List of Jamaican Manumissions of 1825
in the Public Record Office

by Edward Crawford

[ 105-109 ] · [ 110-119 ] · [ 120-130 ] · [ 131-141 ] · [ 142-153 ]

The following list of Jamaican slave manumissions between 1820 and 1825 with a few even earlier are found in the British Public Record Office at Kew (Ruskin Ave Richmond, TW9 4DU, 0181-876-3444) Their catalogue can be found on the web at This document is filed at CO137/162. The CO stands for Colonial Office papers. This is a large bound volume of Colonial Office correspondence.

The documents are on non-standard size pages of about A4 and the page number given here refers to the double page and whether it is on the left or right hand. The names have been left in the order that they appear in the records and from the page number it is possible for researchers to order the photo-copy of a page from the Public Record Office to check any particular name in its original handwriting in case of mis-transcribing. There appears to be no consistency as they are listed neither by date nor alphabetically whether of the manumitted or manumitter. All of this data at the PRO is presumably drawn from the Jamaican manumission rolls (IB11 at Kingston PRO) which have never been microfilmed.

The background to this is that from 1815 onwards and the end of the Great War with France the British government came under increasing pressure from Abolitionist sentiment and agitation in the UK itself. The government therefore increasingly asked for information from the colonial governments on subjects about which it had never previously bothered. In CO137/162 there are other documents listing details on Jamaican slave marriages, (pp155-168) those sold off the island for crimes, any slaves imported since the abolition of the slave trade, the number of free blacks in every parish and the number on welfare. Few of these documents give individual names, save in the case of marriages though a few parishes simply return the annual number of such though others list names and dates. Similar questions may have been asked of other Caribbean colonies.

It is pointed out in the "Observations" below that appear in the original document that the ages of the manumitted people are not specified. (The Imperial government was worried that elderly or infirm slaves were being feed to starve to save the cost of their upkeep as is apparent from the context.) But, as the names of the owners are known, it might be possible to check these owner names against the Slave Registers, where they are indexed under Parishes in T71 in the PRO. If the name of the owner could be found in the Registers then not simply age but other personal details of the ex-slaves could be discovered. Many of those listed here will be personal servants while others, above all where the surname of the manumitted slave is the same as the male master while the mother's is different, or when indeed they were dignified by a surname at all, were often the children of their master. If their attributed racial category could be found in T71 this might be confirmed.

It should be pointed out that there are repetitions in the list and inaccuracies. One that I have noted is that of Isabella Hall (almost certainly the sister of my great-great grandmother) who freed the same slaves Mary Pennock Hall and Eleanor Barrett Hall for 10/- in 1817 in the first list and in the second list for nothing in 1822. What is more Isabella died in 1824 and the freeing of the slaves Edward Brown and Elizabeth under her will is recorded thus in the first list and not in the second in which supposedly such categories are included! In addition the whole time distribution of manumissions seems odd. I suspect from looking at other documents in CO/137 that the requests of the British government were regarded as a monstrous imposition by the planters ruling the colony and, though complied with, were not necessarily done with much care. Great caution should always be exercised therefore.

Finally I would make an appeal or rather two. First the microfilming of the Kingston manumittance rolls is urgently needed and it would probably render most of this present work superfluous. It might only cost a couple of thousand US dollars, maybe much less. Secondly, as previously mentioned, there are in the PRO the massive Slave Registers, there are 566 volumes for the British West Indies, and another 80 or so for Mauritius that have already been microfilmed plus a dozen or so for Cape Colony and Ceylon. They were done for the whole British Empire between 1817 and 1832. These contain the name, sex and age (they include children) of each individual slave; whether Creole or African; the racial category to which he/she is assigned (negro, mulatto, quadroon etc), the property where they are found and their owner's name. It is surprising how many are African in 1817 when the Slave Trade had been abolished in 1807. The West Indian volumes have never been microfilmed and can only be accessed at Kew.

The Registers are filed under T for Treasury rather than CO for the Colonial Office because they were seen as the prelude to emancipation and the Treasury, who foresaw emancipation but did not trust the planters a bit, wanted a long-run record of how many slaves existed and their details. They did not want to be defrauded. Thus they contain details of slave age and origin which influenced their value. The imposition of this census of slaves was bitterly but unsuccessfully resisted by the planters who realised what it portended.

From my enquiries I understand that the cost of microfilming these volumes and so making the films available to libraries in the UK, the States and the Caribbean would be just over US$200,000. If this was done groups of interested people could co-operate to copy lists of parishes in a similar way to this little project. If anyone knows of an institution that could be persuaded to finance such a microfilming everyone with an interest in Caribbean genealogy would be in their debt. Slave genealogies are so very, very difficult.

The following pages were transcribed by Jenny Sanchez, Debbie Paige, Brenda Smothers and myself. I must most warmly thank the first three for their help and support without which it would not have happened.

Edward Crawford July 2000


25 July 2000
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