A Friend of Friends Friday: James Aldridge of Prince George’s County, Maryland

I generally do not participate in many of the common genealogy blogging prompts. However, I recently discovered that several other bloggers had started the new “A Friend of Friends” theme. This theme provides information on former African American slaves, as reported in the records of slave holders.

Last year, the website A Friend of Friends debuted with exactly this goal. I was an active contributor to this site, providing transcriptions of several records related to slaves:

Unfortunately, due to health problems in the family of the administrator, this website has not been updated since 19 April 2010. I am thrilled to discover that other bloggers have picked up this torch and continued the “Friend of Friends” tradition.

As my first contribution, I would like to offer a transcription of the will and codicil of James Aldridge, of Prince George’s County, Maryland, dated 12 April 1833 and 16 April 1833, respectively:


I James Aldridge of Prince George county, in the state of Maryland, being in good health of body, and of sound and disposing mind, and Memory; but at the same time, aware of the uncertainty of Life, and the certainty of Death; and desirous of making all needful preparations for its approach whenever it shall please my Heavenly Father to call me out of this Life, Do therefore make, declare, and publish this my last will and testament, in the Manner, and form following, that is to say,

First, with an humble reliance upon the Mercy of God through my blessed Redeemer I resign my soul to his disposal whenever it shall be his will to take me hence, and also my frail body to the Earth to be interred decently at the discretion and under the Direction of my Executor herein after named.

Item. It is my will, and desire that the plantation whereon I now live, part of “Tuckers Cultivation, and all my real Estate, shall be sold by my Executor immediately after my Decease, or as soon as may be done with convenience, and the monies and proceeds […] arising from the sales thereof shall be equally divided amongst the children of my deceased brother Jacob Aldridge, and my deceased sister Elizabeth Jones: and my sister Eleanor Belt if living at the time of my Death; if not, her children shall receive what was intended for her, and here to prevent any mistake, or misunderstanding in the Construction of this Clause of my will, I declare it to be my will, and intention that one third of the monies, and proceeds of my plantation aforesaid and of real Estate herein directed to be sold by my Exe cutor; shall be given to the Children of my deceased brother Jacob Aldridge; on third to the children of my deceased sister Elizabeth Jones; and the remaining third to my sister Eleanor Belt if she survive me; if not, then to her children; to be divided equally amongst them, share and share alike

Item. It is my will, and desire that all my personal Estate except my Slaves, shall also be sold by my Executor, and after all my just debts, and funeral expences shall have been paid, the proceeds, and monies arising from the sale of my personal estate directed to be sold, shall likewise be divided amongst the Children of my deceased brother Jacob Aldridge, and the children of my deceased sister Elizabeth Jones, and my sister Eleanor Belt if living at the time of my Death – if not, then her share to be equally divided amongst her children, and this clause of my will, is to be understood, and administered and executed in the manner provided for, and directed for the division of the proceeds of the Real Estate – that is to say, it my will and intention that one third of the monies, and proceeds of the Sales of the personal Estate shall be given to the children of my deceased brother Jacob Aldridge one third to the Children of my deceased sister Elizabeth Jones; and one third to my sister Eleanor Belt, if she survive me – if not, then to her children; to be equally divided amongst them, share, and share alike.

Item. It is my will and desire, and I do, by this my last Will and testament emancipate and set free all my Slaves in as full and ample a manner as I legally may; and my Executor is hereby required to discharge all of the said slaves immediately after my decease. And finally, I appoint my brother Andrew Aldridge and Dr. Henry Culver the Executors of this my last will testament. In witness in hereof I have hereunto set my Hand and affixed my seal the twelvth day of April in the year of our Lord 1833.

James Aldridg [seal]

Signed and sealed in presence of

J. C. Herbert

John Cool

Wm. Jones


April 16th 1833

when I had my will rote I for got some things that I wish to put in the will that is I wish to left marien bels childre fifty dollar a peace nex is to lef an old woman lyd five dollars a year as long as she lived in money or cloas next is to left all my wuoman over fifteen years twenty dollars a peace to be paid to them buy my exequter or adminasrater when they are dis starege this I wish to be to be put in the will when recorded givein under my hand and [it is my wish it cant be left out]

James Aldridge [seal]

[SOURCE: Prince George’s County, Maryland, Estate Papers, James Aldridge file, original will & codicil (1833); MSA C2119-1-7, MdHR 50,822; Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, Maryland. Transcribed by Michael Hait on 24 March 2009. Emphasis added.]

The estate file that holds the above original will and codicil contains several additional records that detail the administration of the estate. Several of these records specifically relate to the slaves named (and unnamed) in the will and codicil. Rather than transcribing all of them, the information has been abstracted here:

