Saturday, August 18, 2007




Coll. NYHS : Collections of the New‑York Historical


HDC : Historical Documents Collection, Queens College,
Queens, N.Y.

LIHS : Long Island Historical Society

MCNY : Museum of the City of New York

NYGBR : New_York_Genealogical_and_Biographical_Record

NYGBS : New York Genealogical and Biographical Society

NYHS : New‑York Historical Society

SIIAS : Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences

St. Francis : James A. Kelly Institute, St. Francis college, Brooklyn, N.Y.


NOTE : For full citation of these and other works, see comprehensive list in the bibliography below except where full citation is given here.

The sources for New York slavery and the slave family are numerous and important. Historians of the southern slave experience have traditionally relied on plantation registers or family papers and the censuses and data taken or collected by the Union Army and the Freedmen's Bureau. These sources fit with the focus of their enquiry: plantation slavery. Slavery in New York was a different phenomenon‑‑private men presided over modestly sized enterprises and farms. The sources, once again, fit the institution‑‑sources generated by individual households and by local officials in small towns. New York owners bought and sold slaves, advertised in newspapers for runaway slave property, appeared along with their blacks in censuses, wrote wills, manumitted their slaves, and registered the birth or abandonment of slave children. Clergymen listed the slaves they baptized, married, or buried, while town poor authorities recorded the names and circumstances of blacks whom they either certified as capable of self‑support or sheltered as paupers. Slaves themselves rarely fashioned these documents. They were inadvertently catalogued in the bureaucratic encounters between their owners or other whites and the state. Fortunately for us, these interactions were frequent and well recorded, and they provide the kind of quantitative data out of which the life experience of the slave can be retrieved from obscurity.

The historian of early New York enjoys a plentiful supply of censuses. Provincial censuses were taken in 1698, 1703, 1712, 1723, 1731, 1737/38, 1746, 1749, 1756, and 1771. Local censuses, tax lists, and assessment rolls were also taken for individual towns from the earliest 1675 Flushing "Valuations of Estates" through the 1823 Jamaica Assessment Roll. In all, twenty‑five such censuses which included blacks were taken for various towns during this time period.1 In addition, in 1755 New York took a special census of all slaves over the age of fourteen. In 1776 Suffolk County took its own population count. After 1790 the federal census enumerated New York State's population every ten years. New York City took its own small censuses for election purposes from 1805 to 1819. The quality and completeness of information varies greatly from census to census (see the notes to appendix 1). Many censuses list only town or county total population figures; they provide less important information than complete household by household censuses or censuses which divide the black population into age and sex groups.

Information contained in census materials fleshes in the general contours of the slave population. The density of the slave population in towns and counties defined opportunities for personal and social intercourse. Sex ratios determined the chances for sexual relationships and marriage. The size of the slaveholdings indicated the daily living circumstances of the black population. Based on the sex and/or age distribution of individual holdings, the proportion of slaves that were able to live together in family groups is discernible. The annual growth rate of the population, reflected both the level of slave imports and the ability of the enslaved blacks to fully or partially reproduce themselves. The fertility levels of slave women can be guaged by the proportions of children in the population and the ratio of children to women. Various other characteristics of a given population can be teased out of census data‑‑the age structure of a particular population over time, a comparison of black and white demographics, and the proportions of elderly in the population. The proportion of blacks still enslaved or free in post‑1790 censuses reveals that voluntary manumission proceeded at different rates in the six southern counties of New York included in this study. The ease or difficulty with which freed blacks set up their own households is indicated by the proportion of freed blacks listed in the 1790 through 1820 censuses who either resided in white households which contained other slaves or freed blacks or in their own independent domiciles.

The possibilities for New York slaves to live together as families were circumscribed by the size and sex/age distribution of slaveholdings. Wills and estate inventories provide intimate pictures of the testator's slaveholding, from which estimates can be made of the potentialities for slave family life to persist under one roof. Wills and inventories list holdings of slaves and other property at only one static point in the life of both the testator and his slaves. A man's changing slaveholding history and patterns (and the shifting fortunes of his slaves) are obscured by the use of this type of source alone, but it is an intriguing window into the past. While not all white men wrote wills, slaveholders probably disproportionately did so; they had this valuable property, at least, to dispose of as they saw fit. Slaves were one of the most expensive possessions in a man's estate, comparable to an automobile in the twentieth century. The wills and inventories represented a broad economic spectrum of New York's population, from the ordinary merchant and farmer to the small elite. The death of the owner usually meant disruption for his slaveholding; the breakup or continuity of these groups of slaves is seen in their testamentary dispositions. At this juncture those slaves who lived in family groups (husbands and wives, parents with children, mothers with children, or siblings) were likely to be separated as some were given to the owner's wife or various children, sold, hired out, or freed. Wills also indicate how elderly slaves who were dependent on their owners for old age support were cared for, ranging from solicitous, concerned, lifetime maintenance to attempts to free aged slaves to a life of dependency and want.

