A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Barcode numbers: 1119722, 1119725, 1185512
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Southampton County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1754-1860. Local government records collection, Southampton County Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va. 23219.
These items came to the Library of Virginia in shipments of court papers from Southampton County, accession number 31913.
The photocopies of Certificates of Freedom came to the library under accession number 35443.
Southampton County was named, in the opinion of many authorities, for Henry Wriothesley, third earl of Southampton and treasurer of the London Company from 1620 to 1624. It is more likely, however, that the county was named for the borough of Southampton in England. Southampton County was formed in 1749 from Isle of Wight County, and part of Nansemond County was added later.
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. The register listed the age, name, color, stature, marks or scars, in what court the person was emancipated or whether the person was born free. Some clerks recorded additional information not required by the law.
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.
In 1806, the General Assembly moved to remove the free Negro population from Virginia with a law that stated that all emancipated slaves, freed after May 1, 1806, who remained in the Commonwealth more than a year, would forfeit their 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.
Southampton County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1754-1864. The collection contains Affidavits and Applications for Registrations, 1759-1760 and 1816-1853; Apprentice Indentures, 1820-1860; Certificates of Freedom, 1853-1854 (photocopies); Certificates of Importation and Non-Importation of Slaves, 1790-1816; Free Negro Lists, 1791-1860; Free Negro Registrations, 1808-1824; Miscellaneous Records, 1798-1852; Petitions to Remain in Virginia, 1818-1819 and 1850; and Slave Patrol Records, 1754-1860.
Affidavits and Applications for Registrations, 1759-1760 and 1816-1853, contain sworn statements and other documents submitted to establish proof of free status.
Apprentice Indentures for Free Negroes (1820-1860) include the name of the person being indentured, often the name of parents if the individual is a child, the person to whom apprenticed, and the terms of the apprenticeship. Also included are orders from the Overseers of the Poor to bind out certain free black children.
Certificates of Freedom, 1853-1854, contain photocopies of three certificates of freedom issued by the Southampton County clerk in 1853 and 1854.
Certificates of Importation and Non-importation of Slaves, 1790-1816, contain three statements (1790 and 1798) from slaveholders declaring they have not brought slaves into Virginia with the purpose of evading laws preventing the further importation of slaves or selling them. The 1816 certificate includes the name and age of the enslaved person, Jinney, aged 10 years, brought to Virginia from Franklin County, North Carolina.
Free Negro Lists, 1791-1860, are lists of Free Negroes compiled by a revenue commissioner for tax purposes. Lists may contain name only; they may also include gender, age, place of residence, and occupation. Lists of individuals who haven't paid taxes sometimes contain amount of tax levied, and remarks about why the tax was not paid. The collection contains lists from Nottoway Parish, 1801 and 1817, 1821, 1822 and 1826 (oversize); St. Luke's Parish, 1801, 1803, 1812 (oversize), and 1819; the District of Samuel Calvert, 1804-1805; the District of Ephraim Lee, 1807; a list dated 1821 Sep 6, and a list dated 1831 Dec. Also included are a list of Insolvent Free Negroes, 1791-1792; lists of Insolvents and Non-Inhabitants, St. Luke's Parish, 1800 and 1858-1860; Insolvents, Upper District, St. Luke's Parish, 1852-1857; Insolvents, Lower District, St. Luke's Parish, 1857 and undated; Insolvents and Non-Residents, Nottoway Parish, 1800-1801 and 1859-1860; Lists of Individuals Returned Delinquent, 1814-1815; 1821, and undated; and lists of Individuals Ordered for sale for Non-Payment of Taxes, 1826-1828.
Free Negro Registrations (five), 1808-1824, record the name, registration number, registration date, a brief physical description, whether born free or circumstances of emancipation.
Miscellaneous Records, 1798-1852, consist of an order to commit to jail a man suspected of being a runaway, 1798; an order to recover slaves suspected of being transported illegally to South Carolina; a bond to allow enslaved individuals to petition for their freedom, 1814; a slave bill of sale, 1822; the dower of Mary W. Kellos, 1848, listing the names and birth dates of 17 slaves; and a jailor's report, 1852, concerning a person who claims to be free but has been charged with being a runaway slave.
Petitions, Affidavits, and Summons Pertaining to Petitions to Remain in Virginia, 1818-1819 and 1850-1852, contains the petition of James Cotton, 1818, and an affidavit, notice, court order, and a copy of the will that emancipated him; a notice and affidavit pertaining to the petition of Dempsey Bryant, 1819; a notice and bond pertaining to the petition of Pat and her children, 1819; and summonses pertaining to the petitions of Ricks and Nancy M. Neil, 1850; Martha Harris and her son Simon, alias Turner, 1852; and John Harrison, 1852. The summonses include information about the date and circumstances of emancipation.
Slave Patrol Records, 1754-1859, consist of patrol reports, appointments, orders, and warrants. The patrol reports list the names of patrollers, dates and/or hours served on the slave patrol, and the amount of money to be paid. The captain of the patrol is usually indicated. The patrol orders and warrants are directives by the justice of the peace for specifically named men to patrol the county for a specific amount of time.
Southampton County Free Negro Registers, 1794-1864, can be found on microfilm at the Library of Virginia web site. Consult "A Guide to Virginia County and City Records on Microfilm"
Native American Records of the Nansemond and Nottoway Indian tribe once included with this collection have been removed and can now be found in barcode number 1119712 and in Southampton Chancery Causes index numbers 1830-064, 1835-038, 1837-054, 1837-055, 1840-027, 1841-043, 1849-045, 1851-032, 1851-033, 1856-048, 1870-042, 1871-076, and 1871-077. The Southampton Chancery Causes are available on microfilm at the Library of Virginia.
- Southampton County (Va.) Circuit Court
- African American apprentices--Virginia--Southampton County.
- Free African Americans--Virginia--Southampton County.
- Slavery--Virginia--Southampton County.
- Southampton County (Va.)--History
- Affidavits--Virginia--Southampton County.
- Certificates--Virginia--Southampton County.
- Emancipations--Virginia--Southampton County.
- Free negro and slave records--Virginia--Southampton County.
- Free negro lists--Virginia--Southampton County.
- Health and Medical Records--Virginia--Southampton County.
- Indentures--Virginia--Southampton County.
- Judicial Records--Virginia--Southampton County.
- Land Records--Virginia--Southampton County.
- Local government records--Virginia--Southampton County.
- Overseers of the Poor records--Virginia--Southampton County.
- Registrations (licenses)--Virginia--Southampton County.
- Tax and fiscal records--Virginia--Southampton County.