Image of front-page story about Timothy Hoosier (Hauser) from 1913
The Daily Courier, Newcastle, Indiana, September 23, 1913

Dear Professor Gates:

I have uncovered an interesting and tragic family story. I was able to trace my family to a couple of former slaves: my great-great-grandfather Joseph Hoosier and his uncle Timothy Hoosier (Hauser). Both were former slaves in Yadkinville, N.C. A front-page newspaper article on Dec. 26, 1913, tells of the death of Timothy Hoosier, who died on Dec. 25, 1913, from the self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head that happened around Sept. 13, 1913.  According to a Newcastle Daily Courier newspaper article, Timothy believed he had caught his spouse cheating with another man and then shot her and himself. This article confirmed the relationship of Timothy to Joseph, stating that the gunshot victims recovered at the home of nephew Joe Hoosier. 

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I have researched both the surnames Hoosier and Hauser in the 1870 census in Yadkinville, N.C., and found Timothy Hauser, his mother, Elizabeth, and brother Silas living together with the Hauser surname. (The brothers used both surnames in public records.) Timothy’s father, Miles, who is listed on his death record in New Castle, Ind., is not found on any census records.

In the Yadkinville, N.C., census of 1870, Timothy and Silas are living near an Adam Hauser, a slave owner. Was Adam Hauser my ancestors’ slave owner? There is also another relative of Adam's named T.C. Hauser that could be the slave owner. Since I have no current connections to the former slave owner family of Hauser, nor to the African-American Hausers in North Carolina, how would I go about trying to prove it and connect with descendants of both families? Is there an etiquette to making contact? I have sent off my DNA to Ancestry.com and await the results. —Tamela Jones

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We asked genetic genealogist CeCe Moore what you should do once you receive your results back from Ancestry.com’s AncestryDNA testing service. She told us your approach to connecting with other Hauser families, whether descended from former slave owners or African-American Hausers, will depend greatly on whether anyone directly descended from those families was also DNA-tested at Ancestry.com and is in its database. If they are, and you get a DNA match, Moore told us, “Then that is a very strong indication that there is a familial connection and she can simply write to them through the site explaining her theory with the DNA and documentary evidence supporting it.” Moore also noted that AncestryDNA has a helpful family-trees feature to help you sort out connections.

However, said Moore, if no direct Hauser descendants were tested at AncestryDNA, but you share DNA with others related to these Hauser families (but not direct descendants), then resolving your genealogical question is more challenging. You would need to identify direct descendants, reach out to them and ask them if they would be willing to take a DNA test to confirm the theorized connection. 

Keep in mind that other major testing services, such as 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA, have similar offerings and allow you to match up with relatives in their databases as well. Some of these potential relatives may not have tested at the other companies, so optimally you would test your DNA in all three places to maximize your chances of finding a descendant of the Hauser families in question. Please remember, however, that if, in the course of your research, you encounter someone who does not wish to undergo testing or reveal his or her test results to you, his or her wishes must be respected.

Who Was More Likely to Be Timothy Hauser’s Former Slave Owner?

You’ve done some great sleuthing so far. You noted that in 1870 Timothy Hauser was living in the household of Elizabeth Hauser neighboring Adam Hauser, whom you believe could have been his former slave owner. A lot of information can be gathered from this record to help you work backward in time and address your question about Adam Hauser.

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Based on this record, we can determine the following about the members of Timothy Hauser’s household: Elizabeth was born about 1810, Silas was born about 1851, Timothy Hauser was born about 1853 and Amelia was born about 1856. Keep in mind that relationships are not recorded on this census, so while it is possible that Elizabeth could be the mother of Silas, Timothy and Amelia, it is also possible that she could be their grandmother, aunt or other relation.

You have already determined that Adam Hauser owned slaves. The 1860 Federal Slave Schedule (via Ancestry.com; subscription required) shows that Adam Hauser owned 11 slaves. Based on what you learned from the 1870 census about Timothy Hauser and his family, you know that Elizabeth would have been about 50 years old, Silas about 9 years old, Timothy about 7 years old and Amelia about 4 years old. It turns out that Adam Hauser’s household had a 47-year-old female; two males, ages 8 and 7 years; and a 4-year-old female listed in the slave schedules, providing a close match. Considering these similarities and their proximity to Adam Hauser 10 years later, it seems to suggest a strong possibility that he could be the former slave owner of Timothy and his kin.

You also mentioned a T.C. Hauser that could also be a match for Timothy Hauser’s former slave owner. The 1860 Federal Slave Schedule (via Ancestry.com) does show that T.C. Hauser did own a number of slaves, some of whom could match the descriptions of Timothy and his family. To learn more about T.C. Hauser, you could pick up the book The Civil War and Yadkin County, North Carolina, which in several places mentions him, including the facts that a slave auction was near his property, account books from his store are on file, and he supported secession from the Union.

