Monday, July 22, 2013

Amanuensis Monday: Spyers Singleton North Carolina Estate File, Part #1

Adopted Maternal Ancestry

I have been researching my Singleton Ancestry for some time.  My 2X Great Grandmother Hannah D. Nelson Singleton Gilliam had been owned by the Singleton family in Craven County, North Carolina. 

According to family oral history, Hannah was fathered by her owner Thomas Singleton and her oldest son Leander Singleton Gilliam was fathered by William G. Singleton who was Thomas' son.    So this would make William G. Singleton my 2x Great Grandfather, Thomas Singleton my 3x Great Grandfather and Spyers Singleton my 4x Great Grandfather.  I don't want to cause a ruckus, but this intermingling between master and slave was common and I have no doubt that these folks are a part of my ancestry.  My goal is to trace the Singleton's that were in Craven County, NC and learn more about the slave master & slave relationship within my family.  I hope that the white descendants and the black descendants will do DNA testing to confirm the generational relationship.

So what I do know is that the Singleton Male Ancestry is this:

Spyers Singleton
Thomas Singleton
William G. Singleton 
Leander Singleton Gilliam

Leander carried his father's surname as a middle name and his mother's husband's last name "Gilliam". Leander's step-father was born into slavery and was possibly owned by the Singleton's also or by a nearby plantation.  I am not clear if Hannah had any children by Daniel Gilliam, however, she did have quite a few.  I understand dates can be off, however based on what I know so far, Daniel died in 1867 and Hannah's other children were born in the 1870's.  More research will be done to figure this one out.  The Singleton surname was carried down to each male in the Leander S. Gilliam household.  Leander's sons were William Singleton Gilliam, Eugene Singleton Gilliam and Lawrence Singleton Gilliam.

Here is a photo of my Great Grand Uncle Leander S. Gilliam, a Black man, who passed as a White man.  He was born into slavery in 1860, of which he probably did not have any remembrance.  His descendants recently acquired new knowledge of their African Ancestry.  Leander's mother, Hannah was also fair in complexion.  However, Hannah never attempted to pass.

Leander Singleton Gilliam

Spyers Singleton was a Legislator and businessman of Craven County, North Carolina and the son of Samuel and Hannah Singleton.  Spyers was born in 1745 and died in 1814.  He was one of the main families to settle and develop New Bern, NC. 

According to the 1800 U.S. Census, there were 24 Slaves in the Spyers Singleton Household. 

I have decided to begin my research of the Singleton Ancestry by transcribing Spyers Singleton's Estate Records.  

Courtesy of FamilySearch
North Carolina, Estate Files 1663-1979 S, Singleton Spyers (1815)

Inventory of the personal property of Spyers Singleton deceased which came to the hands of Thomas S. Singleton his executor.

Cash eighteen dollars & twenty nine cents

Legacy to Thomas S. Singleton
One Negro man named Ned about 40 years of age
One Negro Woman named Lidia about 33 years of age
One Negro boy named Caesar about 14 years of age
One Negro girl named Mary about 2 years of age
Legacy to the Heirs of Rich B. Singleton
One Negro man named Frank about 45 years of age
One Negro woman named Violet about 40 years of age
One Negro boy named Alfred about 12 years of age
One Negro girl named Phoebe about 2 years of age
Legacy to Mrs. Ann Hawks
One Negro man named Scipio about 45 years of age
Legacy to Mrs. Elizabeth Smith
One Negro man named Jacob about 26 years of age
One Negro boy named Edmond about 10 years of age
Legacy to Mrs. Eleanor Dickson
One Negro man named Harry about 27 years of age
Legacy to Mrs. Martha Singleton
One Negro man named David about 29 years of age
One Negro woman named Dinah about 33 years of age
One Negro girl named Eliza about 16 years of age
One Negro boy named Bill about 2 years of age
One Negro girl named Mary about 1 years of age
Legacy to Spyers S. Smith
One Negro girl named Rachel about 6 years of age
Legacy to Eliza S. Smith
One Negro girl named Penny about 4 years of age
Legacy to Evelina  Hawks
One Negro boy named Daniel about 10 years of age
Legacy to Elizabeth S. Dickson
One Negro Girl names Phillis about 6 years of age
To Be supported out of the Estate
One Negro man named Tobe about 70 years of age
Legacy to Ann Hawks, Elizabeth Smith, Eleanor Dickson

Seven yards of broad cloth

The impact of seeing my ancestors as property can be maddening and sad all at the same time.  It would be at least 50 years before my ancestors would see freedom.  Most would be old in age and many would see the grave before they could experience freedom.


  1. I am loving this post! Can't wait to read more about the Singletons.

    1. Andrea, Hannah's mom was a Jones. I hope one day I can find where she belongs in NC. Remember Zara Jones

  2. What a find to also have the ages of each named slave!

  3. Thomas s singleton was my GG grandfather. William Green Singleton was my G Grandfather and his son Noah Thomas was my Grandfather. I have been doing genealogy for years and years, I am now 71, and just recently learned of the singletons beyond William Green Singleton.
    William Green took over the administration of Thomas S. will and I have seen all the documents on family search. It looks like you have also. I believe these were wealthy folks, mainly because of the slaves, then after the war they lost everything. Would be interested to see what you have and share any that I may have.

  4. Thank you for your response Wilene. Would you be willing to do a 23andme dna test? I have a cousin Lawrence Singleton Gilliam II who just took one. We would like to see if he matches up to your family line.

  5. I have just stumbled upon this site searching for more history regarding my ancestry. I have been told that the Singletons had a plantation in the south as a child but none of my immediate family has any details regarding our history. I've just started putting together a small project to collect information. It would be interesting to know if we were at all related!

  6. What an interesting find! I have stumbled across this page searching for more information on my family history. As a small child, I was told that the Singletons owned a plantation in the south. However, my immediate family does not know much about our history. It would be very interesting to see if we share the same family. I've just started gathering information regarding our ancestry, and have not reached this far back in our timeline yet, but I will be saving this page!

    1. Hello Krystyna, I believe that the Singletons were in the South also...Not just North Carolina. Let's connect on fb. I just added you to my Google+ circle.