If you’ve been watching the new NBC show, Who Do You Think You Are?, you may have seen a recent episode where slavery in America was discussed. Researchers with slave ancestors often have trouble because there just aren’t a lot of federal records which list slaves by name.
One type of federal record that researchers often use to trace their slave ancestors are the U.S. slave schedules. Taken in 1850 and 1860 with the regular population schedules, primarily in the slave states, the slave schedules list slave owners by name, with a statistical count of their slaves. Slaves are not enumerated by name, except in rare instances. The slave schedules can still be useful for research, however, as many slaves took their former owners’ names when they were emancipated. Because of the limitations inherent in these records, they should be used in conjunction with other sources which do list names – for example, later census records and county level records such as wills and probate records.
Here we see an 1860 Monroe County, Alabama slave schedule. William Peary has three slaves – a thirty-five year old female, a nine year old female, and a three year old male. Because the slave schedule doesn’t provide their names, we can’t tell if they are related. But as I mentioned above, if you use this with other records, you may be able to find more information and prove that they are related.
The slave schedules are organized by state and county. They are available on microfilm and online at Ancestry.com.