Charles Lemons, a retired curator of the Patton Museum at Ft. Knox, has assembled a database of Black enslaved and free people from research which started in Nelson County and has expanded into other Kentucky counties over time. It includes data from censuses, wills and other legal documents, tax records, religious records, and military sources.
The information for each person can include their name, alternate names, family code, county of residence, race, sex, birth date and location, death date, spouse name, and general notes. There are up to five owner fields to record multiple transactions involving enslaved people.
Fields in the Black Ancestor Database
(Spelling and descriptions in the parentheses represent what is in the database)
AKA (Alternate first name(s))
AKALast (Alternate last name)
BornIn (State born in)
BICounty (County born in)
Owner1 (Last Name of First Owner)
Owner1First (First Name of First Owner)
Owner Code #
Owner2 (New Owner Last Name)
Owner2First (New Owner First Name)
Owner#2 Code (W=White; X=Out of State Owner)
[same fields are repeated for Owner 3, 4, and 5]
MotherFirst (Mother’s First Name)
MotherLast (Mother’s Last Name)
MotherFamilyCode (Mother’s Family Code)
FatherFirst (Father’s First Name)
FatherLast (Father’s Last Name)
FatherFamilyCode (Father’s Family Code)
The FamilyCode is a unique identifier for each Black person. The first member of a family that was found received a unique number, starting at 00001.
Subsequent generations are counted with letters after that number. Birth order is recorded by counting alphabetically from A.
Rose Abell is identified as 00003.
Her children Jerry, Mary, and an unidentified child are 00003A, 00003B, and 00003C.
Though none are yet identified, Rose’s first grandchild fathered by Jerry would be
00003AA, and the first grandchild born to Mary would be 00003BA.
W0000 designates free people.
W White (but also applied to free people of color)
SD Slave trader
Z Contraband (meaning someone who appeared at a Union Army outpost and was considered free if their enslaver was a Confederate soldier or sympathizer)
XX Out of state
XX Out of state
Spelling represents what is in the database.
Ownership transferred by court order of alimony
Change of owner
Owner’s legal name changes as a result of marriage, or property transfers back to a woman’s ownership as a result of the death of her husband (property was originally willed or given to the woman prior to or during marriage)
Title transferred by legally recorded act of Dower (for property a woman brought into a marriage)
Deed of Trust
Transfer of ownership by a legal and recorded Deed of Trust
Freed, either by will, declaration of an individual, or by court order.
Slave enlisted or drafted into Federal Military Service
Exchanged for property – no cash involved normally.
Slaves held by a third person who is responsible for a minor child, to whom the enslaved person ultimately belongs.
Transfer of ownership by gift
Usually a family operation – long term loan of slaves to family members
Long term lease with no actual transfer of ownership
Transfer of legal responsibility of a slave from wife to Husband under state law. Ownership normally returns to the wife upon the husband’s death by use of Dower rights.
Any transfer of ownership by sale, either public or private
Ran away from owner
Not common – a return of property to an estate in order to gain rights under a will
Siezed by court order, or for debts, or arrested for a crime
Not common – results from a legal transfer from one government body to another
Ownership transferred as a result of a written or oral will. This will also include divisions ordered by courts to comply with a last will and testemate