Seeking slave rosters in Wilcox County Alabama

I am attempting to trace my heritage to its slave owners and wonder how they got to Alabama (Wilcox County)


    Thank you for posting your question on History Hub.

    Unfortunately, the National Archives houses very few records documenting enslaved persons. During the antebellum period, slaveholding and slave trading were considered matters of private property and private enterprise; these activities were not under the direct jurisdiction of any agency of the Federal Government. Consequently, NARA holds very few records documenting the enslaved, slaveholders, or the slave trade.

    The few records at the National Archives that do relate to the formerly enslaved and former slaveholders are mainly from the years of the Civil War and from the Reconstruction era that immediately followed. These were the years that the Federal Government had its most direct contact with the formerly enslaved and former slaveholders. These records consist primarily of military records documenting formerly-enslaved soldiers and sailors serving in the US Colored Troops or the Union Navy, the Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (the Freedmen’s Bureau) that assisted the formerly enslaved during Reconstruction, the Records of the Freedman’s Saving & Trust Company (the Freedman’s Bank), and the Record of the Commissioners of Claims (the Southern Claims Commission). None of these records are directly related to the sale and holding of slaves during the antebellum period, although they can sometimes reveal information pertaining to those matters.

    Keep in mind that legally slaves were considered part of their owners’ property, and any documentation of their lives will be scattered among the records of the business transactions of their owners. So you will need to determine where the various property records of these slaveholders are held. These types of records are usually held on the county level. The relevant type documentation typically consisted of items such as probate records, vital records, tax records, and various types of documents found in the court order books and county deed books (bills of sale, deeds of gift, mortgages, records of importation and manumissions). Once you identify the location of the owners’ records, you will be able to find whatever documentation exists on the subjects you are researching.

    Among federal repositories, the Library of Congress may be the most useful for your research. They house a microfilm collection called "The Records of Antebellum Southern Plantations." This collection consists of old plantation records that the Library of Congress gathered from various states. Also, unlike the National Archives, the Library of Congress houses published materials, including old newspapers. You can find their contact info on their website:

    We hope this assists you with your research!


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