Saturday, May 2, 2015

Where There's A Will...There Might Be Slaves: 52 Ancestors #18

This week's 52 Ancestors prompt deals with wills. I recently came across my first direct line ancestor who owned slaves. I found this out from his will which is transcribed in the book, Francis Lyford of Boston and Exeter and Some of His Descendants.

Stephen Lyford was the son of Francis & Rebecca (Dudley) Lyford. He was born about 1687 and died on December 20, 1774 in Exeter, New Hampshire. He married Sarah, daughter of Moses & Dorothy (Dudley) Leavitt. She was born about 1694 and died on October 13, 1781. Stephen & Sarah had six sons and one daughter, Stephen Jr., Samuel, Francis, Biley, Moses, Theophilus, and Elizabeth (Betsey). My line comes through the son, Moses. According to his will, Stephen owned several slaves that he bequeathed to his son, Biley. Moses inherited a small sum of money, "Five Shillings to be paid him by my executor within one year after my decease," and "during his natural life the use and Improvement of my Orchard and the acre of Flats thereto belonging commonly called Conners orchard-..."

Excerpts from The Will of Stephen Lyford
...Item I give and bequeath to my beloved wife Sarah after my debts and funeral Charges are first taken out all of my stock of Creatures of all kinds all the debts due to meat the time of my decease and my negro Girl Nancy all to be at her absolute disposal - I likewise Give my said Wife the use of all my Household Goods and my Negro Woman Syl during her my said wifes Natural Life...

...I give to my son Bile Lyford my Negro Woman Syl after my said wifes decease - I also hereby confirm to my said son Bile the gift of the Negro Boy Phil already made to him...
"Marchands d'esclaves de GorĂ©e-Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur mg 8526" by Rama - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons 

Francis Lyford
Stephen Lyford
Moses Lyford
Oliver Smith Lyford
Ann "Nancy" Lyford
Oliver Smith Philbrick
Benjamin Perley Philbrick
Mary Elizabeth "Lizzie" Philbrick
Ray Everett Cotton
Fern Lyndell Cotton - my grandmother

Francis Lyford of Boston and Exeter and Some of His Descendants


  1. Pam,

    Have you considered contributing the names of the slaves you have found to the Slave Name Roll Project ( It's a way to recover names which are difficult to find during the slavery period.

    Janice M. Sellers,

    1. I've heard of the project but didn't know much about it. I will definitely submit what I have to the project. Thanks for sharing the info on how to contribute.