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

Amy Bertsch
Dec 1, 2023
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1m 50s
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Speaker's Introduction
1m 20s
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6m 26s
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Enslaver's Family
7m 05s
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Virginia Chancery Cases
9m 41s
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Virginia Slave Birth Index
11m 00s
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Finding Family in Freedom
4m 28s
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Civil War Pension Applications
4m 19s
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Identifying Individuals in Photo
11m 01s
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Announcements / prizes
5m 18s
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Questions / answers
8m 12s

About this webinar

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.

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
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  1. HJ
    Helen Johnson
    5 months ago


  2. VM
    Vonda McCrae
    7 months ago

    Absolutely excellent presentation

  3. RB
    RK Brantley
    8 months ago

    Great presentation! I had no idea how someone would go about identifying people in old photos.

  4. MC
    Maria Capaldi
    8 months ago

    It was terrific!

  5. BA
    Beverly Anderson
    8 months ago


  6. OW
    Omer Winborn
    8 months ago

    Such wonderful research

  7. CW
    Carolyn Williamson
    8 months ago

    I consider myself new to the genealogy research. I have been researching my family for the past 5 years and have gotten as far back as 1780 on my mother’s branch. My father’s family has lead me to many barriers. Today’s webinar gives me hope and a new direct for researching the possibilities.

  8. JT
    Jean Tempke
    8 months ago

    Excellent presentation! I’m amazed at the information she found and how she was able to identify the people in the photo.


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