3 Replies Latest reply on Aug 3, 2020 5:29 PM by Alice Lane

    Finding slaves and slave owners

    Shirley Brockenborough Newbie

      Where is the best way to find slaves and their owners?

        • Re: Finding slaves and slave owners
          Susannah Brooks Tracker

          Finding slaves and their enslavers is very difficult and takes a lot of luck.  First talk to the oldest members of your extended family to see if there is any oral history as to the plantation their ancestors worked on.  Then trace your ancestors back to the 1870 census, the first census after emancipation.  Not all slaves took the owner's name, but it is a place to start.  In the 1870 census are there whites with the same surname as your ancestor.  Look at the 1860 and 1850 slave schedules for the county where your ancestor's reside in 1870.  Check the Freedman's Savings and Trust bank records, especially if any of your ancestors lived near a big city.  The earliest signature cards of the FST Bank ask the former owner's name.  Look at probate (wills, administration of estates) records of owners that died before emancipation.  Slaves, as property, were named in these records and a value assigned for the purposed of probate. Often children under the age of 5 were not named, but listed with their mother ("Sarah and her child").   A few places (usually county level records) taxed slaves as property and sometimes the slaves are named in the records.  Look at the local Freedmen's Bureau records (usually one office served 2-4 counties in GA, which has small counties) to see if your ancestor is named.

          You are really looking for that needle in a haystack.

          4 people found this helpful
          • Re: Finding slaves and slave owners
            Cara Jensen Tracker

            Dear Ms. Brockenborough,


            Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!


            As well as the resources mentioned by Susannah Brooks, we suggest that you review the National Archives document  Federal Records that Help Identify Former Slaves and Slave Owners and also search the Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers for possible information, as during the slavery period owners often advertised in newspapers about their runaway and fugitive slaves in hopes that citizens, or bounty hunters would would find and return their "property" usually for a reward.


            For lists of slaves on plantations in North Carolina, we suggest that the University of North Carolina Slave Database at https://library.uncg.edu/slavery/.


            The National Endowment for the Humanities and the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard have sponsored databases titled "Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database" and "African Names Database" (see http://www.slavevoyages.org/) with Emory University and its partners. The Slave Trade database contains information for about 36,000 slaving voyages and the African Name database identifies 91,491 African taken from captured slave ships or from African trading sites.


            The Virginia Museum of History & Culture has gathered accessible biographical details of enslaved Virginians from unpublished historical records in its collections and called it Unknown No Longer: A Database of Virginia Slave Names.


            And at the East Texas Digital Archives at Stephen F. Austin State University, the Texas Runaway Slave Project is a database of runaway slave advertisements, articles and notices from newspapers published in Texas, as well as materials from court records, manuscript collections, and books. It documents more than 2,500 fugitive slaves from Texas. The project is ongoing and new content is regularly added to the webpage.


            We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your research!


            4 people found this helpful
            • Re: Finding slaves and slave owners
              Alice Lane Navigator

              Hi Shirley,

              Welcome to History Hub,

              I have faound that sometimes when looking for estate files there will also be slaves listed as part of the estate (a terrible thing I know)

              I have posted an example of one that I found in North Carolina..https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9YFC-R5S?i=24&cc=1911121

              so if you have the name of a plantation owner you might find what you are seeking under estates.


              This one is from familysearch.org if you are not familiar with family search it is free all you have to do is register. They might have estates from other states during that time period...I did not check further.


              Alice Lane

              Research Volunteer

              3 people found this helpful