What’s the Story of a Portrait of My Slave Ancestor?

Tracing Your Roots: An image posted in online archives inspires a search for answers about a forebear who lived on a Florida plantation.

Elizabeth “Bettie” Lane Dickey, Leon County, Fla., 19--
Elizabeth “Bettie” Lane Dickey, Leon County, Fla., 19-- State Archives of Florida

Dear Professor Gates:

I am seeking help to learn more about my third great-grandmother Elizabeth Bettie Lane Dickey. She was raised on Orchard Pond Plantation in Tallahassee, Fla.

Her husband’s name was Hanover Dickey, and her mother’s name was Maria Lane. Richard Keith Call (who served twice as governor of Florida) was the plantation owner of Orchard Pond when she was just a little girl. She was born in 1855.

I found the list of slave children on Orchard Pond, and her husband, Hanover, is listed. I believe I have pieced together family grouping between the census and an archived piece of paper from Richard Keith Call’s files through the Florida Memory website.

I found a painting of Elizabeth Bettie Lane Dickey also on this website and would like to know how it came to be and whatever else that can be found out about her.

I would also like help reaching further back on her pedigree chart. I am guessing that if her family were on Orchard Pond, some may have come from Virginia along with Richard Keith Call. I found a record for Maria Lane, and she had a daughter named Eliza born 1848. There is a few years’ difference between her and Elizabeth Bettie. I’m not sure if they might be one and the same person.

Your help would be greatly appreciated. —Toni Jackson

This would be the second column we have done this year about ancestors who may have been enslaved by Richard Keith Call, who was the governor of the territory of Florida twice: 1836-39 and 1841-44. Call was also a military veteran who had served with Gen. Andrew Jackson. Among his more high-profile engagements was the Second Seminole War. He was later an opponent of secession before his death in 1862.

As we noted in the first column, “Is My Black Family Related to a White Florida Governor?,” Richard Keith Call was one of the largest slave owners in Leon County in 1860, when he owned 121 slaves. No doubt there are thousands of people like you who may descend from those he enslaved.

Working Backward Through Census Records

To try to work further back in Elizabeth Bettie Lane Dickey’s family tree, we used what genealogists call “cluster research.” This method involves researching any of Elizabeth Bettie’s known family, neighbors or other people she was associated with during her life to discover more about her and her relatives.

We found that there was a lot to learn from census records about Elizabeth Bettie’s relatives and neighbors. In 1920 a Bettie Dickey was the head of household at age 66 in Leon County, Fla. According to this census record, she was born in Florida, as were both of her parents. Three of her children and four grandchildren are also included in the household. Working backward, she was residing in the same location in 1910 with nine children.

The 1880 U.S. census includes a Betty Dicky in the household of her husband, Hanover Dicky, in Leon County, Fla. Note in this census that not only does the couple have two children, Cora (age 3) and Roany (age 1 month), but Hanover’s brother, Hayward Dickey (age 30), also lives in the household. Their direct neighbors are Daniel Johnson and Charles Grace. All this information can be used to help identify the correct record for Elizabeth Bettie in 1870.

None of these children listed in 1910 were born by the enumeration of the 1870 census, based on their ages, so we assumed we would be looking for Elizabeth Bettie to still be single in that census, perhaps with her mother, as you noted in your question.

You said that in 1870 there was a Maria Lane recorded whose daughter was Eliza Lane (age 22), placing her birth about 1848. The record includes Edward Lane as the head of household, and the family was residing in Madison County, Va. This does not seem like a good match for what is known about your Elizabeth Bettie, since all the other records for her state that she was born in Florida and was residing in Leon County, Fla. (the same location of the Orchard Pond Plantation, suggesting she did not move). It would seem quite the feat for the family to move from Florida to Virginia and then make the move again in the years immediately following emancipation, though it is not impossible.

To be sure, search for other records of this family on your own to rule them out as a possibility, while also searching for other records that could be a better fit for your Elizabeth Bettie.

We had difficulty locating a good match for Elizabeth Bettie in the 1870 census, so we searched for her husband. In searching for a “Hanover” without a surname in Leon County, we located a record for the household of Chloe Dickey in the Northern Division of Leon County, Fla. In her household was a Hayward Johnson (age 19), Hanover Johnson (age 15) and a Betsey Johnson (age 15), which looks to be a good match for your Elizabeth “Bettie” Lane Dickey.

You’ll note that Daniel Johnson is also in the household and that he was their direct neighbor in 1880, all strong evidence that this is a record for the correct individuals, particularly since the head of household had the surname “Dickey.” This record suggests that Hanover and Bettie had used the surname Johnson, at least for this record. It seems possible that Chloe Dickey was the mother of at least some of the children in the household and that she may have had children with different surnames.