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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Re: Goin/Gowens etc and Order Books

In VA Court Order/Minute Books and Free Negro Registers are two different things. however, information about "Free Negroes" and slaves can be found in the Court Order books, which are the minutes of county court sessions when they were in session, and can make for trully interesting reading...A number of the VA ones have been transcribed and appear in journals or available on microfilm. Some have been indexed thank goodness,,,cause it can make for very hard reading. Henry County VA has a wonderful index. It is possible that other states call it by other names or have another procedure.

In VA the law passed in 1793 stipulated that the county clerk keep a separate ledger identifying free blacks in the their county, name, age, description how freed by whom when, like the information you see in Paul's transcription of the Bedford County register. It states that the Negro shall be delivered a copy for 25 cents. A penalty is fixed a Negro without a certificate; the Negro may be committed to jail. Every Negro shall once in every three years obtain a certifcate. however it doesn't appear that all clerks followed that ruling about a separate ledger or if they did not all registers have been located.

Henry County is one where I have been unable to locate a separate register however the Court Order books has registration information about a number of the "free" families that I research ex: 1819 page 419 Milly Harris and her son Nathan hath leave to renew her register alleging the loss of her certificate of her former one...........or March 11, 1851 Prissy Harris registered and denied permission to stay in the county. or June 13, 1859.......James Harris son of Mitty declared not a Negro (that is a whole other issue), Dec 11, 1860 Green Harris hired out for failing to pay taxes and levies.

Additionally VA passed another law in 1801 which stated the it was the duty of the Commissioner of the Revenue annually to return a complete list of all free Negroes (this includes those identified as Mulattos because for all intensive purposes VA really didn't make any distinction in law) within their districts, with their names, sex,place of abode and trades; a copy of the list shall be fixed at the courthouse door. If any free Negro so registered shall remove to another county it shall be lawful for the magistrate of the place where he may intrude to issue a warrent to apprehend the free Negro; if it be proved he has no honest employment, he shall be treated as a vagrant. Henry County did keep these lists...........

If you are researching VA and lucky you could have a county that kept all three, or one, or two...

The Dec 2003 VGS Newsletter has a listing of known VA registers ......I will post in another email.


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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