The optional weekly theme for Week 42 was “Proud” Many of us have an ancestor that we are proud – or that we’re proud of our efforts to find them!
As I look at my pedigree chart, there are so many ancestors that I am certainly proud of; but I am most proud of the efforts done to find my African Ancestor on the Christiansted Town Register of 1855.
I had been researching the genealogy of my maternal family, the Boughs of the Danish West Indies for at least one decade. Researching my ancestors’ lives has been very fascinating and at times, discouraging. However, finding my African ancestor, while in the midst of searching for the mother of my great-grandfather August Bough, I came across the 1855 Christiansted Town Register which showed 4 generations. On the first line, of the 2nd household was the name Nancy, born in Africa. She is the great-grandmother of August Bough. Although I never thought I would find such ancestor, nor was I actively seeking one. I experienced an Alex Haley moment when he found Kunta Kinte. Earl Jones, who played Alex Haley, shouts out with every bone in his body: “ye ole African, I found you, I found you!
It is through the VISHA database that I can retrieve some of the Danish records. Although, there are gaps I was able to piece together a time-line which gives me a clear picture of my Africa Ancestor and what became of her. I don’t know where she came from or what her name might have been, but on the census and church records, she is known as Nancy.
Looking at the Danish involvement with the slave-trade from the 1650’s helped to establish when Nancy arrived in the Danish West Indies from her long journey from Africa. It appears that she may have arrived during what is called the “winding down” time between the years of 1792-1803 of the prohibition of slave trade. Danish Captain Thomas Petersen purchased Nancy and another African girl together for 400-800 rd. She lived in the household of Thomas Petersen at Hospital Street in Christiansted. The Town Register showed Nancy was baptized in the Lutheran Church, July 4, 1798.
In May of 1800, Captain Petersen prepared a Deed of Gift. He gifted Nancy along with a house on 46 Hill Street, to his two sons, Peter Andreas and Hans Wilhelm Petersen, by a free colored woman named, Anna Lucia Assenius. By 1818, Nancy, house servant, was living at the house on Hill Street, the property of the Petersen Brothers. Living in the home were the Brothers, their mother Anna, as well as what appears to be Nancy’s five (5) children; Anna, Toney, James, William and Henry, noted in a later census.
From the records we observe that Nancy stayed with the same Petersen family throughout her life. She was considered morally good and was never punished. Nancy received her freedom on July 3, 1848, when Gov. Gen Peter von Scholten proclaimed the freedom of all slaves in the Danish West Indies. I perceive that since Nancy and her family were no longer slaves, it was the hope of a new day. After the emancipation, she continued to live at the Petersen home on Hill Street with her family to include my 2GG Emelia Petersen She was no longer a servant, but then supported by her children.
By 1860 Nancy was a 70 year old invalid. No surname was given on the census. Despite the limited information, I am proud of the efforts and the assistance from my friends and family in finding Nancy, the African.
S O U R C E S:
(Slave List 1798 – Head Tax CD 6 (1795-1799)
St. Croix Mission Church book 1805 – 1814
Christiansted, Lutheran Church Mission 1818 – 1846
St. Croix Slave Plantation and Head Tax Lists, 1772-1821. Virgin Islands Social History Associates (VISHA),
Rigsarkivet (Danish National Archives, Copenhagen)
Vestindiske lokalarkiver (West Indian Local Archives)
Christiansted Byfoged (Bailiff)
Pantebog 1800-1801, folio page 38
St. Croix Register Unfree 1841, 1846,
St Croix Register, Christiansted , 1850,1855, 1860