In the course of researching Georgetown’s connections to slavery, we have learned about many living descendants of the people who were once owned by Jesuits associated with the Maryland Province. The Georgetown Slavery Archive is dedicated to reaching out to descendants, gathering their knowledge of their family histories, and telling their stories.
A great deal of the credit for discovering the descendants goes to Patricia Bayonne-Johnson, a descendant of Nace and Biby Butler, a husband and wife who were sold by Thomas Mulledy to Jesse Batey in 1838 and transported to Louisiana. Ms. Bayonne-Johnson, who is currently president of the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society, discovered her connection to Nace and Biby Butler while researching her family tree in 2004. Using documents from the Jesuit Plantation Project, and with help from Louisiana genealogist Judy Riffel, Ms. Bayonne-Johnson learned of the story of the 1838 sale and uncovered additional documents, including the manifest of the Katherine Jackson.
After Georgetown president Jack DeGioia formed the Working Group for Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation at Georgetown University, we created the Georgetown Slavery Archive to replace the defunct Jesuit Plantation Project website and publish additional documents from Georgetown’s archives relating to the university’s relationship to slavery and slaveholding in the Maryland Province, and to the fate of the people who were sold to Henry Johnson and Jesse Batey in 1838.
We recognize that these documents are immensely valuable to people conducting genealogical research. The originals can be accessed by researchers at the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in Lauinger Library at Georgetown University. Anybody who wants help tracing their ancestry to the Maryland Province slave community should contact us.
Over the past several months, the search for descendants has become an important part of the Working Group’s activities, as well as a story of national significance, thanks to a remarkable story published in the New York Times on April 16, 2016. The search for descendants has also been significantly advanced by the independent efforts of the Georgetown Memory Project, headed by Georgetown alumnus Richard J. Cellini. Click here for a short guide from the Georgetown Memory Project for figuring out whether you have family connections to the GU272.
In the months and years to come, faculty and students at Georgetown University, in collaboration with many other people, will work to deepen our knowledge of the descendants’ histories and to share their stories.
For material relating to descendants, click here.