Who Were “Felix Richards’ Slaves”?: Identifying Enslaved People Photographed During the Civil War

Amy Bertsch

Nine African Americans — two women and seven children — were posed amid a laundry day setting in a rare Civil War-era photograph. The handwritten caption identified them only as “Felix Richards Slaves” and the location as Volusia, near Alexandria, Va. Could their true identities be established? In this case study, historian and genealogist Amy Bertsch discusses a variety of sources, including probate records, a chancery suit, Civil War pension applications, and the former enslaver’s federal compensation claim, she used to identify the individuals in the photo, which is now at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. She explores how these records can yield new discoveries for family historians and she also demonstrates the importance of researching the enslaver’s family when conducting African American family research.

Fri, December 1 2023: 19:00 UTC

About the speaker

About the speaker

Amy Bertsch is a historian specializing in African American and Virginia history who has taught in the Public History and Historic Preservation certificate program at Northern Virginia Community College. She previously worked in public history at
Learn more...