When I started actively researching my family history in 1993, I quickly learned of genealogist Paul Heinegg’s wonderful publication, “Free African Americans of North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina from the Colonial Period to about 1820,” which was first published in 1992. I was enthralled by the massive amount of research he had conducted. He had become interested in the history of the free African American community while researching his wife’s ancestors from Northampton County, North Carolina – a county I would learn that some of my paternal ancestors were enslaved during the late 1700s and early 1800s, before my ancestors were taken to Mississippi.
After Heinegg spent countless hours researching census records, colonial tax records for North Carolina and Virginia, court records, free Negro registers, newspapers, church records, pension files, and a plethora of other sources, one would surmise that his research of free African Americans was complete. He even published a lot of his work on his free African Americans website. But he wasn’t done! His work continued.
Heinegg has now released a 6th edition. He continued his research of hundreds of families who descend from white servant women who bore children with enslaved Africans. Many descendants of these families now classify themselves as white, as intermarriages or unions with whites occurred through the generations. Some descendants even passed as “Indian” or “tri-isolate others” or even as “Portuguese.”
One of those families is the Bass Family of Northampton County, North Carolina. Heinegg’s work enabled me to find my own ancestors. Connecting many dots, I discovered that at least one of the 19 enslaved people named in the 1777 will of John Bass was my ancestor! His exhaustive work, which I have kept saved on my hard drives for two decades, enabled me to follow the migration patterns of John’s children and grandchildren, who also became the enslavers of some of my ancestors. His work laid the foundation for many family discoveries, not only for me but for many other researchers. I am eternally grateful.
Each volume of his publication is arranged alphabetically by hundreds of families in which Heinegg has thoroughly documented. Each volume even contains a full name index. He provides an abundance of documentation for his findings and includes an extensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources. If you have ancestors from the three states, particularly from counties along the North Carolina/Virginia border, you may find some “golden nuggets” in his publication to aid in your research. His new edition is a must-have. To read more about his 6th edition and to purchase, visit the publication’s page at Genealogical.com.