Saturday, May 4, 2013

Slave Names

I am currently conducting a survey of advertisements printed in Kentucky newspapers during the Civil War that have to do with slavery. There are ads for slave sales, ads for hiring slaves, ads for runaway slaves, ads for selling slave goods, and ads for caught runaways that were housed in local jails. Many of the ads, especially those for runaways and caught runaways, included the enslaved individuals' names, ages, height, weight, and physical description.

At present I am only partly into my survey, but I thought I'd share the names I have come across thus far. Missing are the exotic and classical slave names such as Cuffy, Cato, Pompey, and Caeser that litter antebellum novels and minstrel songs, instead, common names are those most often found. The most unique names I have located are Mingo, Prophet, Sights, and Dump.

Men and boys: Bill Taylor, Pallace, William, Lewis, John, Mingo, Abner, Sights, Jim, Burrill, Clay, George, Ira, Tom, Dump, Andrew, Henry, Aleck, Calvin, James Thornton, Allen, David Brooks, Bill, Isaac, Charles, Harrison, Nathan, Joe Burch, Jack, David, Bob, Thomas, Jeff, John Stratton, Jackson, Hamilton Baker, William Wood, John Jackson, Charles Allen, George, Luke, Hiram, Moses, Mark, Wiley, Burk Grimes, Ben Boyce, Sam, John White, Martin, Ambrose Roan, John Hines, Arthur, Jackson Marlow, Jo Owsley, William Hunter, Willis, Martin Davis, Granville, Prophet, Ben, Oscar, Stephen, Nace, Solomon, Frank, Fred, David, Taylor, Woodson, Fisher, Ellick, Phil, Joseph, Anderson, Bazzle, Cornelius, Bill Bachelor, James, Tim, Valentine, Edward McAfee, Dennis, Jesse, Edmond, Allen, Hardin, Wesley, Leonidas, Albert, Anthony, Jesse Cogar, Sam Emery, Andy Tate, Dow, Joe, Alford, Henry Tate, Andy Fincastle, Robert, Claiborne, Jack, Perry, Kenley Gray, John Davis, Nathan, Jesse, Charles Brown, Logan, Toby, Harvey, Jim Brown, Jim Monroe, Patrick Henry, Ambrose, Robin, Leander, Brace, Ned, Jordan, Grandison, Craig, Nelson, Washington, Owen, William Joshua, Dick, Joseph Bell, Jim Batts.

A number of names such as Henry, Jim, Tom, John, George, Stephen appeared multiple times and seem to be the most common.

Women and girls: Priscilla, Julia, Mary, Evaline, Eliza, Ellen Nora, Hannah, Amanda, Ann, Charlotte, Chaney, Kitty, Jane, Lucy, Mary Evans, Emily, Nancy, Betty, Luan, Fanny, Eliza Cole.

As one can see, women appear in these ads much less frequently than men. But females, too, had some names appear multiple times.  Mary, Ann, Jane, and Julia were the most common found so far.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.


  1. Hi, Tim--

    I read your blog faithfully. I've corresponded with you briefly before, as one of the projects I'm working on is a book about my great-great grandfather, James G. Crutcher, who was a Confederate soldier from Frankfort. The reason I wanted to comment today, is that I saw the name "Granville" listed above as a name for one of the slaves you've come across. I was wondering if you've come across that name a lot. It has appeared numerous times in my family as a given name. I'm curious if you've noticed that as well. I'd like to try to figure out where it came from and why there seems to have been such a high frequency for it in the south.

    Best wishes!

    --Brijit Reed

  2. Brijit,
    Thanks for your continued readership.

    I'm sorry, I don't have a real good answer for you. Many families kept certain names going, but I can't really say that that particular name stands out in my research and reading in Southern history.

    Best of luck on your research.

  3. This email is for Mr. Tim Talbott. I noticed that on one of your blog posts that you listed a "Joseph Bell" as a runaway slave that was sought in either Kentucky or Tennessee. My great grandfather's (James William Bell 1865 / 1878 - 1954) father was supposedly a man named "Joseph Bell." I have been searching in earnest for two years attempting to find Joseph Bell, my great great grandfather and break through our brick wall of slavery. Thusly, do you, by chance, have ANY information on the "Joseph Bell" that you listed on your blog post?

    My great grandfather's death certificate states that he was born in Logan County, Kentucky, but there is some thought that his family (Joseph Bell) came from Tennessee. On official documents, my great grandfather typically wrote that he was from Indiana; usually Terre Haute or sometimes Spencer County, Indiana, but, on occasion, he wrote that he was from Kentucky.

    Thank you for ANY help that you can provide. I'd very much appreciate it. My email address is

  4. Mr. Bell - I hope you received my email concerning the advertisement you mention above.