Georgia Registrations of Free People of Color, 1819
this article was contributed by Chris Nordmann to the National Genealogical Society Quarterly
In 1820, 13 percent of all blacks in the United States were free. Of this number 134,223 were enumerated in the South, 99,281 in the North. That total, 233,504, would grow to nearly a half a million before the Civil War resulted in freedom for all nonwhites. Statistically, the modern black genealogist might expect one out of every eight antebellum ancestors to be free, not slave. In such cases, they will find those ancestors not only in conventional records created by most free Americans but also in valuable genealogical records that are unique to this race and class. Among the latter are the registrations of free people of color (black and mixed black-white-Indian combinations) which were created, to various extents, in almost all Southern areas.
As a means of controlling nonwhites, in the years of slavery as well as to protect the freedom of those who were not enslaved, city and county ordinances often required them to carry and file proofs of their freedom. Those who moved from one area to another or those who made frequent trips to urban centers, such as sailors visiting various seaports, were often required to register with local officials. Such free papers and registrations also served as evidence that they were free and not subject to seizure, imprisonment, or sale as suspected runaway slaves.
As a source for genealogists and historians, these registrations, whether in the form of published lists or recorded affidavits, are a valuable source. They contain a variety of data, including (but not limited to) place of birth, age, occupation, racial composition, physical description, and length of residenc in the area. In the case of the recorded affidavits at courthouses, white sometimes testified to their knowledge of a certain man, woman, or family's freedom, often provideing clues for associations within the community and origins for the white affiliant as well as the nonwhite friend. Registrations created before 1850 are especially important as they contain the type of personal information that pre-1850 censuses do not provide on residents of any color.
As with other Americans, free negroes were a mobile people. The list that follows, covering three of Georgias major counties (including one whose records are burned), provides evidence of that mobility. The registered individuals were from two states north of the Mason Dixon line, five to the south of it, and three foreign countries. Extant county records and subsequently published registrations reveal that only a small percentage remained within these counties after five or so years. A number later appear in neighboring states. Thus other lists of this type published in conformity with the Georgia Law, could provide important information for tracing black ancestry in many of the Southern and Southwestern states.
Clerk's Office, Inferior Court, 2nd March 1819
Augusta Chronicle & Georgia Gazette
[Published 13 March 1819, page 2]
"I certify that the following is a correct list of the names of persons of color registered in this office, in conformity to the act of the 19th December, 1818, supplementary to, and more effectually to enforce an act prescribing the mode of manumitting slaves in the state, & c-and all persons concerned or interested will take notice, that certificates will issue to them, on or before the first Monday in May next, if objections are not filed thereto, on or before the second Monday in April next, viz:"
Free People of Color who were listed with only a firstname are located on the last page, letter R - Y
Last Update: 10/2008
Web Author: EE Vaughn
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