Search Instructions

To search for records,  select the “Search” page on the main menu. Generally, the best starting approach is to enter one search criterion in the form ( such as “Smith” for the owner last name) and then select the “search” button at the bottom of the form. This will produce all of the records meeting the search criterion. For our example, there are more than 500 records with “Smith” as the last name of the owner.

A next step is to click on  “search again” at the top of the form and add another criterion (such as County or Borough equals “Albany”) and this produces the Smiths residing in Albany County.

To start over for a fresh search, select “Search” on the main menu.

To focus on a particular owner, enter the last and first name as criteria. If that produces several persons, adding a County or Borough or  a Locality can narrow the search.

It is also possible for search for enslaved persons by name although the results are limited because most of the records refer to slaves only by the first name.

Locality Searches

If you only enter a locality as a search criterion, such as “Queens” for County/Borough, you will get all of the records for that locality, initially sorted by earliest to latest.year.

For an explanation of all of the types of records, see the essay on the Collection Sources.

Census Searches

We also have records of the number of enslaved persons in locality based on colonial and Federal census records. To finds these, select “Census” in the as the “Record Type” at the top of the search form. The identify the County/Borough (such as Westchester) or the locality (such as Scarsdale) and any such records will be displayed.

Tag Searches

Tags are codes that, when used in a search, identify a special circumstance or issue. You can select a tag using the drop-down menu at the bottom of the search form.

The following is a list of the tags:

  • BON: These are records of slaves who escaped to the British during the Revolutionary War and who subsequently emigrated to Canada as free persons.
  • LSTD: The are records of slave transactions in Louisiana where the enslaved person was born in New York. Their enslavement in Louisiana may have been illegal in New York.
  • SJTR: These are records on enslaved persons and owners identified in Sojourner Truth’s biography. We have an essay explaining these records.
  • RAN: These are records based on runaway slave notices and ads.
  • ABN: These are records of babies born to enslaved women who were officially abandoned by the slave owner and placed up for foster care by the local government.
  • SALE: This is a record of a slave trade transaction.
  • EMN: This is a record of an emancipation of a slave.
  • CEM: A cemetery marker or record.
  • SEN: Tags starting with SEN followed by a year identify slave owners who were members of the New York State Senate for the year specified. We have an essay explaining that a majority of Senators in the 1790 and 1800 Senate owned slaves.
  • JAY: Slavery and the extended family of John Jay.
  • SHIP: A record of a vessel transporting enslaved people.
  • INVNY: This tag identifies a New Yorker investing in a slave ship delivering enslaved people to New York.
  • INVI: This tag identifies a person not from New York (typically from Europe or the Caribbean) investing in a slave ship delivering enslaved people to New York.
  • HOUSE: This tag identifies a record associated with a residence that still exists today.
  • RAIL: This is a record of a person enslaved in a southern state arriving in New York seeking freedom.
  • CMPT: This is a record of the NY State Comptroller’s Office compensating towns and cities for the costs of care for abandoned slave children.
  • DESC: The record contains the name of an early descendant of the enslaved person, to assist genealogists.
  • ADV: The record contains the name of a person who tried, in a direct and individual way, to advance or preserve the freedom of the enslaved person.
  • LEGAL: The record involves a legal case or trial.