A Guide to the Accomack County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1744-1861 Accomack County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1744-1861 1138011, 1200487

A Guide to the Accomack County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1744-1861

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Barcode Numbers 1138011, 1200487


Library of Virginia

The Library of Virginia
800 East Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219-8000
Phone: (804) 692-3888 (Archives Reference)
Fax: (804) 692-3556 (Archives Reference)
Email: archdesk@lva.virginia.gov(Archives)
URL: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/

© 2005 By the Library of Virginia. All rights reserved.

Processed by: Library of Virginia Staff

Library of Virginia
Barcode number
Accomack County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1744-1861
Physical Characteristics
.225 cubic feet ca.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

For List of Free Negroes, 1804, use microfilm copy, Accomack County, Reel 193.

Preferred Citation

Accomack County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1744-1861. Local Government Records Collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.

Acquisition Information

These items came to the Library of Virginia in transfers of court papers from Accomack County.

Historical Information

Accomack County was named for the Accomac Indians, who lived on the Eastern Shore at the time of the first English settlement in Virginia. The word means "on-the-other-side-of-water place" or "across the water." It was one of the original eight shires, or counties, first enumerated in 1634 and spelled Accomac without the k. The county's name was changed to Northampton County in 1643. The present county was formed from Northampton about 1663. In October 1670, the General Assembly temporarily reunited Accomack and Northampton Counties as Northampton County. In November 1673, Accomack County was again separated from Northampton. In early records, the county's name was spelled many ways. In 1940 the General Assembly adopted the present spelling, Accomack. The county gained a small part of the southern end of Smith's Island from Somerset County, Maryland, in 1879, after the United States had approved boundary changes between Virginia and Maryland that had been agreed to in 1877. The county seat is Accomac.

A significant number of loose records from the 1700s suffered extreme water and pest damage. Volumes that record deeds, court orders, and wills exist.

Beginning in 1778, slaveholders who brought slaves into Virginia were required to register the slaves with the county court and sign an oath agreeing not to bring slaves into the commonwealth with the intent of selling them.

An act passed by the Virginia legislature in 1803 required individuals who brought enslaved people into Virginia to register the slaves with the county court and sign an oath denying any intent to import slaves for the purpose of selling them.

In 1806, the General Assembly moved to remove the free negro population from Virginia with a law that stated that any emancipated slaves, freed after May 1, 1806, who remained in the Commonwealth more than a year, would forfeit the right to freedom and be sold by the Overseers of the Poor for the benefit of the parish. Families wishing to stay were to petition the legislature through the local county court. Beginning in 1837, freed slaves could petition the local courts for permission to remain.

Scope and Content

Free Negro and Slave Records, 1744-1861, of Accomack County (Va.) include affidavits and certificates of non-importation (1795-1815), deeds of manumission (1783-1791, 1806, 1812-1813, 1824), orders to summon justices to consider application of free negroes to remain in the county (1851-1854), lists of free negroes and mulattoes (1802, 1804, 1805, 1813, 1851-1861), registrations of free negroes (1805, 1837, 1850-1861), a runaway slave advertisement (1758), a request to bind out a child (1744), petitions to remain in the commonwealth (1846-1854), and miscellaneous records (1793; 1799).

The affidavits and certificates contain information whereby a slaveowner swears that (s)he has not imported the slave(s) from Africa and that (s)he has not brought the slave into Virginia with the purpose of selling it. The slave(s) is sometimes named but not always and occasionally information is given as to age or birth date.

Deeds of manumission contain the name of the slaveowner, the name of the slave, the date or age at which the slave will be freed, the date the deed was written, and the date the deed was proved. The age of the slave at the time the deed was written, a surname assigned to the freed slave by the slaveowner, and the slaveowner's reason for emancipation are sometimes given.

Orders to summon justices to consider application of free negroes to remain in the county give the name of the free negro applying to remain in Accomack County and summonses the justices of the peace to court to consider the merit of the application and to give a decision.

