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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Re: Caroline County, VA register of free negroes

There doesn't appear to be one. Someone queried the list back in 2005, and Selma responded that Caroline County didn't have a register at LVA (Library of Virginia).

I conducted a quick page search of Heinegg's research at to look for entries of any of the free persons he documented from the county who were registered, and didn't find any such references.

You will probably need to dig through the county court order books for references to free registers.

There were typically three types of entries in the order books. The first appeared when "the court" summoned all or specific free persons to appear in court to be registered, or to renew their registers. The second type appeared when a free person lost or misplaced his/her register and applied for a replacement. The third type of entries appeared when a free person was found traveling without a free register and was brought before the court to prove his/her free status. If that person registered locally, the court orders would typically reflect that fact.

Finding registers in the order books is relatively easy if the county clerk indexed the names. Typically the names will appear in an index at the beginning of each volume. Usually they are arranged by the first alphabet of the surname, and may include in parentheses “(reg’td)” or something similar. Sometimes you’ll also see “F.N.,” “mul,” or “N.” written next to a name.

They might also be listed in the index by “comm.” or “commonwealth” vs. [free person’s name], to indicate a court case involving the state and an individual. This index entry would be an example of a case where the free person was brought to court for being found without a register in his/her possession.

Other sources to consult are the minute books and deed books. The minute books might briefly state that a specific free person or "sundry negroes" appeared in court to renew their registers.

If the person was emancipated, rather than simply freeborn, then you should also look in the deed books. I've found cases where a slave was freed, and the info relating to his/her free register was recorded along with the emancipation. However, when I checked the court orders and minutes, I didn't find entries that related to the free register.

Below is a link to the Library of Virginia’s list of microfilm records that are available for interlibrary loan.

The library has a program that allows you to borrow up to 5 reels of microfilm at a time through your local library. Please note that the minute and order books for the most part fall under the heading “Court Records,” but that there are additional order books under the headings “Superior Court of Law” and “Circuit Superior Court of Law and Chancery.”

Good luck with your research!

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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