NESRI: Massachusetts Slavery Records Index

The Northeast Slavery Records Index (NESRI) is an online searchable compilation of records that identify individual enslaved persons and enslavers in Massachusetts and also in the states of New York, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. This section of the NESRI website focuses on Massachusetts.

NESRI and the Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery: Reparative Partnership Grant Program  share the goals of understanding the extent and nature of historical enslavement and its ongoing impacts on descendant communities. In support of Harvard’s program, NESRI had added provided a Summary of NESRI Reports and Resources  to support Harvard’s project and projects funded through the program.

NESRI indexes census records, slave trade transactions, cemetery records, birth certifications, manumissions, ship inventories, newspaper accounts, private narratives, legal documents and many other sources. The goal is to deepen the understanding of slavery in the northeast United States by bringing together information that until now has been largely disconnected and difficult to access. This allows for searches that combine records from all indexed sources based on parameters such as the name of an owner, a place name, and date ranges.

The rationale for a project that encompasses these states is primarily historical, based on the shifting jurisdictional boundaries of the states involved. For example, a Massachusetts index, for certain times when slavery existed, would include parts of what is now Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. The Dominion of New England included Massachusetts and extended into Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey. A single NESRI database would enable a locality to access enslavement records from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries for that location regardless of boundary and jurisdiction changes.

Community or Locality Searches

By clicking on Find Community or Locality Records

You can identify a place like the name of a Town or County or an entire state, and see a customized report of the enslavement records for the selected locality. Our search tool produces a general report about enslavement in a selected geographical area within the NESRI states. If you select only a state you will see all of the records for the state. If you also select a county then only that county’s records will be presented, or you can focus in on a particular locality like the name of a town.

Click here to load this Caspio Online Database.

You can also access this from the general menu by clicking on Find Community or Locality Records.

We are gradually updating the search tool, but as of now it produces:

  • A general table with counts of various types of records. When you click on a number you see the records that were counted.
  • A list of the census records that, in certain years counted the number of enslaved people in the locality.
  • A list of the enslavers in the locality.

On the sidebar are links to other resources about slavery in Massachusetts.