the slave cabins were located. No other information was provided. My first task then became the identification of her slaves, and the location of these people after their emancipation.
In her will, dated 7 June 1849, Victoire specifies, “I also give and bequeath to my said Nephew Enoch Louis Lowe my Coloured Slave Augustus (Son of Carolina whom I have heretofor Manumitted) … I give and bequeath unto my Sister [Adelaide V. Lowe] My two Negro Slaves John and Cornelius … And if my Sister Adelaide V. Lowe dies before me I then give and bequeath all the personal property mentioned in Item forth and the two slaves named in Item fifth to Enoch Louis Lowe aforesaid.”The will identifies three slaves: Augustus, son of Carolina; and John and Cornelius. It furthermore specifies how these three slaves were to be distributed after her death.
In early 1852, the state of Maryland passed a law requiring that assessment records identify slaves by name and age. Section 11 of this Act states,
And be it enacted, That any person owning any slave or slaves, or any person having the care or management of such slave or slaves, shall deliver to the assessors, of the assessment district in which such slave or slaves shall live, whenever required thereunto by such assessors, a full and true account of such slave or slaves, owned by him or her, or under his or her management, with the name and age of each…
The 1852 assessment list for District 1 in Frederick County listed the following slaves owned by Victoire Vincendiere:
- John, age 28
- Augustus, age 28
- Cornelius, age 21
The codicil to Victoire’s will, dated 9 July 1853, provided more information:
Thirdly… It is my Will that my Negro Slaves John (Son of Matilda heretofore manumitted by me) and Augustine and Cornelius (sons of Caroline heretofore manumitted by me) be and they are hereby manumitted liberated and set free, the said Manumission liberation and freedom of my said Negro Slaves John, Augustus and Cornelius to take effect and become operative for each of them respectively at the dates following to Wit, John to be free on the first day of March in the year Eighteen hundred and fifty Eight, Augustus to be free on the first day of October in the year Eighteen hundred and fifty Eight, and Cornelius to be free on the first day of April in the year Eighteen hundred and Sixty three…
This codicil provides more information than is immediately visible. The dates of manumission specified are extremely significant:
- John, son of Matilda, to be freed on 1 March 1858
- Augustus, son of Caroline, to be freed on 1 October 1858
- Cornelius, son of Caroline, to be freed on 1 April 1863
If considered as approximate birthdays, these dates, taken with the ages from the tax list, reveal possible dates of birth:
- John, possibly born in March 1824
- Augustus, possibly born in October 1824
- Cornelius, possibly born in April 1831
Genealogist Jacob Mehrling Holdcraft published a two-volume list of Frederick County burials, entitled Names in Stone. This book reveals that Victoire Vincendiere was buried at “(Frdk. Cath. 198).”The only Catholic Church in Frederick town at the time of Victoire’s death was St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church. Many Catholics baptized their slaves, so the register of this church was searched.
The microfilmed records from St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church include a typescript of the baptisms, produced by the Daughters of the American Revolution many years ago, ca. the 1940s. Luckily, the microfilm also includes images of the original registers. The DAR typescript removed all references to the baptisms of slaves! Review of the original registers identified baptisms of these three slaves, as follows:
Baptized John born of Robt. & Matilda the 26th March  – Cassy God Mother all Slaves
[November] 21  Baptized Wm. Augustus born of Caroline a Slave, illegitimate – Cornelia God Mother
Apl. 3d 1831 Baptized Cornelius born 3 Decr last of Mary – Illigie. & Color’d Eleanor God Mother
As you can see, the church baptismal records confirm the approximate dates of birth of these three slaves. It also demonstrates how important it is to note all information concerning slaves, as every detail may hold vital clues.
Frederick County, Maryland, Wills Liber TS 1, ff. 289-290, Victoire Vincendiere will; Maryland State Archives microfilm no. CR 8-1.
“An Act to provide for the General Valuation and Assessment of Property in this State,” Laws Made and Passed by the General Assembly of the State of Maryland, At a Session Begun and Held at Annapolis, on Wednesday, the 7th day of January, 1852, and ended on Monday, the 31st of May, 1852 (Annapolis, 1852), pp. 392–408; digital images, Maryland State Archives, Archives of Maryland Online (http://aomol.net : accessed 21 Feb 2011), volume 615.
Frederick County Assessment Record, Slaves, 1852, Assessment District 1, folio 23; MSA C2138-1, MdHR 19,275; Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, Maryland.
Frederick County Wills Liber TS 1, ff. 290-291, Victoire Vincendiere codicil.
Jacob Mehrling Holdcraft, Names In Stone, Volume 2, (Ann Arbor, Michigan: self-published, 1966), pg. 1173.
St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church (Frederick, Maryland), baptismal register, 1822-1842, p. 13, baptism of “John” (1824); Maryland State Archives microfilm no. M 2823.
St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church (Frederick), baptismal register, 1822-1842, p. 18, baptism of “Wm. Augustus” (1824).
St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church (Frederick), baptismal register, 1822-1842, p. 60, baptism of “Cornelius” (1831).