The Historical Documents Collection at Queens College, New York, holds seventy‑one reels of microfilmed wills originally deposited in the New York City Surrogate's Court between 1658 and 1879.2 This collection also houses 5,790 estate inventories filed from 1783 to 1844 in the same court.3 The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society holds twelve reels of original microfilmed wills covering the 1680 to 1804 period for New York County. Original wills for Kings County, 1787 to 1900, are contained in 272 volumes in the Kings County Office of the Surrogate in the Supreme Court Building.4 Wills covering 1787 to 1909 take up 419 volumes in the Queens County Office of the Surrogate. Richmond County's wills, 1787 to date, are in that county's Office of the Surrogate. The Historical Documents Collection at Queens College houses estate inventories filed between 1666 and 1775 (1,080 items), and wills written from 1666 to 1829 from the Court of Appeals at Albany (which contain materials that also pertain to the southern six counties of the state).5

Researchers are aided by a large number of printed compilations of wills and estate inventories. The New‑York Historical Society published fifteen volumes of abstracts of wills on file in the Surrogate's Office of New York City which cover the period between 1665 and 1801. Other sources include Bloch, Hershkowitz, and Scott, "Wills of Colonial New York, 1736‑1775"; Bristol, "Abstracts of Wills Recorded at White Plains Subsequent to May 1, 1787"; Canfield, "Abstracts of Early Wills of Queens County"; Daughters of the American Revolution, Old_Wills_of_New_Rochelle; Eardeley, comp., Queens_County_Surrogate_Records at_Jamaica, New_York:_Indices_of_Wills_and_Abstracts_of Wills_1787‑1835; Eardeley, comp., Records_in_the_Office of_the_County_Clerk at_Jamaica; Eardeley, comp., Suffolk_County_Surrogate Records_at_Riverhead,_New_York,_1787‑1829; Easter, comp., The_Wills_of_Suffolk_County,_Libers_A_and_B,_1787_‑_1809: Abstracts; Frost, "Genealogical Gleanings from Book No. 2 of Conveyances, Brooklyn, Kings County"; Hershkowitz, Wills_of_Early_New_York_Jews; Inventories of Estates‑‑New York City and Vicinity 1717‑1844, two microfilm reels, New‑York Historical Society; Marriage and Birth Records, Wills and Inventories of Flushing, Long Island‑‑Photostats from the Originals in the Bowne House at Flushing, Long Island, 1677‑1783, Manuscript Room, New York Public Library; McQueen, "Kings County, N.Y., Wills"; Charles Moore, comp., Abstracts of Wills, Easthampton, Long Island, 1700‑1786 (Typewritten.), New York Genealogical and Biographical Society; "Old New York Inventories of Estates"; Pelletreau, comp., Early_Long_Island_Wills_of_Suffolk_County; Pelletreau, ed., Early_Wills_of_Westchester_County; Pelletreau, comp., Wills_of_the_Smith_Families; Petty, "Abstracts of Brookhaven (L.I.) Wills, on Record in the Surrogate's Office, at New York"; Scott, "Early Original New York Wills"; Scott, " Early New York Inventories of Estates"; Scott, "New York Inventories, 1666‑1775"; Scott and Hershkowitz, "Index of Original Wills, 1776‑1829"; Scott and Owre, Genealogical_Data_from Inventories; De Witt Van Buren, comp., Abstracts_of_Wills of_Kings_County; Elizabeth Van Buren, comp., Abstracts_of Wills_Recorded_at_Riverhead; Wills‑‑Commissioner of Records, Kings County, 3 vols., James A. Kelly Institute, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, New York; Wills of Richmond County, 1787‑1863, on file at the Surrogate's Office, St. George, Staten Island, Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences. Isolated individual wills were located in articles, books, and in family papers and manuscript collections.

New York's church records list slave baptisms, marriages and deaths from 1639 through the legal end of slavery in 1827. They provide information on the small proportion of slaves who were baptized or married in church. It is likely that the politics of slavery interfered with normal black religious patterns‑‑owners often determined whether their slaves attended church or not. In some cases religious owners probably brought their slaves to church and insisted on their baptism and church marriage‑‑in other cases, slaves received these ceremonies in spite of their opposition. The records of black baptisms, marriages, and deaths reflected some combination of white and black religious and familial practices. Blacks got baptized and married, but these events were recorded in white churches. Except for slave child baptisms (where black parents were commonly listed), church officials who recorded slave baptisms (adults), marriages, and deaths most often described the slaves as the property of their owners rather than in terms of their connection to a black family (as someone's spouse, parent, or child). These affiliation recordings reflected the white perception that an adult slave was primarily an item of property rather than a family member.

