Motivation Monday: Finding Ancestors in the Stirling Family Papers

Finally, the Stirling Family papers have arrived on five rolls of microfilm at my local library!

The Stirling Family papers are a collection of deeds, wills, diaries of slave life, and letters that belonged to the Lewis Sterling family, owner of several plantations in Louisiana.  I learned this summer that the Stirlings owned my third great-grandmother, Eliza Burton, her children, Nancy and Albert Burton, and her sisters Peggie Manrow and Bettie Matthews.  They all lived on the Stirling’s Attakapas plantation. Now, all I have to do is carefully comb through the microfilm reels to see if they contain any information about my enslaved ancestors. It took me four hours to get through just one roll, so this could take awhile. For the foreseeable future, scouring and transcribing these papers will be my number one genealogy goal.

In just one sitting on Friday, I found over 100 names of slaves owned by Lewis Stirling in these papers, and I only minimally diminished my eyesight squinting at my library’s out-of-focus microfilm screen in the process. Too bad none of the listed slaves were my relatives. But on the bright side, those slaves could be related to some other family genealogist who’s looking for their people the way I’m looking for Eliza.  So, on Friday, I’ll put as many of the names that I can transcribe along with the source information on this site under the tab “Stirling Family Slaves.”   I’ll try to update this page as often as possible to coincide with the Geneabloggers Friday theme, Friend of Friends. A Friend of Friends was the password used along the Underground Railroad to signal those assisting runaway slaves on their journey North to freedom. (See Sandra Taliaferro’s inspiring essay and the  A Friend of Friends site she helped create with Luckie Daniels.)

The other good news about transcribing these papers is that they’ll give me a chance to visit with my cousin, Monique, since she’s offered to risk her eyesight to help me.



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6 responses to “Motivation Monday: Finding Ancestors in the Stirling Family Papers

  1. a great project to take on with patience. Hopefully you’ll mine a few gems for yourself.

  2. Liz

    Diaries! Letters! What a great treasure trove–hope you find lots of good stuff, & good for you for sharing info for others.

    Try the film on more than one microfilm reader, or maybe the originals were not filmed entirely in focus. In that case, maybe you could take digital photos of problem pages and sharpen and/or adjust the contrast & saturation in photo editing software so they’re easier to read, or make paper copies of pages, scan them & do the same.

  3. Good luck. I’m sure in all of those films you will find something that you are looking for. In any case, there will be many people who will be grateful for the information you are discovering!

  4. Seth Eisworth

    I am currently working on my dissertation at LSU looking at the topic of the education of the family of Lewis Stirling during the Antebellum. I have had a great deal of success finding information on the white children in the family, but would love to get information on the slave families associated with the Stirlings.

    Would you mind contacting me, so we can discuss the family?

    Thank you,

    seth eisworth

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