A Guide to the Norfolk County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1718-1862 Norfolk County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1718-1862 1115577, 1188995

A Guide to the Norfolk County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1718-1862

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Barcode numbers: 1115577, 1188995


Library of Virginia

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Processed by: LVA staff

The Library of Virginia
Barcode number
1115577, 1188995.
Norfolk County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1718-1862
Physical Characteristics
0.90 cu. ft. (2 boxes)
Chesapeake (Va.) Circuit Court.
Library of Virginia

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Preferred Citation

Norfolk County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1718-1862. Local government records collection, Chesapeake (City)/Norfolk County Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va. 23219.

Acquisition Information

These items came to the Library of Virginia in shipments of court papers from Norfolk County.

Historical Information

Norfolk County probably was named by Adam Thoroughgood, a local resident, for his native county in England. It was formed from Lower Norfolk County in 1691. Norfolk County became extinct in 1963, when it was consolidated with the city of South Norfolk to form the city of Chesapeake. Portsmouth, incorporated as a city in 1858, was previously part of Norfolk County.

An act passed by the Virginia legislature in 1803 required every free negro or mulatto to be registered and numbered in a book to be kept by the county clerk.

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.

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.

The General Assembly of Virginia passed a law as early as July 1, 1861, calling for the enrollment of free negroes to work in the public service.

Eighteenth-century Virginia law required the removal of an ear for slaves convicted of a range of crimes, from stealing to capital offenses.

Scope and Content

Norfolk County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1718-1862. The collection contains free negro certificates of registration and affidavits and vouchers pertaining to registrations, 1782-1862; court orders certifying individuals are of Indian descent and are not free negroes or mulattoes, 1833-1860; applications and petitions to register as a free negro in Norfolk County, 1817-1855; deeds of emancipation and manumission, 1782-1801; free negro delinquent tax lists, 1822-1860; free negro indentures, 1726-1861; requisitions of free negroes for military and public use, 1861-1862; certificates of importation of slaves, 1812 and 1817; records pertaining to the sale and hiring out of slaves, 1807-1859; slave patrol records, 1803-1860; petition for reenslavement, 1861; valuation of slaves, 1835; miscellaneous records pertaining to free negroes, 1770-1861 and miscellaneous records pertaining to slaves, 1797-1859 and undated.

Free negro certificates of registration, affidavits, and vouchers, 1782-1862, include name, sometimes age, and a brief physical description, and the circumstances of the person's freedom or emancipation. If born free, reference is sometimes made to parents. If emancipated, the emancipating owner, place and date of emancipation, and prior registration as a free negro are usually mentioned.

Court orders certifying individuals are of Indian descent and are not free negroes or mulattoes, 1833-1860, contain only the name of the individual and a record of their registration with the court as persons of Native American descent. The collection contains records for Asa Price and members of the Price, Perkins, Bass, and Newton families, 1833; Mary Blount, 1851; James Howell, 1851; Amanda Perkins and Pastora and Oliver Bissell, 1855; and William Turner, 1860.

Free negro petitions and applications to register as a free negro in Norfolk County, 1817-1855, contain the name of the person applying and the reason for the application. They sometimes include information documenting the individual's free status, such as date of emancipation or birth to free parents, or prior registration in Norfolk County or another county. Some records include information about when the individual moved to Norfolk County, or lost their registration. The collection contains the petition of Ephraim, 1817; and the applications of Harriet of Mabry, 1850; Jim Pugh, 1851; Martha Randolph, 1852; Edward Lawrence, 1853; George Reed, 1854; and Libby, emancipated by Richard Carney, 1855.

Deeds of emancipation and manumission, 1782-1801, contain copies of deeds of emancipation for slaves emancipated in Nansemond and Accomack Counties, as well as one deed from Norfolk County. The deeds contain the names of the emancipator and the emancipated persons and the date of emancipation, and sometimes an explanation of the motives for the emancipation.

