In 1860, according to census data, there were a total of 549 slaveowners and 7,631 slaves in Oktibbeha County. Each slaveowner had from one to over one hundred slaves. The county also had a total of 673 farms. As one can see, the slaves played a major role in the agricultural base of this county, as was the case in most Southern states and counties.
As you probably already know, there are various resources available to you to identify where your ancestors were and who they belonged to prior to 1870. In 1860, there were also a total of 18 free colored persons in the county, and it is possible that your ancestor may have been one of them. Don't forget to check the 1860 census to look for them there.
A. Here are some hints to get you started:
1. Track your ancestors backwards from the 1930 census to the 1870 census. Include ALL the family members that you can in your research, not only your direct line and their parents but also follow all the siblings and see who they married. You may have to go back and forth more than once to find as many as you can. Knowing the family groups that were alive in 1860-1870 will be a HUGE help when you start looking at other slave related resources.
2. If you have trouble identifying family groups, you can get copies of the marriage bonds, later death and birth certificates to help you along. Consult, the Research Page on how to do this. The Family History Library has many of the marriage bonds on microfilm. You can do a search at their site, Familysearch. Once you find the record, you can have a researcher in Salt Lake City make a copy for you. There are many websites that offer free help like this. Again, just look for a researcher located in Salt Lake City. Check Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness. Or, for just a few dollars, check with Nancy Waterhouse Genealogical Research. If you have the year narrowed down, you can request a copy from the Oktibbeha Courthouse through the mail, which takes quite a bit longer.
3. In the 1870 census, check to see if there are any neighbors who may have the same surname as your ancestors. I have found that many blacks in the county DID take the last name of their owner. Also, check the other white families living in the neighborhood. To get an idea of where your ancestors might have lived in 1860, find those same neighbors in 1860. Chances are, your ancestors did not live more than a few miles from there. Then you must check the 1860 slave schedule to see if any of these were slaveowners. Look out for naming patterns. A lot of times our ancestors named their children the same names of the slaveowner's children. If you are unable to draw any conclusions, you may have to check Winston, Choctaw and Noxubee counties. Many of our ancestors only moved into the county after they were freed, so do not rule that out.
4. Once you have some probable slaveowner names, you can try to request a will for that slaveowner from the county courthouse. You can search through the probate records and the deed and land records at the Family History Library to try to find mention of the slaveowner and your group of slave family names. Unfortunately, you will not find a lot of help from the folks who work at the courthouse; they just don't have enough manpower. You can try to go through the Oktibbeha County Genealogical and Historical Society for assistance or post on the Oktibbeha Board or mailing list on the Oktibbeha County Website for help.
B. Other resources
1. Freedmen's Bureau Labor Contracts - The MDAH has recently indexed all the contracts for Mississippi. These contracts were between the planters and the recently freed slaves. MDAH has indexed the contracts only from 1865-67. For Oktibbeha County, I have counted 185 separate contracts. Some planters drew up more than one contract in this timeframe and anywhere from one to 60+ slaves were indexed for each contract. Four microfiche sets are included in this work which includes the entire state of MS. There is the master index by contract number, an index by planter, by plantation name and by freedman. The index by planter also includes the name of the county. Each contract lists the contract number, planter, plantation name, date, freedman (mostly by first name in the earlier contracts), age and any additional notes sometimes showing family relationships. The microfiche set is available for $25 (which includes shipping) from the MDAH. Just email them your address and that you would like the Labor Contracts on microfiche and they will send you an order form. Checks and MOs are accepted. Service was very prompt.
2. Freedmen's Bureau Online - Just click the link for Mississippi. Here you can find some marriage information and other interesting records.
4. Slave Narratives from the Federal Writer's Project , 1936-1938. FREE Access to ALL the slave narratives in ALL the volumes. Use the Keyword Search feature to search for your ancestor's names and locations of where they may have been during slavery and after. For example, I found many slaves in the Arkansas and Texas narratives who were on Mississippi plantations. A former slave from Oktibbeha County can be found in Arkansas Narratives, Vol II, Part 2, a D. Davis. Try putting "Starkville" in the Keyword Search! I will be adding links to all the slave narratives that deal with Oktibbeha County in the upcoming month.
5. Freedman's Bank Records on CD from FamilySearch. This bank was created to assist newly freed slaves during and after the Civil War. The nearest bank was in Columbus, MS, quite a distance away. Since this resource is at such a low cost for $6, I think it is a wise investment to order it and look to see if you can find any ancestors who may have used this bank. If you do not find any, please do consider donating it to a local genealogical library.