  • 1834 Jun 5. Letter from A. Aldridge to Dr. H. Culver: “Dear Sir, I recd, your letter of 2 Inst. with a copy of my Brother James will. I see he has named me as one of his executors & you the other. It will be out of my power to act therefore I relinquish my Right to you & hope you will take out letters of administration, as I am sure the heirs will be pleased. I have made the enquiry respecting the slaves they are free. There is not law preventing a person from setting his slaves free. The Sheriff of the county may if he chooses send them out of the state, but it never has been done as yet & perhaps never will. The negros perhaps will be compelled to get permission every 6 months from one of the Judges of the County Court to remain in state & even that will not be attended to or looked after by any one. You may depend on this as being correct. Very Respectfully, Your &c., A. Aldridge”
  • 1834 Aug 12. Receipt. To Thomas F. Bowie, for “my opinion on relation to the codicil to the last will & Testament of said Aldridge.”
  • 1836 Apr 27. First additional account of Henry Culver executor of James Aldridge late of sd county decd. Cash recd for interest on debts collected. Payments & disbursements to Lidy Gibson for annuity for one year, ditto for 1835 & part of 1836, to Hagar Crutches, Sarah Hepburn, Rebecca Herbert, & Julia Ford, in full for specific legacy to them; to P. Chew, Regr of Wills. Recorded PC 2:189.
  • 1835 Aug 8. Receipt. To Lidia Gibson [her mark], for pension or annual allowance “left me by said James Aldridge my late master for the past year”. Witn. C. H. Brashears.
  • 1836 Feb 15. Receipt. To Liddy Gibson [her mark], for annuity bequeathed. Test. Joseph I. Jones.
  • 1835 May 13. Receipt. To Hagar Crutches [her mark], Sarah Hepburn [her mark], Rebecca Herbert [her mark], Julia Ford [her mark], “for a legacy bequeathed each of us by the said James Aldridge (our late Master)”. Witn. Joseph I. Jones.
  • 1836 Sep 13. Final account of Henry Culver, Executor of James Aldridge late of said county deceased. Interest recd. of Francis King, Thos. Merson, Elizabeth Snowden, Jos. I. Jones, John Merson, Homara Donaldson, R. B. Mulliken, Mark Duvall, Wm. Jones. Cash recd. of Thos. McAbee & James Owens, Elijah Donaldson. Interest “on this accountants note, due the deceased from 13th day of February 1834 to 13 Sep 1835.” Payments & disbursements to Sheriff for fees, Philemon Chew, retained by accountant to pay annuity to negro, John B Brooke Esq. Distribution: To Mary Ellen Beall, daughter of Maria Beall, legacy. To Richard Beall, son of Maria Beall, legacy. To children of Jacob Aldridge, one-third part, vizt. Ann J. Aldridge, Caroline Aldridge, Washington Aldridge, Martha J. Aldridge, Christy Trunnel. To children of Elizabeth Jones, one-third part, vizt. William Jones, Matilda Mitchell, Samuel A. Jones, Pamela A. Culver. To Eleanor Belt, wife of Richard W. Belt, one-third part. Test. P. Chew Regr. [[obliterated:] repeats above, but states “Christa Trunnel wife of Wm. Trunnel”] Recorded PC 2:213-214.

James Aldridge’s estate inventory does not identify any slaves. After all, James manumitted them all with his will. They would therefore not be appraised as part of his estate after their manumission. Neither does James’s will identify any slaves (other than “old woman lyd”) by name.

This file is a perfect illustration of why researchers must review all documents relevant to the slave owners, not just the will and inventory/appraisement. The receipts held within this file and the account of the administration of the estate both identify at least five women formerly owned as a slave by James Aldridge: Lidia/Liddy Gibson, Hagar Crutches, Sarah Hepburn, Rebecca Herbert, and Julia Ford. These five women’s lives might have completely disappeared were it not for the papers of this estate.

For other “A Friend of Friends Friday” posts, visit the GeneaBloggers shared Google Reader list.

If you would like to cite this post: Michael Hait, “A Friend of Friends Friday: James Aldridge of Prince George’s County, Maryland,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 23 Jul 2011 (https://michaelhait.wordpress.com : accessed [access date]).

4 thoughts on “A Friend of Friends Friday: James Aldridge of Prince George’s County, Maryland

  1. Hi Michael,

    You stated that the will doesn’t mention any other slaves except Lyd, but wasn’t Marian Bealls a slave also? I’m a little confused on how this distribution was carried out.

    • The codicil to the will names “marian bels childre[n].” It does not specify who this “marian bel” was.

      However, the final administration account names “Mary Ellen Beall, daughter of Maria Beall” and “Richard Beall, son of Maria Beall.” Both of them received legacies, as per the codicil.

      There is no indication that Maria Beall, or her children, were James Aldridge’s slaves. They are not listed in the additional account of 27 August 1836 with the other former slave women, but were listed in the final account of 13 September 1836 with the members of James’s family. It seems extremely unlikely, in light of this, that Maria Beall was one of James’s slaves. It is more likely that she was simply a friend.

      This is a great question to ask, though. Additional research in federal census records, as well as other records surrounding James Aldridge’s estate may provide more information about them — especially including “annual valuations” if either Mary Ellen or Richard were still minors.

      As to how the distribution was carried out, I am not sure that I understand the question. This estate was administered in the same manner that all estates are done, according to the state probate laws. The receipts were required to acknowledge that heirs and legatees received their portions of the estate. The account then provided a list of all money received by the estate and disbursed by the state, which included heirs and legatees. Please let me know if you have a more specific question about the distribution.

      – Michael

  2. Michael– Bless you for choosing this probate case to post. It has provided the links that I have spent many hours searching for– proof of the names of Jacob Aldridge’s children and Elizabeth Aldridge Jones’ children. Nothing to do with the slaves. I had hoped that James Aldridge’s probate might provide some clues and was about to order the microfilm when I came across your post through a Google search. Again, bless you.

    • I am so glad that you found my post! This was transcribed from the original will, held at the Maryland State Archives, not the will book copy. I have also abstracted (though not transcribed) the entire file. Most of the file is not available at all on microfilm. If you email me directly — michael [dot] hait [at] hotmail [dot] com — I will send you the whole abstracted file.

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