Database Scope

1800 Sale ad by Jacob R. Hardenbergh in Somerville

1805 Certificate of Abandonment for Dinah by George Farmer in Piscataway

1817 Manumission of Thomas Boston by Henry Rutgers

The New Jersey Slavery Records database began with records related to Rutgers University and slavery. Our team has worked to digitize and index additional record sets beyond Rutgers, and the database is continually expanding.

You can browse the database in multiple ways:

  • EVENTS — this is the main gateway to search and filter event data by various criteria, including date, type of event, location, participant name, sex, and age, as well as the name of the enslaver involved
  • PERSONS by name, sex, and group
  • PLACES by type and county
  • SOURCES by document type

Our Event Types vocabulary explains the terms used in the database.

Currently, the database includes over 2,000 names with related events drawn from these sources:

  • Records related to Rutgers university officers and alumni, documenting their ties to slavery, such as accounting records, bills of sale, letters, and newspaper clippings
  • Permission slips and organizational meeting minutes from the African Association of New Brunswick (1817–1824)
  • Middlesex County manumission certificates (complete set)
  • Middlesex County birth certificates of enslaved children (approximately half of the records have been published and half are currently undergoing review to prepare for publication)
  • Middlesex County removal certificates (complete set)
  • Sussex County birth certificates (complete set, including coverage of the area that is now Warren County)
  • Abandonment Certificates for Piscataway Township, Middlesex County (complete set)
  • Newspaper clippings related to the interstate slave trade and kidnapping of Black New Jerseyans in the early 19th century
  • Runaway slave ads and slave sale ads from a range of New Jersey newspapers
  • Sources submitted by our partners at the Princeton & Slavery Project that document slavery in the Princeton area (including newspaper advertisements and bills of sale that involve Princeton University officers and trustees)
  • Examples of wills and will abstracts that mention enslaved Black people
  • Various letters, receipts, and other manuscripts from Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries

Our team is working to index additional county records, manuscripts, and newspaper clippings. New record sets are published two to three times a year.

One major project currently under way is digitizing hundreds of original birth and manumission records held in the Somerset County Clerk's Office. We have scanned and published several volumes of records from this repository, and we are in the process of scanning the remaining volumes. We are in the early stages of indexing these records.