NGS 2023 Speaker Spotlight—Cara F. Griggs

April 4th, 2023 by Teresa Kelley


Cara F. Griggs Cara F. Griggs has been a reference archivist at the Library of Virginia since 2006. She earned a BA in history from the University of Richmond, an AM in social sciences from the University of Chicago, and an MSLIS with an archival studies concentration from Drexel University. She is a member of the Academy of Certified Archivists.
Session Number: F252
Title: Finding Lot Higby: An Introduction to Searching for Virginia’s Free and Enslaved African Americans
Lot Higby was a Henrico County resident who was likely born in the late 1760s and died in 1856.  He was initially enslaved and purchased his freedom in 1823. His life story serves as the basis for a case study that will also provide an overview of the types of records that may be used to document the lives of enslaved and free African Americans in Virginia before the Civil War.

This case study will chronicle how Cara first came across records about Lot Higby and how she used that first record—a petition to remain in the commonwealth—to trace his life forwards and backward. Such work requires a close analysis of a variety of records that chronicle not only his life but also the lives of those around him. This session will cover records that are unique to African Americans in Virginia, such as “Free Negro Registers,” “Free Negro Lists,” petitions to remain in the commonwealth, and manumission records as well as census records, deeds, estate records, tax records, and family genealogies. Also included are some tips for what to do when these records do not exist.

Records that were created after the Civil War—such as the field office records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands; the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company; the Southern Claims Commission; and even the 1870 census—as well as military records that document service during the Civil War or postwar pension claims are often extremely helpful when used to look back into the lives of African Americans before the end of the Civil War. But, what if one’s research subject is either not included in those records or died before the end of the Civil War, as is the case with Lot Higby? This session will prove that there is still much information to be found without these records.

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