A Just and True Return (JATR) contains information about more than 6,300 Black people and their enslavers principally taken from extant registries from fifteen Pennsylvania counties: Adams, Allegheny, Bedford, Berks, Bucks, Centre, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Fayette, Lancaster, Northampton, Washington, and Westmoreland. It also includes a handful of records from four counties—Crawford, Franklin, Philadelphia, and York—whose registries have not been located, but which can be partially reconstructed from a variety of other sources. Pennsylvania's 1780 gradual abolition law required enslavers to register with their county clerk any people they wished to continue holding in lifetime slavery. A 1788 law required that they do the same for any children they wished to hold in twenty-eight-year term slavery. Complete entries provide the name, age or birthday, race, and sex of enslaved people; the name, place of residence, and occupation of their enslavers; and the registration date. Slightly less than two-thirds of the entries describe people whom enslavers held in lifetime slavery, whereas more than one-third describe children they held in term slavery. An ongoing project, JATR is the first effort to compile all surviving registration data in a single location and contributes to our understanding of slavery’s survival in the northern United States during the early republic.
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Adams County Term Slave Registry Register of Negroes and Mulattoes, 1800-1820, RG-47, Records of the County Governments, Pennsylvania History and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, PA, www.phmc.state.pa.us/bah/dam/rg/di/r47-SlaveRecords/r47-SlaveRecords-Adams/r47-SlaveRecords-AdamsInterface.htm#AdamsSlave.
Allegheny County Term Slave Registry Schenkel, Edwin N. “The Negro in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania from 1789 to 1813.” Unpublished Manuscript. 1913. Detre Library and Archives at the Senator John Heinz History Center, Pittsburgh, PA.
Bedford County Slave Registrations Records of Negro and Mulatto Children and Miscellaneous Slave Records, 1780-1834, RG-47, Records of the County Governments, Pennsylvania History and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, PA, www.phmc.state.pa.us/bah/dam/rg/di/r47-SlaveRecords/r47-SlaveRecords-Bedford/r47-SlaveRecords-Bedford3rdGroup.htm#bedford3.
Berks County Slave Registry Schaeffer, Paul N. “Slavery in Berks County.” The Historical Review of Berks County 9, no. 4 (July 1941): 110-5, https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/siebert/id/18980. Bucks County Slave Registry Bucks County Register of Slaves, [ca. 1783-1830], RG-47, Records of the County Governments, Pennsylvania History and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, PA, www.phmc.state.pa.us/bah/dam/rg/di/r47-SlaveRecords/r47-SlaveRecords-Bucks/r47-SlaveRecords-BucksInterface.htm.
Centre County Term Slave Registrations Birth Returns for Negroes and Mulattoes, 1803-1820, RG-47, Records of the County Governments, Pennsylvania History and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, PA, www.phmc.state.pa.us/bah/dam/rg/di/r47-SlaveRecords/r47-SlaveRecords-Centre/r47-SlaveRecords-CentreInterface.htm#CentreSlave.
Chester County Slave Registry “A Census of the Slaves in Chester County, Pennsylvania, 1780-1815,” Box 3, Folder 8, Slavery Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection (MS 717), Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.
Crawford County Records Bates, Samuel P., R. C. Brown, and John Brandt Mansfield. History of Crawford County, Pennsylvania, Containing a History of the County; its Townships, Towns, Villages, Schools, Churches, Industries, Etc.; Portraits of Early Settlers and Prominent Men; Biographies; History of Pennsylvania; Statistical and Miscellaneous Matter, Etc. Etc. Chicago, IL: Warner, Beers & Co., 1885, 293.
Cumberland County Slave Registrations Slave Returns, Clerk of Courts Records, Cumberland County Archives, Carlisle, PA, https://ccweb.ccpa.net/archives/Inventory?PSID=541; Returns for Negro and Mulatto Slaves, 1780-1781, 1788-1811, 1813-1821, 1824-1826, 1833, RG-47, Records of the County Governments, Pennsylvania History and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, PA, www.phmc.state.pa.us/bah/dam/rg/di/r47-SlaveRecords/r47-SlaveRecords-Cumberland/r47-SlaveRecords-CumberlandBOCC.htm#cumberland2.
