My understanding is that pre-American revolution New York state had free blacks and slaves, then during the war both sides offered freedom to those that fought. Eventually, in 1799 slavery was officially 'phased out' by those being born after the date and those becoming indentured servants while in many cases conditions remained the same until the mid-1820s or so.
My question is what was the practice of these individuals obtaining their Surname and how was it documented (i.e 'freedom paperwork', 'release from indentured servitude', etc) specifically in New York state (even more specifically outside of New York City, such as the Hudson Valley) as I realize conditions were different in different areas.
Such as was
- Chosen for them
- They chose
- Did they automatically get the name of their employer / owner?
and were there any 'guidelines or rules' for this?
I ask as in my research during this period and following it I see individuals appearing as African American on the census and other records, but the rest of the family in the area as well as its origins through today are mostly Caucasian except for the descendants of these individuals. I would like to determine the relationship in which they came about the name.
Kingston, New York there are Palatine Souser's from a German speaking region of Europe dating back until at least 1732 (and likely before), then in the 1850 Census two land owning African American Souser households appear ungrouped from other Souser's with the eldest having birth year of 1794. In that same census but far separated in pages are the Caucasian Souser's also owning land in that area. There are then various other African American Souser's that appear in newspaper articles and censuses through at least the 1930s in Saugerties, NY and New York City in parallel to the Caucasian Souser's as well as the African American line survives today.
The only indication of any Souser I have found to date of a slave in any household in any period or location is in the 1790 Census of a Souser household showed 1 slave of unknown gender or age (which I am embarrassed by) in a household of 4 whites. From what I can tell they Souser's of the period were middle class with being farmers, a mill worker, a tavern owner, and a constable. That head of household listed with a slave I believe died in 1808 and none of the individuals listed on the 1850 census are listed on the abstract of his will nor any record I have found to date, but it is very plausible the individuals listed in the 1850 census are descendants due to the 60 year difference of that 1 slave listed.
So I am looking for clues, guidelines, or at least establish theories on how the name was acquired to help guide further research rather than taking shots in the dark or resorting to more expensive genetic testing that may be inconclusive. I will add as far as I am aware at this time none were recorded as mulatto.
So again to clarify scope of what I am asking: What were the practices of the day, in the context of New York State, for African Americans to receive their surname / last name and how was it documented?