What are Slave Deeds?
“Slave deeds” are property deeds – bills of sale, deeds of trust, divisions of property – registered with county courts and registers of deeds that contain information about enslaved individuals. Sometimes these individuals are listed only by number, but more often they are listed by name and age, providing invaluable historical information for historians and genealogists.
The slave deed shown below from Buncombe County records the sale of
a negroe woman named Rachal : About twenty six years old for $375 on January 24, 1816. Rachal was sold by William Moore to Ann Ashworth.
Documents like this one, along with the other components of the Digital Library on American Slavery documents like these will help to restore personal details to the history of slavery and to trace the movements of enslaved peoples over time. For genealogists, even small details like first names and approximate ages can be precious leads in reconstructing family histories.
The ultimate goal of the project is to digitize slave deeds across the state of North Carolina. In the first phase, we are working with twenty-six counties. Surveys about participation were sent to all 100 counties in the state, and the twenty-six listed above responded favorably to the survey and have relevant records. Other counties either did not respond to the survey or do not have records going back that far. This may be due to the destruction of records by flooding/fire or, in the case of Western counties especially, the late date of establishment as counties.
READ MORE: Slave Deeds of North Carolina
One more: NC’s Slave Deeds Tell Stories Of ‘People, Not Property’ (WUNC The State Of Things; March 10, 2020)