Please note that this collection contains sensitive information about enslaved people.
General Collection Information
During the 1850 and 1860 United States Federal Censuses, enslaved individuals were recorded separately in what were called slave schedules. This database provides details about those persons, including age, sex, and color, but unfortunately, most schedules omit personal names. Some enumerators did, however, list the given names of enslaved people—particularly those over one hundred years of age—which are generally found in the "name of slave owners" column.
Additional slave schedule fields that are not indexed include:
- “Fugitive from the State” (meaning they were a freedom seeker)
- “Number manumitted” (or freed)
- “Deaf & dumb, blind, insane, or idiotic”
Using this Collection
Sometimes the listings of enslaved persons on large estates or plantations appear to take the form of family groupings, but in most cases enslaved individuals are listed from oldest to youngest with no evident attempt to account for family structure or units.
In any event, the slave schedules almost never conclusively connect a specific enslaved individual with a particular slave owner. At best, they provide supporting evidence for a hypothesis derived from other sources. When researching enslaved individuals, the slave schedules are most helpful when used in conjunction with the 1870 U.S. Federal Census, the U.S. Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885, wills, and probate documents.
Researchers seeking information about slave owners may find slave schedules useful because of the specific information they provide about slave owners’ holdings. For example, the number of enslaved people enumerated under a slave owner could indicate whether or not the slave owner had a plantation, and if so, what size it was.
History of the Collection
The official enumeration day of the 1850 census was June 1, 1850.
The 1850 slave schedule was used in the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia.
Taken from Szucs, Loretto Dennis, "Research in Census Records." In The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, ed. Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1997).
William Dollarhide, The Census Book: A Genealogist's Guide to Federal Census Facts, Schedules and Indexes, Heritage Quest: Bountiful, Utah, 2000.