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Nancy Giraeaudeau

(c. 1784–6 Jan. 1849),

Nancy Giraeaudeau and her youngest daughter, Frances were emancipated in 1830, at the ages of thirty and six, respectively, by George W. Smyth, a white man who paid $800 to her enslaver, Felicite Gireaudeau, who was a free woman of color passing as white in Natchez. It was not until 1833 that she had the means to purchase her other two daughters, Sophia and Rosella, from Felicite. Nancy manumitted them in 1835. In 1842, she authored a will that divided her estate among her three daughters. Her eldest, Sophia, was approximately twenty-six years old at the time and “of dark mulatto complexion” and was married to free man of color, Robert Leiper. In consideration of this, Nancy stipulated that at her death, her “House and Lot on which I now reside in the City of Natchez on the South Side of State Street” be inherited by her three daughters. But she inserted a clause that whenever they chose, the two youngest daughters could “purchase out the remaining third part thus devised unto my said daughter Sophia Leiper” at whatever price the house was appraised for and that Sophia and her husband after being paid this sum, would in turn, return it to Roselle and Frances for their use. Further, Nancy ensured that the youngest, Frances, would inherit “all my household and kitchen furniture beds and bedding furniture.” Finally, all the remaining money and other personal property would be divided among the three daughters.

The Gireaudeaus remained entwined in mutual obligations to Felicite as she and her family members served as sponsors in their baptisms while they themselves performed this role for other enslaved members of Felicite’s household. The house on State Street stayed in family hands until the early 1900s. Related families to the Gireaudeaus are the Bazares, Bizots, and Williamsons. 

Further Reading

Davis, Edwin Adams, and William Ransom Hogan. The Barber of Natchez (1954).

Davis, Edwin Adams, and William Ransom Hogan, eds. William Johnson’s Natchez: The Antebellum Diary of a Free Negro (1951).

Davis, Ronald L. F. The Black Experience in Natchez, 1720–1880 (1993)

Gould, Virginia Meacham. Chained to the Rock of Adversity: To Be Free, Black & Female in the Old South (1998).

Nancy Giraeaudeau Will