Free negro delinquent tax lists (photocopies), 1822-1860, contain the names of free negroes returned for nonpayment of local taxes. The lists contain the name of the person charged, the amount charged, and sometimes the parish or district.

Free negro indentures, 1726-1861, are comprised mostly of indentures binding out free negro children whose parents have died or are unable to support them. The include the name of the child and sometimes the parent, the child's gender, age in years and months, to whom bound, trade or occupation to be taught, length and terms of the indenture, and the name of the witness to the indenture. The collection also contains a bond transferring the apprenticeship of Henry Clay Barrett from John Nicols to W. Pettyjohn, 1853; and a voucher of service completed issued to Thomas Young, 1798.

Requisitions of free negroes for military and public use, 1861-1862 contain a list of 32 free Negroes called for military service, 1861 Dec. 16; a list of seven free negroes requisitioned in Portsmouth, 1861 Dec. 21, for service in the defense of Carney Island; a letter ordering the requisition of 30 free negroes for the construction of defense works at Carney Island, 1861 Dec. 14; a letter ordering the requisition of free negroes to work on the defenses of the Department of Norfolk, 1862 Apr 25; and a partial list of free negroes to be summoned in Portsmouth, 1862 Feb. 6. Also included are letters from the Engineers Headquarters at Norfolk to the Norfolk County sheriff and justices ordering the requisitions.

Certificates of importation of slaves, 1812 and 1817, contain a statement documenting William Wilson's removal of an enslaved woman by the name of Dolly from Currituck County, North Carolina, to Virginia, recorded 1812; and a statement documenting John Hodge's removal of an enslaved man and an enslaved woman and her five children from North Carolina to Virginia, recorded in 1817. The document gives the name and age of each person brought into Virginia, and a brief physical description of each person, and Hodges' oath that he has not brought the slaves into Virginia for the purpose of sale.

Records pertaining to the sale and hiring out of slaves, 1718-1859. These records are comprised of bills of sale, orders to sell slaves, requests, and recommendations to sell slaves, one of which includes an advertisement for the sale of the slave. The records contain the name of the slave, the owner, the purchaser, and sometimes a description of a slave's character and/or the reason the slave is being sold. Also included is a bond from Richard White to Abner Nash for the conveyance of slaves from Thomas Nash to Monica Nash, 1796.

Records of slaves rented or hired out, 1807-1859. These records are comprised of a Memo (photocopy), circa 1840, of estates in the hands of the late sheriff and where property is to be rented or hired out; and a collection of bonds for the hire or rent of slaves, 1807-1859. The memo contains the names of slaves, the estate of they which they are a part, and the names of the individuals who hired the slaves. The bonds contain the name of the slave hired, the names of the parties renting and leasing, the work to be done, and the amount to be paid to the owner of the enslaved worker.

Slave patrol records, 1803-1860. These records consist of reports, accounts, claims, and summonses. They contain the names of individuals summoned to patrol the slave population, reports of patrols made, and the amount charged to the county for the work.

Miscellaneous records pertaining to free negroes, 1833-1861 and undated. Included are Daniel Clarke's certificate stating that he lost his ear to a mule, and not any other cause, recorded in Kent County, Maryland, 1740, and in Norfolk County, Virginia, 1770; a report of the commitment of Jane Sims (?) to jail for want of free papers, 1833; a report of the commitment of Joseph Evans to jail for want of free papers, 1849; an order pertaining to a claim on the estate of Diana Wright, a free woman, for her burial expenses, 1861; and the acquittal of Peter Cartwright (?), undated, for an unspecified offense.

Miscellaneous records pertaining to slaves, 1797-1859 and undated. Included are a list of slaves, undated, with no owner identified; a letter from William Ingram to Lewis Grimes charging Grimes' slave with carrying off one of Ingram's female slaves and going about as a free man, 1797 February 13; a slave pass for the negro slave Guy, signed by Mary Dougless, 1803; and affidavits and orders pertaining to runaways Alsy, Cuffie, and child, 1852; Charles, 1853, and Belle, 1837.

