The Northeast Slavery Records Index (NESRI) is in the process of adding the State of Pennsylvania to our records index. Currently, our collection includes:
- All household U.S. Census Records from 1790-1840 that enumerated enslaved people;
- All of the reports of enslaved people required by the 1780 Gradual Abolition law and indexed by Professor Cory James Young in A Just and True Return.
- All of the records on enslaved people who joined the British forces and were emancipated and permitted to emigrate to Canada, from the 1783 Carleton Papers Book of Negroes database.
More records will be added as they are located.
NESRI is an online searchable compilation of records that identify individual enslaved persons and enslavers in Pennsylvania and also in the states of Connecticut, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. 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 Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and the six states of New England 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.
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 Pennsylvania.