This report presents Northeast Slavery Records Index (NESRI) records, focused on above locality, to promote a more complete understanding of the history of enslavement and the lives of enslaved people.
The report is organized in six sections with information customized for the selected state, county and city/town.
- General introduction to the types of enslavement records available.
- Presentation of numerical census records – total numbers of free and enslaved people at various times.
- Presentations listing individual enslavers and the people they enslaved. Records of enslaved persons may include their names, and point to additional records documenting events in their lives. Records of enslavers practically always include their names, and point to additional records that document the numbers of people they enslaved and events like purchases, sales, and emancipations.
- Presentations listing enslaved people who enlisted and fought, on both the American and the British sides, in the Revolutionary War.
- Presentations of additional information about this place such as homes and buildings where enslavement took place, and information about resistance such as the underground railroad.
- A Topical Search section, permitting further online search and analysis of slavery records in the locality.
Whenever the report says “No records found” this means that for the locality specified there were no records in the database for the table involved. That may be because the records have not yet been located and indexed, or it may be because the category of activity did not take place in the locality. For example, some counties may not have records of enslavement taking place, but might have records of underground railroad support for fugitives. Also, records relating to shipping may be more common in coastal localities.
Our research is ongoing, so our records and reports are always being updated.
Section One: The Records
The follow is a table summarizing the records in NESRI for the area you selected. This provides a general idea of the records available, however the meaning of the records becomes more clear in later sections. Counties and localities may appear from other states, and that is usually because of a transaction across state lines.
When you see a “+” next to an item, you can click on the “+” to expand the information presented. You can click on numbers and access the records counted.
Section Two: Census Records
This table summarizes enslaved population census records for the area selected, such as the U.S. Census records and other colonial census records.
The next table presents the same type of information – numbers of enslaved people – by adding up the numbers of enslaved people in the actual census household level records based on house-to-house interviews by census takers. If you click on a number in this table, the census records that have been counted are displayed.
In some cases the number of enslaved persons in the displayed records is less than the number of records in first census tables above. They should be approximately or exactly the same. The most common reason for a difference is that some parts of the household level records completed by the census taker are now unreadable, damaged or deteriorated. Therefore the totals calculated at the time the census are correct, but they can no longer be completely reconciled to the household records.
Section Three: Records about Enslaved People and Their Enslavers
These tables presents household census records and other individual level records for the area selected.
The first table lists the names of enslaved people. These do not come from census records (because the names of enslaved people were not recorded in the early U.S. Censuses. Instead, these come from public and private documents like birth registrations, emancipations, military enlistments and church records. Of particular importance are the birth records that name the mother and child as well as the enslaver.
The TAGs are explained in Section Six. You can click on “View Details” to access more information about each enslaved person.
It goes without saying that this may be the most important table in the entire report. Finding and remembering the names of enslaved people is a way to begin to remember them as individuals with families and personal life accomplishments and events.
The next table lists the enslavers. The names come from U.S. Census Records, and also from the same records from which we retrieved the names of the enslaved. When an enslaver appears on more than one record they are grouped together. If you click on the column heading “Number of Enslaved” the table will be resorted presenting records for the largest numbers of enslavements first.
The next table lists newspaper advertisements for enslaved people who fled from their enslavers. They name the enslaved person as well as the enslaver, and they sometimes provide meaningful descriptions of the enslaved person.
This table provides a list of sales of enslaved people. Some sales are between two people, and others are general auctions. These documents are frequently callous and disturbing, particularly when children are offered for sale without their parents.
This table presents records of other types of enslavers – the investors in slave ships. The report identifies the investor, the ship, and information about the place of construction and registration, destinations, and number of persons enslaved.
The next table presents narratives, biographies and autobiographies of enslaved people.
The next table presents enslavers who were elected or appointed governance officials for the jurisdiction of the report. This project is evolving, focusing initially on the highest level officials. Overtime, county and town/city officials will be included. For this reason the table will not initially have content for many towns and cities.
Section Four: Enslaved Soldiers in the Revolutionary War
This section presents records about enslaved people who enlisted and fought in the Revolutionary War on the British or American sides. We have indexed 454 British-side and 3,822 American-side records for enslaved people from the NESRI states.
Records of enslaved people who fought on the British side are based on passenger lists of ships, arranged through the Treaty of Paris that resolved the War, providing for these enslaved people to be emancipated for emigration to Canada.
Records of enslaved people who fought on the American side are based on a remarkable book, Eric G. Grundset, editor, Forgotten Patriots – African American and American Indian Patriots in the Revolutionary War: A Guide to Service, Sources, and Studies, (Daughters of the American Revolution, 2008), that attempts to list all of the enslaved and indigenous people who fought in the Revolutionary War, providing extensive documentation for each listed person. We have indexed this list for the NESRI states so that it can be accessed in the context of other records.
The table below presents records from both datasets for the locality specified for this report – the American side and the British side. In the table, records carrying the tag code “BON” are for those who fought on the side of the British, because the lists were called the “Book of Negroes.” These records provide the name of the emancipated person along with information about his or her military assignment, and the name of the ship and the date of departure from New York. The records also name the enslaver who is to be compensated by the British. In the entire record names included President George Washington and first Chief Justice John Jay.
Records that carry the first three letters “DAR” are for those who fought on the American side.
- DARENS: The record shows that this person was enslaved at or before the time of enlistment. Typically the records says “slave of” and names the enslaver. Some records explain that the enslaved person was sent as a “substitute” for a member of the enslaver’s family.
- DARFRE: The record shows that this person was not enslaved at the time of enlistment, and apparently volunteered. We included these people, while identifying their status, so that more can be learned in the future about their status and decision. For example, many were likely to have been enslaved in the past and we want to learn about their enslavement.
- EIP: If the record has the tag “EIP” this means that the enslaved person was not an African American or Black person, but was an enslaved indigenous person – referred to in the past as “Indians.” We include them in our records because they were enslaved.
- DAR?: These records are not dispositive either way. Black people fought in the Revolutionary War, but often the records are not clear whether they were free or enslaved before, during or after their war service. Therefore we include these people to honor their service and to encourage further research into their personal histories. For example, in 1778 enslaved people could join the 1st Rhode Island Infantry and be emancipated and their owners reimbursed, so they might have been enslaved before enlistment but free while serving. Also, certain records like pension records did not include enslaved people because they were not thought to be eligible for pensions, so these people not only lost their pension but also lost a historical record of their military service.
The records are indexed by location – where the enlisted enslaved person resided – but many of the records did not list a location. We will produce general index to these records in a separate essay.
Section Five: Other Records About The Area
Since we are providing a report about a locality, some of the available information we can provide pertains to places and things, not people.
This table presents links to memorials and works of art, such as pictures in museums, that depict enslavers and enslaved persons from the area.
This table places of interest such as houses that still exist, that at one time housed enslaved people. The report also lists houses that served as outposts on the “Underground Railroad” helping enslaved people to reach freedom.
The last table presents “Advocates” – people who directly assisted enslaved people for fugitives from enslavement. In some cases these people may appear earlier in this report as enslavers, but appear here because subsequently their views and actions about slavery changed so that they opposed slavery and assisted those who fled enslavement.
Section Six: Further Online Research
Further research on your locality’s records is possible using our Topical Search table. This table allows you to search for records that have been “tagged” according to topics of interest. For example, the Tag “FES” identifies records where the enslaver is a woman, or “CHILD” identifies records of sales where enslaved children were sold separately from parents.
This table is empty first, and you populate it by selecting a tag and clicking on the SEARCH button. You can then repopulate it by selecting another tag and searching again.