Help with Henry Stewart, probable former slave from Virginia

+6 votes
170 views
Is there a possibility of finding records for a male probable slave born about 1793 in Virginia?  Living in York, Canada West in 1851 and Caledon, Peel County, Ontario from 1861-1881.

The background, recently I was contacted by someone (not a member) thru WT who has photos of family members from the 1860s and later. The photos include one of a black child on a porch, and several black children in a group photo. The person thought the photos could be evidence that the ancestor family might have been involved in the Underground Railroad.

Fast forward a few days, from a research paper I found evidence for one black/ mulatto family living in the correct area of Peel County at the appropriate time. I researched the family and created profiles for them.

Further research on the photos showed that they were taken on vacation out of the country, not at the family home. The children in the photos are not associated with the family I researched.

It's all a bit sad, his 3 sons died without marrying and have no recorded children, his daughter married late and had no children. With no evidence of parents, it seems like the family will remain unconnected forever.

Which leaves me with the question, is it possible to find any records of the father in Virginia.

Have I missed or misconstrued anything in Canada? I have no experience at all with U.S.  research.  

His profile has lots of Research Notes.
WikiTree profile: Henry Stewart
in The Tree House by M Ross G2G6 Pilot (318k points)
edited by Ellen Smith

2 Answers

+1 vote
Sorry, I answered in the wrong space and now can't find the delete answer....
by Michelle Detwiler G2G6 (7.9k points)
+5 votes
I've done some work volunteering with the USBH challenge, and I would have to say it's pretty unlikely you'll find anything more, unfortunately.

First off, records of the underground railroad are basically non-existent, since anybody involved could be prosecuted and punishment was not light.

Slaves were not listed in the census. There were slave records, but that only recorded the age and sex of the slaves an owner had. Former slaves were first listed by name in the 1870 census.

You might get lucky and see them mentioned in a will or other legal document, but I don't have experience with that. You would have to know the owner's name first.

Also keep in mind that, by law, slaves were illiterate. Many seem to have only a rough idea of how old they were, so in a census, their age will often vary by -5 to +2 years from what you expect (natural to estimate more towards the young side). I recently added a woman born in 1880 (1 month old in the 1880 census, pretty sure that's accurate). Out of 6 sources, there were 4 different birth years.
by Rob Neff G2G6 Mach 7 (77.5k points)
Thanks Rob, that doesn't surprise me.

I know he was in York/Toronto in 1851, age about 59, he doesn't seem to be on the 1842 census, but could easily have been in an area where that census was not taken. His oldest recorded child was born about 1848 and recorded as born in Canada. So we know he was in Canada then, but that's all.

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