Recently, I was at the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA) researching my four times great grandfather, James Churchwell Luttrell, who was from Knox County, Tennessee. I was on a limited time frame so I really needed to stay on task and not get tempted by other nuggets of information. Hard to do. When searching through the deed index, I couldn't help but notice deeds listed involving William Luttrell, my five times great grandfather. Many of them were land deeds but the ones that caught my eye were deeds for slaves. It's a sobering dose of reality. I didn't have time to look at these deeds, but plan to on my next research trip to TSLA.
It's hard not to judge William Luttrell. He was born in Virginia in 1760 and died in Knox County, Tennessee in 1813. During this time slavery was an accepted practice. Without having studied in depth his slave owning practices, I can say that on the surface, William was living within the social parameters. However, I can't help but wonder if he really thought it was okay to own a person, and then treat them like the rest of the farm inventory. I have trouble wrapping my head around it.
As you research you may discover things about your ancestors that do not make you proud, or that you just don't understand. However, there are some things that your ancestors may have done that can't be held up to today's standards (aside from murder.... I don't think that was ever okay). So try not to judge them, instead try to understand their time period and psychological mindset. It will fill out their story and give you a better snapshot of the world they lived in.