Cumberland County Lifetime Slave Registry Slave and Slave Owners Register, Clerk of Courts Records, Cumberland County Archives, Carlisle, PA https://ccweb.ccpa.net/archives/Holdings?PSID=1819.
Cumberland County Term Slave Registry Slave and Slave Owners Register, Clerk of Courts Records, Cumberland County Archives, Carlisle, PA, https://ccweb.ccpa.net/archives/Holdings?PSID=1819.
Dauphin County Term Slave Registry Dauphin County Pennsylvania Slave Records, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.
Delaware County Term Slave Registry Delaware County Slave Dockets, in the possession of the Delaware County Bar Association, on display at Delaware County Community College, 2022, https://www.dccc.edu/dockets-exhibit.
Ashmead, Henry Graham. History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, PA: L. H. Everts & Co., 1884, 203-5.
Fayette County Term Slave Registrations Birth Records for Negroes and Mulattoes, 1788-1826, RG-47, Records of the County Governments, Pennsylvania History and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, PA, www.phmc.state.pa.us/bah/dam/rg/di/r47-SlaveRecords/r47-SlaveRecords-Fayette/r47-SlaveRecords-FayetteInterface.htm#fayette.
Franklin County Records “Negroes - Indentures & Manumissions, 1792-1854,” Box 11A-B, Folder 2A, Historical Society of Pennsylvania miscellaneous collection (Collection 425), Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.
Lancaster County Lifetime Slave Registry Slaves in Lancaster County in 1780, MG-240: African American Records Collection, Series 1: Slave Register, Folder 17: Handwritten Copy of Slave Register, LancasterHistory, Lancaster, PA.
Lancaster County Term Slave Registry Eshleman, J. B., comp. “Record of the Returns Made in Writing…As Clerk…By Possessors of Negro or Mulatto Children Born After March 1, 1780…John Hubley, clerk, June 7, 1788.” Call Number 326 R294p. LancasterHistory, Lancaster, PA.
Lancaster County Term Slave Registrations Returns of Negro and Mulatto Children born after the year 1780, 1788-1793, RG-47, Records of the County Governments, Pennsylvania History and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, PA, www.phmc.state.pa.us/bah/dam/rg/di/r47-SlaveRecords/r47-SlaveRecords-Lancaster/r47-SlaveRecords-LancasterReturns.htm#LancasterReturns.
Philadelphia County Records Historical Society of Pennsylvania miscellaneous collection (Collection 425), Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.
Pennsylvania Abolition Society papers, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.
Northampton County Lifetime Slave Registry Henry, M. S. History of the Lehigh Valley, Containing a Copious Selection of the Most Interesting Facts, Traditions, Biographical Sketches, Anecdotes, Etc. Etc., Relating to its History and Antiquities. With a Complete History of all its Internal Improvements, Progress in the Coal and Iron Trade, Manufactures, Etc. Easton, PA: Bixler & Corwin, 1860, 97-8.
Mathews, Alfred. History of Wayne, Pike, and Monroe Counties, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, PA: R. T. Peck & Company, 1886, 103-4.
Washington County Slave Registry Negro Register, 1782-1851 (bulk 1782-1820), RG-47, Records of the County Governments, Pennsylvania History and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, PA, www.phmc.state.pa.us/bah/dam/rg/di/r47-SlaveRecords/r47-SlaveRecords-Washington/r47-SlaveRecords-WashingtonInterface.htm.
Westmoreland County Lifetime Slave Registry Appendix A in Albert, George Dallas, ed. History of the County of Westmoreland, Pennsylvania: With Biographical Sketches of Many of its Pioneers and Prominent Men. Philadelphia, PA: L. H. Everts & Co., 1882.
York County Records Bolin, Larry C. “Slaveholders and Slaves of Adams County.” Adams County History 9 (2003): 4-92.
Prowell, George R. History of York County, Pennsylvania. Vol. 1. Chicago, IL: J. H. Beers & Co., 1907, 591.
Intelligencer, & Weekly Advertiser (Lancaster, PA), 27 Aug 1814, p. 3, Newspapers.com
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Young, Cory James, "A Just and True Return: A Dataset of Pennsylvania's Surviving County Slave Registries," 01/01/15 - 01/01/22. 46. Philadelphia, PA: McNeil Center for Early American Studies [distributor], 2022. https://repository.upenn.edu
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Date Posted: 22 July 2021