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Book Notes – Slaves Identified in Kenton County, 1840-1865

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Kenton SlavesSlaves Identified in Kenton County, Kentucky Clerk’s and Kenton County Vital Statistic Records, 1840-1865. By Arnold Taylor.  (2014.  Pp. 58.  Spiral Softcover. Lexington: www.slavelawsuits.com

This new title by Arnold Taylor was recently accepted into the library holdings here at KHS. As a transcribed collection of enslaved individuals listed in Kenton County, the potential for usefulness is very high. The author describes this list as an “…attempt to ascertain as many names as possible of persons held in bondage in Kenton County, Kentucky, from the formation of the county out of Campbell County until passage of the Thirteenth Amendment….The records used were Inventory Books and original inventory documents, Will Books and original Wills at Covington, Deed Books and vital statistics records.”

For the most part, enslaved individuals are listed by first name, even in the rare instance when secondary names or surnames are available. (I have found one exception: Franklin, John on page 18) Apparently, the reasoning behind this arrangement is related to keeping the entries as unadulterated as possible. He explains that he made no attempt to translate or clarify the original entries. What he typed is what he found in the original records. Therefore, “Franklin, John” must have been recorded exactly that way, as a surname followed by a given name. To aid in finding this John Franklin, Taylor then lists this individual again as “John Franklin” among the other John given names.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for names without that comma, signifying a surname. Without the names reversed with a comma in the original record, Taylor assumes a double name entry is first and middle only. He does not consider a secondary name to be a surname, and therefore only lists the individual under the first name. If the slave had more than one name, such as William Griffith or William Pierce (pg.51), the individuals are only found listed among the entries for the first name – such as William in this case. Looking for a cross reference in the G’s under Griffith or P’s for Pierce will turn up negative results. Sadly, these unique secondary names, or surnames, are not included in the surname index in the back because that list is reserved for “White Persons Referenced in Slave Records.”

In conclusion, the resource is a great help when seeking enslaved individuals in Northern Kentucky. However, the assumptions made by Taylor regarding race of the owner, or middle name versus surname among the slaves is a bit awkward. Since any secondary name can be considered a unique identifier for an individual, it would have been helpful to include those secondary names in the index (had the index not been relegated to owner only) or as a cross referenced second entry.

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