Were My Enslaved Ancestors Originally From Ethiopia?

Tracing Your Roots: Old family records identify Southern forebears as “Ethiopian.” How is this possible?

Enslaved Abyssinian resting at Korti, Nubia David Roberts, Egypt & Nubia, 1846-1849, New York Public Library

According to the record, Henry G. Green was born in 1831, and his wife, Jensy L., was born in 1856. This matches the information you provided about the family. It further states that Henry G. was born in Georgia, as were both of his parents. In addition, it states that Jensy was born in Arkansas, her father was born in Missouri and her mother was born in Tennessee. All of their children were born in Texas, suggesting that the family had been in the state for at least 20 years prior to 1900.

Based on this record, it appears that both Lar Henry and Jensy were born in the U.S. As stated earlier, it is important to note that census records often record false information. A lot of this is dependent on who in the household gave the census taker the information.

What this does provide is some clue as to where to look for more information about Lar Henry Green and Jensy. It could be that Georgia and Arkansas were the first states they lived in when arriving in the U.S., rather than birthplaces. It is also a strong possibility that the record is correct and that your family legend may actually relate to an earlier generation than Lar Henry (Henry G) and Jensy.

What Happens When You Dig Further Into Their Origins?

When you look at census records, it is important to read them fully to gather as much information as you can to locate more records. For example, the enumerator for the 1900 census asked married couples how long they had been married. Henry G. Green and Jensy L. Green both stated that they had been married for 28 years in 1900, placing the date of their marriage circa 1872.

The census recorder also asked mothers to record how many children they had given birth to and how many were still living. The record states that Jensy had 14 children but that only 13 were still living. This tells us a couple of things. It means that the 10 children in their household in 1900 were not their only children—there were an additional three children not living in the house. It also tells us that one of their children had died, which means there may be a death record for that child.

Death records can provide information about the parents of an individual, including their place of birth. Since it seems likely that the family lived in Texas for a number of years, you can search Texas Deaths, 1890-1976 for death records of Henry Green’s family, including Henry Green himself. The way this collection works is first you search for a person’s name in the index, and the record provides the certificate number. You can then browse the collection—where it states “Browse through 4,476,649 images” at the bottom of the search screen—and browse the death certificates for the original record.

One way to determine how accurate information in the census records may be is to compare them with other records for the family, including other census records. If the information for their birth remains consistent over time, the more likely it is to be close to the truth. Since you know from the 1900 census that all the children listed were born in Texas, you can search for the family in Texas in the 1880 census. You can view the original record for this through Ancestry.com. Once again living in Precinct 4, Fannin, Texas, is Henry Green and his wife, J.L., and six children. This record also states that Henry Green was born in Georgia and that his wife, J.L., was born in Arkansas.

What Do Their Marriage Records Turn Up?

It seems likely that since all the children were born in Texas, the couple was married in Texas. A marriage record may reveal more information about the families for both Lar Henry and Jensy. Based on your research, you believe that Jenny/Jensy’s maiden name may have been Trout.