(Copied November 2009 from a posting to my previous blog dated April 15th, 2006)
On April 11 2006 I posted the following note to the CARDEN-L mailing list.
Names of ex-slaves. Those who have read my report on our Carden DNA project will have seen that
one of those whose DNA matches the Cheshire (England) haplotype exactly was James Eugene Carden, who wrote "I am African American and have never met another 'Black' Carden except for my immediate family until about 2 years ago when I visited Halifax County (Scottsburg) Virginia. I think this is where my Great Grandfather, James H. Carden was born."
I had supposed that James' family took their surname from that of their former owner at the time they obtained their freedom. But discussing our DNA project recently with Jane Reid (who is descended from a sister of the Eleanor Arbuthnot whose attempted abduction by John Rutter Carden in Tipperary in 1856 is a well-known story), Jane drew my attention to "The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750-1925" by Herbert G Gutman, Oxford 1976. It has an absolutely fascinating chapter about the surnames used by ex-slaves, from which it appears that they very seldom used the name of their most recent owner, and the name they used often showed a great interest in their own family background right back to their earliest known ancestor who arrived from Africa, and the name chosen was often that of the original owner or even of the man who transported them from Africa.
Of course it is possible, even probable, that in the case of James' family a white Carden took a black wife and married her formally, and they gave their surname to their children in the normal way.
I am sending this note to the list as well as to James, as I think it may be of general interest. I hope James does not mind, and will respond with further information.
Reply from James E Carden, who lives in Birmingham, Alabama. James replied almost immediately as follows, and I am reproducing his reply with his permission.
As I stated earlier, My Grand Father was James H Carden, who apparently was born in Halifax County (Scottsburg) Virginia. When I started my research, I found his name in the Virginia (Halifax) census of 1900. (Roanoke; ED 56 sheet 3). It appeared his mother's name was "Bady", which created a problem with further research.
After more records became available on the Internet, I discovered that there was a Bettie (Bady?) listed in the Halifax County 1870 census. In that census, she and her sister Frances were listed as "Black" and were living in the household of Bryant Carden (Black).
In the 1880 census, she and Frances were enumerated as "White" and were living in the household of John Carden (White). It also listed John's brother as Peter Carden, a Physician.
Earlier I had found a Planter, John B. Carden, who was listed in the 1860 Slave Census as owning 20 slaves (9 male and 11 female). The plantation was located on land along Key Fork and Boston Road in Wilmoth tract, as identified in deed book 66, page 507, Halifax Co. Virginia (1873).
When I visited Halifax County in 1999, I found about 50 black Carden families in the same area. I was told these were the descendents of two Carden lines that they referred to as the "Black and White" Cardens.
James also sent the following, including a photograph of his grandfather. Grandfather James H Carden, born Apr 1885 in Halifax County Virginia. Listed in 1900 Virginia Census with mother Bettie (Bady?) Carden. Bettie Carden was born in approximately 1860 in Halifax County. Apparently was born a slave on the plantation of John B Carden, located at Key fork and Boston Road in the Wilmoth tract, Halifax County Virginia.