However, while all three men in question were in Yadkin County in 1870, T.C. Hauser was residing in Deep Creek Township and Timothy Hauser was residing 14 miles away in East Bend Township, directly next to Adam Hauser. This and the age similarities suggest that Adam is most likely to have been Timothy Hauser’s former slave owner. To try to prove this definitively, you will need to research both Adam Hauser and T.C. Hauser further to see if you can locate any documents that may mention their slaves by name.

What Can Probate Records Tell Us?

Since both Adam Hauser and T.C. Hauser appear on the 1870 census, you know both men lived after the end of slavery, so their probate papers will not mention slaves directly. However, their probate files may offer you other clues about their families and may mention associated families or former slaves in accounting records if they still had some kind of relationship with them.

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Based on the Will Index for Yadkin County, T.C. Hauser died in 1886, and his will was recorded in Book 2, Page 226. The same page in the index records that A. Hauser died in 1895 and that his will was recorded in Book 2, Page 366. Both wills make detailed mention of each man’s children and grandchildren, which would be helpful if you are trying to trace the families forward to identify living descendants. If you can determine who each man’s parents were, then you could see if an earlier probate file mentions slaves who were left to them.

Searching for the Hauser surname in Yadkin County in the North Carolina probate collection (on Ancestry.com; subscription required) shows a number of probate records for members of the Hauser family in this county prior to the end of slavery. One of them is for an Adam Hauser who died in 1851 and whose executor was named Adam Hauser. It seems highly likely that this is a record for the father of the Adam Hauser in question. It appears that not all the papers for this probate record are included in this collection because the papers do not include a will and testament, but the records do not indicate that he died intestate, so you may want to contact Yadkin County to see if more records for his estate exist that may make mention of any slaves Adam Hauser Sr. owned that he may have left to his son, Adam. Perhaps your Elizabeth Hauser will be mentioned in these papers.

Researching the African-American Hausers

You may also benefit from researching other African Americans in Yadkin County with the Hauser surname, since they may be related to your Hauser family in some way. Records for them may lead to new clues to help you search for your family. For instance, there were a number of Hausers from East Bend, Yadkin County, N.C., who applied for enrollment in the Eastern Cherokee Nation on the Guion Miller Rolls, which were established to verify tribal membership for the distribution of funds in a successful 1905 claim against the U.S. As mentioned in a previous column, the Guion Miller Rolls are among the Indian censuses taken in the early 20th century, used to document Native American lineage.

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The Solomon Hauser application No. 15025 caught our eyes. Solomon’s claim was rejected, and according to the record, more information was included in the special report on application No. 664. The Poindexter application No. 664 outlines the relationships between the Hauser, Poindexter and others who were of Yadkin County and former slaves claiming Cherokee ancestry. This is particularly interesting because Adam Hauser and Timothy Hauser were neighbors of a Lewis Poindexter in 1870. Because of this, it seems highly likely that your Timothy Hauser is connected to the Hausers that applied for the Guion Miller Rolls.

According to a testimony by Lawson Hauser of East Bend, Lawson was formerly a slave. Lawson claimed to have Cherokee ancestry through his grandfather who was also a slave but claimed that his father was Cherokee. Though these claims were rejected by Guion Miller, the applications do contain genealogical information that may be helpful to your search. These records also indicate that you might benefit from searching for records of the Poindexter family as well. There were slave owners with the surname Poindexter in Yadkin County, so it is possible that the slave-owning Hauser and Poindexter families are also related and exchanged slaves.

One final avenue you could try is searching Freedmen’s Bureau Records and land records. Following emancipation, many former slaves entered into work or share-cropping agreements with their former owners, and these records are often recorded in deed books. The land records for Yadkin County, N.C., are available on microfilm through the Family History Library, and you can search them at your local Family History Center. Be sure to search for any records involving Adam and T.C. Hauser before and after the Civil War, since records before emancipation may mention enslaved individuals directly, while records after the war may contain agreements with former slaves.

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Records for the Freedmen’s Bureau may also contain records for Timothy Hauser that sometimes include the names of former slave owners and genealogical information about former slaves. A recent indexing project has made these records searchable, and the entire collection of nearly 2 million documents will be available to the public later this year, coinciding with the September opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. When that happens, you may be able to locate even more information about Timothy Hauser and his life during and immediately following slavery.

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and founding director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He is also chairman of The Root. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Send your questions about tracing your own roots to TracingYourRoots@theroot.com.

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This answer was provided in consultation with Meaghan E.H. Siekman, a senior researcher from the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Founded in 1845, NEHGS is the country’s leading nonprofit resource for family history research. Its website, AmericanAncestors.org, contains more than 300 million searchable records for research in New England, New York and beyond. With the leading experts in the field, NEHGS staff can provide assistance and guidance for questions in most research areas. They can also be hired to conduct research on your family. Learn more today about researching African-American roots.