Quick tip – Trace enslaved people by their owners

If you are researching enslaved people in the former Dutch colonies like Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles, you need to trace their owners. Enslaved people created few records themselves, but their owners may have created records that mention them.

Here are some examples of records created by owners that may include enslaved people:

  • Last wills, disposing of slaves or stipulating their manumission
  • Estate inventories, where slaves are included as property
  • Notarial records documenting the purchase or sale of slaves
  • Rental agreements, where slaves are hired by other people and the owners are compensated for their labor
  • Population registers, which sometimes include a tally (but not the names) of the slaves owned by the household
  • Compensation records when slavery was abolished and owners were compensated by the government.
  • Personal correspondence (rare) that tells about financial transactions or voyages involving slaves.

Slave camp in Suriname. Credits: Jacob Eduard van Heemskerck van Beest, collection Rijksmuseum public domain)

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, CG® is a board-certified genealogist in the Netherlands. She has been doing genealogy for almost 30 years. Her expertise is helping people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.

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