Easy Searches To Try First

We have created easy and fast “TAG” searches that produce interesting topical results, such as the names of slave ship investors, records of slave sales, or the slaveholding status of NY State Senators. We also provide detailed Search Instructions showing how to drill down into the dataset to focus on a name or locality.

We suggest that you start with a quick and easy “TAG” search on a topic. All you need to do is to click on “SEARCH” on the main menu above and select at “TAG” in the search menu.

The following is a list of TAGS and the topics that they cover. These are constantly being updated by our researchers.

  • BON: These are records of slaves who escaped to the British during the Revolutionary War and who subsequently emigrated to Canada as free persons.
  • LSTD: These are records of slave transactions in Louisiana where the enslaved person was born in New York. Their enslavement in Louisiana may have been illegal in New York.
  • SJTR: These are records on enslave persons and owners identified in Sojourner Truth’s biography. We have an essay explaining these records.
  • RAN: These are records based on runaway slave notices and ads.
  • ABN: These are records of babies born to enslaved women who were officially abandoned by the slave owner and placed up for foster care by the local government.
  • SALE: These are records of a slave trade transactions.
  • EMN: These are records of emancipations of enslaved people.
  • CEM: These are records of a cemetery marker or cemetery document.
  • SEN: Tags starting with SEN followed by a year identify slave owners who were members of the New York State Senate for the year specified. We have an essay explaining that a majority of Senators in the 1790 and 1800 Senate owned slaves.
  • JAY: These are records of slavery and the extended family of John Jay.
  • SHIP: Records of a vessel transporting enslaved people.
  • INVNY: This tag identifies New Yorkers investing in a slave ship delivering enslaved people to New York.
  • INVI: This tag identifies persons not from New York (typically from Europe or the Caribbean) investing in a slave ship delivering enslaved people to New York.
  • HOUSE: This tag identifies records associated with a residence that still exists today.The tag includes the present-day zip code of the address and a letter, so, for example, the first house in zip 10538 is “house10538a” and the second is “house10538b,”
  • RAIL: These are records of people enslaved in a southern state arriving in New York seeking freedom.
  • CMPT: These are records of the NY State Comptroller’s Office compensating towns and cities for the costs of care for abandoned slave children.
  • DESC: These records contain the name of an early descendant of the enslaved person, to assist genealogists.
  • ADV: These records contain the name of a person who tried, in a direct and individual way, to advance or preserve the freedom of the enslaved person.
  • LEGAL: These records involve a legal case or trial.
  • 1741: The records of the trial of those charged in the Rebellion of 1741.

The remainder of this article provides more detailed instructions, including instructions for locality searches, census search and house searches.

To search for records,  select the “Search” page on the main menu. Generally, the best starting approach is to enter one search criterion in the form ( such as “Smith” for the owner last name) and then select the “search” button at the bottom of the form. This will produce all of the records meeting the search criterion. For our example, there are more than 500 records with “Smith” as the last name of the owner.

A next step is to click on  “search again” at the top of the form and add another criterion (such as County or Borough equals “Albany”) and this produces the Smiths residing in Albany County.

To start over for a fresh search, select “Search” on the main menu.

To focus on a particular owner, enter the last and first name as criteria. If that produces several persons, adding a County or Borough or  a Locality can narrow the search.

It is also possible for search for enslaved persons by name although the results are limited because most of the records refer to slaves only by the first name.

Locality Searches

If you only enter a locality as a search criterion, such as “Queens” for County/Borough, you will get all of the records for that locality, initially sorted by earliest to latest.year.

For an explanation of all of the types of records, see the essay on the Collection Sources.

Census Searches

We also have records of the number of enslaved persons in locality based on colonial and Federal census records. To finds these, select “Census” in the as the “Record Type” at the top of the search form. The identify the County/Borough (such as Westchester) or the locality (such as Scarsdale) and any such records will be displayed.

House Searches

House records identify present-day houses for which there are records of slavery in the past. Each house has a tag includes the present-day zip code of the address and a letter, so, for example, the first house in zip 10538 is “house10538a” and the second is “house10538b,”

If you are aware of a house for which there is a record of slavery in the past, you can inform us by completing this survey: NY Residences with a History of Slavery.

Once a house has a “house” tag, we then add this tag to other records of slavery associated with the property.

So, in summary, here is how to do house searches:

  • To find houses with records of slavery in a locality, select “house” as the record type and enter the name of the county or boro in County-Boro or the name of the locality in the locality field.
  • To find records of slavery for a particular house, first do the general house search and identify the full tag for the house, like “house10538a.” Then use the “Tag” field and in the lower part of the drop-down menu you can select the specific tag for the house you are interested in. The search will present to House record as well as any other records associated with the property, such as a census record or slave sale by the owner.

We are just beginning to assemble house records so we have not yet identified all houses or associated records with all houses, and this may take  period of years to substantially accomplish.