How to Validate Slave Owner Parentage

+16 votes

So I have been assisting in the G2G question to connect Miles Davis and Cicely Tyson, and came across some information that I haven't been able to prove. If the information proves true, I believe we'll be able to connect all the profiles in the chain, plus Miles and Cicely. However, so far I have not found any evidence to support the claim.

The claim (found on a reasonably sourced Ancestry tree) is this: Charles Hardy, born 1810 in Virginia and most likely born a slave, was the son of a slave owner, Enoch Harding.

The Ancestry information can be found here (if you have the Library Edition):

While much of the tree is sourced, this fact is not. So to prove this, I suspect we'll need a couple of things.

One - Enoch Harding died in 1849 in Virginia. So it seems unlikely (but possible) that he freed his slaves upon his death. If we can look over a copy of his will, it might reveal additional information to help us figure out this puzzle. It's even possible he acknowledged this illegitimate son in his will. Either way, this could potentially help understand the situation.

Second - presuming that Enoch transferred ownership of Charles Hardy to one of his sons, there seems to be evidence that several of his sons travelled to Calloway County, Kentucky, where Charles Hardy and his family are found post-Civil War (see Charles' profile for a link to the 1870 Census entry). If we can obtain additional data regarding the sons who relocated to Calloway County and determine if they had slaves of approximately the correct age, it might help us to carry this forward to the next component - was Charles freed early or possibly at the end of the Civil War. And if he was freed at the end of the Civil War, is there any evidence we can find of this, either in Freedmen Bureau records or otherwise.

So there's the dilemma. I'll put Charles Hardy's profile in the question, as it really relates towards sourcing his parentage more than anything else. There could easily be something clever I'm missing here too, so please point out any other avenues of approach I might be leaving out. Thanks!

WikiTree profile: Charles Hardy
in Genealogy Help by Scott Fulkerson G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
I use one of three proofs before I add a slave owner as a parent 1) oral history that is well defined and has been handed down in the family for generations about the parentage 2) DNA information, usually autosomal, so closer generations, but sometimes YDNA or 3) a document that states the parentage, such as a will.

If I don't have one of these three things, I'll add a note under research notes about the possibility.

I hope you find the proof you need so you can connect everyone! This has been a huge connection project I know.
Emma, I'm guessing that would include a death certificate that names the slave owner as the person's parent?
Yes. I would accept that as a valid source.

7 Answers

+11 votes
Best answer
Is there any DNA trails you could follow? That would be the proof, beyond anything else. We are looking at a male (Charles Hardy) with a potentially European Y-DNA haplogroup and a possibly African MtDNA haplogroup. His sons also will have that European Y-DNA haplogroup and his daughters will reflect his wife's MtDNA haplogroup. If you find a male descendent all the way to the present, his Y-DNA haplogroup may reveal whether or not his father was Enoch Harding: does the test taker have a European haplogroup, that also has ties with Harding surnames in thte area? Or something different? Outside of Y-DNA, any potential descendants of Enoch Harding may share DNA in the present. Not sure if this helps, but this would be a sure way to go if possible.
by Stephanie White G2G5 (5.1k points)
selected by Stephanie White
I know enough about DNA to take a DNA test and post it, but not how to read or interpret it. However, on the profile of Enoch Harding, there is plenty of posted DNA information. One mT test taker and 8 au testers. So that's a possibility.

However, I don't have any sample to compare with from his downstream Hardy family.
+10 votes

Possibly a similar story that I ran across a while back:

Virginia slaveholder Richard Morris had a family with an enslaved woman, and in his will he freed her and her children (including Shelton Morris), left part of his estate to them, and is believed to have moved to Kentucky with them before his death in 1821. The history of this Morris family gives me the impression that Kentucky was a place that was somewhat friendly (or at least not seriously unfriendly) to mulattos who had been freed from enslavement.

