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05/11/2013
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*Tracing Your Roots > Caribbean > Slaves
* Slave Registry and Slave Compensation Commission 
 
The records of the slave registries are among the most comprehensive sources for the study of British West Indian slaves for the period c 1814 until 1834 when slavery was abolished.

The slave trade between Africa and the West Indies was made illegal from 1807 but the traffic in slaves between the islands did not become illegal until 1811, although under certain conditions slaves could be moved between the islands.

On 26 March 1812 an Order in Council set up a slave registry in Trinidad as a means to monitor legally held slaves. This was extended to St Lucia by an Order in Council on 24 September 1814. The British government encouraged the other West Indian countries to follow suit and between December 1816 and May 1817 the other colonies passed acts to set up their own registries.

Under the 1819 Slave Registration Act a central registry of slaves was established in London under the Commissioners of the Treasury. Under this act no slaves could be bought, sold, inherited or moved between the islands unless they had been first entered into the appropriate island register. In 1821 the governors were instructed to send copies of the island slave registers and associated indexes to the London registry. The records of the central registry continue until 1834 when slavery was abolished.

The island registries may survive in the local archives or register offices and the records of the London slave registry are in the National Archives series T 71.

The registers in T 71 are arranged by country and then by date of registration. This was usually every three years from when the local registry was set up. They are then usually arranged by parish and often alphabetically by the name of the owner or the person who registered the slaves. Many have separate indexes to owners which give the volume and page number in the relevant register, but most have internal indexes to owners or estates; a few contain indexes to slaves.

The information given in the registers varies between colonies. The first registers are the most complete and list all slaves, thereafter (usually every three years), most only give details on increases and decreases in the slave population on the last registration. Decreases include deaths, sales, gifts, manumissions (grants of freedom) and bequests. Increases include births, marriages, gifts and inheritances. Some registers, however, list all slaves owned.

Most returns list slaves by gender and then by age, but some, such as St Lucia and Trinidad list slaves in families (usually headed by the mother) and often record the relationship with other family members if they are on the same return.

The returns were listed under the name of the slave owner or if absent or deceased under the name of the attorney, executor or manager of the estate. Slaves of minors were usually registered by their guardian.

The registers give much information on the slaves and their owners:

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Creators: Guy Grannum

 
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