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AfriGeneas Slave Research Forum

Looking for a project? Slave Importation Records

Georgia's Slave Importation Records will interest researchers whose focus is anywhere throughout the Old South, because they record people in migration from a variety of places enroute to other locations, at the place and time they arrive in or pass through Georgia. Recorded at Georgia county courthouses, it is true that the majority of records may apply to persons who were (or became) residents of that county at that time, but many records were registered by slavemasters from other counties or states.

For example, the Columbia County book records persons whose home counties were in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Mississippi. Since the migration pattern was generally from northeast to southwest, some of these named counties are almost surely places of origin (Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, for examples), while others are almost certainly a destination (counties in Georgia and Mississippi).

SIGNIFICANCE OF IMPORTATION RECORDS:

The Importation Records document slaveholdings during these slaveholders' lifetimes, at a critical point when they are relocating. Sometimes it is only the enslaved who are relocating -- as when an agent is delivering an inheritance to a person in another state. By comparison, we have to look for a slavemaster to die in order to find probate records!

Importation Records may record slaves' names, ages, physical descriptions, occupations, and mother-child relationships.

Because the antebellum southern population was very fluid, many slavemasters and the enslaved they listed in these books will be found elsewhere (other counties, other states) in earlier and later years.

For some individuals, these Importation Records may be the only document anywhere in which they are named.

PROJECT, ANYONE?

Frankly speaking, searching the unindexed microfilm of these records for a particular ancestor would be an inefficient use of time for most researchers. The likelihood is low that, among all antebellum slaves, any specific person is in these records. A great deal of time is necessary to access these books on microfilm, and then search them. But if a person of interest is in these books, they could be a goldmine of information. So, how to make these records an efficient resource?

In my opinion, the most efficient way to make these records useful is to extract the data into searchable spreadsheets, perhaps similar to those I recently posted on this forum. Researchers could then seach online by name or keyword in only a few minutes.

These county records would be a superb AfriGeneas library project for a team or an individual. There is the initial cost of purchasing microfilm from the GA State Archives, but after that it would be mainly time. For the Columbia County record book (admittedly smaller than some of the books), it took me about an hour and less than $20 to print the pages off the microfilm so I could take them home, then one afternoon and evening to format and populate the spreadsheet. If anyone is interested in taking up a similar project for another county, I will be glad to coordinate, if requested.

Digitizing the film images and placing them online would be a good follow-on option, but images alone are not digitally searchable, so I think the extracts would be the most beneficial first step.

DESCRIPTION OF THE RECORDS:

"Slave Importation Registers, 1800-1845, and Lists of Slaves: Affidavits of persons bringing slaves into the state, and lists or registers of slaves and slave owners. Available for 12 counties: Camden, Columbia, Elbert, Franklin, Jackson, Jones, Morgan, Oglethorpe, Pulaski, Richmond, Warren, and Wilkes."


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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