Index Terms

    Corporate Names:

  • Chesapeake (Va.) Circuit Court
  • Confederate States of America--Army-African American troops.
  • Subjects:

  • African Americans--Employment--Virginia--Norfolk County--19th century.
  • Confederate States of America--Army--Recruitment, enlistment, etc.
  • Confederate States of America--Defenses.
  • Free African Americans--18th century--Maryland--Kent County.
  • Free African Americans--Virginia--Isle of Wight County.
  • Free African Americans--Virginia--Nansemond County.
  • Free African Americans--Virginia--Norfolk County.
  • Indians of North America--Virginia--Norfolk County--History.
  • Slave labor--Virginia--Norfolk County.
  • Slave records--Virginia--Norfolk County.
  • Slaveholders--Virginia--Norfolk County.
  • Slavery--Law and legislation--Virginia--Norfolk County.
  • Slavery--Norfolk County, Va.--History--18th century.
  • Slavery--Norfolk County, Va.--History--19th century.
  • Slaves--emancipation--Virginia--Accomack County.
  • Slaves--emancipation--Virginia--Nansemond County.
  • Slaves--emancipation--Virginia--Norfolk County.
  • Slaves--social conditions.
  • Geographical Names:

  • Chesapeake (Va.)--History
  • Norfolk County (Va.)--History--19th century
  • Norfolk County (Va.)--History--18th century
  • Portsmouth (Va.)--History--19th century
  • Genre and Form Terms:

  • Affidavits--Virginia--Norfolk County.
  • Articles of apprenticeship--Virginia--Norfolk County.
  • Bills of sale--Virginia--Norfolk County.
  • Bonds (negotiable instruments--Virginia--Norfolk County.
  • Certificates--Virginia--Norfolk County.
  • Criminal court records--Virginia--Norfolk County.
  • Fiduciary records--Virginia--Norfolk County.
  • Free negro and slave records--Virginia--Norfolk County.
  • Free papers--Virginia--Norfolk County.
  • Indentures--Virginia--Norfolk County.
  • Judicial records--Virginia--Norfolk County.
  • Letters (correspondence)--Virginia--Norfolk County.
  • Local government records--Virginia--Norfolk County.
  • Military records--Virginia--Norfolk County.
  • Slave patrol records--Virginia--Norfolk County.
  • Tax and fiscal records--Virginia--Norfolk County.
  • Vouchers--Virginia--Norfolk County.
  • Added Entry - Corporate Name:

  • Norfolk County (Va.) Circuit Court

Contents List

Barcode number 1115577:

Free Negro Certificates of Registration, Affidavits, and Vouchers, 1792-1861; Free Negro Certificates and Vouchers Unknown Surname, 1794-1861; Affidavits Certifying Individuals are of Indian Ancestry and are not Free Negroes, 1833-1860; Petitions and Applications to Register as a Free Negro in Norfolk County, 1817-1855; Deeds of Emancipation and Manumission, 1782-1801; Free Negro Delinquent Tax Lists, 1822-1860.

Barcode number 1188995:

Free Negro Indentures, 1726-1860; Certificates of Importation of Slaves, 1812, 1817; Bills of Sale for Slaves, 1718-1859; Bond of Conveyance, Applications and Orders to Sell Slaves, 1796-1856; Records of Slaves Rented or Hired Out, 1807-1859 and undated; Slave Patrol Records, 1803-1860; Miscellaneous records pertaining to free negroes, 1770-1861; Miscellaneous records pertaining to slaves, 1797-1859 and undated; and Requisitions of Free Negroes for Military and Public Use, 1861-1862.

Significant Places Associated With the Collection

  • Chesapeake (Va.)--History
  • Norfolk County (Va.)--History--19th century
  • Norfolk County (Va.)--History--18th century
  • Portsmouth (Va.)--History--19th century