52 Ancestors #42 Proud Nancy

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!

52ancestors-2015

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!

1855 Town Register
1855 Town Register

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.

Hill Street Home of Peter and Hans Petersen where Nancy resided over 50 years.  Photo accessed from St. Croix Historic Photos/Rezende-Walbom/Danish West Indian Society
Hill Street Home of Peter and Hans Petersen where Nancy resided over 50 years. Photo accessed from St. Croix Historic Photos/Rezende-Walbom/Danish West Indian Society

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.

strength

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

http://www.visharoots.org/

By shelley dewese

As I continue to search out my history, I am discovering how much I did not know. The more information that is disclosed about my ancestry, the more I learn and understand how I am the person that has evolved today. As a native New Yorker, with roots in Coastal Georgia and deep roots in the Danish West Indies, now the Virgin Islands of the United States or commonly referred to as the United States Virgin Islands, I have always had a yearning to return to my maternal homeland. In September of 1976, my family and I relocated back to St. Croix. While living in New York, I was always telling my friends about my trip back home, but here I was actually waking up every day, walking among the streets and people that I have identified myself with all of my life. At the time, I was not involved in any genealogical work, but I knew there was a missing link that became completed after I was offered the opportunity to transfer Danish documents into a database. That opened up my world and I realize that this was my niche. I now had the tools to explore and document my ancestry. Growing up, my mother always impressed upon her children the pride in being a “Bough”, which was her surname. Now I was able to track where that pride came from, through participating in family history projects and meeting new family, as we gathered together for the Bough Family Reunion on St. Croix in July of 2012. As I continued to research, I found my passion extending to photography. Sunsets and street art are my favorite features, as shown in my tumblr blog http://minkyadoo.tumblr.com/ I also began blogging, and found that it has help me to improve my writing skills. Through the comments and well wishes, I have been encouraged to continue to write the stories and events of my life. Whether or not your roots trace back to the Danish West Indies, you will find a beautiful tapestry of life that reflects our “baseball and apple pie”. This site affords you the chance to transform yourself to a time during the Danish period (1734-1917) where life was both simple and complex. If you have any questions, comments, or need assistance in searching for a Danish West Indies ancestor, I invite you to drop me an email.

7 comments

  1. Hi Shelley–again, wonderful reading–what a fantastic job you’ve set yourself to– to spend the time and learn all about your ancestors, and the history of St. Croix and we all who read your blog are the beneficiaries of all of your hard work–love every bit of it. Still hoping to have you here someday soon. Mary

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  2. Now that tskes research..even if it was happenststance! Proud of you ! If I lived near you. You would definitely have a student.

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  3. You have found a lot of information and been able to create a sense of who Nancy was. That’s a lot. Keep on writing – you have a talent for it.
    Carol Wakefield

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  4. I enjoyed reading this story about Ancestor #42 Proud Nancy. As a genealogist it is always exciting when stumbling across major discoveries during the research process. Researching ancestors with an African lineage can be very challenging. Finding a document that identifies an ancestor born in Africa is big. In families with roots in Africa it is always a mystery when it comes to knowing which ancestor passed through the Door of No Return on Goree Island. With the popularity of the DNA testing it is also now a little easier to pinpoint our African ancestors’ geographical place of origin on the continent of Africa. Good luck with additional research.

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