The Northeast Slavery Records Index (NESRI) is an online searchable compilation of records that identify individual enslaved persons, their advocates and their enslavers in Vermont and also in the states of Connecticut, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, 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.
At this time we are in the very early stages of setting up the Vermont database. We anticipate that the records will mostly reflect underground railroad activities assisting fugitives from slavery, but there are some records of enslavement that will also be included.
The rationale for a project that encompasses 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 Vermont.