Records of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Relating to Slaves, 1851–1863. NARA microfilm publication M433, 3 rolls. Records of the District Courts of the United States, Record Group 21. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.
NARA describes the records in this database as follows:
“This microfilm publication reproduces all the records relating to slavery in the District of Columbia that were kept by the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia. These … include emancipation papers, manumission papers, 1857–63, and case papers relating to fugitive slaves, 1851–63.”
This is a valuable collection for anybody searching for slave ancestors in Washington, D.C., during this time. Most of the records are emancipation records stemming from two acts of Congress, passed in April and July 1862, that freed slaves in the District of Columbia. The April act gave slave owners loyal to the Union until 15 July to file schedules listing their slaves in order to receive compensation. The July act let former slaves file the schedules themselves and also freed slaves who were working in Washington, D.C., after 16 April whose owners did not live in the District. These schedules, along with notes about dates of freedom, make up the emancipation papers.
The 1857–1863 manumission papers are records of slaves voluntarily freed by their owners. The fugitive slave case papers often include only warrants for arrest or proofs of ownership.
Though their contents vary, these records can provide names, ages, gender, family relationships, residence, dates of manumission, information about owners, and sometimes some personal description and mention of skills or duties.
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