Skip to main content
ProQuest LibGuides Banner ProQuest LogoProQuest LibGuides homeProQuest LibGuides home

ProQuest African American Heritage: Slave and Free(d) Persons of Color Registers

A guide to all aspects of the ProQuest African American Heritage database.

How to Search the Registers

To search Slaves and Free(d) Persons of Color Registers:

  1. Select Registers from the Record Type drop list.
  2. Enter or select as much information as you know.
  3. Click Search.

Search Tips

  • You must enter or select at least one value—such as a Last Name, First Name, or State—to get results.
  • Registers from Pennsylvannia are for slaves only. Only first names are shown for slaves; no last names were recorded. However, both first and last names are shown for the corresponding slave owner. Since many slaves took the owner's last name as their own, you might be able to pair a slave's recorded first name with their owner's last name and find an ancestor. Click the Show more search options link to access the Slave Owner Last Name field.
  • Also accessible when you click Show more search options is a field labeled Origin. This field is most useful for Louisiana and Ohio registers.
  • Ohio registers include both first and last names for former slaves who moved to the state, from primarily Virginia and North Carolina.
  • ProQuest African American Heritage returns a maximum of 1,000 matching Slaves and Free(d) Persons of Color records for display. If your search returns more than 1,000 records, a message displays offering suggestions about how you can refine your search to make it more focused.
  • Click the Show more search options link beneath the Year Recorded field to access additional search options, including Age Range and Slave Owner First/Last names.
  • Click the Hide more search options link to remove the additional search options from view.
  • Click the Select from list link corresponding to County or Origin to select from alphabetically-ordered master lists in our database.
  • Review the tips and rules for searching collections found in the Help section of this database.

About Slave & Free(d) Persons of Color Registers

Prior to 1865, numerous states required that slaves and free(d) persons of color register with the county or city clerk. These registers are often helpful in African American genealogical research before the 1870 Census.

Slaves and Free(d) Persons of Color registers form an invaluable collection with its roots in the institution of slavery. Although free persons of color were just that, free...that didn't mean that states didn't want to keep track of who was living where. By registering, African Americans of the time had 'papers' that they were required to provide in order to prove they were indeed, free. Prior to 1865, numerous states required that slaves and free(d) persons of color register with the county or city clerk. These registers are often helpful in African American genealogical research before the 1870 census. The registers cover approximately the years 1780 to 1866. The collection currently includes:

  • Louisiana— Registers of both freed slaves and persons of color who were born free, having never been enslaved.
  • Ohio— Registers of free blacks living in Ohio, most of them former slaves primarily from North Carolina and Virginia.
  • Pennsylvannia — Registers of slaves only. The registers frequently include only a first name for individual slaves, along with the full name of the slave owner. A very common practice of the day was for slaves to take the last name of their owner. The Slaves and Free(d) Persons of Color search page allows you to search using the slave owner name.