Category Archives: Catherine Little

1837 African American Census – Thomas Little


Today, after the torrential rain, I rushed down to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to find the 1837 African American Census. My $8.00 was well worth it although it started to seem as though I was going to go home empty-handed. No such luck!


I had been warned by someone ever so helpful at HSP that they did have the census but “it didn’t contain much information.” Thank goodness, I’d seen the 1847 African American Census and knew these documents were genealogy GOLD! I’m glad I’m not easily discouraged and you really can’t be when embarking on genealogy. Here is a list of what is contained in the census:

  • Name of family
  • Total number of residents
  • Number of residents who are natives of the state
  • Number of residents who are not natives of the state
  • Occupation of males
  • Occupation of females
  • Value of property
  • Real estate
  • Amount of incumbrance
  • Personal estate
  • Amount paid for ground rent
  • Amount paid for house rent
  • Amount paid for water rent
  • Number of children in day school
  • Number of children not in day school
  • Amount of tax paid
  • How freed and cost of freedom
  • If from another state, how much property brought to Philadelphia
  • Number of children in Sunday school
  • Number of children not in Sunday school
  • Number of household members belonging to beneficial societies
  • Name of the meeting attended by household members


At any rate, the first volume I reviewed listed a Tobias Little. I took photos and made copies just in case. One never knows where there will be an error or typo.

tobias little

I reviewed two other volumes and found no Hogans or Littles. As I’m rushing to leave, I review the last volume and three pages in at the bottom of the page – I found Thomas Little living in Sterling Alley with eight family members, seven natives to Pennsylvania and one not native. This sounds like my family.

The case supporting Thomas Little as my 5th great-grandfather is pretty compelling but it is indirect. There is a listing of Catherine Little (b 1788) as Thomas’ widow in the city directory.  Thomas Little, Jr (Jul 1817) stated his father was born in Pennsylvania while his mother was born in New Jersey. We know Catherine states multiple times that she was born in New Jersey. I found Thomas Little on the 1820 Census which is a good gauge for his age.

I’m pretty confident that 1) Thomas and Catherine married and 2) Thomas was born in Pennsylvania between 1780 and 1790. If so, this would mean that Thomas Little would be the key for his descendents to qualify for in the First Families of Pennsylvania – Colonies and Commonwealth – 1638 – 1790.  I plan to spend the next month trying to find additional information to support this contention  as the deadline to apply is May 30 for recognition in October.

But back to the 1837 Census.  So much for the census “not containing much information.”

thomas little 1

Add to the list of things I know about my ancestors the following:

  • Thomas worked as a sugar refiner or at a sugar refinery.
  • He had not amassed any real estate, renting his home for $70 per year. His personal wealth was $350.
  • Two of the children that lived with him (probably his children) attended school.
  • Confirmation again that none of the members of the household were manumitted, i.e. they were not born enslaved.
  • One member of the family belonged to Daughters of Ethiopia and the family attend The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas for religious worship.

thomas little 2

What’s interesting about the St. Thomas confirmation, my grandmother, Thomas’ 3rd great granddaughter was Episcopalian. I had a hunch I was going to find that her choice of faith went back very far. My instinct now has been confirmed.

Gee, I don’t know – qualifying for First Families of Pennsylvania, confirming they were not born enslaved AND ascertaining the church my ancestors attended in the 1830s  (which may lead to other documents) seems more than “nothing” to me! But maybe I’m not indifferent…eh…impartial.

This week has been a very good week in breakthroughs. As always, I’m interested in building a network of researchers for this time period. Please spread the word. Thanks!



Update on Catherine Little – 1847 African American Census – Philadelphia Completed by Quaker Society


I’d been excited about this census since learning of its existence while reading “Forging Freedom: The Formation of Philadelphia’s Black Community, 1720-1840“, by Gary B. Nash. I knew it was accessible either at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania or the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College. I’m very pleased that continues to add to content to their product. I’ve found so much in the last few months, including this census and previously unavailable death certificates.

To begin, the documents are very difficult to read on AND there is a wealth of information contained in this census. I was excited about it prior to getting my hands on it but when I realized the details of what is actually contained within this census, I’m floored, flabbergasted but grateful. I’ve had one nagging question about my 5th Great Grandmother, Catherine Little, born in 1788 in New Jersey. Since this time period was in such flux as it related to person-hood in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, I could not assume that she was born free, enslaved or served an apprenticeship. I’ve struggled with developing a research plan because I do not know which county she originated from in New Jersey.

The 1847 Census contains the following information where I’m assuming blank spaces are negative responses:

1 – Name

2 – Residence

3 – Number in family

4 – Males

5 – Females

6 – Under 5

7 – Under 15

8 – Under 50

9 – Over 50

10 – Natives of state

11 – Not natives

12 – Male intemperate

13 – Female intemperate

14 – Number insane

15 – Number helpless

16 – Receives public aid

17 – Orphans

18 – Not taken care of by parents

19 – Can read

20 – At service

21 – Not at service

22 – Can write

23 – Occupation of Males and compensation

24 – Occupation of Females and compensation

25 – Children under 20 and not at school how employed

26 – Number at school

27 – School attended

28 – Number occupying a room

29 – Size of rooms

30 – Whole number in house when rooms are occupied

31 – Value of real estate

32 – Incumbrances

33 – Personal property

34 – Cost of house or room

35 – Water rent (??)

36 – Taxes

37 – Born slaves

38 – Bought Freedom

39 – Amount paid for Freedom

40 – By whom manumitted

41 – Number belong to a beneficial societies

42 – Number attending religious meetings

43 – Number not attending religious meetings

44 – Belong to Temperance Society

45 – Remarks

IF you are fortunate enough to have an ancestor interviewed in this census, feel blessed because it is very rare for us to have this information, particularly during the antebellum period.  Thank you Friends Society!