According to several compilations,6 approximately 178 churches were founded in the southern six counties of New York prior to 1827 by fourteen denominations, excluding Quaker and Jewish records. This study located eighty‑one such records but utilized only fifty‑five of them; the other twenty‑six church records either contained no blacks or their extant records were for a later time period. The ninety‑seven church records which remain unmined were not easily accessible to scholars or had been destroyed. Many churches were too small and in existence too briefly to have preserved their records‑‑many such irregular congregations existed in members' homes or in rented rooms.7 Nine of the ninety‑seven churches were black. The records of St. Philip's Colored (1818) and of the Abyssinian Baptist Church (1809) were burned or destroyed, and the African Presbyterian Church (1824‑1826) and the First Protestant Dutch Church of the People of Colour (1823‑1829) only lasted a few years each. The records of the First Colored Methodist Episcopal Church of Flushing, organized as the African Macedonia Church in 1811, are reportedly available at the church from 1811 onwards. The state of preservation of the other four black church records (African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, New York City <1796, African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church, Brooklyn <1818, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, New York City <1819, and the New Lots Dutch Reformed Church <1824) is unknown.

The fifty‑five records of nine different church denominations used in this study are available in manuscript collections or in printed compilations. Of the fifty‑five churches, thirty‑five conducted marriages between blacks, and sixteen of the thirty‑five performed marriages for blacks who were slaves. Forty of the fifty‑five churches baptized blacks; twenty‑seven of the forty baptized enslaved blacks. All of the fifty‑five churches may have married and baptized blacks, but the records are spotty. Some have gaps in years or have baptismal records but no marrriage registers. My sample is largest for the later time periods due to better record‑keeping and document preservation. Black records were probably more subject to loss than the records of white vital events.8

A large collection of sources deals with the post‑1785 period of voluntary manumission and gradual emancipation. Manumission documents yield information on the use of last names for slaves and on the age, sex, and possible familial attachments of the slaves who were freed. They reveal whether or not a slave was freed alone or together with a member of his family. Manumission documents, slave child birth registrations, and slave infant abandonment notifications were often written down in a town's records or kept in a separate book by the town clerk. Once overseer of the poor certification routinely accompanied manumissions of slaves under the age of fifty (under forty‑five after 1817) from April 12, 1785 through July 4, 1827, such deeds appeared regularly in town records. Slaves who were freed during this period without overseer of the poor approval may not have had their manumissions entered into local records and could have been underrepresented in this research sample. Slaves themselves often requested that their freedom be recorded with the Office of the Register of New York County, indicating that such procedures were not always routine.9

One of the main functions of the New York Manumission Society (founded in 1785) was to induce masters to record the names and ages of the slaves they freed with the Society "in order that the same may be registered and the Society be the better enabled to detect attempts to deprive such manumitted persons of their liberty."10 Undoubtedly, a large body of manumissions which took place during these years never appeared in manumission registration books and town records. In addition to occasionally haphazard preservation of manumission deeds in local records, the amount of detail included on a manumission certificate varied from town to town. The New York Manumission Society kept thorough records and collected information on each case. Town clerks or county officials had less incentive to record obscure information about the slaves' histories or families beyond the requirements of the law.

Manumission documents for slaves in the southern six counties of New York were located in a large number of printed volumes of town records and in manuscript collections. The availability of such records varies dramatically among the forty‑nine towns in five counties and ten wards of New York City covered in this research. Manumissions which were recorded in the Office of the Register, New York County (Libers of Conveyances) and with the New York Manumission Society are abstracted in Yoshpe, "Record of Slave Manumissions." The original manumission documents filed in two groups with the New York Manumission Society (Manumission Society, New York City Indentures 1809 ‑ 1829; Manumission Society, New York City Register of Manumissions of Slaves in New York City 1816‑1818) are on microfilm reel 1, Manuscript Room, New‑York Historical Society. Spot checks comparing the original New York Manumission Society documents at the New‑York Historical Society with Yoshpe's lists reveal a high degree of accuracy in Yoshpe's work. Only a few occasional details are left out. Another group of manumissions recorded by the New York Manumission Society (Register of manumissions of slaves and of agreements respecting the liberation of slaves) is in manuscript at the Museum of the City of New York.