Maybe there is a similar story for the Hardy family. The creators of the slide show at might be a good resource for you.

by Ellen Smith G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
That's a very interesting breakdown of the reasons these types of relationships existed, and why they're very difficult to track and prove. I agree with a lot of their analysis, although it would have been nice if they had been a bit more specific as much of what they stated was extremely broad in nature and almost intentionally vague to cover all their bases. Some of the examples they implied made it sound like those were all common examples, when I suspect that some of the more unusual things listed were probably quite rare. But either way, it was a good article to make you think about this topic.
Thank you for the link to the slide show. After finding many, many generations of voluntary immigrants and "Northerners" I have finally run into a confirmed slave owner in my family tree. I am trying to wrap my head around it all, and looking for the words to describe the situation. The slide show was a good primer.
+8 votes
1860 slave census - Gilbert Harding - Calloway County KY

owned 3 male slaves, all under 21

Henry's oldest male slave was born 1825
by Eddie King G2G6 Pilot (636k points)
1860 slave schedule - Calloway County KY

W. W. Hardy owned a male mulatto slave the right age for your Charles
W. W. Hardy would be Washington Hardy
The closest one of the Harding family that might relate to would be this guy:

But I doubt it was him - too much variance in the names. However, nothing says they couldn't have been sold from a Harding to a Hardy and brought into Calloway County that way, too... hmmm. Worth exploring further.
Although... what if Gilbert in 1860 was treating him like a free man? I need to hunt down Gilbert's 1860 Census if I can find it and see if he has any free blacks in his household...
Gilbert Harding - in Calloway County US 1860 Census

Him, his wife Ada, N.W. Harding (age 20), Sally A (age 16), Elizabeth (age 14), Albert (age 13), Mary (age 9) - no such luck at least on the Census itself.
From my experience tracing my own slave ancestors, I don't think Charles Hardy was a Harding. And without absolute proof, you would never be allowed to connect him to the white Hardings on wikitree. I know that from my own early inquiries about connecting my ggg+ gramps Wilson Lee as the son of Harry Lee, General Robert E. Lee's brother.

Even if Charles had at one time been owned by the Hardings, without DNA, there's no indication of Harding paternity. The white overseers on the plantations frequented the female slaves and the subsequent offspring wouldn't have the overseer's surname. Most freed slaves chose their own surnames - some for the families that owned them, some for people they admired, some for the town they were in when freed. Very few were acknowledged "children of the plantation" by their white fathers.
Yeah - it would have made a nice connection and an interesting one at that, but I would agree - I'm not seeing that bulletproof source I need, and only seeing potential hints that it "might" be true, which is not enough for me to put the connection out there. I guess for now unless someone comes up with something really interesting, I'll leave Charles Hardy's profile as it is with the speculation (without proof) and I'll keep adding profiles to the cluster until another opportunity arises.
+7 votes
Nothing on Enoch's profile suggests that he was a slave holder, unless that was in the records, but unnoticed or unreported on his profile.

Also, it would have been a rather late in life, but not impossible, birth for him to be the father of Charles.

On the other hand, it might be worth contacting the tree owner on Ancestry, as they may be using small cM matching through cousins to substantiate the line.
by Porter Fann G2G6 Mach 7 (70.4k points)
quote> Nothing on Enoch's profile suggests that he was a slave holder,

I added the census details which show Enoch owned slaves - pre 1850 so no household names.
+5 votes

I can say I ran into the same problem, I added as much information on both my enslaved 2nd great grandmother Turner-37921 and the slaveholder  Turner-37922 profile. 

These are just my example that can give you an idea to help verify the slaveholder. 

David Anthony Taylor


by David Anthony Taylor G2G6 Mach 1 (15.0k points)
+2 votes
I have many DNA matches to white slaveholders.  I've added the information from the 1840, 1850 and 1860 census, but haven't added the actual DNA.  A project for another day...
by Anita Alexander G2G6 (8.2k points)
+2 votes
Tangentially: Ancestry doesn’t provide a way to link enslaved ancestors with their owners other than to create some sort of familial relationship. I have run across this in my own use of the site.
by Katrina Lawson G2G6 Mach 2 (24.2k points)

Related questions

+1 vote
0 answers
144 views asked Feb 1, 2020 in Policy and Style by Terry Fillow G2G6 Mach 7 (70.0k points)
+5 votes
3 answers
130 views asked Feb 15, 2021 in Genealogy Help by Pam Fraley G2G6 Pilot (131k points)
+7 votes
1 answer
158 views asked Feb 6 in Genealogy Help by Cheryl Skordahl G2G6 Pilot (257k points)
+8 votes
1 answer
+4 votes
2 answers
+5 votes
1 answer
+6 votes
1 answer
194 views asked Jun 29, 2022 in Genealogy Help by Claudia Scarbrough G2G6 Mach 2 (27.8k points)
+5 votes
2 answers
+24 votes
29 answers

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright