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Aug 14, 2019

African American Genealogy: Finding Out a Little More About the Enslaver, Part 2

Vance Family in 1870 U.S. Census

by Robin Foster

In African American: Finding Out a Little More about the Enslaver, we found James K. Vance in 1850 and 1860 on the census. By the time 1870 came around Beverly Vance (1832-1899) was no longer enslaved and was named in the census. He is at home with his wife and children:

  • B. Vance, my 2nd great grandfather
  • Tilla Vance, my 2nd great grandmother
  • P. Vance
  • Lee Vance
  • L. Vance, my great grandfather
  • Carrie Vance
  • A. Vance
  • E. Vance
  • Mary Vance
Vance Family in 1870 U.S. Census
“United States Census, 1870,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 14 June 2019), South Carolina > Abbeville > Cokesbury > image 38 of 55; citing NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Window Into Their World

This is one of the first windows into what the whole family looked like after they were freed.  I remembered looking at this census for the first time in 2004. Looking at it again after discussing it with different family members and what they remembered, I see so much more.

These are Rev. Lafayette Franklin Vance’s parents. Living next door to the Vance’s in 1870, Geo. Johnson and Mary Johnson might be the parents of Andrew Johnson, my 2nd great grandmother’s husband.  Andrew and Jane were the parents of Nunia and Lula Johnson.

The children of one household married the children of the household next door. Lafayette married Nunia Johnson. When she died in 1900, he married her sister, Lula Johnson, which is my great grandmother. Marshall Johnson and Charlotte Vance married, and so did Lewis Johnson and Arie Anna Vance. Needless to say, I have double cousins because they did not venture beyond next door.

I Did Not Find What They Thought I Would

All of my ancestors and their brothers and sisters were married after enslavement. In the beginning I told by people in the know at the time that my people would not be married, I was right not to listen to that. I knew they had to have been because of the strong impressions left on me by them when I came along. I would have still loved them if they were not. My point is that, we should not listen to what someone thinks when we can find actual evidence for ourselves.

Another thing I completely overlooked until now is J. Vance and Margaret living next door to Beverly. Some of my cousins said Beverly had a brother that fought in the Civil War. He moved to Pennsylvania sometime later. Could this be him?

The Former Enslaver

James Kincaid Vance, the former enslaver of the Vance’s, was not living near them after enslavement. I will need to go hunting for him because he was living. His son, James Wister Vance or J. W. Vance, is living near them a few doors away from J. Vance. He is list as a physician.

With four households on this census that I need to trace forward, I am getting a little dizzy! We will look at the 1880 Census next time. If we can pin down where the enslaver is, we can look at other types of records to see where it leads us. I am really excited because I never really looked at where James Kincaid Vance was in 1880. It is important because Beverly’s life was still interwoven with his.

Sharpen the Saw

The most important thing I learned is that we can only absorb so much when we are looking back at records. I am thinking about their drama that they had to go through, and I am feeling it. Then I have my own drama that I am going through, like someone telling me what I will or will not find and being wrong about it.

For this reason, I have learned to take breaks and work on a different side of the family. I do come back when I am ready, but even during those breaks you have to have good notes to come back to. Chat with us about your ancestor’s drama, your own drama, and how you make sure you do not miss anything when you need a break: Facebook Group