- Parish of residence
- Age of enslaved person
- Nationality of enslaved person
- Gender of enslaved person
- Name of owner
How to look for records of... Enslaved people and slave owners
How can I view the records covered in this guide?
How many are online?
What do I need to know before I start?
Your best chance of finding a record of an individual who was enslaved is to find them on a slave register. However, there are no registers of enslaved people before 1812. The best place to find information about an enslaved person before 1812 is in the private papers of the slave owner, or in records about the owner or his or her property. Papers might still be with the family or deposited in a local archive or library where the family lived or settled.
A search for records of an enslaved person will be much more difficult if you do not know at least two of the following:
- the name of the enslaved person and the slave owner, including possible variations in spelling – bear in mind that not all enslaved people had surnames
- where they lived, including the parish if possible
- as much information as possible about dates of births, marriages and deaths
Slave registers, 1813-1834
Search on Ancestry.co.uk by enslaved person’s name, year of birth, owner’s name, colony and sometimes parish where resident in the Slave Registers of former British Colonial Dependencies, 1813-1834 [free to view].
These records are drawn from National Archives series T 71, which includes some records unavailable on Ancestry.co.uk (see below). Information available in these records includes:
Records available only at The National Archives in Kew
To access these records you will either need to visit us, pay for research (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).
Slave registers and records of the Slave Compensation Commission, 1812-1851
Search the records of the Office of Registry of Colonial Slaves and Slave Compensation Commission, series T 71, in our catalogue by name of colony and/or parish.
Most registers have indexes to slave owners and estates and give the name of the parish or district where they lived. Some colonies have indexed enslaved persons by name under the name of the slave owner or plantation. The indexes in the slave registers sometimes only include the name of the person who provided the information (or the ‘return’), not the owner.
Records in other archives and organisations
Records held elsewhere
The National Archives’ catalogue contains collections and contact details of local archives around the UK and beyond. To locate these records, search our catalogue with keywords and refine your results to ‘Other archives’ using the filters.
Records held in the archives of other countries
Find contact details for archives elsewhere using Find an archive. More and more archives in British and former British colonial dependencies are indexing and digitising information about enslaved people and slave owners.
Read Researching African-Caribbean family history in the family history section of the BBC website.
Read the articles on slaves and slavery on Your Archives. Also see The National Archives’ exhibition pages on the abolition of slavery.
Use the database on the Legacies of British slave-ownership website to search for a slave-owner or an individual related professionally or personally to a slave-owner. This can act as an index to slave compensation returns in T71 (see above).
Books available to consult at The National Archives’ Library in Kew include:
Tracing Your Caribbean Ancestors by Guy Grannum (Bloomsbury, 2012)
Documents Illustrative of the History of the Slave Trade to America, 4 volumes by Elizabeth Donnan (Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1930-1935)
Judicial Cases Concerning American Slavery and the Negro, 5 volumes by H T Catterall, D M Matteson and J J Hayden (Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1926-1937)
You can also try searching The National Archives’ bookshop for related publications.
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