Chosen by Ann Parsons, volunteer
In this post we are featuring one of the many collections held at the Record Office that contain records relating to American history. As with many of the family archives in West Sussex, the White family papers include links to overseas estates and business that give us an insight into the wide-reaching material available at the Record Office.
The document featured in this blog is an inventory of the enslaved people owned by Dr John Channing of South Carolina. Such inventories were usually created on the death of an estate owner and would list all property owned by the deceased along with an estimate of its value. Whilst inventories can be a useful resource for tracing ancestors who were enslaved, they are also deeply disturbing documents, dehumanising the people mentioned within and providing an insight into the horrific institution of slavery. Please be advised that readers may find the contents of this document distressing.
‘When I became a volunteer in 2011 the first job given to me was to catalogue the White family papers. This sounded reasonably straightforward, until I viewed the vast amount of material which had been left with the Record Office. It related to a family tree which descended through numerous generations to the present time, made all the more interesting because of the vast array of letters, photographs and sundry items which had been preserved throughout.
Among them was this fascinating and distressing document which lists the given name and value of all of the slaves owned by Dr John Channing of South Carolina, along with their value as shown below:
Billie – a prime field hand, age 24 ………………..$700
Statira – his wife a field hand, age 22 …………..$500
Old Mingo – useless ……………………………No valuation
Rose – a cripple and infirm wench age 19 ………….. $150
The total value of the slaves in 1817 was shown as $31,350.
Although I think that the inventory is one of the most significant items in this collection, there are also so many other items relating to the marriages, occupations, homes and schools of the family. From life at Wellington College to the position of consul at Tangier and Northern Morocco, this family will never be a boring read!’
If you are interested in reading more about the links between America and Sussex, ‘Roots of America; An Anthology of Documents relating to American History in the West Sussex Record Office’ edited by Kim Leslie is available for purchase at the Record Office reception in Chichester.