The Resource Arlington County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records

Arlington County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records

Arlington County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1788-1866
Arlington County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records
Inclusive dates
  • Arlington County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1788-1866, include bills of sale for negroes (1801, 1815), indentures of servitude (1788, 1864), list of free negroes delinquent for nonpayment of taxes (1850-1859), manumission papers (1794-1843), register of free negroes (1858), certificates and registrations of free negroes (1794-1823), certificates for the importation of slaves (1797-1845), petitions of free negroes to remain in the state (1850-1856), and miscellaneous free negro records ((1850 and 1866)
  • The bills of sale contain the name of the seller, the name of the purchaser, the name or sex and age of the slave being sold, and the date of the bill of sale. The 1801 bill of sale also includes a certificate of importation
  • The indentures of servitude contain the name of the person or institution binding out, the person to whom bound, the name of the person being indentured, the length of the apprenticeship, and the responsibilities of the person taking on the indentured servant
  • The lists of free negroes delinquent for nonpayment of taxes list in alphabetical order by surname the names of those who have not paid the tax and the amount owed. Some lists contain notes about property that can be seized to pay the tax or whether that person has removed from the county or has died. Lists include delinquent capitation taxes, colonization taxes, and some just marked taxes
  • Manumission papers state the name of the slaveowner, the name of the slave to be freed, the date the slave shall achieve freedom, the date the manumission was proved or certified, and sometimes a reason why the owner decided to emancipate the slave
  • The register of free negroes indicates the full name, whether male or female, occupation for some, and age of free negroes living in the county of Alexandria, 1858
  • Certificates and registrations of free negroes contain the name of the free person, sometimes their age and a brief physical description, and a statement based either on another person's knowledge or on other official documentary evidence seen by the certifier that this person was either born free or was emancipated. If born free, reference is sometimes made to parents. If emancipated, emancipating owner, place and date of emancipation, and prior registration as a free negro are usually mentioned
  • Certificates of importation contain information whereby a slaveowner swears that (s)he has not imported the slave from Africa and that (s)he has not brought the slave into Virginia with the purpose of selling it. The slave is sometimes named but not always and occasionally information is given as to age or birth date
  • Petitions to remain in the state are requests from an individual accompanied by statements as to his or her circumstance, character, and include signatories of citizens that attest to their belief that the person should be allowed to remain. The verdict of the court is usually recorded on the document
  • Report of runaway slaves, 1802, records names of runaway slaves and the costs incurred from apprehending the slaves and hiring them out
  • Orders to hire runaway slaves, 1802, records names of runaway slaves and orders to hire them out
  • Miscellaneous free negro records include a grand jury report as to the status of free negroes in the county following the Retrocession Act of 1847 when then Alexandria County was returned by the District of Columbia to Virginia (1850); letters between the Freedmen's Bureau and the Alexandria County court regarding the provision of rations to indigent freedmen (1866); and an undated order for unclaimed runaway slave Henry Johnson to be sold
Member of
Additional physical form
are available on Arlington County (Va.) Reel 226.
Biographical or historical data
  • Arlington County was formed in 1789 from Fairfax County and was at that time named Alexandria County. The county was ceded to the federal government in 1801 and was part of the District of Columbia until 1846 when it was returned to the state of Virginia. Alexandria County changed its name in 1920 to Arlington County.
  • A law passed in 1782 by the state legislature made it lawful to emancipate slaves, and also stipulated that liberated slaves neglecting to pay tax levies might be hired out by the sheriff long enough to raise the taxes.
  • 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 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 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. Individuals 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.
  • The Board of Colonization was created by an act of the General Assembly on 6 April 1853. The purpose of the board was to supervise the transportation to Liberia of free blacks on a voluntary basis. To finance the operation of the act, a poll tax was levied on free male blacks. It ceased operations when the Civil War began.
Cataloging source
Location of other archival material
  • Additional Arlington 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" found on the Library of Virginia web site.
  • Board of Colonization records are found in the Auditor of Public Accounts records, entry 110 (APA 110).
Arlington County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records
These items came to the Library of Virginia in a transfer of court papers from Arlington County
Chronological by record type.
  • The Library of Virginia
Governing access note
There are no restrictions
Immediate source of acquisition
Arlington County Circuit Court
Type of unit
cu. ft.

Library Locations

    • Library of VirginiaBorrow it
      800 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA, 23219, US
      37.5415632 -77.4360805
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