Am I Related to a Confederate General?

Tracing Your Roots: A black reader wonders if she is related to Braxton Bragg through enslaved kin.

Braxton Bragg (Fotosearch/Getty Images)
Braxton Bragg (Fotosearch/Getty Images)

(The Root) —

“My cousin on my mom’s side of the family has done extensive research on our family background. From what she has obtained thus far, it appears as if my mom’s family are descendants of Gen. Braxton Bragg (Fort Bragg is named after him). There have been a few challenges trying to see all of the court paperwork to prove it. However, my great-great-great-grandfather lived on the Bragg plantation, and his first name was Tom. Additional information: Thomas Bragg, a homebuilder in Warrenton, N.C., was born May 5, 1778, and died Jan. 31, 1851. He married Margaret Crossland on Dec. 20, 1803, in Warren County, N.C. I also need to find out more about slave Sallie Bragg.

“I’m also looking for information about Frederick William Harrison, M.D., a graduate of the University of North Carolina in 1824 or 1825. He just disappeared until his will in 1863 in Brunswick County, Va.” –Gazelle Williams

As you state, Braxton Bragg (1817-1876) was a Confederate general during the U.S. Civil War who is seen by many historians as having been instrumental in the Confederacy’s failure in the West. A former U.S. military officer and a North Carolina native, he married Eliza (Elise) Brooks Ellis, a Louisianan who historian Judith Lee Haddock describes as the daughter of a wealthy sugar planter. Using her money, Braxton was also a successful sugar planter in Louisiana who owned more than 100 slaves (pdf).

You state that over the course of your family’s research, there have been some difficulties in viewing all of the court paperwork on the Bragg family. You don’t specify which types of records have been problematic, but there are a few alternative ways to locate court documents that may be of help in your research. The State Archives of North Carolina have several items pertaining to the Bragg family in their manuscript collection. We located a catalog entry in the Manuscript and Archives Reference System for the will of Thomas Bragg Sr., dated 1851 (call No. WB-5/94).

According to the research notes you provided, Thomas Bragg of Warrenton, N.C., died on Jan. 31, 1851, so it is possible that this document pertains to a member of the Bragg family you are researching. Other documents related to the Bragg family listed in the archives’ catalog include several deeds, as well as the papers of Braxton Bragg and his brother, Thomas Bragg. We suggest that you contact the archives to learn more about their manuscript collection.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also has a number of databases available on its website, including North Carolina, Probate Records, 1735-1970. If you have been unable to locate probate documents for certain members of the Bragg family, we suggest that you search this database for Warren County. The database contains digital images of these probate documents.

Town, county and state histories are another valuable resource for conducting genealogical research. In an email you cited The County of Warren North Carolina, 1586-1917 as one source used in previous research. Other books that may help you learn more about the Bragg family include Lives of Distinguished North Carolinians, by William Joseph Peele; Biographical History of North Carolina, From Colonial Times to the Present, edited by Samuel A. Ashe et al.; and Sketches of Old Warrenton, North Carolina: Traditions and Reminiscences of the Town and People Who Made It. A number of books are also available online through sites like Google Books, as well as through interlibrary loan with your local library.

In addition to local and state histories, newspapers oftentimes provide detailed information about a town and its residents. There are a number of free and subscription newspaper databases available online, such as Genealogy Bank and Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. The State Archives of North Carolina also have several North Carolina newspapers available online, some of which date back to the 1750s.

Your family believes that Sallie Bragg, born circa 1795, may have been the mother of Thomas Bragg. You note that a 95-year-old woman named Sallie Bragg is listed in the household of John Eades in the 1870 U.S. federal census for Warrenton, but you are unsure if this individual is connected to Thomas Bragg. She is not listed with the Eades family in the 1860 census, but an 85-year-old female slave is listed in the 1860 U.S. Federal Census Slave Schedule for David B. Bragg of Lunenburg County, Va.