Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Nonexistent Information in Genealogy ---- Missing Children Part 3

Mississippi Black Codes

One of the benefits that I have enjoyed in genealogy research is learning about the history of the United States. I have focused recently on identifying ancestors post-Civil War known as the Reconstruction period. I have concentrated on this time period because I am still trying to find information to break down the brick wall of 1870.  I have tried to find the whereabouts of entire families.  The culture and laws during that time affected how and where they lived.  While trying to locate missing children, I found out about The Apprentice Law which was part of the Mississippi Black Codes. 

The 13th amendment to the U. S. Constitution passed congress January 1, 1865 and ratified December 31, 1865 eliminated slavery.  Mississippi however was not readmitted to the union until February 23, 1870.  The Mississippi Apprentice law passed in November 22, 1865 was a law passed under the umbrella of the Black Codes. The Black codes were a series of restrictive laws applied to freedmen, free Negroes and mulattoes to restrict migration and insure a free or cheap labor force.  Black codes were not exclusive to Mississippi but present in other southern states.

The Mississippi Apprentice law allowed any sheriff, justice of the peace, or civil officer authorization to identify children under the age of 18 who were orphans or parents who could not properly take care of the children. These children could be apprenticed to white masters and mistresses for labor until the age of 18 for girls and 21 for boys. If the age of the child could not be determined the judge would assign an age. There was no requirement that the child receive a wage but the master or mistress paid a fee to the county in which they resided. Under this law children could be separated from the their family or extended family.

I have searched for records for children retained under the Apprentice law and have been unsuccessful. I however, have not performed an exhaustive search. Possibly these records are in Freedmen's Bureau records, a  private collections or under another legal heading.  I think  however, little effort was made to record or maintain any records. Although these children may not be associated with the family trees in my research, I will not give up my search. If anyone has information, please share.

I would recommend as a must read book Slavery by Another Name by Douglas A. Blackmon which describes using Black codes which forced freedmen into involuntary servitude.

Further description of the Apprentice law can be found in this link

---- The Tree Gardener

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