Manumission documents are available for the Kings County towns of Brooklyn, Flatbush, New Utrecht, and Bushwick, but not for Gravesend and Flatlands. Manumission records for the above towns exist in manuscript at the James A. Kelly Institute at St. Francis College, Brooklyn, New York: Brooklyn Town Meeting Minutes, 1785‑1823, Book no. 500 (published
Slave records for the county of Westchester were not as plentiful as for other areas; several of its towns had either scanty or no documentation. The manuscript records of the town of Westchester contain slave manumission deeds and registrations of births of slave children: "Manumition of Slaves" May 8, 1787‑‑April 11, 1816, Liber A, Westchester Town Records, microfilm reel TWC2, roll 5, Historical Documents Collection, Queens College, Queens, New York. Scattered manumission records for the towns of Mount Pleasant (Mount Pleasant Town Records), Salem, and White Plains are in manuscript at the Westchester County Historical Society but yield very few documents. Manuscript manumission records for the towns of New Rochelle and Scarsdale are located at the Tom Paine Memorial House, New Rochelle, New York. The town records of Mamaroneck are on microfilm at the New York State Library in Albany. Printed records for three Westchester County towns list slave manumissions: Forbes, transcriber, Records_of_New_Rochelle; Historical_Records‑North_Castle/New_Castle, vol. 1; Historical_Records_of_New_Castle__1791‑1850, vol. 2; Eastchester Historical Society, Records_of_the_Town_of Eastchester,_1665‑1835, vol. 10. Published Bedford town records contain no manumissions or slave child birth registrations. In 1871 Charles Baird (Chronicle_of_a Bordertown‑‑Rye, pp. 181‑88, 393) used town records for Rye which contained manumissions that are abstracted in his work. I was unable to locate the Rye Records, volumes B, C, and D which Baird used; they may no longer be available to scholars.

In Queens County the three published volumes of the town records of Jamaica (Frost, ed., Records_of_the_Town_of Jamaica,_1656‑1751) contain only a few scattered early manumissions. Volume four (1749‑1855) of Jamaica's town records contains slave manumissions (no slave child birth registrations were located). The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society holds a microfilm copy of volumes four through seven of Jamaica town records (Meigs, comp., Records_of_Jamaica,_1749‑1897). The town records of Flushing are also located at the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (Work Projects Administration, Records of_the_Town_of_Flushing,_1790‑1885, vol. 1) and include manumissions and black and Indian child service indentures but no registrations of slave child births. A few early Flushing records are at the Historical Documents Collection at Queens College. Both Oyster_Bay_Town_Records, vol. 7, and Records_of_North_and_South_Hempstead include slave manumissions. Except for early records (1656‑1753) at the Historical Documents Collection at Queens College and registers published by the Historical Records Survey, Town Minutes_of_Newtown,_1656‑1734, the town records of Newtown are completely missing.

Several Suffolk County towns arranged to have their records printed; some of the volumes contain manumission documents: Osborne, comp., Records_of_Easthampton; Pelletreau, comp., Records_of_Southampton; Records_of_the Town_of_Brookhaven,_1798‑1856, vol. 2; Shaw, ed., Records_of Brookhaven,_Book_A; Pelletreau, comp., Records_of_Smithtown, pp. 177‑88. In his 1917 survey of the records of Smithtown, Frank Brush located records for the manumissions of slaves between 1809 and 1836 at the town clerk's office. The town of Huntington included only abstracts and samples of its full manumission and slave child birth registration records in its published town records (Huntington_Town_Records, 3:199, 290‑93) according to compiler Charles Street. The original documents are reportedly in a small bound volume in the Huntington town clerk's office entitled "Manumission of Slaves." Shelter Island did not have its town records published; the original records may survive at the local historical society, public library, or town hall. Abstracts of Shelter Island slave manumissions appear in Mallmann, Historical_Papers_on_Shelter_Island, pp. 75‑76; excerpts of the same documents are also in the Helen Z. Wortis Collection, Long Island Historical Society. Town records for Riverhead and Southold are published but do not contain information on slaves.

The manumission records of Richmond County seem to have been permanently lost to historians. Ira K. Morris, in the late 1890s, borrowed several manuscripts from the county clerk's office in order to complete his Memorial History_of_Staten_Island published in 1900. Morris mentioned that a fire in the village hall of Castleton in the winter of 1896 had earlier destroyed most of that town's records. One of the books that survived was entitled "Richmond County. This is a Tow
New York State required owners to record the birth of every child born to their female slaves between 1799 and 1827 as part of the gradual emancipation program by which all such children would be freed upon reaching adulthood. These slave birth registers provide information on the naming patterns of children, the number of births per slave woman, and how often slave women delivered children. The child birth registers rarely mentioned fathers; mothers and children were the focus of these documents. In Kings County slave child birth records survive for the towns of Flatbush, New Utrecht, Bushwick, Flatlands, and Gravesend, but not for Brooklyn. In towns where data was located, the quality of the information differed from town to town. In Gravesend and Bushwick the name of the mother of the black child was usually listed, but not in Flatbush, New Utrecht or Flatlands. Slave child birth registrations for Kings County all exist in manuscript at the James A. Kelly Institute, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, New York: Flatlands Slave Records 1799‑1838, Register of the Children born of slaves after the 4th day of July 1799 within the town of Flatlands in Kings County in the State of New York agreeable to an Act Entitled an Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery passed the Legislature of this State the 29th day of March 1799; Bushwick Town Records‑‑History, Deeds, Births of Slaves 1660‑1825; New Utrecht Births and Manumissions of Slaves 1800‑1822; Flatbush Slave Records 1799‑1819: Births and Manumissions of Slaves 1799‑1819, vol. 107; Gravesend‑‑Births of Slaves 1799‑1819.