The 1802-1861 lists of free negroes gives names of male negroes or mulattoes, female negroes or mulattoes, male children, female children, place of abode, and trade or occupation for the adult males and females. Most lists only give the names of persons over the age of twelve. The 1802 list is of free negroes owing taxes for 1801 and 1802 to Saint George's and Accomack parishes who are to be hired out to pay the tax. The list includes names only. The 1813 list is a list of free Negroes that have not paid their taxes for the years 1812-1813. The list includes names, number of tithables, and tax owed.

Registration of free negroes gives information on a single person as to the name, age, complexion, stature in feet and inches, apparent marks or scars, whether emancipated or free born, and date this information was certified by the court.

The runaway slave advertisement is a printed notice by Landon Carter of Richmond County that his slave Will has run away and gives likely companions including his sister Sarah, a brief physical and personality description, and offers a reward for his return.

The request to bind out as an apprentice child Joshua Aleworth, aged six years, by his mother Sarah Aleworth, a free negro, is dated 1744.

Petitions to remain in the commonwealth often include the name of the petitioner, the circumstances of free status, and a request to remain in the county often with accompanying names of citizens who can testify to the free status or who support the request of the petitioner to remain.

Miscellaneous records include a lawyer's certificate and opinion of claim to freedom are the opinion of Thomas Evans, an attorney, as to the claim to freedom of two men George and Robert or Robin (1793). His opinion in both cases is that the men have a probable claim. Former owners are named. Other records include a receipt for the sale of George, belonging to the estate of Henry Garrett (1799); accounts of negroes hired out belonging to George Abbott (1766-1774) which may or may not belong to the estate settlement of William Taylor.

List of free negroes who worked on fortifications (Civil War), undated, records the names of free negroes and number of days each worked on fortifications.


Chronological by record type.

Related Material

Additional Accomack County Free Negro and Slave Records can be found on microfilm. Consult A Guide to Virginia County and City Records on Microfilm.

Accomack County is one of Virginia's Lost Records Localities. Additional Accomack County Records may be found in the Virginia Lost Records Localities Collection at the Library of Virginia. Search the Lost Records Localities Digital Collection available at Virginia Memory.

For more information and a listing of lost records localities see Lost Records research note.

Access Terms

  • Accomack County (Va.)--History.
  • Accomack County (Va.). Circuit Court.
  • Advertisements--Virginia--Accomack County.
  • Affidavits--Virginia--Accomack County.
  • African American apprentices--Employment--Virginia--Accomack County.
  • African Americans--Employment--Virginia--Accomack County.
  • African Americans--Virginia--Accomack County.
  • Certificates--Virginia--Accomack County.
  • Deeds of manumission--Virginia--Accomack County.
  • Free African Americans--Virginia--Accomack County.
  • Free papers--Virginia--Accomack County.
  • Fugitive slaves--Virginia--Accomack County.
  • Lists--Virginia--Accomack County.
  • Local government records--Virginia--Accomack County.
  • Registrations--Virginia--Accomack County.
  • Slave records--Virginia--Acccomack County.
  • Slave trade--Virginia--Accomack County.
  • Slaveholders--Virginia--Accomack County.
  • Slaves--Emancipation--Virginia--Accomack County.
  • United States. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands.

Contents List

Barcode number 1138011: Free Negro and Slave Records:

Affidavits and certificates of non-importation (1795-1815), deeds of manumission (1783-1791, 1806, 1812-1813, 1824), orders to summon justices to consider application of free negroes to remain in the county (1851-1854), lists of free negroes and mulattoes (1802-1861), registrations of free negroes (1805, 1837), a runaway slave advertisement (1758), a request to bind out a child (1744), and miscellaneous records (1766-1774; 1793; 1799).

Barcode number 1200487: Free Negro and Slave Records:

Registrations of free negroes (1850-1861); List of free negroes (1804)