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Making America: Records of Enslaved Laborers Within and Beyond the Plantation

Millions of enslaved people lived on plantations, private homes, and universities before emancipation.

Enslavers often created financial and personal records to track, count, and inventory enslaved families and individuals. At the same time, enslaved families and individuals privately gathered and passed down genealogical knowledge to descendants.

Enslaved family

Examples of records:

  • Antebellum censuses (1850 and 1860 US federal censuses, 1867 Maryland slave statistics, other state and local censuses, etc.)

  • Plantation records (presidential properties— Monticello, Mount Vernon, Montpelier, private estate papers, Bible records, etc.)

  • College and university records (Georgetown University, The College of William & Mary, University of Virginia, etc.)

  • Probate records and land deeds

Databases

Check this space for future updates!

 

Completed Databases

  • GU272 Descendants, 1785-2000

  • Hartford County, CT: Index to Hartford County Court Minutes, Vols 3-4, 1663-1687, 1697

  • Massachusetts: People of Color in the State Census, 1855-1865

  • United States 1830 Census: Free Negro Heads of Families

  • United States 1850 Census (Slave Schedule)

 

Upcoming Databases

  • Account Book of John Hull, 1667-1687

  • Cambridge, MA: Black and Indigenous People of Color, 1630-1870

Resources

GU272 Memory Project
Our project traces 8,000 of the descendants of the GU272, the more than 314 men, women, and children sold by Maryland’s Jesuit priests in 1838. Use this site to search for an ancestor and to hear the stories of the descendants, and access their family trees.

Lowcountry Digital Library
Supporting research about the Lowcountry region of South Carolina and historically interconnected sites in the Atlantic World.

Slave Manifests, Georgia State Archives

Slave Lists: Newton Plantation, Barbados, South Carolina

 

Four Families of St. Mary’s County by David Watson Kruger

Finding Oprah's Roots: Finding Your Own by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Article: How Do I Decode Slave Records? by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

 

Census Research

Webinar: The Federal Census: Moving Beyond the Population Schedule

Census Substitutes & State Census Records, Volume 1 – Eastern States by William Dollarhide

Census Substitutes & State Census Records, Volume 2 – Western States by William Dollarhide

The census book: facts, schedules, & worksheets for the U.S. federal censuses by William Dollarhide