The following sources include registrations of the births of children to slave women in other towns in the southern six counties of New York: Town Book for Castletown for the entry of Black Children born of Slaves after July 1, 1799, microfilm reel 49, New‑York Historical Society; Westfield slave child births in Morris, History_of_Staten Island, 2:41‑42; Records_of_the_Town_of_Brookhaven,_1798‑1856, vol. 2; Huntington_Town_Records, 3:203‑12, 291‑93; Pelletreau, comp., Records_of_Southampton, vols. 2 & 3; Shelter Island Town Records (excerpts) in Mallmann, Historical_Papers_on_Shelter_Island, p. 76 and in Helen Z. Wortis Collection, Long Island Historical Society; Osborne, comp., Records_of_Easthampton; Southold‑‑Notes from Town Records not in printed books, Frost Collection, New York Genealogical and Biographical Society; Oyster Bay Town Records, 8:325‑34; New York City Birth Certificates of Slaves, microfilm reel 49, New‑York Historical Society; "Book of Coloured People‑‑Town of Eastchester, New York, 1795‑1822," Eastchester Historical Society, Records of the Town_of_Eastchester,_1665‑1835, vol. 10, section 1: Miscellaneous_Records_of_the_Town_of_Eastchester,_New_York, 1794‑1834; Forbes, transcriber, Records_of_New_Rochelle; Town Records of Westchester, Book 46, Schools and Slave Births 1799‑1822, microfilm reel TWC1, Historical Documents Collection, Queens College, Queens, New York; Records of Salem Precinct, Lower Salem‑South Salem
The gradual emancipation act of 1799 permitted slaveowners to legally abandon infants born to their slave women between 1799 and 1804 to local overseers of the poor. The potential for family disruption under the infant abandonment program was great. A child born to a slave woman between 1799 and 1804 could have had three sources of documentation‑‑a registration of his birth, a notification of abandonment by his owner, and a listing on an overseer of the poor roll for the support of abandoned children. Many of the abandoned children studied here were located in only one of the three source types. Official notification by owners of their intention to abandon slave infants are listed with the registrations of slave child births for the towns of Castleton, Northfield (Morris, History_of_Staten Island, 2:37‑48), Huntington, Southampton, New Rochelle, Westchester, New York City, Eastchester, New Utrecht, Flatlands and Bushwick.

Overseers of the poor in each town were required to submit bills to the comptroller of New York State specifying the charges incurred in supporting the abandoned children of slaves in order to be reimbursed for their expenses. These overseer of the poor rolls or accounts for the support of abandoned children throughout New York State have been largely destroyed.15 The overseer of the poor roll of abandoned infants for the town of Southfield in Richmond County which once existed in manuscript was only incidentally preserved by its inclusion in the New York State Freedom Train public exhibition program (Official Document_Book_of_the_New_York_State_Freedom_Train, p. 40). This document, entitled "Overseer of the Poor for Town of Southfield‑‑To Boarding and clothing the undermentioned Negro children which are now living and were born of slaves and abandoned agreeable to law of said state for the abolition of slavery passed the 29th day of March, 1799, dated January 1, 1804," was lent to the Freedom Train exhibition by the Staten Island Historical Society, which claims to no longer own the original document. Were it not for this published photograph of the sheet, the manuscript would be permanently removed from the historical record.

A January 1806 roll of abandoned slave children in the town of Bushwick, entitled "Overseers of the Poor of Bushwick‑‑account presented by John Conselyea and John De Bevoise, overseers of the poor of Bushwick, for the maintenance and support of the following abandoned black children, January 1, 1805‑January 1, 1806, chargeable to the State of New York," is in manuscript at the Long Island Historical Society. Four folders at the New York State Library, Albany, New York (Care of Children of Slaves, Accession Number 267 Box 1) contain manuscript overseer of the poor rolls for seven towns. Rolls are consecutive for New Utrecht (1802‑1806) and Newtown (1802‑1805). North Hempstead has rolls for 1804, 1805, and 1806. Only scattered or partial accounts remain for North Salem (1802, 1803, 1806), Oysterbay, New York City, and New Rochelle.16

In the Eastchester Historical Society, Records_of_the Town_of_Eastchester,_1665‑1835, 10:19, the poormasters, supervisor, and town clerk presented an account to the state on December 31, 1804, for the support of pauper children who had been born in the houses of Judge Farrington, Elisha Shute, Ramson Burtis, Glorianna Franklin, and John Peterson. No other accounts or rolls for Eastchester remain other than general overseer of the poor accounts of monies due the town between 1804 and 1807 from the State Treasury for the support of black children. Eastchester Historical Society, Records_of_the_Town_of_Eastchester,_1665‑1835, vol. 6: Overseers_of_the_Poor_1778‑1824, pp. 79, 80, 89, 90, 93, 97. The Journal of John Baxter of Flatlands, Long Island, 1790‑1826, vol. 1 1790‑1804, Long Island Historical Society, contains references to February 11, 1804 and April 21, 1804 town meetings held in Flatlands to discuss the free black children. No records of these meetings, however, were found in the manuscript books of Flatlands town meeting records located at James A. Kelly Institute, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, New York.

