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AfriGeneas Caribbean Research Forum

[CARIB] Freedmen & Surname Origins

"Surnames" - When did this start???

I have been trying to resolve this question for a number of years and I haven't come across any studies on surname practices for slaves and
ex-slaves. There seem to be many routes for the taking of surnames - the usual assumption is that slaves took the name of their owner and I notice that Dorothy's examples all took their owner's surname but I'm not sure that this is the usual practice.

I know that not all ex-slaves took surnames after emancipation - I have two examples of Grannum marriages where the wives did not have surnames at marriage. One is dated 1837 and the other 1840.

Later this year I intend to start an interim study into slave surname
practices using sources in the Public Record Office - this will obviously be fairly limited because I don't have access to baptismal or marriage records, deeds registers or local wills and genealogies will be difficult (if not impossible) to map. I am still working on the methodology and will seek advice from the experts nearer the time but the outcomes I hope to show will be:

- likelihood of a slave taking the name of their owner (last owner, interim owner or first owner)
- the likelihood of slaves in the same family having the same surname - was this a maternal or paternal name?
- is there a difference in practices between the Protestant islands (eg Jamaica because the registers include relationships and baptismal entries) and the Catholic countries (eg St Lucia and Trinidad where slaves are arranged in family groups and most seem to have last names which are common to the group - I assume therefore that these are surnames)
- was there a difference in practice between the USA and the Caribbean - I hope that there are comparable studies for the USA via the records of the Freedman's Bureau

Does anyone know if there have been any studies on slave or Caribbean
surnaming practices? There are lots on first name practices but I have not found anything on surnames.

Has anyone come across any instructions issued to the authorities or the church on what to do when recording a slave or freeman who did not have a surname for official purposes eg opening a savings bank account, being baptised or married, renting property, or signing contracts etc - most of these instances would be after 1823 when restrictions were relaxed in the amelioration process?


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18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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