Neal Family-Slave Owner Research (part 1)

I have been researching my family history for many years, yet the slave owners of my maternal Neal family line seem to be the most elusive.  I followed the suggested tips to locate them: searching for other than the “Neal” surname, searching military records, Freedman’s Savings and Trust records, and searching nearby families on corresponding 1870 census records. In this series of posts titled “Slave Owner Research” I will look for clues using the methods above, follow clues in estate documents, investigate alternate surname possibilities, and finally reach out to slave owners families to collaborate and share information.

My first tip when I began looking for slave owners was to search the 1870 census for 10 pages forward and backward from my known family. I didn’t find any Neal families that matched the age and genders even remotely close. That could mean they moved to a different county after emancipation, they were owned by a different surname, etc. However, one document that I found early on was sticking out to me. I knew my 3rd great grandfather Gabriel Neal was listed on the 1867 Return of Registered Voters in Banks County, Georgia. I found a man named Thales Neal who was listed in the exact same militia district, and had been living there for the same amount of time.

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The 1860 Slave Schedule showed that he owned about 27 slaves; only a few matching the ages of my ancestors on the 1870 census. When I started researching this family even more closely I found out that Thales’ middle name was Major after his grandfather, and Thales’ father was John Mayfield Neal. They married into families of Crawfords and Littles. I would later discover the custom of taking the mother’s maiden name as the middle name.

In my own family I found similar names of Major, Mayfield and Crawford. I thought they were unusual names and I had not found any other relatives they could have been named after. Aside from being geographically close and having some possible matches in age on slave records, I had no valid source to prove that Thales Neal was the slave owner. However, whenever I found new information on Thales Major or John Mayfield Neal I felt that tingle that meant I was on the right path.

I ran into a few road blocks along the way. I searched everywhere for a will or papers for Thales Neal. He is listed on the Muster-In Roll of the Confederate 4th Cavalry (State Guards) on August 15, 1863.  There he participated in Sherman’s famous March to the Sea, and was wounded during the skirmish at Griswoldville in late November 1864. He would succumb to his injuries approximately two weeks later.

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I finally located a will that was probated in February 1865, and in it he states “…I will and bequeath unto my beloved son John Nathaniel F Neal three negroes to wit Lucy Ann and her two children Floyd and Harriet. I will and bequeath to my beloved wife Therisa Neal a negro woman Mary known as the one given her by her father and all her increase…” What happened to the remaining slaves between 1860 and 1863, and why were these two women the only slaves mentioned in the will?


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I went back over the will and re-read the line that says “Mary known as the one given her by her father and all her increase”. Thales’ wife Therisa was given a slave named Mary by her father. Therisa’s maiden name was Holley, and all of a sudden I remember that my great grand aunt Clara Allen’s husband Judge was the son of Floyd Neal and Mary Holley! Could this possibly be the same Mary mentioned in Thales’ will? And could Floyd be the son of Lucy Ann mentioned in the will?

As of this point I cannot find a death date for Floyd or Mary to order death certificates, and when I do I am hoping that they will provide the answers to these questions. In my next post  I will search through Freedman’s Bank records, alternate slave owner surnames and connections through death certificates.

30 thoughts on “Neal Family-Slave Owner Research (part 1)

    1. RootsGenie

      I hope so, Amy! Until later next week when I follow up on more clues that lead me in the opposite direction. Thanks again for reading!

  1. Amy

    I’m the great great granddaughter of Thales Neal. I have tried to find out what happened to Theresa, who died at age 36. We know where she was buried and also that she remarried a man with the last name of Barber. We don’t know her whereabouts after the war, and cannot locate her in the 1870 federal census. I also checked the Banks Co. GA census of 1870 and her daughter, Mollie, (my great grandmother) was living with an aunt and uncle, but Theresa is not in the census. Have you checked this census? I did run across a Holley…

    1. RootsGenie

      Hi Amy,

      Thanks for visiting my blog and sharing information on your family with me. Although it may seem odd to be studying your family as much as my own, I think it is very important to research every possible angle in slave owner research. That being said, I have yet to find conclusive facts that prove this relationship. I have searched through numerous documents (some provided in this post) and my own instinct and hunches. Thales’ family is fascinating either way, and I have enjoyed learning about the history of the area from his perspective. I also tried to find out what happened to Theresa with no luck. I thought she might have ended up with Thales’ father around the Gordon county, Georgia area. I look forward to sharing more with you!

      1. Mary Beth

        Hi Roots Genie
        I have corresponded with you before Thales was my 3 greats grandfather and Amy is my cousin Theresa did remarry a Mr Barber but she is buried in the same cemetery as Thales and his first wife Julia Holley Neal who was her sister Thales and Julia had John F Nathaniel Neal Theresa and Thales had Mary Virginia “Mollie” Neal Little ( Amy’s great and my great great ) their other daughter was named Julia and she also married a Little actually they were brothers James M. and Peyton B
        I hope you find everything you are searching for
        Mary Beth

  2. Amy

    I am still looking for Theresa after the war, and I feel confident I will find something. If I find anything, I will definitely let you know. If we can locate her, there could be a lead on your ancestor, as well. Theresa’s daughter, Mollie (my great-grandmother) got married in Gordon county, so I know the family visited there from Franklin and Banks counties. I will continue looking…. let’s keep in touch!