What I’ve learned about Catherine

Catherine Little 1847 African American Census, Philadelphia

In 1847, Catherine Little lived with two other people in her household. She was the head of household living with one male and one female. Catherine was over 50 at the time and this is noted in the census. The other two people living with her were under 50 but I would assume over 15 as this is not marked on the census. All three of the members of Catherine’s household were born in Pennsylvania and none were intemperate. All three could read and write. The male worked as a waiter. At least one of the females worked twice a week but the occupation is not listed.

Other rich details include that two of the members of the family belong to a beneficial society (very common during this time), all three attended religious services and one of the household members belonged to the Temperance Society. These are wonderful details to help create a portrait of who Catherine was.

But to answer one of the most pressing questions I had regarding Catherine Little: according to this census, she was not born enslaved.

I can’t wait to absorb this all and bookend it with the 1840 and 1850 censuses for Catherine and her children. I need to also explore the Bass connection. The Bass brothers and my ancestors resided together for several years. What might I uncover following the Bass line of research, I wonder. What can proximity tell me, if anything?

As always, I’m looking for anyone who has ancestors to research who were African Americans in antebellum Philadelphia. Please spread the word. Thanks!



Catherine (nee Little) Hogan


Catherine Little Death Certificate Catherine is my 4th Great Grandmother.

There is a portion of her death certificate that is barely visible. It states that her occupation was a Housekeeper, that she was born in Philadelphia, that she resided in the 7th Ward at the time of her death. It also lists her address and as best as I can tell that is No. ??? So. 12th Street.

Catherine was buried on January 21st, 1871 in the Lebanon Cemetery. Lebanon is now defunct and all remains have been moved to Eden Cemetery, in Collingdale, Pennsylvania. Lebanon Cemetery is where Octavius V Catto was also buried. Here is a link to a collection with some of Catto’s paper’s including the returns of the Lebanon Cemetery the week Octavius Catto was murdered in the Philadelphia Riots.

The undertaker was H.S. Duterte at No. 632 Lombard Street.

“But New Jersey came late and notoriously unwillingly to abolition.”


Catherine (my 5th great grandmother) born 1788 in New Jersey presents many challenges. Her status in life my have changed over time.  In 1788, over 10 years after the start of the Revolutionary War, New Jersey was still a slave-holding state.

Catherine was born at a time of great upheaval. Although the slave trade was prohibited in New Jersey in 1786, free Blacks were prohibited from living in the State. I do know Catherine was born in New Jersey based on the Census records. I do not know what her status was at birth.

In 1804 the New Jersey Legislature passed “An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery.” It provided that females born of slave parents after July 4, 1804, would be free upon reaching 21 years of age, and males upon reaching 25. Like New York’s, this law held a hidden subsidy for slaveowners. A provision allowed them to free their slave children, who would then be turned over to the care of the local overseers of the poor (the state’s social welfare agency in those days). The bill provided $3 a month for the support of such children. A slaveowner could then agree to have the children “placed” in his household and collect the $3 monthly subsidy on them. The evidence suggests this practice was widespread, and the line item for “abandoned blacks” rose to be 40 percent of the New Jersey budget by 1809. It was a tax on the entire state paid into the pockets of a few to maintain what were still, essentially, slaves.

Furthermore, New Jersey slaveowners had the option to sell their human property into states that still allowed slaveholding, or into long indentures in Pennsylvania, until an 1818 law that forbid “the exportation of slaves or servants of color.”

New Jersey, like other northern states, replaced outright slavery with stricter controls of free blacks. Black voters were disenfranchsed by an 1807 state law that limited the franchise to “free, white male” citizens.

In 1830, of the 3,568 Northern blacks who remained slaves, more than two-thirds were in New Jersey. The institution was rapidly declining in the 1830s, but not until 1846 was slavery permanently abolished. At the start of the Civil War, New Jersey citizens owned 18 “apprentices for life” (the federal census listed them as “slaves”) — legal slaves by any name.

“New Jersey’s emancipation law carefully protected existing property rights. No one lost a single slave, and the right to the services of young Negroes was fully protected. Moreover, the courts ruled that the right was a ‘species of property,’ transferable ‘from one citizen to another like other personal property.’ “[10]

Thus “New Jersey retained slaveholding without technically remaining a slave state.”[11]

Historical facts would suggest that she was not enslaved in 1820 or indentured. I’m only able to find one of Catherine’s children at this point, Catherin Little b. 1820 (my 4th great grandmother) but if she is in fact that wife of Thomas Little, she had additional children with Thomas.


  • Catherine’s parents would likely have not been free as at the time of her birth. Free Black People were banned from New Jersey in 1786.
  • The 1804 Gradual Emancipation Law would not apply to Catherine as she was born in 1788.
  • If Catherine was enslaved, could she have reached Philadelphia by 1810 at the age of 22? Was she emancipated?

In 2003, New Jersey issued an apology for Slavery. You can read the apology in the link below:

New Jersey apologizes for Slavery

The starting point is the New Jersey State Archives for some guidance, although many records for this time period are housed in county archives. Framing the outcomes via the history offers parameters. The parameters limited my ancestors but it is important to know that many of the restrictions generally found in the South, were imported both ways above and below the Mason Dixon Line, in particular, the banning of Free Blacks. As many historians have stated, Philadelphia was the Harlem of it’s day for African Americans. I’m forever indebted to Catherine for finding her way to Philly, the city I love dearly.