These rare data on abandoned black children are fortunately supplemented by New York State Comptroller's Office expenditure records (New York State Library, Albany, New York) and the Comptroller's annual state budget reports (New‑York Historical Society) on the payments made by New York State to local overseers of the poor to support these children over many years. Records of the indentures of older children, many of whom were these same earlier abandoned infants, are preserved only for the towns of Flushing and Southfield; a few scattered overseer of the poor accounts are the only other light shed on the eventual placement of these abandoned children.
Other, smaller bodies of data, also provide information on the slave family: newspaper runaway and "for sale" ads, private bills of sale, and British ship evacuation registers kept during the 1783 withdrawal of troops, loyalist civilians, and blacks from the American colonies. These documents shed light on whether slaves ran away to or with family members, were sold with or apart from relatives, or fled with the British in ways reflecting former family ties or newly formed associations. The history/genealogies of prominent white New York families also often include information on the families' slaves.17 The laws passed regarding slavery and the court cases which involved slaves illustrate both the concerns of white society about their human property and the constraints which were placed on the black family. Together with the census materials, wills, church records, manumission documents, slave child birth registers, and overseer of the poor rolls for abandoned slave children, these sources are ample for the reconstruction of the slave family in New York.

Although an abundance of primary source materials exists for the study of the slave family in New York, many manuscripts once available to historians are no longer in existence (such as the Ira Morris Richmond County records, Rye town records, New York State infant abandonment rolls, and the original Southfield abandonment roll mentioned above). A manuscript bill presented by the overseers of the poor of Flatbush to New York State for the support of Wall, a former slave of Frederick Philipse, was used by Edward Hall in his 1930 research. The original document was burned beyond readability in the 1911 state archive fire and has obviously deteriorated much since Hall's viewing of it and is now illegible.18 Many of the present sources are still housed in small historical societies or haphazard archives‑‑poorly catalogued, inaccessible to scholars, and subject to the permanent destruction suffered by earlier records.

* * * * *

Additional documents such as those described above (censuses, wills, tax assessment rolls, church records, bills of sale, manumission deeds, slave child birth registrations, and family papers) may be found in the collections of the following archives, libraries and museums: Easthampton Free Library, Easthampton, New York (Long Island Pennypacker Collection); Suffolk County Historical Society, Riverhead, New York (assessment rolls, tax lists, slave bills of sale, town and church records); Southold Free Library, Southold, New York (Southold Collection, Folder 271); Suffolk Museum and Carriage House, Stony Brook, New York (slave grave headstones); Queensborough Public Library, Jamaica, New York; Shelter Island Historical Society; Shelter Island Public Library (original Shelter Island town records); Huntington Historical Society, Huntington, New York (church records, family Bibles and records, wills, deeds); Nassau County Historical and Genealogical Society at Adelphi University (Youngs family papers 1670‑1846 including deeds, wills, inventories, slave manumissions); Museum, Manor of St. George, Center Moriches, Long Island, New York (5,000 items, Tangier Smith family, 1658‑1954); Nassau County Historical Museum, Library and Archives, East Meadow, New York; Museums at Stony Brook, Kate Strong Historical Library, Stony Brook, New York; John Jermaine Memorial Library, Sag Harbor, New York (1694 slave bill of sale); Westbury Children's Library, Westbury, New York (1761 slave bill of sale); Washington's Headquarters, Elijah Miller House, North Castle, New York (1801 slave manumission); Cornell University Library, Ithaca, New York (Pratt Family Papers, 1758‑1903, contains documents pertaining to Queens County resident Joseph Lawrence, 1770 slave bill of sale).

