Afrolumens Project Home
Share |

Central Pennsylvania's journey from slavery to freedom
Site News

Study Areas:



Free Persons of Color

Underground Railroad

US Colored Troops

How to Use the Slave Data Listings

Site Organization

Information on this portion of the Afrolumens Project site is sorted into three main categories:

  • raw data about slaveholders and their slaves (take me there)
    The collected raw data about slaves and slaveholders (data list) is organized by counties, and is then alphabetized according to the surname of the slaveholder.  The lists are long, and many listings lack detail.  Other listings, however, give much information about the individual slaves.  Little or no attempt is made to explain or interpret the data on the data lists.  They are presented, for the most part, as raw data only.

  • educational articles about the collected data (take me there)
    Presented here are articles written about specific aspects of slavery in Pennsylvania, such as a discussion of slave names, where and how Pennsylvanians bought slaves, how slaves resisted their bondage, an image gallery, and more.

  • support pages, such as links, and news (take me there)
    This section includes Web links and addresses of local historical societies and research resources, and other support pages.

  • Site Map
    Use the site map to get around quickly once you understand the site organization.

About the Data

The Order of Information on the Data Lists

Each listing represents a record of one African American enslaved person or indentured servant. The lists are sorted alphabetically according to the owner's surname. I felt that this order would be the most useful for several reasons. It groups enslaved persons together who would have lived with the same owner, and increases the likelihood of finding persons related to each other. Also, records of slave surnames are rare, many being identified only through their given name.  Once on a data list page, you can search the listings for a specific slave given name by using your browser's "find" feature (Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer use Ctrl + F).

Sources, or source numbers are listed in the last line of each slavery entry; numbers correspond to the accompanying list of sources used in compiling this record. Slave ages are generally in years. An "a" following an age means that given age is an approximation. Many slave registration papers list only an approximate age. Some slaves are listed with exact dates of birth. These generally are the children of slaves, registered in 1788 and later. Others are calculated based upon the ages given in the original record or primary source document.  In most cases, slaves ages are not official, but estimates by owners.

Terminology, and Other Notes

The terms "slave" and "servant" were often used interchangeably, especially in the earliest years of the time period covered in this study. After the Gradual Emancipation Act of 1780 was passed in Pennsylvania, the term "servant" frequently came to mean either someone in indentured servitude or someone employed by the head of the household. The passage from slave to servant was often indistinct for many Blacks, many of whom remained with their former owners after being legally emancipated. For simplicity we have used the term "slave" to represent these people whom we believe were truly in bondage, even though some records list them as "servants." This list does not include white indentured servants, who were an entirely different class of labor from Black slaves and Black "indentured servants."

The locations listed for the owners, especially "Township" are greatly mixed, and generally represent the location listed in the original record. Researchers should take into consideration how township boundaries shifted and new townships and counties were created through the years.

Finding a Person

Locating a Slaveholder

As with most history and genealogical Web sites, there is no site index listing all of the people recorded here.  In order to locate a specific individual, whether slave or slaveholder, you should start with the county in which you believe that person lived.  Each county for which slave data has been collected has a header page (take me to the counties header page), with  links to individual pages for that county.  Most data is collected under pages organized according to slaveholder surnames, for reasons given above.  Therefore, if you are looking to locate a specific slaveholder, look for the specific county page that might contain his or her surname.  At the top of those pages are lists of all slaveholders on that page.  Click on a name to be taken to that slaveholder's data and slaveholdings.

Locating an enslaved person

While locating a specific slaveholder is relatively straightforward, locating a slave is very difficult due to the poor records that were kept and which have survived.  It requires a lot of work and patience.  If you know the name of the slaveholder who held the slave, but not the slaveholder's county of residence, you can start at the top of the individual county pages, at the listings of all slaveholders on that particular page.  If you find the slaveholder in question, just click on the name to be taken to the slave listings for that slaveholder.

If you don't know the slaveholder's name, but you think you know the county that the slave was held in, you can start at the top of each individual page for that county and use your browser's find feature.  Using either Netscape Navigator, or Microsoft Internet Explorer, simply hold down the Control (Ctrl) button and the F key at the same time.  A search box will pop up.  Type in the first name of the slave for whom you are searching.  Try different spellings and options if you have no success.

If you don't know either the slaveholder's name, nor the county of residence, you may have to search page by page, which will take time and patience.  Keep in mind that this Web site does not claim to have all of the slave data from the entire state of Pennsylvania.  In fact only a small portion of the known data has been collected so far.  We hope to change that to a "large portion of the known data" in the coming years, however no data set of this nature can ever be considered "complete."



About Afrolumens Project | Contact AP | Mission Statement | Archives