Never Forgotten - Enslaved Persons Memoralized in Court Records
Due to its importance to the American economy, the institution of slavery was often addressed in historic court records and the names of enslaved persons memorialized therein. The courts regularly settled estates and business affairs, and slave holdings were frequently part of those accountings. In many instances, these records identified enslaved persons' families, ages, professions, owners and slave quarters. Contrary to popular belief, the enslaved did have access to the courts as plaintiffs in suits for freedom, as defendants in criminal actions or as victims of crime. Enslaved births, deaths, illnesses and medical care are frequently found among court records. In most instances, these records are the only surviving documentation concerning these individuals and are a critical tool for descendants conducting research on them.
The names of enslaved persons appearing in court records can be found in the searchable slave name database which currently contains more than 35252 slave names, of which 4405 names are unique. Some of the unique names are due to spelling variations such as Absalem, Absalom, Absalum. No attempt has been made to normalize name spellings and names in the database are as found in the court records. When several individuals with the same name appear in a record, that name appears only once in the index of 35252 names. For instance, the index for a single record might contain a single “George” while the record identifies “old George”, “young George”, “miller George”, “carpenter George”, “little George”, and “big George”.
Enslaved names have been included in the Historic Court Records database since its inception in 1992 and the enslaved name list continues to grow as more court records are indexed as part of the Historic Court Records Project of the Fredericksburg Circuit Court. In January 2013 the enslaved name database was created from the court records database in order to provide improved access to slave-related court records.
Additional information concerning enslaved persons can be found in the Free Negro and Slave Records collection.
Disclaimer: Data provided by Historic Court Records is not official and is provided by the Historic Court Records site for genealogical and historical research purposes only. All data contained herein should be verified by obtaining a copy of the original record.
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Last Modified: July 21, 2014