  3. Erik Neal

    We share the same name and seek the same answers. I have traced Neal back to the Red Bone District of Talbot County GA. 1880 census.

    1. RootsGenie

      Hi Erik! Thanks for reading! I also have relatives that moved to Talbot County in the late 1900’s. I know there were Neal’s living in the area already, but I have yet to connect them to my family. What are some names from your family?

      1. Kim

        Hello! I’m the 3-granddaughter of James (Jim) Neal from Sommerville TN
        My 2-granddaughter was Arbell (Neal) Lumpkin
        Leander (Neal) Sartin was her sister

  4. Billy J Neal

    My name is Billy J Neal my Great grandfather was Ben Neal in Upshur county Texas born 1870-72.His son was Will Neal born 1892.I don’t know if there is any connection here.I you should run across anything during your search it would be more than I have now.Thank you.

  5. Atarhe Neal-Viegbesie

    We also share the same name! My family from what I know originated in Duval County. Christine Neal and Daniel Neal are my grandparents. Donald Neal is my great uncle, and identical twin brother to my grandfather. Ethel Mae Neal is my great grandmother.

  6. Becky MEZIERE

    Hey, My name is Becky Thomas Meziere I live in central Louisiana. I too am looking for Neal descendants, particularly Georgia and Mississippi. Mitchell Neal born about 1795 Ga., and his son was my several greats back grandfather, Thomas Neal born 1835 in Louisiana. He married Rachel ? surname unknown, if you have any connections to Neal families from Louisiana please contact me at my emal ( I am choctaw Indian.

    1. Christy

      Hello I’m a Meal from La. my grandfather’s name was Willie Charles Neal Jr his father’s name was Willie Charles Neal my grandfather’s dad was from Ms. That’s all I really know at the moment any response would be greatly appreciated

      1. RootsGenie

        Hi Christy! I have done a lot of research on my ancestors in the Georgia area. However, the name Willie Charles does not jump out at me. What else can you tell me about him?

  7. Jamar

    I am the grandson of Othe S Neal and Son of William Morris neal BOTH from Henderson NC on Neal lane. My others side are also from the louisburg/henderson areaa Perry’s.

  8. My aunt is doing an ancestry story that will include the little info that we know on a Neal family from Georgia.
    I’m sorry to say that there were many slaves.
    My mother shared some of this info when she was dying. I thought she was out of her mind but my father said that she was telling some family history.
    I thought we were the struggling white workers (as depicted in the story Roots)
    We even had 2 black foster kids in my family when I was a kid …that I cared for and we supported the Civil Rights movement.
    We weren’t financially rich. …nor poor

    1. RootsGenie

      Thank you for visiting my blog, Teri! I would love to hear more about your aunt’s story. I have found many stories similar to yours while doing my own research, but the fact that people share it with others, no matter how painful or difficult it is, will help us all move past a very dark part of history. You also help unite families like mine that have been separated for hundreds of years through your generosity. Please send me your email so I can message you.

  9. Essence Neal

    Hi my name is Essence Neal. I really don’t know much about my family tree but I do know my great grandmother was Clemily Neal *not sure how to spell it* but I did want to find out more about my family tree and where I originated from. I am hoping we can talk through email .

    1. RootsGenie

      Hi Essence!
      I would love to help you any way I can. It’s always more fun when budding genealogists first become interested in researching their ancestry. We might even be related! 😉 I will send you an email and thanks for visiting my blog.

  10. Mark Williams

    Francis Neal was listed as the brides father 15 May 1875. Mariah Neal and Seabron/Seaborn Walton were married in Talbot County ga. They would be my gggrandparents. Walton, Willis and Howard are surnames associated with my family out of Talbot County ga and Waverly Hall Ga.

  11. Hello, the name is Xavier Grimes, I just got a history lesson today, September 16, 2018, from my oldest brother who is a Neal, which sparked me to take this journey down the rabbit hole. My brother told me about my grand father’s brother Robert Lee Neal, and his famous artwork. Upon looking at it, I ran into your site, and lo and behold, my mother said she has been in contact with you in reference to a possible family reunion. I’m very interested in hearing more because my mother never met or knew her grandparents, which were her father and uncle Bob’s parents. So I’m sure she, as well as myself, would love to hear more.

      1. Dorothy A. Neal-Hodge

        I just came across this document, and am so fascinated. I am a granddaughter of Isaac Neal, of Boligee (deceased 1967). I’ve been researching my family for years, and keep getting stuck. Not sure if we’re related, but I’m sure there’s a connection. I definitely want to discuss this further. Please reach out to me. I’m so energized now to look further.

      2. RootsGenie

        Thanks for visiting my blog, Dorothy! Although I have not found many of my Neal ancestors in Alabama, I would love to check into this further. Please contact me at rootsgenie@gmail dot com

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