Friday, August 7, 2015

Judith Albergo Suares, Landowner--and Slaveowner

Because my direct ancestors only came to America in the twentieth century, I've spent more time hunting down Russian Empire Revision Lists than slavery-related documents.  But when tracing my nieces' family on my sister-in-law's side, I found one line that's been in America for a very long time (particularly for a Jewish family).  And I'd already seen some evidence that my sister-in-law's 5th great grandfather, Rabbi Jacob Suares, was a slaveowner.

His wife Judith was born about 1769 in the West Indes, and by the turn of the century she was living in Charleston.  Although Rabbi Suares died in 1818, it seems that Judith was the one who owned at least some of the slaves even before his death.
Bill of Sale for Good Luck by Judith Suares, July 1809

In July 1909, Judith Suares sold a slave named "Good Luck" for $460 to William D Shaw.  Good Luck is described as "sober, honest & no (sic) runaway."  It seems that Judith took some of that money and used it to purchase another slave.

Bill of Sale for Betsy by Judith Suares, August 1809
In August 1809, Judith bought a slave named Betsy from Albert Delettre for $350.  Betsy was said to be about 13 years old, honest, and had never run away.

Judith Suares Tax Record, 1825
In 1825, Judith was listed as a landowner in Beaufort, South Carolina.  Her land was worth $800, and her yearly tax was to be $3.  There is no mention of slaves.

After Judith's December 1853 death, an inventory was taken of her estate.  Mixed in with her furniture--and by far the most financially valuable items in her estate--were her slaves.
Judith Suares Estate Inventory, March 1854
 At the time of her death, Judith owned the following slaves:
  • Fannie, worth $400
  • Albert, worth $500
  • William, worth $250 because of defective eyes
  • Henry, worth $300
She also owned:
  • 1 old carpet, worth $5
  • 1 set of drawers, worth $10
  • 6 chairs, worth $5
  • 1 bedstead & mattress, worth $10
  • 2 blinos(?), worth $1
The furniture that was a part of her estate only added another $31 to the estate's total value.  The cash from the sale of items in her estate was to be given to Caroline Suares Schwerin, my sister-in-law's 4th great grandmother. There is no mention of her land.

Additional Inventory/Bill of Sale, Estate of Judith Suares, August 1856
More than two years later, Judith's slaves were sold--and that document shows the family relationship between those slaves.  It also seems that a new baby had been born in the interim.

Fanny was the mother of the others--Albert, William, Henry and baby Elvira.  The five were sold by BC Suares, administrator of (his mother) Judith Suares' estate; the sale was conducted by Jacob Cohen & Son.  The 5 were sold for $285 each, for a total of $1425.  After deducting $22.05 for advertising costs and $35.63 for commission, the estate netted $1367.32.

While it was nice to be dealing with English-language records, going through these documents was rather sobering.  It's clear that these individuals were clearly seen as property, lumped in with furniture and sold to strangers to help settle an estate.  This post will be linked on the Slave Name Roll Project.

**Note: Documents are from Fold3.


  1. Lara,

    It does bring you up short, doesn't it, to see human beings treated as property. I've added a link to this post to the Slave Name Roll project. Thank you for contributing and for all you've taught me about Tsarist Russian records. (That has helped with my mother's side of the tree.)

  2. Suzanne Phelps PerkinsSeptember 27, 2017 at 11:21 PM

    Hi Lara!

    I just discovered your blog this afternoon as I was doing some research on Theodocia Suares. She married my gr-gr-gr-grandfather, Herman Morris Phelps.

    I've long suspected that someone in the family was a slaveholder, as all of my father's family (his father was Jewish) is from Charleston or Fort Sumter.

    I did find one other instance, but this is the most direct relationship.

    I would love to write to you off-line about other stumbling blocks I'm running into with Herman.

    Great blog!

    1. Check out the South Carolina Archives page and Fold3. They have a lot of these old documents that may help significantly.

  3. I am finding it very difficult to find primary sources as to who the parents of Jacob Suares and Judith Albergo Suares were, respectively. At the library of congress in DC I spent hours researching the suares family in Curacao and left more confused than I came. Any help would be appreciated!

    1. I'm sorry, but I haven't really looked at this family in 8 years; it's my nieces' family, not mine. I don't think I ever found anything specific with their parents' names, but it's been a while.