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

Rockingham County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records

Rockingham County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1783-1861 and undated
Rockingham County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records
Inclusive dates
1783-1861 and undated
  • Rockingham County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records, 1783-1861. The collection contains Free Negro Registrations, 1812-1861; Free Negro Registrations Refused, undated; Free Negro Affidavits and Certificates, 1810-1859; Bills and Deeds of Emancipation, 1783-1833; a Free Negro List, 1860; Overseer of the Poor Indentures of Free Negroes, 1809-1852 (originals and photocopies); Slave Bills of Sale, 1784-1796 and 1842; Orders and Presentments Concerning Freed Negroes Remaining Illegally in Virginia, 1818, 1826, and 1846 (photocopies); Miscellaneous Records, 1783-1806
  • Free negro registrations, certifications and affidavits contain the name of the free person, sometimes the individual's age and a brief physical description, and a statement or affidavit 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. Occasionally the register number is given; this number corresponds to the entry number in the register of free negroes kept by the clerk of court at the courthouse. Sometimes other evidence such as a will or deed of manumission was also presented as evidence of free status
  • Free Negro Registrations Refused (undated) contains two registrations refused on the grounds that the individuals were not born in Rockingham County
  • Bills and Deeds of Emancipation (1783-1833) 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 Free Negro List (1860) was compiled for tax purposes. It contains a list of Free Negroes above the age of 12 in the district of tax commissioner H.A. Chrisman in 1860. The list includes name, gender, age, and occupation
  • Overseer of the Poor Indentures for Free Negroes (1809-1852) include the name of the free negro, 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
  • Slave Bills of Sale (1784-1796, 1842) contain the name of the seller, the name of the purchaser, and the name of the enslaved person or persons being sold. Descriptions of persons being sold usually include age and family relationships among the persons being sold
  • Orders and Presentments Concerning Freed Negroes Remaining Illegally in Virginia (1818, 1826, 1847). These records (photocopies) are comprised of a summons (1818) and two jury presentments (1826 and 1847) pertaining to whether to allow certain free negroes to continue living in the county in violation of a law requiring them to leave the Commonwealth within a year of their emancipation
  • Miscellaneous records contain an agreement between Thomas Lewis and Jean Hughes regarding lending a slave Letty, 1789; a list of slaves taxable for Thomas and Reuben Moore, 1789; and a circular from Governor John Page and the Board of Council regarding counsel for slaves on trial
Member of
Biographical or historical data
  • Rockingham County was named for Charles Watson-Wentworth, second marquis of Rockingham, who supported the colonists in their disputes with Great Britain. It was formed from Augusta County in 1778.
  • 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.
Cataloging source
Location of other archival material
Rockingham County is one of Virginia's Lost Records Localities. Additional Rockingham County Court Records may be found in the Virginia Lost Records Localities Collection at the Library of Virginia. Search the Lost Records Localities Database found at the Library of Virginia web site.
Rockingham County (Va.) Free Negro and Slave Records
These items came to the Library of Virginia in a transfer of court papers from Rockingham County
  • The Library of Virginia
Governing access note
There are no restrictions
Immediate source of acquisition
Rockingham County Circuit Court
Terms governing use
There are no restrictions.
Type of unit
cu. ft. (1 box)

Library Locations

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