A Guide to the Orange County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1836-1864 Orange County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1738-1865 1171431, 1171432, and 1188805

A Guide to the Orange County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1738-1865

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Barcode number 1171431, 1171432, and 1188805


Library of Virginia

The Library of Virginia
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Email: archdesk@lva.virginia.gov(Archives)
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© 2015 By The Library of Virginia. All Rights Reserved.

Processed by: LVA staff

The Library of Virginia
Barcode number
1171431, 1171432, and 1188805
Orange County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1738-1865
Physical Characteristics
.95 cu. ft. (3 boxes)
Orange County (Va.) Circuit Court
Library of Virginia

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Preferred Citation

Orange County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1738-1865. Local government records collection, Orange County Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va. 23219.

Acquisition Information

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

Historical Information

Orange County according to most accounts, was named for William of Orange, the Dutch prince who became King William III of England in 1688. It is more probable, however, that it was named for William IV, prince of Orange-Nassau, who married Anne, eldest daughter of King George II, in 1734-the year that Orange County was formed from Spotsylvania County. The county court first met on 21 January 1735. The county seat is Orange.

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.

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.

Scope and Content

Orange County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1738-1865. The collection is comprised of free negro registrations, 1832, 1860; patrollers's returns and claims, 1774-1859; petitions to remain in the state, 1843; petitions for voluntary reduction to slavery, 1861; and miscellanous documents.

Free negro registrations document the name, age, physical appearance, and circumstances of free birth or emancipation of free African Americans living in Orange County between 1836 and 1860.

Applications and petitions to remain in the state contain the petition, sometimes supporting lists of names from citizens, and other paperwork related to various requests by emancipated slaves to remain in Virginia. One petition from 1855 is a list of citizens requesting that no emancipated slaves be allowed to remain due to the effect it may have on their slaves.

Petitions for voluntary reduction to slavery are requests from free persons of color to be enslaved and names the person they choose to be their master. Accompanying paperwork sometimes includes a copy of their free negro registration papers.

Miscellaneous free negro and slave records include: court order related to transporting free negroes to Liberia, 1833; letter of support for Sally Tulip to remain in the state, 1826; petitions and depositions related to slave property, 1738, 1760; apprenticehip documents, 1851, 1859; petition related to black assemblies, 1843 circa; list of insolvent free negroes, 1854; request for proof of emancipation, 1851; requisition of slaves, 1861, 1864; lists of slaveowners, 1862; notice of deed of trust related to slave property, 1861; petition to release a slave from public works service during the Civil War, 1863.

Related Material

Additional Orange County Free Negro and Slave Records can be found on microfilm at the Library of Virginia. Consult A Guide to Virginia County and City Records on Microfilm.

Separated Material

Index Terms

    Corporate Names:

  • Orange County (Va.) Circuit Court.
  • Subjects:

  • African Americans--Employment--Orange County (Va.)--Civil War, 1861-1865.
  • Free African Americans--Virginia--Orange County.
  • Requisitions, Military--Virginia--Orange County.
  • Slaveholders--Virginia--Orange County.
  • Slaves--Emancipation--Virginia--Orange County.
  • Geographical Names:

  • Orange County (Va.)--History--19th century.
  • Genre and Form Terms:

  • Free negro and slave records--Virginia--Orange County.
  • Free negro registrations--Virginia--Orange County.
  • Local government records--Virginia--Orange County.
  • Petitions--Virginia--Orange County.

Significant Places Associated With the Collection

  • Orange County (Va.)--History--19th century.