I recently shared information about slave schedules in my previous article and how they can be used. One of the points mentioned was that basically data collected on enslaved families, reflected information about the enslaved people, but not who they were. And for the most part, this is true in the majority of cases.
But there are those rare exceptions when one finds something a bit out of the ordinary. About 20 years ago, a Chicago based genealogist Belzora "Bell" Cheatham made a remarkable discovery. The census enumerator of her ancestral county, Bowie County Texas did not apparently obey the rules while counting the numbers of enslaved people. In this case, the enumerator did what we wish all had done. He recorded their names.
That's correct. The names of each and every person enslaved in Bowie County Texas was recorded for the year 1850.
Bowie County Texas 1850 Slave Schedule
Every enslaved person's given name is reflected on this document
Ancestry.com. 1850 U.S. Federal Census - Slave Schedules [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004
The challenge is the pages may have been damaged or exposed to some kind of liquid stain, as there is what appears to be a dark water stain on the bottom portion of each page.
Image from Bowie County Slave Schedule of 1850 revealing stain from a liquid on the page.
However, it does appear that with some tweaking of the image, some names may be partially legible even in the stained portion.
This zoomed in portion does reveal some names if enlarged a tweaked slightly, so some names might still be obtained.
Regardless, this is one of those exceptions that has to be celebrated--because these enslaved people were enumerated by name, and this could be used by so many people. Texas researchers, Bowie County researchers, community cluster researchers, and even historians whose focus is slavery can all find this one exception to be useful.
Hopefully someone will study those families in 1870 to learn who survived enslavement and made it to freedom. Others will also be able to study those who may have resided near former slave holders once freed. Of course it is also important to remember that this document was taken in 1850. Twenty years will have passed before their names would appear on a census page, and many things could have transpired.
And of course assumption and speculation should be avoided, but this is still one of those records that could point to and provide useful information, and should be mentioned as one of those rare and valuable exceptions to the rule.