New York State Slavery Database Launched

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Birth registration of a slave in 1803John Jay College of Criminal Justice has announced the first New York Slavery Records Index, a publicly searchable compilation of records that identify individual enslaved persons and their owners, beginning as early as 1525 and ending during the Civil War.

The index will help to deepen the understanding of slavery in the State of New York.

With over 35,000 records, the index was developed and is administered by John Jay professors Ned Benton and Judy-Lynne Peters along with a team of graduate students who are part of the College’s Master of Public Administration Programs.

The database can be searched here.

The index includes census records, slave trade transactions, cemetery records, birth certifications, manumissions, ship inventories, newspaper accounts, private narratives, legal documents and many other sources, such as:

  • 30,000 records naming slave owners across New York state.
  • 1,400 birth certificates of enslaved persons.
  • New York State Senators who owned slaves in 1790 and 1800.
  • 550 advertisements seeking the capture and return of enslaved New Yorkers.
  • 1,681 records of enslaved persons delivered by slave ships to the Port of New York from 1715-1765, including the names of the owners and investors,
  • Almost 200 “Underground Railroad” fugitives who came to New York after escaping slavery from the South.

By bringing together information that until now has been largely disconnected and difficult to access, the database 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 index and the accompanying website is free and open to the public.

The site includes instructions on how to search the database. In addition, there are essays and articles based on analyses of data from the index.

Photo: Birth registration of a slave in 1803 abandoned to the overseers of the poor by the slave owner, provided by New York Slavery Records Index.

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