Crowd funding needed for Suriname Slave Registers

crowd funded project will digitize and index the slave registers of Suriname, making them freely accessible online. 

Slave registers of Suriname

The slave registers of Suriname are a unique record series. They record the names of approximately 80,000 people who were enslaved in Suriname between 1830 and the abolition of slavery in 1863. I don’t think there is another country in the world that had such a comprehensive registration of its enslaved population. 

researchere looking at the slave registers

Slave registers. Photo courtesy of Coen van Galen.

Forty-three slave registers survive, containing almost 30,000 pages of information. They are organized like financial ledgers, per owner, as an inventory of assets. The registers contain the following information about each enslaved person:

  • Name of the owner (plantation or private owner)
  • First name of the enslaved person (they had no last names)
  • Birth year, known or estimated
  • Name of the mother
  • Dates of mutation
  • Incoming mutations: birth, purchase, inheritance, or donation of the enslaved person 
  • Outgoing mutations: death, sale, donation, manumission (gaining freedom) of enslaved person. 
  • Remarks, such as leprosy or the name the enslaved person after manumission.
  • Other information that affected their status and value.

At the time these registers were created, Suriname was a Dutch colony. It would remain under Dutch rule until its independence in 1975. These slave registers form an important part of the mutual cultural heritage of the Netherlands and Suriname.

Crowd funded project

The registers are kept at the National Archives of Suriname, where limited access is possible. To make the registers more accessible, the crowd funded project will digitize and index all the records. They will be made available for free at the website of the National Archives of the Netherlands.

Historian Coen van Galen of the Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, is the initiator of this project. The project is a collaboration between the Radboud University, the Society for the Dutch Slavery Past, The Anton de Kom University of Suriname, and the National Archives of the Netherlands and Suriname. The project is partially funded by the Prins Bernhard Cultuur Fonds [Prince Bernhard Culture Fund] and CLARIAH.


Enslaved people working at a Suriname plantation, 1850. Credits: Th. Bray, Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

Help digitize and index the slave registers

I am excited about this project, because I occasionally research Suriname families for clients. These registers provide vital information for researching families who were enslaved, but also about families who owned slaves or who were involved in manumissions. Having online access will make this resource easily available for researchers all over the world. 

I would like to invite you to consider donating to the project. You can contribute until 15 April 2017. 

UPDATE [20 February 2017]: The goal has been met! You can still donate though. Donations exceeding the 25,000 euro target will be used towards digitizing other records to trace these people, such as the civil registration records. This will allow researchers to find out what happened to these enslaved people after manumission, so please consider donating even though the goal has been met already. 

After the registers are digitized, volunteers will be needed to help index the records. I will let you know when that phase of the project starts, and when the results become available online.

>> Contribute to the crowd funding project <<

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, CG® is a professional genealogist in the Netherlands. She holds the Certified Genealogist credential from the Board for Certification of Genealogists and has a post-graduate certificate in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee. She has been doing genealogy for over 30 years and helps people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. Huub van Helvoort says

    The indexing of the slave registers of Suriname has been initiated by the “Stichting Surinaamse Genealogie” (the Surinam Genealogy Foundation”. They approached the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds and the Pronk Visser Fonds to get funds for this work.
    Here is (in Dutch) the justification:

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