About This Collection
Today’s featured FamilySearch collection is Virginia Slave Birth Index, 1853-1866.
This searchable collection was prepared from an index created by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) from records held at the Library of Virginia in Richmond. Information contained in the index includes the name of the slaveholder, overseer, employer or informant, the name of the enslaved child, the name of the mother and date and place of birth.
For more information on this record collection and how to use it effectively in your research, consult the Collection Learn More Page on FamilySearch.
What’s in This Collection
Each page of the index contains the following information:
- Name of Owner, Former Overseer, Employer or Informant
- Name of Slave
- Name of Mother
- Date of Birth
- Place of Birth
- Page number in Original Register
A sample image from the collection is below.
Document images for this collection may be viewed at the Library of Virginia, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah or at a Family History Center near you.
Researching From This Collection
If you find an ancestor in this collection, you can use the information in the index to search for more records for your ancestor. Having the exact date of birth may help you locate a death record and other records for your ancestor.
The sample image above includes enslaved children born in Appomattox, Virginia. The slaveholder, overseer, employer or informant’s name is recorded as Benjamin Abbitt.
To research from this example, we can do additional research to learn more about Benjamin Abbitt. We don’t yet know if he was the slaveholder, overseer, employer or informant, so we can search for him in the 1850 U.S. Census Slave Schedules and the 1860 U.S. Census Slave Schedules to determine if he was a slaveholder.
Benjamin Abbitt does appear in both the 1850 and 1860 U.S. Census Slave Schedules as a slaveholder in Appomattox, Virginia, so it’s likely that he was the slaveholder for those listed in the slave birth index under his name.
We can search ArchiveGrid to see if any Abbitt family papers are preserved in archives anywhere in the United States. Useful search terms might be “Abbitt Family Papers,” “Abbitt Family Appomattox, Virginia” or the plantation name if we were able to learn that information from our previous search.
We can also consult the book A Genealogical Index to the Guides of the Microfilm Edition of Records of Ante-Bellum Southern Plantations from the Revolution Through the Civil War by Jean Cooper, to see if any Abbitt family papers are preserved in the microfilm collection Records of Ante-Bellum Southern Plantations from the Revolution Through the Civil War. This microfilm collection is available at many university libraries across the country. To learn more about this valuable research collection, see this article on the Reclaiming Kin website.
To learn more about African American genealogy research in Virginia, you can view BlackProGen LIVE Episode 21: District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia Genealogy Research.
Related FamilySearch Wiki Pages
The Virginia Research page on FamilySearch will help you locate FamilySearch collections, learning courses and Wiki resources for Virginia, and is a great starting place for exploring more.
The African American Resources for Virginia page on the FamilySearch Wiki contains links to online resources, suggested research strategies, an outline of African American history in Virginia, overviews of basic record types, information on Free African Americans in Virginia, links to Virginia chapters of African American Genealogical Societies, links to Virginia archives and libraries and links to online resources specifically for African American research in Virginia.
The Wiki page United States Vital Records will provide you with an overall view of vital records, the information they contain and how to use vital records effectively.
More Wiki Resources for African American Genealogy
Researching African American Genealogy provides step-by-step guidance for beginning your ancestor search, as well as links to online resources.
Quick Guide to African American Records contains information on beginning research tips, links to suggested guides for beginning your search for African American ancestors, overviews of major record sets, tips for finding the slaveholder, links to tutorials for African American genealogy in the FamilySearch Learning Center, and links to other online and offline resources.
Southern States Slavery and Bondage Collections will help you locate digitized searchable collections as well as digitized microfilms in the FamilySearch catalog related to slavery and bondage. The page is arranged by state.
African American Genealogy provides links to Wiki pages for researching African Americans in each U.S. state.