1A large number of other local population and property counts were taken which did not list blacks as either town residents or as chattel: Rufus King, "Early Settlers of Southold, Suffolk County, Long Island," NYGBR 30 (1899):120‑22; "Names of Inhabitants of the Town of Hempstead, 1673," O'Callaghan, ed., Documentary_History_New_York_State, 1:427‑28; "Tax List of New York City in the Year 1676," NYGBR 2 (1871):36‑38; "Rate Lists of Long Island 1675, 1676, 1683" (twenty‑eight lists for towns in Kings, Queens, and Suffolk counties), O'Callaghan, ed., Documentary_History_New_York State, 2:253‑313; 1688 Property Assessment List and 1694 List of residents who paid for the new patent, Huntington_Town_Records, 2:18‑21, 151; Rate for the year 1694; An estimate of the town, September 11, 1696; Estimate of the Inhabitants February 27, 1698/9; An estimate of the town January 14, 1700; Parish Rate, May 28, 1736, Pelletreau, comp., Records_of_Southampton, 2:361; 5:33‑36, 39‑43, 67‑70, 96‑99; "Census of Staten Island, 1698," William Eardeley, copier, Long Island Historical Society (shelf); May 4, 1764 Assessment Roll; 1778 List of 550 Persons Taking Oath of Loyalty; Assessment of Property, 1782; List of Inhabitants, 1783, Huntington_Town_Records, 2:467‑79; 3:35‑45, 85‑96, 105‑8; "Brookkhaven Tax List, 1775," The_Genealogical_Exchange 4(1907): 45‑47, 55‑56, 64; Tax Lists of Oyster Bay, July 10, 1784, and October 7, 1788, Arthur Wardwell, copier, LIHS; Tax Lists of Oysterbay, Long Island, 1784 and 1788; Tax Lists of Jamaica, Long Island, for 1784 and 1788; Tax List of Newtown, Long Island, 1786; Tax Lists of Hempstead, Long Island, 1784, 1788, 1792, and 1797, Henry Onderdonk, copier, typed from manuscripts at LIHS, 1940. Black propertyholders are listed in the above North Hempstead tax lists for 1788 and 1792. Assessment Rolls for Bedford, 1808, 1809, 1815; North Salem, 1811; Salem 1806, 1807, 1808, Westchester County Historical Society; Assessment Book for the Town of Brooklyn, 1810, Edna Huntington, copier, LIHS; Census of Southampton, 1821, Ms. File 123, LIHS; A Census of Baiting Hollow Parish, by Families, January 1, 1825, Jonathan Horton, copier, New York Public Library.

2Prior to 1787, Kings, Queens, Suffolk, Richmond, Westchester and New York County wills were all recorded in the New York City Surrogate's Court. After this date wills for each individual county were recorded in that county's courthouse (at Brooklyn, Jamaica, Riverhead, St. George, White Plains, and New York). Archival or published collections of New York City Surrogate Court wills contain documents from all of the southern six counties of New York until 1787; wills written after that date belonged only to New York City residents.

3The Historical Documents Collection at Queens College also contains a large number of other types of documents such as tax assessment rolls, Ulster County records, colonial newspapers, town records, orphan master, town, and court records of New Amsterdam, customs records, and coroner's office records.

4Other Kings County records include Kings County conveyances (beginning in the seventeenth century) on microfilm at the Register's Office, Municipal Building, Brooklyn, New York.

5Some of these records may have been transferred to the New York State Library, Albany, New York, in 1982.

6Stokes, ed., Iconography_of_Manhattan_Island, 6:341‑42; Historical Records Survey, Division of Professional and Service Projects, Work Projects Administration, Inventory of_the_Church_Archives_in_New_York_City, vol. 1: Reformed Church; vol. 2: Presbyterian; vol. 3: Religious_Society_of Friends:__Catalogue:_Records_in_Possession_of_or_Relating_to the_Two__New_York_Yearly_Meetings__of_the__Religious_Society of_Friends_and_their_Subordinate_Meetings; vol. 4: Protestant_Episcopal pt. 1 Diocese_of_Long_Island (Kings, Queens), pt. 2 Diocese_of_New_York (Manhattan, Bronx, Richmond); vol. 5: Lutheran; vol. 6: Methodist; 6 vols. (New York: Historical Records Survey, 1939‑1940).

7Such small, makeshift congregations sometimes existed prior to the official founding date of their church. The First Reformed Dutch Church of Jamaica was organized in 1702, but Kings County ministers had held occasional services in this town since 1661. Work Projects Administration, Reformed Dutch, p.36. Similarly, the French Huguenot Community worshipped in New York City from 1628 in temporary churches until the Eglise du St. Esprit was founded in 1704. Stokes, ed., Iconography_of_Manhattan Island, 6:341‑42.

8Black entries were deleted from various versions of the records of St. George's Episcopal Church at Hempstead. Compiler Benjamin D. Hicks (NYGBR 9<1878:183) noted that "there are a number of records of baptisms of slaves and colored people <1725‑1771 scattered through the record. These have been omitted." A later transcription by Haight, Adventures__for__God:__A__History__of_St._George's_Episcopal Church, also listed no black baptisms for the 1725 to 1791 period, but did include five black marriages between 1790 and 1793. A third version, copied by Arthur S. Wardwell, Records of St. George's Episcopal Church, Hempstead, Manuscript File 271, LIHS, listed numerous black baptisms between 1789 and 1822.

