In April of 1848, Eliza Kohne, a free white resident of Charleston, South Carolina filed affidavits attesting to the status of John L. Francis and his brother James Francis as Free People of Color. In South Carolina, the free or enslaved status of a child followed the free or enslaved status of the mother. Children of an enslaved mother were enslaved in the eyes of the law, and children of a free mother were considered free.
In this instance, documenting that John and James Francis were free involved demonstrating that they were born to a Free African American mother.
Eliza Kohne testified that John and James Francis were the sons of Hagar, an enslaved woman who was purchased from Kohne’s father John Neufville by Steward Lamboll, and subsequently freed by a Deed of Manumission in 17991.
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Steward Lamboll’s purchase of Hagar from John Neufville was recorded in Charleston Bills of Sale Volume 3N, page 1362:
Suggestions for Further Research
If you find documentation for a free African American ancestor in Charleston, there are several record sets you can consult to pick up a further document trail. Here are some starting points:
- If your ancestor was free, you should be able to find them in census records for census years after their emancipation.
- The South Carolina Department of Archives and History has microfilmed records of the State Free Negro Capitation Tax, a tax free people of color were required to pay annually. The twenty-nine books in this publication list names of many free blacks who lived in Charleston between 1811 and 1860.
- You may be able to locate your free ancestor in city directories. Ancestry.com has digitized Charleston’s city directories in the collection “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995.” You can view print copies of Charleston city directories in the South Carolina Room at Charleston County Public Library.
- Your free ancestor(s) may have owned property. You can check the Register of Deeds in your county of research interest.
- You can browse the free FamilySearch collections “South Carolina Probate Records, Bound Volumes, 1671-1977” and “South Carolina Probate Records, Files and Loose Papers, 1732-1964” for probate records such as wills, estate inventories and estate accounts for free black ancestors. These will be interfiled with probate records of free white citizens. Note that these collections are not indexed, so you will need to browse the index pages of individual volumes to see if your ancestor’s name is listed. If you find your ancestor’s name, note the page number and browse to that page number on the microfilm.
Affivadits Reharding the Free Status of Sarah Houston and Rose Buckmyer, Charleston, SC 1848
 South Carolina, Secretary of State, Miscellaneous records, 1771-1868</span></a>, v. 6A-6B 1844-1849, Affidavit and Certificate Concerning the Freedom of John L. Francis, <a href=” https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSLV-291W-D?i=359&cat=476811” > </a>, frame 360 of 567, accessed 12 Sep 2017.
 Neufville, John, Bill of Sale to Steward Lamboll for Enslaved Woman Hagar. “South Carolina Estate Inventories and Bills of Sale, 1732-1872,” Database online at Fold3.com, https://www.fold3.com/image/256/267326846, accessed 4 Oct 2017. Original Data: Records Of The Secretary Of State, Recorded Instruments, Miscellaneous Records (Main Series), Bills Of Sale, Vol 3N, p. 136.