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Sep 11, 2017

Pierce Butler to Catey and Her Children Mary, Sarah and Moses, Certificate of Emancipation, Charleston, SC, 19 June, 1802

Butler Pierce to Catey Emancipation P1

On June 19, 1802, Pierce Butler filed in the Charleston Court of Common Pleas a certificate of emancipation for enslaved woman Catey and her children, in return for Catey’s payment to Butler of two hundred pounds currency1.

The document states that Catey’s husband Abraham Jenkins was a carter (dray man) by trade. Catey and her children were listed as follows:

  • Catey, about thirty years of age (b. about 1772)
  • Mary, about 7 years of age (b. about 1795)
  • Sarah, about 5 years of age (b. about 1797)
  • Moses, about one year of age (b. about 1801)


Butler Pierce to Catey Emancipation P1 Butler Pierce to Catey Emancipation P2

We’re searching for Catey and her children in census records but have not located her thus far. We will update this post if we pick up a document trail for her. 

Suggestions for Further Research

If you find a certificate of emancipation (also known as manumission) for an ancestor in Charleston, there are several record sets you can consult to pick up a further document trail. Here are some starting points:

  1. If your ancestor was free, you should be able to find them in census records for census years after their emancipation.
  2. 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.
  3. You may be able to locate your free ancestor in city directories. 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.
  4. Your free ancestor(s) may have owned property. You can check the Register of Deeds in your county of research interest.
  5. 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, not the page number and browse to that page number on the microfilm.
  6. You can search for more recent probate records and marriage records online at the Charleston Probate Court. You will need to order the actual records as this is an index.

References Cited

[1] Certificate of Emancipation, Pierce Butler to Catey and Her Children, 19 Jun 1862. Miscellaneous records, 1771-1868, v. 6K 1860-1868,, accessed 11 Sep 2017.