A similar problem involved the records of St. George's Episcopal Church at Flushing (Records of St. George's Episcopal Church, Flushing, New York, Flushing microfilm reel, NYGBS). The compiler noted that the lists of baptisms, marriages, and deaths were transcriptions of entries in Jamaica parish registers and in the oldest register of St. George's Parish. He added that "the names of negroes are omitted when they appear without family names." No blacks appeared in the baptism and burial lists and no black marriages were included between the years 1782 and 1809. Slaves were more likely to be excluded from the transcribed record than free blacks due to the greater tendency for slaves to bear no last names. The many black marriages listed between 1810 and 1830 overrepresented free blacks who were more likely to have last names. This edition of church records was printed in St._George's_Sword and_Shield (December 1905). A later copy of the church's records (Florence Youngs, transcriber, Parish Records of St. George's (Episcopal) Church, Flushing, L.I. 1782‑1834 <1937) also excluded blacks who appeared without family names. The most recent publication of these records is Kenneth Scott, transcriber, NYGBR 110‑12 (1979 ‑1981) and includes only two black marriages that were omitted in previous versions.

9Yoshpe, "Record of Slave Manumissions," p. 92.

10Ibid., pp.103‑4.

11Morris, History_of_Staten_Island, 2:36‑48.

12Morris, History_of_Staten_Island 2:38, lists the names of eleven owners who abandoned slave children in Castleton‑‑this information does not appear in the town book for Castleton.

13This is based on an oral communication with Loring McMillen, on April 11, 1980. Mr. McMillen took office as the official historian of Staten Island in 1934, and organized and virtually founded the Staten Island Historical Society. At that time he went through all the records and found only the 1803 Southfield overseer of the poor list of abandoned slave children used in the Freedom Train collection. He found no other records pertaining to slavery; the records had been destroyed by the Castleton fire and Morris's carelessness.

14In 1917 Frank Brush, The_Records_of_Smithtown surveyed the records of the town of Smithtown and reported that records of the births of slave children between 1808 and 1819 were located at the town clerk's office. It is possible that they may still survive.

15In a June 29, 1983 communication, archivist James D. Folts of the New York State Library, Albany, N.Y., confirmed the library's holdings of six folders of overseer of the poor accounts for the care of abandoned slave children. Folts wrote that "there was once a whole box of these slave accounts, but it was mistakenly shipped to a Quebec paper mill in 1955 and only a few of the accounts were recovered." These slave accounts were undoubtedly among the "500 pounds of New York State papers

16Overseer of the poor accounts for other New York towns outside the southern six counties of the state are also included in this collection.

17Rosalie Fellows Bailey, "The Willett Family of Flushing, Long Island," NYGBR 80 (1949):1‑9, 83‑96, 150‑64, 220‑29; Rosalie Fellows Bailey, "John Smith of Hempstead, New York: Beginnings of the 'Rock' Smith Family"; "The Joseph Smiths of Hempstead, N.Y.: The Branch of the 'Rock' Smith Family Ancestral to Hon. Samuel Smith, Acting Lt. Governor of Upper Canada"; "The James Smith Family of North Hempstead, N.Y.: A Branch of the 'Rock' Smiths Including the Hon. Samuel Smith, Acting Lt. Governor of Upper Canada"; "Notes on the Early Benjamin Smiths of Hempstead, N.Y., With Emphasis on the 'Rock' Smith Family," NYGBR 88 (1957): 5‑22, 91‑104, 136‑54, 199‑210; Thorn Dickinson, "Early History of the Thorne Family of Long Island," NYGBR 92‑96 (1961‑1965) passim; Rev. Arthur Wentworth Hamilton Eaton, "William Thorne and Some of His Descendants," NYGBR 19 (1888): 153‑60; 20 (1889): 77‑88; Rev. Arthur Wentworth Hamilton Eaton, "Stephen Thorne, The Loyalist, And His Descendants," NYGBR 22 (1891): 174‑82; Rev. Arthur Wentworth Hamilton Eaton, "William Thorne of Flushing, Long Island, and His Wife Susannah," NYGBR 53 (1922):18; A. Hatfield, Jr., "Early Settlers of West Farms, Westchester County, N.Y.

18Hall, Philipse_Manor_Hall, pp.188‑89; Revolutionary Manuscripts, Commissioners of Forfeitures, Southern District, Accession Number 7012, Collection Number 200, Box 49, New York State Library, Albany, N.Y.


NOTE: Manuscript and printed primary church and census materials are listed separately.

1. Manuscripts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

2. Printed Primary Sources. . . . . . . . . . . . .

3. Newspapers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

4. Church Records. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

5. Vital Records . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

6. Census Materials. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

7. Secondary Works . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

8. Theses and Other Papers . . . . . . . . . . . . .